A new year has just begun – I love a new beginning. What is a new beginning anyway? They are everywhere, all around us… they’re little opportunities just waiting for us to grab them. And let’s be honest, we never know exactly how anything will pan out. Very rarely do things end up being the way we expected. That’s the beauty of life- we forge new paths to find the unexpected, not to seek the familiar.
Sometimes the unexpected can surprise us, present a new opportunity – like meeting someone who will change our lives for the better. Sometimes it can disappoint us, derailing us from the life we had planned. While we can’t predict the outcome, we can learn to embrace the opportunity, take the journey, and figure out where the path leads.
The journey begins with a decision, those big decisions tend to stand out. I recently decided to change careers, and I saw a path laid out before me. I have often seen these paths and sometimes I chose not to walk them. But I looked at this path and it was beautiful, inviting, but also, long. I’ve already taken a few steps, and so far it’s exciting. I know there may be some rough patches, but I’ll embrace them, too. I have decided to embrace uncertainty.
Join me at #spiritchat this week to discuss some paths we have traveled, the beauty we have found in uncertainty, and limiting beliefs we’ve had to overcome to embark on our journeys.
It is my honor to guest host another #spiritchat and have the chance to give back to a community that has given so much to me the past decade++ There are no words to express the appreciation I have for Kumud and everyone here. The impact to my life is simply immeasurable. Thank you all and I’ll see you Sunday, Jan 22 at 9amET in the twitter chat!
As best as I can surmise, today’s twenty minute stint was perhaps my shortest weekly walk on the trail in quite a while. The weather front was turning rain to sleet, which meant that it was cold, blustery, pellets were coming at me sideways from all directions and it was as grey and foreboding feeling as winter can be imagined.
And yet I wasn’t deterred because it is these weekly walks that have become my inspiration for the ideas that turn into the weekly blog post which I often write after the walk. The clarity, lightness and simplicity that flow from walking in solitude and observing the dynamics of flora and fauna creates a portal through which the thoughts flow into words on the page.
At the start of today’s walk, I set the intention to invite feelings and memories related to ‘service’ into the heart. Swami Vivekananda talked about the notion of ‘service as duty’ and how we often engage in service as a means to fulfill our sense of duty. In 12th grade, we actually had a ‘subject’ called SUPW — socially useful productive work — which was on the schedule for one hour a week. As a teenager, I used to often scoff at the idea that one could do any meaningful ‘service’ in one hour a week. As is often the case, I was wrong. It was during SUPW that I discovered the work of organizations like UNICEF, and gained some awareness of how privileged my life was as compared to millions of children around the world.
As I walked the trail around the pond on the soggy grass, skirting temporary lakelets created by yesterday’s heavy rains, I remembered my ‘service’ projects in engineering school. The Saturday morning hours set aside to meet the requirements of volunteer hours for the National Service Scheme (NSS) brought familiarity with the Red Cross, learning about blood donations and such. However, the sense of ‘service as duty’ remained.
It wasn’t until my visit to a ‘nursing home for disabled children’ on an NSS Saturday that my heart towards service finally shifted. The hands-on and heart-filling experiences of seeing, listening, simply sitting and walking with those with life-long impairments, mostly children of my age and below, was transformational. The heart-shift meant that I couldn’t wait for Saturday mornings to arrive so that I could go visit the home and spend time with those that I had formed mini-friendships with. Service transformed from a sense of ‘duty’ to a sense of ‘doing good’ — over time, the one benefiting most from the ‘goodness’ was actually me.
At the halfway mark on the trail, where the wind had died down because the path was flanked by thickets of trees, I took a pause and reflected on my experiences with service through SUPW and the NSS. It is said that there are no small acts of kindness, and I am convinced that it was those small acts of giving that opened my heart and mind to the power of small acts of service. To paraphrase Swami Vivekananda, the world doesn’t need our help — we need the world in order to exercise our ability to serve. Our heart needs the world, so that it can feel the joy of serving and eventually arrive at a state where we feel that service becomes a privilege, not mere duty.
