Monday, October 26, 2009

From Fear to Silence through Love

I approach life from either a place of fear or one that has overcome fear. I am not sure if I ever approach life from a place of Love - yet. Fearlessness is not love but defiance within me. So whatever I undertake has an element of fear in it. The fear is mostly about whether or not I am living my life according to the norms that society, my culture, imposed values, or friends and family agree with. Inherent is this dependence on approval that I am always struggling with. The fear of death is so far away from my mind because the fear of being disapproved is always ahead of every other kind of fear there can be.

I am intellectually and to a certain extent even emotionally aware that I am immortal - that death does not mean non-existence and this motivates me to know the inner me better. Meditating, contemplating and writing helps me walk the path towards that goal. They take me to that spot within that reveals the workings of my mind and my capacity to deal with my thoughts. When I analyze the direction of my thoughts I become aware of the power of fear on them.

A quiet meditative state is the most peaceful for me. Letting my thoughts flow through, or drawing my thoughts back towards a center are both easily attainable. Sometimes I can even let my thoughts wander as I watch over them without getting attached to them. A dangerous game to be playing because slipping and letting them take over is precariously close. The frustration of coming out of a quiet meditative state and finding myself back in mental turmoil is very trying.

Writing is not as peaceful but watching the words as they appear on the screen is very fulfilling. It feels like an agitated meditation. The thoughts flow through me - but now they get expressed rather beautifully. Most times I am not aware which corner of my mind the thoughts are coming from. There is a sense of excited anticipation as I am not always aware of what the writing will be like. The peace comes after I am done with my first draft. In my writing I find many answers to questions I have been asking myself. It is like an exercise of peeling the large cluster of banana flowers. I have now learnt which part of the flowers I should keep and which part to discard and why. Most of the thoughts can be and are destructive to a healthy life. This peeling process is more productive in the sense that the mental turmoil can be kept out for a longer period of time.

It is in contemplation that I am aware of my fears. Analyzing my thoughts is an art I acquired a few years ago. It requires me to hold on to a thought and take it deeper without letting my mind wander to other unrelated thoughts. This is very similar to meditation except that I am now focusing on a series of thoughts and taking an active part in disseminating them.

The direction of my thoughts is dictated by fear. These fears have been derived from years of being a reactive thinker. I never learnt how to make decisions. Most life decisions were made per chance. There was rarely a logical thought process to decisions. It was only a few years ago that I recognized this weakness and have since made a conscious effort to define my own set of principles and values that make it possible for me to make better life decisions. One of the most basic principles is to be open minded and the second is to trust that we humans are inherently good - often unintelligent but good. One of the values I have established for myself is that life is not about being right - it is about being happy. Happiness is whatever I want it to be - it can be very transient if I let the outer world define it for me. Bliss is about choosing to be happy always. Bliss can only be achieved if I know my own permanence. If I busy myself with transient, material, ego defining activities without anchoring myself first happiness eludes me.

Fear of conflict, confrontation, being misunderstood, being misjudged, being disliked has ruled my thoughts for many years. An apparently happy stable childhood, in retrospect, appears to have been filled with events that were unsettling. The capacity to hide feelings from myself and others has made it impossible to even recognize my feelings now. Outward expression of feelings of love, passion, anger, hurt were considered taboo during my childhood. I was a replacement child who was apparently loved deeply - but was I loved for me or was I just an obsession of over protective parents? The unveiling of some childhood events and my reactions to them then and now make me wonder if the manifestation of suppression of emotions and feelings have caused the diabetes and the obesity. Some good friends have often pointed out that the apparent happy persona I project is a facade. I have laughed and emphasised that I have had and still continue to have a blessed life. I believed that too. I was the exception to the rule that repressed emotions cause stress related and immunological health challenges.

As I sit each day contemplating on Truth many relative truths show up on the screen of my mind. Usually they relate to more recent life events. I have to make a concerted effort to go farther back and delve into the depths of my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Once there a conflict arises between my memories and my feelings. That is when I would stop the process, get up and engage myself in other activities. Not anymore.

