Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year Resolutions and Plans can Wait!


(Image from pixabay.com)

Well, that is not to say we should not be making them. It is only that they can wait – if only for just a few hours. It makes better sense to end the year with gratitude to others, before moving on to other things.

Watch this video I created.

video


Gratitude fills our heart and soul, other than being only fair that we thank people who have been part of our lives for the past year. Each person would have had a different impact on this – but with all of them we have experienced more of life which has better equipped us to face tomorrow. When we express gratitude selflessly, we expand our souls – becoming bigger than we were before. Similarly, it is important we receive gratitude with humility and grace. At the end of it, we have two people who have learnt to look up and see beyond themselves.

I take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been around – either in person or virtually. You have enriched my life in many ways, more than you might think.

Thank You All! There is a lot to look forward to next year! Best wishes for the New Year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

You know what - I am Right!



(Image from pixabay.com)

Many of us disagree with the other over many matters. It does not take too long to form an opinion on where we stand. Quite often, once we have decided on our stand on the matter, we cannot wait for the other person to stop talking so that we may interject with our opinion. Many times, when the discussion at hand is not fact based but rather based on judgement, we find ourselves at opposite sides of the discussion. And the urge to declare our opinion superior is irresistible with a “You know what – I am right!” to finish with. 

Social media has magnified the effect several times. Just recently I was witness to one person posting a comment. What followed was a vehement objection echoing the thought “You know what – I am right!” (and not quite as polite as this!). Some of his buddies next jumped into the fray and the thought now moved to “He is right!” and very quickly morphed into “We are right!”. The speed at which this happens on social media can be overwhelming and also concerning. 

Wisdom tells us that we need to create space between a thought and our response – we need to respond with maturity rather than react recklessly. Mindfulness practice can be invaluable in this. The practice of consciously examining our thoughts and choosing our response in terms of fairness and best intent for both parties is something when cultivated is invaluable. 

I have personally felt that all major disagreements, relationship breakups and even conflicts all start with one person not adequately examining this one thought - “You know what. I am right!”. This person either acts alone or the thought travels (again un-examined) forward to others and morphs into more dangerous forms.

Achieving true balance in how we respond can take time – weeks, months or even years. We are after all, attempting to unlearn a bad habit formed since very long. The great Indian sage Ramana Maharishi had advocated a practice of rigorous self enquiry in understanding our true self. We can apply a similar technique by examining this one thought “You know what, I am right!”. If applied intensely it can traverse further thoughts and the underlying basis for why we feel this way. It is then a conscious choice on how we wish to respond.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Reminder from a Sparrow


My wife called me excitedly and I went quickly, to find her pointing her finger out of the kitchen glass door. There was a sparrow pecking away at some boiled rice. She then told me that the sparrow had perched itself outside our kitchen chirping. As she looked out, she felt it was calling out to her. Thinking just maybe it is hungry, she placed some boiled rice at the edge of the railing. The sparrow pecked away in haste and that was the scene I watched. While the scene had it's touch of sadness, it was also beautiful. It was delightful to watch as the sparrow ate the rice.

I thought it was worth taking a picture or a video of the scene and grabbed my phone. As I lifted my hand, though close to 5 feet away, the sparrow looked up and seemed nervous. I abandoned the attempt and lowered my hands. We just continued to watch. After a few minutes, the sparrow hopped a few steps and flew off. 

This is probably an every day event with nothing extraordinary. And yet, when we immersed ourselves in it, it seemed to fill our souls. Mindful moments have that effect. 

We, humans, have distanced ourselves greatly from nature and other life forms. When I was in school, we kids used to play a game called “Name – Place – Animal – Thing”. A starting letter used to be chosen and we had to find words in all these categories. While only a game, it is I think, a reflection of how we think. There is us – names, and there are places – quite useful to us, then there are animals (birds, reptiles are included) and finally things. Evolution has made us a powerful life form, and we deal with nature & other life forms from the aspect of power and control. If only we recognised the oneness of the universe and used harmony and understanding as the interaction principle, rather than power, the universe would be better off and consequently we too. I suppose we have such attitude issues with other humans many times as well.

