Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let 2010 bring peace, joy and fulfillment

May all beings have inner peace so that they make decisions from a place of clarity.
May all beings have inner peace so that they face all circumstances in life with poise.
May all beings have inner peace so that they may spread the peace to one another.
May all beings have inner peace so that we have world peace.

May all beings have joy in whatever they do and spread the joy all around.
May all beings enjoy life on earth despite its' twists and turns.
May all beings spread joy through their being in joy.

May all beings find fulfillment in their work, whatever it may be.

Here's wishing peace, joy and fulfillment for everyone in the year of 2010.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A state of balance and inner peace

I. Introduction
I have been to extremes, rather I should say I began exploring the extremes in my college life.
I experienced incredible freedom in my college days at the Indian Institute of Technology(IIT), so much so that I explored the freedom in many possible ways, some constructive, some not so constructive.
Let me give a few examples:

1) Sleep: Till my college days, I was very disciplined in my sleep. Ofcourse, I was living with my family and everyone would go to bed early. So I would sleep by 10 pm or 11 pm, no later than that and get up by 6-7 am.
That all changed in my second or third year in college. I thrilled in sleeping late. I explored sleeping at different times, 2 am,4 am, 6 am, etc. I even took pride in that I could sleep that late and not let my body be affected.
The extreme sleep cycles went on even when I came to Udub to pursue my Phd. I was sometimes sleeping at 11 am in the morning and getting up late in the evening.
At this point, I was desperately trying to stabilize my sleep. It was no longer a thrill. It was no longer a use of my freedom, it was rather a misuse of my freedom.
Freedom comes with responsibility and I was beginning to come to terms with that.

2) Focus: In my college days, I was so thrilled by what I could explore apart from my academics. I explored running, swimming, biking, hiking, spirituality, philosophy and so on. I was just jumping from one to another, tasting one and sipping another without really going deep into anyone of them. Ofcourse, I did take running seriously, but there was no real balance between my extracurricular activities and my academics. I still face the problem of focus, but to a lesser extent now.

What I have realized through my explorations and experiences in life is that
balance is important in life.

II. Different areas in which one can bring about balance

1) Balanced emotions:
Having balanced emotions is a great asset. When one goes from extreme joy to extreme sadness or extreme love to extreme anger, there is a continual dreading of the negative extreme, there is an imbalance that affects decision making, clarity and focus.
On the other hand, when one has balanced emotions, one can be calm even when things outside are upside down and can make quick and effective decisions most of the times.

Balanced emotions can be brought about in many ways including breathing exercises (pranayama), deep relaxation, meditation, and even through an understanding of the need for balance. Forgiving people quickly and sending everyone in your life positive thoughts is another easy way to be in a state of balance.

2) Work-life balance
This is something everyone is working on. For me it has taken some time to realize this. I would go from fully focusing on work during one week to totally taking it easy the next week.
Nowadays, my days start with having positive intentions for the day, meditation and then work.
Coming back, I meditate before going to sleep. I also run over the weekends. I find this to be a much better balance than the life I was leading before.

3) Understanding equanimity and balanced interactions
I just want to point out here that, equanimity is not just being calm when something unwanted happens but it is also being calm and balanced even when something 'fantastic' happens.
Not getting easily excited or perturbed by outside events and being centered and calm when interacting with people who are easily excitable or are perturbed is a sign of an equanimous state of mind.

I have come to understand the following principle and it's potent use in my life.

The principle of balance - A self-regulating mechanism
- Whenever you get perturbed in the mind by some event or some memory or someone's comment or some worry, notice the perturbation and come back to the present.

Note that the ability to quickly notice the perturbations of the mind without exacerbating the perturbations is itself is a big skill that can be acquired with practice.
The next step is to find ways to quickly come back to a state of balance once the perturbation has been noticed.

III. A few quick ways to come back to a balanced state of mind

1) Continual reminders: Remind yourself to be at peace continually. The effect of these reminders is that when there is a 'big perturbation' due to some event or memory, this reminder will play in your mind and you will quickly come out of the 'perturbation' to a state of balance.

2) Continual relaxation: Stress builds with time. Strees in the mind translates as tension in the body. 'Scan' your body frequently. Mentally focus on different parts of the body and sense if there is any tension and relax it. Relaxing the body does affect the mind and helps bring the balance. Sometimes when the mind is perturbed, it's difficult to calm it down. The easiest thing to do at that time would be to 'scan' the body and relax it.

3) Observing the content of your thoughts: When one observes the vacillating nature of one's own mind, you realize that you can either add to that vacillation or stabilize that vacillation
by becoming a passive observer to the thought process. This passive observation brings about balance quickly and helps us understand why we think the way we do and consciously bring about a change to the thinking process.

4) Following the breath: The breath is intricately linked to the state of mind.
When you are angry, you breathe quickly and shallowly. On the other hand, when you are calm and relaxed, you breathe deeply. A technique therefore is to focus on the breathing and observe its rhythm. This observation in itself affects its rhythm and the breath becomes slower and deeper. If there are distracting thoughts, gently bring it back to the breath and continue observing its rhythm.

Symbol of balance:
I just want to mention here, that when I was listening to some peaceful chanting in the night 1 year back, I had a vision of the image displayed at the top of this article. I thought about what this image might mean - I knew that this was a symbol that came up often in Indian films whenever there was a courtroom scene. But then it struck me, ofcourse - This is a symbol of balance - Balancing the scales.
I thank my intuition for this image. I have come a long way since then in balancing my emotions and life and ofcourse, there is always room for improvement.

Here's to balance and inner peace for everyone in the world.

Be an example: Chintz Bana

Watch the video about the transformation of Chintz Bana, who got a lot of material success but was left with a feeling of emptiness. Watch how he was able to transform that feeling through breathing techniques learnt through Art of living and service to help transform prisoners.
Watch it here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Talking about synchornicities....

Synchronicity: Coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related, conceived in Jungian theory as an explanatory principle on the same order as causality.

Now that we have that definition out, let me state some synchronicities that have happened of late...

I was at the PCC store at Greenlake deciding what to buy from the bulk items, when I came across an ionized water dispenser that was selling water for cheap. I was just looking at that dispenser and reading some stuff when the song that was playing at the background changed to tune that was familiar. As I was placing what that tune was similar to, I was reminded of this beautiful song by the band called Indian Ocean. The lyrics of the song came in again... 'Maa rewa, tharo pani nirmal, khal khal behko jayo re' meaning, ' Oh beautiful river, your water is so pure, and you glide along gently'. The synchronicity ofcourse was that my buying water coinciding with the song in the background that was similar to the one by Indian Ocean on appreciating the purity of water of Narmada river.

B) Today I went to the east west bookstore to a talk by Margaret Carson about the 'Healing of waters' and we did some guided meditations imagining the purification of water we held in a glass. Silly as this exercise may seem, there is some research done by Masaru emoto showing that the crystals of water form beautiful or deformed shapes depending on the kind of messages(good or bad) posted on the container in which they are held after a period of time..This person at the talk seemed very passionate about the ocean and healing of the ocean so we did a guided meditation imagining that we are at an ocean doing just that.. The experience felt good. Now, here's where the synchronicity kicks in: Towards the end of the talk, we did one last guided meditation where we held water in a glass in front of us and send it our positive intentions and thoughts. While I was doing this, this song by Indian Ocean came to my mind. After the meditation, while sharing experiences, I mentioned this song(actually sang the first line) and it's meaning. The lady at the talk was surprised. She also mentioned that during the guided meditation, a thought came up to her that there would be 'a song' and she was like, 'What song?'. And also, the song is by Indian Ocean while the talk was about purifying water and in particular her passion for ocean. I love these synchronicities, even mathematically their probability is relatively small(i.e. probability of two independent events happening simultaneously = product of probability of the two events happening).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My 10 day vipassana meditation experience

I did the Vipassana meditation retreat between 16th july - 26th july. In short, it was a roller-coaster ride. The ride was ofcourse in the mind . It’s interesting to note that as we go about our daily lives, we look at external objects, people and issue out reactions or responses. But observing your own body, your own mind, can some useful information be gained, can a new perspective be gained, can you actually even go looking for the root cause of misery by looking within? These are some questions that have fascinated me and these 10 days were my time for focused observation of the body and mind to possibly answer these questions or atleast get some perspectives.

I have got a few insights and many experiences to reflect on(those I have reflected on, I have applied the lessons learnt with good benefits so far).

Talking to different people at the end of the retreat, I realized that everyones’ experience is different and unique. If you are interested, you can go ahead and read some details from my experience (it’s long!) .

The Setting

A beautiful field of wild yellow-green grass surrounded by tall trees, in the middle of which lies three buildings(meditation hall, men’s dorms and a dining cum women’s dorms). Located in Onalaska, it’s 2 hrs drive south of Seattle. I was surprised that three-quarters of the people at the retreat were below the age of 35. I then learnt the reason..It's summer!


So my first impressions of the meditation routine was that it’s boring. I mean, think about it, 8-10 hrs of meditation everyday. And you are doing the same meditation for atleast 3 days before changing the technique. You get up at 4:30 am and you get to bed at 9:30 pm. There are many meditation sessions in between with some rest periods thrown in, but it's all meditation. You go back from the meditation hall to your residence, and people start walking slowly being aware of each step, oh yeah - The walking meditation. You are having your food, and you are totally focused on what you are eating - No paper in hand or laptop on the lap - So that's mindfulness meditation while eating. Ofcourse, we were to maintain complete silence for 10 days, so no getting distracted by talking to other meditators. So you see it's the ideal environment to meditate and also to get bored with meditation.