It is said that in the midst of our serving, when our heart is fully immersed, we become observers of the One who is truly serving and the One who is truly being served. Service thus becomes the unifier of people.
We realize that the day’s walk is over, the storm has becalmed us and it is time to return home to warm up with a cup of green tea and share our heart of service with the world.
Thank you for serving. Namaste.
P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat with the #SpiritChat community on Sunday, Jan 15 at 9amET / 2pmGMT. We will pause to remember Martin Luther King, Jr and discuss the topic of ‘heart of service’. Namaste – @AjmaniK
Intention is important in the sense that it can give a sense of purpose, of meaning, of direction to our actions. At the start of every New Year, or month, or week, or day, or hour, we can set an intention for whatever time-interval we choose in the future. The New Year is perhaps the most popular time to set intentions and goals, make plans, and define how we may want our life to look at the end of the year, or maybe even at different points in the year.
And yet, setting an intention by itself is often not enough in itself. Preparation is also needed, because our intent is going to inevitably run into obstacles. What are we going to at the first significant hurdle, which will most probably be internal — fear, uncertainty, doubt — not external. We can prepare ahead by using the learnings from past hurdles that maybe heavily distracted us from our intentions or even stopped us cold.
Preparation is one key to success in fulfilling our intention, no matter how we may define ‘success’.
Imagine setting an intention to climb Mt Everest without any preparation? Or even intending to go for a simple morning walk, say a few times a week for the next week or month. You wouldn’t need much preparation in fair weather, but what if you woke up to wintry weather with sleet and frost like I did today? If I hadn’t prepared well enough by wearing adequate layers of clothing, with gloves, with a warm hat, proper shoes to navigate the slippery and wet trails, I probably would have gotten to the trailhead, parked my car, looked at all the obstacles including the heavy overcast skies and said — Nah, I’ll skip today and go back home to my tea. Maybe tomorrow!
And yet, I walked because I had learnt from past years how to prepare for such weather. As I set out on the now familiar trail, I sis meet some new obstacles in the form of fallen tree branches, water channels formed by melting snow, and so on. Preparation helped, but if I had guidance from someone who had recently walked the trail, I could have saved time and energy, and even some risk, on my walk. Can you imagine how Tenzing would have fared on Mt Everest without the expert guidance of Sherpa Norgay?
Preparation multiplied with proper guidance can help create an environment where our intentions have even greater chances of success.
What else may be needed to succeed with our newly set (or even ongoing) intentions? We can perhaps use simplicity in the setting of our intentions to create meaningful successes, which then in turn create confidence, build resilience within to set new intentions that stretch us even more than before.
What role may flexibility play in our journey with our intentions? What else can you think of and share with us — practices that have worked for you in setting, fulfilling your intentions?
Is there a specific, singular, over-arching intention that guides all other intentions that you may have set for your spiritual journey?
Join us for our weekly gathering and twitter conversation in #SpiritChat, Sunday January 8nat 9amET / 2pmGMT / 730pm India. We will discuss intentions and more. Namaste ~ @AjmaniK
We are down to the last but one day of the year and after a week of fiendishly cold weather and ice-storms and travel havoc over the Christmas weekend a few days ago, it seems borderline criminal that I am walking the dogs in sixty degree weather. The skies are getting overcast and heavy enough with the promise of imminent rain, but it isn’t lost on me that the rate of change of the weather has been anything but dramatic over the past few days.
I would say that these patterns are abnormal, and would even dare say that I would prefer a ‘normal’ winter with its energy of snow and some icy days — but perhaps this is the ‘new’ normal — and we better adapt to it, and fast. The human body does have the ability to adapt quickly, but it has its limits to withstand environmental shocks and such, as we found out during the pandemic. Humans learn that living a full life is about maintaining a good energy balance, keeping harmony between the inner and the outer, discovering new facets of the diamonds that they are, softening their sharp edges as they journey, and more.
