Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Resolution

I have spent the first month of 2012 retrospecting on my life and ways. There is a lot of good and there is a lot I can do to make it even better. For one I am determined to stay out of conflict. It is draining and counterproductive. Conflicts arise because opinions differ - truth is, opinions are only products of perception. Conflict cannot change perceptions especially when inflated egos are ruling the conversation. When perceptions differ and egos clash blame mongering, hurt and pain can be the only possible results. Negative vibes that this environment is overflowing with anyway do not need my input!

In the last few years ever since being introduced to separating the ego from my True Self I enjoy watching ego trying to overpower Me! It succeeds often but invariably I am able to pull it back and go into my essence and withdraw the little me from the foray! It is also very interesting to compare my egocentric behavior with those of others and be able to relate to where that behavior is coming from and how easily inner peace can be shattered....... or established!

Essence of any kind can be completely covered by the gross but the essence is never lost! When we see through the gross we can invariably find the essence. This is true with taste, smell or any other sense. It is also true with people. When we stop and look beyond the outer appearance whether it be physical appearance, behavior or expressions we can invariably see glimpses of true essence. The challenge lies in finding ones own essence! This requires silencing the mind, which takes effort, time and perseverance but once that can be achieved it is blissful and energizing.

In the last year I have spent very little time meditating and I am in the process of changing that. Worldly tasks no matter how noble disrupt my inner peace and unless I balance it with equal time spent in silence I am not joyful. So 2012 is going to be spent in creating balance. Each morning is now about centering myself and spending time being in touch with Me. Music, meditation, healthy food, early to bed, and a definite separation of the ego from my true Self are all in again! This is going to be the year of True Bliss!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Being the CHANGE

Bringing about CHANGE is a process that goes beyond simply thinking or talking about it. Change comes about because we DO something to make it happen. The process starts off with thinking and talking about it - but unless action is taken change is not possible. Inaction can be both Satvic and Tamasic. The two inactions are very different in nature. Tamasic inaction comes from procrastination and laziness while Satvic inaction comes from a deep understanding of the so called mysteries of the Universe. This is the inaction that is not defined by 'no work', but by working silently, selflessly and without being attached to the goal. We must assign a goal post that we aim for but we must be flexible enough to recognize that the field of action is much larger than the goal.

I am learning this as I become more enmeshed with The Wisdom (www.thewisdom.in), an organization that is working to bring about change in the conditions of the poor in India. We are a very small organization in terms of the number of active members and yet what we are doing cannot be termed as small. In a country where 25% of people live below the poverty line it is a monumental task to bring even 0.1% of people above that line. It is also time consuming and requires the remaining 75% of Indians to be less self absorbed.

The challenge is not in serving the poor of our country - that is the easy part. The so called 'poor' may be financially so, but their openness to learn and do what it takes to climb up makes them the group with the most potential to enrich our nation. The real challenge is in taking away the fear of poverty from the minds of a large portion of the 75% of us who live above that poverty line. We have chosen to de-sensitize ourselves from the pain and suffering of those less fortunate than us. We do not realize that we are poorer than the poor when we begin to love money and possessions more than we love people! Service towards others opens up a window within us that helps us see beyond this need to possess things and build a large bank account.

As I view pictures of the children of The Opal Project of The Wisdom and see their bright faces and hear first hand accounts from people who have visited them during sessions in class it is well near impossible to say that these children are any different than my own. They portray the same dreams, fears and hopes! They have begun to see life as an opportunity rather than a problem - they have developed the strength to stand up and face challenges and the will to expect better for and of themselves. I realize that this has come about not only because of the class they attend with us - it has come about because through the little we have been able to do for them with the money raised from very generous donors we have succeeded in showing them their own potential and self worth. It has taken compassion and love from those of us who are working directly with them that has opened them up to better know themselves and the power within them. They work hard and diligently through their day to day struggles of being poor and they shine because of this perseverance.

What has been undertaken requires a lot of work and yet I know that underneath the visible work that goes into it is the invisible 'no'work' that is doing it all. The subtle pat on the back, the smile when looking at them, the disciplining when they make a mistake, the enquiry about their family, the handing down a shawl when they are cold - it is these that have made the biggest difference. It is that inherent passion within our founder Sukarna that is responsible for the change that The Wisdom can and will bring about.

Sukarna has a lot of passion and it is this passion that drives her. Passion cannot be tethered easily and so she can appear very aggressive at times. Her passion shows through every aspect of life. She likes with passion - she also dislikes with passion (cooking is an example I think I see of her dislikes!). She probably does not dislike cooking because of cooking itself - she dislikes it because she likes doing other things more and I can relate to that! She has shown me how love and compassion can bring about change and for that I bow down to her. She cries when she sees pain, then wipes her tears and stands tall all ready to assuage that pain. She is incapable of inherent unkindness but dislikes any hint of hypocrisy. Tell her what you feel with truth and she will not hold it against you even if she disagrees with you - but do not tell her one thing and do the opposite then our mother tiger will pounce! The Wisdom is her dream and she has successfully made it mine. I cannot be as passionate as her but I can definitely fan her passion and help the organization grow and flourish. Change is already happening and I can foresee quite a few families soon stepping above that line holding our hands as they do so. As they climb up and out these same families will help raise others in their community do the same and one family at a time we will prosper! That is our goal, but our work in the field is much bigger and an opportunity for us to fulfill our own purpose in life! Those who make the most of this opportunity to help others will be the true winners all around.