A best selling book about self healing has given me the courage to tackle the conflict and still feel safe and secure. It requires me to make affirmations - simple enough - not for me. Making positive affirmations that I can repeat through out the day is impossible when my mind refuses to cooperate. There is a sentence in the book that says " Your mind is a tool you can choose to use any way you wish." It brought a loud AHAA.. from me. Believe me when I say this is not a new concept to me but for some reason I never took control over my mind. Now I am retraining myself. I do a basic exercise each day - albeit a silly one but I do it anyways. There is a game called Scramble on Facebook. It is a grid of 25 letters (5X5) from which you can derive different words. The possibility is often in the hundreds. You can have 3 letter words and you can potentially go to 25 letter words. At first I played just to score as many points as possible and where the maximum score could be more than a thousand I managed to score around 80. NowI use this game to get my mind to look for 7 letter words or more only. This requires my mind to twist itself through the letters in many different directions since it is impossible to get 7 letters in one direction in a 5 by 5 grid. My mind resists even this exercise and refuses to look beyond a unidirectional line. It took more than 40 boards to find five 7+ letter words on a single board - even then these were mostly derivatives of the same word like (finished, finisher, finishes, refinish). Pathetic isn't it? My point is, that controlling my mind to stay open to possibilities requires concentrated effort. I find it easier to create a blank mind than to change a thought.

The world is a cruel place. Hmm.. how do I change that to a positive? For one stop watching the news, definitely do not watch soaps and do not indulge in gossip. Run away from life, I mean. Or I can choose to stop that thought and think, "I am safe and secure where I am and so are many others." After all, the whole world is not a cruel place. There are many kind people doing many kind acts all over the world. I can become one of those people and we can make a difference one person, one act, one moment at a time. I can refrain from joining in on a gossip session and walk away. I must keep my mind in check and watch over it. The fear of a cruel world whether it be the world at large or my immediate circle, whether it be a world of the past or of the now, can only cause more fear. This fear is in the mind. I am in no imminent danger and so I must control my mind and use it to overcome any and all fears. The understanding is evident the implementation needs practice.

I am choosing to spend a lot more time in contemplation because I need to go along this path to find the lasting silence within my mind. The fears must all be tackled before I can touch that inner Stillness in a meaningful way. I have traveled part of the path from fear to defiance. The rest of the journey from fearlessness to love into silence awaits me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Replenishing Me

Living through the vagaries of life I move on an inward journey. A solitary journey that is unique since there is neither anyone I know nor any strangers on this trip with me. The vehicle is my mind and in this vehicle is my own mind - the one I am only now discovering. It leads me along various paths and as I move forward I am oblivious to where I am being taken. This mind is full of secret cracks, crevices and caves and although it appears to be out in the open it is really hiding somewhere in a small hole from where it is watching everything happening around it and reacting according to its 'acquired nature.' The ride is not just interesting but rejuvenating. The cracks and crevices hold wonderful secrets that are liberating.

The choices I have made through my life have been based more on what I have learnt than what I truly want. The first thought that comes to mind with any task I undertake has been about how the outside world will react to the result. This world maybe one other person or a community. Sometimes it has been to impress others and often times it has been about not being looked down upon. It was about seeing myself through the eyes of others. I am aware of this trait, I have acknowledged that this is completely my trait and have also accepted that is how I behave. I now am attempting to raise myself out of this self defeating trait. Just to say I will not look at myself through the eyes of others is not enough. I have to relearn how to know me through myself. I am learning about my own true nature through my own likes and dislikes that arise intuitively. It is not easy to just give in to a feeling and not analyze it before saying or doing something. But to ascend the negative trait of comparison of my feelings against those of others I must begin to honor my intuition. It is a process I go through in my mind.