It is unclear what the precise impact of global warming will be, but hopefully it can prompt us to introspect and re-align out attitude and approach to nature and other life forms.

We demand a lot from a universe which has very simply offered itself to us in it's entirety. We must learn. And today, it was a sparrow which was the messenger.


(Image from pixabay.com. As I wrote I did not click a picture of the sparrow we watched).


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Coming Alive with the Supermoon


(Image from pixabay.com)


Just a few days back (14 Nov 2016), we had a wonderful sight of a supermoon. The moon appeared bigger than usual and was beautiful to look at. I saw a number of excellent photos clicked by friends on social media. Sights like this spark something within us, making us more alive. Nature does that to us, and the supermoon certainly did that to us that day.

There are several possible reasons we love the moon:
  • It is the biggest body close to our planet – in sight and keeping us company most days.
  • It is also the brightest body in the night sky, reflecting light on our planet which we can see.
  • It is the only other celestial body man has set foot on.
  • The moon has a personality – different shades and lighted shapes. In that sense it comes alive in the sky every night.
  • It has served paranormal and thriller authors well – seemingly impacting our personalities!

We, of course, thankfully, do not reason why we like the moon making a list of positives as above. If we were to take this further we would have to make a list of negatives as well, such as -
  • The moon has no atmosphere and cannot support life.
  • It is a slave body trapped by the Earth's gravity with very little to contribute to us.
  • The moon sports no colour – being primarily shades of white, black and grey, with one side of the moon being always dark to us.
  • The tides it causes on Earth is more a nuisance and also puts us more at risk at times.

This is not how we relate to the moon – we appreciate its presence and are happy that it is around in the sky, and appreciate it for what it is.

We, however, find it difficult to have a relation like this with the company we have on Earth - people, animals and greenery where we are more analytical – trying to reason what value they offer us.

Can we re-orient our relationships on Earth taking a cue from how we relate to the moon?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Now why did....?




(Image from pixabay.com)

A big reason for heart burn among many of us is the question “Now why did?”.


“Now why did he say that?”

“Now why did she ignore me?”

….and the list can go on and on..


I have found myself asking this question many times and find that our approach to it is an important one. This question might come about in a wide variety of circumstances when we observe another person – an unexpected decision, an inexplicable move considered foolish, an action significantly deviant from our own values.

The search for an answer to this question many times also causes us to form an opinion about the other. This seems inevitable doesn't it? After all, words and action do reveal character! And yet the fact of the matter is that we are more often than not (unless it is a clear case of violation of universal values) very poorly placed to judge motive of the other. We are not in their circumstance, we have not had their experiences, and we do not share their priorities or aspirations.

The question by itself is interesting since it offers possibilities as well. An analysis might reveal something about the circumstance, motivation and reasoning of the other person in what he or she did or spoke. If however this question is viewed in terms of a conflict between egos it can be very dividing - causing acrimony, anxiety and conflict.

Wisdom advises us to be dispassionate in life – and that is especially true when this question springs to our mind. It is worthwhile delving on this question to understand rather than to criticize.

Does this question surface in your mind often as well? How do you deal with it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sometimes you just have to Reboot!



(Image from pixabay.com)

Have you been in situations when your computer system or smartphone simply will not respond and you have no option but to reboot/restart it? While technology obviously is getting more stable and powerful, reboot is still an option we have to exercise at times. Once you find the current state of the device unacceptable - you pause, think, and find that you have no choice but to reboot…..

This post is not about technology though!

What if you are trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle and find that you have gone haywire?
What if you are going somewhere and feel you have gone off track?
What if a conversation has gone off course and you find yourself in a conflict with the other person?
Most importantly, what if you find yourself in an unacceptable mental state (possibly of anger, despondancy, hopelessness or fear)?

In all the above situations, you need to pause, think and see if you retrace some of the steps. But there will be situations when you simply need to start over and give up all that has happened recently.

