Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Recognize Me

A flurry of activities are on. It is that time of the year. The time to celebrate the advent of the Mother. It has me wondering why she comes only this once. Why do we think about defeating evil only once a year? Is the Pujas a reminder to cleanse my mind once a year or is it a reminder to always keep myself clean? Why is the prep work of Maa's arrival about so much activity? Should it not be a time for me to contemplate rather than on getting busy with cultural, social and ritualistic activities? What is the significance of my activities?

Many questions and all the answers tell me that the activities are all about running away from the contemplation that will get my ego to take an inventory of itself and find it to be short of many qualities that it needs to become a true reflection of my spirit. As the scriptures say a Bhakta who loves his Ishta becomes one with the Ishta. He acquires all the qualities of his Ishta except His powers. A true bhakta remains one with his Ishta as long as he does not attempt to emulate the power of creation, maintenance and destruction. Once he acquires these powers a Bhakta becomes a slave of his ego again. Becoming one with my Ishta - what a blissful thought. The journey there requires to tread a path that means my ego must be trampled on without breaking my spirit.

Getting involved in outward activities means drawing attention of the outside world towards me - being in the limelight. Something I must learn to draw myself away from. The more I do with the intention of being noticed the further away I am moving from achieving oneness with Thakur. All my life I have been recognized for my achievements. I have always known that the recognition I get is many folds more than my achievements and have considered this a blessing of Thakur. Then it was brought to my attention that I take the limelight and it made me think. How am I doing this? It is by getting involved in outward activities. Action cannot stop but it can be done without projecting myself into the public eye. I must accept that being recognized feels good and then learn to do, without expecting recognition. I am definitely not creating anything, I am maintaining nothing and am hopefully not destroying anything. It is all His doing. Providing lip service to this thought is no longer enough.

Over the last few weeks I have contemplated on this aspect of my ego and have found it to be lacking. Whatever I do has the odor of wanting to be noticed. Except for my writing. When I write it does not matter what people think about it. I enjoy knowing what thoughts it raises in the minds of my readers because it helps my thought process to move forward or to change direction. This in turn spurns a new burst of ideas that take me into further contemplation. My writing does not need appreciation for it to continue - but almost everything else I do wants appreciation.

This year my contemplation on the arrival of Maa has helped me make a resolution. Draw myself away from outward activities as far as possible. Do what is necessary as silently and as inwardly as possible as activity or karma must continue. I have a duty towards society to continue to serve it since I am in it. These duties must be done as far as possible anonymously and not as a leader but as a member, not for adulation but to be of humble service only.

Recognition is not a blessing unless I can use it to keep me on my chosen path. Till the time I can learn to use it this way I will stay away from it. I am not ready for it. Humbly recognizing and applauding the achievements of those around me I must continue on my path towards inner silence.

Duty

An act or a course of action that is required of one by position, social custom, law, or religion - that is one dictionary definition of duty. Since at different times of my life I have lived in different places, worked with different people, under different circumstances my duties are ever changing and different from those of others whether in similar circumstances or not. As a mother of infants my duties were very different from my present duties as a mother of adults. I am still the same person and my boys are the same too but the circumstances of our lives have changed and so have my duties towards them. So with all phases and circumstances of my life.

I have duties towards myself that have changed over the years too. As a child education was my chief duty. To gain knowledge from parents, teachers, books, other people, and circumstances around me. During that same time I had a duty towards my parents, my family, my friends, my school, my temple and so on. It was only as an adult that I realized that my duties were not only towards what was considered as 'mine.' These duties that I perform towards 'my' people, 'my' things and 'my' life have an impact on the much larger environment that I belong to.

When I perform my duties within a moment without thinking of the end result that work becomes free from stress. It is not about what the end product will be it is more about doing the job as well as I can. When I time myself for a job or have a to-do-list of things for the day I am compromising the quality of my work. At this moment I am writing and all I am doing is writing. The moment my thought moves away from my writing to other functions that I know I must perform my writing is compromised. Performing my duties is a function of my role as a person, devotee, wife, mother, homemaker, writer, and so many different positions I hold in life. Role playing is not the function of my life. My function is to be. Staying focused on this moment every moment is the only way to be without playing any role. When I remain present within a moment the mind is focused on the only task at hand.

