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So what are you holding on to?

When I was leaving college after completing graduation, I was aware I won’t be able to see my friends for a long time, maybe years. So we all planned for a final meet-up in a local mall/plaza. I wanted to watch a movie before I was leaving the city forever as my father had retired from serving in the army and we were finally going to settle down in our hometown. I asked all my friends from the group except one because every time we wanted to go watch a movie, she wouldn’t get permission from her home and this would make others guilt ridden, as a result they would back off one by one. so, this time I decided to exclude her as I didn’t want anyone to spoil the last get together. I was aware that morally this was wrong but I just went ahead with it. we all had a nice time but unfortunately she came to know about this through my other friend. I was feeling guilty but somewhere my mind justified that this was right because I knew she wouldn’t have come at any cost and that would have ruined the entire plan.

I left the city and got busy with life. I never got the chance to speak with her for many years. It became very difficult to stay in touch with all the friends. Facebook wasn’t very popular those days, Whatsapp was available only on smartphones with a hefty internet expense and calls weren’t cheap either. One day I was speaking with my friend who just happened to be with her. During the conversation he passed on the phone to her. I spoke to her after almost 6 years. After the pleasantries were exchanged and a little gossip, I said to her, ‘’I have a feeling you are still keeping that incident in your head. I could sense it all these years and now when I’m talking to you I can feel it in your voice.” she replied, ‘yes, you could have at least asked.’ I said, ‘yes, but anyways you wouldn’t have come.’ to which she answered that it was only fair if you asked me. I did finally apologise for my actions but I was surprised to find that all these years she was keeping this inside her. She never bothered to Call me because she was holding on to that against me. 

In these many years I have seen many people keeping grudge against their friends, colleagues, relatives, even parents. I’m not a saint to say that I haven’t had any enmities for anyone ever. I had animosity against some people who did some horrible things to me and treated me poorly. Eventually I realised its not doing me any good. How does my holding anger against someone affects their health in any way? Except it only damages my sanity. When things went south with my ex-boss, I didn’t realise the gravity of the blow at that time. I was furious for many years. I had resentment and it took me a considerable amount of time to let go of that outrage. Only when I tried to move on I realised how much resentment I had bottled up inside me, letting go of it at last made me feel lighter and happier .

“how could he say that?” ” you know what he did?” “how could she do that to me?” “nobody asked me, I will never forget that”. all these statements represent repressed emotions. We are waiting to lash out at that person who made us feel miserable at that moment but all the while holding onto it like a ball of fire. Buddha said in his teachings, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Having said that letting go is essential for self annihilation it is although very difficult to let go entirely from our minds. We never know how much bitterness we are carrying unless we try to get rid of it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to liberate ourselves. Holding onto grudge brings out only the negative aspects of mind and makes it foggy. A fuzzy mind cannot clearly see what’s beyond the perception of the eye. To let go truly one must learn to forgive. Forgiving one for their actions is the biggest virtue. By letting go we rise over the basic human tendencies. If you have anger and animosity towards someone that made you bitter in your life, try to forgive them for their mistakes. Make a list of all the people and one by one, try to pardon them for their mistakes, their anger, harsh tone and wrongdoings. It can take months to absolve all those hidden emotions. 

As much as forgiving is important its also crucial to ask for it if deep down you are aware of something you did to someone. It clears up heart and one is free from bondage. One must travel light. Life becomes heavy if we carry too much baggage. If we can’t carry anything with us then why carry grudge?

“Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.”

Budhha
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Why should we meditate?

I am sure almost all of the people who are reading this blog have a bank account. The answer to the question why we need a bank account is very obvious. A bank account is required to save money which can be used later in times of need. Bigger or smaller, depending on the circumstances, we withdraw, deposit and spend. The system of savings has existed since the beginning of mankind. In old days people in India used to store money in the form of coins & jewellery in the floor of the house. Not just money but food used to be stored too. The need to save money or food comes from our basic survival instinct that in order to survive we need to have a backup at all times. 

The same way we treat money to be used in crisis, what is it that we can use when we face problems in waking life? What do we have in store to deal with such situations? Spirituality is the wealth, that gives strength & courage to deal with the adversities of life. A spiritually inclined person has a different way of dealing with challenging times. They understand the nature of life and are aware that everything is impermanent. Whenever a person spends time with self in reflection he/she is accumulating a wealth, an abundance that reflects in the attitude and behaviour of the person. It acts like a mountain which does not flicker no matter how strong the winds are.

