Philosophy

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Recently,  I went for a training program  where I happened to be the only Indian amongst all Irish abhyasis. They were curious or keen to know about my country and countrymen. The sheer diversity of the largest democracy and how we Indians could be best described. Their main query was how we experienced and stayed in sync  with all such diverse cultures, languages, cuisines, religion. While I was trying to tell them about my country and what made us the way we are today, the above title sprung to my mind. I feel, these two words best describes us….’’Defiantly Complacent” I think those two words describe my Indian mindset! They were appreciating the fact that Indian husbands are so accommodative and understanding (my husband took me to the venue which is almost 180kms away, spent the day with our daughter, returned to pick me up in the evening). Had it been an Irish male he would have refused to budge out of the bed on a Saturday morning. I had a very complacent look on my face, but my mind had many defiant reasons to counter their appreciation. I complacently accepted the gesture that he drove me all the way, back and forth. My mind defiantly countered, ‘These foreigners! they want to be independent about everything and yet want an accommodating partner too! It takes two to tango. Whenever,  we wave the independence flag, then we end up having to do everything independently! What do we need anyone else for!’ I did not know how to drive and my understanding husband had graciously done his duty. I was defiant that he had to be specially appreciated for doing something he should have done spontaneously! Am I making sense? I was defiantly complacent at the same time. This emotional tug of war is akin to my country folks. As a country reflects the sum of individual faces and philosophies, isn’t it? I think I have already cited few examples of inconsequential or not so relevant issues where we have been profusely vocal and defiant (the ones that play ‘Dangal’ with my mind!). Then a few issues which I thought had merit and concerned us. The people of the country and we accepted those decisions without a demur, very complacently.   Another recent episode that comes to my mind and takes me on my thinking mode  is Amma’s demise. Half of Tamil Nadu went into mourning and the other half was keeping a hawk eye on who would be the heir to her abundant wealth. She left no apparent heir and has wealth enough to buy the whole nation. As she was the leader of a state, her wealth belonged to the state and not to any one person or successor of her political party. Neither it belonged to her ‘so called’ illegitimate daughter whose pictures were all over the internet. But, the funny thing was, we whole heartedly were shedding tears and mourning our sad loss. Her despicable wealth was such a big issue. We all knew in our heart of hearts what kind of a person she was, yet we cried our heart out and very complacently did nothing about which way her amassed wealth finally goes. It may very well have landed into the wrong hands yet again, and we would very humbly accepted it. Not a whisper about any of this amidst all the teary blogs, twitters and media posts.   The other instance that sprung to mind concerns the very popular show ‘Koffee with Karan’.  One of the guests (it is always a cine world person) said, ‘this is all we talk on the sets, in between shoot break, in the make-up vans and the buzz is all about who said what about who on this show’. Now, this made sense to me. They belong to that world and it is their life and they wish to keep themselves updated.  What puzzled me was the ensuing posts that popped up from everywhere else! We seem to have no life of our own, we have too much time on our hands. We are clueless about how to put this abundant free time to some constructive and productive use. Thus, we idolize these movie stars, emulate them, judge them, for their deeds or misdeeds. Their life somehow seems to add sparkle to our otherwise drab lives and makes it more purposeful.  It somehow gives me a feeling that we thrive on other people’s affairs; the more distant and disconnected the person the more is our curiosity to pry and be aware. After all, they lead a happy, rich and fulfilled life, and we squabble about them and miss out on our life. The fact that we don’t even argue about worthy stuff, is my other concern.  When Sania Mirza married the Pakistani cricketer, we had nothing to say. She happily got on with her life and keeps coming on the cover pages of glossy magazines, not sure how popular she is in Pakistan, she is a big role model in our country. Even our beauty pageants make a beeline for acting as if it is the  only career option for them. Their behavior affirms that “Beauty is skin deep” and young minds get convoluted with all the glamour and show. Why no one ever puts a ban on these beauty queens from taking up acting as their career choice is beyond me. With all the mindful  and meaningful interviews they give and all  the brand endorsements they would have signed, they should prove their point doing something more worthwhile than run of the mill acting! Yet, we have no say on this either.   We get very angry that people from other states have encroached and robbed the original residents of good jobs. We go on endless strikes trying to stop Karnataka from giving water to Tamil Nadu. We have divided our states for whatever political reasons. We stage dharana’s trying to put an end to the influx of people from Bihar and Jharkhand to Mumbai, Maharashtra. Within our own country, we are unable to share our resources, give umbrage, we become defiant. The gross truth is that we are not very tolerant, we are not as secular as we pretend to be, either. Yet, almost the whole state of Andhra Pradesh has gone and set camp in America; we are very complacent. We are entitled to go abroad, we encourage this move and are very defiantly too.  What sort of a logic is this? How can one explain this is beyond my understanding?  Are we not a very contradictory lot? Hypocritical too, if I may add.  We turn a blind eye, become defiantly complacent and take everything for granted in all the aspects pertaining us. And very defiant when things don’t affect us at all, how bizarre are we?

