Sunday, November 7, 2010

Grace for my Uncle

Saturday morning started off with sad news. My only surviving Maternal Uncle had passed away. It was the day after the Festival of Lights - and it brought back memories of a day 35 years ago. That too was the day after the Festival of Lights and about the same time that my father had passed away.

My uncle was a fun loving young at heart man all his life. All of us loved him dearly. Our children loved him just as much. He made every one he met feel special. He was genuinely interested in what each of us was doing, in our interests, in our family, in our city, in our relationships and in everything that made us feel important. I am not sure how he did it but he made everyone feel that their life was an amazing one. He never seemed old in his dealings with us even if he could not quite remember our birthday or when we last met. He invariably remembered what we had been passionate about the last time we had spent time together. Even in his eighties he put many of us to shame about everything and everyone he was in touch with.

Loving Chhoto Mama was easy. He was there if and when we needed and wanted him without ever interfering in our life. He was there to encourage us even when we were doubtful about things. He never hesitated to voice his opinions about things but he loved us even if we disagreed with him. He just made his displeasure clear and moved right on loving you. How can you not love someone like that? He was a good sport. If you wanted to party he was right there partying with you. Dinner, drinks, dance, games, jokes, stories - he participated in everything. We needed his advice on something and he would listen and put things in perspective - we came out clear headed and feeling like we had made a decision on our own. How can you not feel good being around someone like that?

It definitely helped that his life partner my dearest Aunt is such a warm and loving soul herself. She made it possible for him to continue being who he was. She was there by his side always - taking care of him, being his better half and loving us just as much. I hope we can be there for her as much as she has been there for all of us. She was a pillar of strength for me when my father passed away. Having her in the house and seeing her confident, smiling, caring, warm person there was my soft spot at eighteen. She has always had a very special spot in my heart and I smile everytime I think of her. I know she is there for me no matter what. I love her dearly.

As for my sisters - they mean the world to me. Both of them are chips of the same block. Loving, caring, warm and beautiful. I reach my hand out and there they are. I feel blessed to have them as sisters. I wish Mami, Bubu and Bonu the very best and know that Mama is looking down at us all with pride and joy no matter where we all are. He personified unconditional love and his soul will always be amongst us. Death must come for each of us - but it is a small moment and so I want to put death aside and truly celebrate Mama's life. I want to feel his soul, his love, his warmth and his magnanimity and I want to keep smiling. God graced us with this wonderful soul and I thank God for blessing us so.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

35 long years

Thirty five years ago today my father left his body and seemed to leave us behind. It was a very sad day for me. I was 18 and I had lost my guide, hero and best friend. It took me a while to acknowledge that because the first thought was not about my loss - it was more about relief. I write it right. I was relieved that I would no longer have to worry about my dearest father dying. His dying had been my worst nightmare for many years before the actual event. I am not sure now what I was really afraid of - if it was what the future would hold without him or if it was the moment of his passing. I still cannot put my finger on it but it did not take long for the fear to be overpowered by the grief. Thankfully though, the grief did not last too long as it was soon replaced by all the wonderful memories of some great little moments that I had the good fortune of having with my dearest Dad for the last ten years of his time with us.

Today I recognize that Dad left his body but has been with us all through these years and will continue to be with us for as long as we are and then some. The mark he left on my life has carried me through just as much as the mark left by my mother, my late sister, my brother, my spiritual teacher, my husband, my children, the rest of my family, friends and those who I have had the privilege of ever associating with. Each soul has touched mine and made an impact that has either taught me something, given me something, or added to my growth. The first person who I must acknowledge for all I do is definitely my dearest father. He was a simple man with a lot of depth. He did whatever he undertook with so much love and care that the result just had to be appreciated no matter what it appeared to be. I remember Dad making a large pot of guava jelly once and I am not quite sure what happened but instead of the clear jelly that should have been the final product it turned out to be murky. I felt so sad. He had put so much effort and care into the entire process. I refused to eat anything over my toast till that jelly was done a few weeks later! I do not remember the taste but I do remember Dad beaming every time he saw me eating the jelly. That was all that mattered to me.

Dad taught me that it was okay to be indifferent but never to be unkind. He had had a challenging childhood with a wicked step mother but never once did I hear him curse or be rude to or about her. He simply refused to talk about her with us. Clearly it was a very painful subject for him. Instead he talked to me about the love he was showered with by the rest of his extended family and his beloved cousins became family. They loved him just as much as he loved them and to this date I am so glad that they made up for all the pain that he had ever suffered.

My father was by no means a perfect man but he expressed his perfect soul through his kindness, love, assertiveness, disciplined life style, morality, honesty and integrity. He is my hero and will always be that. He is my best friend and nothing can ever change that. He is my guide and even today I judge a lot of what I do based on how Dad would have judged my actions. He has never ever let me down and am certain he is proud of his little girl.

I love you Baba and always will. The beautiful memories you have made for me keep me smiling. Thank you for being you and for being my wonderful Baba.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Identity Crisis - Resolved

Life is complicated. Joyful one day, miserable the next, jubilant today, despondent tomorrow. Unpredictability makes life stressful and challenging. I was hired at a great company today and so I am on top of the world. My boss is a tyrant so I am in the doldrums. I found out I am pregnant and nothing could take this joy away from me ever, but the morning sickness the next day makes me wish I did not have to go through with pregnancy to have my own child. My teacher praised my essay but my classmates left my name out of the class project that was presented in assembly.

Well of course we are on a roller coaster ride - life is not fair. Things done with the best of intentions backfire. Good things happen to bad people and terrible times befall good people. That is what life is about. The world will go on its way, independent of me. The wise understand this and move on without it affecting their emotional stability. Many of us do not understand this concept. We identify ourselves with our relationships, worldly possessions, body, mind, work, position and everything external to us. When these change our state of mind changes. That is what stress is all about.

Relationships which carry the weight of dependence often become unbalanced. One dominates the other. Control issues arise. So it is with life. When we identify more with one of our roles it dominates over the others. This is visible in mothers with careers. The struggle of living upto both roles tells on her health, her family, her emotions and wreaks havoc in her own life and in those who are around her. If she loses her job or her child goes wayward she is devastated and overcome by guilt or anger. She has lost herself in her child and in her career.

It is for us to recognize that life is not about what we do but about who we are. The roles we play in life are what we do to survive and enjoy as a species. Who we are as individuals is what defines each of us and this world. Our identity is the one that is changeless. It is the base on which we carry out our various roles in life. It defines what we do, how we think and builds our character. It is our core and we must look within ourselves to get in touch with it. It does not need a name. It is that feeling of love or guilt or joy or pride that wells over as we go about doing things. It is that feeling that guides us to do what feels right and good and makes us think twice about doing what is wrong and evil. It is not the doer it is the witnesser of everything we do. No - it does not sit above us in heaven and reward us for the good and punish us for the bad; it is our conscience at its purest.

How does knowing this help us relieve stress? For one the bar of good and right changes. The good things that we saw happening to bad people are no longer the good we are looking for. The belief that the honest get nowhere looks hollow and laughable. Honesty, truth and integrity become the qualities that guide life. Secondly we are no longer perturbed by the ups, downs and curves that we are faced with. We begin to recognize that every challenge has a solution and that we will pass through every situation and move on. Nothing is here to stay not the good, bad, right, wrong, painful, joyful or any other situation. Our state of mind guides us through various emotions and we can choose to keep the unpleasant emotions out of our life. Knowing who I am helps me understand who everyone else is too. What I do is not a reflection of who I am unless I am God-centered. Being centered in myself guides me to do what is moral. My true self never misguides me. This is the identity that I must hold on to. When I let my ego self rule me I stress myself out. It is not that my ego self always makes me do wrong - it too guides me to do right but for the wrong reasons. Self absorption is the motive of the ego and selflessness is the basis on which the spirit works through me.

A selfless life is a stress free life. It is the ego that is misguided and is always looking out for itself. Even service and charity can be done with a self serving interest. I serve you because you need my service. I am therefore better than you, more blessed than you, superior to you. Selfless service and charity is done because you are blessing me with the opportunity to do good work. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve. This attitude lets us work with no expectation of return for you or for me. We are in this together and as one. Work undertaken with this attitude is not about the hours or the pay it is about doing a good job - how then can it cause stress? I do my very best knowing that the results are not guaranteed. If the results are good that is my bonus - if it is bad no harm done I move on.

I am an individual playing many roles. I am not the roles. I am in each role. I answer to my name to some, mother to some, sister to some others, aunt to still more - but through it all I am the same individual. Who people see me as is my outer surface, and this changes all the time. The changeless me has and will always remain the same. Since I identify only with the inner me I project myself evenly through every role I play. I am an honest, loving, compassionate, person who lives with integrity. I choose not to judge anyone because I know that what I see them as is one of their many roles. The only truth about them is that they have a changeless identity that is no different than mine.

What keeps me true to myself is my knowing that I have the potential to be perfect in every role I play. I live a moral, honest, giving, receiving, joyful, guilt free, stress free life. Every skill I have learnt is of the same essence. I am stable in the belief that my purpose is to identify, acknowledge and express my inner being through every role I am destined to play. The world is not mine to dictate to but neither am I of the world to be dictated by it. The changeless me does not let me compromise with my values even if my ego pushes me to. My ego belongs to me and is my tool to survive. I am master of my mind and I choose to entertain only those thoughts that expand and take me Godward.