Meditation makes you calm and relieves stress……is the biggest misconception in today’s world. Sometimes meditation itself can stress you out. Practicing Once a week makes you feel relaxed and energised but that’s not even the tiniest bit of what it actually is. Thanks to the western approach and various scientific studies, it is seen as a visit to the spa. Meanwhile, I have never understood why we need scientific validations to follow our beliefs and practices? Various books on meditation, specially the buddhist ones mention that this was one of the best kept secrets for thousands of years and only recently it was discovered by western masters and is now being used widely by many sections of the society. It was never hidden, just like the sun and the moon it was always there, but only a true seeker can find the treasure. In my opinion, mediation is a very strict discipline which requires dedication, hard work and right approach. A monk spends approximately 10 years in a monastery to master a discipline, hence, it must be something worth spending that much time. It takes a very sincere effort to train the mind. As with learning other things there will be failures, ups and downs, frustrations but one can overcome all hurdles. Every single moment spent in sadhana counts, like a pot of gold which keeps filling up like an asset.

In today’s world, we have gone miles away from ourselves. We need apps to tell us how much to eat? What to eat? How much to walk? How much to sleep? How to sleep? We have gone far away from our own body and mind. We do not know why we are suffering from this many issues in our lives. People are not in touch with themselves. That’s another reason for our outward approach because we are looking for solutions outside. Awareness of senses, breath, mind, feelings and body is all lost somewhere in the world of selfies and smartphones. Meditation is what connects us to ourselves. Its a path towards inside which develops an insight where we are no longer dependent on our senses for perception. Some people believe that mediation is just a sitting practice with some fancy candles and oil burners. (Yes, that’s how they show in movies!!). Some think its for old people who do not have much to do in life. In reality, it is much more than that. On this path, there is no fullstop and no the end, it just keeps going. Every day is a new realisation. It soaks the mind in a never ending bliss, a state of joy which no matter the condition, never leaves. It teaches us to fall in love endlessly with the marvel of every creation we see, every tiny fleck of nature….its magnanimous. One starts loving not just self but all beings and all creation and when they lose the discrimination between themselves and other entities(living and non living), they begin to RISE!!!!

My experience with the divine

Only mankind is interested in results, nature Only wants to know your intentions

-The Fakir by Ruzbeh N Bharucha 

This experience is very sacred to me, so, before you read any further I would like to state that you are free to believe if you want to. If someone else told me the same thing I might not believe this. But its true to whatever I could recall.

Note:(In this blog by god I mean, shiva). 

This happened two years ago. I was reading a book where the author mentions about seeing mother divine, tripurasundari after extreme penance, devotion and sadhana. I have heard about Ramakrishna paramhansa who was an ardent devotee of maa kali. His devotion was such that whenever mother would leave, he used to cry like a child. Being born in India its impossible one might never have heard of the biggest saints and devotees who have walked on this divine land. I  was reading an account of one such monk. After reading the book, I was thinking if it is indeed possible to see god through naked eyes. I had a desire from childhood but I haven’t met anyone who has claimed to met god. I assume we all must have had a desire at least once in life to see the almighty but how to work towards it, probably no one tells you.

It was a cold December night. That particular day, I was alone in home.( I can’t remember the exact details of that day but I think it was evening time). In UK, it gets completely dark around 4 pm. I was about to sit for my usual practice when I started contemplating a thought. Now, there is a huge difference between thinking and contemplating. Thinking can be vague, it can lack solid ground. contemplating on the other hand represents clear comprehension. I thought to myself, ‘yes, I would like to see god too one day but will it ever be possible in this lifetime. It will take no less than 10-20 years of sadhana. But still, what are the chances? Even it might take two lifetimes. But what’s the harm in trying. Maybe I am aiming a little too high. people who witness such events are very big devotees. and then I became a little sad. Why would he come to me? There are so many devotees who are worshipping him for years and I am just a beginner. Barely few years old in practice and in age. So many people are already in queue who have devoted their lifetimes and thousands of hours meditating upon him and what have I done? Nothing. Its not gonna happen. But, I will keep practicing and maybe it might happen, probably in next lifetime. whatever it is, I will do my best.’

After thinking seriously about this, I sat down for my practice. It was normal. A thousand things ran in my mind. I completed my time and as I was about to end my practice, I rubbed my hands together and covered my eyes. This is a standard practice which I learned long ago. What I saw caught my attention. My eyes were closed but I saw an image made out of fire. It wasn’t really an image but a being made out of fire. It appeared as if I am looking into a vast black space like a galaxy (I didn’t see any stars though) it kept coming closer to me. I was utterly confused, what is this happening? I could see two eyes burning with fire or should I say made out of fire. It was difficult to look at the bust in its entirety. I tried to look into the eyes but the energy was so intense that I could not keep up. I shifted my gaze lower. It was then I saw hair locks flying in space. I saw a kundal( a round shaped heavy earring). As much as I wanted to look and embrace what I saw, I just found it very hard because the energy was way too fierce. I then opened my eyes. The entire experience lasted maybe few seconds or minutes. I lost track of time. (I’m falling short of words here)

That must have been my hallucination. I shrugged off the entire experience. I did not know who to tell about this or ask, what I saw. A week passed. It took me a week to understand what I witnessed. I was looking at images of lord shiva I noticed he is represented with matted hair locks and a peculiar earring round in shape.(I would like to mention that I am not obsessed with images, I find its quite degrading to have them as wallpapers of phone screensavers). And then I closed my eyes and thought about my vision, as much as I could recall, It was none other than lord of the lords, Mahadev. But it was nothing like I have seen in temples or even on the entire internet something like that could not be found. one of my friends told me one time that its very easy to worship shiva. He is considered Bholenath for some reason and I became a testimony to that.

