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Tag: spirituality

Visual creatures

One of my Guru’s most favourite topics is the power of visualization. He loves to help others (young and old) visualize their future dreams and goals. He is of the strongest opinion that it has an undeniable and incredible influence on the final outcome. And through this power of visualization, he has made so many miracles happen – things that otherwise seemed impossible, but happened nonetheless.

This visualization principle is not different from what other sources might teach us. Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret, which became a worldwide phenomenon when it was released, essentially said “The universe will give you whatever you ask it.”

And we know that if we set our minds to something and go after it with single-pointed focus, then rarely can something stop us along the way.

“But how is it possible Guruji, how can we create the future by simply visualizing?” I once naively asked him.

His response was golden. “Deep down, we are all Brahman. All Creation has come from the same Brahman. Why can’t the Brahman inside you create the future that you want then?”

Point taken.

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Lessons from a wildebeest

Human babies are pretty much useless at fending for themselves. They can do nothing more than suckle and cry at a really loud volume.

But wildebeest babies? Man do they have it tough!

A new born wildebeest’s mother – for many hours after the calf is born – doesn’t even let it suckle. The reason? Safety from predators who abound.

The wildebeest calf must first stand up on its own. It’s mother keeps moving further and further away from her calf, forcing the latter to start following her – first by walking, and then by running. Only when the calf is able to run properly after a few hours, does the mother allow her baby to have her first milk.

Three things struck me, as I watched this on a BBC Earth show.

  1. How lucky we are – despite having no ability to run or walk at birth, we are kept safe.
  2. There is no room for crying or cribbing – run, or die.
  3. If we struggle at the start itself, in anything we do in life, this would form the foundation for future success.
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Blindspots

Just because something is invisible to the eye, or appears beyond our comprehension and perception, does not make it non-existent or fraudulent. Take the example of gravity. Despite all the advancements in science and technology, we still do not understand the process behind why people drinking tea simultaneously at the North and South poles have no problem keeping the liquids in their cups. Take also the human body – with a plethora activities going on inside at any moment – digestion, cognition, respiration etc. all of which we tend to be blissfully unaware of.

The same is said to be true of Consciousness. It is very much there – the fabric underlying all Creation. There for everyone to experience, if scrutinized closely, yet immediately unavailable to any. This is not a paradox, as author Sam Harris of the outstanding book Waking Up (which delves deep into the topic of human consciousness) puts it. He goes on to describe an optic blindspot that each one of us has, and something I never knew of. Apparently the optic nerve passes through the retina of each eye, creating a small region in each visual field where we are effectively blind. He further adds that most people in human history have been totally unaware of the optic blind spot. Even those of us who know about it go for decades without noticing it. And yet, it is always there, right on the surface of experience. Here’s a simple experiment you can try yourself!

So, can we experience this Atman / Brahman / Consciousness within us? Yes, with some training / effort / meditation. As Harris puts it, “The self that I am discussing throughout this book—the illusory, albeit reliable, source of so much suffering and confusion—is the feeling that there is an inner subject, behind our eyes, thinking our thoughts and experiencing our experience. We must distinguish between the self and the myriad mental states—self-recognition, volition, memory, bodily awareness—with which it can be associated.

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What is the proof?

It has become a big deal to proclaim and trumpet the number of hours one spends on spiritual practises including attending satsangs, doing yoga asanas, meditating or reading scriptures. These activities quickly find their way into facebook, instagram and other social media. Nothing wrong in that.

One person spends her time attending seven Skype satsang sessions every day. Yet she herself admits to having all sorts of issues – desires, attachments, problems at home, problems at work – you name it.

Why this disconnect? Why do the hours in satsang or spirituality not translate into real life positive changes?

The answer is simple. Because there is no application. The change we seek must come from within. Reading a book or attending a discourse have little meaning if the learnings are not applied, consistently, day after day. To quote an oft-quoted example, we can all read 100s of books on the technique of swimming, but will never learn unless pushed into the water.