Of the examples above, I consider the last one the most interesting. As we go through the events of the day, they leave their impressions – about people, places, things. We view the world in future with the past impressions clouding our vision.

You shop at a store and did not quite like the attitude of one of the employees. You think about whether you should go there again. Well, it was just a single employee and possibly at a store you have been going to for years. Why not view this in perspective, if it is an isolated incident?

You had a bad argument on a topic with someone – you are wary the next time you discuss anything. The likelihood of disagreeing again may in fact be quite low, and there may be more mature ways to conduct the conversation this time even if it so happens.

In my post Addition and Subtraction, over and above our natural tendency to add to what we have (skills, money, connections….) I had written about the need to also develop a habit of subtracting regrets, fears, attitudes, opinions, biases, pride, and develop an attitude of oneness with others.

Children have this remarkable ability to reboot – they have this amazing quality of viewing everything with a sense of adventure and newness.

At times, you need to introspect and just reboot, to get away from your current state of mind so that you may view everything as if it were fresh and new…..

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Have you been Idling?



(Image from pixabay,com)

There is a lot all of us want to do in life, and there does not seem to be enough time. At work, people are racing against time to meet goals and stay ahead of competition, and at home there seems to be not enough time for friends and family.

Against this backdrop, what is our reaction when we see people seemingly idling away, doing nothing? It is after a sheer waste of time, and time is a limited commodity.

However, let us assume for the time being that we have done what we planned for the day. Instead of rushing to find more things to do – is idling such a bad thing?
“Everybody seems to think I'm lazy
I don't mind, I think they're crazy.
Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find there's no need.”

― John Lennon
The need to be productive and stay ahead in a seemingly difficult environment makes us restless – and our mind is constantly looking for new things to do. A point to ponder – do all the activities we do tie to a central life purpose for us and make us really happy? Why do we assume that the busier we are, the more we accomplish, and the happier we can be? This attitude of constant action often distracts from core purpose, allows fears to prey on our mind. It also causes us to look down upon and neglect activities such as meditation and sleep which are healing and important for physical and mental well-being in the longer term.
“There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”

― Bill Watterson
There might be merit to idleness after all. However, even idleness needs the right attitude. There is little purpose in being idle, if all we are doing is reviewing fears and regrets. Idleness should mean submission to nature and the order of the universe. Take a walk among the woods, by the sea or even in the streets early in the morning, and find a calm place to just sit and observe. My personal experience is that idling can be very energizing!
“I have often wondered whether especially those days when we are forced to remain idle are not precisely the days spend in the most profound activity. Whether our actions themselves, even if they do not take place until later, are nothing more than the last reverberations of a vast movement that occurs within us during idle days.
In any case, it is very important to be idle with confidence, with devotion, possibly even with joy. The days when even our hands do not stir are so exceptionally quiet that it is hardly possible to raise them without hearing a whole lot.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Life

Why not give idling a try today? Of course, only after completing all your responsibilities. And just maybe, you might be able to smile at people who think you are wasting your time!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Power of Simplicity


In the competitive business environment we are in today, there is considerable pressure to work harder & longer, learn skills & techniques, and network furiously. This is an age when life seems incredibly complex and stressful. However, activity frenzy can cloud purpose (see also Is Activity Frenzy Clouding Purpose).



Purpose should be central to all activities we do. If purpose is clear, the means to the goal make their appearance for the adventurer. Today is a good day to pause and reflect - Oct 2 is Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary. Many years have passed since we lost his presence (most of us never having been alive during his time), and yet the lessons his philosophy and life offer continue to be relevant, in fact very strongly so.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was a very unusual leader – he was soft spoken, and was extremely down to earth. He found strength to lead from his purpose and values. He maintained that he had nothing new to offer, and the principles of truth, non-violence and love are old concepts. While this may be true, he was able to apply it on a scale and circumstances which has few parallels. There has been some scattered criticism recently on some of his views in the early stages of his life in South Africa. I believe a sensible response to this is from his grandson Rajmohan Gandhi who has traced how Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy, views and life experiences evolved over time.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

No one is born a hero. If we regard Mahatma Gandhi as a unique figure in history, it is due to his evolution into a person of character in an extremely challenging period & tense environment. We can map his life to Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, with a call to adventure in his initial days in South Africa being a critical turning point, culminating finally in the end of the freedom struggle for India.