I know no tantra 

I know no mantra 

I haven’t read any scriptures  

I know no prayer/Aarti 

I am full of flaws and a very normal human being

I don’t do any special rituals, the max I do is light a lamp daily

And moreover, people have been worshipping shiva for many many years. Then how come I could have gotten a glimpse of mahadev just like that. These experiences do not happen by accident. All I know was, my emotions were purest at that Moment. Even at the deepest level of my subconscious there was nothing hidden. My intentions were transparent. It was crystal clear. I did not express my desire to see god, but it just crossed my mind, subconsciously I expressed it. Did he just appear because I expressed my desire? Is it this easy? I could not believe it myself. When I tried to share it with someone, I fell short of words. I tried telling my husband but he didn’t believe it. Trying to make someone believe can take the sacredness of an experience. I realised that truth remains unchanged. It is beyond belief, beyond logic and its out there, somewhere registered in the universe’s log book. Becoming a spectator to a miracle, I understood the essence of bhakti bhaav. its all about how pure your thoughts are.

What did I learn form this experience 

whatever you think, nothing is hidden from the universe. 

Different dieties are represented in certain ways because that’s how they are, there are people who have seen gods and goddesses. 

The universe sees all, it keeps all record. 

God is hungry for your devotion. The divine does not wants flowers, rituals or elaborate prayers but just your emotion or bhaav. 

I am not considering myself to be on a higher ground because I saw something like that but if a person who is so flawed and full of sins can witness such grandeur just by expressing a desire then how much can people who are ardent devotees and have absolute faith achieve on the path of bhakti. There are infinite possibilities.

love

Sex, Meditation and the Divine

If you are someone who has conservative views and thinks this topic should not be discussed out in the open specially by a woman, you can skip this blog altogether.

Now, I have some serious issues when somebody says that sex is a sin. How can it be a sin when this was the basis of all existence. All phenomena in the world are due to this. The same creative energy that gave birth to humans, flowers, trees and all wildlife is suddenly looked down upon by people. I do not hold the same opinion as many other do. I won’t be surprised if I get ridiculed by others for writing this because our minds are conditioned to see it as a filth. Something you are not supposed to express and discuss. I understand the point where no one would talk openly about it but I don’t understand the shame and guilt associated with it. There are fallacies around this topic so much so that if you start looking for books on this, you will find plenty but they only talk about intensifying pleasure and probably no-one talks about transcending sex.

Almost anyone who has experienced intimacy even once in life knows that once the act is complete, it is in those moments all thoughts cease to exist. That state of thoughtlessness gives rise to emptiness or nothingness. It relaxes the mind deeply but I am not talking about a relaxation technique here. Those moments of stillness can give glimpses of a higher self. On a physical level, such states are possible only through intimacy. Unless one is spiritual, then such thoughtless states are possible through sadhana/meditation. But I doubt that there are enough people on this planet who have transcended all sexuality. most of the population is in a state of denial.

What science calls orgasm is a fleeting glimpse of samadhi in reality. Because it offers that quietude, mind wants to experience it again and again, it does not want to let go of it. such tranquility can be attained on a physical level only through the body and if a brush off with samadhi can make people ask for more then how it must be to attain the actual state? when two bodies merge, there is no “I”(unless you are someone who takes grudge to bed then its a different story) and no sense of time and space. Do you remember who you are at that time? No, no one would even remember their name, identity, their profession but just the fact that whether they are a man or a woman. To attain that state of bliss one needs true devotion, love, faith and surrender to their partner. All desires have to be let go of including the desire to be loved and to be happy. Only when desires are let go of and one is full of love, a divine state is experienced. Once that state of samadhi is attained then sex becomes secondary, it takes a backseat. It no longer holds you back because the highest possibility with sex has been reached. All sexual desires are transcended then. This state of egolessness and surrender that I mentioned above are apparently the same qualities needed to attain enlightenment. One has to forget everything that mind or body identifies with to climb the ladder for truth. A true experience is uplifting whereas unconscious lustful encounters drain your energy. It is commonly believed that if someone turns spiritual there will be no desire left for sex or materialistic things. Our ancient sages say otherwise. Turning spiritual gives a state of godliness in an act as banal as sex(its earthly only if you think so). However, it is to be noted that people may live their whole lives but not experience this even once, because it is a rare phenomena. A night of good sex and multiple orgasms is incomparable to the experience of samadhi in love. To experience such divinity one has to be very mindful and aware with a heart full of love which only wants to give but wants nothing in return.