Not to be attached to the fruits of actions is difficult but to remain focused only on this moment is easier and automatically takes my mind away from the fruits. Just as with a child, saying 'No' is not enough so also with the mind - telling it not to think about a future moment is not enough. I must bring my mind to the present moment as if I am distracting a truant child who is throwing a tantrum. My duties are a function of my ego - that part of me that is necessary for me to exist in this physical form. To be an observer of the physical realm is the function of my spirit and when I am true to my spirit my duties become a chain of moments that are free of stress and pain. Going from a flurry of activity to absolute inner silence becomes possible.

The past exists only in my memories and the future is a figment of my imagination - both my memories and my imagination are my mind playing with itself. Time is being measured by my mind using these two toys it never tires of. I can become an observer of memories and imagination and let my mind play its games without shaking my stable foundation only if I watch it like I am watching a movie. I know what is happening on the screen is not real - but I laugh and I cry as the story unfolds and then when the screen is blank I walk out having enjoyed the time. It is futile to get attached to the story on the screen.

I recognize that to enjoy work I must understand that my duties include service that are for the betterment of myself and society at large but my focus must remain on the work at hand. Good and bad right and wrong are dependent on many variables. There is no absolute good or absolute wrong. Just as to be is my only purpose, to do is my only function. The less I am involved in worldly affairs the less turbulence is created in the mind. Staying at peace with the moment requires that the environment I keep myself in be peaceful. Repeating a sad story or listening to one keeps the mind in the outward direction - I must draw it away from the outside and focus it on Truth. To see 'God' in everyone requires that I recognize the God in me first. This God is a compassionate, loving, forgiving Entity. One who is the observer until the ego chooses to begin to observe and emulate It. Then It becomes an active participant in attaining the unconditional love I must feel for myself and others. From this love comes compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and ultimately Peace. When many such peaceful moments are linked life itself is Peace.

Performing my duties towards myself and others, remaining unattached, staying away from the public eye, and being compassionate, forgiving, and accepting of every event and of everyone is essential for me and only I can bring this shift towards my inner self. I must be ever watchful of my ego and use it as a tool to get there. It is a struggle - the result invariably leads to being misunderstood and misjudged but that is a price I am more than willing to pay. My path is my own and I must tread on it willing to accept the consequences of it - after all the results of any action are immaterial if I am following the prescribed path.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Living Dreams

I have lived a blessed life. One that is full of experiences that, like with anyone else, have been instrumental in building different aspects of my personality. Starting with meeting death in the family very early on to meeting dignitaries; living in India, Kenya, Canada and the US; working in various capacities; making and breaking relationships through the years there have been many dreams broken and many more fulfilled.

I often wonder though if the dreams were mine or those of others. The answer is not very flattering. I have mostly lived thinking my life was about making 'others happy.' Being approved of, being liked, being thought well of was what drove this concept forward. In retrospect it was a lot more about the approval of others than about making them happy. It was important that I get this collective approval. A very elusive commodity and one that frustrated me as with each disapproval a part of me wilted. The disharmonious journey has made it impossible to reach my inner peace.

As I watch my sons I can see the advantages of living a life fulfilling ones own dreams. While I was always second guessing decisions I made, my sons are so much more confident about theirs. It is impossible to please everyone and I fought inner battles wondering how I was going to keep my balance. Had I been astute enough to know that if my conscience, my values and my beliefs were satisfied my decisions were perfect, life would have been less stressful and more enjoyable. Guilt born out of the knowing that some of my decisions were against my principles but were made since they were expected of me has eroded into my own self confidence and esteem.