FASTING

FASTING

Amongst all the rituals I have practiced, my longest association as a practitioner and an observer has been with fasting! For as long as I can remember my mother fasted on Friday; ‘Santoshi Ma vrat’. This weekly ritual continues; because of her health and growing years, she has given herself some latitude. Presently, she does not eat anything sour; tomatoes, lime and the like are banned on Fridays, and she has her dinner before sunset. Luckily, for devout Hindus, dieting is a piece of cake.  We have a God assigned for every single day of the week and to appease them we fast on their day. Call it hilarious or illogical or just the whim of a staunch devout (an impressionable child who believed in the power of prayer);  I started fasting when I barely 16years old. Since I did not have a specific favourite God, I fasted on Saturday (the day I am born). This day is said to be ruled by Saturn. So, to appease the devil Himself to keep me out of harm’s way; I opted for this day. I very judiciously continued this ritual till I got married. Apart for the fervent hope that I was guarded from the evil influences of Saturn, fasting helped me stay slim. I was diligent, judicious and had absolute faith in what I was doing. Every Saturday, I woke up earlier than usual, went to the temple to offer my prayers before beginning my day. When in college hostel, my friends very concernedly had something nice and warm waiting for me when it was time to break my fast. Call it fate or that my years of fasting had rendered Saturn effectively powerless; I entered a family where food plays the most pivotal role. Thus, ceased my days of fasting.

Many years later, my colleagues were fasting for ‘Karwa chauth‘; and my reconnect happened. On an impulse, even I fasted that karwa chauth. This is a fast women keep for the longevity of their spouse. I was transported to my childhood days; my mother fasting, sitting in front of our temple singing bhajans, cooking prasad and humming a bhajan to herself, she used to be smiling and engrossed. Despite the empty stomach and extra work her countenance glowed; devoid of stress and zero sign of weakness. She read the ‘katha’, explained the significance to us; she had knowledge of the why of every small ritual. It was a very learning experience for us; and I probably wanted to relive all that, after so many years. But, throughout the day our discussion revolved around how hungry we were, what gift we would receive from our spouse, would our spouse return home early from work, was the spouse also keeping a fast for his wife, whether the moon would rise early (to be able to offer prayers and break the fast) or it would be a long arduous wait. So many discussions, yet none revealed the reason why this fast was so important. It threw no light on the essence nor the significance of this fast. It was about new clothes, jewellery, mehendi, the torture of fasting… To make it even more hilariously meaningless, my dear husband (totally distraught that I had kept a fast for his long life!) bought me a beautiful gold necklace set but could not make it home till past midnight! So, I ‘broke the fast’ sans ‘pati-dev’, happily ate dinner with the kids and was fast asleep by the time he could get away from work. Such was my reunion with fasting.

The next day, my guilt ridden better half made many snide jokes about this ritual, saying it was a big sham, fasting itself is a big sham, as per him. Even though he sounded disrespectful and was very rudely questioning the veracity of a very sacred ritual; his statements were undeniably true. He was voicing what I had experienced yesterday. Where was the faith; the simple honesty with which we practiced such rituals?  None of us seem to dwell on the reason anymore. We superficially follow ‘old traditions’ and grumble about the inconvenience such rituals cause to our daily life.

This lack of knowledge has made a mockery of these rituals. We keep fasts today for krawa chauth, vat savitri, bhai dooj, chhatt… but we all look drained and weary; our heart is not in it. The glow and radiance my mother had on her face; I have not seen it in a long time. Thus, began my journey of trying to figure out the true reason for fasting; the etymology of fasting; if I can call it that.

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from food, food and drink too (absolute abstinence) for a period of time. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism, every religion has one common denominator for advocating fasting. Fasting is a way of purifying oneself. Abstinence from food, drink and physical proximity is a way cleansing the body, mind and soul.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity says, ‘The purpose of fasting is not to suffer, but according to sacred tradition to guard against gluttony and impure thoughts, deeds and words. Fasting must always be accompanied by increased prayer and almsgiving. To engage in fasting without them is considered useless or even spiritually harmful. To repent for one’s sins and to reach out in love to others is part and parcel of true fasting’.

Islam believes, ‘By fasting, whether during Ramadan or other times, a Muslim draws closer to God by abandoning bodily pleasures, such as food and drink. This makes the sincerity of their faith and their devotion to God (Arabic: Allah) all the more evident.

Jainism states that, Self-starvation by fasting is supposed to help shed karma. Santhara (Self- starvation leading to death), the individual gets ample time to reflect on his or her life. The goal of Santhara is to purify the body and, with this, the individual strives to abandon desire.

Buddhism advocates the Middle Path, asking the followers to avoid extremes of indulgence and self- mortification too.

Sikhism is the rare path which does not promote fasting. ’Human mind requires the wisdom, which can be achieved by contemplating on words and evaluating it, torturing body is of no use’.  If you keep fast, then do it in a way so that you adopt compassion, wellbeing and ask for the good will of everyone: ‘Let your mind be content, and be kind to all beings. In this way, your fast will be successful. (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 905; 299)

One religion realized how farcical this sacred ritual would become and decided to stay away from it altogether. We stopped contemplating long ago; torturing our body without understanding the wisdom; fasting has become a mere charade.

Sources: wikipedia

Kalash Pooja

Kalash Pooja

My spiritual guide, my Master, recently published a post on Speaking Tree titled “Fasting and Autophagy: Ancient Wisdom and Scientific Research Intersect”. This brought back many memories and I pulled out my long forgotten notes; all the diligent studies I had done to understand the true significance of so many rituals I blindly followed in the past.

I have already written about Lighting the lamp, Prasadam, Idol worship and Bhajans. All these rituals have a profound meaning and done in true spirit and with perfect understanding, they should result in achieving our ‘goal of life’.  Another such ritual which I mindlessly followed was Kalash Pooja. This article is an attempt to understand the true significance of this important ritual.

It is believed that before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world.
And Lord Vishnu held Kalash filled with nectar during Samudramanthan (churning of the ocean). All deities are believed to reside in the kalash.