Spirituality is the basis upon which life can be lived - by conscious choice. Being a selfless person who thinks about the good of all including oneself is what spiritual living is about. There need be no gap. I am clear about my true identity and understand that name, relationship, position, address, career and everything else is my opportunity to live and enjoy the material world which was here before me and will continue to be after I leave it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Liberation of the Soul

The concept of the Soul being Liberated suggests that it can be bound. The Soul is infinite and limitless and so cannot be restricted. Clearly there is a deeper meaning to the phrase Liberation of the Soul. To get to the meaning I need to know who I am and what the Soul is.

I - meaning my body, mind and intellect - am a micro manifestation of the infinite Soul. This materialization is limited in time and space and is both surrounded by and in association with other finite manifestations of the same Spirit. The Soul can shine through brighter in some beings than in others. This in the case of people can be seen as levels of beauty or strength in the realm of the body; sharpness of intelligence; purity of mind and so on. These manifestations can be honed and enhanced if the individual so desires. The mind has a limited capacity to comprehend the depth of the Soul. The intellect may understand it through analysis and wisdom but the mind has the capacity to experience its presence at a level that is beyond the comprehension of the intellect. Even still the mind is limited and so experiencing the infinite Soul is a monumental task if at all possible. There is a state that goes beyond the mind that is the experience itself.

A mind that is forever expanding by reflection on 'good' thoughts like kindness, compassion, forgiveness, love, generosity, gratefulness, and so on is most conducive to take one into the experience of the infinite soul. Contemplation and meditation are tools to help us silence the mind for short periods so we can integrate our thoughts and actions and bring them on the path to expansion. Silencing the mind and staying in the silence may be a good way for recluses and monks but for those of us who live in the social world of family, friends and work we have to step out of the silence and yet keep the mind forever expanding. This is what keeps us on the path that opens the doorway to the experience of the Spirit.

We experience the Spirit sometimes - when we are inspired. I am not certain how one expresses the experience - yet almost every one of us has been inspired at least once in our lives. The results of these moments are usually heroic or miraculous or phenomenally successful and seem to touch not only the experiencer but also those around them. The source of inspiration is hard to divine even if we are told that it is the Soul, or God, or Spirit, or Universe, or Oneness, or Love or..... We may be able to give it a name but can we really convey what it is? One must experience it and acknowledge the experience to fathom it.

The spirit can also be experienced when we love or when we feel loved unconditionally. There is a sense of being engulfed by an emotion that is very fulfilling. When we serve others not because they need us or because we need or want to but simply because we are there and we expect no rewards or name for it we are in touch with the Spirit. The smile that comes to our eyes when we see a baby or a cuddly animal; when we hear the sound of naturally flowing water in the distance and feel a sense of calm, we have acknowledged the Spirit.

To open ourselves to these experiences needs us to stay aware of ourselves as deeper than the body, mind and intellect. When we live consciously, with purpose and integrity we keep ourselves open. When we lose this consciousness and become engulfed in separateness, selfishness and fear we break away from acknowledging the presence of the Soul. The Soul is always there as the witness but requires our attention to be witnessed. The Soul and I are one and this acknowledgement is possible only when I lose my sense of separation from It and so from everything around me. Everyone, everything is the manifestation of the same Soul. The Soul is the equalizer and our ego identity is what separates us from each other and from the Soul.

Liberating the Soul is a misconception and yet is the only way to express what our true purpose in this world is. Since I and Soul are one, liberation is about my ego self merging into my source. Once that happens the ego self - body, mind and intellect - is seen as the illusion it really is. All manifestations are for the ego to eventually go beyond illusion and liberate itself by merging into the Real.

We can be in the world and be 'liberated Souls' at the same time. To recognize that this world is the illusion of our own making and so unreal, impermanent and incapable of providing bliss keeps us liberated. All work must be service towards all and not only self serving. All love must be unconditional and equal. Kindness, compassion, forgiveness must be consciously practiced. That is the way to go inwards while living out here. There is no sacrifice here, for when we live a clean, pure, loving life we create bliss for others and ourselves. We become the liberated, the equalized, the Soul. We know who we are.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Abundance - spiritual definition

When I hear the word 'abundance' it brings the vision of plenty. Lots and lots of money, large home, beautiful cars - things. In reality though Abundance is about the sense of satisfaction that comes from what we do have. For some this satisfaction may come from what they already have and for others it may never be attainable. Abundance is a state of mind. The more we choose to be satisfied the less things we need. It is not things and money rather it is our personal sense of gratitude and generosity that brings us a sense of abundance.

This is very similar to the idea of faith. One has faith on ones Spiritual Teacher and God. This is not about the ritualistic prayers offered to them or chanting their name. It is more about the strength this faith gives us in ourself. It is said that with faith one can walk over the ocean. The Guru or God Incarnate does not help us walk over water physically - one can do it because one has put complete faith that they can - whatever the reason. It is a state of mind.

So also with abundance. The more satisfied and grateful we are for what we have the more abundant we feel, the more abundant we become. No thing can ever make us feel abundant - things make us feel proud and give us a sense of achievement that lasts for a short time. Someone else always has more or something different and we now want that. Striving to have things and keep them takes away from the enjoyment of the journey to get them and also takes away from the joy once we do possess them. It is good to work towards a goal knowing that there is a chance that we will achieve great things - but it is important that we put our complete attention to the task at hand rather than on the expectation of results and enjoy doing it to its fullest. The result is then a lot more satisfying and lasting.

People who do what they love never tire. They are always energetic, achieve more and are happier. They are not working at all - they are simply living life to its full potential and having fun in the bargain. What others refer to as work is really play for them. Watch scientists, artists and writers who have passion for their art and enjoy every moment they spend on it. Success and joy seems to cling to them. People in the same profession who work to earn name, fame and money seem to struggle with life inspite of achieving their goals. They need the help of drugs, alcohol and other agents to keep them going - they are miserable and depressed and are looking for joy elsewhere.

No matter what we are seeking in life, it is all a state of mind. Things, people, relationships are not what life is about. Life is about knowing oneself. Life is about feeling Love, Peace, Abundance, Wellbeing and Oneness first and then developing relationships and working and living in the world. We tend to go about it in the opposite direction. No matter how long we live and how many relationships and friends we have and how much money we make unless we are loving, peaceful, giving, caring and inclusive we cannot feel joyful, happy and abundant.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kandhamal-a symptom of a larger ill.

I was not aware of the atrocities of Kandhamal (Orissa, India) till my school friend mentioned she was on her way to a tribunal to speak about the plight of the women there. Being the voracious reader I am and being privileged enough to have the time and the resource available to surf the net I began reading about it. I sit here in my beautiful home ten thousand miles away and complain about the heat wave that raises my electricity bill while thousands of men, women and children are living amidst squalor and in fear because they have chosen to execute their right to follow a religion of their choice. They probably do not feel the heat or the cold because they fear for their very life and livelihood. We could blame the local politicians or law enforcement for their continued suffering over two years after the atrocities first took place but are we all not just as culpable?

A few unintelligent hoodlums carried out a horrible act on our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. We learned about it and shook our heads and let it pass us by. A handful of us who care enough took up the cause and went there to help rebuild; others sent money and other essentials and still others took up the fight to higher authorities but still the women who were widowed and raped, the children who were orphaned, the men who were beaten and maimed continue to suffer. The world is thousands thousands times bigger than this small community and because only a few hundred have chosen to help they have not been able to get back a semblance of their dignity.

The world needs to prosper for each of us to be successful in life. These pockets of atrocious events take away from us as a human community just as much as it takes away from each of us as individuals. If each of us was to give one cent of our wealth and one minute of our time each day towards the betterment of each other imagine the force of our endeavor to make our world a better place. The evil acts are succeeding because we are choosing to do nothing good to counter them. Fighting against is never the answer leading to solutions - we need to do more to positively affect change. As a world community not to have been able to build safe homes, rebuild their place of worship, provide education to the children, create work for the people of Kandhamal to get their livelihoods back is shameful. Instead the suffering people are being pressured to change their religion and are being further insulted by others. Our government is providing funds to our neighbors to help them recover from natural disasters while our own nationals are having to beg for their dignity. Where is the balance?

It is not that we do not care - it is that we are too far removed from each other. We have become absorbed in material wellbeing and have chosen to forget that we are all brothers and sisters from one Source. We stand on our golden pulpit and declare there is only one God and are proud to be monotheists but refuse to acknowledge 'your God' because you chose to give Him a different name. This is not about religion it is about humanity. It is about love and compassion and knowledge. It is about each of us looking within our very beings and then looking at the misery out there and taking ownership. We cannot cocoon ourselves and wait for others to stand beside the downtrodden. It is not for us to judge and take sides. This is the time for us to lend a hand so everyone of us can live with our heads held high. What use is knowledge that is not shared with others? What use is money if our parents go hungry? What use is life if my sister is being raped?

Let us open our hearts and look beyond the narrow realm of me, my home, my family, my friends, my work and share our wealth, our knowledge, our strength with our world family and help rebuild Kandhamal even more beautifully than it was before it was raped so future generations can look back and say that our brothers and sisters did not die and suffer in vain. Governments and other institutions can only help so much. It is eventually upto us individuals to turn things around. We cannot wait to see what institutions can and are doing. It is possible for individuals to raise money and give of their time to help rebuild schools, hospitals, wells, and places of worship so the people can get back their dignity and the will to continue living. The government is helping to rebuild their homes but that is only a small part of life. Without education and basic health care generations of people of Kandhamal will continue to be emotionally and intellectually raped.