Fortunately I am a willing learner and am in the process of practicing living in a way that makes me happy first. The rest can wait. I trust my values and my judgment and am living in a way that brings me joy and peace. Decisions I make are attuned to my values and principles and independent of the influences of others. I am free of the burden of caring about the opinions of people who really do not matter. Striving to be perfect in the eyes of others is a waste of precious time and energy that must be used to strive to tap into the perfect being I already am.

Like money and other materialistic things people and relationships come and go. When I look back over the last four decades of my life and take an inventory of possessions and people it is clear that I had very little control on my relationship with either of them. When they came or I brought them into my life or when they left or I pushed them out made very little difference in the long run. When my father was with us I remember being afraid of him dying - the first thought that crossed my mind on his passing was one of relief that I was released from the worry of having to live in his absence. It was much later that it dawned on me that my life might have been different had he lived a few more years but I really did not know what would have been different and so it did not matter. The memories of my indescribably beautiful relationship with him will always be with me and so it was the impact that the relationship had on me that was a lot more important than the length of it. This is true with any relationship be it with possessions or people. Sometimes letting go of relationships is necessary to truly appreciate them - to stop the inevitability of taking them for granted or being taken for granted.

The next decades of my life will be lived developing a relationship with the only constant I can have and that is my spirit. I will follow a path that brings inner joy by doing things that I love doing even if I may not be very good at all of them - being creative whether it be writing, painting, embroidering; going inward through reading, serving those less fortunate be they family or strangers, meditating, listening to music; relaxing by watching movies, spending fun times with family especially with the love of my life, and sleeping. I will also choose my relationships more carefully and let go of those that have a negative influence on me. Social politicking is not my forte, neither is talking about insignificant things and events. I revel in talking about ideas and philosophies that take me into the realm of Truth.

My dream life is one that I have only started on in this my fifth decade. This is my life to be lived according to my dreams, my values, my philosophies - I am a happy soul and whatever I choose to do will come from that happy place - it will be all about the journey rather than about where I plan to be. When I get to where I get to the adventure will have been worth it because how I am getting there is full of joy and in perfect harmony with Me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Proceeding in Silence

Words - a verbal expression of thoughts. As babies we are encouraged to learn to talk. The more languages we know the prouder our parents are of us. Language is considered a determinant of IQ. The spoken word has great value - listen to ministers, politicians, teachers, women in general and even children. Everyone wants to be heard. The written word is another powerful expression of thoughts. So much can be learnt from the written word.

Our mind is running constantly. Often the mind follows a well traveled path each day. If I consciously watch my thoughts I find that there are very few new ideas that are generated by my mind. Most of my thoughts are about my family, my life, my environment with very little newness in the train of thoughts themselves.

Armed with this knowledge I can either re-train my mind to think new thoughts or to become silent. Whenever a thought is being repeated I do two things - one is to let it flow through my mind without resistance. There is a lot of truth to the statement - what you resist, persists. Allowing a thought to flow is to accept the thought and let it pass through the mind without trying to stop it by blaming or priding myself for thinking it. The second is to not build on the old thought. This is difficult to do with the fertile mind I have. An insignificant thought can be made significant by building on it. This happens most when I am meditating. The plant needs to be watered. This simple thought could be just a reminder to get a job done. But my mind can take it further. What if I moved the plant from the Southeast corner to the Northwest. That would mean moving the sofa to the opposite wall. That would expose the ugly mark on the wall. There are quite a few marks on the walls all over the house. The popped nails need to be taken care of too. I should call and get a quote for getting the interior painted. What first - the paint job or the deck? Having a deck would be so great. We could barbecue all summer. I could sit out and meditate. Oh I am supposed to be meditating right now.

To retrain the mind to think new thoughts is a painstaking process. Developing new interests is one way of doing it. Research oriented minds are blessed. Their trains of thought are never boring. They know what thinking outside the box is all about and unconsciously they can lead their minds to run through interesting avenues. I have to consciously make the effort to do so. The results of being able to take the mind to untrodden territory can be far reaching in the physical realm. It is also very tiring and stressful.

