Where were you on 9/11?
September 12, 2011 § 7 Comments
As I am looking outside my window on this beautiful morning of 9/11/2011, it reminded me of people asking me, lately more and more, about where was I on the morning of 9/11/2001. And just thinking about it flooded my conscious mind with a ton of information without any barrier—though nothing but positive, despite what had happened that day. I started to think about where I was and what I was doing.
As you may have noticed, I live in New York. I was commuting my way from Queens to work in Manhattan. I had taken a bus to catch the F train to Manhattan. In those days, the F train ran a different route than at present. It ran on a Fifth Avenue line. While approaching Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street station in Manhattan, the dire warning from a conductor of that train blurred from the speakers. He announced as calmly as he was able, but you could hear that his voice not so calm. He announced, “Due to an emergency situation, this train is no longer in service. All of the passengers from the back of the train must go to the first car to exit this train. You need to evacuate this train immediately.”
So we did. I was not aware of the reality of that moment, the apparent reality that was taking place; a beautiful day was turning upside down while we were underground. Hurriedly, I ran upstairs and stepped out onto 53rd Street, and I could not believe what I saw. I was stunned to see people running away from downtown and there was a huge, thick, whitish cloud emerging from the horizon. If you remember Fifth Avenue, you will know that it forms a sort of tunnel, and on a bright day, you can see all the way to the horizon, as far as your eye can see. I could not tell what had happened. People were running frantically away from that cloud. I asked a few folks what had happened. A few ran by me and did not even look up to answer. I was trying very hard to figure out why there was so much chaos, why people seemed to be so scared, stunned and confused, but I recall someone yelling at me, “Twin towers have been attacked, they have fallen!” I did not gather what had happened, the magnitude of what had just taken place.
I saw a few people listening to the radio, blasting at the highest volume, in their parked cars and vans, trying to figure out what was actually going on. I leaned over to hear what was broadcasting. “We have been attacked….twin towers have fallen…do not go towards downtown below 14th Street.” And I remember thinking, “I have to reach my office. My staff and students might be looking for me, waiting for my arrival. I have to go to my office and help all who are in dire need. I must walk fast to get there as soon as I can make it.” I thought this, not knowing the reality was demanding something else from me at that moment. Somehow I was able to ignore all the signs and symptoms of this horrible attack and kept on running towards my office at 13th Street and Fifth Avenue. In retrospect, now I recollect and surprise myself, that I was the only one running down town while the rest of the crowd was running uptown. At that moment, it did not feel strange somehow. I was not worried about anything at that time. On the contrary, one and only one thing was in my mind at that time—that I had to reach my office and help those who were in need. Believe me, I had no idea what was going on!
Finally, I made it to my office and to my surprise, the entire area was deserted. There was a lot of dust and smoke, forming a cloud that had become thick, dreary, and ominous, clogging everyone’s senses to the point that thinking had frozen in time. I quickly caught the escaping elevator, one ready to almost run away from this chaos and confusion, to get upstairs on the second floor.
Surely, no one was waiting for me. Simply no one could make it, as the trains and other forms of transportation were completely grounded. My phones were ringing off the hook. My family was frantically trying to figure out whether I had reached my office or not. My wife was at work in Queens and absolutely concerned for my safety and life. I kept on answering each call, one by one. There were students and people that I knew and I did not, calling to find out what to do next. What steps should they take, where could they go to find some help? Who can they talk to? Can they meditate to help ease their pain or help others going through this seemingly unreal but caustic experience? Unfortunately, I cannot remember who had stopped by that day to assist me. A lot was going on and I had no time to sit and catch up. Of course, there will not be enough space to write all of the details, but I am glad that I was able to make it to my office and serve those who were in need, despite a constant broadcast from the authorities to not go below 14th Street.
Making sure that I had reached everyone via phones, including my staff in the office, the staff of a bookstore, and volunteers, I decided to leave the building and go home. I was not sure how I might get there. It was late in the afternoon and I believe they had resumed some trains to get everyone home. But truth to be told, I do not remember, even today, how exactly I came home that day, as if that dusty cloud has smeared out my memory. My heart was laden with sadness for those who had died; yet, I was still not sure of the magnitude of what had just happened! I needed to know more.
I came home to find my wife was still at work. I called her and found everything was okay on her end. She was relieved to know that I had reached home safely. Unconsciously, I turned the TV on to find out that most of the major broadcasting stations were down except for CBS. The antennas from the rest of the major broadcasting stations were obliterated with other melting steel of the twin towers. Before I knew, I was glued to television. It offered a lot of new information that I had no way of knowing. These broadcasters have a way to hook you in, glue you to their shows, tease you for the next big thing, and you get sucked in before you know it. I had just done that. I was oblivious of my needs, my wants, my duties and my family, especially my loving wife. Hours after hours, day after day, I kept on watching every possible show, all possible information that I could gather—I had to know it all, and know it now. My wife kept on witnessing quietly as she always does. I had consumed three full days of information, without knowing what to do with it. Unless food was put in front of my eyes, I did not ask for it, I did not eat. My wife knew better. She had to stop me.
Finally, she mustered her courage to disturb me. She knew that I was overtaken by this barrage of information and to break me away from it was a daunting task. She was very caring and mild, but very strong in her resolve to get me out of this misery that I unknowingly had created for myself. She said, “Honey, how long you are planning to watch this? There is no end to it. You have been watching television for last three days and you are not eating, resting and meditating. What is going on? Go out and buy some milk. I no longer have groceries to cook for us. Do something else. Come on, get up from here.”
And that hammered a nail in the coffin of information. I got up and immediately started writing an e-mail to send out to my family and friends. I sent the same e-mail to my students and clients alike, using the database of Himalayan Institute where I was working at that time. Soon I realized what I had done in the last three days to my meditation practice, which I take absolutely seriously. The meditation practice to which I am so dedicated had suffered enormously. While writing the e-mail, I simply asked everyone to stay away from their televisions and do something else other than watching television and becoming consumed by this information overload. I wrote something like this:
“Get up and look outside your window, talk to your dog or a bird, go out and walk, smile at someone or go out and help someone in need. Do not drown yourself in this muddy pool. It will systematically destroy you and paralyze you from taking an action that is rightly due now. Go help others. I have been watching television for the last three days and nothing good has come out of it but pain and misery. Uncertainty and chaos, fear and loss, death and decay are resonating throughout this information pool. The more you watch, the more you will succumb to, and soon you will forget to mediate, which I have done it despite my strong will to mediate every day, let alone be functional in your daily life. Get up and go out, now! Do something else for the change. I know what I have done for the past three days and it is dangerous to your mind. Please go out and help someone.”