It’s like there is only one restaurant in town and you go there to order food:

“Excuse me sir, I would like to order some food”.

‘Sure, we got an ‘All you can eat’ buffet today, and as always, it’s free’.

“Oh wow, what’s on the menu?”

‘We got two delicious items – The group meditation and individual meditation. The group meditation has to be consumed within the premises, but you can ‘take out’ the individual one’.

“Oh ok”.

At the end of my first day, it was refreshing to have a different experience than boredom: As we came out of the meditation hall, we saw a mother deer with her two recently born kids jumping around merrily. It was an awesome sight, complementing the beauty of the place.


The vipassana technique is all about observing sensations on your body ‘equanimously’.

The first 3 days, we observe the breath, which is the ana-pana-sati(incoming outgoing breath awareness) technique. We also narrowed down our focus to a triangular region around the nose to observe sensations. The idea is that there are always sensations on every part of the body, but we may not be aware of them because the mind hasn’t been trained to look for them. So, by observing a triangular region around the nose, I was able to observe two different sensations. One was an itching sensation and the other a tingling sensation. These sensations are impermanent, they arise and pass away.

So we get the idea that there are sensations (some perceptible, some subliminal – depending on the mind’s sharpness) all over the body and that these sensations arise and pass away.

Now, what’s observing sensations got to do with peace of mind?

The idea is that when we crave for something, let’s say chocolate, what we are actually craving for is the sensation that we get on the body when we have chocolate. And when one craves for chocolate and can’t have it for some reason, one can get upset or irritated. The idea is that one is upset because one craves for the sensation on the body that arises when you have chocolate.

Similarly, when one hates something, the idea is that one hates the sensation that happens on the body when that object comes into your view.

What if one remains calm or equanimous to these sensations on the body instead of craving for them or having an aversion for them? This idea of equanimity to sensations is the basis behind the Vipassana technique and that’s the core practice we do during the last 5 days of the course.

It’s amazing what sensations can be observed when the mind is trained to look for them.

Personally, I was able to observe tingling sensations all over my head and palms of my hands. And over the rest of the body, I was able to observe a few sensations here and there.

One important idea is that even pain can be viewed as a sensation. And if you can remain equanimous to pain, it can stop having that big of an effect of you. For example, when one has severe pain in the leg, the physical pain one feels is exacerbated by the mental reaction.. ‘Oh pain, oh severe pain. I don’t like this pain.. I want to get rid of it. What do I do?’. The mind in it’s reaction of aversion to this ‘sensation of pain’ increases the suffering one feels when one has this pain. On the other hand, the mind could have been equanimous..’Yes there is severe pain, let’s see how long it lasts. Let me not get affected by it’. This is an easy thing to say, but not easy to act, as I discovered.

The sitting

On day 5, we were introduced to this adhittana sitting or a sitting of strong determination. In this group sitting, you are not supposed to move even a single part of the body for an hour. Days 5 and 6 were pretty much a struggle for everyone. We would all get up limping and groaning. We had three such sittings every day since day 5. On day 5, I could manage two sittings without movement. On day 6, I thought I would be brave and not use any cushion and just sit on the floor. These guys provide you will all sorts of cushion of all sizes,firmness, and shape to make your meditation comfortable and I decided not to use it on that day! Why?? Because I figured that I am anyway going to observe sensations which include pain, how does it matter if the pain is shallow or deep, I am going to be observing it anyway. I managed two sittings with grit and determination, but the third sitting, it was difficult for me to even sit down, let alone not move. My legs were shot that day, and I was careful from day 7 to make myself comfortable with cushions. I figured, I could try out the no-cushions thing another day.

Moving beyond pain

On Day 9 of the course, we were sitting in one of those hour long group meditations where you are not supposed to move any part of the body and maintain your posture. It can seem like torture to an outsider, since the pain in the legs can get intense with 1 hr of sitting with no movement. But to a vipassana meditator, the pain is supposed to be just another sensation!

45 minutes into the 1 hr sitting, my calf muscles in my left leg were becoming more and more painful and I, as a good vipassanameditator was trying to observe the pain ‘objectively’. So I examined the pain… Where is it centered? It’s in the center of the calf muscle. Ok what kind of a pain is it.. It’s a mildly intense pain on the verge of becoming a severely intense pain. Alright, what’s it’s nature? It’s a pulsating/radiating pain that arises and passes away every second.

At this point I also had pains centered in my knees and my thighs. So it was an interesting experience for me in trying to characterize pain in one part of the body, when ‘other pains’ are calling for your attention.

So I surveyed the pain objectively and moved on to other parts of the body to examine sensations there. Suddenly, I felt a warm rush of vibrations in my left leg. I examined what was going and I found that the ‘gross calf pain’ that was intense had faded away to the background and was replaced by these pleasant ‘warm vibrations’ in my leg. This was my first experience of pain – a gross sensation dissolving into subtler sensations through objective equanimous observation of pain.

In Vipassana meditation, it’s a sign of progress to have gross sensations such as pain in the body to be replaced by subtler sensations such as tingling sensations, since that means two things: Your mind is getting sharper in being able to observe subtler sensations and that you have been able to develop equanimity to pain, which is not easy.


We usually think of pain as something unwanted, something to be gotten rid of. But when you change your perspective on pain and think of it as a sensation that could be observed without aversion, as something that can be observed objectively, waawaveeva, you can have this pain fading away.

I spoke to other meditators to see if they had similar experiences. One guy in his 50’s had sciatic pain in his back that was always present. But during the 10 day course, once he started observing the pain objectively, the pain would pass away and come back. Not having pain, even for a short period was a big relief for him.

Another guy had an amazing story. At the end of every 1 hr group sitting with no change of posture, we would all get up limping and groaning. But this guy would get up and just walk away with big strides and a smile as if he was going for his regular morning walk. When we asked him about it, he said that he felt no pain whatsoever and that he was only experiencing a lot of energetic sensations all over the body. This was his 4th time to the course and on the previous three retreats he wasn’t able to go beyond the pain.

Recurrence of past health symptoms

I had this happen during the vipassana retreat. I had some OCD symptoms and panic attack symptoms come up from the past and I understood that they were coming up for clearing. I just had to be detached to these symptoms and they would pass away. They ofcourse did pass away. But it's interesting how the OCD symptoms just showed up during the meditation when I was done with it years back. I spoke to another guy, he had had Asthma in the past and a similar thing happened to him.

He had asthma symptoms come up on one of the days. His usual thing to do, was to force himself to breath deeper when these attacks began. But since this happened on day 6 or 7, he thought it might be worth a try to just be "ok" with the shortness-of-breath symptom that was a precursor to the Asthma attack. And amazingly, the symptoms passed away after a few minutes and he wasn't doing anything, just observing it as another sensation.

Connecting the dots…

1) Mindfulness meditation vs Vipassana meditation

I started meditating regularly in July, last year. I do the mindfulness meditation, which is basically being aware of and being equanimous to whatever phenomenon is going around you at that time. For example, I often hear buses passing by, someone opening the door, and ofcourse the thoughts whizzing by in the mind. By just being aware and being equanimous, it happens that the thoughts tend to settle down after sometime and you feel more peaceful.

In Vipassana, ‘awareness’ and ‘equanimity’ are again the two big principles, but there is also ‘focus’.In Vipassana, one is focusing the mind to observe subtler sensations all over the body and at the same time being equanimous to them . There is also an order of moving from head to toe or toe to head.

In contrast, the mindfulness doesn’t involve focusing, you are just aware of whatever is going on inside and outside of you.

2) Shavasana (Corpse posture) vs Vipassana meditation

In yoga, there is a posture called Shavasana, where one lies like a corpse on the ground, fully relaxing the body. Usually, one starts at the head and mentally relaxes each part of the body all the way down to the toes. There is some resemblance of Shavasana toVipassana in that even in Vipassana one goes from head to toes, but in Vipassana one is not trying to relax, one is trying to be focused on observing sensations on all parts of the body from head to toe equanimously.

3) Vipassana meditation vs a generic meditation technique

In a generic meditation technique, you have an object for meditation. If the object is a mantra, that is repeated through the meditation, it’s called a mantra meditation technique.If the object is the breath, it’s the ana-pana meditation technique. If the object is some dynamic guided imagery, it’s called guided imagery meditation. The idea is that all of these object-based meditation techniques are focused on the mind and have something to do with thoughts.Vipassana on the other hand is totally focused on the sensations on the body, though the mind can play the role of distracting the meditator from doing that. So it's like this, if there are a lot of dramas going in your life, observing the sensations are going to be difficult when you do the vipassana, since your mind is going to be playing out those dramas/scenarios in the mind. But it's the same thing with a mantra-based meditation, you are not going to be able to focus on the mantra. It's mostly the case that when you begin any form of meditation, you are just not able to calm the mind. That's alright, because when you begin to meditate, you realize that the mind has a mind of it's own. That's a good place to begin and slowly with time, the mind will start behaving well and inner peace that always existed but was clouded by all the dramas of the mind, will start showing up more frequently during meditation and will begin extending to even the periods of the day when one is busy.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my experience. For me though, there were times when I thought of quitting the course, but thankfully they were few. Most of the time, I could perceive the benefits, short-term and long-term of practicing this technique. I am thinking of alternating between mindfulness and vipassana meditation for now. Let's see how it goes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Favorite fruits

Lately, I have been trying out new fruits. Some of my favorite ones:

From India:
Guava, Orange, Grapes,Dates, Supota (Chikku fruit),mangoes,palmyra fruit(munjal in telugu and nongu in Tamil) and Water melon.

