Towards Betterment – with @JonMertz


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What is the primary goal of spiritual practice and a spiritual mind-set and heart-set towards life? We all may have different answers to this question. From personal experience, I can say that the answers to this question often change with time, with our station in life, and as our definition of life-purpose changes.

One thread that runs common through all our answers to the question of “why spirituality” is perhaps to find an answer to the question – “Who am I”? It is with this self-inquiry that our search for self-knowledge often begins. It is when we begin the journey to look within that we can begin to see the aspects of ourselves that may need “improvement”. This often leads us down the path of seeking “self-improvement”, which often brings us to the path of “self-care”, and then “spiritual care”. 

Hold that thought for a minute while I introduce you to my friend Jon Mertz. I met Jon in my early days of twitter, and we quickly became friends because he had a clarity of purpose and a transparency that was refreshing. He was very supportive of #SpiritChat during the early years, and remains so to this day. The opportunity came to meet him in Dallas, TX in January 2013, and we got together for lunch when I was visiting there for an Aerospace conference. 

Let’s bring back the thought of “self-improvement” and “spiritual care”. Over the past few weeks on twitter, Jon introduced me to his  concept of “betterment”. I was drawn to the concept because “betterment” seems to be the logical outcome of “self-knowledge” and “self-care”. It is when our spiritual practices “better” our state of awareness, “better” our state of Joy, “better” our state of Truth, that  we know that spiritual growth is happening. 

Jon Mertz has written a wonderful post to introduce the concept of Betterment as a “New Leadership Calling”. From a spiritual perspective, the “calling” is what first awakens us to the notion that we need to change something within. Regardless of our initial goal or motivation to change, it is when our efforts and practices produce tangible betterment in our lives that we are inspired to keep walking our path. 

Betterment is simple. How do our actions and interactions make others better? How do our actions and interactions make ourselves better? – Jon Mertz

The simpler an idea is, the easier it is to implement, integrate into and sustain in our daily practice of living. Betterment meets that criteria. 

Betterment is evolutionary and, sometimes, transformational. – Jon Mertz

The outcome of our spiritual practice is often transformational. Transformation of the heart, mind and spirit is the knowing that answers the question —  Who am I? How am I making myself and the world better?

Simple and Transformational. Betterment is the calling.

Will we step up and answer the calling?


Jon Mertz’ Bio : Jon Mertz founded Santa Fe Innovates, a social entrepreneur accelerator program and community. He also is an interdisciplinary leadership doctoral candidate at Creighton University. @JonMertz on twitter and founder of the Thin Difference community

Kumud’s note : I am grateful that Jon has introduced me to the concept of #betterment. I am excited that I will be hosting him in our weekly #SpiritChat  on Sunday, October 25 at 9amET / 630pm India. Come meet Jon and stay for some tea and cookies with us as we talk about #Betterment for all. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Meet Jon Mertz – author of “Betterment – A New Leadership Calling

Jon Mertz TD

On Being Forever Young


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To put it mildly, the year 2020 has been a challenging year for the human race. For many of us, our share of problems, fears and anxieties has reached new highs in this year. So, how do we find solutions for them from a spiritual perspective? Let us step back and consider the root cause, and try to find some remedies. We can begin today, October 17, which marks the beginning of the  festival that celebrates ‘renewal of divine energy’ over the forthcoming nine days and nights (Navaratri).  

Let us consider. The problems that we have, which manifest as our fears and anxieties, can be viewed as the that of the body and/or of the mind. If this is true, then would our problems ‘disappear’ if we were to lose awareness of the body and the mind? One ’state’ in which we lose this mind/body awareness is when we go to sleep every night. Of course, we often carry our fears and anxieties into the sleep state, because they manifest as dreams (or nightmares). On days like that, we may sleep for a long time, and yet, we wake up tired because our mind did not find any rest from our fears.

And yet, there are some nights (or even afternoons :)), where we sleep that deep sleep of the newborn who does not have any worries, who is not lying awake wondering whether she will have ‘milk to drink’ in the morning. Then, in that dream state, the  consciousness has traveled beyond body and mind, and we wake up rested because we were freed of our fears and anxieties. 