I do not remember how many people replied back but those who did said that simple e-mail had saved them from drowning, made them get up, stay away from their televisions and take appropriate action. When I reached my office, once businesses were open, a ton of questions, worries, concerns, pain and suffering were waiting for me in the form of many students, teachers, staff and volunteers. Confusion was the least of my problems. I had to take action. I sat down to think, but think hard. I had one question for myself and I would like you to memorize this question forever and use it every time you have a difficult situation or circumstance in front of you, “What might be the best of the best that I can offer in this dreadful circumstance which is seemingly overpowering and overwhelming?” Think about it for a moment. Follow it with question next, “What might be the best which I can offer to heal this community, to heal these deep wounds?” It dawned on me at the very holy moment: “Facilitate and dedicate this place for meditation, help them, talk to them, teach them if they do not know how to meditate and make sure this place is available to everyone for meditating peacefully for 24 hours.” I took a vow that day:
“As long as I am in this office, as long as I am the Director of the Himalayan Institute of New York, every year I will create the environment where people from all walks of life can come and meditate. This center will remain open for 24 hours straight without any interruption, any distraction during each and every anniversary of 9/11 here on. I will have enough staff and volunteers to facilitate this practice—called, Akhanda japa, meaning uninterrupted group meditation—not only to have them work around to make it happen, but also have them participate in meditation and create a chain of people meditating at different hourly slots, allowing the 24 hours of meditation to continue without any breaks in between.”
Proudly I can say that, with the help of my staff and volunteers alike, we managed a 24-hour meditation practice for each and every anniversary of 9/11 since then, until they decided to close that center in 2005. The loss that community has suffered is irreplaceable. That is the one thing I miss the most about not having 24-hour meditation practice on 9/11, but I digress.
Keep these thoughts below in mind:
• Many times we say things without thinking like, “I will do that tomorrow, I don’t have time,” just to procrastinate, but my question to you is do you have tomorrow? What if you did not wake up from your sleep? Well, then your time is up. You get the point, don’t you?
• Help yourself first in need but never forget to help others on the way.
• Things happen in the world. What is the best you can make out of it is all that matters. All else is the chatter that remains. Your actions are far more superior and significant than the events you may give credit to. You do not have control over your circumstances, but you do have a choice to act and act now, not tomorrow.
• Your kind words and kind deeds will go a long way. If you are bent on causing harm to others, that is what will follow you like a boomerang.
• If you cannot keep calm in the middle of chaos, what is the point of meditation? Why waste time meditating?
• The mind that is bent upon helping others will have no worries of its own, provided you yourself do not need any help—or else it will create a deep conflict and guilt. Be Strong and be Brave and Freedom shall follow you.
• This is a beautiful world we are living in. Make it more beautiful than what we have now, for the future generations to come.
• Meditation is one of the most powerful tools to heal and be healed from the injuries caused by others or by natural events. It is a tool that introduces you to abundance, a tool that enlightens you, and a tool that has the ability to create timelessness for you.
• You can keep up with the rest of the world and entertain yourself—but you cannot allow this world to dictate your life or your course of action. You must decide, you must act using your free will. Nothing is more precious than your free will.
• I write this on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. A lot has changed since then. Most changes have been positive, but we have a lot more to do. Meditate regularly; create a circle of peace within and without. Envelope everyone and everything around you, around the globe with this peace, and be happy that you are the integral part of this and many other universes, present and about to emerge.
Divine in Daily Doses
September 10, 2010 § 6 Comments
It is a beautiful mid-September morning, and the sun has just swallowed up the weary darkness on the earth. Birds and humans alike are celebrating that triumphant victory of light over darkness by shaking their wings and stretching their hands in the air. Waking up to the fresh gulp of an omnipresent air is simply Divine! What is less than Divine? If you have not witnessed it, is it Divine’s fault?
It seems like northerly winds are fueling the cars on the road, which seems to propel forward endlessly! Where is that wind coming from? What if it was not there at all? Do you think respirators and oxygen tanks would become the “norm”? Who gives you this air to breathe and what is it that you pay for it?
You might say, “Well, since I was born, I have been breathing and so what is the big deal about it?” Well, close your mouth and your nostrils and do not breathe, soon you will notice what is the real big deal! Do not harm yourself while doing it—remove your fingers from your nostrils and open your mouth to breathe again. Now do you understand what this air is about? If it did not enter your lungs, you will have mere seconds on this earth, and then you will be gone forever. Don’t panic! However, look at it from the vantage point of Divine. How is it that all came about? Can you think of any other alternatives? Do you think science explains all? Think for a moment.
It is clearly said in Genesis 2:7, “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being,” which you feel may not apply to you because you don’t read the Bible or any other sacred texts. To verify that point, close your nostrils and mouth as long as you can and notice its powerful effect, either positive or negative, on your mind and your heart! This is just a one-time exercise; please do not put yourself in any danger. If you are not comfortable holding your breath, then just contemplate what it would be like to not breathe. If you have any disorders of heart, lungs, asthma or any other form of disease you need to refrain from doing this exercise!
This brings a question to my mind: How many breaths does a healthy individual take each day? A very quick calculation brings the number to 21,600! Yes, that many breaths we do take every day. Some may take more, some less, depending on their health and their practice of Yoga, Breathing, and Meditation. There are many other factors that may apply but this blog is not for the details of that nature. Consider this: what if you had to pay a cent, not to mention a dollar, per each breath every day?
After doing the above-mentioned exercise you might recognize the seriousness of breathing or not breathing. It will open your eyes forever. Would you pay few cents to a dollar for each breath if you were required to pay for it? Tell me, how important is it for you to breathe? If you do not wish to pay, there will be nothing left for you other than departing from this earth. Am I clear on that? Could you just see Divine in daily doses here? The Ocean of Compassion and Kindness has offered us all that we need, free of charge. We take all these things for granted. Instead of thanking that Ocean deeply from our hearts every day, we abuse it all! Instead of prolonging these resources, refining them to sustain for a longer stretch of time, we just decimate it more quickly than we can imagine! How sad is that?