“Where there is love there is life.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatama Gandhi was an open minded learner, borrowing liberally from philosophies and practices around the world which he could apply to his life. Susan Cain in her excellent book “Quiet” also explores how Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected figures among the young. It is not difficult to understand why – he had no pretensions and was simplicity personified, other than his message of truth, love and non-violence resonating among the people.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Simplicity can be powerful – if backed by purpose, values and action. Mahatma Gandhi's life was indeed his message.

(Images from pixabay.com)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Reach for the stars but…..



The wise tell us that much of our problems are due to wishing things to be different from the way they are, including many times our own selves. Acceptance is a powerful concept – if we avoid resisting the natural order and the inevitable, we save ourselves much pain.

I have, however, found it enlightening to delve deeper into the concept, especially so as to be able to apply it in practical terms in every day life situations. This is worthwhile since acceptance brings up questions around – whether it means a state of inaction without attempting to improve or change frustrating situations. The confusion arises considering that some have associated phrases such as “everything is perfect as is” with acceptance.

Acceptance, to me, is simply aligning to the natural order of the universe. This means accepting cycles of pain & pleasure, accepting diversity but experiencing oneness at the same time, recognizing the overwhelming power of love & compassion, indulging in the joy of sharing, and looking at everything with a childlike curiosity and freshness.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.

- Joseph Campbell

Not everything is perfect – many situations clearly are not. Acceptance does not mean we resist the urge for action to improve life situations or aspire to reach somewhere better. It is important that we link actions to a higher purpose rather than to gain personal rewards. Activity which extends to a sphere beyond our realm and benefits others is very fulfilling.

The curiosity to know about ourselves and the universe has led to dramatic progress in space science. This is a good analogy for acceptance – it is not that we are unhappy standing on the ground, but we find purpose and fulfillment in reaching for the stars. Interestingly, possibly in a decade, we humans may step into another planet - Mars. Those who do that I am sure, will still value Earth.



Reach for the stars, but be grateful for the ground beneath your feet…..

(Images from pixabay.com)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Lighting the Spark Within.....


(Images from pixabay.com)

I often marvel at how kids ask one question after the other, curious to know more about everything. While there may not be answers for every question, most people understand that the sparkle in the eyes of kids should only be encouraged. If there is one trait we need to carry over from childhood, it is curiosity.

“The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.
― Albert Einstein

Curiosity is vital at work since it drives learning, but is also the primary fuel for personal growth. Being curious about how things work, cultures, skills, technology, languages, other people's experiences, and so many other things kindles a spark within us of something different, bigger and more meaningful. Knowledge of other cultures helps obtain a global reach for our work and passion. It also helps find meeting ground, shared values and interests. Knowing more languages is a distinct advantage in benefiting from literature and knowledge in those languages, as also in travel and people contact. A genuine interest in experiences of others equips us to learn and benefit.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
― Plutarch

A lot of the progress we have seen today can be traced back to the fact that there were people who were curious to know more, at times despite opposition and cynicism.
“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”
― Stephen Hawking
Curiosity is said to have killed cats, or at least one cat. The more modern version is “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back”. The modern version is more apt for the times we are in, and our recognition for what curiosity can do for us.

“Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly”.
― Arnold Edinborough

That brings up the question – can curiosity be detrimental in any way? I suppose if one is obsessive and unwilling to acknowledge limitations, it could be? Curiosity needs to be backed by a good amount of patience. There are discoveries which have been made after several decades of work and by passing on the baton of knowledge to a future generation. Astronomy and space science is an example.

