Friday, November 4, 2011

Tree Teacher

Nature is instinctive. She knows exactly what is needed for who and when. The first snow storm of this winter season was just another proof of this truth. The snow came on hard for a stretch of over 12 hours. The temperature was not very cold but the volume of the white stuff meant that the snow stuck to whatever it fell on. The roads were salted by the authorities a day in advance, people ensured their groceries were stocked, stores were prepared with extra products. This time around though, the trees were completely unprepared!

I have often wondered why the trees bare themselves before winter while most winter beings try to cover themselves up to stay warm. I have always marveled at the trees all around this wintery land for their resilience in their cycle through the seasons. I have used trees as my example for recovering from hard times and continuing to be, inspite of seasonal extremes. Not once did I think that the shedding of leaves was the basic survival instinct of trees!

The trees shed their leaves so they can live through the onslaught of snowfall. Snow cannot fell trees that have no surface for them to sit on. Branches are rounded and have a much smaller surface area than leaves, pine needles too have a smaller surface area and so unless there is an ice-storm (which changes the dynamics completely) the snow cannot cause trees to break. This last snowfall felled many heavy branches all over the East Coast and with them brought power lines down too. The sheer volume of lines down posed a challenge to power suppliers and left thousands of homes and some businesses without power for days - some as long as a week. I must congratulate the authorities for keeping their priorities in order and ensuring that hospitals and other essential services were attended to first and also for providing the true picture to their customers about when to expect power. It gave consumers the opportunity to plan their days accordingly.

As I said Nature is instinctive and if we open ourselves to our basic instincts and stop over analyzing the messages we get from our body, mind and soul this world would be a much more peaceful, joyful, fearless place to live in.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Goodness

I hear a lot of rhetoric about negative feelings like anger, jealousy, selfishness and many more. These are usually either directed at others or are commentaries about what gurus may have written about these. I explore these negative feelings within me to see how I display, use or curb them.

I have lived a life where approval has been important. For years wanting to be liked made me careful about the persona I projected. Now I realize that being liked is unimportant to me. It is not a reflection of who I am or what I say or do. Being liked is completely dependent on the perspective of the other person - something out of my control. This realization helped me understand that being kind, generous, compassionate, trusting, trustworthy, honest, loving were essential for my own wellbeing. These qualities kept me happy and peaceful. What the other person says or does; how he behaves; what his motives are do not matter. What matters is that I continue to be kind and loving towards all. If in the process some consider me to be naive or stupid that makes no difference to me. I continue living my life being a good person. Does this mean that I will be misunderstood? Of course it does - by those who sit in judgment of me. That is their problem not mine and so I do not let that hamper my way of life.

I have learnt that there are many who will attempt to take advantage of my kindness - that is human nature. I have learnt to ‘hiss and not bite.’ It is possible to hiss with kindness too. You see when people think of you as a good person, albeit a foolish good person, they back off when they hear you hiss. For some reason it is important for the apparently most evil to be well thought of by even the apparently good person. Goodness is an inherent human quality that expresses in the right environment and is easily hidden and often forgotten in environments that are conducive to bringing out evil. In such environments it takes effort to stay true to goodness.

I harness the goodness in me. When I feel a negative feeling rise I choose not to display it but rather to use it to recognize the weakness within me that pushed it to the surface. When someone lies I let them know that it is unacceptable not by pointing out that they lied but rather by prompting the truth. Not that the other person then speaks the truth but I give them the chance to do so if they wish. I am not here to change the world - not even to change one other person. I am here to work at bringing out the inherent God within me. I must provide a pristinely clean environment within me for It to express Itself. That is my only purpose.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Cleaned Mirror

I have had friends tell me that being around me brings a sense of calmness and peace within them. Then there are some who are intimidated by my presence and would rather not be around me. Maybe I only reflect what is within those around me.

Some who had placed me on a pedestal have since dropped me from it and I can see the reason why. My actions and words reflect my recognition of their deceptions and that was hard for them to accept. I forgive them for betraying my trust but choose to be more careful with them. They are uncomfortable speaking to me even though we are miles apart and yet I take a keen interest in their wellbeing.