My teacher had always said, “All in this Universe belongs to you. Use it wisely, do not get attached.” Think very hard about it and stop hoarding more than you can use wisely. But learn to thank, acknowledge and understand the “Glory of the free Gifts” that you have been receiving from the source, and pass it on to the next generation so that they can follow your footprint. How cool is that?
Is it simply Divine or what? Are you still not convinced? Really, you are not? Then think about this for a moment. A mosquito bites you and there is a bit of swelling and redness of the skin surrounding that bite! There is an itch and you are dying to get rid of it. You apply some ointment or cream for the instant relief. You just can’t take that itch! However, did you come to any realization how super powerful the intelligence flows in your blood? Your blood marks a very clear defense on your behalf to conquer the foreign invader virtually without your permission and out of your awareness altogether. You might like to say it is your brain that does that. I would simply say to that if breath is taken out of your body, your brain is as dead as a stone! Think hard!
What is that intelligence that flows in your blood, in every cell of your body, which constantly evolves, making sense of this miniature Universe? Hundreds and thousands of chemical reactions go undetected while the finest of all intelligence is at work. Yet, it is virtually out of your awareness; you do not have much time to think while instant gratification is the reality. Then where is the place for Divine in all of this?
Then you might say, “What do I do? I just don’t see it. I don’t have time for it.” Sure you do. You do have plenty of time to thank Divine or at least acknowledge it in your life every day, every hour, while every breath you may take. Take every breath as if it is your last breath and I can guarantee you, you will never forget the Divine!
When you wake up from a deep slumber, thank the Divine to wake you up to a fresh breath. When you see a smile on your child’s face, learn to see a Divine Splendor shining on that face you adore most. When you see a frail, thin old person, walking down the road with a stick in their hand, look at that resilience they have to get up and walk on their own. That resilience is nothing but Divine Will. When you see the flowers blooming with joy, it is the Divine smile that has been offered to you without any conditions. That is an unconditional love supreme! That freedom, that joy, that unconditional love is simply Divine! Do you need me to say more? I have a lot to say, but I would rather have you see it on your own, breath by breath, event by event, smile by smile on each and every day of your life from here on.
Notice the Divine as an exercise for a couple of days, be determined, and observe the transformation that embraces you all the time, all around you! If you do it, this world will transform with you every second of the day. In fact, you will never be lonely! It will be your legacy!
CTRL+ALT+DELETE: A 3-Step Solution to Every Problem
June 9, 2010 § 7 Comments
The other day, I was teaching my Wednesday evening yoga class and a complex discussion came about, which led me to create a normal, day-to-day analogy to make things simple. Remember, being a walking yogi means: be simple, be practical and ultimately, be free, both figuratively and symbolically. How do you make the best sense out of things that are complex? Well, sometimes you use an analogy that makes use of everyday terms, things, and places, which help you to explain your point. And that is just what I did: I used mundane terms to explain the profound infinity, which could then be easily grasped by the logical brain. Consider that your brain is a computer; we normally use our “computer” in everyday life, but we may not always connect the dots to understand the depths of wisdom that become available through simple explanation.
But, let’s get even simpler. When you are running a couple of programs on your computer and it freezes up due to a lack of memory or other malfunction, what is it that you do at that time to unfreeze? What is the quickest way to release that freeze? Many times, for the PC users, the command to use is “CTRL+ALT+DLT”. (I do not use MAC and so you may have to make up your own analogy.) This command is the quickest and simplest way to get out of that jam. Now you might wonder a bit, “Hum, what does this have to do with infinity?” Wait now, do not rush. I am about to explain.
In the same way that we have computer problems, we have problems and issues in our daily life. Some we face head-on, resolve them quickly, and move on; other issues may take years to resolve—if we are lucky—or else many times we die without solving them. Can you think of anything difficult that is plaguing you? Have you tried to solve the issue at hand? What happened, in reality? Did you end up solving it, did you create more trouble, or did it never get resolved? Ponder on it a bit, analyze it, and see if you can conclude. You might wonder: “He is avoiding an explanation!” Be patient, my dear, be patient. I am about to resolve the situation that you just relived due to your memory-fest. This term, “memory-fest” begs a question: “Is it really a memory-fest or an infatuation or addiction to our memory?” Think about it; it could be my next blog. What do you think? Leave comments on my blog site, please.
To continue, if you have an issue and it is hard to resolve, there are three things I would like you to remember and ask yourself:
1. How much control do I have in this situation?
2. Can I alter the situation? What can I do to alter this situation?
3. If nothing can be done, can I “delete” or completely let go off it, wipe it out of my memory permanently?
Now, remember, we are trying to simplify, so try not to complicate this further. One way to understand simplifying problems is through an example that affects millions of people worldwide. Let us say you have just been diagnosed with diabetes—you have a problem in your hand. Your first reaction could be “why me?” or “what do I do now?”, and there may be many other reactions you could have. Instead of panicking, which may seem like the right thing to do at that time, get back to the three-step solution that was just mentioned above and start working on it right away. Remember, whatever you focus on magnifies. It will become bigger than it is until that is all you can see. So why not focus on solving the situation rather than worrying sick about it?
1. What kind of control do I have? You may think, “Well, I have a good doctor who caught this ailment early on. She is an expert and I can rely on her expertise. I have a spouse or a life partner who understands the situation and is willing to help in any way possible. I have many friends who are sympathetic to my situation and are standing by to help.” Wow! What a great start! Do you have enough control? Are you alone in this?
Second scenario would be: “Oh my God! What am I going to do? I have to take insulin shots every day. It is going to cost me so much. What will happen to my hands and skin by poking those needles? How can I possibly let go off ice cream? I love ice cream.”
Think hard: How much control do you have?