Tried In US:
Blueberries, Figs, Avocados, pears, plums, and green apples.

I can't really pick one favorite, all of these are my favorites. Each has a unique taste and texture that I relish.

The really juicy ones:
Plums,mangoes, water melon, and palymra fruit. The palmyra fruit when tender contains a lot of sweet nectar and is very cool, sweet, and refreshing during the summer.
Mangoes in India ofcourse have a lot of varieties, some of them very juicy, some of them not so juicy, but when spiced up are really tasty.
I usually have the Mango nectar juice purchased from Trader joes. It's really cool.

The really sweet ones:
Chikku comes up big on this one. I really like a ripe Chikku, and Chikku juice was my favorite fruit juice drink during my undergrad.
Palymra fruit and dates are also pretty sweet.

Spicing it up
Have you ever tried cutting up a green apple into small pieces and seasoning it with salt and pepper. The sweet, bitter, salty, and peppery flavor is awesome.
I tried this out at the 10 day vipassana meditation retreat during tea time.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Observing the thought cycle

So lately I have been observing the thought cycle. I meditate during the nights and in the morning.
Do some breathing exercises (pranayama) and then just observe the thoughts or observe the screen in front of my forehead (inner space).
During the rest of the day, I usually use a mantra.
Mantra is pretty useful. Here are a few benefits I have observed:
1) The primary role of mantra that I have observed is that it acts as a reference thought to observe other thoughts that go in your mind. For example, if your mantra is peace. You would repeat it silently in your mind often, so that whenever a negative thought or a thought of lower vibration comes up in your mind, your mantra acts as a contrast to that negative thought and you immediately switch your focus back to the mantra. Negative thoughts could be fears, worries, anxieties, resentment, past hurts, regrets, revenge,etc,etc.
If you don't have a reference thought or a mantra, you can get caught up in these negative thoughts without realizing that you have been caught up. These negative thoughts are like a trap.. They trap you into thinking that it is important to think about them or else... (fear based thoughts). So you think about them, till you get tired or have some thing important to do. Then you get back to your fears and worries. Many a times, these fears and worries come out as a habit of the mind.
2) A mantra makes you realize that with less negative thoughts in your mind, peace comes to the surface naturally. It's like, oh, so my fears and worries were keeping me away from happiness and peace. Why the heck do I have these worries and other negative thoughts anyway?
So, a mantra brings you back to that awareness of the insignificance of these thoughts.
The worries and fears might loom large, they might call on to you. They might say, 'Oh, hey you, you must focus on me. This is important. You must find a solution to this. Or else...(some negative outcome)'. A mantra then brings you back to the present moment and makes these worries and fears insignificant.
3) A mantra makes you aware of how much time you spend thinking negative thoughts, even sometimes without being aware that you are. It becomes so unconscious. You see a person you don't like, and immediately there are some negative thoughts that go through your mind.
Something didn't happen as you expected, and you mull over it, you bring in your worries and fears to that situation. Many of these negative thought patterns are subconsious and automatic, it's like we have programmed ourselves to think negatively when there are certain external triggers. Mantra helps in releasing these reactionary patterns and brings you back to present.

Some people think that when you chant a mantra such as 'Om namah shivaya', you would be trying to please Lord Shiva into give you want you want. That is not why you would chant that mantra. Shiva represents the qualities of detachment, stillness, and peace that are already within you. If you really want something from Shiva, focus on these qualities that Shiva represents that are already within you when you chant the mantra.. Feel that peace, feel that clarity and stillness when you stop paying attention to negative thoughts by chanting the mantra in your mind.

Letting go of worries and fears completely or not?!
So this is where the cycle begins. Ok, so you have this mantra going in your head to make you more aware of what's actually going on in your head! And, now what? What if there is a fear or worry that crops up due to something that just happened? It seems so urgent, this fear or worry, it seems so important. Can I focus on it just a little bit... a teeny-weeny bit?
May be I can. Ok, so mantra on hold! Let's focus for one minute. Is this fear real? Can it actually happen? Oh may be it can. Oh shit, I better do something about it! And at this moment, we have again begun the process of perpetuating the cycle of negative thoughts in the mind.
A few hours later, you are like, 'oh my god', I have gotten completely off-track. I have been mulling on my fears and worries, and have been distracted from my work! Let's get back to mantra. For the rest of today, I am going to make sure that my mind is on the mantra, nowhere else. The next day, you see someone you haven't seen in a while, again the mind presses you to focus on the negativity through a memory related to that- regrets, hurts, revenge! It's important the mind says, I must take revenge for what this person did to me! The ego also begins to press you, since it's getting a lift. Oh yeah, I am getting my revenge!
Another cycle has begun, you have gotten off the mantra and onto this 'revenge thing' and then an hour later you realize, oh I am off-track.

So the question is, can you just totally cut through this cycle of mantra to negativity to mantra and just have the mantra all through bringing you peace? We don't allow ourselves this priviledge, because of the subconsious reactions to sensory inputs. It takes a while, quite a while before the cycles begin to shorten, i.e. you begin to realize that you are in the negativity trap quicker than before and then switch to the mantra. So that's where I am aiming at.
I have been thinking to myself, I just want to let go of my fears,worries, and other negative baggage completely and just have the mantra on or just have peaceful thoughts on. Am I willing to do that? What will stop me from doing that? The answer is my fears!!! Plain and simple.
I do want to let go of my fears completely. This is where I am headed. It's going to happen: Maybe today, maybe a month later, but definitely soon.

On Thoughts

Some great reminders/articles from heaven letters on thinking:



1) The more you think of certain kinds of thoughts, the more you attract them.
For example, the more you fear or worry, the more you have those thoughts as the days go by and the easier your reality will reflect these thoughts.
2) Thoughts are like an investment. You always want to make a good investment to reap good margins in the future. Similarly, always invest in good thoughts, uplifting thoughts, joyful thoughts. Don't engage fears, worries, regrets, resentments, hatred, malice, etc. They are a trap.
While you are engaged in these negativities it feels like you are taking revenge or seeing through other people. But the other side of the coin is, these thoughts will keep you distracted from the reality for a longer time as you keep mulling over them. Also fearing something a lot attracts exactly what you fear into your life. And then you will say, 'This is exactly what I feared would happen'. So the flashbulb should go off, to realize that you must stop fearing or worrying. Period.
3) It's not easy to stop worrying or stop fearing even though you want to. It has become a habit to reflect on fears and worries, so that even if you don't want them, they may not stop.
The idea then is to deflect the mind to peaceful thoughts, happy thoughts or a mantra. And reflect more and more on these peaceful thoughts or mantras during your free time, so that you move away from worries, fears and other negativities.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

My deepest desire

Is to have constant inner peace. It's a definite possibility that I am moving towards.
Having inner peace doesn't mean you are sitting idle. It doesn't mean you are not focused or can't be focused at the same time.
Inner peace is a place of clarity. It is a place of wonderful well-being. It is a place of joy, an inner joy that gets expressed through ones actions, ones words. Inner peace is a state of being as comfy as home, as inviting as a bathtub, as clear as the blue sky.
Inner peace supports everything, it is a pillar of inner strength that can withstand any storm with calm. Inner peace is the eye of every storm.
Having inner peace means that you have cut out worries and fears from your life, it means that whatever you do, you do it with total focus and thus you become very productive at work with that state of inner peace. Inner peace knows no stress. Having constant inner peace doesn't mean, you have become a monk, although that is a great thing to aspire for. Having inner peace means that you are comfortable with yourself, with people around you, with the situation you find yourself in. Inner peace is knowing that things are perfect as they are. Inner peace is moving easily through life.
Inner peace to me is what I have been searching for all my life, without sometimes realizing it.
Meditation,prayer,contemplation,books,and blogging are my means to get closer and closer to a state of constant inner peace.
Inner peace is my deepest desire, everything else is a bonus.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A beautiful prayer

Watch it here. The video has both visual and audio appeal.

The lyrics go:

Asatoma Sadgamaya
Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya
Mrityurma Amritangamaya

Meaning (my interpretation added):

May I move from untruth to truth, from lack of clarity to clarity, from illusion of life to reality of self.

May I move from darkness to light, from negative thoughts to positive thoughts, from fear to love, from worry to peace, from stress to relaxation, from depression to joy, from resentment to gratitude. May I move towards a fuller appreciation of life, towards a celebration of life, towards a greater understanding of this grand journey, towards this grandoise unravelment of the self.

May I move from fear of death to the truth of my own immortality. May I find my true self that resides within me and know that it resides within everyone and everywhere. May I with this realization spread the word of love,peace and truth through my actions, through my thoughts, and through my words.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti hi

Peace Peace Peace.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Overcoming Panic Attacks

CAUTION: This article contains some not so pleasant details. Use your discretion in reading it.