Thinking back to my younger days I can appreciate this refusal to acknowledge wrong doing but I know now that any mistakes made in life must be acknowledged to ensure that such errors not be made again. Continuing to defend a wrong leads to the perpetration of more wrong doing. The only way to break that cycle is to acknowledge and admit the error so as to change direction, learn and move towards better choices. Life has taught me this lesson and I know that such learning cannot come without personal life experiences that help clean the mirror of the soul - the ego.

Giving others a second chance is an extension to forgiveness but it is equally important to act with caution so that similar indiscretions cannot have adverse effects. For example helping someone with fees to attend school only to find out that the money was used for something trivial instead requires that I be careful about giving more money to this person - but that need not stop me from being their mentor and well wisher, neither does it need me to stop helping another deserving person with money for school fees.

There is a God within me. He is not a silent witness to my thoughts and actions as I believed for a long time. He speaks through my conscience - it is for me to listen to this voice and direct my life decisions accordingly. It is for me to acknowledge my own errors and those of others. It is for me to forgive myself and others without making excuses or overlooking the wrong that was done. It means accepting it happened and moving forward with caution.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Generosity Appreciated

The trip to India had many highlights - each could develop into an article for this blog. The one that is most positively significant is the fruition of my association with The Wisdom in Kolkata. So I choose to pen this down first.

Like quite a few great friends - all like minded women who have impacted my life greatly, I met Sukarna on the web. At first I was not quite sure who this lady was. She and I were both followers of facebook pages for Paramhansa Ramakrishna, Saradama and Swami Vivekananda. We commented on these pages and sometimes acknowledged each others comments. I searched for her on facebook and found no further details. Over time though, she populated her personal profile and I learnt more about her. We come from different professional backgrounds, live in different countries, were raised in different cities so other than the fact that we speak the same languages and love and worship the Holy Trio there was little we had in common - or so I thought. As a matter of fact I even found some of her comments on facebook a little off the path from my own. In short I was not quite sure that she and I would be anything more than facebook acquaintances.

A few months into this I decided to de-activate my facebook account as nothing constructive was coming out of this experience. Within a week I received an e-mail from Sukarna asking if all was well and expressing her concern for me. I was touched by this selfless concern from a web 'acquaintance.' She and the administrator of the Holy Trio pages had noticed my absence from the pages, had searched for me on facebook, found no signs of me there and had taken it upon themselves to check in on me. That showed me an aspect of Sukarna that made me want to know her more.

Sukarna then sent me an e-mail suggesting I look into a website (www.thewisdom.in) that described the workings of a Non Government Organization (NGO) that she had decided to start up. I visited the site and sent out a one line response congratulating her on her noble efforts and asking if I could help in anyway. Sukarna's response was effusive yet simple - "become a member."

Education has been a major interest of mine for many years now. I was raised by a father who emphasized that only through sound education would I find true success in life. He drilled into me that to experience true joy inner beauty was more important than the physical outward one. I do not claim to have appreciated this as a child but over the years I have discovered that my father was almost 100 percent right. The outward is important for first impressions but it loses value over time and what is inside becomes paramount. This inner knowing finds expression through sound education - where education is not about books, classes and degrees alone. Education goes deeper than that - into character building, learning to respect, being compassionate, being fearless, being discerning and being good. I have in small ways tried to contribute to educating those less fortunate, so when this invitation to become a member of The Wisdom that emphasizes education came along I saw it as a sign from God.

I had hundreds of questions about this endeavor and was a pest to Sukarna and her husband Alip. I bombarded them with questions via e-mail, over the phone, on e-chat, and on Skype so I understood the intent, the objectives, the workings, the pitfalls, the commitment and the effort required to run an organization like this one. Some of my questions were completely off the mark and made it clear that I knew very little about NGO's in India. I did a lot of reading about NGOs, education systems, West Bengal government policies and so much more so I could be a knowledgable and contributing member of the organization.

Before I left for India in January 2011 Sukarna and I moved from being web acquaintances to long distance friends. I grew to love and respect her and recognized how compassionate and passionate she is about education in general and about the underprivileged in particular. Meeting her for the first time in Kolkata in early February 2011 was a confirmation of what I had envisioned her as. Sukarna is about loving, giving, nurturing and smiling all done with complete humility. My only concern is that she will take on more than she can chew and I keep reminding her to take good care of herself.