It is probably this search of bliss that people keep looking for their whole lives and when they can’t find it in their partners they begin to believe that there is no spark left, they start looking out of relationships. But how will one attain god, if they can’t even stay true and surrender to their partner? To surrender means there is no expectation of a result, right or wrong, only involvement. When all identifications of the mind fade away and one is in complete alignment with the other person a glimpse of soul can be attained. Sex becomes mundane when its only an act. When one or both partners are spiritual it no longer remains an act. The whole process transforms into one divine experience. When bodies are just bodies there is no transformation. Only when it is embraced wholeheartedly with no guilt, it becomes a phenomena. Its about accepting our true selves.

In today’s world we are proudly multitasking. We are going to restaurants to have good meal but scrolling through social media, flipping through the news and eating breakfast, watching movie and snacking, even on toilets people are shopping online. There are a lot of things happening at the same time. Apparently this is one of the few things left in our lives where we are actually ‘present in the moment’.

When it is said that women like to talk about it and men don’t then it is the lingering experience that women want to dabble in. Its like an aftertaste of visiting an inner sanctum. But just like any other experience this fades away too. women have more attachments to such experiences which could be attributed to their biology. If we can’t keep holding on to anything then why there is an attachment when it comes to other heightened experiences. Trying to recreate or relive such moments only create karma. There shouldn’t be any desire to have the same experience again and again. As the law of nature states everything that is now will not be here forever so, Let go.

My marriage doesn’t define me

I have been married for 6 years. At first the idea of marrying a person from a different culture and language seemed very romantic but the reality was something I didn’t anticipate. Our food habits, culture, interests nothing matched. My idea of a peaceful evening was to have a good meal and go for long walks on the beach while my partner preferred watching some dreadful Netflix series. Being born and brought up in India and settling in a different country immediately after marriage came with its own pitfalls. To say I was delusional until I got into it and didn’t realise that arguments are part of marriage would be an understatement but it was appalling to see how ugly they can get. And to avoid getting into those brawls I learned my first lesson, ‘arguments can go on as far as you would like but just dropping the ego can resolve it with much ease.’

At first I took them lightly and tried not to take them to heart but it was baffling and heartbreaking. Whenever I discussed with anyone they told me that these things are normal part of a married life and eventually everybody gets used to it. But I couldn’t understand how can they be considered so normal? Why is it so much widely accepted that a couple has to be at each other throats? Is ‘happily ever after’ a myth? Or is there a deep hidden meaning behind those onslaughts? Is there a truth which as a society we have largely failed to notice.

Although I never saw marriage as a romantic getaway but what to cook for dinner became a question of life and death. The idea that your partner is supposed to make you happy is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we just don’t realise how much it can affect us when things are not what they are promised. Everybody projects the idea of marriage as a partnership that will complete you. To have a partner who will look after you emotionally, physically, sexually and will be your pillar to lead a life meaningful looks very assuring. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if you are stuck with an obnoxious person? What if you enter marriage with huge expectations and none of them get fulfilled? life can be very unpredictable at times and I’m sure for most of us life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan.

It took me many meltdowns to realise that there is more to marriage than what we know. In realty, your partner is your nearest communication portal with the universe. Its a misconception that your partner completes you. I found this wisdom in the book, “Don’t polish your ignorance it may shine” in which Sadhguru jaggi Vasudev says that couples are called better halves because we think we are incapable of being happy on our own. We can be joyful beings irrespective of how our spouse behaves. In a way we seek what we lack but, in the other person. If there is a statement which changed my life for good, it was this one. I realised I need to seek happiness which doesn’t come from the other person. It needs to be permanent and not those glimpses of momentary joys from the dine outs, movies, clubbing or drinking. If we depend for our happiness on the other person it becomes an everlasting expectation. In a way it was my own ego which made my vision so blurred that I couldn’t see anything with clarity.

If your spouse makes you angry then rise over it because they will keep annoying you for whole life. If your partner keeps hold of past and throws back your mistakes at you often then you be the one to truly let go. If your partner has mountainous ego which makes life difficult then first learn to dissolve your own ego to the point where nothing remains but just compassion. And if your spouse makes you feel loved then it is time to rise to their level and maybe learn something from them. Most of the people try to gain happiness by changing the habits of their spouses which I am sure will never ever work, not in a lifetime !!!!! Its an accepted notion that the one who wins the ‘ego’ battles will dominate all aspects of a married life but that’s not true. How can ego win over boundless love?only a person whose heart is full of compassion can truly win. A miserable person is capable of making everyone’s life miserable only if they are allowed to.