As we step into another New Year as deemed by completion of yet another revolution around our life-sustaining star, a lot of us can perhaps feel an infusion of, an immersion into, or even a surge of new energy in one or more layers of our existence on planet earth. I felt this newness of energy on the day after the winter solstice as I asked for permission of the waters, and then gently walked into a cenote in the Yucatán peninsula. It is hard to describe the feeling of freedom when a non-swimmer like me actually floats on his back and looks up at the high-noon Sun filling one with light — for a moment I thought I was seeing stars in the daytime — except that it was all a beautiful melding of the elements playing their celestial harmony within my heart.
Like at least some of you, I am looking forward to the New Year as an opportunity for new darings, new experiments, new ventures, new rediscoveries of what lies within, and more. Resolutions are not my thing. They never were. I can’t explain why. Maybe I am simply too content to know and feel the new energy that is continuously flowing my way, often ‘on request,’ glowing my path as I learn to soar and fly with my fellow travelers and guides.
How about you, dear reader and traveler? How does your energy level feel as you come into the New Year? Is there a sense of newness, of an elevated potential of being, or…? I invite you to consider, maybe even ask someone to help you reflect — they may point you to tools, practices and opportunities that you haven’t considered yet?
No matter which direction you move in, I wish you the best of the New Year’s energy. May it work to energize all those life areas that need harmony and integration, and suffuse more life within your life. May the new energy help you and me remember the directive of “That Thou Art” — the energy without is the energy within — the old and the new are One.
P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat, Sunday January 1 2023 at 9amET / 2pmGMT / 730pm India, as we celebrate the energy of the New Year in Spiritchat. – @AjmaniK
I’ve been trying to find the inspiration I needed to properly convey the topic of this weeks chat. I wanted to talk about the steps we take: sometimes premeditated, and other times, spontaneous. The steps we remember as being pivotal, and those we plan to take in upcoming days, weeks… and so on. What guides our steps? And where have they lead us- or where are they going to take us?
I found inspiration in some noisy neighbors, my neighbors in the “triple decker” house I’ve been living in for about 5 years. I talked to them a couple days ago about some ongoing repairs needed in the building, and how, like me, she doesn’t always feel like we’re taken seriously. I’m thinking of taking a step toward being a property manager for landlords who just don’t want to deal with it. Unplanned step, spontaneous! Those can be really fun!
One of the best steps I ever took was moving to New York. It didn’t seem like a great thing at the time, but through the struggle, it lead to a different version of me that I am really proud of.
These steps take us somewhere- either straight forward or off to the side. Straight forward may seem like the best option but these side quests give us lessons, knowledge, wisdom which helps our later steps take good direction.
There are so many different things that influence the steps we take- and sometimes it feels like a battle to choose which one. But, today, as we stand, what steps do we remember taking that make us proud, and where do we see our steps heading now?
Author bio: I’m always super awkward with bios and have no business or brand to promote (yet!), but if anyone wants to follow me I’m @merryb923 pretty much everywhere you look!
Kumud’s note: Meredith has been part of the #SpiritChat community for a very long time, and has hosted the chat a few times. I am grateful and excited that she has agreed to host #spiritchat on twitter on Sunday, Dec 18 at 9amET / 2pmGMT / 730pm India. Do join in and share… Thank you, Meredith! Namaste.
After four straight days of heavily overcast skies, which really felt like forty by the fourth day came around, there was a sliver of a break on Friday morning on the way to school. I was looking to the west to see whether the full moon was still up, and instead, towards the East, between two trees on a farm, there was the Sun in all its glory blazing out from a break in the cloud cover. The underbelly of the dark gray cloud cover was being painted by the rays in the soft yellows that she exclaimed about.
Less than ten minutes later, as I set off for my Friday walk in the school’s trail, cloud service had been restored and the Sun’s remaining slivers cast golden streaks on the pond where the geese and ducks were maneuvering their way in the water as they tried to make space for the new flocks landing in from several directions. The play of light and shadows is very different as the Sun rises behind a mix of dark and light clouds which serve as natural filters for the observant traveler. The gifts that the eyes unearth are unique, as one sees things in silvery light that are hidden by the blaze of an unfettered, golden sunrise.
