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.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Where do I stand?

Today I will be hosting a radio program at a local station - community radio. I have been interested in hosting for a long time and I appreciate the opportunity. I am nervous about it even though I have been practicing keeping the mind stable and living in the moment. I have spent time preparing myself for the program - deciding what to say and what music to play during the hour. I have done what needs to be done in terms of planning and the rest will move with the time I spend on air.

As I watch my nervousness I wonder what is causing it. This is not a job that I am depending on financially - I am volunteering my time. Majority of the listeners do not know me from Eve and so it really does not matter what they think of me. If the feedback is good, bad or indifferent will really not matter to the radio station or to me. This is my first time at it and if I make many errors or feel uncomfortable I can just drop out of future programs. No one will remember me and that is that. So this nervousness is not about the rest of the world or even any one person. This nervousness is about me. This is my obsession with doing everything well - the first time. I have always been this way. What I undertake I must excel in. I can take criticism. Over the years I have faced many judgements from many people and not only survived but grown stronger by learning from them. The only criticism I seem to fear is the one I shower on myself.

This aspect of myself is purely ego centered. It comes from the inherent fear of failing. Intellectually I understand that failure is a step towards success but emotionally I believe that true success is about getting there without any slip ups. The need to be perfect reigns supreme - where perfection is a destination. Like all other destinations once I am there it stops being important and yet I have put so much attention on the destination that the journey there has been missed completely. This time I made it a point to remember that the stringed moments to air is what is important. The awareness is good - it keeps me in touch with the real Me. This journey was a test of my practices of contemplation and meditation. There are no passing or failing grades in this test - just an opportunity to assess the gap between thought and emotion. I realize that I am intellectually very ego centered and emotionally still immature. I am still afraid of failing even in apparently insignificant things. No - the program was not insignificant - but in the larger realm it has no value whatsoever.

Getting in touch with my emotions and expressing them has always been a challenge. What I say rarely reflects how I feel deep within me. This has led to me not being able to reach that deep seated emotional side of me. I refrain from exposing my true feelings even to myself. As I took the conscious steps into that journey over the last few days I liked what I discovered. As I have been practicing being kind over being right the need to be right has receded. I am not as plugged in to situations and people as I used to be. I take what I hear as information rather than as judgement and am able to accept opinions that differ from mine and remain unaffected. I am not in a rush to please anyone. This has created a sense of peace and confidence that I am enjoying. I find that it is possible to be honest and kind too simply because I am always conscious of the feelings of others. I treat them like I want to treat myself - with love.

Now if only I can stay in touch with my own emotions and recognize my feelings I can also change my thoughts to bring Love, Peace, Abundance, Wellbeing and Oneness into my own life with a lot more confidence. (Above piece started on 16th May)

PS:(May 21st) The program went well. There were no glitches and all the information that I wanted to include was in and within good time. I feel better for having gone in as prepared as I did - it made the job so much easier. I enjoyed the hour as much as I enjoyed the moments that took me there. I am looking forward to the next one.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Anatomy of Approval

Seeking the approval of others was a learnt quality. The need was really to be heard. Somewhere along the way I equated being heard as being agreed with. Two totally different things. It meant that the corollary was true too. To let another know that they had been heard I had to agree with them. What a dangerous situation to put oneself in. It is only now that I understand that there is a definite difference between hearing and agreeing.

As a child I shared my parent's affection with an older and only brother and an older and unwell sister. I am sure I felt I had to compete to have my parent's attention. Then my sister died and my brother moved to a different city to pursue his education. I became the center of most of my parent's attention when I was around 9. By then I was a good little girl who had won their hearts over by doing everything they approved. It was a good way to live. There was very little conflict. Doing anything that could cause unhappiness to my parents was difficult and if I did I had to let them into it very carefully. If I ever met their disapproval it made me feel very guilty and very incomplete. Inspite of enjoying myself for doing something that I wanted I never fully enjoyed myself because I let it be tarnished by their disapproval. This cycle continued for many years with all my relationships - friends,relatives, husband, sons, co-workers, bosses and even the non-judgemental God.

Now I see that their approval or disapproval was my own state of mind. I judged myself as good or bad. Choosing ones own life partner was taboo in India when I was growing up. I fell in love and stuck with him knowing that my parents would not approve. I felt strongly enough about it and moved forward. That was when I first gave up the need for approval. It took years for me to comprehend it - but that was the beginning. It comes from paying attention to oneself. I hardly ever paid attention to me. Life was all about out there. I had been taught that good people were selfless. In truth what I was being taught was that good people served others too. I never realized that to serve others I needed to serve myself first. Without caring for me how could I care for anyone else? To love oneself to the exclusion of anyone else is what selfishness is about but loving others to the exclusion of oneself is impossible. It has taken me a long time to recognize this. Now that I do life is beautiful.