It is to be noted though that to rise over ego doesn’t mean assuming an, ‘I don’t care’ attitude or becoming ignorant of the situation which can lead partners to have dual lives. Many times people just accept the marital issues as their fate and live their whole lives in constant stress, anxiety and fear which have their own consequences. Why should one person lose ‘self’ to seek approval of the other one? Are you allowed to be ‘you’ when in love? I am not implying here about the favourite colour and TV shows but the deeper attributes. One shouldn’t be suppressing their emotions to make their partner happy. To give space means to let the other be the way they are and not changing them to your expectations. All human emotions like anger, hatred, jealousy, suffering, envy, lust, greed, attachments which are considered normal can be transcended and your partner can be the guiding light to achieve that state.

Relationships do not exist to make us feel better. They are a mirror to show us what we truly are in first place. Be grateful if you have a difficult partner because then you know what you have to transcend for happiness. It is a possibility to be happy and joyful irrespective of how your spouse behaves. It requires effort but it is achievable to be ecstatic with or without a partner. Once you attain that state, nothing can flicker your mind, not even the most annoying person in your life!!!!

How to see God

“Mummy, I can’t find my file. It has some important documents.where did you keep it?”

“Ask your daddy, he was looking for something, might have misplaced”

“papa, where is my file? I’m looking for it for so long”

“have you searched for it properly?maybe you missed, GO!!look again !!!

“I looked everywhere, but still couldn’t find”

“Are beta….dhoondne se to bhagwan bhi mil jate hain, ye to sirf file hai”

(if you search with all your heart and soul, you can even find the Almighty)

Whether god exists or not is one of the most debatable topics till date. If someone claims to have seen god, they would be asked, What does he look like? Is god male or female? If you can see him, why can’t you tell him so many people are suffering around the world, children are dying of cancer. why can’t he do something for them? Human mind perceives the world the way it wants to. Its is a mirror image of our mind. If we see ourselves as physical entities with emotional baggages we would see god too to be a physical being who has a thought pattern, physical appearance, habits, attributes, likings and dislikings.

Like most of the people I watched a lot of American movies while growing up. But after a certain point I figured out they were mostly repeating the stories on the same lines. Have you ever noticed the projection of aliens? They are created by the production team with a lot of reasoning but are still conceived on screen having the same human attributes. I usually differ from that projection. They do their best to make them look as convincing as possible but the emotions portrayed and their actions are very anthropomorphic. Jealousy, hatred, love, anger, compassion, exploiting earth to make their home comfortable(almost in every movie) etc are all in essence a portrayal of basic human nature.

As kids, we learned so many stories about the great devotees India ever had. Meerabai, Radha, Tukaram, Shabri, Ravana, Arjun, Hanuman to name a few. The benchmark has been set so high that we think it must take mammoth devotion to witness the divine in reality. Devotion to god does not ask, it just does. We do not question but accept what we are blessed with. There is no bargaining, no pleas or begging involved. What can you give to the one who has created everything. 

Below are the lyrics of a song from the movie Kaajal(1965) written by sahir ludhiyanvi. 

Prani apne prabhu se poochhe, Kis vidhi paaun tohe

Prabhu kahe tu man ko pa le, Pa jaayega mohe

Man asks god what is the way to you? How can I attain you? God answers, “if you can find your mind, eventually you will find me.” 

Mind is like a mirror. Nothing escapes from the mind. If one can understand the true nature of mind, attaining the supreme becomes imminent. Divine appears when our thoughts are the purest and there is no single fleck of doubt. In that one moment when we are sincere even in our subconscious mind, the unbelievable happens. Most of the times, when we visit temples, there is a certain way the deities are  projected. I have given considerable amount of thought to this, why is the presiding deity whether it is Shiva, Krishna, Durga, Vishnu or Yoginis projected like that? Is it because they are described in the scriptures like this or somebody has truly seen them. I am sure there are a lot of people who have seen and experienced the divine. At some point in life, we all must have come across somebody who would have claimed witnessing a miracle. A rare phenomena which tells not the visual experience but the impression of a divine entity. But many chose not to disclose their experience as the listener needs to transcend logic to understand the depth of such experience. Mostly, we brush off such stories as hallucination. They also chose not to disclose because they would be questioned on the credibility of their experience.

God rewards the devotees with their vision in the most unexplainable, unimaginable, bizarre way and surely something a human mind cannot comprehend. The vision of devi and devas is beyond our five senses to grasp. One does not have to be a vairagi to attain spiritual bliss. Bhagvad Geeta finds mention of king Janak who although a king but was a yogi. A true seeker will find ways to enlightenment. When your heart is pure you seeing the divine becomes inevitable. When there is sadhna, deep longing, a stubbornness and devotional love God will have to come to the devotee.