2. What can I do to alter this situation? That is your next priority, next goal, and next target. “Well, I will take my insulin religiously to bring the symptoms under ‘control’.” (A brief word about control: in this situation, you are in control, and the insulin is an extension of that control—you are not completely dependent on it. If you depend on something, you have already lost some control. Mind you, I am not preaching you to become “control freak” but you have to get some handle on it.) You may brainstorm other ways you can alter the situation. “I love to eat, but now I am going to be strict with my diet. I will research, read and discuss more about possible cures; I will talk to a few of my relatives who are managing their own diabetes and alter my situation to go in the positive direction.”
Second Scenario could be,”Well, I know I am not supposed to eat ice cream…I will cut back a little, and then take my insulin shots to avoid raised sugar levels in my blood. I don’t think there is anything else I can do. I am not an expert on diabetes and I will let my doctors handle it. What else can I do?”
Do you see the difference between these two scenarios?
Think hard: If you bring enough control, alteration is a logical sequence that follows.
3. Can I “delete” this issue; can I cure this malady? That is a great way forward. You may determine, “If I implement a regular exercise regimen, undergo strict dietary control and use stress management techniques like yoga, breathing, relaxation and meditation, I believe I can cure it. If I learn more about herbs and how they can bring me back to ‘norm’ then I will be in a great shape to fight this malady off. Henceforth, I will take an oath that I am not sick, but my body is; it is my instrument and I need to sharpen my tool so that I can function optimally on a daily basis.”
Second scenario might look like this: “I have no control over it. I just know a little about it. My doctors are telling me that there are no possible cures for this kind of malady and I am to live with some kind of diet regimen and insulin shots for the rest of my life, or I will die of many complications, including heart problems.”
Think hard: Once you have taken a conscious decision to cure the issue at hand, that awareness itself is a self-propelling, self-guiding force to eliminate the myriad of issues plaguing this humanity.
Now, this is just a random example that I chose to demonstrate my point. Things could be quite different when it comes to your life. But you get the point. It all depends on how you think about your situation and how you utilize the simple facts of life to eliminate an issue or malady in a proper, systematic way—without becoming sick to the core!
“Wait a minute,” you might just say, “What does all this have to do with infinity? What in the world are you talking about?” Funny, isn’t it? Well, go back to the computer analogy. If you press the CTRL + ALT+ DLT keys simultaneously, what happens then? Windows Task Manager opens and you can eliminate, or “End Task”, the application which is causing the freeze; all of this effectively frees up the Operating System, or say OS. In the science of spirituality, OS could be simply “Operating Self”, which is your being or individual soul or self. If you use self-propelling, self-guiding conscious force to eliminate myriad distraction we go through each lifetime, do you think you might reach APS, or should I say, “ALL Pervading Self“? Do you think you can become one with infinity, the Almighty or APS?
Think hard: Have you read the YOGA SUTRAS lately?
Mind is like a river…
January 31, 2010 § 3 Comments
I have been teaching yoga and meditation for many years. Many sincere students have passed by my eyes, and are later guided by the inner voice of my Consciousness. It is amazing that while a wide variety of individuals come and go, you can witness the unity that exists underneath the cloaks of their bodies!
What do I mean by that? Well, they all are seeking higher truth. It may begin with, “I love yoga, it relaxes me, and I am very happy when I come to my yoga class.” But, as they grow into it, things shift a bit deeper than they had anticipated. They venture into other styles of yoga, or they may explore other options like nutrition or meditation, and eventually you do not get to see them. However, a true spiritual teacher never forgets their beloved students. He or she clearly remembers them, and it is fascinating how it works!
This is what I have been witnessing for many years. A question comes to my mind, “why do they disappear?” For years, you do not see them, you do not hear from them or about them. Maybe, it is as simple as “life happens.” But when you start digging deeper into the realm of possibilities, you start to see the real picture emerging. And sometimes, you just remember them. You remember them, and you pick up your phone and dial their phone number and at the other end, there is that familiar voice, “Hi, how are you? I have been meaning to call you.” And nothing but smile appears on your face, knowing you know why you happened to call them. You get the whole spiel from your student in half an hour’s time.
You hear the common, untold story, and usually it is like this, “I got seriously distracted. A lot of things happened in my life, but I will be back.” They do come back, and then in an appropriate timely manner, they disappear again! Lo, you just had them a few days ago! What happened again, you wonder, and then you shrug it off of your shoulders and attend to the new seeker just emerging from the curtain of Consciousness.
Why, if they were sincere seekers, they were fully committed, yet disappear and re-emerge again just to disappear again? What does actually happen? Is it what we call, “life happens” or is there something else is going on? It is possible. However, in my understanding, the little I may have, it is called “mind” happens and not “life” happens. What do I mean by that? Well, there are distractions on many levels, as you may have read in my previous blog, “Blue Print of a Spiritual Leader” in which my teacher had said: “We must not create a wall between our worldly and spiritual lives. People disorganized in their life search for spiritual wisdom in seclusion; whereas, if organized properly, they can have all the means and resources that are of utmost importance for spiritual enlightenment. The purpose of human life is to make the best use of the resources that nature or God has given us.”
Where exactly is “the wall” created? If you examine sincerely and deeply, you may just discover that the so-called “wall” is created in our minds. We may easily lie about something and think, “Nobody knows about it except me”, and that becomes a “norm” in no time! You may ask, “What is wrong with just doing that? Everyone does that.” Are you sure about that? We constantly learn tricks to hide ourselves from “ourselves” and in no time you see a wall being constructed, everything becomes compartmentalized, and eventually you are completely unaware of who is the real “you”! Am I going too far with this?
My teacher used to say, something like, “Mind is like a river. It continuously flows. Try not to create a dam in this river else you will sustain a disaster.”
These are not the exact words but that is what I remember from hearing them. If you create a dam, eventually water will pile up, surge, and then will run over anything and everything—and in every possible direction. That is how we get tired and feel lonely and then indulge in things, which are nothing but constant obstacles to our growth. Creating a dam, compartmentalizing ourselves from our “own self”, may feel like an automatic phenomenon, but it comes with a heavy price, and we do pay it dearly.
Then you might ask, “What am I to do? I am not even sure I understand everything you say!” Well, it is debatable. However, the way to cure all of that is pretty simple. Do you remember that Walking Yogi’s motto is, “Be Simple, Be Practical and Be Free”? If that is what you wish to be, a Walking Yogi, then simplicity and practicality in every aspect of your life will be more highly commended than not.