So, if in some states of deep sleep, we can have the awareness of no-body and no-mind, then what is it that remains? Who are we, really in that state of sleep? And, can we develop that same awareness of no-body and no-mind in our waking state? If we could  develop the awareness that we are something greater than mere body and mind, then would we come face-to-face with our real existence?

Many would argue that such an awareness, such freedom from body and mind, is not possible or practical. Living in the world, we are immersed daily in a sea of time, space, action and causation. Fear, anxiety, pain, loss, distress, aging, and such — these are the things of the “real world”. We need to face all of these things of daily life, for which we need strength and the courage to overcome. So, where can we draw our strength from?

Vedanta philosophy (the ‘end of knowledge’) speaks to three sources of strength. The first, ‘moral’ strength comes from our adherence to truth, even when we may stand to suffer great personal loss as a result. Hence, Satyameva Jayate – the truth is always victorious. The second, ‘religious’ strength comes from a belief in a power greater than us, and the faith that That power source ‘has our back’ all the time. The third, ‘spiritual’ strength comes from the knowing that we are not the body or the mind — affirmed by the direct experience that our reality is That indestructible spirit.  

If we can develop these three sources of strength, and keep replenishing them, then we can be walking, talking, sleeping, dreaming and waking in a state where fear and anxiety do not exist. We can develop strength and courage through the renewal and celebration of divine energy and awareness within. Join me in the renewal.

Let us all celebrate our journey of becoming forever young. 


P.S. Join us in our weekly twitter conversation on twitter as we gather to renew our strength and courage by sharing our stories through questions and answers, and a sharing of tea and cookies. Namaste – @AjmaniK

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On Knowledge and Knowing


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It’s good to be welcomed back home again

— where all the stress that you brought with you is instantly dissipated by the first few steps of immersion in the stillness of the forest where the leaves are turning orange

— where all the energy that the trees have accumulated in your absence is seemingly showered on you in the falling of a single leaf

— as if you had walked into the ocean whose waves instantly wet every corner of your body – no matter how long you might have been away

— the ocean and the forest does not ask – where have you been? What did you accomplish there? Why have you been gone so long? How come you never wrote or called?

Maybe the ocean or the forest don’t ask these questions because of their state of being. Or maybe they won’t ask those questions because those answers would be from knowledge – whereas they are immersed in their own knowing.

Their own awareness, and their existence is not really influenced by our comings and goings — to them, all our knowledge is of no matter. Our knowing? That is a different matter.

I had been gone for six months. The fisherman’s trail off of the entrance path into the forest was welcoming as always, with the murmuring of the river inviting me to go left or right – or maybe straight down the middle to the bank where the trees overhang the water in suspended animation amid the stillness, and the mosquitoes immediately find you unless you find a spot with the slightest of breezes, whence they will leave you alone.

The crushed rock of millennia still holds the bank in place for those days when the river will rage – but not today, certainly not today. Today, the invitation is to walk into the middle of the river as the invisible force guides me with one hand and holds the flowing waters at bay with the other . And so, I accept the stillness and the gentility and the whisperings and the noontime birds speaking sweet nothings, stepping gently on one flat rock at a time, some of them barely big enough to hold all of my toes — and as soon as I can go no further into the river, the breeze that comes around the huge bend upstream greets me with an embrace that turns my heart into the wings of the monarch that has long gone South.

And yet, no matter all of that. You are here, You are home, in the center — maybe slightly left or right of it, but the center holds you— and you stand still. And then, an unprecedented invitation, to sit on the dry part of the river bed beneath your feet. You hesitate, but then you decide, that this is the moment for you to surrender to knowing.

So, you sit on the rock in the middle of the stream and absorb all the energy flowing upwards into you from the earth, flowing downwards into you from the overcast sky, from the waters flowing on either side of you, a bit faster on your left because it is devoid of the cluster of rocks that form eddies and lagoons on your right — so much peace, feeling the universe holding you in its knowing — and all you had to do was to accept the invitation.

