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?

Kumud

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?” – https://youtu.be/TEKSFltSsvs

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?

Kumud

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. 

Kumud

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.

Kumud

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?

Kumud

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

Finding Our Own Path

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Walking in nature has grown to be one of my favorite outdoor activities over the past four or five years. This invitation to walk the local reservation came about suddenly one day as I was driving to work. That was then, and this is now. Hundreds of miles and thousands of photographs later, there are still new paths that remain to be walked and new experiences to be had on the frequently traveled ones. 

Nature has taught me much about life and shown me some glimpses of its inner workings during my walks. The variations of the seasons and how one season’s end is a preparation for the next. The contrast between the stillness of the water in the lagoons and the rush of flow in the river after the snow melts. The trees that grow taller every year so that they can carpet the ground with leaves every autumn to provide fuel for the forthcoming spring. This, and much more, has unfolded on the many paths for me. 

Such is the nature of the physical paths that have unfolded for me over time. It is hard to imagine that one could really walk in deep harmony with nature without experiencing a parallel spiritual journey within. Nature does not promote any path to the walker. It provides a new canvas every day and invites the sojourners to bring their imagination to paint a new path with every step. Some of my most satisfying walks have been where I simply wandered and let the sounds of the river and the play of sunlight among the trees be my guides. May every day bring a new way — that seems to have become my mantra.

According to Osho, ‘The Way’ is a good description of the philosophy of Tao. There is no goal — there is only the way or the path. 

Each moment, wherever you are, you are at the goal if you are on the path. In Tao, there is no talk about moksha, nirvana or enlightenment. The spiritual work is that you have to find the path, the Way. 

So, what does the Way look like? How do we find it? How do we know that we are on it? The challenge of this approach, if we choose it, is that we have to find our own path before we can start walking it. It cannot be given to us by anyone, or walked for us by anyone. There are no footsteps to follow, or leave for others. This may be disconcerting to many who have had a ‘religious’ upbringing, and yet it is an opportunity for great freedom of exploration. The variables are courage, risk, and adventure. An adventure of self-discovery, and of the path itself. 

There is a blue heron that I have often stumbled upon during my walks. She shows up at different locations in the reservation depending on the season and the hour of the day. She invariably sees me before I see her, and starts to leave before I can take a picture of her. So, I stopped trying to photograph her. Then, one day, without preamble, there she was. Standing still on a log in the lagoon, for what seemed like an eternity. It was as if she knew that I had stopped trying to ‘capture’ her, so she stopped trying to escape from my presence. That was a really good moment on the journey, for I felt that I was one with the goal and the path. 

And so, we keep walking, keep discovering, keep on letting the curves and bends of our path unfold before us. We draw from nature as we learn more about ourselves and our heart’s capacity through direct experience every day. It’s a great way to feel alive, isn’t it? 

Kumud

Join me and the #SpiritChat community, Sunday August 16 at 9amET as we continue our journey and cross paths on twitter yet again. Namaste – @AjmaniK

One of the sights on one of the many paths in the Valley ReservationIMG 9046

The Essence of Self-Love

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The Essence of Self-Love (by Elisa Balabram)

Last month, our host Kumud Ajmani and #SpiritChat, celebrated 9 years of weekly spiritual and inspirational conversations. Congratulations! I may have joined six months or so after its launch, though I’m not sure when exactly. Since then, invariably every conversation includes at least one Tweet on #SpiritChat that makes a reference to Self-Love.

I’m copying a paragraph from a recent article I wrote on my blog Inequalities, Racism, Self-Love and Action that I think is relevant. I imagine that a world filled with self-loving individuals would be a more peaceful, respectful, joyful and loving world, would you agree?

“Self-love is not gloating or self-aggrandizing. One could argue that if someone is gloating, they are seeking approval from someone other than themselves, in order to give self the permission needed to feel loved. To practice self-love is to go beyond societal and cultural expectations of one’s successes and/or failures.  Self-love is the deep knowing within oneself that one matters, has value to offer, is a light, for simply existing and being one’s heart centered, authentic Self.”

For me, the essence of self-love is a clear unimpeded connection to one’s heart space, soul wisdom, and love within. It includes giving self: acceptance, love, kindness, and permission to fail. It may also require taking things lightly, being free of judgment (work in progress), treating self as one’s best friend, and creating opportunities to express oneself authentically and creatively. In addition, I find it helpful through the self-love practice, to develop an awareness of the inner critic, and to apply tools to minimize its influence. How are you practicing self-love and what does it mean to you?