“Life is an adventure of passion, risk, danger, laughter, beauty, love; a burning curiosity to go with the action to see what it is all about, to go search for a pattern of meaning, to burn one's bridges because you're never going to go back anyway, and to live to the end.”
― Saul D. Alinsky

Curiosity leads to growth and greater satisfaction if the motive is to learn and possibly benefit a larger community, rather than for personal pride. What do you think?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Net of Things – Millions of Years Old



(Image from pixabay.com)

I admit this is a bit of a play with words – this blog has nothing to do with the exciting developments in the Internet of Things. This is instead about a net of things we have had since millions, or rather billions of years. 

It is generally accepted knowledge today that the universe emerged from a big bang. This created matter, forces and energy. The universe was a hot small tight fireball initially till it cooled over time. The expansion of the universe created more space – but the universe is still held together as one till today. So the universe has always been a “Net of Things” - held together by forces, energy being transformed and directed.

Well, this was not be a discussion of the physical universe! As it turns out, we many times consider ourselves to be evolved beings, while perceiving the universe as a purely physical entity – somewhat like a building or any other man-made structure. This view however is neither logical nor useful – we are not separate from the universe, but rather are a representation of an essential oneness which has always existed. We cannot break away from the universe nor can it from us – both references are ultimately the same.

“You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.”
― Alan W. Watts

Science has been able to make remarkable progress in sequencing DNA, and also recreating the sequence of the events since the start of the universe. While much remains to be known, what we do know is profound as it is – everything in the universe has the same past. The evidence suggests we have ignored and assumed too much – water possibly has consciousness, and plants can feel. The universe has a delicate balance and anything which happens to any entity affects all others in some way or the other. The universe is truly an incredible “Net of Things” (admittedly we don't like being classified as things!).

“All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.”
― Swami Vivekananda

A view such as this makes a difference to how we view other life forms and the rest of the universe. If we recognize and experience the essential oneness of the universe, we do not need to debate the need for tolerance, kindness and sustainable living separately. While those who practice mindfulness experience this oneness, it is apparent even otherwise. We can be truly happy only if others around us are, and emotions travel very fast. Everything is connected - all part of the "Net of Things"!

While we emphasize the need to celebrate our differences, should we rather recognize our oneness first and celebrate that?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Introspection triggered - by food trays!



(Image from pixabay.com)

I have had some interesting experiences with food trays on flights! I am not referring to the quality of the food, but instead some life lessons. Well, if you wondering what life lessons can you draw from food trays on flights – read on!

On flights which serve food – snacks & beverages, a fair portion of the time and effort of the flight attendants is spent on doing that. The trolley moves along slowly – checking on meal preferences, assembling the tray, and serving it. There is also the odd discrepancy in preferences on record, or possibly passengers changing their mind, which requires more time and effort. 

The interesting part of the process to me has been what happens after the food is served. The meals are generally meant to be light and more often than not I complete (as do most others I think) them in around 10 minutes or so. This point on – the food tray remains stranded and unattended till it is cleared. Quite logically, the flight attendants wait to allow for all passengers to have completed their meals. This means the tray is in front of you for invariably for a fair amount of time (often around 15 minutes after eating). I personally have found this restrictive – I generally read on flights, unless I am too tired. Neither can you stretch – also the optimized seating cramps you considerably. Often, I have felt a sense of restlessness, and impatience -when will the trays be cleared?! After all, this period is a sheer waste! I am generally against drawing attention to myself and seeking something out of the way, but the temptation to ask the flight attendants to clear the trays faster has always existed.

Over time, especially after practising Mindfulness, I have been able to curb this sense of restlessness. Well, it was pointless, there is nothing lost by waiting a few extra minutes. In fact that time can be used for reflection or to seek calm. While, I still think that food trays can be cleared faster than they are typically, they don't make me restless as they did before!

The addiction to activity has consequences for all of us – we simply cannot sit quietly! We seem to derive our sense of self-esteem from activity frenzy. The toll this takes on mental peace and balance is often not understood. This is a time where activity is overrated, idleness (and consequently sleep) is looked down upon. This is not to imply that one should idle most of the time, of course.

Do you get restless? Have you sought to understand the triggers?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Playground of Monsters

Some important life lessons can be gleaned from the short story Playground of Monsters at my short story blog.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Distraction or Expansion?