I vaguely knew what a panic attack was, when I had one back in 2007, August. Over the month of July, I had been worrying a lot about my future. Things were not working out well with my current advisor. I was looking at my options: Quit department, change department, change advisor same department, quit university, quit Phd. Different people were giving me different opinions and that was adding to my worries. My big worry was funding, will I get funded next year or not? This worry was literally eating me up.
It started as a pain in my chest region, I wasn't sure why that pain was there because I was healthy otherwise. But the pain seemed to be slowly growing over the month of July.
One fine night in August 2007, I was biking back from my department through the school to my home. At some point I became aware that I was becoming short of breath. I stopped riding, got off my bike and went to the side of the road. Then it happened.
My heart started beating fast and soon it was pounding hard in my body, I had hot shivers go through my body and I was having a hard time standing. It felt like I was having a heart attack.
I took a lot of deep breaths and sat down on the curb till I could muster courage to get up and ride the bike back home. That night I had two more panic attacks and it was worse.
I knew two things about what was going on:
a) Whenever it happened, I was short of breath,and I felt like I was heart attack. I reasoned that I was too young to have a heart attack.
b) As if it were not enough that I had a heart pounding hard in my chest, my mind also joined the game and started zipping between places at an insane speed.. Infact I thought that at that insane pace, my mind was going out of control, which could only mean that I was going insane!

Dark night of the soul
That night, through the panic attacks, I prayed beside my mind.. My mind was having its own gibberish thoughts at insane speed, but I was also able to use the mind in between to pray to God. God, what's going on, what's happening.. My heart is pounding, I feel like I am going insane, help me. Please help me...I was totally frightened and overwhelmed by all the drama happening within my body and mind. It is the most frightening and intense experience I have ever had in my life.
From my senior high school years (when I started practicing Shavasana), I knew that the mind-body connect was definitely real. Relax the mind, and that relaxes the body and conversely; relax the body and the mind will become more relaxed too.
At this point at 3 am in the morning, once my panic attack subsided, I had only one option:
Do as many rounds of Shavasana as possible to fully relax the body and hope that the mind would calm down enough for a night's sleep.
I had trouble going through the Shavasana suggestions, since you need to atleast be able to focus the mind and say, 'Relax toe', but my mind was just zapping away carrying me with it.
I would try again and again.. Before I knew it, I would be at the toes again, working my way up.
Finally, after about an hour and many half-rounds of Shavasana, I was able to work my way from the toe to the head in one round.. This was an indication that my mind had calmed down..
I fell asleep while I was doing another of these relaxation rounds...

Daybreak and acceptance
I hardly managed three hours of sleep that night.. And I woke up many times during those 3 hours to observe my mind chattering away.. I had to figure out what was going on.
I googled my symptoms and lo and behold, I figured I was having panic attacks. Thank God, in this day and age, we live just one click away from instant answers.
I read that once you have a panic attack, it's very likely that you can have a few more, since you just need to get worried that you will have another panic attack and that will trigger one.
Panic attacks get perpetuated by panicking!! The way out? Stop panicking... Which is not at all easy, with a mind that goes out of control during panic attacks. I remember walking to Safeway that day, and there was this tall guy at the corner of the building, smoking weed and talking to himself. Looking at him brought out my fear of the insanity that I was going through the night and this set my heart pounding faster, because I was worrying about that!
I read about some strategies to reduce the risk of another panic attack.
The first thing I needed to do was cut out all of my conscious worrying that I did.
I had a copy of 'Conversations with God' by Neale Donald Walsch. I browsed through it and came across this phrase in the book, 'What you resist, persists'. I decided to adopt the attitude of 'acceptance'. Let me just accept my situation, however bad it may seem. Let me let go of my worries. Coupled with these perspectives, I relaxed my body as much as I could during the day, so that my night would be a little more peaceful.
The next night wasn't as intense but I still did have a panic attack. I did my Shavasana rounds and managed to catch some sleep.
That whole week, all I did during the day, was just walk around the campus, enjoy the scenery, relax, read a book, pray to God, and just accepting my situation and being grateful that I am alive: Things I had been postponing due to my worrying habit. And during the night, I relaxed my body as much as I could through Shavasanas.
Every night got better than the previous one.. My panic attacks stopped after 3 days, but I would still be short of breath and my heart would start racing all of a sudden frequently, but the thoughts in my mind started mellowing down, which was a great relief for me.
I continued my Shavasana routine every night for the next one month, and thankfully, I was able to put the Panic attacks behind me and get a new perspective on life: 'Nothing, really, nothing, is worth my peace of mind'.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A powerful relaxation technique: Shavasana

I. Introduction
My first exposure to yoga was in my fifth grade. I started going to yoga classes nearby in the morning. We first started with some basic stretching exercises.. Having warmed up, we sat down for breathing exercises including Anuloma-viloma, Bhastrika (Bellows breath), Kapalabhati (skull shining breath), etc. After that, we would do the Suryanamaskar(Salutations to the Sun exercises) and then take it easy for a while before getting onto asanas(Yogic postures). Towards the end of the asanas routine, we would do the shavasana or corpse-posture.
The idea is to make the body go limp or flaccid just like a corpse. Shavasana is one of the most peaceful relaxation techniques I have come across.
After a while, I stopped going to Yoga classes.
I was reintroduced to Shavasana when I was in my 10th grade by my maternal uncle, when I was prone to getting tense often. This technique helped me keep calm during those stressful years, where I had to focus well on my studies to get into a good college.

II. Shavasana Technique
Here's the technique I use(usually before going to sleep):

1) Lie down on your back or to your side (whichever is comfortable), preferably on a firm or not-very-elastic surface.
2) Close your eyes. Now, mentally relax each part of the body beginning at the feet and ending at the top of the body. The relaxation happens through suggestions in your mind to relax a part of the body. Once you practice this technique a few times, you can realize the relaxation that happens by this auto-suggestive process very tangibly.

Below, I give the exact details of how I go about doing my auto-suggestion for relaxation:
I begin with the right leg, then my left leg, then my upper body, then my neck, face and finally the head.
I try to go into as much detail(body parts) as possible. Here are the details:
i) Right leg:
a) I repeat in my mind, 'Relax the toes' and feel the toes becoming lax.
b) 'Relax the ankle joint' and feel the area around the ankle joint relax.
c) 'Relax the calf muscles' and feel it relaxing.
d) 'Relax the knee joint'.
e) 'Relax the right thigh muscles'.
f) 'Relax the right quadriceps'.

Similarly, I relax the different parts of my left leg.

ii) Groin through upper body:
a) 'Relax the groin'
b) 'Relax the small intestine'
c) 'Relax the large intestine'
d) 'Relax the pancreas'
e) 'Relax the liver, lungs'
f) 'Relax the heart'. The heart has four chambers. I go into those details too:
'Relax the left auricle', 'Relax the left ventricle', 'Relax the right auricle', 'Relax the right ventricle'.
g) 'Relax the bronchial tubes or the wind pipe'
h) 'Relax the esophagus or the food pipe'.
i) 'Relax the throat - Relax the larynx and the pharynx (voicebox)'.
j)'Relax the teeth and tounge'.

iii) Neck through top of the head
a) 'Relax the neck,cheeks'
b)'Relax the eyes, ears, eyebrows(!),forehead,nostrils,nose,ears'
c)'Relax the brain - Right and left hemispheres. Relax the cerebrum,cerebellum and medulla'.
d) Relax the skull.

This is one round of Shavasana for me. You can see just by looking at the details above, there are a lot of places to relax the body, a lot of places where small pockets of tension could be released just by imagining and suggesting that it be relaxed. By the end of one round of Shavasana, I am significantly more relaxed than before.
I use this technique on a day to day basis to get my body fully relaxed before going to sleep every night.
I have also used this method to effect in many situations and periods of my life to great effect.
This technique has been a saving grace to me through panic attacks(that I had for about a week in 2007) and Obsessive compulsive disorder( that I had during my highschool/college days,though I actually overcame OCD through mindfulness meditation).

Ofcourse, you don't need to have panic attacks and OCDs to realize the benefits of Shavasana.
The average person these days gets stressed out often. To realize that stress is an intrinsic mechanism and isn't strongly related to circumstances is a powerful thing to know. That you can be at peace irrespective of where you are, what situation you are in is a powerful thing to know.
Shavasana is one step towards that knowing. It can get your body relaxed quickly with practice.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jon Kabat Zinn on Mindfulness Meditation @ Google

Fantastic FAQs on meditation

I found this website that has very good FAQs. The questions cover many many aspects of meditation experiences, kinds of meditation, problems, etc and the answers are pretty good.
Jim Malloy, who compiled this FAQ seems to be very knowledgeable and full of wisdom gained from his meditation practice and experiences. Really worth a visit if you are into meditation. Here's the link.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beuatiful songs

The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje was in Seattle last summer. I was there for his talk in one of the big auditoriums in Downtown seattle. The introductory song, consisted of 'Karmapa Khyenno'...
This song, whose lyrics I didn't understand, struck a chord with me.. I was deeply resonating with its tune and it seemed to remind me of something...I was a little in tears listening to this song.
I found it on youtube later on:

Here's a similar tuned song:

To worry or not to worry: That is the question!

'To be or not to be: That is the question', is a oft-quoted one from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
'Being' is a state. You can be happy, sad, fearful, joyful, high, low, peaceful, or in a state of 'worry'.
Let's look at worry.