Silencing the mind even if it is for short periods of time refreshes and rejuvenates it. Focusing on breathing or imagining myself as a beam of soothing light in space, or envisioning myself in a beautiful forest surrounded by trees, birds, flowers and water can bring my mind to a point of emptiness that is surprisingly overwhelming. Afterwards there is a sense of joy and peace.

The silence that is part of a library or a place of worship is almost palpable for me. For some reason a myriad of thoughts that need to be expressed right then crowd my mind. I write best when I am in this physical silence. Often though I could be surrounded by noise and still 'feel' the Silence within. That is the time when I feel a joyous peace within. Very different feelings - one wants to make me express myself the other wants me to remain silent.

I wonder does Silence bring me Inner Peace or does Inner Peace lead me into Silence? Or are they one and the same thing?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Finding Inner Peace

The sounds of this world are beautiful. Be they ones that nature is creating or the ones that people are making. Sound is a form of Brahman and so is perfect in itself. It is upto the listener to feel that perfection. As I sit here writing I can see the people on the roof of the homes that are coming up right in my back yard. They are hammering and stapling, as they yell out at one another. As I listen to the music of "Om" playing inside my home these sounds all seem to be harmonizing with one another today and so I stop to think why I was unable to write as these same sounds were so jarring yesterday. Clearly it is not the sounds themselves - rather something in my listening that is making the difference.

I am more at peace today - the pain in my foot is better and I am more in my mind today - I was more in my foot yesterday. That is how simple finding inner peace is. Bring the mind into a moment of peace and find peace in the moment. A moment of pain is just as real as a moment of peace and so remaining in my foot yesterday seemed like the best thing to do. The issue lies in the fact that I was unable to find the peace in the pain.

Accepting pain instead of resisting it is how I can find peace even in pain. I was in no mood to accept the pain since I blamed myself for not taking good care of my foot. If only I had secured my ankle in the strap before walking into the store I could have avoided the agony. To look beyond that fact was hard. Next time I find myself in a similar situation I must try to come into the moment of acceptance of what is, so I can find that inner peace even in the midst of discomfort.

Hurt feelings are a more common place thing and overcoming this pain is harder than overcoming the physical pain. To accept emotional pain I must look within. Blaming others for emotional pain of any kind comes naturally to me. He said this, she did this, they ignored me, and on and on and on. That is when understanding perspectives becomes very important. Even if I do not understand the perspective of others I must learn to accept that there are perspectives other than my own. That is the reality of duality. I must find peace not just by forgiving but by accepting my limitation of comprehension of the enormity of all possibilities. Often there may be nothing to forgive or I may have no idea of what I am supposed to forgive. All I need to do is accept that I do not understand the perspective of all.

Inner peace leads to inner silence which makes it possible to come into this moment with harmony. Then everything our senses do are in harmony too. The mind is clear to think creatively rather than going into the cycle of repetition of the same sixty thousand thoughts of the past. Sielnce is the gap between the sounds and when I am at peace that gap is what I 'hear' more than the sounds themselves. Silence then becomes just as beautiful as the sounds themselves.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Work

Work - 'Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something.' The definition itself includes the importance of results when any 'work' is undertaken. The ancient scriptures emphasize that one must not be attached to the results of work. Is this a contradiction? I used to believe it is. Not anymore.

Being result oriented is essential to fulfill my duties in this life. The challenge is in remaining unattached to the results. How does one define attachment then? One of the definitions is 'a connection that fastens things together.' I get tied to the result which then proceeds to tie me to other actions and other results. Wanting to succeed in something is necessary but to allow that result to distract me away from the action itself can lead to failure. Putting my full attention on the process moment by moment is what makes a job successful. Keeping the eye on the ball so to say. As a parent I raised my children to be successful and happy. It is not my place to define their success or their understanding of happiness, though. They could choose to be happy as a pauper or a king - or successful as an entrepreneur or a monk. On the other hand they could be miserable, poor and a bum. None of these results should affect me - from the perspective of the part I played in it. I cannot claim success and I cannot claim failure. It is not mine to claim. The elation I feel seeing them happy comes not from the past but from the present moment. There can be no pride involved in the elation, for then a moment of unhappiness will mean I failed. Every up and down will define my past actions - actions that were perfect in the moment they were performed. What right do I have to belittle them?

