Mastering our Emotions

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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?

Kumud

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

Nature and its variations have a unique ability to influence our emotions…

Focusing on Gratitude

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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’?

Kumud

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

Flowers teach us to focus on our center… the home of gratitude

Towards Integrity

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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)

Kumud

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

The golden sunlight that integrates everything in its path…
The 350 million year old shale cliffs that form one bank of the Rocky River… (November 2022)

Choosing to Thrive

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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?

Kumud

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

Autumn’s fogs come and go, and the roses choose to keep thriving…

Life and Legacy by @merryb923

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A few years ago, Disney released the animated film, Coco, and I was so enamored by the tradition depicted, Día de los Muertos. I started to do some research, and I realized that this holiday is a hybrid of multiple religious & cultural beliefs, it’s purpose is to celebrate and remember the lives of loved ones who have passed. These holidays occur towards the end of autumn, once the trees are bare and the harvest is over. I fell in love with Dia de los Muertos! What a beautiful way to honor those who came before us, and to feel genuinely close to them.

One of the staples of this holiday is the ofrenda – an altar containing photos of our deceased family and friends, along with offerings of their favorite foods and drinks, surrounded by marigold petals and candles. Each photo on the ofrenda is an invitation to our ancestors and friends to join us for the day, to celebrate- to dance, eat and drink, to meet younger generations, while we share our memories, and tell stories to be passed down- legacies.

As shown in Coco, Dia de los Muertos is not solemn, there is no despair; it is to celebrate lives lived and to show gratitude for the gifts shared. It shows that there is more to life than just living- it’s an opportunity to make an impact that will outlive us. To leave the world around us even just a bit better than we found it- to grow and to inspire and to provide memories that others smile to recall.

While we remember the legacies left, and ponder our own legacy in the making- what have we learned about life? Whose legacies have changed our lives? And what would we like to leave others with?

I look forward to meeting you all at #spiritchat this week, to remember those who have impacted our lives and to share how we plan to leave a legacy of our own. 

Namaste

✨💕Meredith 

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, Oct 30 at 9amET / 1pmGMT / 630pm India. Do join in and share on Life and Legacy. Thank you, Meredith! Namaste.

Autumn’s flowers – remembrances of life and legacy…

Sources of Light

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It was one of those mid-October weeks in Northeast Ohio where autumn decided to dip its toes, and then both its feet into winter for four days or so. Cold, overcast, heavy rain mixed with sleet and a bit of snow, and all the heaviness that such weather tends to bring with it. This state lasted from Monday to late Thursday, and but by Friday morning, you would be forgiven if you landed here from a different city and remarked on the beautiful fall we were experiencing!

The advent of light, particularly when it brings warmth with it after an unseasonal cold snap, does wonders for the body and the mind. Even the trees shedding their leaves seem to breathe a sigh of relief, for they get to slow down in the light to process the inner and outer changes that are happening within them.

Light creates opportunities for transition and transformation within us. Perhaps that is the root cause of our heart, mind and body’s attraction to it? The external sources of light like the sun, moon, stars, auroras, comets and their like create a sense of hope and permanence within us, don’t they? Are we not inspired and awed by the light in the images of distant galaxies revealed by the James Webb and Hubble telescopes? In search of light sources near and far, humans have looked upwards and beyond for millennia. That is the beauty and attraction of light, not just for humans, but for every living being, for light is said to be the sustainer of all life.

Those of us who have practices that prompt us to regularly look within ourselves, are also familiar with our visits with the light within us. Direct experiences of the light within us often create as tremendous joy, sense of peace, and awareness of the Source. As our practice of looking within evolves, we may shift focus to the Source — beyond the light itself. It is when we realize that the inner light is actually an invitation to focus on the source, we open up opportunities to arrive at stillness, the bliss beyond joy, and yes, even deeper space than the galaxies that the telescopes have yet to discover.

The beauty of our inner experiences with the source(s) of light is that they are not subject to the weather or external variations of Nature or scientific instruments. With practice, we can create our own inner conditions of experiencing the nature of the light within, and the nature of the infinite that lies beyond it. Every sunrise, every new season can be a reminder that the invitation to explore the light within us is ever-present.

What will it take for us to accept the invitation? What are some sources of light, external and internal, for you? What is created within you, by you, in the presence of light? ? The answers for each of us are different. May the source be our guide, and may we be explorers of light.

Kumud

P.S. Join us in our weekly twitter gathering and conversation in #SpiritChat, Sunday Oct 23 at 9amET / 1pmGMT / 630pm India. We will talk about light, its sources, its effects on us, and maybe even light a candle to start the ‘Diwali Festival of Lights’ 🪔 ~ AjmaniK

The Festival of Lights (Diwali) returns this week…

Spheres of Belonging

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The warm weather over the middle of last week, sandwiched between the cold days that preceded and succeeded it, has jolted the leaves on the trees into transformation. What started as a meandering change from the greens of summer has dramatically accelerated into a color palette of yellows, reds, oranges, some maroons and a multiple hues, tints and contrasts.