Here is a story which I read in a local newspaper(Navbharat times)and I absolutely loved it. This story teaches that God seeks simple and sincere efforts.

Once there was a young man who went to a temple and saw a sage offering obeisances to the god. He was quite inspired and offered to join him. He thought it is such an easy job, with nothing much to do. Just pray to god, sing the glories of the divine and when hunger strikes beg for food. The senior sage accepted him as his disciple. Once there was the monthly ekadashi fast. The senior sage told him to fast all day and offer prayers at the end of the day in the hut across the banks of Yamuna river. He was instructed not to eat unless he makes an offering to god. He had never stayed hungry so he wondered how will stay without food. Somehow he managed without eating and by the end of the day as instructed by his guru, he went across the river and cooked prasadam. He then offered it to lord Ram. Nobody came. He waited and waited. As he was getting hungrier he became annoyed and said, “Dear god, i know you like to eat all kinds of delicacies but this is what I have. so please come and eat. I cannot wait for you all day.” Seeing the innocence of this devotee, Lord Ram smiled and decided to come pay a visit. But lord rama arrived with Devi Sita. They both came and finished all the food. The devotee says, “lord Rama, I am glad you came but next time please let me know in advance how many people you will be bringing over because there is nothing left for me.” Lord rama took his leave and went to his abode. Next day, the senior sage asked him if he did what he was told. He nods but complains that Lord rama brought devi Sita along with him and I was left starving. Senior sage was amused at his story. During the next month, another ekadashi came. He did exactly the same except this time he took more food to be prepared. After he finished cooking he prayed again and asked lord rama and devi sita to come and accept his offering. This time, lord rama and devi sita brought laxman along with them. All three ate the prasadam and there was nothing left for him. Annoyed he complains to Lord rama, “Prabhu, next time please let me know in advance how many people you would be bringing because again I’m hungry.”

Next day he again mentions to the senior sage that he would be needing more food as lord rama came along with Devi sita and laxman. The senior sage found it doubtful and decided to check himself as to what is he doing with all the food. Next ekadashi came, he went across the river, made food and asked Lord Rama, Devi Sita and Laxman to come and accept his offerings. Lord rama came along with devi Sita, laxman along with hanuman. The young devotee became furious. “This is not fair. You never tell me how many people you bring and every time I am left hungry. I cannot cook for this many people, I need help.” Seeing this,Lord rama smiled and said to sita, now that the devotee asks we need to do something. Lord Rama asked Devi sita to cook food, laxman to bring woods and hanuman to light up the fire.

The senior sage was looking through the window but could not see who the young disciple was talking to. He decided to barge in. He asked the disciple, what’s happening and who are you talking to? To which he answered Devi sita is cooking food, laxman and hanuman are helping with chores and he was massaging lord Rama’s foot. But the guru could not see anyone. The disciple asked lord Rama, “why is my guru not able to see you?” To which lord rama answered, “your guru is not innocent and simple like you. That’s why he cannot see me.” He conveys the same to his guru, upon hearing which he bursts into tears. He admits he has not been sincere in his prayers. After the realisation, lord rama along with Sita, laxman and Hanuman appeared and blessed both of them. 

Are you listening??

Have you ever bought a used book? Have you noticed that the previous owner underlines different content than you. What you consider important is not worthy for that person. And what that person found difficult to grasp was so easy for you. That’s how different we are. We all perceive the world differently. Every time we hear a tragic news about someone committing suicide, it makes us question our own life and the choices we make. When we read about celebrities who took their own lives, we start searching our souls too. Because we assume they have everything in life, so what could be the possible reason to end it? Committing suicide is the most drastic step anyone would take but one must have gone through episodes of depression and trauma. Some people come out as winners while others succumb to it. We are all living in unprecedented times where it is not a surprise that the lockdown is having a psychological impact on most of the population.

At some point in life, I was depressed too. I was so low in energy that I didn’t feel like waking up. I would cry for hours, and wait for night time to fall into a deep sleep because that was the only time my mind would stop debating itself. On the other hand, no matter how hard I tried, some days I was just not able to sleep. One of the most significant symptoms of depression is self harm. Before one decides to take their own life, they would do things which are not beneficial for the body and mind. like drinking, smoking, skipping medicines and not talking to anyone to name a few. They just don’t want to try and find a resolve for the ongoing issue. I have gone through that stage. For many months, I didn’t want to get up because that would mean the mind would be active in analysis, debate, arguing, examination, criticism etc. Why wake up and face the world when I can ignore all issues by sleeping forever. I did try to share it with few close ones but nobody paid attention. Most of the answers i got to deal with the situation were ambiguous in nature. Eventually, I realised nobody has the time to listen. They seemed to hear but not listen. 