Social norms makes some demands from me - again it is not about what I want but more about what society demands. Someone is in the hospital undergoing surgery. I spend a few minutes each day saying a special prayer for her speedy pain free recovery. I care about her but I do not see the need for me to express this concern each day, or even disrupt her schedule by visiting her at the hospital. I do not need to know how she is doing each day. This is not about me - only about her. I know it is a surgery that will relieve her from years of pain and discomfort and I just want her to have a comfortable journey through this process. So I continue to pray but refuse to vie for her or her family's attention by calling, or visiting her. I have sent out my best wishes and my availability to help if I am needed. I feel good about my decision and so have sent out a positive energy into my environment.

I have found that those who really care do not demand my time. They know I care and am available. These are loving people with whom I can be me. Some great friends and my boys fall within this category. I have been physically away from my sons for a few years now. They live in a different country. I do not call them every day neither do they. I never expected them to do so. Yet I feel as closely connected to them today as I did when they were babies. Even though I do not know about their daily activities I 'know' everything about them. There is this sense of oneness with them. I know that if I had spent my time waiting for their calls this connection would have been weaker. It is the same with my good friends. We may not be in touch for months but when we need one another we pick up where we left off and simply move forward. They have my shoulder and my back and I do theirs! It is a deep connection that does not require any work to be maintained. It just is.

Through my life I have known many people with whom my connection is superficial. It is difficult to cultivate a lasting trust. This is a connection that is constantly being tugged at. I try to hold on when I should really just let go. I can love them and be there for them but these relationships require constant attention and are draining. They are vying for approval and are dissatisfying. It is best to leave such relationships for social good times. Going too deep with them eventually end up in disasters. They are easier to maintain for short stints of time only. My challenge is recognizing these relationships and differentiating them from the true ones. My belief that inherently everyone is good makes me move forward with every relationship trusting that it will be a true one. Then one day I get kicked to the kerb. I pick myself up and I move on. I am now learning to pull myself away before I get thrown out with the bath water. I continue to give of myself, hold them in my prayers and good wishes - from a distance. The kerb is not where I deserve to be.

I had learnt that being alone is a sad way to live life. I know now how untrue that knowledge is. Being alone can be joyous and fulfilling. The silence of being with oneself gives me the chance to reconnect with me. A connection that had been torn because of the din that I kept myself surrounded by. I reflected what others saw me as, instead of reflecting who I really am. I was more about my ego and less about my spirit. It is only with time spent with myself that I have recognized this. I am slowly reverting back to being one with me. The demands of others, their needs, their problems, and their sad stories at their convenience ruled my life. I hurt myself in the process. Now I am still available for others but only if I am ready and if it is possible for me to be there when they need me. If I do not feel replenished I do not give of myself anymore. When I give on an empty tank I feel I am being had. This is good for neither of us. There have been times when I gave too much and each time it was as if everything around me collapsed. They were good lessons to have learnt. I paid a hefty price but it was worth it simply because it has brought me closer to me than I have ever been before.

Replenishing the tank - this can only be done when I am alone. It is not about what I get from others just as being empty is not about what others get from me. This is all about what I do for me. Meditation, contemplation, writing, reading, these are activities that replenish me. When I do not give enough time and energy to these I drain myself. When I am surrounded by the presence of others be it through the telephone, the computer, TV or in person there is no time for these vital activities. The more time I spend in silence the more vibrant and energetic I feel and the more connected I am to myself. I choose to distance myself not to run away from others but to run towards me. I want to know more about me and less about the world out there for now. I recognize that when I know me I will have known the world too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From Chaos to ...?

Chaos and clutter seemed to be everywhere in my home. It was a reflection of my chaotic mind. Multitasking my way through life, I believed, was what kept everything around me running. I know now that the less I have, the less I do the more is achieved and more at peace I am.