Approval comes from within oneself. Confidence and self esteem come from living in the moment and doing what seems appropriate in the moment. No two life situations are ever the same and I cannot foretell the outcome of my thoughts and actions in the moment. I have learnt to live life in the Now and enjoy it. Memories of the past do come in but I consciously put them aside and live this moment. I approve of me and that is all that counts. Life's ups and downs are unavoidable and no matter what I do I cannot foretell my future. I choose to live life fully in the moment for this moment is always perfect. I hear myself and I make life choices that seem appropriate for me - dependent only on what feels good to me. Approval is an overrated word and has no place in a happy life.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What is Relationship?

The dynamism of relationships intrigues me. Why do relationships wax, wane, grow, break or just never develop? What is it that does not allow stability in most relationships? There are some relationships that last a lifetime - without going through some (often major) peaks and valleys. For years I accepted that if a relationship has lasted without ups and downs it has been a bonus. Now I think otherwise. It is possible for most relationships to be stable and peace filled. It requires that I be stable - no matter what the circumstances.

Omnipresence means we are all imbibed by the same energy - for me that energy is defined as God. That makes us all essentially the same. Ego refuses to accept this and needs to protect itself from the unknown. If I know that we are all the same it is impossible for me to be afraid of anyone else. I do not need to be judgmental and the judgment of others holds no value to me. The God in me recognizes the God in you - and vice versa. If we can both remove the veil of the ego the relationship would be perfect. But it is still possible for me to attempt to create a perfect relationship with you if I remove the veil of my ego. You can choose to keep yours on or put it away - that will not matter to my love for you - even if the relationship is lost

The veil is one of judgment and pre-conditions. It is possible for me to overcome both - it requires only Love. Ever since the experience of Oneness I have begun to see the harm I have caused myself by being judgmental. I have created a wall around myself trying to protect something that requires no protection. I can be myself without judging me or others. That is the beauty of fearless living. There is no right or wrong in anything you or I say or do - since I love You what actions your ego instigates does not need to bring on any negative vibes in Me.

Is it possible to live this way, though? Can I give up being judgmental? There is a method I must follow for me to get to the point where I have mastered it. There are two things to keep in mind - one is being ever vigilant about remaining Present at all times; and two is to remember who I am and extend that memory towards everyone around me. I cannot tell my ego not to show up - that is almost impossible to do - yet. I can train my ego to remain Present and remember who is the True Master of this existence.

There are many ways I recognize when my ego needs restraint and when my Spirit is leading the way. Whenever I have selfish thoughts, when I am angry, when I am forming opinions that I want to stick to no matter what, when I am not listening to others but formulating answers, when I am allowing myself to get lost in negative emotions I must make conscious effort and bring awareness into the moment. The key to any relationship is being able to recognize that the relationship is not paramount - the person is. When I begin to love a relationship more than the person the very essence of the relationship is lost. When I concentrate more on the relationship the poisonous effects of expectations begin to take over. When a relationship is based on conditional love between the people concerned the relationship is fragile and hollow. Unconditional love is nothing more than an acceptance of a person inspite of and because of their inner being. Actions are a reflection of our emotions and thoughts - when our emotions and thoughts are spirit centered our actions are invariably kind and compassionate. Egocentric emotions and thoughts give rise to actions that can be unpredictable. To be able to accept a person whether they are reflecting their spirit or their ego is what unconditional love is all about. I do not have to like or agree with the person's opinions or actions - but I must be able to accept them for who they are reflecting knowing fully well that behind it all is the same superpower that resides in and around me. That is what being present is all about. Being ever aware that there is one thread that runs through us all.

No relationship needs to sour - every relationship can keep soaring upwards. Everyone within that relationship enjoys peace, love, abundance and oneness. No matter what is said or done being present brings beauty into the moment and into relationships.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Growing Awareness

I have spent the last few weeks caring for myself more than I have done in years. My time has been spent counting calories and understanding the effect of food on my emotions and my body - as much as the effect of emotions on my eating and on my body. A lot of time has also been spent understanding me - the real me a lot better.