Since then the kalasha is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom and immortality. The Purna-Kalasha is considered a symbol of abundance and “source of life”. It is also called Soma-Kalasha, Chandra-Kalasha, Indra-Kumbha, Purnaghata, Purna-Virakamsya, Bhadra ghata, or Mangala ghata.

We find a kalash in the hands of Hindu deities Brahma, our creator, Shiva our destroyer and teacher, Laskhmi our goddess of prosperity. Every auspicious occasion, be it Gruh Pravesh, Gauri pooja, Deepawali , marriage and  even to celebrate the arrival of a new born, we perform kalash pooja.

I enter this home with a kumbha; fill it with ambrosia and anoint

All those who drink of this heavenly water and protect this home.

I enter this house to dwell in it. ( Atharva veda: 3.13.7-9-5000BC)

The Kalash and its adornment have a very symbolic meaning for every occasion. To welcome the new born Kalash represents material things: a container of fertility – the earth and the womb, which nurtures and nourishes life. The mango leaves associated with Kama, the god of love, symbolize the pleasure aspect of fertility. The coconut, a cash crop, represents prosperity and power. The water in the pot represents the life-giving ability of Nature.

For Gruh Pravesh and other household functions, a silver or brass face of the Goddess is attached over the coconut of the Purna-Kalasha. In this form, the Purna-Kalasha symbolizes the Goddess as the manifestation of mother earth with her water, minerals, and vegetation.

Other interpretations’ of the Purna-Kalasha associate with the five elements or the chakras. The wide base of metal pot represents the element Earth, the expanded centre is water, neck of pot is fire, the opening of the mouth is said to represent air, and the coconut and mango leaves: ether. In context of chakras, the Shira (literally “head”) – top of the coconut symbolizes Sahasrara chakra and the Moola (literally “base”) – base of Kalasha – the Muladhara chakra.

The water in the kalasha symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from the energy behind the universe. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the abhisheka. The leaves and coconut represent creation. The thread represents the love that “binds” all in creation.
On some occasions the Kalasha is filled with coins, grain, gems, gold, or a combination of these items instead of water. The coronet of 5, 7, or 11 mango leaves is placed such that the tips of the leaves touch water in the Kalasha. These leaves are known as leaves of deity’s seat. The coconut is sometimes wrapped with a red cloth and red thread; the top of the coconut is kept uncovered. A sacred thread is tied around the metal pot. The Shira is kept facing the sky. The kalash is used for creating seat for invoked deities during the puja ritual. The water inside the kalash keeps this seat pure till the ritual of Pranapratishta (invoking deity into an image, idol, coconut or betelnut). Thus, the invoked deity principle stays for a long period.

Putting a coin is symbolic of sacrifice. Through this medium there is sacrifice of wealth and jiva (embodied soul)’s attachment is reduced. This qualifies the worshipper to benefit more from the sattvikta of puja ritual. A copper coin is put in the kalash. The copper has more capacity to project sattvik frequencies. It helps in emanation of sattvik frequencies present in the water into the atmosphere.

The betel nut kept in the kalash is to enhance sattvik and rajsik components in the water of the kalash. This increases the capacity of the water to emit manifest principle of deity. The betel nut contains particles related to absolute earth element which are useful in binding of sattva particles related to sattva component. This then easily helps in retaining the sattvikta of water for a long time. Five precious stones like pearl, diamond, emerald, blue sapphire, ruby and gold are also added to the water of kalash. The five precious stones and gold have capacity to attract and emit the principles of five superior deities. This benefits the worshipper. But with changing times the use of five precious stones and copper is reduced and replaced by alloys which are spiritually less beneficial.
The consecration (kumbhaabhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaborate rituals including the pouring of one or more kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple.

There is a world of depth, meaning and essence to every ritual. Everything that was said and done during our Vedic period had the backing of science, logic and reasoning. It has sadly deteriorated with time and gone into oblivion today. Every ritual I have performed in the past would have fructified if I had done them myself, with full awareness and knowledge, the essence of what I am doing and why. I was always sincere but lacked the jijnasu quality, the spirit of inquiry was missing. Meditation (I have come back to Meditation, I know:) ) has made me aware of this yawning gap between my actions and ignorant actions!

Action is purification of the mind; not for gaining (knowing) the truth. Knowledge of the truth is by inquiry alone; not even a little knowledge is gained by crores of action. Vivekachudamani (5.11)

Sources:

http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.ie/2013/05/kalasha-symbol-of-cosmic-womb

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalasha

http://bharathkidilse.blogspot.ie/2009/10/kalasha

Self- Imprisoned

Self- Imprisoned

‘If we are not progressing, it is because we create problems inside ourselves, by ourselves, for ourselves.’ -Shri. P. Rajgopalachari

A decade ago if anyone mentioned the word ‘Meditation’ and started to explain the need for meditation, I would have scoffed; looked incredulously at the speaker and walked away. In this day of rush, competition and buzz, who is foolish enough to meditate? Moreover, who has the time or luxury to sit for meditation? Instead of wasting an hour sitting with their eyes closed and building sand castles in the name of meditation; a wise person can achieve some other tangible, productive goal.

Today, for every ailment, physical or emotional, the only panacea that comes to my mind is ‘meditation’. On the surface of it, I am very much the same person; I am still studying books on psychology, albeit the reading has now shifted from pure Behavioral Psychology to psychology and the role it plays in Spirituality. I still practiced counseling; work as an online behavioral therapist; yet my suggestions have changed. Earlier I used to suggest some therapy, now all I can recommend, talk about, suggest or advise is ‘Please experience Meditation’. I seem to have forgotten all else, no therapy comes to mind!