This does not mean we must reduce the hours one is spending on these good activities. But an hour spent less, instead of resulting in regret, should ideally culminate in real world implementation. Came across some lessons on anger management? Super, now see if you can control your tongue – no lashing out – especially in the company of your irritating but well-intentioned friend. Read something about the importance of being charitable? Great, now go out and see if you can donate 10% of your income this month to a charity of your choice.

In this case, the proof of the pudding, is in the doing.

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The cyclist

The word ‘Peloton’ is probably familiar to exercise enthusiasts, as the company which provides high-tech in-home workout equipment. Late in 2019, the company went public after much hoopla over a pricey multi-billion dollar Initial Public Offering.

The word peloton is also used in professional cycling. It refers to the close-knit formation we see in cycling races. The cyclist in the lead ends up taking the brunt of the wind and air. This helps the cyclists behind him, because the leader cuts the wind drag to them by up to 40%, leading them to conserve significant energy.

Our lives are tough, peppered by all sorts of uncertainties and calamities. Even the spiritual path is fraught with enemies – like our minds – and largely of our own creation.

There is one person in the lead though. Unflinching, he has walked the path and the talk. He has experienced everything there is, and knows all the pitfalls. He is at the head of the peloton, helping us seek and reach the Truth, while conserving our sanity, and shielding us every step of the way.

He is the Guru. The scriptures say, that when the time is right, s/he will enter our lives.

All we need to do, is to follow her/him, with utmost faith.

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La casa de la mente

This weekend, my wife and I started watching Netflix’s amazing and highly acclaimed Spanish language TV show titled La Casa de Papel (aka Money Heist, with subtitles). No spoilers here, don’t worry!

Like in any robbery / hostage drama, a negotiator is always a key character. And if there is one dependable weapon a negotiator needs, it is a calm mind.

We are all negotiators in some sense, in our day to day lives. Things often do not go according to plan. And while we can cry and bawl about all of life’s quandaries, we cannot change external circumstances. The victor is one who has brought her/his mind under control, irrespective of the outside world.

This is no doubt easier said than done. But it is also not acquired solely by divine endowment either. There are 3 specific steps which will help control the mind (i.e. mente).

  1. Practise meditating everyday. Intentionally, purposefully. Setting time aside for it.
  2. Right Living. Including moderation in food intake, exercise and sleeping.
  3. Staying alert. This is to ensure continuity of 1 and 2. It is easy to fall off the path. Doing a spiritual audit, or being in a self-help group or ‘satsanga’ helps.

The end result? Mente tranquila!

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Grace anatomy

‘Divine grace’ is often considered some kind of magical interference that will make problems go away. It is also viewed as something only a select group of people are bestowed with. But the reality is, that grace is there for everyone to tap into.

If we want to let the breeze in, we need to open the windows first.

Around 150,000 people died yesterday, and the day before, and each day before that, but not us. We are alive and well today. That is grace. Each step – one could be crushed by a falling object, swept away by a current, electrocuted by a live wire and what not. There are so many mishaps, so much uncertainty, and no idea if we will reach our destinations when we set off on our journeys. A few years ago, the local met department chief’s own daughter got stuck in the city’s rains-induced floods – so we can’t even predict the weather properly!

We only have an illusion of control of our lives – but in reality have no control at all.

Even so, we have managed to sidestep all of these disasters, for all these years. That is divine grace.

How do we open the windows? True grace, is not some materialistic miracle, but the dispelling of our ignorance. Ignorance that we are the body and the mind – which is the cause of all sorrow and suffering. The divine truth we seek is embedded deep inside each one of us. To seek it actively, to become aware of it, to be grateful to it, is a reflection of divine grace.

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You know nothing of my pitiable condition.