I give a hundred percent of myself to whoever I am in contact with. I give all of myself to whatever it is that I am undertaking. I am fully present in any situation I find myself in. All good things but then I also expected the same from the people and circumstances too. That can be a huge burden on others. It requires trust, respect, and unconditional love for and from people. How many of us are ready for this? How many of us know how to define these qualities? It has taken me 53 years to get a small glimpse of and know their effects on me personally and I know now that for years I lacked these essential values - not by choice but simply because I lived a life that was centered in ego. Ego is quick to build complexes - superior in some instances and inferior in others - causing trust, respect and real love to fly out the window and stay outside.

I consider myself to be an intelligent logical person who has a clear understanding of language, emotions, and most thoughts and ideas. When I discovered that this very intelligence and my own sharp mind are my enemies I was horrified. My mind and intellect very easily took over my life. They developed my ego. They scattered me. I became their slave and so a slave of time. When I stopped working outside the home I gave up wearing a watch or carrying a time telling device like the cell phone on me. It was a huge relief not to be a slave to the clock anymore. It was not enough, though. I may not have allowed the clock to rule my life but I was still a slave to time. The past and the future were still the determinants of my thoughts and actions. Eckhart Tolle speaks so eloquently about the destructive nature of time in his books (Power of Now and A New Earth). The only time we have is the Now and everything is always perfect in this moment. It is when we dwell on the past and imagine the future that the power of fear or expectation takes over and destroys the beauty of the present. The past can only be a determinant of the future if we do not acknowledge the present. There is no need to judge the present because there is nothing to judge in it. This moment is neither good nor bad it just is. That defines me too. I am neither good nor bad in this moment; I just am. My goodness or badness lies in my past. When I live only in this moment I do not think or act from memory or expectation because I am only in touch with my being-ness and that never leads me astray. There is nothing good or bad about a circumstance if I do not consider its importance based on past memory or future expectation. That dependence on time is what I am striving to free myself from. I find it brings a deep sense of peace under every circumstance. Tough times are always only imagined. Not being able to afford a meal I crave, for whatever reason - financial, because of health, lack of time - will not kill me. The craving will pass and I may or may not survive to have it another day but so what? That movie I want to watch, or the top I want to buy, or the slim body I want to have may all be elusive or may all be mine - do they really matter in the larger scheme of this moment?

I live my life now doing what gives me pleasure in the moment. I eat right, I walk, I joke around with my husband, I talk to my children, I watch movies, or take a nap in the middle of the day, I write, I read, I listen to music, or cook or clean - anything I do is for the moment. If in the middle of my writing a phone rings I shut my computer and pick up the phone or choose to ignore the phone - I give my full attention to what is happening now - if I feel like it. Nothing is dependent on my existence and yet my existence is purposeful. What freedom that brings.

Watching my children shows me the importance of living in the present moment. I love my children and it reflects in their being. I want them to be who they want to be. When they suffer or are in pain I believe it is their experience to have. When they make what I consider mistakes it is for their own growth. I have never lived my life through them and today I find myself more connected to them even though they live 500 miles away. I do not talk to them or email them everyday and yet I feel as close to them today as I did when they clung to me as infants. They are both more centered than I was at their age. They are more outspoken, more knowledgeable, more goal oriented, and yet more present than I was. They reflect the youth of today who have a much deeper understanding of life. They live in the present moment - maybe because they are not burdened by family liabilities like we were or because they are more self absorbed than we had the chance to be - whatever the reason they have developed a skill that I definitely lacked for the most formative years of my life - the skill to enjoy every moment of life. I am there today and am loving it.

I have chosen to distance myself from the social rounds - not because my friends and acquaintances are not important - but simply because this affords me the privilege and the time of getting to know myself better and gives me the opportunity to acknowledge the qualities that I do possess of trust, respect and unconditional love for people and circumstances. I feel like the bird who knows that she will be cared for and can choose to be a free spirit. I am choosing to die before dying and so becoming fearless of death. I know I am deathless, immortal, ever present. The ups and downs of circumstances and relationships are physically time bound and will pass but life is timeless and will always be in the present moment. I die and am born every moment and therefore every moment is a celebration renewed. People, things, thoughts, ideas, fears, desires, are all within a single moment bound by a strong string of deep awareness. If I let them be they leave me be too. I embrace all this in love expecting nothing in return for the pleasure is in the loving itself. Every now and again the peace disappears - there is turmoil and heartache. A pause to bring awareness to the ego and I find that all that is really left is always peace. Deep, lasting, overwhelming peace.