Any ailment I have; psychological or physical, I resort to meditation. I need to know the reason as to why it happened, the psychology behind the physical manifestation of the problem and then alone do I accede to proper medication. Somehow meditation answers everything for me, it gives me all the options, throws light on the path and I feel enabled because of this awareness. Knowing myself is possible only through meditation and unless I try to ‘know’ I remain stagnant.

I wonder if this is not the same thought that crosses every mind? Don’t all of us seek to ‘know’ and after knowing, should we not try to ‘change’ or attempt to become a better person? I find it strange that anyone would deliberately shy away from meditation. Why do we resist change, what is our fear?

 ‘The root fear is the fear of death, namely the fear of psychological death, or the death of ego.

The root fear, not being mastered, manifests itself in a quantity of secondary fears: fear of others, fear of liberation and even of course, fear of love, of the Real love of the Master, since it is going to consume us…

Another way of saying the same thing is to consider the desire to retain desires as the main cause of our ambivalence and our resistance to change…’ (Psychology and its role in Spirituality- Ferdinand Wulliemier)

A few years ago my sentiments matched verbatim with the author. I was unwilling to relinquish my Self. I used to see my life as a utopian one. where was the reason to change such a life? My complaints were many and for every complaint my search for a solution would start afresh. If it was a physical problem visit the doctor, if it was an emotional one then simmer in it and blame the world, and how unjust the world is. After a few days of such simmering and moaning I would compare my situation with some less fortunate person (according to my myopic understanding) and get back to feeling happy. Today, I realize that I resisted change because I had imprisoned myself. All my battles were momentary and situation based. With lapse of time or some external adjustment the situation changed and I presumed (very incorrectly) that all was well again. The change never happened. It remained a cyclical state.

 I thought I had it had all. Because, any outsider who saw me and the life I lived, continue to live; would say it was, is, hunky -dory.  With everything in my favor, my persistent feel was one of dissatisfaction. I did not feel perfect nor did I feel I was competent and complete. When the complaints are from others we can ignore them. We can bring to the fore a few extra flaws in that person and pacify ourselves. It is easy to find fault in others. It is easier to overlook our own faults and compare ourselves with others and feel good. The problem starts when the self begins to complain. That’s when knocking on doors outside of the self, for answers, becomes futile.  Something kept nagging, I continuously kept facing some physical aberration or the other which made me wonder and dig deep within.

Meditation introduced me to this ‘dig deep within’ and thankfully I am able to feel more ‘free’ and ‘self-aware’. I still am self -imprisoned, yet to break free totally, especially in the emotional attachment and ‘expectation from others’ category. But, meditation has made me aware of the simple fact that: ‘If I refuse to face you in my inside, I have to face you outside’ – P Rajagopalachari.

This sentence glares at me every time I feel intolerant, irritated, simmer with anger. Such feelings get actualized with some relationship issues or some physical ailment surfaces. This inner discontentment with the self reflects on the outside and triggers conflicts with family and friends or some health issue escalates and I am forced to confront my ‘inside’.

I meditate and learn that my discontentment with my inside is not a valid reason to misbehave with others outside. If my inside is resolved and I am brave enough to ‘know’ and tackle my inside, then the outside takes care of itself. So, as long as I refuse to face my inside, I will be forced to face it on the outside.

I need to get rid of this self -imprisonment, to be ‘free’ in the real sense.  And the prison is mine, so the first conscious step and the remaining journey too, the initiative to break free of these shackles needs to stem from me, and me alone.

 

 

Moodily Sweet

Moodily Sweet

‘Writing comes from you, what happens when there is no more ‘you’?’ – Dr. Paul Pearsal

I have not penned down a single line in the last two months and once again I am stumped. That’s the reason the above line springs to mind. All my writings, almost all, come from some personal experience, learning, reading or interaction with others and their experiences from which I learn. In a way, I can acknowledge that my writings are my mirror. They reflect my mood, state of mind or my level of understanding, growth and maturity.  Writing is my way of sharing my learning and also keeping myself busy. Me busy means a happy, cheerful, smiling me. A me with some purpose and a progressive goal for my tomorrows.

I have never thought of myself as the ‘author’ of my life. Author is one and one only, God. But, I can definitely be the editor of my life, and that’s what my writings help me improve; be a proactive, daily editor of my life…. Now, that brings me back to the first line! I have not written in more than a month.  Which brings me to my next question, had I stopped editing my life? Had my life become stagnant? Or had my life come to a utopian, changeless state? The answer is a big ‘NO’ to both. Neither is my life stagnant nor is my life utopian yet, so why had the editing come to a pause?! 

For every anecdote I share with you all, travelling down 4 decades of memory lane is exhausting, yet I can’t help it. Most of the baggage I am unloading now, or have started to unload in the recent past; I seem to have lugged it since ages. Like even this adjective ‘moody’; I remember wondering why I was called moody from the time I was probably 7 or 9 years old! Which is again 4 decades ago! Most of my family, friends and acquaintances described me as ‘Sweet natured’ and ‘moody’.  Sweet natured and moody seemed and still seem contradictory to me.  Moody and broody seem a likely combination. Sweet natured and smiling seemed to go together. Personally, I never thought I was moody. I was always smiling and sweet natured (that’s what I thought).

To bring a semblance to the above topic jumps; this phase of writing, not writing, lapsing into long sessions of oblivion and suddenly resurfacing and becoming very proactive; all this starkly highlighted the word ‘moody’. ‘Sweet’ was a polite addition (more to not hurt my feelings). Thus, a mature, unbiased look at the mirror did reveal a very moody and less ever- smiling pattern to me! Most of life oscillates between these two emotional states and thus it was no wonder that people described me as ‘moodily sweet’. Thus, the mystery about me unraveled itself after so many decades and I know where that adjective ‘moodily- sweet’ comes from.