Sukarna's qualities of loving, giving, nurturing and humility reflect beautifully in the workings of The Wisdom. At our first meeting held at her home in Kolkata I had the good fortune of meeting Sukarna and her immediate family (mother, husband and son) and Dr Mishra (from Bhubaneshwar) for the first time. The Wisdom is really Sukarna's dream but she opened it up for us to walk into and help develop so we felt like it was our baby. That takes a big heart - and Sukarna demonstrated she has one. Dr. Mishra comes from the education field and is extremely valuable to the fulfillment of the objectives of The Wisdom. He too is a giver. He inundated us with ideas and his knowledge about the administrative aspects of running an organization transparently and effectively gave us a major boost in being able to get the ball rolling. It was as if the stars were all in perfect position for The Wisdom to take form.

Without giving special mention to my friends and family for their financial and moral support I cannot move on through this word journey. None of the donors asked for any details or proof or results before they generously gave me money for this endeavor. We thought we would first need to run income generating programs to raise the funds to start classes for the children we needed to cater to. It feels great to say we started our first classes in Garia in the 1st week of March thanks greatly to the trust, faith and selfless generosity of friends and family. We are continuing to work so we can become a self-sustainable organization that does not need to depend on donations alone - but this first boost from generous donations has gone a long way to give us the impetus to start.

The classes are proving to be a huge success with the children and their parents. It is so heartening to hear about the events of the classes from Sukarna who teaches the children herself. The students hail from Class 6 to Class 10. They arrive an hour before starting time and are disappointed when class is done. They want to learn more and are voraciously taking in everything that is being taught. Sukarna is teaching them to read and write English but more importantly teaching them how to be kind and respectful towards one another. A snack is provided to them at the beginning of class which the children seem less interested in than the books, pencils and erasers that have been provided to them. They come prepared with questions and complete all tasks given to them.

Many of the students travel by public transport to get to the class. Some are accompanied by a parent. So far we have 28 children attending regularly and more are wanting to come on board everyday. Parents of younger children are requesting us to help their children too. There is a sense of euphoria that I can hear in Sukarna's voice when she talks about parents who are excited their children are getting an opportunity to learn in an environment that makes them feel loved. The videos of the children introducing themselves is interesting to watch too. There they are - many probably for the first time ever - being given an opportunity to introduce themselves as a person rather than as part of a poverty stricken mass!

The Wisdom was started as we felt the need to give the next generation of the marginalized society a fighting chance in this dog-eat-dog world. The Wisdom will succeed because these children are saying loudly and clearly that given the opportunity they can succeed and make our world a better place. With a combination like that bundled with the infinite Grace of God and the generosity of all, the future generations will make this world beautiful.

Please do pray for the children and check us out at www.thewisdom.in - any questions or if you would like to help in anyway our contact information is available on the site.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eureka!!!

My blood is sweet! I am sweet through and through.

I have been under a homeopath friend for a few months now. She very kindly offered to treat me and I took her up on it. Very few patients can fathom the workings of deep acting homeopathic remedies that may be prescribed a couple of times over the length of treatment. Fortunately for me being a homeopath and understanding the Hahnemannian (my word) philosophy I can see the changes it is bringing on me.

I was given a single dose of a remedy one morning. That day I took a major tumble! All morning I kept having a premonition of falling and when I eventually did, it was a relief. I had bruises, aches and pains for a few days but God bless Arnica and I was back on my feet soon. Being as heavy as I am and seeing how awkwardly I fell it could have been a lot worse.

The next couple of weeks seemed uneventful but soon I felt upset, depressed, sad and was wallowing in self pity. "Poor me. No one cared for me. I am a giver who gets nothing in return...." I love to care for people. It makes me feel good about myself. I am always trying to be a better person and what better way than to be a do-gooder? I of course took it too far outward. I forgot to care for myself. At first all this awareness was painful and it made me wish it had not come upon me - but now I feel freer, lighter and clearer. It feels good to care for myself - to do what I want without feeling guilty or embarrassed or ashamed. I answer to no one but my Self.