In his book on Zen, Osho talked about the difference between knowledge and knowing. They are both limitless, and yet, knowledge binds us and knowing frees us. Knowledge creates desire to know even more, whereas knowing releases us from desire. The wave that surges from the ocean to touch the sky of knowledge, falls back into the ocean and is home again — in the ocean’s acceptance is the wave’s knowing of peace, love, joy, serenity, tranquility, silence, stillness, truth and kindness.

I am sure that you have all felt the light and lightness of this knowing in your experience with certain people, places and practices. I hope that you choose to accept their invitation, visit with them, and sit with them for a while in the days ahead.


P.S. Join us Sunday, October 11 at 9amET / 630pm India as we gather on twitter for our weekly #SpiritChat in the knowing that we will partake of tea and cookies 🙂 Namaste – @AjmaniK

Author’s note: ‘stream of thought’ written while walking the Rocky River Reservation, October 6 2020.

Sitting… in the knowing that the Universe holds me with Love
The world flowing around me… as I sit in the river bed

Rediscovering Joy and Wonder by @AwakeningTrue


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Rediscovering Joy and Wonder

I was about 5 years old, staring into a bassinet where a newborn baby was sound asleep.  She was lying on her back and I was as mesmerized by her stillness as I was by her tiny hands.  Soon, I became aware of someone standing behind me.  It was not my Mom or one of my aunts because I knew that if it were, I would feel a hand on my shoulder or hear a familiar voice speaking to me.  I continued to stare at the sleeping baby, and then she made a small sound and she smiled.  I was totally amazed,  but not by the baby.  It was these words, “She is talking with the angels,” that amazed me.  The woman standing behind me spoke these words so softly – not to me but to herself.  Even at 5, I understood when someone was speaking to me and when she was not.  It was not the woman’s words that amazed me – they seemed true enough to me – it was the way she spoke them.  It was, I realized many years later, a tone that was full of wonder.

Joy and wonder!  I link these two words because there seems to be something magical when we experience joy and wonder in the same moment.  So, how do we rediscover joy and wonder when we are not watching a newborn talk with the angels?  Times when you have experienced joy and wonder may have just immediately come to mind.  When we are prompted, that often happens.  We think about a gorgeous sunrise after a storm, or the first fireflies of summer, or splashing in the ocean, or some moment when we felt sheer, unbridled joy AND a sense of awe and wonder.  A more important question is this – how do we rediscover joy and wonder in our day-to-day lives even as we live in these very challenging times?  How do we experience joy and wonder every day?  Every day.

I believe in the magic of everyday life, and believe we can choose to notice the magic within us and around us.  We can pause for a few moments to notice the glistening dew on the grass, the way the light seemed to flash just as our eyes rested on those sparkles.  We can drink in the beauty of the light reflected in the dew, knowing that it will shift and disappear in a few moments, and realizing that if we had not glanced in this direction in this exact moment, we would have missed this light entirely.  Joy in the beauty, wonder in the timing, gratitude for the magic of the moment.

I hope you will join the #SpiritChat conversation this Sunday, and share your insights about rediscovering joy and wonder in our daily lives.  Has this ever seemed more important to us than it is now?

Sharon Kathryn D’Agostino — @SharonDAgostino, @AwakeningTrue and @SayItForwardNow 

Author’s bio: I believe in the power of love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and gratitude. And I believe that each of us has an important role in shaping a kinder, gentler, more compassionate world for all. 

Kumud’s note: I am delighted that Sharon will be hosting #SpiritChat for all of us on Sunday, October 4 at 9amET on twitter. I am so looking forward to “Joy and Wonder”, and all that emerge from our rediscovering them. Thank you, Sharon!

Fireflies evoke joy and wonder – photo by Dave Burwell

fireflies evoke joy and wonder 

Towards Peace Supreme


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Monday, September 21 was the observance of the International Day of Peace (IDP) sponsored by the United Nations and celebrated with various events held by organizations across the world.