No, no; I am not trying to recommend meditation yet again! (though this understanding and clarity is because of meditation). I am saying I understand myself better today and I try to change myself with a better understanding of why I need to make the change.  I now see the need to change myself for my own self and for my own mood management. Next time someone tries to describe me I aspire to be described as ‘sweet’ and not ‘moodily sweet’.

What I write comes from me; all the moodily sweet learnings make me the person I am today. In this sweet mood phase I am attempting two articles, both interconnected. I hope to explain my state of mind and also my learning. Meditation has helped me know myself and it continues to show me my true nature. I know what makes me moody and how I can temper my mood. Meditation helped me acknowledge that I am a ‘moody’ person. It is meditation alone which has enabled me to articulate myself. These writings, if they can help any one person enquire about meditation, it is half the job done for me. And the day one person joins the path to self- discovery and begins meditation, then I will consider myself a successful writer. My writings are my learnings and my teachings too.

‘It is my opinion that many really good teachers do not come from joyful households where all was easy. They come from a place of much pain and suffering, and they’ve worked through the layers to reach the place where they can now help others to become free. – Louise Hay’

Spiritual Business

Spiritual Business

I have just returned from a Heartfulness Training Workshop in Vrads Sande, Denmark. During His talks Master twice made references to ‘Spiritual Business’. My 12 year old daughter who was in the adjacent room heard the reference and later asked me why Master referred to our spiritual journey as a ‘Business’.

For her business was a give and take thing – venture which entailed profit.  Competition is integral to business, and emotions are very likely to be trifled with. To her understanding, a spiritual journey was exactly the opposite. This path is that of pure love, sacrifice and volunteer work – a zero profit venture. This is the noblest path to follow, one where emotions dictate everything. Thus, this comparison with business was a mismatch according to her opinions.

Actually, when Master first used the term ‘business’, even I felt somewhat nonplussed, because my comprehension of the word ‘business’ was exactly what my daughter had voiced. So, what was the ‘profit’ element in Spirituality? What was the transaction? What was I trading in this business? I was here for myself, to know myself and become a better human being. I was here to lose the layers of samskara I had accumulated over the years and many past lives too. This practice helped me peel the layers, become wise, and hopefully become discerning. This was all about me and me alone. If I practiced diligently, I stood to gain.  If I was lethargic, the loss too was mine, that I remained stagnant. So where was the transaction, with any outside party as such? Who was I getting into a trade with in this spirituality business? So, why did Master repeatedly refer to this as a business? Where were the profit /loss for anyone apart from the person concerned? What was the risk?

If I did consider this as His, my Master’s, spiritual business, then He stood to lose the most. This path has no entry fee. This path knocks on doors and volunteers introduce the Method free of cost.  The workshops are conducted by volunteers and are all free of cost too. Our annual congregations in India are free of cost. Apart for the travel expenses, boarding, lodging and food is free.  This is the same for every activity in India and every workshop or event we conduct; everything is free.  Even after everything being offered keeping in mind the comfort of the aspirant, there is zero guarantee that the aspirant will reap the benefit by understanding this path and what it truly has to offer. So what did the Master stand to gain? Of the innumerable seeds He has sown, scattered everywhere He set His foot, how many will He reap? Most of those seeds will die as seeds, or grow a bit and wither away. Maybe one in a hundred will become a tree and bear fruit. Would He be amongst us to see the one odd tree bear fruit? Probably not; yet He continues to sow seeds, invest His time, effort and energy in this assured loss venture. So from His side also I saw no reason for Him to call this a ‘Business’. Why would one talk about an assured loss?

So, how could I explain the term ‘Business’ to my girl? What profit was Master referring to when He said Business? Thus, with my limited understanding, I attempted to answer my daughter’s question. I tried to explain how this spiritual journey was ‘Business’ for me! What I have gained from this path, and continue to gain every day, is so crystal clear that my profit and loss statement is tilted heavily on the positive side. For me this was a sole proprietary business. I stood to gain or lose in direct proportion to my involvement, diligent learning and honest implementation of the same. So this remained an individual journey; a sole proprietary concern. That said, my next question popped up immediately.

For every aspirant at an individual level this path or any spiritual path is a sole proprietary business. The day we become wise enough to comprehend that this profit needs to be dispersed, a new business begins. The risk of being lethargic was heavy; I could lose my Self or remain ignorant about the Self.  I think I will term that as a partnership business where we share a mutual brotherhood; a sincere yearning to share our profits. This learning has to begin to reflect at home and amongst other family members.  Learning left in the locker like a fixed deposit sum fetches no interest nor does it grow. So there is a need for this sole proprietary concern to spread its wings and become a partnership. Then this spiritual business can flourish profitably. This was a funny sort of business where individual success became imperative for the whole Mission to succeed and prosper. The sole proprietary concern flourishes and aspires towards a successful partnership. It should continue to share profits and grow into a Global Mission.

Master is at the helm of the affairs and for Him the whole Mission is a sole proprietary concern! One person, one unit, one family is what we are for Him, the Mission is one. This repeated reference to spiritual business suddenly started to make sense to me!