Join us this Sunday at 9am ET for a conversation about “The Essence of Self-Love” and share your experience with it.

Elisa

Elisa Balabram is a lecturer, intuitive business/life #coach, writer & #author of: Ask Others, Trust Yourself & Mending a Broken Heart: Lili´s Magic Journey. Her blog is at https://www.askotherstrustyourself.com
 

It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I welcome Elisa (@womenandbiz) to host #SpiritChat on Sunday, Aug 9 at 9amET on Twitter. Please join in and share with Wlisa and the #SpiritChat community. Namaste. – Kumud

Elisa-Balabram-womenandbiz.jpeg

Elisa Balabram #FF @womenandbiz on twitter

On New Foundations

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It was about this time last summer that I decided to undertake a project to “rock-scape” all the plant beds on the sides and the back of the house. I figured that this would be a sort of a permanent solution to the annual mulching of the beds in spring. The landscape fabric was first laid down around the existing plantings, and then a lot of “river rock” was put down. The fabric and rock was in effect  removing the foundation for weeds to grow. It looked great and the remaining part of last summer was essentially free of pulling weeds from the beds. And yet, my celebration was not to last through this summer.

I hadn’t figured on the ingenuity of nature. There are two bird-feeders stationed in two of the beds, from which seeds are constantly spilled onto the rock-scape below by the birds throughout the day. Earlier this summer, I saw some of these seeds starting to grow through small gaps in the rocks. I figured they wouldn’t last long, because their roots couldn’t possibly go past the landscape fabric. I was only partly correct. When I went to pull these new ‘weeds’, they did come out relatively easily because their roots had grown laterally along the fabric. 

That’s the story of the weeds that grew without a deep foundation anywhere and everywhere there was seed, water, sunlight, air gaps and a little bit of soil. They couldn’t grow deep, but they figured out a way to create a new foundation. Something similar happens to us humans too. Seeds of thoughts and emotions are always traveling to the soil of our hearts and minds. These seeds, seeking new foundations, travel to us from friends and family, co-workers, media and social media, Zoom chats, WhatsApp conversations, and much more. 

So, how do we ordinarily deal with these seeds? I have a bit of a “let me rock-scape my mind” approach. The idea is to prevent the  thought and emotion seeds to find new foundations in my mind. I have found that if I can keep my mind relatively “weed free”, then my heart has a good chance to operate at its optimal level too. Despite my rock-scaping, I still have to do a daily weeding of the seeds that find their way through and grow roots, shallow as they may be. And yet, there is another aspect to the notion of “new foundations”.

For establishing or renewing a garden or landscape with flowers and plantings, garden centers often sell young plants and flowers in planters. When re-planting these plants and flowers at home, it is vital to provide good quality soil, some fertilizer and lots of water so that they can establish deep, healthy roots and thrive in their new foundation. The storms and droughts of life, the re-plantings and re-growths are best handled by those whose foundations run deep in faith and love,

New foundations are best established by those whose spiritual practices help them to keep out the weeds, as well as grow healthy new gardens no matter where life takes them on their journeys. I invite you take inventory of your weeds and flowers among your mind. How is the health of your heart’s garden? What seeds have established new foundations in your heart and mind lately? 

Kumud

P.S. Join us in our weekly twitter chat, Sunday August 2 at 9amET / 630pm India. We will plant some new seeds with the #SpiritChat community as we begin a new year and build some new foundations for new friendships. Namaste – @AjmaniK 

A planter with marigold flowers is ready to be planted into its new foundation…

Marigold Flowers

The Magic of Slowing Down

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I have always been a fan of the number nine. I was delighted when I first found out that if you added the number nine to any number, and you sum up the resulting digits, you got back the sum of the digits that you started with. Nine is preservative in addition. So, let’s say we begin with 25. Two plus five is seven. Now, add nine, and we get 34. Three plus four is seven. Let’s add ninety-nine. 34 plus 99 is 133. One plus three plus three is seven. Try adding 999. 1132. Still seven.

Now try multiplication with nine. Nine becomes transformative. The resulting sum of the digits will always be nine. 25 times 9 is 225. Two plus two plus five is nine. 25 times 99 is 2,475. Two plus four plus seven plus five is 18. One plus eight is 9. Yes, we can play with nines like this all day long. Magical when we slow down to contemplate, isn’t it?