(Image from pixabay.com)

I happened to read two interesting passages on handling stress, conflicts and dialogue.

How do you handle situations such as – being swamped with work, conflicts with colleagues, strong disagreements with friends or family, frustration at differing opinions?

As it happens, many of us unconsciously choose to handle such situations by distraction. We remove ourselves from the source of stress (people, place or circumstance) and focus on some other activity (typically something we find pleasing). This has it's benefits – time dilutes the impact of stress and conflict, a new focus activity which we like gives us some pleasure, and also being active provides us with a sense of self-esteem and a feeling of being useful in some way.

While this can work to handle the current circumstance, what about the longer term? How will we react in a similar situation next time?

This is where expansion is crucial – and needs to at least supplement distraction. Can we expand our thoughts to allow for differing opinions? Can we introspect to understand a differing point of view? Can we react without being offended and justifying our standpoint? Can we recognize that our thinking creates judgement of good and bad?

The universe expands all the time, holding within it remarkable diversity – gas giants vs rock planets, new star vs dying ones, expanding space vs black holes…….


Taking a cue from the universe, can we expand?


Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Twins



The restaurant owner smiled as he saw a couple of his regular customers walk in for dinner. He had always seen them come in together and had observed they conversed together happily, ate and left with a contended expression on their faces. The boy and girl were in their late teens, and seemed to be brother and sister – the resemblance was striking.

In order to maintain a level of consistency and understanding for their needs, he invariably assigned the same waiter to serve them. As he glanced towards them, he saw that the boy seemed agitated and the waiter was saying something to him. The girl placed her hand on his, and calmed him down. She then held the menu in her hand and said something to the waiter. The waiter nodded and came away. Once the waiter had conveyed the order to the kitchen staff, the owner spoke to him asking what the matter was.

“Well, one of the items the boy wanted isn't available today. He was irritated with that”, said the waiter.
“Oh, OK. The girl handled the situation very smoothly. I guess they are brother and sister. Do you know their names?”
“Well, they mentioned they were twins. I do not know their names though. Also they have paid in cash all the time, so there is no electronic receipt with their names either”.
“Sure..since they are regulars, we need to ensure they are satisfied and leave happy”.

After a few days, the boy came to the restaurant for dinner with 7 other friends. His twin sister was not accompanying him this time. The waiter quickly took their orders and served them quickly.

As time went by, after a few drinks, the group got to be boisterous. They were singing loudly, yelling and screaming. The owner grew to be worried, people at the tables close to this group were conscious and glared at them, clearly irritated. The owner was not sure what to do, after all he was dealing with a regular and loyal customer. He decided he would not intervene – after all it was a group of people having fun. Why come in the way? After a few minutes, two groups of people in adjacent tables quickly wrapped up their dinner, paid and left. As new people entered the restaurant, they were clearly taken aback by the noise. While some exited, preferring to find another place, a few persisted due to their general patronage of the place.

The manager was thoughtful. The boy was so much different at the times he came to the restaurant with his twin sister. What caused this change of behaviour – it was almost as if his twin sister was the balancing force in this boy's life. This was not a good night – some of the damage done would hurt for some time. The manager sighed – now starting to feel that he should have intervened and challenged the boy when the ruckus started.

He got up, determined to at least have a polite word with the boy so that this does not recur. As he walked towards the table, he saw that the group was done and the boy's friends were all walking away towards the door. The boy standing, was leaving a tip, and was ready to walk away.

The manager walked up to him and spoke “Quite a time you folks had”.
“Oh yes!”, replied the boy brightly “Our college term ended and a few of us decided to have fun”.
“Well you were very loud at times. Since you are regular, I let it be this time”, said the manager.
“Oh, were we?”, said the boy frowning.
“I have noticed you generally come here with your sister, isn't it?”, asked the manager.
“Oh yes! She is my twin and mostly insists on being around, but today I gave her the slip”, chuckled the boy.
“Ok!” said the manager shaking hands with the boy. “And what are your names?”
“I am Freedom” said the boy.
“Oh, and your twin sister?”, asked the manager.
“She is Responsibility”, replied the boy.