I became aware of IDP through the Heartfulness organization’s effort called “Connect for Peace”, whose goal was to connect 40 million people in meditation over a period of 24 hours on that day. In order to understand “what does peace mean?” to different people (kids, athletes, change makers, spiritual leaders and more), a video of responses was compiled and shared (see link in the footer… highly recommended)

So, what does peace mean to you? How and when and where do you best experience it? How often do you seemingly lose it and how do you restore it? How can we experience Supreme peace, and be established in its awareness in the majority of the moments of our daily lives?

Some of you may have heard the story of the monk getting ready to meditate by the river bank who sees a scorpion drowning in its effort to swim. The monk picks up the scorpion from the shallow water, and as she is about to put him down on dry land, the scorpion stings her. The monk is unperturbed, and gets ready to meditate again. The scorpion wades into the water again, starts drowning. The monk rescues it again, and gets stung again. When this happens a third time, an observer sitting by the bank cannot resist asking the monk – why do you keep rescuing the drowning scorpion when all it does is keep stinging you in return for your kindness?

The monk replied – the scorpion, one of apparently much lower awareness than me, is holding true to its nature, which is to sting. I, of higher awareness, ought to also hold true to my nature, and which is to be kind and perform kind actions, don’t you think? Why would I give up my peace, my serenity, my stillness, my Dharma (way of being) in response to the scorpion’s sting?

Such is the nature of our living in the world. The world stings us when we do kind things. Let us not forget that sometimes we may be the scorpions – maybe not in action, but with our thoughts and words. Often, the stings are unprovoked, undeserved, unexpected, unjust and unfair. How do we respond?

We respond to the stings of the world in accordance with our height of inner awareness and depth of inner peace. We are not all monks (yet), but some of us are on the path to becoming aware again, remembering again that supreme peace is our intrinsic nature. By associating with those people, places and practices that evoke peace within us, we connect with our peace within. Through regular connection with supreme peace, we raise our awareness to the point where we lose our sting, and the world, our mirror, loses its sting too.

Have you ever wondered why new born babies tend to make everyone around them happy? One reason is perhaps that the new born is still immersed in its connection with the peace supreme. The newborn hasn’t had an opportunity to forget that It is That or that That is all there Is. The newborn isn’t questioning whether it is the drop or the wave or the ocean. It is simply being peace.

That is the state of newborn peace which our spiritual practices can return us to. When you and I practice peace, we contribute to creating supreme peace for all of us. Why create peace? Peace creates a channel to convey natural justice based on natural law and order, which is indeed supreme.

Spirituality teaches me that peace supreme is above all and within all. There is no journey towards it, because I am already there. It is infinite, and that is enough for me. How about you?


P.S. Join us in our weekly community gathering on Twitter with #SpiritChat folks – Sunday, Sep 27 at 9amET. We will gather in peace and play with some questions and answers. Namaste – @AjmaniK

YouTube link for compilation of answers to “What does peace mean to you?” –

When the bee meets a flower – Peace flows Supreme

On Harvesting Every Moment by @merryb923


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If ever a reminder was needed to fully enjoy and be present every moment, the pandemic that hit early this year and all of the chaos that has followed must’ve had that impact. No longer able to travel, visit loved ones, attend gatherings, see live entertainment, and so much that still hasn’t made its way into the “new normal”, all being replaced with uncertainty, worry, and stress for so many. 

While we learn to be grateful for each moment of happiness, clarity, love and beauty, we also learn to be grateful for the opposite, as all of these moments are the seeds and the fertilizer of our spiritual growth. 

There are days that are easier to be present, such as today, as I sit at a deserted beach on Cape Cod, watching the tide come in fiercely as the sun sets behind me. I sit by the waters edge and listen to the waves, hearing nothing else, I close my eyes and smell the ocean air, taking in each moment that I have here, where tranquility flows naturally. 

Other days, when life is hectic or uncertain, it is not as easy to be present, or it is preferable to instead long for yesterday or wish for tomorrow. But I have realized that on these less than perfect days, the moments that force us to be present are those that shape us for the rest of our lives. These are the experiences that make us who we are. We find ourselves while we are weathering storms.

I have always considered myself “lucky” to have been born on the first day of autumn, the idea of a harvest inspires me. As we gather what nature has provided for us physically, we should also gather what it has provided for us internally. 