Now, what is the solution, you may ask? Many of my students are getting some homework every time I teach—yes they get homework! They get something to go home with and practice. One practice that I have repeatedly reiterated many times is to go home and practice silence for ten minutes per setting per week. Do nothing but observe this phenomenon. There may be myriad thoughts, patterns, images and processes that may emerge; do not react, do not become a critic, do not entertain these thoughts, and do not get distracted, but observe them and then let them go.
If you repeatedly keep on practicing this exercise, it will lead you to introspection and guide you to the deepest realm of unconscious. There are many things you may want to discard and eliminate but then there are pearls of wisdom as well, waiting to be explored. Do you think you can handle that?
Remember, “Mind is like a river.”
Blue Print of a Spiritual Leader…
December 29, 2009 § 3 Comments
“In our modern age, where the standard of living has been facilitated by science and technology, we must learn to make the best use of our ample resources. A lifestyle that is suitable for both worldly fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment is the best.
Those who strive to attain personal enlightenment and help others light their lamps are the true leaders of the human race. Blessed are those who are useful for themselves as well as others. They attain the highest goal of life here and now. Right in this mortal world, they become immortal and their wisdom guides humanity on the path of immortality.
Today’s society is waiting for selfless, spiritually enlightened, well-balanced leaders to guide them in how to live happily here and hereafter. Such leaders or reformers will not come from outside our society. They have to be born, raised, and trained right in our own society.”
These are the words of my beloved master Sri Swami Rama of the Himalayas. How powerful, accurate, and simple is this vision that he has laid down for us. I remember many of his words, as if I am hearing them right now in my ears. On many occasions he uttered, “Be simple, Be Practical.” I added to that: “Be Free”. My motto, my goal — my purpose, if you will — is to be simple, be practical, and be free on all levels. What do I mean by levels?
Well, to begin with, you have to take care of your body every single day of your life, whether you like it or not! That is your physical level. You breathe daily, don’t you? That is your energy level. Just imagine if you cannot breathe for few seconds or even a minute! What will be the status of your energy being?
And you always think, don’t you? Well, that is your mental level.
Then there is something powerful and usually out of your control called emotions. Well, that is your emotional level.
And at last but not least, you are the spiritual being hence you have the spiritual level. Are you with me so far?
If you have to take care of all these levels every single day of your life, what will be the cost of doing so? What is the real cost? What if you forgot to take care of a few of those levels for a couple of years? What will be the ultimate cost? Do you think it will cost you money? Oh, you do have a financial level, or if you prefer financial well-being, don’t you? I almost forgot about it!
What if you got into a habit thinking that someone will always be there for you, taking care of you? You might say, “I don’t do that!” Are you sure? Think very hard before you say that. Remember, there are many levels, and it is a lot more complex matter than I can cover in this tiny blog of mine. There are many other variables that we can barely talk about here. Even if you did not think that way consciously, then unconsciously you might expect someone to take care of the issues and concerns you may have. You might, for instance, have thought that the government is going to take care of the things going right or wrong in your life! Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Where am I going with this? Well, read those beautiful words of my teacher in the beginning of this blog. Then look at the title of this blog. Are we getting somewhere? Well, I would rather have my teacher guide you in his own words than my limited knowledge. What did he actually say? What he has said here is very profound and requires your “sage-like” line of thinking. He lays the clear path in his humble but thought provoking sentences: “We must not create a wall between our worldly and spiritual lives. People disorganized in their life search for spiritual wisdom in seclusion; whereas, if organized properly, they can have all the means and resources that are of utmost importance for spiritual enlightenment. The purpose of human life is to make the best use of the resources that nature or God has given us.”
Do you want me to stop here or shall I continue? It is so rhythmic, so pulsating, every word of his in these passages. If you follow them by reflecting on those words daily, relentlessly, and with enduring attention, then the “blue print” is very much visible to you. If you do not, struggle may ensue. If you cannot figure it out, then a spiritual guide is essential for you. Finding a spiritual leader who has balanced his or her life in this manner shall be your guide; if your chosen spiritual leader does not fit this description, step away from them. Be patient and ye shall find one! Seek deeper in your heart, but once you find him or her, never forsake them. If you do, there is a heavy price to pay, if and only if, enlightenment is your goal. If not, enjoy your life the way you are enjoying it right now, and eventually you will end up at the same door, may be after millions of lifetimes later, but you must “knock” the same door. Then why not “knock” now? Why would you wait?
If you are still not convinced, let my teacher say few words to you, if he may: “We are the ones to become our own guides, our own leaders, and we are the ones to enlighten our own lives.
Get up, my friends, arise: attain knowledge, and dedicate your life to the service of your fellow beings.”
Do I have to say anything further? Yes, one more question to you, beloved reader: “What is your resolution for life?”
You are crazy, you know…
October 28, 2009 § 1 Comment
It was a busy day as usual at the Himalayan Institute. I was on the phone managing business affairs with a telephone service provider. Under normal circumstances, there was always someone at the desk to manage the yoga clientele. As I remember, I did not have anyone mending the desk that day.
A man walked into my office, whom I did not recognize at all, pointing his index finger at me, yelling, “You know you are crazy!”
My immediate response to this man was to say: “Please have a seat.” And that is what I said with a hand gesture pointing towards the nearby chair. He reluctantly set down on the edge, not being restful at all in his mind and his body.
I sensed the trouble brewing at my desk. I elected to get off the phone, promising to call them back as soon as I handle the seemingly unwelcoming guest.
As soon as I hang up the phone, I turned towards this man and asked again, “What can I do for you?” Now, remember I was not sure who this person was and why he was not in a great mood to begin with. It was kind of unique to have someone yelling and calling me names in such a calm, serene, and very welcoming space.
“You know, you are crazy!” he repeated, pointing his index finger towards me.
My immediate response was, “You know, you are a good man.”
“What?” He was confused beyond belief. He looked at me, as if he saw a strange creature from a planet Mars.
I said, “You are a very good man”, while holding up my smile genuinely on my lips with eyes full of laughter.