Kandhamal is only a small portion of a much larger world of suffering. We have to take up these issues and start bringing about a change that affects us all. The yardstick cannot be how much the haves are donating to the have nots. Success must be measured by how many of the have nots are on their way to becoming haves. The need for help is clearly much greater than what is being currently done. Prosperity cannot be measured by individual success - it must be measured by the success of all. Using that criteria we are definitely a poor world. Dignity is the right of all beings and we must consider ourselves privileged when we can share that amongst all our brothers and sisters. When one of us is raped or maimed or killed for any reason we are all being insulted. Punishing the wrongdoers is clearly not the answer because when one is punished ten more seem to be raising their ugly heads. Instead let us concentrate our time and energy on raising the bar of life so each of our sisters everywhere knows that if one man intends to hurt her in anyway there will be ten brothers and sisters protecting her. The only way evil can continue to succeed is if we sit back and do nothing good. Let us give of ourself not because there is misery but because we love one another and want to be successful as the human race. Let us simply raise the bar of goodness and so of human life.

(A small sample of life events in Kandhamal http://ww.telegraphindia.com/1100824/jsp/nation/story_12847233.jsp)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Finding God

If this world is an illusion - why then as reasonable intelligent beings can we not see beyond it? It is impossible to believe that there is 'nothing' where we can see, smell, hear, feel 'everything' around us. We have been provided with sense organs to experience the world as it is. If this were unreal and Consciousness was the only Reality we would have been provided with the tools to be able to experience the reality. If the purpose of life was to know God then we would have come into this world knowing that and living life accordingly. Something is not right here.

Last night I dreamt I was in a garden with many shrubs and trees. There were many strangers in this garden but as I got close to them they turned into people I have known for years. No one recognized me - they ignored me. Everytime I approached someone they deliberately walked away from me. How rude. It upset me and I felt saddened. I knew they should not be behaving this way but they did anyway. All of a sudden I was awake. Something was not right in my dream.

I went to the temple the other day and picked up a statue for a friend. I did not quite know how to get it to this friend - so I brought the statue home and decided it was upto the statue to get to where it wanted to be. Sure enough the friend called within the week for an unrelated reason that needed we see one another again soon. The arrangement was made by the 'statue.' Something is not right with this story.

I have had many illogical events in my life that have stumped me and made me think 'something is not right.' These may be pleasant or unpleasant. Many a times I think I may have been hallucinating and call these events illusory.

Then it struck me - illusion does not follow logic! The inherent nature of illusion must be that it follows no logical rule. I know for sure that the dream was an illusion. I also know that it was illogical to think that the 'statue' could prompt anything. So what can I make of God? Since the sages have said He is the Omnipresent and since experiencing Him is difficult to explain in words I am choosing to believe that they could be right. There is no logical path that will take me to Him but if I choose to stay true to my conscience and keep getting to understand my own motives and those of others better I can make better life choices. The same tools that help me experience the material manifestations of God will help me experience God too. I enjoy seeing beautiful things so I choose to create beauty through whatever I do. I enjoy hearing beautiful words and melodious music so I choose to bring melody and joy through my own speech. I choose to be compassionate, understanding, non-judgmental and kind simply because these choices bring joy to me. I do not search for God anymore - I choose to acknowledge Him at every moment in everything everywhere.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Illusion of Destiny

It is said that "Eventually we shape our own destiny." The statement places destiny somewhere in the future. Since time is a figment of my imagination destiny is not in the future. Destiny at most is what life is at this moment. Making the best use of this moment makes me true to my life purpose and so to myself. No one has made my life what it is - it is so, independent of anyone else. I make the conscious choice to be. What is happening around me, with me, to me, because of me is for those unconscious moments when I lose touch with myself. When I am one with myself then I simply am and it is a moment of immeasurable joy.

There can be no projected destiny. There are just present life experiences to enjoy. Any impact I may have had belongs to the world of illusion. I am untouched by it all. When I have let go of the illusion there remains the awareness of a Stillness. From that Stillness arises more experiences - the difference is that the experiences now take on a new meaning. It is as if I am playing a team sport where there are no winners or losers. No one is keeping count of points won. We are all back in our innocent childhood sitting in a large circle passing a colorful ball around and having fun. Having the ball in my hand or in yours has no impact on the fun of the moment. We all know this is just a game for everyone to laugh and applaud through and simply be. When none of us identify success or failure with having possession of the ball, it is a sphere of joy. The moment we bring some rules into the game and change it to a game of passing the parcel things change. The innocence is lost. Everyone is attempting to dispossess the ball. No one wants to be excluded from the fun of belonging in the circle. Then the sense of separateness comes into play. The participants are the same, the ball is the same only the rules changed. The rules do not care whether they are followed or not but we are now slaves to the rules. We cling to the circle and cause others to be flung out of it. We use the rules to differentiate and cause stress and strife. Then the game is over. The rules do not exist but the participants have changed from being innocent children to being winners and losers. We identified ourselves with the ball, the game, the rules and forgot who we really were. We held on to the illusion and let the innocence go. We cannot go back and change the rules of the game. All we can do is remove the veil of the illusion and recognize that the game was not real but we are. The identification, the separateness, the change in behavior was in the moment and then the moment passed. We have the liberty to start a new game with a new sphere of joy and start having fun again in the new moment.

Illusion is the ultimate deception. It makes the non-existent real. The illusion is created by our mind. The mind gives it birth and the mind has the power to annihilate it too. Like a mother though, the mind cannot kill its own creation. The mind will not accept that the illusion is not real. If and when the mind begins to question the validity of its illusions the journey into spirituality begins. The acknowledgment that there is a God may come much earlier. Usually this God is a personal one who exists out there somewhere in the world of illusions. This takes us towards organized religion - we go to places of worship, create spaces like altars in our home, have religious celebrations, follow rituals and convince ourselves that there is a power that is beyond our capacity to fathom. We follow prophets, we read holy books, we acknowledge saints and sages. We explain the unpredictable nature of life and coincidences as the doing of the power who we may or may not call God. We differentiate life events, behavior patterns, even people into categories of good and bad. This is all part of the same illusion. As long as we cannot see beyond this world into the Real we are living an illusory life. We may find joy here but know for sure that misery will follow - the cycle is inevitable. For the illusion to exist there must be two sides to everything. Without a point of reference the world cannot exist. Without silence there can be no sound, without darkness there can be no light, without breathing out we cannot breathe in, without sleep we cannot be awake, without death there can be no birth, without an end there can be no beginning. That is the nature of illusion.

The ancient sages gave the example of a coiled rope that in insufficient light appears to be a snake. Once this illusion takes hold we cannot overcome it without seeing the rope in proper light. The rope here is the Spirit, the snake is the world and the light is enlightenment. Illusion must have a base. It must begin somewhere. What is the base? How did it begin? Where will it end? For end it must. Just as the wave begins and ends in the ocean so also the illusion must end in the Infinite Eternal Spirit. This Spirit or God or Super Power or Universe or Soul is the observer of this illusory world and we all can tap into it and become one with it. In the realm of the spirit there is no duality, no right and wrong, no good and bad, no real and unreal. The spirit simply is. For our senses and our mind that has dwelled in the realm of illusion it is difficult to fathom. As long as we can 'see' the snake in the rope we cannot see the rope. Once we see the rope for what it is though, it cannot cause any disturbance. We can associate with the rope and even laugh at ourselves for thinking it was a snake and move on. The illusion is a manifestation of Spirit. It deserves to be acknowledged and enjoyed keeping in mind that it is transient and a moving target. The manifestation thrives and grows but is limited and so cannot satisfy. The infinite, limitless spirit that we and this world are manifestations of is available for us to know and enjoy limitlessly.

Just as a seeing man cannot fathom the 'light' that the blind man or the 'sound' that a deaf man functions by the worldly man cannot fathom the light or the silence of the Spirit. Simply because ones mind and the senses cannot fathom it does not prove its non-existence. There are many who have experienced it and acknowledge it but cannot describe it because it is an experience at a level that cannot be put into words. The best way to let it be known is through silence, through stillness, through awareness and consciousness. These are elements that defy illusion. How can silence 'say' anything? It cannot - silence can only be just as God can only be.

It is believed that meditation can guide us into the experience of God. In the world of illusions meditation is often difficult. The mind must attain silence to experience God. The illusion of time is the greatest hurdle to meditation. The mind is either wandering away into the past or hurling ahead into the future. It is worrying about things that need to be done after this moment or it is dwelling in memories of times gone by. To stop this process is not easy. We have conditioned our mind to be thinking all the time. We now need to recondition it - not to stop thinking but to think only of the moment at hand. While I am writing if I focus on writing alone I find that the words flow. If instead I start writing a story that I have already thought out, the flow of words seem inhibited. I may have a story in my mind but I must write only in this moment for that story to be told with ease. It is the same with any activity. Being in the moment. So also meditation. Do not stop the mind from thinking just focus your mind on this moment. If I am sitting with my eyes shut then all I am doing is breathing so I bring myself to notice my breath - I may count the breath or just feel it as it passes in or out of me. Over time even this becomes unnecessary.

Meditation is not a moment with eyes shut tight trying to stop the wandering mind from achieving silence. Life is meditation, every thought is meditation, every moment is meditation. The world is a multicolored boundless paradise. Being in the moment is being acutely aware of not being just this body, this mind, this ego-centered person that relates to the rest of the world in a self absorbed way. Being conscious that the physical realm is a manifestation of something that is not tangible but which can be experienced at a much deeper level is what being is about. I have permission to enjoy everything around me without identifying myself with any of it. It is as if I am standing at the edge of the water on a beach. The soft tide brings in a small wave which plays over my bare feet and then it recedes. This tide of possessions, relationships, achievements and experiences are no different. They are here now and then they are gone. Just as the water has been left in the ocean everything will be left behind as I move on.