There is a lot of stress on reaching out for mental health issues, but are we actually paying attention to those who want to reach out to us? Personally, I do not think that reaching out is the problem. Listening with utmost patience is the issue. And mind it, when people complain, rarely they want a solution, they just want to be heard. Going to a party, watching a movie takes the mind off from ongoing issues but the problem is still there and comes with a loud bang as soon as we get back to daily chores. Giving such vulnerable people the time to let out their feelings and grieve, gives them the opportunity to empty their vessel of frustration. Listening is a serious skill which needs a lot of practice and time. “Its just a breakup….get over it”…..”it happens to a lot of people, not a big deal”…….”atleast you should be happy that you have family, money, job etc, many people are dying out of hunger on the road”. The problem I see with these answers is they are an attempt to push the issues into the subconscious mind. And these mental blockages if not dealt correctly can resurface many years later without a warning.

During my mental crisis, I realised that mere mentioning of the person, place or people would trigger those painful emotions. Some methods that helped me get over depression are meditation, reading, spending time in nature and talking to positive people. Of all these, meditation really helped me beat the stress. Other than meditation, I tried seeking help, advice, counselling but one technique that truly helped me get over PTSD was a concept that I found in a book called, “When all is not well” by Om Swami. This works well for people who find it difficult to reach out to friends, family or those who cannot afford to seek medical advice. Below is the edited version. Full version can be found in the book.

           Look in the mirror or turn on the voice recorder. Recall the incident that has been bothering you. Narrate the incident to yourself as much elaborately as possible. Recall the traumatic incident in great depth. Try to remember even the finest details. Attempt to even recollect the place(colour of walls, clothes you were wearing, what the thoughts were at that time, the surroundings etc). The session might make you cry but do not give up and continue with bravery. Once done, close the session calmly and peacefully with deep breathing. This exercise needs to be done several times. If you have recorded the session play it  to yourself and listen with utmost attention. After some sessions the whole episode will stop bothering. It won’t matter at all. 

The author mentions that it is very important to recall even the minutest elements. It is crucial in order to erase the pain permanently from the subconscious mind. 

It works on the principle of making stress mundane for mind. Imagine someone coming to you with the same problem every day. At one point it would create boredom because of the repetitiveness. If we cannot laugh at the same joke again and again why grieve over the same issue time after time. The above mentioned technique worked like a little funeral for the issues that kept hurting me daily. Everyday we face a lot of issues in home, from husbands, wives, in laws, boss, neighbours, colleague etc. The mind sees all and registers everything. Its up to us whether we want answers or grumble over it.

A stressed out mind is like a tight contortion and sadhana untangles the most impossible knots. The dust will disappear only if we want to. It is although of utmost important that one must reach out for help when facing mental issues and equally important is to listen to the one who is reaching out to us with empathy and compassion. 

Love

The Essence of compassion

If you have studied in India, chances are, you would have come across this kabir doha in school,

पोथी पढ़ पढ़ जग मुआ, पंडित भया न कोए |

ढाई अक्षर प्रेम का, पढ़े सो पंडित होए ||

Many scholars came and left the world having vast amounts of knowledge but very few of those were attained enlightenment. The one who understands the true meaning of love is the wisest of the wise.

It has taken me more than 20 years to understand the true meaning of these words from one of the greatest saints of 15th century. It is said in context with the large amounts of Scriptures in hinduism. We have 18 Puranas, 108 Upanishads(classified into 12), 4 Vedas and 1 Bhagvad geeta. Saint Kabir was known to say about the most complex issues of society in the simplistic way possible. This doha emphasises on the fact that knowledge isn’t everything. One needs to rise above the literary knowledge and understand what true compassion is. Sure, wisdom gives us the wings to see truth clearly but love and compassion are much revered. Compassion is an emotion which is difficult to cultivate but not unachievable. With right practice, we are all capable of boundless love. It is also one of the strongest pillars of Buddhist teachings. In indian culture, it is also believed that if a person devotes all his life for the service of others, does not need sadhana or any kind of adherence to god as that person has risen over all dualities. 

2500 years ago, Buddha showed the world the path of karuna or compassion. As one of the most venerated monks, Dalai Lama puts it, “The purpose of a human life is to be happy, we are always striving for it”. When we prioritise others and let go of self, happiness becomes a natural phenomenon. True compassion is not what you would experience only for your close ones but also encompasses the approach you will have for all living and non living beings. If we are on the right path of enlightenment one of the signs to watch for, is experiencing karuna for all beings. When one has unbiased feelings for his/her close ones and the ones who play minimal or no role in our lives they start rising over the basic human nature. 