“What are you talking about?” He grunted a bit with some form of agony. I am sure I was not hurting him physically. I was trying to keep my cool.
My eyes laughed louder than before and my lips vehemently repeated the same, “You are a very, very good man.”
“What are you talking about?” I realized that he is running out of words and had repeated the same sentence again. Is he confused? You bet.
I said, “You just called me crazy.”
“Well, to tell you the truth”, I continued smiling, “I am craziest of all crazies. I am a lunatic. And you just called me crazy. You are kind enough to call it mildly. You are kind of being nice to me.” My eyes were big and bulging with a smile reflecting kindness from my heart. I was not trying to hurt him, and I did not want to give up to his anger. Last but not least, I was not planning to become like him.
He got up abruptly saying, “You know what, I can’t even talk to you. You just don’t get it, do you?” And he just walked away from my office, and I never saw him again.
Until this day, I am not sure why this man was so angry with me. I try very hard to refrain from hurting others by deed, action and speech. To get this kind of reaction from someone was a bizarre occurrence!
Questions that I would like to ask you are:
1. Do you have to participate in other’s angry moods?
2. What happens if you got angry as well? What is the difference between the two of you?
3. If someone is angry at you or with you, how do you solve your situation at hand without triggering unnecessary commotion? What if it was your relative or spouse or a partner in life?
4. Do you think the same technique might work for you as well? I guess you may find out if you use this technique somewhere, some how!
5. What might be other ways to solve such situations while you are busy working? Do you know a simple, but practical method that the other readers may benefit from?
I want my brother back in my life….
September 26, 2009 § 1 Comment
A while back, a woman stopped by my office in Manhattan at the Himalayan Institute to ask me a few questions. You might think, “here comes another story!” Yep, stories are very easy to read, remember, and reflect upon. If you study any ancient culture, you will find loads of stories. There is a branch of Tantra where the story telling is used for passing on knowledge, but most importantly, for preserving the eternal knowledge of the great masters of the Himalayas in voluminous work called the Puranas.
It is a simple story, but you will learn something of a great value. The woman told me, “I want my brother back in my life. I do not know what happened, but lately we have been fighting with each other. We are no longer speaking to each other. Every time we get on the phone, we complain about each other and end up slamming the phone on each other.”
“Let me stop you right there,” I interjected calmly. ”What you just told me says that you had a great relationship with your brother, and somehow it has been spoiled to the point of no return — am I correct so far?” I had to ask this question.
“What prompted the rot in your relationship?” I asked.
She looked puzzled and replied, “I am not sure!”
“Hum!” I groaned a bit. “Do you really want your brother back in your life, or are you curious to know what happened between the two of you?” I was inclined to narrow the subject at hand to save time for both of us.
“No, no, I really want my brother back in my life. I love him to death”.
“Why don’t you write a letter to your brother…” Before I had finished the statement, she reacted. “No, he is not going to read it. Believe me, I know it.”
“Do you see where the problem lies?” I had to point out, “Your brother might be reacting the same way. Neither of you are at fault and yet both of you are fighting? Does it make any sense to you? With whom are you two fighting? You are fighting with yourself, but of course, with no one else.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Do you want your brother back in your life or not?” I pressed her a bit.
“Yes, I do!”
“Would you do as I ask you to do?”
“Yes,” she answered with hesitation, she wasn’t completely sure!
“Write to him saying that you are younger, and you may have erred somewhere. You have a lot to learn in this world. You are counting on an older brother to correct any errors and teach a little sister how to be the best in this world.”
“He is not going to read, believe me”. She had her doubts but couldn’t disagree with me any more.
“Do you want your brother back in your life or not?” I was nearly yelling at her before she got drowned and sucked in a whirlpool of doubt and despair.
“Yes!” She was taken aback a bit.
“Then, do as I say and ye shall have your brother back in your life.” A sage counsel within me had risen to the occasion. “Play the underdog even if you have not erred. Ask his forgiveness and ask him to be the big brother that he is and have him stand by you. Where am I wrong? You do understand that, don’t you?”
“Yes, sir,” she saluted me. Then she disappeared as quickly as she had walked into my office.
Weeks later, she stopped by my office and beaming with joy, proclaimed her triumph. “You were so right. I wrote exactly the way you had asked me to and guess what? He phoned me back upon receiving my letter, and he is coming to see me here in New York. He is taking me out to dinner and then to a movie. I thank you so much for everything you have done for me.”
“Isn’t that something? See how simple things are? Enjoy your time with your brother. May God bless you both.”
“I intend to!” I never saw her again.
You might ponder and inquire: “What did I really learn from this story?” Well, one thing is for sure. The relationships that we build in this world are the most precious resource we have. Work hard to maintain them but do not become a doormat. You came empty-handed and you shall go empty-handed when you depart from this planet. What matters is what you leave behind. Relationships are at the top of the chart. What am I missing?
I lost my house in Fire and my aunt died inside….
August 30, 2009 § 3 Comments
My office used to be at the Himalayan Institute, located on 5th avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan, NYC. It was a great location, with a lot of traffic in the East West bookstore — not to mention a great opportunity to serve the people of the tri-state area. I believe that was the vision of my master, my teacher, to serve the sincere seekers from all walks of life. My office was at the back end of the East West bookstore in those days, before we moved upstairs on the second floor. Well, I am not bragging about my office space, but trying to entice you into a very serious story that I would like to share with you today.
Many people came in, many asked for books, tapes, and lot more. A few would stay until the bookstore was about to close, and we had to request them to move on with the rest of their day until we saw them next day. I happened to receive a lot of sincere questions that came from all walks of life. It was breath taking — very diverse in content and the range of emotions. I could not even begin to talk about them! Anything from “I and my boyfriend recently broke up. I am so sad and missing him. Can you help?” to “I have breast cancer, and I am going to die” and that left me with no sense of discrimination. I had to answer them all, since they saw me as a Spiritual Teacher. Believe me or not, somehow they thought I had all the answers. Wow! What a commitment, what a challenge! However, I tried to handle them the best that I could. Nevertheless, you are not always prepared for surprises on your way.
One day, a woman walked in crying profusely and lost, looking for someone to help her. One of the guys at the cash register, in the front part of the bookstore, told her ‘a great man’ sitting in the back office would be able to help you. Some people just know how to make your life miserable, don’t they? It was not meant to be malicious, but testing my skills.