A beautiful gift it was, just like the gift of the clouds yielding the night before for a fraction of an hour, to reveal the gift of the full moon in all its silvery December glory, hanging like a brilliantly lit Christmas ornament defying gravity in the firmament.
Many of the gifts within us are perhaps similar in nature, unearthed only when we face long periods of overcast skies, storms, and the like – aren’t they? And thus, we of the human spirit, rarely stop waking and walking, remembering to do what we can control, and let what will be, be. Is it not true that as we look back on what seemed to be seemingly insurmountable odds against us in some of life’s moments, that we often unearthed gifts of strength, courage and resilience that we scarcely were aware of?
Can you think of moments where you were in so much pain and grief that you thought that your life would never be the same again, and yet you managed to heal and even smile again?
If yes, I invite you to write a few words about that experience. What gifts did you unearth, both within and without, in those moments of great personal challenges? In addition, are there any gifts you have unearthed, in moments of great joy and celebration? Are there also some gifts that we can unearth in moments when we aren’t residing at the opposite states in our life, when we are in relative equanimity? What may these gifts be?
By the time I came back home from my walk, the clouds had finally decided to move on for good, and the Sun had resumed shedding its golden light everywhere, including on the chair by the front window where I sat and wrote this blog post. The forecast was for rain later in the day, overcast skies for the next few days, but it didn’t matter. I had been reminded that the play of light and shadows and nothingness affords equal opportunities for me to unearth the gifts of my choosing.
How about you? What gifts will you choose to unearth in this season of your life?
P.S. Join us for our weekly community gathering and chat on twitter in #SpiritChat, Sunday Dec 11 2022 at 9amET / 2pmUTC / 730pm India. We will unearth some gifts together, and maybe share a gift with someone. Namaste. @AjmaniK
The heavily overcast skies that had brought intermittent rain all morning, ought to have been an indicator for me to delay the morning walk. And yet, the breeze through the partly open window brought a warmth as it fluttered over the ‘morning pages’ of the journal that I had been writing over the past half hour or so. The restless ego nudged me to ignore the distinct possibility of more rain, and off I went around the development, to discover more of Nature’s variations.
I only made it halfway through, before the wind must have shifted, and I saw the first signs of the shift in the form of a multitude of small circles in one of the retention ponds at the end of the street. Turning around, I was now headed back home, but facing rain and wind as they gained speed, painting my face. The heron sitting by the pond must have seen me turn around, as it took off with its ever majestic flapping wings, perhaps towards one of the other ponds in the development.
I was only ten or so minutes into the walk and yet I had already run through a whole bunch of different emotions. The pride in having decided to walk despite the conditions, the annoyance at the onset of the rain, the relief at realizing that I wouldn’t get totally drenched before I made it back home, the exhilaration at the unexpected sighting of the heron, and much more. Ten minutes, and a plethora of emotions, many, if not all of them, seemingly ‘arising out of nowhere.’ Can one even imagine how many emotions we encounter in an hour, in all the waking hours of a day? How many of these emotional waves or currents are we even aware of, before one wave is replaced by the next? What con we do to develop better awareness of our emotions and their origins, if we want to develop ‘mastery’ over their effects on us? Why is it even important to gain ‘mastery’ over our emotions, and are there any particular ones that we need to focus on more than others?
We can begin to address the question of emotional mastery by first understanding the origin of emotions. According to the Ashtavakra Gita, “The ego can recognise the world only through its instruments of sense organs, mind and intellect.” The sense organs are the receivers, the mind is interpreter, the intellect is the instrument of discernment. The ego’s reaction to what the world feeds it on a regular basis is perhaps the seed-bed of emotions.
If we can learn to reduce what is fed to the sense organs, we can reduce the minds vagaries and restlessness, can’t we? If we quieten the mind, we can then refine, purify and strengthen our intellect, can’t we? Slowly but surely, by reducing the influence of our senses, withdrawing them from the world, we can reduce the outer noise and increase the inner signal. It is said that this is the essence of spiritual practice, of spiritual work. The result is that we purify the intellect by slowly getting rid of both, hyper-activity and aversion to activity. Dwelling in purity, the intellect will then be strong enough to control the mind, which will then control the senses, which will then control our emotional disturbances.