(Image from pixabay.com)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Housekeeping



I was restless – there were a great many things to do. And the usual thoughts on messages, calls and other things swam in my mind.




I paused for a moment and collected my thoughts. I could not however delay the housekeeping work any longer – and that is what I needed to attend to immediately. The mess had to be cleared - and I had to do it. There are many ways to go about it – but I decided to do it my own way. After all, it simply does not matter how you do it, what cleaning tools you use, so long as the place was organized and neat afterward.

I started with the obvious – the most recent and visible dust scattered all over. As I swept it away I realized, I had to dig deeper. As I peeped into a corner I found to my surprise some large stains. I thought over it and chuckled – a bad quarrel had led to spills and hence the stains. I worked on it and the stains dulled. I left it at that – I would revisit it again and work on it some other time.

As I reached into more corners, I found some things I had been missing since some time! A few were generous gifts from others – friends and family; a feeling of delight and gratitude rose. I resolved to share some of these things with others later.

I slowly opened my eyes. A sense of calm enveloped me. Housekeeping the mind was serious business, and followed the same principles as anything else. Also it is so very important - the more regular I am the better it is for me..



(Images from pixabay.com)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mysterious Maya


(Image from pixabay.com)

I smiled as I thought about my new connection - Maya. The name was appropriate, as she had a deep sense of mystery about her. I looked closely at her timelines – it went back well into the past. Interestingly, the timeline covered most major events in her life. When I looked at her, I always admired her for the deep sense of calm on her face. But her timeline indicated there had been turbulent and violent times as well. As I read through her timeline, I wondered why would she put so much information to the outside world right since the early part of her life.

I was curious to know everything about her - she was the most fascinating person I had ever known. I reflected on my interaction with her – conversation was difficult as she spoke a different language, but I grew to recognize some of her signs. Though I was connected, I wasn't even sure if I could consider her a true friend yet.

I reflected on this:
Outwardly, Maya was neither friendly, nor unfriendly
She portrayed a sense of calm and balance
She was not verbal, and yet was very expressive
She encouraged me to understand her better
She had interlinked her life very closely with mine
She wanted me to learn the language she spoke
She wanted me to learn lessons from her life
She wanted me to write her story



All this was encouraging, and I supposed I could count her as a friend. However, her message seemed to be “Just be” - don't simplify a relationship with labels such as “friend” and “foe”.

Can you recognize “Maya”? You know her too!

I have used “Maya” in place of the “Universe”. Why don't you re-read the text above with “Universe” in place of “Maya”…..

It is sometimes easy to lose sight of how profound the universe is. She has allowed us to see her and that too well into her past. And she has extraordinary lessons for all of us on how we need to be balanced.

“I will tell you why we have these extraordinary minds and souls, Miss Whittaker," he continued, as though he had not heard her. "We have them because there is a supreme intelligence in the universe, which wishes for communion with us. This supreme intelligence longs to be known. It calls out to us. It draws us close to its mystery, and grants us these remarkable minds, in order that we try to reach for it. It wants us to find it. It wants union with us, more than anything.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things

“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”

― Alan W. Watts

My last post dealt on about how we need to think of the universe as being alive. Isn't it remarkable that the universe has encouraged us to be curious, build capability across several generations and reach out to the very limits of our intellect to be able to understand her not only how she is today, but well into the past and how she was born? Stephen Hawking had remarked that science would be able to say how the universe was born but not why.

The question on why the universe bothers to exist is the same as asking why we bother to exist. To answer that question you must both look out and look in – listen to the whisper from outside and the voice from inside. And wise men tell us it can be done – if you learn the language of silence which is more expressive and clearer than words…..

In looking at the universe, are we not looking at ourselves? Isn't that why knowing more about the universe is possible and exciting, since it is a process of self-discovery ultimately? Have you felt your oneness with the universe?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tracing back to the Oldest Life Form



(Image from pixabay.com)

What is the oldest life form which comes to your mind? Here, even a google search might send you off-track…..