Who cares what the future holds for me? I did not know a year back what I would be doing today and I do not know now what I will be doing a year later. Let things fall as they will. All I do is live in this moment playing my role as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, woman, person to the best that I am capable of. I accept every moment as it is for I know that this moment with everything in it will pass whether I think about it or not. Destiny is illusory only this moment is real and I am in this moment.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Friends - Updated (originally posted in October 2009)

I have been blessed with some wonderful and true friends over the years. There is a depth to our friendship that goes beyond time and space. They are always there for me and everytime we connect it is as if no time has passed and no physical distance was ever there.

I have found that there are some very distinct characteristics to a true friendship. Here they are:

1. There is never any misunderstanding between friends.
This quality comes from
2. A complete acceptance of one another the way each one is.

3. Friends are imperfect human beings who do not need to put on a false appearance between themselves. Imperfections are shown and are accepted. Age, nationality, language, color, interests are immaterial between friends.

4. Friends pick up where they left off as if they have been with each other in the interim. There is very little catching up to do in the realm of the spirit.

5. A friend can tell you what they think about you in any given situation and it is possible to accept the harshest criticism because you just know that your friend speaks from a space of deep connection. No pretenses needed, no secrets needed, never any hard feelings, never any doubts about intentions.

6. Friends love you more when you slip and fall. They laugh and cry with you. They tend to your wounds and hug and kiss you during your tough times. Their presence is felt even from across the oceans.

7. Friendships are made in heaven! I never chose my friends - they came to me as blessings of the Universe.

8. Loving a friend does not need outward expression. Friends love one another unconditionally.

9. A word between friends is sacred. That is the nature of friendship not of people. A friend knows what can and cannot be repeated.

10. A friend never dies. There is an attachment that is so much deeper than the physical presence. This connection cannot be set asunder. It is true friendship that proves the truth in Oneness.

I want to acknowledge my friends for giving me this insight into what relationships are truly about. I have quite a few acknowledgments but the one I must put on the top of my list is my dearest Baba. If not for his passing I would never have recognized the depth of true Oneness of the soul. We are together always. He is my dearest friend - he was in life and continues to be after his passing too.

Padu - you are my most cherished gift. You have shown me my strengths and my weaknesses with so much insight and so much love. We touch each other without ever touching one another! I love you dearly.

Rekha - you are my greatest cheer leader. Your humility, your honesty, your acceptance of me as I am is what I cherish so dearly.

Nina - In spite of your pain you give me so much support. I cannot imagine how you can be so much of a giver while claiming to have so little joy yourself. There is a connection between us that is inexplicable.

Swati - Acceptance - one must learn this from you. We hardly get a chance to talk, or be together or connect in any way - but when I reach out you are always there. Your emails and messages are always perfectly timed!

There are some others who are my great friends and have come into my life and given of themselves unconditionally. They have been instrumental in getting me to where I am today and on top of this list is my dear friend Linda. She is one person who always makes me feel special.

I am blessed with a family who have grown to become my best friends. My brother - our relationship is mostly a silent one. We are both lovers of silence, music and the written word. I learnt the value of writing from him. We spent very little time together even when we were growing up so his letters were my greatest connection to him. He is another cheer leader of mine - silently loud! I love you dearly.

The greatest love of my life - my husband - without whose unswerving support I do not know what kind of a person I would be. No matter what I do, say, or think his acceptance of me is unshakable. We disagree about many things and yet he is there dying to fight my battles and protecting me from the 'evil world.' I am probably his only friend. I love you more than life itself.

As for my two greatest joys - my sons and now my friends. Frank, open, mincing no words, loving me unconditionally. Their love for me is tangible - and not just because I am Mom and they should, but because they are who they are. I can talk to them about anything and I always come out having learnt something new! I have learnt more from my sons than I have from my parents - I take pride in saying so. I love you both very much. Your happiness is my joy. Be happy.

I am left wondering why I am unable to put my Maa on this list. Maybe because we have never really been friends. From her I learnt most of my values. For years she was on a pedestal and over the years her painful life has created a wall around her that is almost tangible. She never gives fully and receives even less. Seeing her as a friend is not possible for me. She is Maa and I love her dearly.

There are many I know with the potential to becoming true friends. As we get to know one another, our love, respect, acceptance will grow. In a few years my list may be longer.

I am also my own true friend. The one I am still discovering.

I end with my greatest friend - Writing.

I love you all dearly - unconditionally.

UPDATE: In the last couple of months I have had the good fortune of reconnecting with my classmates from elementary school and college. The bond between old friends is proof that Oneness is the only Real Truth. The connection is felt not just by the senses but by the depth of our very existence - the intangible yet ever present Soul.

I have also recognized that the friends who may not have been true to me and others to whom I may not have been true myself are just as closely connected to me as the true ones. I am one with them too - they have taught me valuable life lessons and helped me delve deeper into my own Spirit and find God. I will forever be grateful to them and wish them the very best in life.

May you, my friends, always have Love, Peace, Abundance, Wellbeing and Oneness as your constant companions.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bliss is here.

"After every happiness comes misery; they may be far apart or near. The more advanced the soul, the more quickly does one follow the other. What we want is neither happiness nor misery. Both make us forget our true nature; both are chains--one iron, one gold; behind both is the Atman, who knows neither happiness nor misery. These are states, and states must ever change; but the nature of the Atman (Soul, Spirit, Self) is bliss, peace, unchanging. We have not to get it, we have it; only wash away the dross and see it." Swami Vivekananda

Pain and pleasure are not real. This was a very difficult concept for me for many years. I feel pleasure, I feel pain. I cannot accept that they do not exist. No one wants misery but imagine not being happy - but that means being miserable - or a zombie. It took me a long time to understand that having neither misery nor happiness means being stable in mind. It means welcoming both joy and tragedy as passing circumstances. I need to welcome both knowing that these are emotions arising from the external that cannot last. Neither joy nor sadness lasts a lifetime. They pass just as time passes. Circumstances are not responsible for our emotions - our reactions are what causes us to feel. When we are not aware of this we allow memories and past experiences to dictate our full range of emotions - fear, anger, joy, greed, envy, satisfaction and any other you can think of. We forget that every incident will have unique results. Inspite of seeing different consequences we are often blinded by one strong memory and let it dictate our emotional response. It is possible to break this cycle. We can choose to remain in the moment and savor life experiences as unique events that will be enjoyed for themselves. We need to step out of 'instinctive' reactions into 'intuitive' ones. Joy comes from moving out of reactive responses to ones that are inspired by our inner being in the moment.

Harboring strong negative memories causes us to worry, complain and regret. Making a concerted effort at living in the moment changes the direction of our lives. For instance a child raised in poverty can choose to be afraid of lack even as an adult or choose to enjoy everything he does have and be compassionate towards those with less than him. An orphan can choose to be mistrustful of others and to be afraid of abandonment or revel in every relationship he has with the rest of the world. We can choose to be afraid of a broken relationship and remain single or use it as a learning experience and develop a better one. We must come out of the past and be in the present and relish every moment of our life. That defines a stable mind. Joy and misery are not about fate and destiny - they are just the way the world of duality operates and when we recognize this illusion bliss becomes possible.

The more we separate the more miserable we are. Building boundaries and walls and enclosing ourselves within these with the intent to protect what is 'mine' is the cause of strife between peoples. It is also the cause of strife within oneself. Separating Me from God causes innumerable varieties of fear. When I choose to treat my body and mind as the manifestation of the Spirit and identify myself as part of a larger Whole I necessarily become kind, compassionate and loving. My mind and body connect with all around me at a level that goes beyond the tangible differences. I cannot see the similarities but I can feel them. The visible differences then become a palette of colors that bring beauty and wonder to the world of duality. I must acknowledge that there are specific differences that can be identified in the physical realm - but this is something to celebrate and use as a pathway to venerate the capacity of our collective creative Soul. It is the proof that we are all One. We are all born and we all die and at both these moments we have nothing that we can identify with in this world. It is between these two periods in time that we develop an identity that is in reference to what is around us in the realm of tangibles - that is all. We came, we enjoyed and we will leave like guests at a worldwide party in one large open garden. Let us enjoy the party and share in everything there is to enjoy without building walls and causing strife. When it is time to leave, the garden will be left the way we found it when we arrived so those coming after us can enjoy its beauty too.

I want neither joy nor misery for it is not mine to have - they are just borrowed emotions that I let bathe my soul for a moment and then I let the same moment pat me dry so I can be in Bliss.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fear of Death - transformed.

In the world but not of it. That was difficult. To have a family and a society, to provide for oneself and the family, to be safe and healthy one must be involved in the matters of the world. To be successful in the world required me to be part of it. Seems I had misinterpreted the meaning of success. Accomplishing a goal or purpose defines success. I had intertwined success with name and fame and also with pre-determined standards set by others. When I set myself up in competition with others I became part of the world. This wanting to be better than someone else pulled me in and I lost my uniqueness and so my own identity. Competition with myself - doing the best that I am capable of keeps me in the world and keeps me within myself. It helps me to go deeper into my infinite wisdom and get in touch with the Universe at large without becoming a slave to the world outside.