Reading books makes us wise but what good is the use of this accumulation if we cannot understand the suffering of others. It was this wisdom that was woven into the above mentioned lines in a poetic way. Wisdom comes with its own prejudices. It makes people egoistic. It is then they lose connection with the divine. Being at the top gives materialistic convenience but takes one away from true consciousness. Ever seen the smile on a person who only gives out of love. Possessing a very expensive gadget might give momentary happiness but helping a blind cross the road, donating money for a good cause, giving some food to a hungry soul gives us the utmost satisfaction. Very few people have that humility. One who loves without expecting to be loved back is for sure closer to the divine. 

When I talk about compassion, imagine the love you have for your mother or your children. A mother’s love is unending, vast and beyond what my words can express. She doesn’t expect anything in return, she just gives. A mother cries when her child is hurt. She experiences more pain seeing the suffering. When my son was eight months old, I read an article about ‘separation anxiety’. This is seen in kids during the period of 8-14 months time. During this phase they start crying if the mother goes away for a while. This probably happens because babies don’t consider themselves as separate beings but part of their mother since they grow inside her womb. We humans consider ourselves isolated from the universe. We contemplate everything on the basis of us being solitary creatures. If only we can realise that we are a part of this cosmos and the cosmos is a part of us, liberation is not that obscure. A true yogi understands the interplay of elements of nature. One can perceive sensations of plants, insects, rivers, mountains and even rocks. No, I’m not implying that rocks have feelings but it’s the element of earthiness that we both possess. In the end we will all decay to dust. kindness, compassion and love are the tools that empower us to see beyond what our senses can perceive.

Compassion can be said to be based entirely on giving and not expecting anything in return. There is no give and take here, only giving. No reasoning just doing. An act of kindness will always put the mind in a stable position. The mind is free of shackles and is truly liberated. I do sometimes wonder how amazing the world would be if people had the same compassion towards all beings?

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

-Dalai Lama 

Pause in life

Some days ago, I was constantly nagging to my husband about trimming the trees in our back garden. He was not paying much attention and I was losing my patience. So, I decided to give it a go myself. As I lifted the garden shears, I was quite annoyed at his laziness and started doing the work a bit frustrated. I may have chopped a few small branches when I noticed a birds nest hidden precariously inside. it was cocooned by the extensions. Immediately, I realised my mistake of exposing the nest. It was now clearly visible to the predators. I couldn’t figure out why and when did the birds make their nest here. How did I possibly not noticed? After a while, I went to check again and saw a bird sitting inside feeding three baby birds. Elated at seeing them, I informed my husband about a small family residing in our garden. He was thrilled to see them but he also accused me of leaving the nest vulnerable. 

Now that I was aware of the birds living there, I noticed the chirping of the little ones. It was melodious. I couldn’t help thinking how did I fail to notice the tweets. I’ve sat down on many occasions with coffees and teas several times but I just didn’t recognise. In that moment it occurred to me that maybe I’m not connected with nature as much I think I do. It was after this incident I started to look around and acknowledge the little changes around me. The mind talks so much that sometimes we drown in that noise pollution. I have never been a bird watcher but after almost destroying their homes, I became a little enthusiastic of life around me. 

Spending time in nature and noticing small events around us while being fully aware is one aspect of mindfulness. Ever noticed when we visit a beach or mountains? The sudden gush of air that fills the lungs and clears the brain fog. We forget all our worries for a while. It’s like being recharged. Usually when I go for short walks, I tend to forget all the chatter my mind has been engaging me into. 

BUT, how often do we pay attention to the new leaves that have been coming out of the buds? those flowers blooming in their full glory? the ants going in a line to a destination? birds sitting on the adjacent buildings and trees? the direction of the wind?the food on our plate? We are so engrossed in our problems, our thoughts, that we fail to notice the life outside. We can notice the things around us like the chirping, the gentle breeze, the swaying of the tree branches, the hovering of the bees, the beautiful smiles around us only if we pause and notice.

When we pause, we bring awareness to the mind. The same calmness we feel after running, yoga or exercise. One of the meditation techniques from Buddhism is walking meditation. It aims to bring awareness to the mind while we are doing something as normal as walking. We pause right after lifting our feet and before placing. That momentary stopping brings clarity to the mind which leads to awareness. The train of thoughts that unleashes when we wake up, stops while we are asleep. By reflecting on this train we know what station we are at. Life is busy, everyone is running around but we can’t run forever. We would need a break, a stop, a pause to see our next destination. When we pause, the calm mind can see its own intricacies.

This lockdown has given us all that much needed big break that we all wanted but life was going too fast. we can notice subtle things in life. The changes happening around the world, the futility of human life, the glory of nature….its all there. We didn’t notice in that big rush called LIFE!

So, let’s pause for a while. 

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