In today’s world, profit and loss are the kind of terms we tend to comprehend faster. We are wary and reluctant to acknowledge any philanthropic work but we are all ears the minute a ‘business’ idea is talked about! The day we ‘see’ profit in ‘spirituality’ we will probably start taking it seriously. We will give it the place and priority it needs in our lives.  This is actually the most profitable business venture with the potential to make every other venture profitable eternally! But we never look at this spiritual path as a ‘business’ venture; probably because tangible profit is not visible. The risk of ‘loss of Self’ is intangible; hence we remain oblivious to this risk too. The second reason may also be that for every other venture we depend on ourselves more, our efforts are consistent and focused. We have a vision and a goal. Whereas in spiritual business because the profit is intangible we feel like we are either groping in the dark for too long or we are dependent on someone (Master) too much. And the subtle change, the inner change that is happening is met with resistance on the outside, making it worse for us. One small hurdle, clash or friction on the outside and we abandon the path or drop it like a hot brick.  We set off in search of a different venture, a more tangibly profitable one.

Only if we started thinking and considering our spiritual journey as our prime ‘business’ and repeatedly strove to maximize our profit in this ‘business’ will the purpose of this life be served, the goal be achieved.  And that is His intent. He wants us to take this spiritual ‘‘Business’ seriously. And if ‘business’ is the key, magic word, that helps us take this path seriously, so be it.

Foe to Friend

Foe to Friend

Anger- our enemy

Anger is the single most dreadful disease a human being can suffer from. This singular emotion leaves the person totally incapacitated and helpless, more like an invalid. Anger robs the person of discretion, reasoning, sanity and most importantly love. It breeds hatred, guilt and fear in the person. An angry person is afraid from within and feared by the outside world too. It is a double loss to the individual. The reasons for anger are many but the result is the same always; it gets a hold over our reasoning and wisdom. For any personal progress (physically, emotionally and spiritually) getting a grip over this vicious vice is imperative.

If we can fathom the reason for our anger; it is half the battle won. Each one has their own unique triggers and we get an intuition even before we are actually in the situation. Anger gives a premonition and tells the person that we are walking into the red alert zone. All we need to be is awake, alert and read the signs correctly. We can avoid the traps and move away from that place till the storm subsides and re-enter with a sane frame of mind. So you are proactively addressing the crisis and the chances of a positive result are enhanced instantaneously. The individual triggers need to be addressed first as compared to the events on the outside, which arouse anger in the individual. Unmet expectations is the most predominant and common cause of anger and very controllable too. Start keeping a lower bench mark and try and make it negligible over a period of time. The normal or calm state of mind stays with such people and one rarely encounters them in a ruffled state.

 

Managing anger

Self help books recommend ‘count to 10’ therapy and later have changed it to; “counting to 10 only aggravates the condition, count to 100 instead!”

I have been a victim of the dreaded disease for long. Thus, what I cite below is what has worked for me and it was not counting to 10 or 100! I needed to do a lot of learning, re learning before I could boldly write this article and state, “Yes! This works!”

Learn to be forgiving: I am mentioning this first because this is the most difficult part. Anger makes us do and say things we regret later and it becomes very tough to forgive and forget. It may be possible to forget the other person but the real test and challenge is to forgive oneself. If we are able to recall the pain of forgiving oneself then getting a hold over that anger trigger will seem an easier hurdle to overcome. Personally, this has been my toughest battle. I am totally unforgiving and very vengeful by nature. Getting angry was equivalent to raising hell and severing ties with the person totally. Am a better and more self forgiving person now, anger still comes but goes away real quick. Turning my biggest foe to become my friend, this is where I began, befriended myself and forgive myself first!

Find an acceptable outlet for yourself: Getting angry is not so abnormal, but getting out of control when you are angry is the worrisome part. If we have a reasonable, more acceptable channel to release our steam it is a safe bet to go for it. This activity or outlet must be easy and something that comes spontaneously to the person concerned. If the person has to seek an outlet which is not very close to the heart then it never pops to the mind when the person is getting angry. Like I said before; most self help books advised me to drink water, count to 10 or switch off mentally. All the three were not my cup of tea! I could never think of water or even manage counting and switching off was impossible when I was so boiling with rage! I decided what worked for me was, leave that place. Just get away and revisit it when you are calmer. I was always afraid of saying too much if I continued to stay in the same place and simmer! Instead, I stepped out or crawled within; (Needed to befriend myself urgently!) So, seek your own individual outlet, friends. Else you will get angrier at not being able to control your anger!

Go out for walks: This is the most therapeutic way of getting off the steam, and least harmful. Walking takes the person away from the place of action and also gives the person time to think, come back to a calm state, start thinking reasonably and do some introspection. This and what I am about to write further worked wonders for me.

Regular dairy writing, prayer and meditation proved to be my panacea. I did this with dedication ;( in fact I am still doing all the three), for 3 months and I could see a change in myself. I would sit and write about the situation, and what exactly caused the anger to surge in me. I realized that nine out of ten, it was something very frivolous and easily ignorable. All I had to do initially was to move away, and with time I could mentally switch off myself. At times I still used to get angry, react, and then write about it in my dairy. This worked as an introspective tool for me. I would read it through and promise to myself to put an end to this. It took me 3 months of sustained efforts and a conscious deliberate determination on my part to overcome my anger. I am not saying I have conquered this vice but I am on the right track and my foe is today a friend, not my best buddy yet; but I have successfully rendered my foe powerless.

Despite these individual differences we all are not so different really, because in the end we do get angry and are afraid of losing control. So, see what works for you and walk on the right path right away. Letting go of anger gives us an inner strength and courage like never before and we feel less burdened; in fact we may feel light enough to be able to fly maybe! Good luck and new beginnings to all of us.

 

Memories

Memories

Last two years have been a sort of transit or ’preparing for the big shift’ kind of years for us. Our son was on the threshold of ‘flying out of the nest’ and enters hostel life; join a college. And our daughter and I were to shift to a new country. So the last two years most of our conversations, (son-daughter –I) revolved around ‘memories’. What we would like to take with us and what was best forgotten, left behind.