In a very short time period, autumn has changed the sphere of the leaves’ existence. Last week, they still belonged partially to summer. This week, they have their feet firmly planted in autumn. Some of them, whose transformation is complete, have found detachment from their sphere of existence among the branches and descended to the ground. Their existence in the sphere where they reached towards the sun, moon, stars and summer skies is complete. After what seemed like infinite grace in their flight between spheres, they now belong to the earth, where they mingle with those from far and near trees. They go from one sphere of belonging to another, creating new richness through variety, to eventually become the soil for new seeds that spring will bring unto them.

It isn’t as if I am watching this dance of autumn leaves for the first time. So what is it about their change in color and subsequent falling to earth that evokes so much child-like glee, awe and sense of wonder within me? Is the awe because the leaves and trees can effortlessly ‘give up one sphere of existence’ and fully embrace another sphere of belonging in the same instant? Is the child-like glee because the witnessing of the change reminds me that when the time comes, I too will be able to let go as easily and accept a different sphere of belonging? Is the sense of wonder because any given leaf represents hundreds of billions of leaves, and in being aware of one leaf’s journey I can experience the journey of all of them?

All of it comes together when I relate it to the spheres of our own belonging. The largest sphere is the one that connects us to the outer world and all of its influences, and encloses our individual sphere. Depending on our level of awareness, some may sense that we belong to the world and each other, while others are convinced that the world belongs to them. Within our individual sphere, we have a sense of belong to our experiences, our emotions, our feelings, our actions, and much more. It is said that there are multiple levels of existence within our individual sphere, which create different experiences of awareness for us. The deeper we descend into our inner levels, the more we transition from belonging to the physical body to the subtle body sphere, and finally the causal sphere of belonging.

With all the possible spheres of belonging available to us in our lives, how do we remain in that sphere where we can have the deepest connection to existence, awareness, and bliss? What can the leaves of autumn teach us about acceptance, letting go, and trust in transformation to a different, more blissful sphere of belonging?

Autumn, in the midst of all her messengers, often asks some questions. I convey some of them to you, along with her seminal message that you belong to the bliss-sphere. Don’t you feel it?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat and gathering with the #SpiritChat community, Sunday Oct 16 at 9am ET / 1pm GMT / 630pm India. We will share some autumn colors and warmth, ask and answer some questions, and take another step towards belonging to each other. Namaste – AjmaniK

By undergoing a change of colors, leaves transition to a different sphere of belonging…

Seeds of Harmony

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Autumn is the season of planting and seeding grass in lawns. The cooler weather is an invitation to repair the damage done to the lawn by the heat of summer. You remove the old and dead grass, rake the soil below, add some new dirt, mix in new grass seeds, cover the seeded patches with hay or the like to provide warmth, water adequately.

And then you wait. If and when there is harmony of all the elements — warmth and light from the sun, sustenance and receptivity from the earth, moisture and coolness from the water, expression of life force from the seed, balance of stillness and movement in the air — the seeds eventually sprout when it’s there time.

In some re-seeded patches, it seems like nothing is going to ever germinate. You start to ask questions like — did I use enough of seed? Did I use the right mix of dirt and fertilizer? Did that unusually cold snap in the days right after I planted kill the seed? Should have I watered more? Did I water too much? On and on the questioning and self-doubting goes as the days go by without you seeing any sign of new life in the seeded patches.

Five or six or seven days after seeding, you start wondering how you ever successfully grew grass in every autumn before the current one? The lack of visible external growth makes you forget the belief and hope and faith and grace that you have experienced so many times before. It’s almost as if you forget how this story has ended in every single season in the past.

And then it happens. You wake up on the sixth or seventh or nth day and some seedlings have burst through in the small circular patch that sits in the shadow of where the hydrangea had bloomed into the summer. New grass! The tiniest of new green growth amid the wide expanse of existing green instantly erases all of your questions and doubts that had sprouted while you were waiting for nature’s harmony to do what it does best in your heart — germinate new faith to remind you of your existing faith.

As you watch the heavy dew evaporate off of the new grass-lets in the same way that it evaporates off of the tall grass blades next to them, your faith is somehow re-seeded. One new direct experience, the result of a perfect harmony of nature and nurture, reminds you of all the past experiences of grace in your life.

The simple beauty of every single blade of autumn’s new grass is perhaps a reminder of the harmony between the seeds, the water, the soil, the wind, the sun, and the source that integrates them all into life itself.