By taking back control from our senses, and giving it to the intellect, we can achieve emotional mastery and resilience. What comes next? We will be ready to evolve to the next level of self-mastery — the dissolution of the intellect and hence the ego, and the realization that we are one with the Infinite.
We can all get to realization — let’s begin by working on our senses and emotions, shall we?
P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat and gathering of the #SpiritChat community, Sunday Dec 4 2022 at 9amET / 2pmGMT / 730pm India. We will discuss emotions and their mastery over tea and cookies. I am grateful to my good friend Gopi Maliwal for the topic suggestion. Namaste – AjmaniK
As I slowly emerged from the unusually deep stillness and peace brought to my heart by the Saturday morning meditation, one of my first thoughts was that of gratefulness for the experience. It isn’t every morning that I have an effortless transition from waking up and walking up to the meditation room, relaxing the body and mind, focusing on the heart, and then going into nothingness. The truth is that, more often than not, the body won’t relax or the mind won’t still the thought parade or the storm will be clattering on the windows or the birds will be chirping or one of the puppies will wake up and start barking or…
You get the idea. One makes time and space, one practices the techniques with the best of intentions, and yet, the outcome isn’t what we expect. The ‘perfect’ meditation experience is often more elusive than one wants it to be, and it has taught me one thing over time — be grateful for them all. I have taught myself that, at the end of the meditation session, no matter the resulting condition of my heart and mind, I am going to smile and say ‘thank you’ for the opportunity to participate. With this focus on gratitude, regardless of the outcome, I have taken the pressure off of myself, my body, mind and heart, and redefined the ‘ideal’ outcome of every meditation session.
What has been the ‘side-effect’ of this redefined focus on ‘gratitude for the opportunity’ to participate? I tend to now approach many tasks, old and new, exciting and mundane – even the ones that I was ‘meh’ about, with a different attitude. Unloading the dishwasher? Mowing the grass? Going to the post-office? Walking the dogs in miserable-looking weather? Sure. More often than not, the tasks take on a new hue of Joy, when I remember to focus on the fact that I have been called upon, and have the ability to do my minuscule part in the moment.
I believe that once we bring gratitude into our everyday actions, give it a home in our daily existence, its energy has the potential to radiate into many, if not all areas of our lives. With a focus on gratitude, we will radiate joy to all who come in our path, because our “heart’s eyes will remember to focus on the goodness, gentleness, kindness, and friendliness” that resides in all.
It’s time to brew another pot of tea, turn on some holiday music, and get ready for the day. I am grateful for hot water and tea leaves and the sunshine on this cold day. What has your experience been with ‘focusing on gratitude’?
P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering and twitter chat, Sunday Nov 20 at 9amET / 2pmGMT in #SpiritChat. I look forward to your sharing, and am grateful for our community that radiates light to all. Happy Thanksgiving week to all! Namaste. – @AjmaniK
What would our life and living look like if we were to experience it with spontaneity and without any ideological filters? What would happen if we were to remove the dichotomy and the separation between the material and the physical? What if we were to live in harmony with the silence, the silent balance between the yin (the seed) and the yang (the spark)?
Some of these questions, and many more variations of the same, are posed in the Eastern classic, the Tao Te Ching. I pulled out my dog-eared and dog-nibbled copy of the translation by Ralph Alan Dale on Friday evening, as the rain that had been falling all day kept me indoors, in the company of multiple sessions of tea on the reading couch with the very puppy who had nibbles the bindings in her first year of life.
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday evening, I had taken my weekly walk in the reservation at the location where the East and West branches of the Rocky River meet at the base of a 350 million year old shale cliff. The lack of recent rain meant that I could walk halfway into the river on the shale beds by the shore, some of which are probably only a few million years old. I noticed immediately that the river bank had been cleared of a lot of older, dying brush and trees, and the shale beds were much more accessible and walkable. In the evening hour of sunset, I was grateful that I had half the river all to myself.