In human life, when nine is engaged in multiplication, it becomes an agent for transformation. For example, it takes nine months for a human baby to be born. Is there any greater act of transformation than two cells becoming a baby? Can you think of an example in our daily lives where addition by nine represents preservation? I will give you a personal example. 

Nine years ago to the day, give or take a few days, a few folks gathered on twitter on a Sunday morning at 11am ET and had a conversation about spirituality. The topic was, “On Slowing Down”. There was no agenda or expectation that there would even be a second conversation the following Sunday. It was simply an experiment inspired by a question posed by me to one of my good friends – why isn’t there any chat on twitter about spirituality? Wayne’s response was —  so what if there isn’t one? Why don’t you start one? 

Answer a question with a question. That’s the classic way in which a teacher and mentor can nudge us to do something that takes us out of our comfort zone. I remember thinking back then — what will I even talk about? So, I asked Wayne again. What should the topic be? His response was — what do you love doing most? Talk about that. Hmm. What do I love doing most? I love slowing down, sitting and doing “nothing”. I learnt that from my Dad.

He could sit and read the newspaper for hours. He could sit in absolute stillness and silence with a cup of tea at peace for what seemed the longest time. He could stand in the kitchen patiently and tend to the assembly of his seven-layered, seven-colored rice dish for what seemed like forever. You simply couldn’t rush him for anything.

So, in the last week of July, which happens to be his birthday week (he would have been eight six this year), on a Sunday morning in 2011, a few friends of mine gathered and chatted about “slowing down”. There were only three questions. I did not ask the first question until twenty minutes into the hour. We had no idea what we were doing except that we were all simply happy to be there, enjoying each other’s company as we held our cups of tea or coffee and wondered about the merits of “slowing down”. 

That was then. Nine years ago. It seems like a life-time or more in online years. And yet, not much has changed in some ways since 2011, has it? If anything, the need for us to experience the magic of slowing down is all the more greater, isn’t it? How else is one to engage in remembrance and gratitude, if not through the active process of slowing down? How else, if not by slowing down, am I to thank all of those who have sent hundreds of thousands of words of hope and inspiration to the #SpiritChat community over the years?

How about slowing down offline? It is in slowing down that I can watch and deeply feel the sun rise slowly at the eastern end of the street at dawn or feel the silvery glow of the sliver of the moon’s rising at dusk. Slowing down allows me to contemplate the beauty of the flower that was separated overnight and fell to the ground in homage to the earth. It allows me to touch the dew fallen in the grass with light feet, and inhale the air of the cool morning breeze before the heat rises and melts it away. And yes – how is one to engage in meditation, if not by first slowing down physically and remembering to bring myself to a state of rest?

So yes, slowing down allows us to return to remembrance. Regularly slowing down within allows us to be in constant remembrance.  What kind of remembrance? The external world will be relentless in its demands on us, and yet That stillness will remain in our hearts forever. It shall be patiently waiting for us to accept its invitation to visit with it, to let the outer world be, and to choose to be immersed in the world within. Will we make that choice? How much can we slow ourselves down? Will we observe the observer and remember that there is That permanent, indestructible, all-loving, all-joyous, all-truthful One within All off us?

That remains the great question, the great challenge.

Nature has some pointers for us. As fast as a hummingbird flies or a bee buzzes or a butterfly flaps her wings, they all have to slow down, to come to a moment of stillness, so that they can experience the magical taste of the nectar of life. What can we learn from their behavior? Even the new puppy, who can go a hundred miles an hour, has to pause for a drink of water, a nibble at her food bowl, before she can take off again like an express train towards her next station of play.

Like the piano virtuoso Wayne Mcevilly, who inspired me to start the weekly chat nine years ago said — the greatest classical music compositions are so because the composers put as much care into putting the pauses into the right place, as they did into assigning the notes that each instrument is to play.

Let us condense nine years into nine minutes. That is my invitation to you. Take nine minutes and be still. Watch your breath or the light in your heart or the sunrise or the sunset or a single flower dancing in the stillness. Absolute stillness. There is magic in all of That. Thou art That. That is all there Is. 

We all can experience all of That, if we were to embrace the act of slowing down. No magic necessary. 

Kumud

P.S. Join me and the #SpiritChat community on Sunday, July 26 at 9amET as we slow down to create some magic. I look forward to hearing from you about your experiments with pure stillness. I will bring tea and maybe even some cake – you bring your open hearts and we will chat. Namaste – @AjmaniK

A bee slows down to visit a butterfly bush in the front yardIMG 4402