The changing of the seasons is a good prompt to reassess accordingly, and during the fall, a spiritual harvest of each and every moment shows us how much we have grown, and to be grateful for it.

— Meredith Bouvier @merryb923

Kumud’s note: Meredith has been part of the #SpiritChat family for many, many years. I am delighted that she will be stepping up to host the weekly chat on Sunday, September 20th at 9amET for the community. Let us join her and support her hosting journey as best as we can. In the moment. Thank you, Meredith! 

A moment by the Ocean – photo by Meredith Bouvier

A moment by the ocean

On Light and Lightness


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More than the change in the early morning temperatures, there is a remarkable stillness that comes with dawn as the season make the turn from summer towards autumn. You can feel the stirring of change in the leaves as the ones that are to yield their greens to the yellows and reds and oranges get ready to lighten the load of the branches with their eventual precipitation.

I have been watching this transition brought about by the change in the angles and intensity of light for many years, and yet, every year the totality of the letting go of the deciduous ones rarely fails to amaze me. It’s almost as if autumn comes to remind me of the benefits of harnessing the change in light within to take another step towards lightness on the path.

There is a sense of urgency that comes with the shortening of the days as the setting of the sun in the distance moves ever so slightly Southwest every evening. Every day that winter comes closer, the physical light that we have access to grows a few minutes shorter. The birds know it, the bees know it, the butterflies and lightning bugs that have disappeared knew it, and yet, somehow, sometimes, us humans choose to forget it.

Maybe it isn’t so much that we forget about the shortening of the days but it is that we have our mind immersed in the past or the future that we are unaware of the transitions. External unawareness reduces the sensitivity of our inner sensors, as they collect dust from living a life of blindness towards the gift of the presence of light.

It has taken me about thirty minutes to write this post on a crisp Saturday morning. The two boys across the lake on their swing set have been going back and forth like pendulums all this while. The stillness of the forest has gone from the steady hum of insects to the awakening of blue jays. The young puppy has gone from calmly sitting on the dew covered cushion to chasing its tail in circles.

I sit here wondering about how the developing of the practice of focusing on the source of light within the heart has improved my awareness of the importance of lightness in my life. Lightness can come when we are lost to the external world in the moment, when light within returns to the source. We often experience lightness in joyous external activity like music, painting, dancing, writing, cooking and the like.

It is when attachment to activity and inactivity stops, when all the colors merge into One, when the letting go is effortless in its completeness, that the immersion in lightness is complete.

No matter the season, spirituality and spiritual practice is perhaps about being in that lightness, carrying the awareness of transformation within us, in every moment.

Onward. Bring on the new colors. I am ready to let go. How about you?


P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering and conversation with the #SpiritChat community on Twitter – Sunday, Sep 13 at 9amET/ 630pm India. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Where all the colors merge into One, in that light we can experience lightness…

A Spiritual Homecoming


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When he pushed his two suitcases through the sliding glass doors after the security guard had lazily glanced at his passport and matched the name on it with his Lufthansa paper ticket, he had no idea what kind of welcome, if any, awaited him on the other side of the Atlantic. He had just said goodbye – a very long goodbye as goodbyes in India on airports where a family member is headed into unknown and uncharted tend to be – to about two dozen friends and family. Some of them managed to smile, while others made valiant but unsuccessful attempts to hold back tears. 

They stood outside the glass wall which encased the terminal, cheeks pressed against the window, hands raised in goodbye and blessings for as long as they could see him as he finally passed out of sight through the Customs check-point (yes, there is a Customs check on departure in India). He had no idea how long it would be before he would see any of them again, so he waited till the final call for departing passengers to leave their sight. There was no way for him to know how long it was going to be between departure and the homecoming, because when you leave the safety of the shore and surrender to the flow, life happens. 

He landed in New York city’s JFK on a crisp autumn morning, took a bus to switch airports to catch a Piedmont flight to Roanoke, where he was received by some volunteers of the Indian Students’ Association. What a wonderful act of kindness that was, which brought much relief to a weary traveler after thirty six hours of traveling. It felt like a bit of a homecoming, to be surrounded by people who spoke your language. During orientation, half of which he had missed because he was late getting to the USA because of a visa delay, he ran into a very good friend who he had known since third grade! Another mini homecoming. And then, another friend from Delhi, who spoke his grandmother’s native tongue. An even bigger homecoming. 