I spent years working outside the home for financial abundance. I had many things but no time to enjoy them. The 29 large windows in my home that I dressed up with different shades I never raised to look outside; luxurious sheets that I never laid on my bed; china I never ate out of; rooms I never spent any quality time in are now all in the past. I built a 'successful' career, earned money and collected useless trinkets. I spent time keeping them safe and clean but never found a moment to appreciate them. There was very little time or energy left after running around trying to balance work, home, family, friends, and things. I gave up reading, writing, meditating so I could work, keep house, and help provide for my children and extended family. Life was stressful and chaotic and yet it appeared like a great life. Very deceiving - but only in retrospect. While I was in Maya mode life as it was, did seem great. I did not miss peace of mind - I never identified with peace. I was stressed and accepted it as a way of life. I did not consider changing my way of life to free myself from the stress. I looked for ways to do so while I was in the maze of material wellbeing. If only I had silenced my mind first and then entered the material world I would have been better served. It is possible to live in abundance and still be silent and clear of the mental chaos.

Back to karmaphala tyaga - being detached from the results of action. Being attached to money and things only increases desire while causing confusion and stress. Flip flopping on every decision and worrying about whether decisions are right once they are made is inevitable. Attachment to the fruits of action or trying to control the results of action can at best bring chaos into my life. I have learnt that letting things flow while continuing on a path, adjusting for eventualities that come my way is the best way to move forward. Financially save 10%, give 10% and then spend; mentally meditate, be present; emotionally expect nothing, be honest, truthful, compassionate, forgiving, accepting and loving towards all including myself; intellectually read, listen, learn, practice goodness, talk less; physically eat right, be on the move, stay clean, care for the needs of others and myself; spiritually simply be and do. Simple principles that keep life stress free.

Reading the list it seems easy right now but I do know that unless I can keep the emotional - mental - intellectual - physical - financial - spiritual balance I can slip and chaos can be my companion anytime. The key is keeping a keen eye on the ego. That element that is in the maze within my mind and is always just below the surface. I must learn to use it and not let it use me. Unless I can stop identifying myself as my ego I cannot identify with my true self.

To go from chaos to order requires conscious effort. The habit of multitasking takes me away from the present so often through the day. I have learnt to develop triggers that bring me into the now. Since I do not enjoy housework being present during cooking, cleaning, laundry is difficult. I now make it a point to stay present by noticing the feeling of water or detergent on my hands. I consciously smell the spices, the soaps, even watch the dust as I go about doing my housework. Staying present when reading, writing, watching TV is not a challenge - these I like doing, you see. I find that the more present I remain in the so called uninteresting tasks the more I enjoy doing them. No wonder it is said that we humans can achieve anything. It is all in the mind.

Now that my mind is settled and calm the urge to go deeper is constant. In the midst of everything I can distance myself from worldly affairs and become instantly silent. It can be very calming and extremely enjoyable. There is no anger, no frustration, no sense of lack, no pride, no shame, just a sense of joy and a subtle satisfaction. Whatever will be will be and I just am here. Life is good, it is enjoyable inspite of all the turmoil there seems to be around. The future was, is and will be uncertain. The past is done with. The present is right here and it is perfect. The chaos is gone and life just is. No chaos, no order. It just is.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Silent Mind

Silence is a state of mind. I remember as a child hearing about and observing people practicing Mouna Vrata - the vow of silence. They would not speak for a day. The stress that this would cause around the person was hilarious. They would be sitting with a pen and paper handy - in case they needed to say something. They would have a bell or a steel bowl and spoon at hand to make a sound if they wanted attention. This misconception about the vow of silence being about keeping the mouth shut lasted in my mind for years.

I know now that the vow of silence is about silencing the mind. What a beautiful concept. The need to say nothing. In today's life where there is so much to excite my senses it is not an easy vow to keep. To practice silencing the mind each morning by meditating only on the breath and at the most on the sensations it brings in the body is a very calming experience. It takes time and conscious effort but each morning I find it becoming easier. Observing the turmoil in the mind as a bystander causes the chatter to stop and unknowingly draws the mind to my Ishta and Japa (out of sheer habit). I can then put my effort on paying attention to the breath. This process relaxes the body too. I become aware of the muscles that are tensed up and then they start relaxing. I am alert but relaxed. Silence follows with the shallowing of the breath and a chill runs through my body - a pleasant chill. This ends up distracting the mind - but with effort the mind can be drawn back again.

