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.