Fast forward. 

In his excellent TED talk titled “Where is Home”, Pico Iyer says that “Home is where you Stand”. By that measure, I have had a lot of homes across the world. From the easternmost parts of Assam to some of the northernmost parts of Kashmir, I have stood and felt a connection to people who have extended great love with a welcoming heart. Criss-crossing the Northern states of India several times on multi-day train trips, I made an attempt to get off the train at every single station. Now that I think about it, it was as if I was trying to feel at home at every single pause of the journey as I felt my feet touch the platform. It was as if I was feeling the flow of the earth under my feet at every opportunity I would get. 

So, what does all this story-telling have to do with homecoming and spirituality? I had never heard of the word until I first came across it in the context of alumni returning ‘home’ to Virginia Tech during football Saturdays in the fall. Such a beautiful word. Homecoming. It creates a vision of those who have graduated from a station in life and traveled on to explore new frontiers returning home. A bit like the splashdown of the two American astronauts a few weeks ago after they had spent a few weeks on the Space Station. Or a bit like those who spend weeks preparing for, and then climbing some of the highest mountain peaks, returning home weary and falling into the arms of their beloveds and getting some well-deserved rest. Homecoming is thus a time for renewal, of sharing stories about our travels, and then setting out again on another new journey.

In a spiritual context, homecoming can be viewed as a return to source. It isn’t connected to a particular age or a particular physical place. It is connected to a return to the source that resides in our heart – not just the physical heart, by the spiritual heart that is our consciousness beyond the mind-matter complex. In fact, one could posit that in the spiritual context, there is actually no Homecoming, because we never really left. We may spend our entire life being unaware of who we are, and yet, the consciousness, the spiritual heart is always with us. At any given moment, when our awareness shifts to It, we are aware that we are home.

Home is where we stand in awareness.

Fast rewind.

It was twenty seven months before he returned. In the interim, there were short phone calls (they had to be short at almost two dollars a minute), long hand-written letters, bouts of home-sickness, regular instances of culture shock, many new friendships formed with Virginia natives, and an awareness that it was beginning to feel a little bit like a new home. He was beginning to enjoy the New River, the new flow, the new awareness of floating and letting be. 

Present moment.

What is your story of homecoming? What does the word mean to you, remind you of? What emotions or memories or awareness does it invite? Do reflect, and then share if you are so led to do so. 


P.S. Join us in our weekly gathering with the #SpiritChat community on twitter to share some thoughts on Homecoming. We will meet Sunday September 6 at 9amET (almost to the day when I first landed in JFK all those years back). I will bring some questions that will act as place holders for the real conversation that will happen in the many tributaries of the main flow. Namaste – @AjmaniK


One of my favorite bridges — I instantly feel welcomed, at home, a sense of Homecoming every time I stand on it…

Homecoming Bridge

The Heart of Silence

We had been hoping for rain for days so that we would find some relief from the heavy humidity and sauna-like weather which was making the air conditioning run around the clock. Be careful what you ask for – or be more precise about what you ask for.

Our request was answered by the long-distance impact of the hurricane that came ashore in the Gulf. Friday was a day of violent thunderstorms passing through, rocket-launch like thunder and cracks of lightning that struck close enough to make the heart jump. The streets outside were flooded to the extent that the tree lawn was submerged, the sump pump was running non-stop in the basement, and I sat on the floor holding the older puppy wrapped in a blanket. He hates thunder and lightning because it makes him anxious – being held is the one thing that calms him down a bit.

And then, after it was all done, and nature had had its say and moved on, there was a stillness. It was a different kind of stillness that precedes the storm. It was different in the sense that it felt like the tension of anticipation had all been exhaled and that there was now silence in nature’s heart. Something akin to that which is felt after a deep meditation in our heart.

And yet, there is something deeper that can be felt in the experience of a huge storm. Just like thunderstorms ionize the air and make the environment fresh and clean, inner storms can ionize our awareness and bring us to the heart of silence.