There is no harm is starting with the obvious though – a google search. This leads us to the page titled  Timeline of the evolutionary history of life. The article tells us that the earliest evidence of simple life was around 440 million years after the Earth was formed (around 4.54 billion years back). We, modern humans have been around for a very small fraction of Earth's existence. It is an interesting account on we have managed to trace our origins from the earliest forms of life.

The universe fascinates us, everything about it - it's origins, history, evolution, purpose…..However, many a times we lose perspective of our relation with the universe. As we look around us, the universe is all around us, and we are within – an outer protective covering, much like our houses, only so much bigger. The universe appears to be a physical entity enclosing the only significantly intelligent life form we know of – us. Let us imagine for a moment that someone tells us that a building has given birth to a child. What would our reaction be? - we would regard this as absolutely ridiculous isn't it? It is life which spawns life!

Isn't the oldest life form the universe itself? Why have we come to regard the universe as a totally physical entity? Is it because we hold ourselves as the ideal reference point? We picture the universe as something like a balloon, expanding as balloons do with we having found a place for ourselves inside. The universe is very alive though; sustaining itself, spawning life, creating matter & energy, and changing all the time.
“In the older view the goddess Universe was alive, herself organically the Earth, the horizon, and the heavens. Now she is dead, and the universe is not an organism, but a building, with gods at rest in it in luxury: not as personifications of the energies in their manners of operation, but as luxury tenants, requiring service. And Man, accordingly, is not as a child born to flower in the knowledge of his own eternal portion but as a robot fashioned to serve.”
― Joseph Campbell
Considering the universe as alive is a far richer and profound view. It changes our perspective on our relation with the universe. We and the universe are one – we started as one, and we remain one in purpose, very much like a wave is part of the ocean.
“You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”
― Alan W. Watts
As a wave is indistinguishable and shares identity and purpose with the ocean, we share the same relation with the universe. We carry the responsibility of aligning to the universe as waves with the sea.
“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”
― Joseph Campbell
“There is force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

In your minds do you think of the universe as being alive?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Addition and Subtraction


(Image from pixabay.com)

These are basic skills, are they not? Yet, are we sure we are good at it? Do we accord both the right emphasis?

Well, I must admit that the title is misleading as it is metaphorical, but clarity will come as you read on. Success, as we see it, is largely a matter of (quantum of) addition – adding to the bank balance, adding skills, adding more friends (on social media and in real-life), adding to places travelled, adding business contacts, adding to gadgets owned, adding property, and so many other things. In fact it is addition which preys on our mind all the mind. Success in the world view is all about addition! In fact our self esteem depends totally on our ability to add! Happiness in the view of many is addition at a steady and never ending pace.

There are rare cases when subtraction surfaces in our thoughts, but gains priority only if it threatens to take away something from us. A case in point is weight – there are many who take up weight reduction once it is clear that it could impact health or self esteem. Weight, as in turns out is not the only thing we need to think of subtracting. Subtraction lends balance and true purpose to our lives.

Subtracting a little of our bank balance for charity helps others and provides great satisfaction. Subtracting from our pride helps us understand others. Subtracting our stereotypes and biases helps us see the world as it is, instead of our warped view of it. Subtracting our sense of uniqueness allows us to see the essential oneness of everything in the universe. Subtracting meaningless effort allows time for reflection and creativity.

If we subtract the past pains and future fears from our thoughts, we are in the “now” - truly living the present moment. There are a number of other things we need to work on subtracting as well – stereotypes, biases, overindulgence, false sense of identity, overconfidence, pleasure seeking frenzy, and others.

Enlightenment is a demolition project. It simply shows you that everything you ever believed was true isn’t.
- Adyashanti
“If the past was the age of adding to one's mind, now is the age of subtracting what is in his mind. A person who subtracts his minds in this time will recover his original nature.”
― Woo Myung,

You have probably been asking yourself every day “What did I add today?”. Don't you think you should also be asking “What did I subtract today?”.