The same holds true for anything I have undertaken, am undertaking or will undertake. I must remain in the moment for nothing else is. The past is gone, the future does not exist, all that is lies in this moment. Everything is perfect at this moment - I exist in it, I work in it, I live in it. This present moment is my only gift. I relish it. I bow down to it and live fully in it only.

Karmaphala tyaga. It is possible - very difficult but possible and a definite path to internal peace.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Personal God

For years now I have a Personal God I meditate on. Thakur - I love Him dearly. God does not end in Him though. He had a body - He was born and He died. He chose to come down amongst us to guide us to get to that higher plane. He showed us that it is possible for man to get There - to show us that there is a higher plane. Different paths get us there. These paths could be purely religious or we can choose to get there living as a householder. He showed us that we are all divine beings in human form. We have choices to make and these choices determine the pace at which we can get to that higher plane.

As a householder - a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother I must fulfill my duties knowing that the day I leave this world behind all these relationships will be left behind too. The body or the mind is not responsible for building relationships it is the spirit that recognizes itself within the body of others and connects. So even if a distance is created between bodies and minds the connection is never lost. This connection clearly goes beyond the physical presence and so the relationship with my Personal God must be taken beyond Him. To remain stuck in the body of Thakur is easy as I idolise Him through a statue or a photograph. This makes it difficult to see God everywhere else. He is a perfect being in my eyes - has never ever done any wrong! So it is easy to love Him. How do I extend this love to all around me? I am constantly in judging mode with others. I love them because and often inspite of but it seems attached to a condition. The ego is busy doing its part creating this duality of them and me. To learn how to see only the Universal One is the key to Self Realization. Or is it the other way around?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Voice

I became a life. You held my hand and led me on.
The world separated us. You watched as I moved on.

Along the way 'I' took over from you. I slipped, tripped and often fell flat.
You wanted to tend to my bruises. I wriggled away like a brat.

The wounds festered within. Today's pain proves the folly of my past.
From what I learnt, I should have stayed holding on to you steadfast.

My life is Your Gift to my desires expressed. Then I was inseparable from You.
Wanting to experience your physical realm, I broke away, waving adieu.

Did I know with this body came a mind and this overpowering ego?
Did I still come into this world with so much bravado?

Why did You not warn me about the pain that comes with the pleasure?
You did? But my false self was blinded by the so called worldly treasure?

No regrets, You say. For without the tumultuous experience of this unreality,
The ego would never have known its own unavoidable mortality.

What, dear Lord, will remain in the event of my inevitable demise?
Nothing that the senses will ever be able to recognize.

Not even name, fame, blame or shame? None of this I can claim?
Give up this popularity game. In silence return whence you came.

Untouched by the realm of the spiteful, ego centered worldly debris,
You will return to your Self - silently sparkling in full Glory.

Back to Me where there is no pain, no stain, no hate, no pretense,
Back to the folds of Peace, Love, Wellbeing, and Abundance.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Today

The day was a strange one. There were definitely larger periods of silence in my mind and these brought a deeper peace than I have been able to find in the last few weeks. The mind is a strange place and it is interesting to watch it play games. Being more aware of the working of the mind as a reflection of the ego and separating it from it working as the reflection of the spirit is a challenge even today. The conscious awareness of this difference is often a limitation rather than an advantage.

Feeling hurt because of what others say, do or even I believe they think has been a habit developed over 4 decades now. I am unable to stop the hurt from showing up but once I have identified it I am able to overcome the hurt by reminding myself that it is my ego that is hurt and the ego is definitely not a true reflection of Me. What does it matter that someone else sees me as a bad person, or a good one? What really matters is how I am carrying this gift of life. My intent to become more self aware is what I have to keep my thoughts and actions on. In the process there will be mistakes - committed no more than once - from which I will learn and move on having aligned my thoughts and actions to my intent.