What’s your take on harmony? What kind of seeds can we plant in our heart to harness the powers that lies within us? When extended the invitation to do so, what seeds are we actually planting? How may we best harmonize our efforts towards spiritual growth with those of our earthly affairs?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat, Sunday Oct 9 at 9am ET / 1pmGMT/ 630pm India with the #SpiritChat community. We will share on harmony and its value in our lives. Namaste – AjmaniK

Autumn (or Fall) brings with it, ‘seeds’ of Harmony…

Connecting with Calmness

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It takes calmness to produce stillness in a way that makes the mist rise in a surreal way on the lake on an unusually cold, final day of September, as the leaves seem to fast forward into their journey of color change.

It takes calmness to decide whether one’s leap is going to be long enough to fjord the puddle at the bottom of the hill, so that one may not have to walk with wet socks for a large portion of the walk.

It takes calmness to notice that the mist is rising faster off of the lake with every few passing minutes as the sun rises among the trees, scattering gold among the leaves as it stretches towards the blue firmament holding flocks of migrating geese.

It takes calmness to confirm that the two objects you saw at a distance, submerged in the mist on the lake surface, and thought to be a pair of ducks, are indeed so — scattering them to the other shore as they sense you approaching them.

And as you stand there at the end of the walk, with the sun now finally fully risen above the tree line, as it shines in all its glory and warms your face, tears up your eyes with its loving intensity, it dawns on you that it is difficult to separate its streaming rays scattering the ether from the mist that is rising off of the lake. The mist that is coming out of your mouth with every breath is part of the same calmness.

You turn around in place to perambulate about the axis of peace that runs vertically through you, and notice your shadow becoming shorter with every complete circle. You are now chanting the invocations that describe the qualities of beauty, peace, protection, serenity and much more that celebrate the energy of the divine feminine – Shakti. She manifests her great power only when necessary, but when she does manifest it, the worlds are realigned towards the merger of existence with a new consciousness of calmness and bliss within.

So what is it that truly calms you, connects you with peace, brings awareness of the divine to your heart? After the storms of life perturb your energy state, how do you revert to the energy of calmness? What does the energy state of calmness help you create?

It is said that calmness is our ‘natural state of being’, and that it manifests through a sense of greater equilibrium within. If so, calmness sounds and feels like a wonderful state for the heart to reside in, doesn’t it?

May we find a home there. Peace.

Kumud

Join us for our weekly gathering and conversation on twitter with the #SpiritChat community, Sunday Oct 2 at 9amET / 1pmGMT. We will connect and share our calmness with each other. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Bridges have a special ability to connect us with calmness, don’t they?

Our Inner Conditions

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Partly cloudy days can provide beautiful lighting for outdoor walks. When the partly cloudy day happens to be the first day of autumn with a distinct chill in the morning air, one has the distinct feeling that there is a different calling for the weekly forest walk that day.

And so it was that I accepted the inner invitation to visit with the local bird reservation this Friday – a visit that I hadn’t made since the spring! All the familiar locations looked a bit different. A new water fountain in the pond, near the entrance where my favorite bridge is located, brought a welcoming freshness to the water and a delightful hum that warmed the ears. New signs in several trails educating visitors about the mission and the support needed for the good health of the reservation. And much more.

The trail itself had very few leaves on the ground yet, so the sun rising slowly through the forest created beautiful light and colors on the leaves still on the trees. Nature’s morning and evening light patterns can help create a beautiful inner condition of stillness and peace.

A visit with a favorite book or movie or podcast, an actual conversation with a good friend, a greeting card in the mail, a wave from a neighbor walking by as you sit on the porch — one or all of these ‘things’ can instantly brighten our inner condition.

Some of us may also have daily, intentional, spiritual practices which, over time, help us build resilience into our inner condition. Why build resilience? Such a condition can serve us well in moments where a random text message, a tweet, a news item, a harsh word or any such intervention by the outside world can instantly disrupt our condition. The higher the degree of resilience of our inner condition, the more quickly and easily we can find ourselves back in our state of equanimity after our mind’s surface has been insta-stormed by the world.

By asking and observing ‘what is it that disproportionately disrupts my inner condition?’, we can get heart-smart about the actions we take to decrease the frequency such disruptions of our condition. As we adjust our practices to decrease our sensitivity to the disruptors, we can improve our inner condition, and then do more of those practices which works for us. A positive feedback loop can thus be established within, and over time, the heart-mind-body system becomes less and less ‘allergic’ to our ‘irritants’.

If we want to establish, maintain and enhance a condition that is active but not reactive, a daily walk of self-observation of our condition is essential.

Yes, it takes ‘extra’ work, but what if it is perhaps the best work we will do on a daily basis? Start with a small daily commitment and bring a joyous attitude to the walk. Journal what happens daily. Watch the changes in your condition over ninety days.

Consider. If you start a new walk today, you may have a brand new ‘gift of inner condition’ for yourself by the end of the year.

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly chat with the #SpiritChat community on twitter, Sunday Sep 25 at 9amET / 1pmGMT. We will take stock of our inner conditions as we gather over tea and quotes! How to start that new walk? Ask me if you need suggestions. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Sunflowers in various stages and conditions as autumn arrives…