The moment this wisdom became apparent the world became a fun place. I have no control over outside circumstances. People will choose their ways, the environment around me will change, my life will continue on with or without me anticipating or worrying about it all. I am better off spending my time understanding my own potential. Gathering worldly knowledge and understanding its ways is for information purposes only. It is so I can be in the world. The more I know about the world the more I know Me. The more I know Me the more unaffected I am by the world.

I have heard that if one knows the date of their death their view of life changes. That got me thinking. I have been exposed to death of loved ones and I know what it does to those left behind but I have never thought of death from the perspective of the one facing it. I know with absolute certainty that I will die - but I have not given that eventuality any thought except to pay for life insurance. I was afraid of death. There is no way for me to escape my demise. I know everyone will die - there is no way to escape that either. So I must face death fearlessly. Death felt like loss of the identity that I present to the world. The reflected little self that was in competition with others. Time is important in the competing world. How soon can I achieve success and how much can I attain in my lifetime - these are the bars by which I judged my success. There is another fear associated with death. The fear of not knowing what comes after death. People who have had near death experiences refer to a brilliant white light - the scientists explain it away as a misfiring brain stimulus or something. So I really was uncertain about what happens after death. What I have seen is the body going into rigor mortis and people getting rid of it. They do it with a lot of reverence but - it still is just discarding it, getting it out of the way. The end. The realization that death is a transition just like birth, childhood, adolescence, youth, adulthood and all phases before and after, changed the fear to excitement. Since all the other transitions were so joyful then this transition must be fun too. And if death is followed by birth and if I can live better in the new birth by simply doing good in this one then let me do a ton of good and enjoy myself now and later. I no longer worry about what is awaiting me tomorrow and who is doing what when. I live my life from moment to moment - gathering knowledge, having fun, being kind, compassionate and loving and just being.

In my childhood I did not know what was in store for me as an adult - but I wanted to grow up. I saw adults around me and their life seemed good - so I wanted that. Life has not been all fun - because I chose not to enjoy every experience. No experience was responsible for me feeling pain or joy. It was my attitude that determined the emotion. All my experiences were due to a combination of many factors. Some I was responsible for, some others were responsible for and still others were unknown and often unfathomable. My reaction to each of these experiences though were completely mine. When I opened myself to this fact - I became more conscious of myself. I learnt that living vigilantly aware of myself was the only determinant of my joy. I now find joy in every experience.

How do I find joy in the death of a loved one? Do I not feel grief? Of course I do - but I do not wallow in the grief. I think of the good memories that this person created for me. I celebrate the good fortune of touching this soul and learning something from the association. I enjoy knowing that we had a regret free relationship. With this joy it becomes easier to treat others with compassion and love. I understand the pain that death creates for others for I have felt it too and I know that time will never heal the loss. But I do know that since all of us will die it is essential that I accept it and move forward living every moment in service to the joy of my own soul and the soul of others. Sorrow does not mean that joy must be replaced. Grief has a place in my life as much as joy does. Sadness is a side of my emotions that makes me love and be compassionate towards everyone around me so their absence from my life is a regret free one.

I do not anticipate my death to be any different than life. Just as I adjusted to all life transitions so far - childhood to adulthood, single to married, childless to motherhood, one house to another, one continent to another and then another - I know I will adjust to death and rebirth too.

Knowledge such as this makes me more accepting of the world around me. Not only do I respect others I have learned to respect myself. I harm no one and I let no one harm me physically, emotionally or spiritually. Everyone has a right to live their life their way - so do I. I am an imperfect being in the eyes of many - but to me I am perfect the way I am at this moment - physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. All because I am in touch with the deathless Me in this moment.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Speaking the truth.

Speaking the truth is a noble quality. It is an essential element of a spirit based life. Yet there are times when we hesitate to speak the truth. It could be because the truth would be unkind or harsh and hurtful to another or because the truth could hurt the person speaking it. What then? What takes precedence? Is one justified in lying then? What determines this decision?

All through life this had been a burning question for me. Are there certain conditions under which lying is acceptable? Each time the answer came up as a No. Does that mean I do not lie? Not at all - I do - sometimes. What a terrible position to be in. Compromising with my own sense of values is painful. What kept me from always telling the truth is conflict. Confrontations made me uncomfortable. I felt being argumentative was dis-respectful. A value I learnt as a child. No one told me what was more important. Being disrespectful was a visible move away from a learnt value while lying could be hidden even if it was for a short time. Being driven by the approval of others made being deferent more important than being truthful. It was seemingly easier to compromise with myself than to be considered dis-respectful by others.

The guilt that consumed me after each lie I spoke has built up. The lie and the circumstance were forgotten soon after but there is a residual burden left behind that is unfathomable. Most of the lies have been evasive responses to questions whose answers may have proven to cause pain to or conflict with others. Over time I realized that it was not my lie or truth that caused conflict - it is the interpretation put on it by others that leads to conflict. Now that I have stopped depending on the approval of others, being completely truthful is proving to be a relief. I do not need to evade questions anymore. I do what I want when I want where I want how I want knowing fully well that I am being completely honest to myself and to others. It is not that the thought of being judged does not cross my mind - it is that the judgment does not matter anymore. I enjoy the freedom of being myself - faults and all - knowing fully well that I am perfect as I am.

There is a definite change in my mindset because of this new relationship that I have developed with Myself. I understand how infinite its power is just as I realize how finite is the power of the ego. I can see the line dividing Me from my ego. I can tell when my ego is raising itself and passing Me by. I can choose to stop the ego in its track whenever I want. The ego's journey is a very fragile one. It places me in a glass house that can be broken anytime. The ego is capable of highs and lows and goes through cycles of pleasure and pain, good and bad, wrong and right all the time. Without putting a label to whatever it encounters it cannot exist. The moment I refuse to let it label it loses its power over me. My senses relish all that it beholds when no labels exist. It is not the senses that derail me as much as my mind does. When I am vigilant and in total control of my mind my senses have no hold over me whatsoever. What I eat, what I read, what I hear, what I smell, what I feel is all beautiful when I behold these with my inner being. They all bring pleasure. Even the bitter gourd tastes perfect! It is meant to be bitter and enjoyed just so! It is when I try to avoid tasting its bitterness that it becomes unbearable! What is ugly? What is jarring? These are all my mind telling me what to choose as good and bad. By itself no sight is ugly no sound is jarring!

The curry last night looked different than expected and so did not taste so good! The movie was made by a romantic and so did not meet the standard of comedy! There are so many things that we choose not to enjoy simply because we have prejudged it or labeled it based on our expectation. To expect is one thing - to be attached to that expectation is what makes life painful. There is another reason we often do not enjoy the physical - our curiosity to know what something is as also our need to know everything about anything. These needs make it impossible for us to accept things the way they are. We are tasting a good dish and are bent on figuring out the recipe to enjoy it another time. Let go - enjoy the dish by being in the moment. So what if you never can repeat that taste? When we think about it and just let go of these expectations we find that the world takes on a different color and texture and that it is all pleasurable - no matter what it is that we experience. It is our ego that wants us to be attached to our memories and to good experiences since it is afraid it will lose its identity unless it stays attached! You see the ego does not possess an identity - it is a reflection and so non-existent. When the mirror on which it is reflected is gone it is gone. Letting it go voluntarily opens us up to the infinite. This infinite is eternal and blissful.

By becoming conscious of the ego I found myself. I realize that all I have done and experienced all through my life was necessary to bring me to where I am. I needed to separate my ego from Myself so I could know Me. It is possible to live in this world, enjoy the world of duality and still be unaffected by it. It is possible to love and to be indifferent at the same time - one is no different than the other. It is possible to have and relish things and be detached from them. It is possible to be compassionate and weep and still be logical and make good life decisions. All of this and more is possible simply by finding the true Entity that is I. We can choose to have a lasting relationship with our ego or our True Being. Telling a lie is not necessary because the only real conflict one can have is with oneself. Opening oneself to what is takes this conflict out. Conflict is the reflection of duality - when one sees through what appears as dualistic the real becomes apparent. Conflict is time bound - when one lives in the moment every thing appears perfect - as is.

The truth is my way and it has set me free. No fear, no evasions, no confrontations. There is only truth, love and peace within and without.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Selfless Action - a mindset.

I read about the 43 year old woman in Iran awaiting the death penalty by stoning. What she may or may not have done is immaterial. My question is how is it possible for mankind to be so cruel? How do we justify picking up a stone with the intent to kill another defenseless person? Whether it is murder or capital punishment - whatever the intention - do we have the right to take another life simply because we judged them and found them wanting - in our perspective? How we love to wield our power over another. How many of us who sit in judgment of others truly have the wisdom to determine absolute right from wrong? Much of what used to be wrong at one time is right today. What is wrong within the borders of one country is right just across it. What is wrong in my mind is right in another's.

It is our blindness towards Oneness that makes it possible for us to be this way. Imagine watching your mother being lashed ninety nine times in public. Is that painful to imagine? Why then is it okay for us to sit 6 thousand miles away and read about it happening to another and move on with our daily life? What is the real difference between her pain and the same pain inflicted on me? Separateness - it is just that I have no visible physical ties to this mother of two grown children who I have never met and so her pain has no lasting effect on me. I may cringe - only because for a moment I may imagine it happening to me but I feel nothing for her - really.

