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.
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!
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.
May 18, 2009 § 8 Comments
As a Yoga teacher I get lots of questions and I try to answer them all to the best of my ability. Sometimes people are just curious and they may ask, “I see you are always happy and smiling; what is your secret?” And usually, I keep my answers limited: “There are no secrets. I choose to be happy.” And sure, they always give me a look, a non-verbal communication: “Explain yourself, mister.”
And the best I can come up with is a smile. Sure it gets confusing for the person who is asking questions. And they go again: “You see lots of people are hurting in this bad economy, bad job market. So many bad things are happening as a result. Doesn’t this affect you?” And I realize that my smile is not going to be heard on this issue, unless I answer them further.
Hence, I let them know that a lot of things happen in this kind of economy, and everybody has a story or two to tell. In fact, I have many stories to tell, and they are not even remotely pleasant! But instead of calling them “bad experiences” I call them “challenges,” Or I call them experiences, without using “bad.” What that does in return is that it forces you to ask effective and powerful questions, like: “What will be my next step? How do I overcome these challenges? Who do I talk to? Who can help me get going?” If instead, you call your situation “bad,” then you may sink into an abyss: “Why me? I do not deserve that! I have not done anything wrong in my life. Why do I have to go through this?” But if you are observant, then you will realize quickly that a negative approach is not moving you anywhere but towards sadness, depression and despondency, where you lack motivation, will, and the determination to take any action, and have virtually no VISION!! You can get blinded easily by all that, and then you know what really follows, not something enlightening, and uplifting, but the contrary.
Well, then this brings us to the point where we can come up with some sort of strategy to prevent ourselves from falling into an abyss. What can we really do when we have any kind of challenges (experiences) in our lives, not just only financial in nature, but of any form, any kind?
Well, my simple but profound recommendation is:
Learn not to panic: Breathe as deeply as you can. Focus on your breath and do not let your mind wander away. Calm your nerves down. Keep on repeating ‘til you achieve success.
Do not label any experiences you are having. Not for now. (You can repeat the mantra, “not now, not now”!) Did I just say that? Yes, any experience that you are having right now is simply an experience. When you label it, good, bad or ugly then that will be the outcome! Surprised? Until then it is simply an experience! Learn not to label experiences. Remember, you are here to experience this world and this world is made up of myriad experiences. They are mere experiences, folks, until you label them!
If you choose to label them, switch the words. For example, from “Oh my God, it is so bad,” to, “Gosh, this is going to be challenging.” Once you clearly do that, only then allow your mind to pose another question. Listen diligently. It will follow your lead. Your goal is not to let your mind run into old habits of labeling.
Then take a stance and step away from “your experience” and look at it as if you are looking at your friend’s experience and not yours. Like you are solving your friend’s problem (once you say problem, it has a solution attached to it. Just look for the solution and do not consume yourself with the problem!). Step away from it without worrying and panicking. It will give you a capacity to observe, analyze, study and come up with conclusions and possibly a right, effective and powerful solution as well. Is that going to be easy? Well, yes and no. If your mind goes back to the old habits then “No,” otherwise “Yes.”
Keep on practicing the breathing step, step #1, throughout your handling of your experience. It will be soothing, nourishing, and uplifting.
Keep on repeating these 5 steps. Pick an experience to practice on, which is not overwhelming, or overpowering, but something that you can handle right here right now. This will give you an opportunity to build your skills before something unexpected hits you hard. Then work your way through solving the rest of your problems, or should I just say, “Experience the rest of your life.” You choose!
Contact me if you need to: firstname.lastname@example.org