These short stints of silence often end in an understanding of an emotion or a thought that has been elusive. It is as if from the silence comes an experience of knowing. If I had to describe it in the physical realm it would be as if I am watching a flower bud blooming. Something happens from the inside out and there is that moment of AAHAA. This could be as simple as deciphering a single thought or the meaning of a, till now, incomprehensible book. These moments have given me an insight into forgiveness, envy, compassion, guilt, truth, hurt, trust, greed, love, relationships and many more such characteristics, emotions and feelings that were at best superficially understood till now. Sayings about a broken mirror, or once a liar always a liar, war and peace etc. make so much more sense now. The importance of compassion, acceptance, unconditional love and forgiveness for my own inner peace is clearer today. There was an understanding of the need for these before but now I know they are key to cleansing my mind. These experiences are like applying an icepack to a fevered head. There is an instantaneous cessation of the turmoil in the mind. These discoveries in turn make the mind more silent. This is the cycle that I look forward to experiencing each morning. The vicious cycle of negative thoughts pulling me down is slowly but surely reversing. The cycle I find myself in is neither negative nor positive it is simply uplifting.

Life experiences have made it possible for me to get here. Experiences that I have labeled as positive or negative in the past are now free of their labels. They are just experiences that have opened up avenues in my inward journey that would have remained closed. Experiences and the inherent power of the spirit have shown me a path to knowing myself. The ego feels wounded and defeated but I feel good. The purpose of my existence in the physical realm is self discovery and unless I can watch over my ego and keep it in check this purpose cannot be fulfilled. I am so blessed to have a few hours just to myself each day. These hours are my most precious as I am able to use them to meditate, contemplate, and write. I am traversing a path that has been fulfilling and I look forward to continuing along this path of self discovery. I want to get to the end of the path where the discovery stops, the cycles are non- existent and the Truth and I become one. When the writing stops I will be there.

Inner Silence is my greatest reward for choosing to be silent.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

From Gossip to Silence

Gossip is defined as rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature. It is possible to gossip with oneself about oneself. I find myself doing more of this and thinking a lot less about other things. I made a choice to spend more time with myself so I am not distracted from my move further inward. A lot of time has been spent thinking about my nature and analyzing everything from my thoughts to my weight, my breath, my emotions and my relationships. I have always enjoyed talking to myself and have used these conversations to know me better. Self gossiping has helped me find sparks of my true nature and helped my inward journey into my inherent goodness.

Self talk has taught me that to find Me, I need to experience myself at a much deeper level. The physical, mental, emotional, intellectual experiences that I have with myself are still very superficial. There is something much deeper and that is the essence that I must find. Gossiping to myself about myself brings on an excitement and increases my curiosity about myself. These internal dialogues have given me glimpses of a deeper me, but now I must learn to silence the conversation. Curiosity has the tendency to take me into the past and the future - not the directions I want to take. As this urge to silence my mind further has been growing stronger I came across a subject called Vipassana Meditation. Something I had never been privy to before. Now it seems to be all around me. Such is the generosity of the Universe.

Becoming aware of the 'Now' is a technique that the Buddha taught twenty five centuries ago. It is a method that helps one go deeper and clear the mind of its cravings, aversions and attachments. It is a form of meditation that I have been searching for. I am aware that concentrating on my Ishta can take me only so far since that form of meditation limits me to the physical form of my Ishta. Meditation on another object brings surface calmness but lacks the wherewithal to hold me in the realm of spirit for long periods of time. There is an absolute need to go much deeper inwards where the awareness is a lot more subtle. I have started my journey into Vipassana and am finding it to be very challenging. The mind keeps going towards my japa and my Ishta and of course other worldly affairs - but practicing the technique is simple enough and I know since it has been thrust upon me I will get there.

Silencing the mind is an exalting experience. Often I get there for split seconds and it is like a burst of energy, an inner light, an inner flash that leaves me overwhelmed. These flash moments are truly beautiful and am hopeful that with practice I will have many such moments. I am unable to describe these flashes as peaceful yet. They are vibrations that cause strange sensations within the body very similar to getting goosebumps and having butterflies fluttering inside me. At first I was left feeling strangely disappointed by these sensations but over time realized that this disappointment came from my association of these sensations as arising from fear or anxiety. Are these sensations flashes of myself revealing itself to me? Are my senses therefore, incapable of deciphering them?