We are not this body - we are really the undying, unaffected breath of life. But the body does belong to this collective life and so deserves the same respect. Her body, my body anyone else's body or mind - when pained can only increase collective pain. We are all tied simply because we all come from the same source. Hypothesize with me - if it is true that we are all part of the One Whole then this pain inflicted on this one person must cause a ripple that will eventually reach you and me. How can I stop getting hurt by an act that I have not committed? No matter how much 'good' I may do the effect of 'evil' must reach my life shore. It is imperative that we bring immediate attention to the pain we the human race are inflicting on everything in our environment so we become aware of the immense harm we are causing to ourselves and to future generations. Fighting against anything is not the answer because of the very same reason. We must wage peace. We must bring about change with love, not fear. It will take a few generations for it to bear fruit but waging war will take us deeper into destruction.

Businesses are no longer the responsibility of the people owning them. We have made businesses individuals without a life so we can protect our personal life and property if we do wrong towards another. If we had continued to be liable for our own actions much of the economic evil would have had a different face. Business and ethics rarely share the same table anymore. The BP oil spill is causing people to boycott their gas stations. Really? Is that how people sitting at the top levels of organizations going to change their ways for the better? Many may now be figuring out how much more money they will need to throw at saving their own skin if there is a similar accident in their business. It is the common man who will suffer. The young man who pumped the gas, or the young lady who stood at the cash desk or even the independent owner of the gas station whose livelihood depended on us stopping by. They are the ones who do not have enough cash in the bank to pay rent if we boycott them. Most of the people in 'responsible' positions just bide their time till something bigger comes along and takes our attention away from them. The ripple of each of their foul actions and ours will only make it worse - not better. Instead, as a human race if we all rose to the occasion and did our part to help clean up the mess and support the organizations and people who are helping and those whose livelihoods have been negatively affected by this accident we can all get back on our feet faster and work towards bringing about changes that will have a positive impact overall.

The woman in Iran or the oil spill in the Gulf waters have the same effect on our collective lives. No one benefits in the long run. Life is not about winning or losing - it is about harmony, peace and prosperity for all. The Universe is infinitely abundant in these matters and we can all draw from it and enjoy all of it and still nothing would be depleted. There is ample proof of this. A mother of one can give as much love to her child as a mother of ten can give to each of hers and still have more to give. A teacher can share all of her knowledge with all her students and still gain and give more. We have all benefitted from the Universe in more ways than one and we continue to receive more each day. Is there a need for us to leave the neighbors portion of the lawn dry and water only 'our' stretch of the lawn? Why can we not see that the water flowing from 'my' hose on to 'my' lawn is really no different from my neighbors? Simply because I pay a monetary price for the water flowing out of 'my' hose I draw a line beyond which the water will not be allowed to flow! This holds true with everything in our lives. What is in it for me? Actually in the short term - there appears to be a material loss and we are short sighted enough to only see this loss. In the long run the stretch of grass that covers our lawns become lush and green together and nothing of the dryness that would have otherwise been across that invisible line encroaching 'my' portion can ever touch the greenery that is.

I am not talking about Utopia - because I understand that the world cannot be all good just as it cannot be all evil. So also I know that no one person is all good or all bad. That is the world of duality we live in and it brings balance. If it was all about good the world would explode and if it was all bad it would implode. I am talking about making a shift to the balance so we can slowly but surely spread the word about kindness and compassion so cruelty and selfishness are not the direction in which we cause ourselves to self destruct. Bringing presence and living life like we only have this moment does bring a different perspective to life and is a powerful way to bring awareness of Oneness into being. Coming into the moment, remembering source, questioning what if this is really the only moment I have shifts the dimension in which we find ourself. The woman in Iran and the people affected by the oil spill or the ones whose erred ways may have caused the spill are all here now with us. How can it be that their actions and thoughts are not affecting ours? How can it be that we cannot impact theirs?

No it is not the politicians, not the lawmakers, not those religious fanatics and pedophiles who are to blame for it all. We each play a part in the collective evil. We each have a role to play in the collective good too. There is more peace, more joy in good. Let us practice goodness in our daily lives. Jealousy, mistrust, hatred, doubt are stressful emotions. Let us stop being self absorbed and live a service oriented life. Selfless service for one hour a week from each person I know would be a good start. The key is selflessness. This service could be cleaning ones own home with love, expecting nothing from it - not even the joy of having a clean home. It could be giving a 100% of oneself at work without thinking about the sense of satisfaction it would bring. Selfless service is not about the Red Cross and relief funds alone it is a mind set that we need to develop. When we expect nothing we live in bliss - a good result of action is simply a bonus! The theory that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction - does not foretell whether or not you will like that reaction. The reaction is also an action that will have a reaction and this cycle will continue till at some point your initial action will come back to you in a form that is beyond recognition. That is the nature of the physical world. In the realm of the spirit you have full control. Your inner peace, your inner joy, your inner love is yours and will emanate outward from you at all times. They will keep you joyful inside and outside.

Can selfless action change the world? If living in the present is hard then think about everything you do today in terms of cause and long acting effect and write them down and see where it takes you. It was a revealing experience for me that has definitely changed my thought process. Just journaling a few thoughts and actions and a different world opened up to me. Being able to imagine the wonder of the circle that my thoughts can cause is a powerful motivator. Make sure you are thinking beyond yourself and out into the future. It will be a roller coaster ride - so keep it short!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The joy of Friendship

I have always wondered where my naivete about people and friendship stems from. Not that I think I am wrong in believing that everyone is trustworthy, just that I have been told this is my weakness. The other day a third of our classmates from high school had a reunion in the city where we were raised in India. Most of us had been together in school since we were seven. We are all now in our early fifties and this reunion was after 37 years of finishing high school. Those of us who could not be there were just as excited about this mini reunion as the ones who did meet.

That was where I learned to trust. School friends and friends in the neighborhood where I was raised have been my friends for life. It is because we got to know one another before we got to cultivate our ego personas. We touched each others souls because that was when we only knew how to connect with our spirits. Once our egos become our identity it is difficult to connect and make new true friends in large numbers. Even as children we quarreled, had unhealthy competitions and other negative interactions but beneath it all there was this connection that could not be broken. Some of my childhood companions seem to have disappeared but I still feel closely connected to them and want to find them again. The circle that was forged with each of these people was complete and remained complete even though we were physically separated. That is what true friendship is about. I know that these friends are human and therefore imperfect like I am but that is immaterial. Their personalities, their nuances, their ways do not affect my relationship with them. I do not need to know their life secrets and do not need to share mine. None of these external factors can affect the friendship because the connection that happened all those years back was not by a knot that can be untied - it was a seamless weave that knows no boundary. I know myself better because I know them. I know Oneness better because I know them.

I am looking forward to meeting them again. I need to meet them again to ratify my belief that we (meaning all of this Universe) are One. I have had relationships that started later in life that have soured and left me doubting this knowledge of Oneness and having this opportunity to reconnect with what brought this knowledge to the forefront is essential for me. I do not make friends easily but when I do I give it my all. All through my life I have continued to make a handful of soul friends but I have also been fooled into believing some others were soul friendships only to find out that was not true. It has pained me to discover this but now I understand it better. I did connect within these failed relationships - but these connections were knots that soon came untied. The knots were between minds and emotions. We liked the same things, had similar life experiences, enjoyed the manifestations of our spirit - but we never connected at the level of the soul. A small chink and the knot got undone. These experiences have only made me trust more in my belief that inherently everyone is trustworthy. Paradoxical - but true. I need to connect with people at the level of the spirit. Whether or not we have the same likes and dislikes comes later - much later and that is just for purposes of information. What is important is to connect at the level where appearances do not matter. This is possible with everyone. All of my classmates from school were different even as children - yet we all connect with one another. The only common factor is the Spirit. So also is it today as adults. The connection must be at that level. We have to go into any relationship knowing that we are different physically, intellectually and emotionally. We have to know that these are manifestations of a Spirit that wants to experience varying expressions of life. This knowledge keeps us connected to that Spirit so we can enjoy these nuances without forgetting who we really are.

Our love for siblings and parents and our own children has nothing to do with genetics or blood. It is because at least one of us has either connected or allowed connection directly with the soul of the other. The unconditional love that a mother has for her child comes not because she physically gave birth to the child - she gave birth to the child because she connected with the soul of the child. The lasting relationship between spouses is only possible when they are willing to touch each other at the level of the spirit. So also between friends - at least one has to touch the soul of the other at some time for the flow of love to remain undisturbed. I have wondered why I continue to feel love for the people with whom my relationship has soured - I know now that it is because either they touched my soul or I theirs and no matter what happens the flow of love cannot be interrupted. That feels good. It helps me feel whole. It helps me love myself more. It gives me faith in my own power to connect with myself. All because 7 classmates met 8,000 miles away.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

God Realization

Realizing God - that is considered the purpose of human life by many. What is realizing God really? Who is God? Where is He? Why do I need to realize Him? After everything I have to go through on a daily basis to survive and for the upkeep of the family when am I going to make time to realize God? So many questions and few if any constructive answers. It is easier to continue to live life and forget about God Realization.

God Realization is a way of life. It does not require us to know the answers to any of the questions that come up. All that is necessary is the urge to take the first step. Inquiry. The questions are necessary - the answers are already known to each of us. We need to put our little self aside and reach into ourselves to reveal the Truth. It is the putting aside of the ego that is by far the most difficult.

As a child the urge is faint because we have only recently lost touch with God and have found our little selves and are hungry to know more about it. We see flashes of the spiritual being in little children and more often than not we ignore it, or reprimand the child, or joke about it. We do this because we are afraid. We do not want to see this aspect yet and so choose not to see it.