The woman came rushing into my office, crying and dazed, and sat down even before I finished saying, “Yes?” She, as if exhaling a fire ball at me said, “My house has burned down and my aunt died inside. I have nobody. I do not know what to do. Can you please help me?” I just could not believe what I was listening to! Now, I had to think quickly and help her, but before I do that I had to stop the freight train hitting me so hard. You get the point, don’t you? She was crying and sobbing uncontrollably. “Can you help me,” She cried again.
“Wait a minute”, I injected, “where do you live right now?”
“Oh! At my mom’s,” she replied. I saw her calm down a bit.
“Wait a minute,” I exclaimed, “You just told me that you have no one!”
“No, no, I have my mother,” she was showing the signs of agitation.
“Well, you have a roof over your head, don’t you? Does, she feed you?” I had a smile on my face.
“Yes,” she says. “Why are you asking me these funny questions? You are a funny man.”
I grabbed at the opportunity. “You just told me you have nothing, no one in your life. Not only do you have someone in your life, but you have a roof over your head, and you are being nurtured by her, as well. Do you know that there are millions out there who have no roof over their heads and food? If they got to eat once, then they do not know where and when the second meal is coming from. Aren’t you in a better position?”
She was surprised, “Yes, I think you are right.”
“Do you have anyone else in your life?”
She nodded her head, “My daughter.”
“How old is she?” I continued.
“Well, she is sixteen”.
“Wow, half of the battle has been won already?”
“What?” She was confused beyond belief.
“I said, half of the battle has been won. Just think. If your daughter was four years old, you would have to take care of her. She is sixteen, not only do you not need to take care of her, on the contrary, she can take care of you.”
“You are really funny, aren’t you?” She smiled. I saw, my interrogation technique was working. I proclaimed victory!
“You see, just think how many good things you have in your life. You have your mom providing housing, food, and shelter to you — not to mention emotional support. You have a daughter, sixteen going on seventeen — what am I missing?”
“You know, you are so right. I did not think that way. Now, since I am thinking that way, I think I will be all right.”
“Oh! Great, but not so fast,” I said. “I want you to go back to your house and talk to your house.”
“What is this man thinking?” Wrinkles on her forehead were screaming at me.
“I will work hard, get a second or third job if I have to, but I will rebuild you again.”
“Why would I say that?” She was surprised and a bit doubtful of my sanity.
I said, “Why not? It is your house. Something bad has happened and you have to take ACTION to correct the course of your life, don’t you? Once you are done saying that to your house, go ahead and feed a few hungry folks in the memory of your late aunt, so she can rest in peace. Can you do that for me?” I was done!
“I will try.”
Quickly I pounced. “There is no such thing as trying. Either you do it, or you don’t. Take action now and you shall be free forever from this horrific event of your life. Why would you wait?”
“Okay, thank you so much for your help.” Those were the words that came rightfully out of her mouth. I never saw her again as long as I was working there. I hope she could take care of it. Suddenly, I saw that guy who had sent her to me, in my office, dying to know what actually happened and why this woman left smiling, with so much resolve on her face and gait. She was not together at all when she walked in. I flatly ignored him and sent him back to his station at the cash register.
Can you really learn from this real story? Leave your comments on my blog site.
We Are the Catalogue of Habit Patterns
August 13, 2009 § 8 Comments
Recently, I wrote a couple of blogs. I am getting some amazing feedback on those two blogs. However, at the same time, I see people are learning, but simultaneously falling back into the old way of thinking. They might start like this,” You see I have gone through a lot of trouble in my life and that is the reason why I am not able to do what I am supposed to do.”And I wonder, why?
One reason is that we have formed certain habit patterns. My teacher used to say, “We are the catalogue of habit patterns.” As I think more about it, I realize certain patterns of thinking go on throughout the day and maybe a lifetime could pass without us realizing what we have been doing with our entire lives! My teacher was narrating this idea in a different way. Many times he was just being funny. He always said that we wake up from our bedroom, we go to the bathroom to clean and evacuate, and then we go to the kitchen to eat. To protect our little sanctuary of these three rooms we go to work, and we work hard. He would ask, “What is it that you are accomplishing? Any Tom, Dick and Harry can do that. How are you different? What are you doing with your precious life?” He was being funny, but there was a clear and very deep message at the same time. You had to think.
I just happened to see prime time news cast, and there was a story of gentleman from New York feeding a lot of people with only his bus driver’s salary! He barely spoke the English that we speak, but his action spoke louder than his mundane communication skills. I was flabbergasted! “How can he possibly do that?” I thought. He was cooking a lot of meals at home. He barely had enough working appliances, not to mention pots and pans. To make matters worse, he had lost his job due to the down turn in the economy for a couple of months. He bounced back as soon as he got the bus driving job, which I thought was a very low paying job to begin with. Despite that he went on cooking for more people than before! It is a great story! Why am I sharing it with you?
Well, flat out, I would say your life is far better and superior to this man’s life and you are blessed to have it. Start counting your blessings, stop complaining about things you do not have, things that you want, but may not be necessary for your growth for now. Simply put, you do not need them. Learn to help others as this man was able to on a bare minimum salary. Why? Well, that is the real source of happiness: helping others. He was absolutely happy cooking for the hungry and was laboring hard just to help others. That is the key. Help others as you move along with your own life. Decide and determine to do that everyday. Once you decide, believe me, you will see plenty of opportunities every where, every day, to help others. It can be as simple as giving up your seat to an elderly or a pregnant woman in a crowded subway car.
You might say, well, my life is worse than this man. I would say, learn from his example. Stand up on your own feet and get going. Read his story again. Inspire yourself and work hard until you accomplish your goals. However, ruminating on whatever is happening in your life and doing nothing about it—that is not the solution to your problems. You must take action and change your habits. Learn new skills and create new habit patterns that are growth-oriented, powerful moral boosters and fuel for immense productivity.
To come back to my point of habit patterns, you may see if you take time to observe that you are stuck in certain thought patterns. Granted, many things could have gone wrong in your life and that may force you to go back to visit those moments in time and ruminate on what happened to you and why. However, is that all that is left in your life? If you had contemplated with proper awareness, you would have moved on just because you realized that things do happen and one must learn and then move on. Life happens.