You just lost your job in this pandemic. Yes the same dream job that you struggled for many years to get. It paid well. And the career path actually seemed to be looking right up. Until today morning, when the boss gave you the bad news. Your friend comes up to you. The one who still has a job. And has been having a great career – much better than yours. He tries to console you. “You know buddy, life can be tough sometimes. But don’t despair. You’re stronger than this. You’ll get through it. Just seek and tap in to the happiness within. Things will work out. Everything will be fine.”

You think to yourself. “He hasn’t lost his job. He doesn’t have to support a family with no monthly paycheck. He can lecture me. So easy to be in his shoes! And what happiness within? I’m a train-wreck and a loser, and I don’t know how I’ll ever pick myself up from this ever again. There ain’t no happiness here!”

Haven’t we all been in position of weakness at some point? Maybe after losing a job. Or a loved one. Or failed an exam. Or something else.

It may be true that the happiness we seek lies within. But the time to sow the seed, is not on the day of the harvest. Building mental and spiritual strength requires time and effort. If we didn’t get around to this 5 or 10 or 15 years ago, that’s fine.

But the next best time, is now. Before, a problem hits us. Because life tends to be cyclical. If things are going great, it is likely that may not remain forever. And if things seem desolate, that too, will pass. Meditation, yoga, pranayama, spiritual discourses and others are imperative. But we must build the roof, before the rains, not when the hurricane is overhead.

Let us start today. So that when someone comes up telling us to ‘seek the happiness within’, we are actually able to make use of the advice. Even though by then, we may not need it.

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Here is a 10,000 year old spiritual secret!

Thank you for paying the 100 dollar fee. Here is your secret mantra. Do NOT share it with anyone. Repeat it 10,000 times every day for 1 month. You will get whatever you want, guaranteed.

“Nommm Oleem Nleem Sring Eringaa Ninpaa Szzuuupaaa Elaraaum”

Exciting? Want to try it?

Spirituality is way too often associated with voodoo and mumbo jumbo and the arcane. For good reason though. Because the good ol’, and the plain and simple, just won’t sell.

We can wear a monk’s robes and go to the Himalayas to meditate. But if the mind and senses aren’t under control, mosquito bites will be just as irritating there, as they are right here at home.

What then is spirituality in its essence? A few ideas:

  1. Living only in the now, forever!
  2. Accepting and revelling in the circumstances, however hard that might be.
  3. Not just living in, but also embracing, uncertainty.
  4. Living in the world, without being affected by it (which means not worrying about the neighbour who has a bigger house and a better car!).
  5. Maintaining a balance, in everything.
  6. Our minds do not control us, we control our minds. Which means consciously putting 1/2/3/4/5 into practise.

If we do this, then we need no mumbo jumbo. No 100$ fees. No first letters of the above mantra.

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The Middle Path

Hardcore atheists and theists are at two extremities. One doesn’t believe in a higher power, while the other submits entirely to it.

Looking back at everything that we have experienced in our lives, is it possible to completely deny the influence of anything except ourselves? My teachers influenced my education, as did my mentors my career.

Conversely, is it possible to leave everything to a higher power? I wouldn’t even get off the bed then!

We keep blind faith in our drivers (a quick snooze at the wheel?), barbers (one knife swipe when our eyes are closed?), pilots (we don’t check their flying capabilities before belting up) and countless others (in math, we started with let’s assume x=1).

We would do well to apportion some faith to a higher power, and some faith to our inner power.

Vedanta teaches us that in reality, there is no difference between the two powers.

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Spiritual Qs

Should a spiritual person not strive to earn more money? Should his demeanor always be nice and friendly? Should he always give up or give in? Do spiritual people finish last?

The answer to all these is a big fat ‘No‘!

As the great Swami Vivekananda said, a householder who does not strive to earn wealth is immoral. He further added that it is also immoral if this wealth is not shared!

Spirituality is not divorced from common sense and practical application. Spirituality is not in outward garb (ochre robes) either.

One can certainly hiss and roar, but doesn’t need to bite or fight.

Spirituality is a state of mind. One that is internally calm, in spite of the uncertainties of external life.

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