I have always been an avid souvenir and memory collector. Any new place we visit I would insist upon  family photos, just the siblings, all together starting from having breakfast in the resort and winding up with  going back to the room and retire for the night. Everything had to be captured; pictures taken and savored for a future date; fond reminiscences for our leisurely time, old age. I collected innumerable small inconsequential trinkets of sorts, just as a ’memory’ of that place. Going shopping for such nondescript things used to be an exciting event for me and harassment for all the rest. Even photographs became a joke amongst us. We used to then travel a lot and so pictures seemed a time waste for the children. They used to get irritated and hide their face, make jokes and run away whenever I pulled out the dreaded camera. According to them I was being silly, wasting time and none of this really mattered so much. This memory thing was more of an individual fad than a collective consensus.

With time I too lost interest, stopped taking pictures and our last few trips we went and returned, with zero pictures and no souvenirs either! Finally I had succeeded in changing my mindset to suit theirs and they were happy too. Moreover, our travelling also came to a standstill the last five years. Increased studies for my son and my husband being posted abroad the room to make these trips were nullified. My husband travelled crazily because of his work and all he wanted to do at home was stay in, rest, rejuvenate and not travel again. It came to a point where presently, when we were packing up none of us had any memories. We had no recent trips, no pictures, and no souvenirs to pack and take with us to our new homes.

I gradually disposed all the old memories and had never created any new good ones and the quintessential memory of my life was missing. My son had his farewell and he took those pictures, but when it came to the house, and his family he also did not have a single family picture. He was not very concerned then. He was excited about going to hostel, making new friends and new memories were just around the corner for him.

My daughter, though, created a huge (must be a girl thing) collection of’ memories’. She took a lot of pictures with her friends, made presentations and video recorded her time with her friends. She created and gifted an album for her brother too, pictures of his cousin’s and growing up years.

It so happened that the one person who longed and cherished memories, namely me, had none to take with me, neither of the house nor of the people in the house! I, half angrily and half in an attempt at ‘emptying’; the house and the mind; had done away with photos and souvenirs. Nothing cherish able came to mind and I was more a realistic, pragmatic person packing the house and making the shift. This was in stark contrast to the emotional and sentimental fool that I used to be in the past.

Last week my son revisited the old house and messaged this to me; ‘Ma, went to our house. It was so vacant and lonely; looked totally barren. I took pictures of the empty house; my memories. I felt very sad.”  This message set me thinking, what do we human beings hang on to in the name of memories? I so fondly used to collect trinkets over the years and yet today I rely more on my memory for memories! I have nothing tangible for all those good times and yet many spring to the mind the second I close my eyes. The bad ones and the good ones alike seem to have found a permanent spot in the brain’s hardware. Unfortunately the good ones seem to have found a connection to the tangible ‘memories’ I had created for myself, whereas the bad ones somehow seem to have embedded themselves into my subconscious self.  I needed photographs to look, recollect my good days and moments whereas try as I might the sad ones became permanent residents. They had followed me to my present house too. I could not leave them in this big shift that I made. I had ‘emptied’ myself of the good and ended up paying excess baggage for garbage.

On the other hand, my son seemed to be more mature, he was enjoying his present and simultaneously collecting memories of his past. He had photographed the empty house and was taking with him his good memories. My daughter too had settled herself well in the new house and is enjoying everything. She speaks to her old friends and tries to meet new people with the same enthusiasm and gusto. Her tangible and intangible memories were the same, happy and within reach.

I, unconsciously, had developed the habit of storing unwanted memories and the attitude towards cherished good memories seemed to be very slack. I lost the habit of appreciating the small good things that were happening in my daily life. I was hanging on to memories with a very wrong attitude. My memories seemed to depend on photographs or trinkets. The good ones were dependant on tangible things whereas others (which should have been forgotten) were leaving indelible marks on my present. Memories were good or bad depending on the attitude I had towards them. The lonely house was a memory for my son, he remembered more about all the trips we made in the past. And here I was; I could recall barely anything of any place or moment.

My dear son, in his own sweet unassuming mature way had again given me a profound insight into my attitude and thinking of ‘memories’. I surely needed to press the reset button and quickly build an arsenal of beautiful memories, independent of  photographs and souvenirs.

 

100% Character

100% Character

There is a channel called UNIVERSAL Channel, here in London (where I reside these days) and I watch a few shows on that channel. Apart for the shows, which are a very apt ‘time waste strategy’ for my bored soul; the most inspiring part of that channel’s telecast is the advertisement or their tagline, if it can be called that;  they telecast in between every show.

They have different starting lines and questions; and they feature a different person, trying to share their story and inspire the audience.  Some of the questions are –“What does it take to keep your head when your heart is broken?” or “what does it take to smile and help others when your own life is a miserable mess?” Or “what does it take to speak up for those who are afraid to?” or “what does it take to win, when the world has already declared you a loser?” or “What does it take to keep your cool when you have the hottest temper?” or “What does it take to bend the line but never break it?” or “What does it take to show compassion yet be firm?” or My favorite thus far; “What does it take to find the why behind the who?” Many more such introspective questions and the answer to all of them is 100% character! This representation of character, and advertising it the way they did, touched me. The shows are all mundane, uninspiring and typical thriller or domestic dramas, and every few minutes this advertisement comes like a breath of fresh air. For me, this advertisement became the pivotal point of interest. In no time the show was a mere time pass and I looked up from my work only when I heard the background score of that advertisement. I eagerly wait for the new question and the new person they feature every time.