The heart of silence is the core where deep peace resides. We can see, hear and feel silence’s heart when we watch the puppies sleep the deep sleep, on their back, all four legs raised skywards, breathing peace. We mirror silence’s heart when we pause for the few moments when the Sun is emerging above the horizon at sunrise and just starting to submerge below the horizon at sunset.

There is no storm powerful enough to make us forget that the heart of silence is our spiritual core. It is in the silent heart that the seeds of love, inner peace, kindness, grace, service, and lightness grow and flourish as they are nourished by the vibrations of thunder, electricity of lightning and waters of life’s storms.

Look for the storms. Maybe even ask for them. And then watch as your core transforms the storm’s energy to transport you to the heart of silence.

Have a good trip, and stay safe. Namaste.


P.S. Join us in our weekly twitter chat, Sunday Aug 30 at 9amET in #SpiritChat. We will talk about storms and silence, and share some tea and cookies, and maybe even a question or two! – @AjmaniK

Waiting for the storm… morning dew on flowers

Spiritual Return to School


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The entire notion of ‘return to school’ this fall has taken on a new meaning in the context of the pandemic. For my daughter’s school, the conversation between administration, teachers, support staff, parents and local, state and health agencies has spanned most of the summer. Finally, this past Friday, school did reopen to students. The entire first day was spent in orientation sessions about new rules and guidelines.

And yet, about 15% of the students have chosen not to return ‘in-person’. They have chosen the ‘online’ option. In many ways, the ‘return to school’ has become a bit of a fragmented experience for the student community. Just like the world that they live in, school has become a brand new world for students. Wearing of masks and six-foot distances, taking turns while visiting their lockers, no large assemblies, no theater in the auditorium, no inter-school sports. It’s quite a bit to take in for the parents, let alone the school community.

However, inspite of all the changes and adjustments needed to make ‘in-person’ school possible, the ‘first-day survey’ says that the students are happy to back. The social bonding that happens in school cannot be duplicated online and is thus an important part of the educational experience. One may argue that some level of social bonding does happen in online (social media) interactions, but we can all agree that the ‘real life’ meeting is orders of magnitude more impactful. So, what does all this have to do with spirituality?

Well, that’s a good question. I guess one connection that comes to mind is the question – how have our spiritual practices served us in times of great change? Most students seem to have taken all these big changes in their ‘return to school’ process in stride, and with a good attitude. How do we adults handle great changes in our (learning) environments? Assuming that there are no setbacks, and that ‘in person school’ continues through the academic year, these fairly large changes will be in effect for a fairly long time. If we were in a similar situation, how would our spiritual practices be affected or undergo change(s)?

Let me share one personal example of change affecting spiritual practice. Ever since we brought a new puppy home six weeks ago, my morning meditation routine has had a ‘return to school’ experience. I had no idea how difficult it would be to try and sit quietly in the same space with a ten-week-old puppy. You see, the puppy wants to do the exact opposite of sitting still at 7am in the morning after a good night’s sleep! So, I had to change, adjust, and even school the puppy a bit. I would let her play for half an hour, let her burn off her energy, and then sit for my morning practice. And guess what?

After a few days, she caught on to the fact that this was my quiet time. I often found her curled up at my feet at the end of my morning sitting. I won’t go so far as to say that my original daily practice has been fully restored, but I am on my way back. It is a ‘return to school’ in a different environment for me and my practice. The timing and space where I practice varies depending on how the morning develops, and I have developed a new sense of gratitude for what I can accomplish on the days when I am able to practice.

That’s my short story. How about you? Have there been occasions where you’ve had to make small or big changes to your practices? Have you experienced a ‘spiritual return to school’ at any time and learnt new things about yourself and your environment? What did you learn in the process?


P.S. I invite you to ‘return to school’ with the #SpiritChat community on Sunday, August 23 at 9amET on twitter. We will ask some old questions in new ways, and share some new answers. Maybe we will even get a bit of an education on taking change in stride and staying in school. Namaste – @AjmaniK

A flower for the Teacher