As our Republic Day (January 26th) arrives I want to say a heart felt thank you to Sukarna for being the CHANGE! Those of us who are working in close proximity with her can see this diamond in the rough causing kind ripples under the surface and I am certain that one day our dream of seeing India in full glory will become a reality. Our people will become more caring, more compassionate, more giving simply by watching what these qualities can do. More of us need to join in the process of bringing about change not by donating funds alone but by going out into the field and being selflessly caring, compassionate and giving and spreading Satvic Inaction.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fulfilling a Purpose

Approximately 25% of people live below the poverty line in India alone. In a country with a population of 1.22 billion it seems like a simple equation where it would take 3 people to help 1 person to bring a semblance of dignity to the 300 million! I am not talking about providing just food and shelter - rather helping provide sound education so they may attempt to be self sufficient. Utopian - maybe but if we aim for perfection maybe we will reach somewhere.

The challenge is in identifying what is needed to help someone living below the poverty line to reach a level of self reliance. It no longer remains just math and numbers then. The human element becomes paramount. There are organizations that arrange a meal for a day during a special occasion or the distribution of blankets or a medical camp for the poor. The intentions may be altruistic - but I wonder if such spurts of charity does much to help in the long run. Yet it may save the life of some who are really in dire straits. I think it is important for organizations to measure the true benefit of such kindness and assess if maybe it would be more effective to spend some percentage of their funds on providing more long term help like education and vocational training along with training on personal and community hygiene.

It begs the question - is there a purpose to charitable work? Is it to feel good about being charitable or is it about making a difference? Of course it is important to help the sick, the hungry, the homeless in their moment of immediate need and this is a very important aspect of charitable work and must be continued but it must be as a complement to other sustainable efforts that will help those who want to step out of this cycle of poverty and be productive, successful citizens of the world. One cannot thwart the other.

There are many of us who are in the field of voluntary service and we all have a vision about why we want to be involved in this work. I am sure that most also have a vision that is larger than a 'feel good' need to serve. We want to make a positive impact on the lives of those we serve. It is not so much about making someone world famous but more about making someone feel good about their life and themselves. That is a great motivation for someone who is afraid to dream and teaches one to open up and begin to imagine good things for oneself.

When we lose sight of the bigger picture and get caught up in the need of the moment, we begin to lose the capacity to make a lasting effect. We bring about a drastic change in the capacity to dream. We make them short sighted and stop them from reaching out to the stars. We limit them to the dream of the light of a street lamp. A bright young man who wants to be an accountant is taught to be satisfied as a cashier. He is told that the faster he goes out there and earns money to feed the family the more he will be valued by his loved ones. In the process we tell him to stop valuing himself! Poverty is a horrible curse and an easy cycle to perpetuate. A major element that nurtures it is lack of self worth. There is no love in stunting the growth of a loved one - only greed. Yes I believe that it requires unconditional love towards a child to encourage that child to grow to his/her full potential. Any parent who is unwilling to give up their life for the betterment of their offspring does not know the meaning of love. If a child has not learnt how to dream or only dreams of being a cashier and becomes one, that is fine. It is not that a cashier is less than an accountant - but for one who wants a career as an accountant in a corporation, a cashiers position in a supermarket is a major let down.

When we undertake education of the poor as our purpose in life and we encounter forces that are bent on thwarting this effort we begin to understand why those living below the poverty line are unable to cross over. The sad part of it all is that those who are thwarting personal growth of our future generation forget the child and hold the condition of family and the community as their justification for doing so. In a culture where thinking about others before thinking about oneself is looked upon as an essential life quality it is easy to see why the child willingly gives in. Unless we teach our next generations to value themselves first it will be well near impossible to bring about a shift in the statistics of poverty in India.

We must stand up for the children! We must teach them to value their dreams and their ideas. We need to teach them to include others in their dream not exclude their dreams for others! We must teach them to stand up for their beliefs, to be strong and courageous and show them how to fulfill their dreams and dream bigger. We have a purpose in life and that purpose is to serve this world so more of us are living courageously, unafraid of evil forces and willing to stand up for right. We must lead by example and unless we stand up and fight for the children of today we will not have fulfilled our purpose.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Spring IS Coming

By mid January the ground is usually frozen solid and the yards and sidewalks are covered in piles of snow. That is a perfect time to welcome the idea of spring! It helps tide over the rest of winter with hope of the senses being tickled by the sounds, smells and sights of nature literally coming back to life! Mid January 2012 though is proving to be an anomaly in the East Coast of USA!

We had our first snow fall in late October - it was way before time and had devastating effects! The trees were not ready for the onslaught of heavy snow and they came down on power lines and plunged many of us back into a time when electricity was a luxury! We had all our modern appliances and fixtures but nothing worked! Slowly but surely we limped back to normalcy but it appears as if nature felt so guilty about what it did that it decided to keep snow away from us for the remainder of winter!

Here I am sitting in my living room bathed in sunlight pouring in through the windows unobstructed by a snow cloud or any cloud for that matter! The trees left standing have shed their leaves since that snowfall in October but the ground is an unusual color. It should be covered in fresh white and shoveled grey snow and ice, not this almost brownish green grass and clear tarmac road! The high heels, spring jackets and wind cheaters are still the fashion instead of the long down coats, woolen caps and snow boots. How then are we going to transition from winter to spring?

I know how - we will simply go with the flow! Nature knows when to bud and when to blossom and instead of waiting for the month of spring or the week of cherry blossoms we will watch and embrace the sounds of chirping birds, smells of blossoming flowers and refreshed pine; and the sights of colorful flowers and fresh green leaves as they come forth. We have spent our lives depending on the man made clock and the man designed calendar - it is time to let nature guide us now and enjoy every moment for what it is - a beautiful ‘present.’