Many people move on despite their current circumstances, no matter how limiting they are and achieve something far better in their lives—and help others do the same. Many of us are completely stuck in that habit pattern and keep on chewing the same weed repeatedly even when there is nothing to chew on! What does that mean? Let us say, ten years ago there was a significant period of time in your life where things went the wrong way, whether you took action or not. That probably taught you a lesson: “What’s the point of my life? No matter what I do, things are not happening for me.” Eventually, you create a habit of giving up. Does this sound familiar to anyone? If that was ten years ago, why are you still repeating, chewing the same weeds? It does not make any sense to do that. Does it really make any sense to you? Then it begs the question, “Why do we do that?” Simple answer: habit patterns. How does a habit pattern form? By repeating same action over time in thought, action, and speech you create a habit pattern. What is so bad about it?
Well, it depends on what is it that you want to achieve in your lifetime; what is it that you want to become? How is it that you want to accomplish? If something has happened ten years ago, and you haven’t worked that out and moved on, then you are seriously stuck in past. Every time you chew that moment consciously or unconsciously, it reinforces itself with a lot more gusto than before. Repeat thousands of time and you have no control over it. You are bound to chew them on every possible occasion, every moment something similar arises in your life or across the world; it does not matter. You will retreat to chew on those weeds. Well, how do you cure such a powerful habit pattern?
Answer is: read my two previous blogs. First start with, “To Experience or Not To” and then follow with “Using the ‘Not Now’ Mantra” and see if that helps you. Read carefully, try and assimilate the information into your own words, study it, and then put it in practice. Remember, practice makes you perfect. Reading is just a first step. You must go beyond the first step to resolve this issue plaguing your mind and torturing you for years. If you do not improve now, it will plague you for the rest of your life, and that I would say, is humongous waste of Human Potential, which is, nevertheless, the Divine Potential. If you are made in the image of God, then you are not less than!
You may have to keep on repeating those exercises depicted in my blogs until you can automatically do them without any doubts and fears. Be sincere and practice. If you are not comfortable in exercising this method at this time in your life, then do it when you are really strong enough to take back your life from your past. Learn to be your own boss. Take help if it is necessary, but this method is the shortest answer to your prayers of many years. I hope you have enjoyed reading it, practicing it, and bringing a path of freedom closer than you had ever envisioned. God bless you and be happy!
Using the “Not Now” Mantra
June 5, 2009 § 4 Comments
In the blog “To Experience or Not To,” I mentioned the mantra “not now,” and a thoughtful reader, who is also one of my students, pointed out: “After re-reading the new blog a few times, there’s one thing that I feel might not be entirely clear. In step 2 you mention the mantra “Not Now” – but it’s not fully explained in its application. Those of us in your class know what it means, of course. But in the context of the blog it sounds almost like an act of denial, rather than a mantra that provides one with the ability to focus on the most important task at hand. Just an observation, not sure if others are reading it this way…”
What a great comment! Let’s look at the sentence before that (“To Experience or Not To”) to see why I might have chosen the mantra “not now” for this particular practice.
It says: “Do not label any experiences you are having. Not for now!” The operative word here is “label.” You need not deny the experiences you are having, since you are here to experience this phenomenal world; instead, you deny the labeling of your experiences unnecessarily and negatively. To label in this way would defeat the purpose of being here in this world. Remember you are here to experience, enjoy, and enlighten!
Consciously saying, “not now” in this sense protects you from both obsessive labeling and from becoming absorbed in random thought processes. It stops you from falling into an abyss of negativity, and instead brings you back to right here, right now. Of course, you have to follow the rest of the steps as mentioned in the previous blog, “To Experience or Not To!” I hope that this is all clear. Also remember the third step, which gives you the choice to “label” your experiences positively. You have many options on hand: To Experience or Not To, for instance!
Additionally, we can explain the mystery around the mantra “not now.” The word “mantra,” in a traditional sense, means a sacred word or words offered by a teacher to focus and concentrate a student’s mind by constant recitation–loosely speaking, of course! Mantra also means that which protects you by constant recitation. At minimum, a mantra gives you a mental focal point that is neutral, so you are focused on one object at a time and not absorbed in negativity and random thought processes. As mentioned in the previous blog, the mantra “not now” is used in a specific way, with conscious awareness, so that it breaks the pattern of obsessive labeling of our experiences. How?
Well, let us see! For example, you are sitting in your apartment, by yourself, watching ongoing traffic. And Lo! All of a sudden from nowhere (It is actually not true; it does come from somewhere) you have a panic attack just because you remembered a bully from your school constantly calling you names, and specifically saying, “You are stupid, and you are going to flunk! You are so stupid!” You are certain that no one is in your apartment calling you names; nothing is going on around you, but you are still experiencing a panic attack as if it is happening right here, right now. But wait! How true is it? Well, you are by yourself, aren’t you? Yet, before you even begin to understand what is happening, you are already breathing short, noisy, panicked breaths. Why? That particular experience, no matter how insignificant–or how devastating–has left a deep mark in your unconscious. If you closely watch it, you will see many negative “labels” are attached to that particular experience. These labels, by the way of association where “like attracts like,” quickly gather force to attack you at this moment, and you are freshly re-experiencing the same experience as if it is happening right here, right now. How true is it? In reality, no one is around– yet, panic sets in!
Instead of going back and forth with thoughts such as, “Well, I should have taken care of him then. I could have punched him in his chest, because he had asthma and could not have come back to attack me again. I am so weak. Why couldn’t I? I am so pathetic!” You can stop for a moment, say, “not now,” and start breathing deeply, as I mentioned in step 1 in the previous blog. Then follow the rest of the steps as needed. What seems to be the better way to you? To keep on reliving the experiences that do not exist in this present reality, or to be free from them for now and forever? You choose.
You might have to repeat the process more than once to be free forever. Remember, this is an ongoing process!
Just a reminder: These are simple exercises to reeducate your self in a unique manner, at a deep level. Try not to make it complicated. Remember, being simple, and being practical are of paramount importance to a Walking Yogi.