Kneeling on the layers of compacted shale to take some photos of the shale cliff in the distance, I noticed that some new layers of leaves from the trees on the river bank had started to cover the shale deposits I was kneeling on. It struck me that here, right before my autumn colored eyes, I was witnessing the seeds of a new layer of shale in their seeding. In that moment, with one knee on the river-bank, I realized that thousands of layers of existing shale were eventually going to accept, and then integrate this autumn’s offerings into their existence.
I imagine that that is how moving towards integrity, living with integrity actually manifests? One spontaneous experience at a time, one season at a time, one layer of Yin and Yang at a time, one layer of silence and song at a time, we chip away at the ideologies and dichotomies that keep us encrusted in dogma and duality.
In moving towards integrity, we may realize that we were always there, that we never left. One knee pressing new leaves into the layers of shale, one arm raised towards the sky, eyes flooded with golden sunlight, chanting our mother’s songs by the very river on whose shores the natives traveled for hundreds of years…
The spirit of life never dies.
It is the infinite gateway to mysteries within mysteries.
It is the seed of yin, the spark of yang.
Always elusive, endlessly available.
- Tao Te Ching (verse 6)
P. S. What are the moments in which you feel that you are moving towards integrity? What do those moments feel like? Do share with us in the comments and/or our weekly twitter chat, Sunday Nov 13 at 9amEST / 2pm GMT / 730pm India in #SpiritChat. Namaste – @AjmaniK
You wouldn’t imagine that the pre-dawn fog could get thicker as the morning wore on, and yet that’s exactly what it seemed to be doing. It got so heavy that the water condensing on to the once-leaved branches eventually started dripping en-masse… and it sounded exactly like a light rain on a quiet summer morning. The stillness of the breeze was remarkable in that the leaves still on the bushes lining the forest were only rustled awake by the backyard deer who was taking advantage of the fog and undertaking a later than usual morning excursion.
What is it about the presence of heavy fog that tends to make us pause and observe in wonder at its mystery as it seemingly slows down everything that it envelops in its embrace with its arrival? What is it about its often slow but inevitable dissolving into all that it briefly enveloped that can connect us to the phases of light and shadows of our own lives?
We are perhaps designed to experience all of the seasons for reasons that often elude our mind’s capacity — just as the fog and the sunlight that dissolves it eludes our physical grasp, no matter how hard we may try. We can behold the ephemeral but we cannot hold it. We can reprise many of our life’s ‘heavy fogs’ in our mind’s eye, and yet, it is said that wisdom is about learning to choose to retain those experiences that can help us thrive.
My grandmother used to say that the decision to choose to thrive is perhaps the greatest personal decision we can make in our lifetimes. History is full of examples of people who made such a choice for themselves. Can you think of a few people who embodied and manifested their ‘choice to thrive’ in their lives, and inspired you to do the same? What are some character traits of ‘thrivers’? One reason we may remember such ‘thrivers’ is because no matter how thick or persistent or frequent the ‘fog of life’ became from them, they kept investing actions fueled by their heart’s light and warmth into their decision to thrive.
It is said that ‘the universe is no respecter of persons.’ If we choose to believe that, then what is stopping you and me from choosing to thrive? Are we to believe that our existence, our awareness, our bliss, our connection to consciousness, is in the hands of those few mere mortals who cannot apparently find the way out of their own fogs of disillusionment?
Surely that cannot be. Who is capable of taking away our choice to remain connected with the divinity within us, and thrive in the process of doing so? I, for one, choose to believe that no mortal has domain over the power that flows to and through me from the infinite source. What if we all make choices that help us thrive within, help us manifest our creative selves, help us keep waking and walking the path of love and light?
It’s time to thrive. Let’s choose well, shall we?
P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering and twitter chat in #SpiritChat, Sunday Nov 6 at 9amET / 2pmGMT / 730pm India (note the one hour time-shift for locations outside North America!). Namaste – @AjmaniK