That took a couple of weeks of processing and getting back to being my happy self again. I am more aware of myself. The diabetes that has overwhelmed my body comes from a deep seat in my mind. My desperate need to be sweet. To be liked seemed my purpose for most of my life. I was nice, sweet, kind, compassionate not to benefit you but for you to like me. That need to be sweet took over first my mind and then my body. I must get rid of it from my mind for it to leave my body. That is exactly what I plan to do.

I am a perfect human being. I am a kind, compassionate, giving, bright, spiritual light that is in this Universe to serve Its need whichever way It needs to use me. I am also here to receive Grace in whatever form I get. I now get pleasure from being good, honest, compassionate, forgiving, loving, helpful towards myself and others. It is not because you need me but because I enjoy being there for you. If you tell me to leave you alone I will do so with a smile - this is not about you! So I continue to 'do' what I always did - I just do it without a predicate attached to it.

This is liberating and as I write this I can feel my blood clearing up. I am definitely on my way to recovery - insulin and all will soon belong to the past. I can feel it. Thank you Lori for taking me on and helping me not just with the prescription but for listening to me express what my mind and body are constantly whispering to me. I know many of you reading this do not see the homeopathic connection here - but those of you who know better do see it, right?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fulfilling needs.

Coming into this world automatically places us in relationships. Dependency becomes part of life and taking lessons from society we begin to enhance dependencies. Life circumstances make us dependent on some and dependable for others.

As we enter the spiritual realm we aim to be self-sufficient. We derive joy within ourself. Pain and misery come from our relationships with others. There is very little room for suffering when one is complete in oneself. I think it is impossible to serve others selflessly unless one is fulfilled within.

Attachment is the inability to be self sufficient. I find that giving of myself to others is very fulfilling but there is an expectation that I will be replenished by something or someone else. Self care is not my forte. I am more comfortable caring for the needs of others, helping heal the wounds of those around me. I have not tended to my wounds, have not acknowledged my needs. It is small wonder then that no one tends to me. There are many ready to point out what requires my attention - my blood sugar, my weight, an untidy desk, an unmade bed - as if I am neither grown up nor intelligent enough to know this.

I was advised to start my day by journaling my needs. I sat fingers poised on my keyboard and till noon my screen was blank. This is unusual - even when I have bouts of writers block I can fill a screen in a few minutes. I have no needs - my needs are all reflections of what my family and friends need. I would rather do without so you can have it all. No matter what I am doing I will make time for you. Your phone call, your problem, your sorrow, your pain, your joy, your story will always supersede mine.

I have prided myself on being extremely adjustable to my circumstances. No matter which direction the curve ball comes from I smile, face it, and lead others through the ordeal. Any personal challenge and I go the distance alone. I now recognize that this does not come from a space of fulfillment but from some other place within me. I do not question the pleasure I get in serving the needs of others but I wonder why I have never tried to fulfill my own. Another journey inwards through the maze that brings me closer to Me.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Degrees of truth!

For many years I believed that telling the truth was essential but may not always be possible. There are times when speaking the truth when weighed against its effect make it necessary to lie! That should be okay - or should it?

Is there place for half truths or even maybe avoiding the truth with the intent to mislead? There is a saying in Sanskrit that says - "Speak kind words, speak the truth - do not utter unkind truths." I took this to mean that it was better to lie than to speak an unkind truth. Now I know it means - always speak the truth but be kind with your words. There is no place for lies in a pure heart. Untruths sully the heart and take us away from ourself. With every truth we utter a veil is removed and we get closer to our inner being.

There is no degree of truth. Either one speaks the truth or one is a liar. There is no grey area in this realm. Truth releases us from all other forms of deceit. Just as fear and love cannot co-exist so also fear and truth cannot co-exist. Truth opens us up to accept consequences and so bring closure to the cycle of action and reaction. Lies seem to move in a spiral and often the consequence seems far out. Truth on the other hand follows a straight line to the result. The shortest route is that straight line.

Reward and punishment is not in the hands of a super power up above us - it is in our own hands. The truth eventually is revealed no matter how hard we try to cover it up. With every reveal truth makes us stronger. Imagine never having to lie - it means never having to be afraid. Not afraid of being caught, of having to defend, of having to cover up, of losing self respect and self worth.

Truth has been under-rated for a long time. It is the essential key to a pure life. May truth be victorious again.