If you say, you are fearless and yet worry, you do not understand worry completely.
When you worry about something, when you worry for example, on whether your relationship is headed in the right direction or not, or whether your career is unfolding as you expect it to: The basis for these worries is fear. You fear the consequence of the relationship not turning out well. You fear the consequence of your career not turning out as expected.
There is a distinction between being cautious and planning ahead vs worrying about it. Worrying is a repetitive state of mind, where one plays out 'what-if' scenarios in one's head repeatedly. It is a state that begets more of itself. That is to say, the more you worry, the more you can worry!

The understanding that stems out of examining worry is that, it serves no purpose, at all! It could probably keep you stressed, it could probably keep you tense, it could probably make your heart beat fast, and it could also affect your health adversely.
But positive affects of worrying? None, whatsoever. (Let me know if there is one!)

All this is easy to understand, but to say, 'Ok I am going to stop worrying. I will plan ahead, but I will not worry' - That might not work out. Why, you ask? It's because the mind does the worrying and you are asking the 'mind' to stop worrying. You are talking about calming down the mind!
Who said that's an easy job?
When a 'direct' approach to stop worrying doesn't work, one can turn to 'indirect' approaches. Some of them are:
a) Having positive thoughts about whatever you are worrying about. Example: It's all going to work out well, It's all going to be good, etc.
b) Distracting your mind from the worry through focusing on something else. For example, focusing on your work..Putting all attention to it. Or, taking a break and doing a favorite activity, etc.
c) Understanding the mind-body connect: Relaxing the body, calms down the mind and calming down the mind, relaxes the body and applying it by using a relaxation technique to relax the body and thus calm down the mind.
d) Meditation - Active or passive.

What do a),b),c) and d) have in common? They are all centering tools.. They center your awareness to the present moment, which is free of all worries, fears, regrets, hurts, etc: All the things that keep you from being happy. So the idea is simple: Be in the present moment(i.e. your mind focused on the present), whatever activity you maybe engaged in and that's the key to happiness.
Sound's simple? But the implementation is the tough part. As with anything, the implementation is made easier through practice.
For me, this is a totally sound basis for using these centering tools. The last centering tool, meditation is as varied as you can imagine. In meditation, centering can achieved by focusing on one's breath, which is ever present, or focusing on an object of one's choice, outside of oneself or within one's own imagination. Meditation can also be of a passive kind, where you can act as an observer to whatever's happening at the present moment. You can also be an observer to your own thoughts! 'I am observing my own thoughts!' - Isn't that funny?
The next question is, if you are observing your thoughts, who is thinking them? :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hiking and Meditation

How are these two related?
I remember the first hike I had once my spring quarter ended in 2008. I was going through a rough patch in life and I hadn't hiked in a while. Going on in my mind was a lot of worries and fears.. What if? Will that happen? Oh my god, where is my Phd headed? You know, I was a good 'worrier'.

When I went hiking on that spring afternoon, I remember thinking, what the heck? So many thoughts rushing through my head and all of them are my fears and worries. All through my hike to the top of tiger mountain and back, I had these thoughts rushing through.. I was helpless, I was a mere observer. I wasn't engaging them, I wasn't doing anything, it was just happening.. I was a mere observer. Atleast I tried to be, but I was also worrying about these worrisome thoughts in my mind!! The next day, I went hiking again to a different place, and felt a little better. The next day, I went hiking to Wallace falls state park, it was raining all through, it was pouring, but I enjoyed the hike.

The connection between hiking and meditation is this: In the meditation I do, I just observe whatever thoughts are going on in my mind, passively, without engaging them.. This is also known as mindfulness meditation.
During my first hike, these thoughts were rushing through.. Being in nature, being in solitude, puts you in touch with your unwanted worries and fears.. That's why some people fear being alone.. They don't want to face their thoughts. Hiking in nature is like a soothing caress.
If there is excess baggage that you are carrying around in your mind, nature brings it out, so that you feel better at the end.. That's what happened to me during that hike.
This happened to my friend too.. He came hiking with me and he just couldn't stop talking.
I asked him to enjoy the hike but he said that if he stopped talking, he had to listen to all the chatter in his mind!! So he did the next best thing, listen to music on his mp3 player.

I remember another ocassion, I was very worried about something. I had to take a break and go for a walk. There was a trail near Udub I hadnt explored. I went in that direction, found that trail and that trail went to the edge of the lake union, beautiful place that is. In the beginning I was continuing my worrisome state, what if? Oh what should I be doing, etc. But as I entered the trail, my thoughts slowed down. I had a distinct recognition that I was more peaceful now than before.. I started enjoying the scenery around, I came back refreshed. Nature is a wonderful, nurturing place to be in.

Combining hiking and meditation. Since there is a definite parallel between hiking and meditation, why not combine them? Thats what I have been doing on my recent hikes.
Stop, and smell the flowers. Admire the tall tree. Be amazed by the different shades of green all around. Sit in a quiet spot on the trail, and just enjoy the silence. Enjoy and be grateful for the fact that you are in a wonderful place, right here, right now. Hiking, I love it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dream big, dream a lot!

From heavenletters, a daily email I get:

God said:

Dreams beyond your imaginings are coming true. I have told you this before, and I am telling you again.

You may still be thinking the world is unchanged, and that your hopes and dreams will be dashed as they may have been in the past.

Beloveds, no longer use the past as your reference point. It is not reliable, and, frankly, the past is not relevant.

The world is not the same. Nor are you the same. You know you are not what you once were. What makes you think you have changed and the world hasn’t? The world has kept up with you. The world may well be ahead of you now. In any case, the world you once knew is not the same world in front of you today.

If I told you that you are standing at the edge of an abyss and you are in great danger, you would believe Me, is that not so? How easily you believe in doom and danger. And now I tell you that you are standing at the edge of a new world. This world has washed its face, and you will hardly recognize it. Come, children, believe in the joy that is on its way to you. Dare to believe, and dare to make new dreams so that they may come true.

This is the world dreamed of, and now it is yours. Now it is the world you live in. Oh, some of the pictures of the former world you lived in remain, yet those held-over pictures are fading fast.

Rain falls from the heavens. Snow as well. Dreams fulfilled will also fall from Heaven, and why not for you? Why not your dreams, beloveds? In case you have grown beyond your old dreams, dream new dreams now. Dream of what you want now. Go beyond even your finest material dreams. What do you really want? What dreams do you really want to come true? Dream them. Keep dreaming them. Keep having dream after dream, one on top of the other. Let your dreams spill over into the world. The world is thirsty for your dreams. It will lap them up. From your dreams, the world will grow. Your dreams are sprouting now.

You are the manna from Heaven. You create the gifts that Heaven bestows on you. First you dream. Then you receive. All your blessings do not really fall from the sky. They fall from you. It is you who tosses them up. You make it possible for you to receive your dreams. Dreams are thoughts. Thoughts radiate. Dreams radiate. Dreams come true because you radiate them.

Your dreams are like gifts you give. One dream nests within another, the way boxes fit inside another. When you open one box, you find a host more of boxes inside. So with dreams, you find one following after another. Dreams are something like cut-out paper dolls, each attached to the other, each dream holding hands with another. There is dream after dream, each one pulling the next one along.

Start your dreams, beloveds. Let them rise like balloons up into the sky. Let them rise. Your dreams will gather their fruit and then return themselves to you. You will see your dreams come true. They will dance before you. Dreams dreamt become dreams realized. You will have dreams to the right of you, dreams to the left of you. Dreams beget dreams. You will gradually see that life is all made of dreams come true. Let your dreams precede and follow you.

Dream your dreams, beloveds. Dreaming manifests. Have good dreams. Watch for them to multiply.


Veronica on After life

Bashar, Veronica, St. Germain - These 'non-physical' entities are my favorite source of information and inspiration.

Here's a video by Veronica on after life:


Monday, June 01, 2009

It's been a year... Part I

Since I began meditating. Lot of changes have happened within me. What I mean by that is, there have been changes in my attitude towards life, the way I respond in any given situation, the way I compose myself, etc. Meditation helps you identify patterns that you indulge in unconsciously or subconsciously. It's been 3 incredible years I have had in Seattle....This post will also double up as a flash back of relevant periods of my life!

Fight or flight
I read recently in the book, 'Surprised by Grace', by Amber Terrell on how we indulge in the 'fight or flight' pattern. What this means is, given any situation, if the situation is perceived to be unfavorable by some yardstick that is unique to every individual, then there is a tendency to either fight the situation or run away from the situation.
What else could you do, you ask? Well, you could become 'comfortable' with the uncomfortablness!
Really, that's what meditation has put me in touch with: becoming comfortable with the 'uncomfortable', the 'unacceptable', the 'oh no - not again', the 'never agains', etc.