Life is so much fun as we are growing up. There is little time for spirituality. The world offers us so much sensual pleasures that thinking about spiritual growth never enters our mind. It is when we start slowing down and taking our own inventory that we realize that all the worldly pleasures are not enough. There is something missing. There is a level of stress attached to materialistic living that shows us the fallacy of seeking joy outside.

We have many possessions but do not feel abundant. We are in the midst of loving people but feel lonely. We have a large network of friends and family but feel disconnected. This, at first, pushes us towards acquiring more - things, friends, activities - but soon we realize that none of these fill the void. That is when the search begins. This is not related to age. It is a level of spiritual maturity and can come upon us at anytime. Just that as children and even young adults we are not independent enough to venture out of the world into the soul.

When we first feel the need to fill the void within is when God re-Realization begins. We discover that God is not out there. No man, no idol, no symbol, no ritual, no book holds God for us. God is in us. We are in God. God is not someone who blesses us or punishes us nor is he responsible for our destiny. It is with this acknowledgement that God Realization moves forward. Knowing what God is not is just as important as knowing what He really is.

Think positive. Attract abundance. Pray. All good advice but not enough. This acceptance is the next step to God Realization. The innate knowledge that I am a reflection of God can be very humbling. All the books and spiritual teachers talk about knowing oneself. Why? What good is that going to do me? It is only when I know myself that I know my own power to shape my destiny. I have read and heard that negative thoughts bring negative results and positive thoughts bring positive results. But can any one claim that this alone works one hundred percent of the time? I doubt it. There is another step that needs to be taken to guarantee results. Even if you think negative and this motivates you to take fearless positive action you will succeed in getting positive results. The actions you take are just as important if not more important than the thoughts. You can think about scoring a goal in a game but unless you physically execute the goal it will not happen. That is the law of the material world. The key to realizing God too lies in here. The opportunities we need to achieve anything is already present - what is lacking is our capacity to recognize them. It is through courage that we get insight and with insight that we take action and with action that we achieve. This is the path to be followed in achieving anything including self realization. Unless we surrender to the idea that we are potentially God how can we be courageous?

Thought and action in the moment. Action with an eye on the goal will not guarantee success. Thought and action with an eye on this moment and then the acceptance of the consequence of that thought and action is what God Realization is really about. When we have no fear of consequences because we are willing to be accountable - fully - for our own actions independent of what others are doing within that same thought and action is the moment when we have tapped into our greatest power and that is what God Realization is really about. It is as if the inner light has finally found a way out. It lights the way as we carry on living in the material world. Things, people, events - everything loses their power over us. We are overcome by a sense of peace and stresslessness. There is no answer out there it is all in us and has always been there. Books and teachers just keep the inquiry alive - a major aspect of God realization. But unless we can step into the realm of our own spirit, God cannot be realized. The miracle of life is not God Realization. The miracle of life is that we all survive in the material world inspite of being so alienated from ourselves. This is possible only because each of us knows who we are - we just acknowledge it at different times and use different methods.

Losing the little 'I' paves the way to finding the real I. Living with gusto in the moment is the best way to put the little I aside. For as long as this ego is ruling us we cannot bow our heads and see ourselves. When we do not let the ego rule us is when we get glimpses of the God within. The longer you can stay focused on the moment (not thinking about the past memories or anticipating future results) the faster you can find your own center. Once you have found it and established yourself in it life becomes blissful. Nothing you hear, see or experience can push your buttons. There comes a sense of mental stability that makes life what it is meant to be - a journey homeward. Where is home? Where Love, Peace, Abundance, Wellbeing and Oneness resides. Where Silence speaks and Light is our companion. Where nothingness is everything and death is a continuation of life. Where there is no beginning and no end. Home is unending bliss.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Living in the NOW

Why is it that when a member of a family dies those left behind are left feeling orphaned? Why is it that when one does not win the lottery one feels despondent? Why is it that when one loses a job one becomes desperate? Why do we panic when a child does not pick up the phone when you call him? If happiness is a state of mind why then is it so hard for us not to be greatly affected by these extraneous factors?

The secret to happiness does lie outside us - that is why. The secret to happiness is tied in with time. For as long as we are a slave to time we will not be able to find that inner happiness. Since we live in the world and have to live by the clock that is ticking on the wall or on our wrists we have to value time. What we forget is that the clock and watches all around are also only showing us time NOW. Why then do we persist on keeping our mind's busy with the past and the future? That is the time that is outside - the past and the future are what takes away the power of happiness from us.

Don't get me wrong goals are important - planning is essential - but only so they can make THIS MOMENT good. Once we attach ourselves to our intended goals and plans any deviation causes us pain. We have to be able to keep our plans and goals aside and live in the moment if we wish to achieve those same goals. Keep the eye and the mind only on the ball and the swing and the follow through will happen. Take your eye off the ball and put your mind on the hole and you lose control over the swing and the follow through.

Death is painful because we want more time with the person who has gone. We did not make the most of the moments we had with them. We regret the past or regret we did not do enough with the past. The past is gone and will never be back and the future is a figment of our imagination. Live every moment with your loved ones and relish that moment. If you cannot be with them physically keep them in your prayers and wish them the very best always. Their leaving then becomes a continuation of the same prayers and wishes. When we apply ourselves fully to our job only giving it our very best then the time spent at work becomes fun. What does it matter what others think of you or what they 'do to ruin your day?' A job is God's work too. Just like the nanny who knows that the master's child is not her own but still cares for it like her own. She knows fully well that when her services are no longer needed she will have to move on to another home, another child. Is there a point in expecting anything from the child? This is actually true even for parents. Our children are God's gift to us. They are here for us to care for and nurture - then let go so they can be of service and live their own life purpose.

Lofty ideals? No - just spiritual truths. Honoring the NOW is what happiness is about. There is only now - it is only the so called intelligent mind, the slave of the ego that keeps taking us away from it. Watch it, become aware of its power over you and bring yourself into this moment to live life fully.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Death

Imagine a hale and hearty person having a fun time with friends and family - the last thing on anyone's mind is death. But suddenly he is gone. His heart stopped beating. What happened to this person? He was here and now he is gone. That is all the one's left behind know. His wife, children, grand children, relatives and friends are left wondering how and why this happened and how life is going to be from this moment forward. At first there will be much to do to deal with the formalities but then there will be this void that will pronounce his absence with a lot more force. With time we will all adjust to one less person in our midst and cope with the loss - each in our own way. All of this I understand. I have seen it happen and have dealt with it first hand in the past and will deal with it again. The question that I am confronted with this time is - where did this angel of a man go? He was my uncle - my father's brother. I had the privilege of spending some great times with him as a teenager. His presence always brought a lot of joy. He had an infectious smile and a laugh that shook his whole body. In his presence one had to feel loved.

Over the last little while I have realized the place of Oneness in my life. I feel the presence of my father in my life even though he passed away almost 35 years ago. I feel him not in the sense of missing him but more as the impact his presence in the worldly body made on my life. The impact was not made by his physical presence though - it was something deeper and more subtle. This presence never leaves us. That is the importance of this worldly living to me. That is why service towards others is so important. That is why being kind and compassionate and caring is paramount while we are living. I have always wondered why people talk so highly of people who have passed on even if they had not done so while they were living. I understand now that souls touch only at the level of virtue. Egos are indiscriminate. When the physical presence is gone all that is left is the presence of the virtuous soul and it is impossible for the ego to feel any fear from this person and it conveniently forgets the negatives. When we project the virtuous soul into the world when we are living we become love, incapable of causing fear for others or for ourselves. That is how we overpower ego and let spirit rule our life.

Death is the absence of the soul from the body that it had taken on to enjoy the experience of worldly life. Death is the continuation of life without the form. Death comes when we no longer need the body to express the virtues of the soul. Death is an awakening that is supremely blissful. If we open ourselves to the Presence then we do not suffer the pain of absence. The soul is peace personified and so I refrain from saying rest in peace. My eyes may miss his smile, my ears may yearn to hear him laugh but I will always feel his presence for he has always been in touch with my soul and will continue to do so. His love will stay on with me as it will with all those who knew my Shankar Kaka.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Authenticity

The knowledge is often not enough. Intelligence is a strong aspect of the human mind but often fails to help us practice what we know. Reading books, listening to lectures, meditating, and even talking about subjects spiritual does not make one spiritual. The knowledge may all be there but living a spiritual life full of virtue may still be difficult. As an outsider looking in this is difficult to understand. How can a person who is talking about God, chanting God's name, meditating, praying, attending sermons still be afraid to trust others or even stoop to gossiping, lying and cheating? Where is the disconnect? When we are not in touch with the real 'I' we cannot live the life that the intellect believes is possible.

Imagine going into an office of a person of authority and seeing a display of an elaborate altar right in the office and then imagine the officer asking for a bribe to do what he is being paid to do. Not uncommon. Imagine going for a religious function and hearing people sitting there gossiping about their neighbor. Imagine going to a sermon and thinking about what is for dinner after the sermon. One is not worse than the other. They are all symptoms of the same thing.

We who claim to be spiritual actually are talking about understanding what spirituality is all about. When I read about Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna I can see that they are what being spiritual is all about. To them spirituality was not a virtue it was just who they were. It is who we all are but have not acknowledged. We talk about practicing spirituality not about being spiritual. We talk about not lying when we should just be speaking the truth because we cannot help but speak the truth. We talk about having no fear when we should be courageous because we have conviction in our knowledge of who we are. Virtue is not a quality it is who we are. Evil is good gone bad and that can be reversed - always, everytime because it means going back to the original. The first step needed is to want to be authentic and then use the knowledge to get there. It is not a change it is only an acknowledgement of who we are.