Every journey I take towards my inner essence brings on experiences that are very revealing of the dream that this life is. The fears, the anxieties, the pains, the pleasures, the events, all of these are transient and extremely superficial. They have caused me many trips through hills and valleys all through my life. I realize now that these journeys that were often extreme were essential for me to get to this point of self contemplation. The events happening around me reveal how strong the ego is and how strongly it veils man's true essence. Life experienced superficially is one that is laughable compared to the one led from the depths of the spirit. It is possible to live in this world and be unaffected by the physical realm. I can enjoy every moment as an experience that takes me Godward if I continue to live my life from the exalted place of my spirit. The ego must only be used as a tool to help me stay in the physical realm so I can enjoy the spiritual one.

This journey I am on from self gossip to silence is a uniquely beautiful one so far. I am alone on it since this is one journey that requires to be taken solo. I am surrounded by many but I experience my journey all by myself. How exalting.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Unshakable Mind

Sthitaprajna - one whose mind does not waiver under any circumstances. The Gita talks about such a person as being established in God. The Buddha talks about being at peace even when there is turmoil around. I often get the opportunity to test this aspect of my mind. Some latest developments in my life have proven that even if my mind gets shaken when there is turmoil, if I make a conscious effort not to let my mind wander too far out I can rein it in. I have learnt a great lesson in forgiveness. I find that guilt is a function of my capacity to forgive myself first and foremost. I am a spiritual being in human form and so human characteristics - faulty by nature - will raise their heads. Each time I can recall my spiritual self to forgive my actions, learn from mistakes and move forward a few moments earlier than the previous time.

Actions and words I would normally have considered a personal affront even a few years ago now seem to be reflections of the mind of he who affronts. I understand that in this physical realm there is no absolute truth. Truth is a perception just as a lie is and is completely dependent on the state of mind of the interpreter. When I say something as simple as 'I love you,' it can have different connotations. My intent may never be perfectly understood. The way I can avoid conflict of opinions is one, by being as silent as possible in my mind- speaking as little as possible and refraining from expressing an opinion if I have formed one; two, by being accepting of all and knowing that their opinion is inconsequential. One may look upon me as a beast and another as a God - this does not change who I am. It is only the beholders perception of me - it may be their truth for that moment but it is far from the absolute truth and can therefore change in a moment.

Evil is only good gone bad. The base of every action is inherently good. I commit no sin knowingly. If I feel a twinge that what I am about to do is wrong - I stop - I only continue when I have justified to myself that what I am about to do has merit. That is the dichotomy that most of us find ourselves in dealing with this world of dualities. There are multiple aspects to everything. It is only that thought that comes from the depth of the spirit that can escape this dichotomy. The depth of the spirit lies in an unshakable mind. That mind which is unaffected by the ups and downs that are occurring in the world of dualities. Only when I can take every moment as an event that is independent of me can I keep my mind stable. Dishonesty, insincerity, lies, and other negative characteristics are the perception of a judgmental mind. Unless I can keep my mind from judging everything and everyone every moment I cannot develop a stable mind. I can be non-judgmental only when I develop compassion and love for my human nature and that of everyone else around me. I am not right or wrong - my thoughts or actions are. These thoughts and actions are my ego establishing itself over my Spirit. Where ego reigns Spirit is only the observer but where my Spirit is supreme, ego becomes a non-entity. An ego that functions only as a tool to make living in the human form possible and not as the ruler of this human form is the ego of a stable mind. Unless I am keenly aware and ever watchful of the ego it begins to rule my life and shakes my mind.