OCD and Meditation
Infact, I suffered from a chemical imbalance 9 years back and the disease was called, 'Obsessive Compulsive disorder' (OCD), although this wasn't the repetitive action thing.. It was a repetitive thought thing. In the common form of OCD, people tend to repeat actions, like washing hands 20 times to make sure it's clean or checking if the door is closed 10 times before leaving the house etc. In the OCD I had, I would get repetitive thoughts of a particular kind. These thoughts I absolutely detested and wanted them out of my mind.. But they would come anyway uninvited and not once a day, or once an hour, they would remind me of their presence every minute.
Sleep was my only respite from these thoughts. I constantly prayed to god at that time.. please relieve me of these thoughts that trouble me, please help me become comfortable with myself.
You see, it was all about becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable, the unacceptable.
In 2003, my 2nd year of my undergrad program, I attended a 3 day workshop by Swami Sukhbodhanada, where I learnt a few meditation techniques (Read about that here). Until then I had been on medication: I was using a drug called fludac and it was supposed to calm the mind. But in hindsight, I think the drug wouldn't have done me a whole lot of good if I had continued with it. I stopped using this drug after I learnt the meditation.
Infact, when I did the observation meditation, I attempted at becoming comfortable with the unacceptable, detestable thought. That was the beginning of my recovery from this dis-ease.
I practiced that meditation for sometime, and then I discontinued it once I took up running, another excellent way to get in touch with your self and come out of depression... (I had small bouts of depression too during that period). I also practiced a relaxation technique called Shavasana every day, which was very effective in keeping my body relaxed.
From then on, my life took a change. Really, sometimes I just couldn't bear the thoughts I had, it was because I had a strong hatred for those thoughts from my childhood. Sometimes I thought, I would go insane. But it didn't happen, infact now I see the dis-ease as my training ground.
Through the OCD experience, I learnt how strong I am, mentally strong that is and I also learnt that constant hatred can set you up for an experience like I had, where you learn to be at peace with anything and everything, no matter how unacceptable it may be.
It' s not that you favor the unacceptable, it's just that you don't pay attention to it. And you do that by first making peace with it, and second, by letting it go.

Coming back..
That was a brief flashback! Yes, well, OCD was my first ginormous life-challenge that I overcame successfully. My second set of life-changing experiences began when I landed in Seattle to pursue my Phd program. More on this Part II of this post..!

Meditation, I find is fundamental to my life.. It's the reason, I overcame the OCD, it's what has kept me stable during periods of instability(see part II of this post). My gratitude abound for meditation being a part of my life today.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Creating space for meditation

I have moved into a new house in Greenlake, Seattle. And before even moving in, I imagined how the space I allocate for meditation would be. It would be a large enough sitting area surrounded by things I consider sacred, which include crystals and pictures of sacred dieties and inspiriational people. And that is how I have it right now. My meditation sessions have also gone up in time.. I am able to do 30 minutes on an average these days and they get deep once I hit the 20 minute mark. 2 days back I did a 45 minute meditation (I didn't time it) which I didn't want to end. When I opened my eyes, I felt refreshed and a little sleepy. So I guess sacred space is pretty important for meditation. My previous apartment was very crowded and I didn't have a set space. This new apartment, I have created a nice space for my meditation practice and made sure that there is nothing nearby that's haphazard or disorganized.
Meditation also helps me see through the illusions of life, the dramas of life. If I am perturbed by something, I look forward to my meditation during the night, for I know that I will come out of the meditation feeling relaxed, reassured and have a good night's sleep.
Here's to deeper meditation and more inner peace and bliss through daily commitment to meditation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wonderful article from Heaven letters - On love

I subscribe to a daily email from Heaven letters, where the medium, Gloria, communicates with God.. You can think of it as a channeling or inspired writing, but I know it's consistent with the messages from books, from youtube, etc. Just have an open mind when you read it and enjoy.
How would it be if God were to communicate on a daily basis? Here's one of the daily emails I get:

God said:

What if you could remove the word they from your vocabulary? Then from whom would you be separated? You would not see anyone sitting across from you as opposite to you, and you would not be opposed to anyone's existence. No longer would you ever feel infringed upon, for you would know that everyone is yourself and due all the love and honor in the world and Heaven that you deserve and that you may presently feel has been denied you or taken away from you. You would never feel lack again. You would understand everything and misunderstand nothing.

When you eliminate the concept of them you would really know something. The thought of enemy would not occur to you. You would not feel superior or inferior to anyone. You would not be above or below. You would sit beside. You would be compassion incarnate. You would be the love you are. You would be a bright star on Earth, shining with all the other stars that reflect you and reflect Me.

You would not feel a need to cast judgment because you would know that all are supreme and entitled, and you would bless all from the richness of your heart.

And when hearts are full, who would think of punishment? What a far-fetched idea punishment would be! Who would want to think of punishment when love is front stage? Punishment would not give joy to anyone. How could it? Such a frivolous flighty thing punishment is. Punishment is, of course, nonexistent next to love. It cannot even be conceived of when love is in bloom. What ills of the world can be conceived of next to the power of love? What doesn't fade away next to love? Without love, what matters? And with love, what else matters? What can hold a candle to love? I know of nothing. Certainly worldly goods do not add up next to love.

Love is your best friend. The love in your heart is the most powerful asset you have, and you have many. Whatever talents you have, no matter how wondrous, they are next to nothing when compared to love. Your talents are beautiful, and I adjure you to develop them, and yet, without love, they are nothing.

Stay close to love, beloveds. Foster it in your heart. Desire to be a great giver of love. Give Divine Love to the world. Just love the world, and the world will swell in your love. The world will not be shy to accept your love. So, yes, love the world and all in it.

If you think the world is too crowded for you to love everyone, move over on the park bench you sit on and make room, or give someone your seat. Your heart, unlike the park bench, however, knows no limits and can accommodate all. There is no limit to the fullness of your heart. Fill your heart up with My love, and then let that love go like a balloon that flies up to the sky. All you have to do is to let go of your love, and it will rise, and it will succor the world. Your love will reach all hearts. Your love will reach the furthermost stars, and it will reach those who sit on curbs lonely, waiting for love. Your love will fill the vacancy in any heart. Your love is a seed that you scatter, and it will land where it will, and it will grow on good soil wherever it lands. I bless you, and I bless your love, and I bless all upon whom your love falls.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nothing matters revisited

Nothing matters is one of my favorite insights, and more so because I have actually been in an experience that forced me to ask myself if it really matters. And the answer was it doesn't. Nothing really matters.. Because at death, what you amassed in terms of money or what position you rose to in your career.. It doesn't matter. And death is just a horizon to a new beginning.
Nothing really matters.. yes, I had this profound insight in September 2007 and it's the most delicious insight I have ever had. My life came to the point where I said, it doesn't matter.. It doesn't matter if I need to quit my Phd program..(I was ready at that point to accept that situation if it happened..) I am good, if I am penniless, I am good. It doesn't matter at all if any of my fears come true. To hell with my fears. That's the power of nothing matters.. You can kick the word 'fear' out of your life. Here's an article I read that reminded me of this insight.
Enjoy.. Because It doesn't Matter!!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Spiritual Movies

I had a marathon friday night with 4 back to back movies and one movie on Saturday.
I watched:
1) Celestine Prophecy - A pretty good movie, I liked the scenes where they show the auras of two people interacting and influencing one another. Set in the jungles of Peru, it is a thriller on uncovering insights - It's a spiritual thriller.
2) Enchanted - An animation cum real world movie.. Pretty funny, loved the Chipmunk character.
3) Groundhog day - One of those wonderful movies you don't want to end. The central message is: If you had just one day to live your life, how would you live it?
4) Made in heaven - Nice look at the concept of reincarnation through a love story.
5) City of Angels - Although I disagree on the portrayal of angels in this movie, this movie was a decent watch.

Here's a webpage that gives it's version of 50 good spiritual movies.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Heaven and Hell: Do they exist?

What do you think? Or rather, what do you believe in?

I believe you can and do have heaven and hell right here on earth: Heaven and hell are states of mind. Not some real places in the far beyond.

Hell is when you mull over your past and worry about the future incessantly.
Hell is when you beat yourself up for not living up to your goals or expectations.
Hell is when you think that there is a God out there judging each and every action of yours.
Hell is when you think that the concept of sin is real
Hell is when you do something so as to not hurt others but that in turn hurts you.
Hell is when you try to be in every one's good books.
Hell is when you turn to fear instead of love.
Hell is when you think you are only capable of so much - Hell is when you limit yourself, or have limiting beliefs such as 'I am no good' or 'I knew I would fail doing this'.
Hell is when you can't understand why the so-called bad things happen to people.
Hell is when you always see the negative aspects of every situation that you come across in your life.
Hell is when you fear death.
Hell is when you don't recognize the divine within you.

Heaven is when you know that there is no reason to fear... ever. Not even death (Look up NDE).
Heaven is when you know that, 'What you believe, you become'
Heaven is when you know that there is no limit to what you are capable of.
Heaven is when you know that your 'thoughts, beliefs, actions' create or determine your reality or how you perceive it, and that the very knowing of this can empower you.
Heaven is when you know that 'Situations, people's behaviors, incidents are perfect as they are and that all you have to do is accept the gift that they bring to you.
Heaven is when you know that you are fundamentally divine. (String theory says that the fundamental essence of matter is energy).
Heaven is when you know that you are here on earth to grow spiritually through experiences.. good and bad.
Heaven is when you know that experiences, especially the bad ones, bring you the greatest life lessons and accelerate your spiritual growth.
Heaven is when you know that life is just a game, and that we are all God essence, pretending to be humans.
Heaven is when you know that nothing, really nothing, that happens on earth has even the slightest impact on who you really are: A god-being.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Observing your thoughts: A meditation technique

I was introduced to this meditation technique of observing the thoughts in a 3-day workshop( by Swami Sukhbodhananda) I attended in India 6 years back.