There is a story about Swamiji who lived an idealistic life. As a young man he and his friends played regularly in the garden of a neighbor. There was a large tree that they would climb up and make a lot of noise talking and laughing amongst themselves. The old man of the house had tried shooing the boys off, scolding them, complaining to their parents all for nothing. Eventually one afternoon he came out and stood looking up at the boys and told them that he had seen a monster in the tree and that this monster was capable of wringing the necks of little children. The boys were afraid and slowly started climbing down the tree. The young Naren continued to sit up on the tree and said, "Why are you believing him? We have been visiting this tree for years and have not once seen this monster - how is that possible?" The boys were not convinced. After all the old man - a man of authority had told them there was a monster. Naren was unconvinced and continued to enjoy the tree. A simple example of how much strength this young boy had in his own conviction. He refused to believe the story simply because it was told to him. He continued living his life with such conviction. He questioned and argued with his Guru Sri Ramakrishna for six long years before accepting his perfection and finally saying that everything good that he said were the words of his Guru and anything wrong were his own. Swamiji's life deserves to be emulated. He was courageous in every way - physically, morally and spiritually simply because he was deeply in touch with himself.

We lose virtue because of fear and so do those around us. We need to be sympathetic and forgiving towards ourselves and others and learn to see and acknowledge our true Self. What we see and abhor in others is really a reflection of our own weakness. We may manifest it differently but it is still a reflection of who we see ourselves to be. A nagging wife, a controlling husband, a truant teenager, an angry driver, a lying friend, an interfering parent they all reflect our fears if we are affected negatively by them. We must develop the courage to face them with conviction and so face our own fears as this takes us to our true Self and releases us of the fear. We do not need to be critical of others or ourselves but we do need to stand up for our own convictions and for truth without fear. Confrontation or avoidance pushes us further into fear. Courage allows us to stand tall and remain present without reacting or being afraid of repercussions. Listening with complete presence has the power to calm the environment around us enough that sensible conversation or action can follow.

We are invincible in Spirit. It is our ever vigilant ego that thinks we are destructible. Impermanence is a state of the ego not of the Spirit. Only when we destroy our ego can we recognize our true Self. The ego is a reflection of our Spirit but believes it is the real thing. Since it is only a reflection it has the fear of impermanence - naturally since it knows it does not really exist. The ego tries to prove its presence by attaching itself to things, people, emotions etc. All of these happen to be impermanent and ever changing and so we develop fear. When we can see through the ego we can see the real Self. That which is permanent, that which gives us life, that which never changes, that which is unaffected by anything is virtue personified. There is nothing right or wrong, good or bad, dark or light in the realm of the Spirit. That acknowledgement is the first step in our journey towards it. When we are non-judgmental we can look through ego and get a glimpse of the Spirit. We often see it in children and animals. They have not developed their ego and what we see in them is who we all are when we are stripped of our ego. We must stop labeling ourselves and others. We must accept that inherently we are all good.

Being authentic means being true to our inner being which means being courageous, being truthful, being honest, being faithful, being forgiving, being ethical, being giving, being loving, being compassionate, being peaceful, being accepting under all and every circumstance. It does not mean being godfearing for there is nothing fearful about God. It means being in communion with one and all and recognizing that we are all One.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Walking to Wisdom

Now I have gone and done it. With my heart racing and face flushing I signed up for a 5K walk to be held on June 12th. My first Walk for a cause ever. I am not sure I can do this. I am still huffing and puffing as I walk 2 miles in about 35 minutes each day. That is a poor pace and I know it. I am aiming at bringing that down to a mile every 15 minutes and increasing each day by at least a tenth of a mile to get to as close to walking 5K as I can by d-day. I had initially responded with a 'Maybe' to join then this new friend I have who is a personal trainer and is helping me achieve my fitness goals pushed me over. "Say yes - and I will join your cause too." Oh,oh - my first thought was, "Stupid girl - why did you have to mention the walk to the one person who was going to push you to do it?" I got my answer while the question was forming in my mind, "Because you want to do this but have no self confidence that you can." The real I truly wanted to do it but my ego self was thinking what a laughable idea it was. My thoughts are my enemy very often. You know those times when I 'know' what someone else is thinking about me? How ego centric is that? As if people have the time to be thinking about me. I am not thinking about others then why do I believe that others are doing so? That pattern has become a habit and even though I am unaffected by what people think and say about me there is that second in which that thought still comes up. If I am not present and not fully conscious it takes over. It is a strange place to be in - almost like I am lying to myself. Deep down somewhere I know that I am a confident, compassionate, loving person but somewhere else is this belief that I am not. The belief is what has won for years - the conditioned me that thinks it is protecting and serving me well. The knowing on the other hand has watched silently waiting for the belief to wear itself down.

This Walk means so much more than physical fitness. It is walking me into that knowledge that I fleetingly see when I undertake a challenge of some sort. Now that I have glimpsed it I want to hold on to it for longer periods of time so it is the only Me that I can see. I am keen on walking there over the next three weeks. I know I can do it - so what if I am huffing and puffing to the finish line? Each day as I increase the distance and reduce the time I seem to be enjoying the walks. When I first started all my concentration went on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. I was totally unaware of what was around me. I looked down and watched the pavement as I took one step and then the next and I huffed. Then a few days later I realized I was not watching my foot but whether the path ahead was uphill, downhill or straight. I waited for the point at which it was going downwards for that was so much easier to do - the very next thought - 'which means there is an uphill just ahead.' I was constantly planning how to get to the downhills without going through the uphills. I knew it was impossible but the same thoughts kept doing the rounds. Then I went out determined to be more conscious of my surroundings as I walked. The silly thoughts did not all go away but I saw the beautiful rose bushes in the front yards of beautifully manicured lawns and wondered why we were so bent on making everything look so well managed. Even the grass, plants and trees - everything that grows so beautifully without our help we want to control.

How then could I have lost control over my own body and mind? Simple - I strived to control everything and everyone I am not supposed to control and lost sight of the one person who I needed to pay attention to - me. First the husband then the children, the house, the job, the dog, my relationships - everything was important. To think that I could have included myself in that list never struck me while I was 'living life.' Awareness of this came only when my health failed me to a point where I simply had to stop and think. Diabetes is considered a silent killer - it affects the internal organs insidiously and is therefore dangerous for a woman like me. As I checked my blood daily I knew that the sugar was not under control for most of the 12 years - but no one else needed to know about it. By the time I stopped working and had time for myself I had forgotten how to care for my body. I had let it go for so long that attempting to care for it seemed like an insurmountable task. It is only over the last six months or so that I recognized the need to attend to my health in earnest. I am glad I did. These daily walks have slowly opened up small cracks in windows within me that are revealing aspects of the Truth that I did not understand before.

The senses are all powerful when I let them be so. They take me to the beautiful outside world and enlighten me about things. It is only if and when I go deeply into my mind that the senses lose their power over me. The manicured lawns and flowers and shrubs were always there but I was so busy fighting the strain of the walk and wondering if I was going to make it up to the next tree 5 steps away or to the stop sign 10 feet away that even the tree I was trying to reach was nothing more than a point on the pavement. The downhill walks were the best. They felt good and made me smile and for some time I dreamed about walking off for miles into the distance and calling my husband for a ride back home uphill. Then it would hit me - he is at work. I would have to walk for the next 8 hours and since I never carry any money on me during my walks, I would have to do this without any food. Then I would turn back and look at the uphill task ahead and want to cry. The beauty of the green fields and woods around me were lost.

I often listen to sermons on my shuffle as I walk. At first I heard nothing - yes I was busy huffing and puffing. Then I forced myself to listen to the voice if not to the words so I could take my mind off the pain. It helped. That is the power of the mind. It has the absolute capacity of going inward on demand. The habit of living by the senses makes me forget this capacity. I have now realized what meditation is really all about. It is the art of stopping my consciousness from enlightening the outside world and using it to enlighten itself. Since I cannot enlighten my own consciousness with the same ease as I can the outside world using my senses I need to use an object that I am unconditionally in love with - like a mantra, Guru or Thakur to put my mind on. The next stage is to use these as a conduit that takes me further into my own consciousness. It is like walking into a dark room with a candle. The visibility is not the same as if there had been natural light flooding the room. If I want to get to the center of that dark room I have to take the candle and carefully walk there. Once I am there I can blow the candle out - I have arrived at my destination. My Guru is that candle and I must learn to take my eyes off of my Guru and look at what He is lighting up within Him and so within me. Oh the feeling of exhilaration this knowledge brings. The fleeting glimpses of that inner awareness have always left me feeling incomplete. I have always wondered why I cannot get there everytime and also why I just could not be there all the time. Now I know I do not need to - just once is enough. The experience has changed me. There is no doubt about the existence of God - if God is Consciousness then He exists. If He exists in me then I must acknowledge His presence everywhere. No I do not see Him everywhere but I know He is there.

Imagine that - all this from huffing and puffing up a few degrees uphill climb with this heavy body. No wonder walking feels so good. Now if only I could just keep walking uphill without feeling like my heart would beat itself out of me everything would be perfect. I can do it and so I will continue walking up the next hill for it means I have to walk downhill into the beautiful garden. Then I can turn and climb up the hill home.