I was sent a Buddha quote today that talks about an insincere, evil friend being more dangerous than a wild beast for where a beast only harms your body the other harms your mind. I am sure that there is a lot more to this than appears on the surface. For one, insincerity and evil cannot be applied as adjectives to friends and secondly the Buddha talked a lot more about the inner world than about the outside one. I am my own friend or enemy depending on the relationship I have developed with my mind. If I let my mind waiver at the slightest turmoil I am my own enemy, insincere to my spirit and therefore negatively influencing my inner peace. It is only when I am unshaken by anything that is happening around or within me that I am my friend, loving, compassionate and therefore maintaining my inherent inner peace. The Buddha was born into luxury and was raised in opulence - he chose to suffer and survived only because he recognized his own stable mind a long time before he left the material world. His was not a mind that rose and fell because of the opinions of others. Only when I have established this stability can I excel spiritually. I am not there yet - but am on a path that is leading me there.

Self Improvement

As I look back over the years I see the various paths I have walked to get to where I am today. The number of things I have learnt, done, and achieved make me smile. These worldly achievements are worth nothing at this moment. All that matters now is the now. This moment is unaffected by my past and exists independent of all other moments. My experiences are worth something only if they have taken me towards my true purpose. Anything I have done that took me away from my purpose was a waste of time.

I remember looking at those who were unable to multitask and taking pride in the fact that I could. Multitasking wasted many moments of my life since being a hundred percent present in any moment was impossible. All that multitasking helped me achieve was a stressful lifestyle. All the work related positions I held brought me 'success' in the physical, material realm. I made good money, was able to buy many things, developed a great reputation as a good worker, made many friends, traveled and enjoyed a 'good life.' Somewhere in the process of being 'successful' though I forgot my true essence. I was on a path of growth and improvement in the so called real world. This dream world is full of bells and whistles and very little else. Growth and improvement in this world was the sure shot way I chose to lose myself.

The only improvement that is worth anything at this moment is my spiritual one. The one that has opened my eyes to recognizing that all of these achievements, possessions and successes are not the real purpose of being here in this physical form. These experiences only caused me to spiral downwards and away from my spirit. I wasted my time. I would have been better served if I had established my spiritual identity and then gone out into the world. Then I would have catapulted my way up into self realization - the true essence of self improvement.

Since I had not established my spiritual identity I got distracted by the materialistic world that lies all around. The true meaning of wealth became about having money in the bank and about being able to buy things for my pleasure. Many years ago I knew a person who said that only mean minded people had bank accounts. I looked upon this person as a fool - the joke was really on me. Here was a man who spent his life serving others with every penny that he earned. He was always smiling even towards the end of his life when he had not a penny to his name and was unable to feed his family. His family survived through it all. The stress was felt more by those who judged him than by the man himself. He lived every moment as it came. Then one day he died. He came with nothing, left with nothing leaving nothing behind. His legacy is the love with which all whose lives he touched remember him. It is no less powerful than the legacy a millionaire leaves behind for his future generations to enjoy. When we leave, what is left behind is the spirit with which we served our body, mind, intellect and others.

Name and fame is about being recognized, being popular, and being liked by people whose opinions are really worth nothing. What is really important is about liking myself. It is essential that I have a clear conscience knowing that I have lived a giving, serving, loving life. Whether or not others believe I am good does not change my inherent goodness. When I take the high road to spiritual improvement I have to be able to do so with compassion, unconditional love, and free from guilt about the path I have taken to get to this road. The earlier I establish my spiritual identity the easier this becomes.

Everything I do in the outside world is about functioning within the norms that society has put in place. This is the world of duality where good and bad are completely subjective. What may be good to some is bad to some others. It is therefore essential that I live my life by my own judgment alone. When decisions are made from the depth of my own spirit my confidence is at its peak. Decisions made based on what others think will have some good elements and some poor ones - based on who is judging it. This will invariably shake my confidence. Self confidence and self esteem can only be established when I am true to my inner essence. Unless I know this essence I cannot be true to it.

Meditation that takes me on an inward journey is the only self improvement that I need to consciously work on. All other improvements will follow from this one. It is the foundation on which I can build character and so move forward loving myself every moment. God is not inside me or out there - God is who I am. Perfection is about recognizing this God.