The only thing you need to do in this meditation technique is just passively observe the thoughts without engaging them. If you get a thought, 'Oh, I have to finish this work by tomorrow' while meditating, just observe it. Don't engage the thought by replying in your mind, 'Oh yeah, lot of stuff to do'. If you get a thought, 'I have to pick up the mail after the meditation', just observe this thought, you are not in a pressure mode here, relax, you will remember what you need to do once you finish the meditation. You see, the only thing that you have to do is be an observer, a passive spectator, see the games and tricks the mind plays, observe how it brings up the past, or the future. The mind does a good job of bringing up past hurts or future worries. See the thoughts the mind brings about passively.
Now, thinking, 'I have to just observe my thoughts, I have to just observe my thoughts' is NOT observing, but participating with the thoughts. So how do you get around this?
Before beginning the meditation, make an intention to just observe the thoughts and not get caught up in the thoughts that surface during observation. You don't have to silence the thoughts. Let them go on, but don't engage them either. Be a passive audience to the thoughts. It takes some practice, but with time, you will begin to not engage the thoughts and start to enjoy the meditation and the silence it brings about.
I personally have had quite a few meditations where the thoughts gradually died down without any effort on my part as the meditation progressed and the ensuing silence (or very few thoughts) was beautiful.

Here's a great article that elucidates this method.
Also, here's a post I wrote earlier on how the meditation practice unfolds.

Friday, February 20, 2009

On Death

Wondeful article on death here.
I am copying the above article below ;)

Summary of the article
1) Death is a transition as is birth. Life is a momentary experience that the soul wishes to have to expand it's perspective and learn lessons. The soul existed before birth and exists after death.
2) There is no reason to fear death. Death is a joyful experience and not a painful one as thought by the masses.
3) You exist.. Forever. During birth, you take on a body, the physical body.
During death, you shed the same body. But shedding one's clothes doesn't have anything to do with shedding one's identity does it? Same is the case with shedding your body. Your identity remains the same after death, albeit the body that limits you is given up. You can think and feel in the same way you did on earth, except that you have more freedom now to explore.
4) Your loved ones are just a heart beat away from you. We are all one, so we are all connected even after death and beyond.

The Article

Dear friends, beloved angels of light, I greet you all. It is from the heart of the Christ energy that I, Jeshua, reach out my hand and extend my greeting to you.

Beloved angel, know that you are cherished. Know that you are loved unconditionally, even now while you reside in a body of flesh and blood, a mortal body. Even while living within the boundaries of this temporary home, you are still unconditionally part of God, the Home for which you long so much. You have never truly left Home, yet you do not recognize the eternal flame which remains alight forever within your being. Get in touch with that light in this moment, cherish yourself, know who you are. A light burns within you, so beautiful and pure. How come you ever doubted this?

Today we speak about dying. Much fear exists concerning death. Fear of annihilation, fear of oblivion, fear of being swallowed up by the big black hole associated with death. As so often the case in the earthly dimension, you tend to turn things topsy-turvy and present them exactly opposite to the way they actually are. In reality, death is liberation, a homecoming, a remembrance of who you really are.

When death comes, you effortlessly return to your natural state of being. Your consciousness blends with the flame of light which is your true identity. Earthly burdens are lifted from your shoulders. Residing within a physical body imposes limitations on you. It is true that you chose to dive into this state of limitation because of the possibility for experience it had to offer. Nevertheless it’s a sensation of bliss to be restored to your natural angelic state. The angel inside you loves to fly and be free, to freely investigate the myriad of worlds which constitute the universe. There is so much to explore and to experience. Once you are born into an earthly body, you more or less lose touch with this angelic freedom and sense of being without limits.

Please join me now, as we go back to the moment just before the dive into your present incarnation. On an inner level you permitted yourself to commence this earthly life. It was a conscious choice. Perhaps you have forgotten about this, and you occasionally feel doubtful about whether you really want to be here. Yet there has been a moment in which you said “yes”. This was a courageous choice. It is an act of great bravery to temporarily trade your angelic freedom and sense of non-limitation for the adventure of becoming human, of becoming mortal. That adventure holds a promise that makes it all worthwhile. Feel the “yes!” that once rose from your soul. Remember also being drawn to earth. Feel how you connected to earth reality, and feel the moment you descended into the embryo within your mother’s womb. You may notice there is heaviness surrounding planet earth, a certain greyness or thickness.

There is much suffering on earth. Pain, loss, fear, negative thoughts are part of earth’s collective atmosphere. And that is what you, as a freshly incarnating soul, passed through. Your light found itself a way through this darkness and in doing so an unavoidable veil of ignorance fell over your original angelic awareness. Feel the sadness of that event, and behind it, your courage and bravery. You were determined: “I am going to do it. Once more, I am going to root myself into this earth reality, in order to find my own light, in order to recognize it, to rediscover it, and to pass it on to this world which is so in need of it.”

Yes, it has been a leap into ignorance. Temporarily forgetting who you are, not remembering your unbound state of being is part of being human. You forget that you are safe and free, no matter where you are. Being human, you set out to reclaim that natural sense of freedom and safety. In your quest, you can become ensnared by powers that seem to offer you what you are looking for, but in fact are making you dependent on something outside of you. You may lean upon judgments coming from outside yourself, telling you how to behave in order to be loved. These false images of Home, these substitutes, tend to sadden and depress you. Indeed, the journey down from heaven to earth has been a tough one. Death, however, transports you back to the plane of eternal love and safety. It is in dying that you surrender to who you have always been. If you die consciously, if you can accept death and surrender to it, dying becomes a joyous event.

What happens when you die? Before you die, you pass through a stage of parting and letting go. It is a phase wherein you say farewell to earthly life, to your loved ones. This can be difficult, yet at the same time it offers you the possibility to reflect deeply upon who you are, and what you have learned and accomplished on earth during your lifetime. In the grief you may sense in letting go of your loved ones, it becomes ever so clear what connects you to them. It is a bond of love which is immortal. This bond is so powerful that it effortlessly passes across the boundary that is death. Love is an inexhaustible source, forever giving rise to new life. Do not fear to lose your loved ones, for it is in the moment of saying goodbye that the bonds of unconditional love are reinforced and given new life. For it is certain: when you part in love, you will meet again. You will find one another again, effortlessly, because the shortest way to another always remains the way of the heart.

If you have loved ones who passed over, you can be sure that they are near to you at the level of the heart. Feel their presence, for they are here among us, extending their greeting to you. They feel privileged and free. They are free from the doubt which plagues so many on earth and they yearn to share with you the love and kindness which is available to you at all times.

Those who remain behind often associate the phase prior to their loved one’s dying with feelings of sadness and loss. It is natural to grieve the departure of a loved one; it is natural to miss and yearn for the loved one’s physical presence. However, we encourage you to try and feel that with their departure a gate toward a new dimension is opened, a dimension where communication is of a nature so pure, clear and direct that it rises above the methods for communication commonly used on earth. You can have direct communication with a loved one after they die, from your heart to their heart. This way, misconceptions which used to stand between you can easily be cleared, once you honestly and openly communicate with the other. Your message will be received, always.

Once you yourself have died, you will view people who are living on earth from a different perspective. You will be more tolerant, mild and you will find yourself with an increased sense of wisdom. You will not be completely balanced all at once, because there are emotions and feelings that you take with you and which need to be dealt with. You will not be perfect or omniscient once you let go of physical life. And that’s not so bad really, for there is still so much to experience and discover on this side! Yet, in most of you there is a new perspective. The dimension of eternity is tangible and this respectfully mitigates your view of what occupied you and the people directly around you during your stay on earth.

Now, what happens to YOU once you pass the boundary of death? Once you have gone through the mourning stage, the stage of saying farewell, you will feel start to feel death drawing closer. The focus of your consciousness now changes. Letting go of the outside world, the people, your body, it will now turn within and move deeper inside of you. Your awareness of the outside world diminishes and this allows you to prepare for the inner journey you are about to embark on. If you consciously accept death, you will experience a “getting ready”, a readiness to truly let go. For your loved ones, this is the moment to let you go, for you need all your strength to turn within and prepare yourself.

Dying need not be a painful process. What actually takes place is of a grand and majestic nature. Dying is a holy event wherein the soul connects with itself in a most intimate manner. During the final stage, the dying person senses the earthly dimension in a detached way: the body, the scents, colours, and other physical sensations. Another dimension is entering their awareness, with a radiance so promising and inviting, that it is not so hard anymore to surrender and leave all things earthly behind. Even the presence of your loved ones will not stop you from going now. The energy of Home - God, heaven or whatever you want to call it - is so overwhelmingly kind, warm and reassuring that it become easy to let go and return your tired and worn-out body to earth.

Once you let go in peace, your soul will rise up from your body gently and fluidly. You will feel supported by universal forces of wisdom and love. If you die without resistance, your immediate surroundings will be filled with warm and loving energy. You will experience an unspeakable sense of relief. You are free, and everything becomes clear. You remember the omnipresence of Love, not as an abstract idea but as a palpable reality. While on earth, you called this kind of love “God”, and you kept a biased, human image of what this God “wanted from you”. You were convinced that there were certain demands made by this God, demands to which you usually did not comply. But here in this dimension, you recall what God’s will truly is: to ensoul you, to inspire you, to experience creation through you and to finally recognize Itself in your countenance. God wanted to become human through you. The goal of the universe’s evolution is YOU: God become human!