Many revelations have revealed themselves through these simple 100% character advertisements and there many ambassadors. To cite a few that appealed most to me; I always found jogging stupid and an activity which only mindless and jobless people indulged in! What did jogging achieve? And when that person said the exact same lines I was thrilled to the core! But what followed was the inspiring bit, instead of mindless jogging he went ahead and started a jog for a cause foundation! How creative and how honorable the gesture was. This person started delivering newspaper, milk, medicines and the basic essentials to the people in his vicinity and free of cost, on a daily basis! He became the jogger deliverer. And very soon others came forward and now the group has about 1000 joggers doing the same service in their neighborhood. He made a difference and showed 100% character, right?

Another story which is gripping is about a gymnast, who missed winning her Gold medal in her youth and has returned to claim the title after 12 years. She is past her thirties, single mother with a daughter who is 9 years old, a very improbable age to be in gymnastics let alone aspire to win a medal. But stubbornness put to good use is how she says it; “I am a stubborn person and I like to prove people wrong”. She has already won the local and state level championships and is on her way to prove her mettle during the forthcoming 2016 Olympics. When everything goes wrong and baits you to quit, yet you continue to follow your heart, it does take 100% character.

How this connects to me or what has this taught me may be the question in the reader’s mindJ.  This move to London has shown me many chinks in my own so called ‘perfect character’. I had a busy life back in India and I kept complaining to my better half about our move to this Godforsaken cold country where I knew no one and had nothing to do. I spent my first month watching the idiot box and these advertisements caught my attention. All their ambassadors have lived a life far more challenging and adverse than mine. My cribs seemed like the whines of a spoilt, luxury indulged kid when pitted against their real life battles. I did have a busy life in India, but today I am here, in London. So, there must be a reason as to why I have come to this place. I assuredly have a role to fulfill and something to accomplish too. I just have been wallowing so much in my own self pity that I have not figured it out. I am now putting an end to this self -delusion and learn the qualities of 100%character… do things I always wanted to do or chase a dream which thus far seemed out of my reach. If jogging can become purposeful, I am sure I can do also do something worthwhile and meaningful. All looks bright and chirpy again in this dreary London weather, figuring out “What does it take to find the why behind the who?” 100%Character:)

More to health

More to health

Health is not a matter of doing; it is a matter of being- Abraham Maslow.

Most of the couples I come across have one common grouse. Either the husband or the wife or both keep fighting the battle of the bulge. They longingly look at their wedding pictures and compare their weight, beauty and radiant youth and bemoan its loss with the lapse of time. Most women have the excuse of motherhood as the big reason for looking flabby and unbecoming.  Whereas, men are inclined to blame the culinary skills of the wife ,  work stress , mounting responsibilities which  lead them to health adverse habits like drinking –smoking or binge eating.  My observation has been that these natural physical discrepancies or variances become an obsession and result in mental ill health and long run psychological problems.  Women tend to get depressed and insecure and men are more prone to irritability, aggression and anger.  The package deal solution is psychiatrists, counselors  and beauty parlors on one hand and the innumerable  diet schemes, gymnasiums, aerobic centers and yoga institutions are the best business ventures to start nowadays. They flourish utmost and are eternally in peak business.

Whenever I switch on the television within a span of 30 minutes I see minimum 5 advertisements showing weight loss programs, diet plans giving quick ways to burn calories, new kinds of yoga combined with aerobics, Pilates and I don’t know what else.  All the programs talk about losing weight, looking beautiful again and being happy. The key to being happy is looking thin. The source of happiness lies in being thin. The path to success, self esteem, and confidence, everything one can envisage seem to lead into a health food store, a gymnasium or both.  We have lost touch with reality. We are so rushed for time; we are in a rush to lose weight also in a hurry. The focus is so much on losing weight the short way and effortlessly. Best results with least effort; more expensive the program more is our faith in its being effective.  The spiraling number of these programs and the ever increasing gymnasiums are a testimony to this.

Many cars are parked in the driveway of our gymnasium and people packed inside, walking on the treadmill to burn calories, with earphones plugged in playing some loud music. As if they are afraid to be alone, listen to the heart. No one has the time to meditate, sit calmly and introspect, even though it is free of cost. We are so dependent on health for everything we have forgotten how to heal internally.  Where our true happiness lies we are unsure, who we really are, we don’t know and what our true worth is, we don’t have the time to figure out. In no time visiting a psychologist or having to go for regular counseling sessions may become the trend and also the need of the hour. None of us is fit mentally and we all are running to gain physical health hoping that will bring a balance to our mental state too.  A person can be as physically fit as he/she is mentally fit. This toxic success has resulted in languishing people who live in the illusion of a superficially happy life moaning every second within.  They spend money in hope of a better tomorrow and forget to live today. They want to change the world and remain oblivious to the truth of their own insipid life. Are looks really so important; and if yes, for who?  Why has this focus on the external self become an obsession, killing the inner self?

Choosing the middle path saves us the money and mental tension too. Yet we work ourselves to the extreme. Moderation needs to be advocated instead we go to extraordinary lengths and spend on gymnasiums, diet programs and pay exorbitant fees to counselors and psychologists.  Introspect and be aware, listen to the voice within.  We rely so much on someone else, some other person on the outside, our true self lies cocooned, suffocated with all the external therapies being pumped in time and again.  Meditation imparts discipline and brings in the potential to listen to the voice within. The voice within advocates moderation, eat everything, do everything in moderation. Conclusively, meditate and stay healthy free of cost; panacea for all ailments, mental and physical.