God is the source of creation, and you are its fulfilment. You, who have given the light of God human form, are never judged for being human. Instead you are honoured. The idea of a vengeful God is yet another perversion, a reversal of truth instigated by fear. God recognizes Itself in you, regardless of what you do or don’t do. When you are back on this side, you become aware of this again, and a truckload of self-judgment and feelings of inferiority will slide off your shoulders. You will feel the original joy of living again, safe in God’s hand.

Soon after your arrival here, you will perceive light beings around you. There will be guides to assist you and people you knew who passed over before you. Sometimes it will surprise you who you will run into over there: people whom you met only briefly, but who touched your heart deeply, may be there alongside lifelong friends and relatives. Anyone you had a connection with based in love, will come to greet you at some point. Once again, it becomes so clear to you that saying farewell is but an illusion, that the heart-connection is eternal. You will experience a sense of thankfulness and of awe, as you enter this plane of unconditional love and wisdom.

After you arrive on this side, there is a phase of adjustment, in which you get used to your new environment and slowly release your attachment to earth life. You will need to acclimatize. There will be guides to support you who are specialized in this. You will still have a body yet it will feel more fluid than the physical body you were used to. Most likely it will take on the appearance of your most recent physical body. Although there is freedom to take on any appearance that you desire, most people appreciate some continuity for a while. You are also free to create your own living conditions, for instance a beautiful house with a lovely garden, in a natural environment you were fond of while on earth. It is quite all right to live out your earthly fantasies on this plane, which I refer to as the astral plane. This is a dimension or realm of being which allows for much creative freedom, although it still resembles and is closely connected to the dimension of physical earth.

Some people have had difficulty accepting death on earth and their transition to the other side may have been less peaceful. They usually need more time to adapt to their new life circumstances. Sometimes it takes a while before they truly realize that they have passed on. Some people have suffered a long-term illness, and find it hard to shake the idea of being ill. They cannot fully believe they are healthy again, and it often takes the patient and gentle support of a spiritual guide to help them release their old body. The old body can stick to the soul, purely as a concept, as a thought-form. The same goes for emotional habits and patterns of behaviour. They can repeat themselves on the astral plane until the soul discovers its freedom, its power to let go and open up to something new.

Another possibility is that a soul remains attached to the earth realm, to loved ones in particular, because they died suddenly or very young. This can happen in the case of accidents, disasters, or when the person was in the prime of life. These are situations in which a particular soul did not feel ready or prepared to make the departure. Dying in those cases is more or less traumatic. There is loving support on this side for these traumatized souls, as there always is. Sooner or later the soul will reach a state of acceptance and understanding of the situation. There is always a viable reason for what seems to be a premature departure from the earth plane. Dying is never a coincidence.

As your stay on the other side extends, your spirit expands into wider and deeper levels of awareness. More and more will you let go of the ways of thinking and feeling you were used to on earth. Essentially, you gradually go back to the core of who you are, your soul, the divine spark within. The more you enter – or return - to that state of consciousness, the more you detach yourself from your earthly personality and the dimension of earth. You will sense a flow of being which reaches beyond that aspect of you. You will get in touch with other lifetimes you spent on earth, incarnations wherein you embodied other aspects of your soul. You become aware of the boundless space that is your soul and the many experiences you have gathered on your journey through the universe.

When people on earth connect to you now, they will sense a person who has gained in wisdom and spiritual love. In fact, as you are moving closer the core of your soul, you are leaving the astral plane and entering what I call the essential plane, the realm of Essence. Most people stay on the astral plane for quite a while after they have died. They look back on their life on earth and reflect on all the experiences they have gone through. In the astral realm, you can experience both joy and depression, both positive and negative emotions. Your surroundings mirror your inner psychological reality. The emotions you have to come to terms with, take on the form of colours, landscapes and encounters. You often visit the astral realm in your dreams, so you are familiar with this field of awareness. In your esoteric literature, when they speak of many layers or spheres in the afterlife, ranging from dark to light, it is the astral plane that is referred to.

On the astral plane, you get a chance to sort out the emotional luggage you’ve brought along from your recent life on earth. In this you are assisted by several loving guides. At some point, you will let go of all your attachments and emotional pain, and you’re ready to move beyond the astral plane altogether. That’s when you pass on to the plane of essence. When this happens, it is like a second death. You leave behind anything that does not truly belong to you and allow yourself to merge with the greater You, your divine core. The moment you pass on to the essential plane, you will be aware of the immense power that moves you. You will experience your oneness with God.

The plane of essence, the plane of the eternal You, is the seat of the divine consciousness from which all creation originates. I ask you to take a moment to connect to this plane, here and now. It is not far away. It permeates everything, both the astral plane and the earth plane; it permeates the entire cosmos. The presence you sense here is the presence of God, pure and untainted. It may be sensed as a deep silence, completely peaceful yet brimming with life and creativity. From this source springs all of creation and to this source it shall return.

When you reach the essential plane in afterlife, you will be able to make conscious choices regarding your future destination. On this plane you may arrange, with the help of teachers and guides, another incarnation on earth, or plan a different journey, dependent on your goals. You can clearly hear the voice of your soul on the essential plane. It is from this plane that you once said “yes” to the life in which you now find yourself.

Take a moment to remember what it felt like to be on this plane. The more you become aware of this dimension during your life on earth, the easier it will be to die peacefully and, after your death, to move beyond the astral plane into the plane of essence.

Death is nothing more than a transition, one of the many transitions you go through in life. Birth is a transition. Life on earth knows so many moments of transition, of passing through and letting go. Just think of it. The body you now reside in has at one time been very small, a vulnerable little baby. And yet your soul, the divine essence inside you, was already working through you when you were that vulnerable little baby. When you reached maturity, many of you got swallowed up by the demands which life on earth made on you, and you were confronted by fears and doubts. The awareness of your divine core, your soul, got pushed to the background. However, there arrived moments in your life when the dimension of divine awareness opened up again. This often happened at moments during which you had to let go, when you had to say farewell.

Maybe it was saying farewell to a loved one, perhaps letting go of a job; any conceivable scenario. Such events are transitions which resemble dying, not in a literal sense but on a psychological level. You are being asked to let go on a deep level, and it is exactly during those moments of letting go that you can start to feel the reality of your eternal Self, the divine light that burns inside you. This reality remains with you unconditionally, even when everything around you falls away. And so it is when it comes to physically dying. If at that moment you are courageous enough to let go, the plane of the eternal will embrace you and you will experience a very strong awareness of who you really are.

Dying in conscious surrender is a holy event, filled with life and beauty. The majesty of what is enfolding will be tangible for those present. The more the ones who are present have experienced “dying while being alive”, the more they will be filled with awe and reverence about the transition they are witnessing.

With regard to all the transitions available in creation, ranging from physical birth and death to moments of intense emotional detachment during your life, the pivotal question ever remains not whether you will survive, but whether you are able to retain the connection with your own divine core. Can you stay in touch with the plane of Essence, your origins, Creation’s heartbeat? Connecting with the essential plane often during your life is the best way of preparing yourself for death, and for what lies beyond. By becoming aware now - prior to physical death – that the very core of who you are does not depend on the current physical body you reside in, nor on the identity which you assume in the world, do you set yourself free to smoothly make the transition once the moment arrives.

Connecting with the essential plane is a choice you make. Dying in itself won’t get you any closer to it. After dying, you will very much be the same person as you are now, albeit endowed with different possibilities and given a wider perspective. Yet the crucial question ever remains: do you remember yourself? Are you able to consciously connect with that dimension of timelessness which flows through you and which truly inspires you ?

You are un-perishable, dearly beloved angels of Light. Take faith in this. Let yourself be comforted and supported by this knowledge when your hour of death arrives; and now also, while you struggle with the issues of your life.

In order to die peacefully, you are asked to detach yourself on the inner level from anything that ties you to earthly existence. Practice this detachment continually while you are living, and you will be prepared to die.

You may ask: “Isn’t it tragic to detach yourself from life, while you are standing in the middle of it?” The answer is: “No. Instead, it is testament to a truly powerful spirit.”

What does detachment mean? It means that you pay attention to essence, that you do not get caught up in non-essential matters. It means you do not create unnecessary emotional drama; it means you experience joy in the simple things of life. To practice detachment and stay tuned into the plane of essence entails being aware of a hidden dimension, which lies directly underneath and behind the observable. It means to renounce quick judgment in terms of good and bad, and to trust a cosmic intelligence which far by exceeds the human mind.

Many of you are trapped in a thinking fever. You feverishly consider life; how to solve problems, how to accomplish all the things you think you need to do. You are very fixed on organizing life through your will and your mind. Detachment means you take this thinking aspect of yourself less seriously. Is this a tragic thing to do? No. Instead, it brings light and airiness to your life.

It is by your excessive urge for control that life becomes a struggle, tiring and heavy. Detachment brings peace of mind, humour and thoughtfulness. Being aware of the finiteness of life inspires the natural desire to cherish life. And it is there where your divine core can effortlessly flow through you, from the essential plane to your earthly reality. Once that happens, you will have conquered death before you have died.