Engaging our Youthful Spirit

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The breeze blows swift this morning under overcast skies and the grasses rimming the lake seem a tad taller from having been replenished by the light rain that fell all night long. It’s the kind of morning on the deck where a light T-shirt isn’t warm enough and a sweat-shirt wouldn’t be cool enough… and so I put on a yellow soccer jersey with Brazil colors on top of the blue.

In the small Zoom chat on Friday, a lot of us were wearing blue again. I commented that blue was becoming a theme for the chats and Lucille (@sageandsavvy) reminded us that blue activates the “throat chakra” and empowers us to speak the truth. From hosting my niece’s wedding events on Zoom for three straight days this week, I know that yellow is the color of purity. Bride and groom wear yellow while the family applies orange turmeric paste on them, before they take a ritual bath the day before the wedding is a ritual of the ages in our community.

Blue, yellow, orange – add red and green trimmed with gold – the traditional colors worn by Indian brides, a lot of music, dance, and laughter, and you get a soul-filling vibrance that energized me and all those present. The energy of love and joy of the young bride and groom was unmistakable – even from seven thousand miles away. It was a wedding like me and many others had never experienced – an immersion and engagement of a different , unique kind where you could be fully present to the flow of youth-led celebration, without all the distractions and stresses of attending a real-life wedding.

As I write this, the wind has calmed a bit, and out of the corner of my eye, I see that the Mama rabbit who has set up family camp in the thick shrub beyond the fence, has arrived at the base of the deck’s steps. At a six foot distance, we have been doing this stillness dance for a few days. We are aware of each other, but we only look at each other through sideways glances, and we both sit in stillness — a bit like how the bride and groom sat during the fire ceremony part of the wedding. Once she has decided that she is safe, she moves to the base of the bird-feeder where the spillover created by the blackbirds is her repast. My phone flashes a notification — “Flight from GOI to BOM at 9am” — this was to be my return flight from the wedding in Goa. Rescheduled for next June.

Now, where was I? Yes. The contagious, vibrant, energetic refueling of the spirit provided by immersion in the colors and sounds of youthful energy. Last week was confirmation of a direction that I had been called to the week before – to focus my energy towards greater engagement with folks who are young in heart and spirit.

This new direction is not merely about engaging those who are young in age, although they are the inspiration for it. It is about offering the energetic experience, the wisdom, the talents of those who have been on life’s roads less traveled, to those emerging youth who will lead our world into its new future.

Some of this reminds me of my good friend Jon Mertz of @ThinDifference, whom I met on Twitter, and is the first Twitter friend I met IRL on a visit to Dallas. He has supported #SpiritChat for many years, particularly in its youthful years, and has been a long term proponent of “engaging generations and empowering future leaders.” It also reminds me of Simon Harvey (@Simon_GB), a day one #spiritchat participant, whose passion for leadership flowed through #LeadfromWithin for many a year.

I believe it is time for me to follow their lead, the lead of my calling, and the lead of many others like @GrandmaOnDeck, @GaryRGruber, @VegyPower and more. I believe it is time to focus on engaging the energy of youth across the world, and dive headlong into this new experiment and calling to a return to the heart.

I hope you will join me in this new walk. I was going to wait to start walking towards this in a few weeks, but Elisa (@WomenandBiz) in yesterday’s Zoom chat taught me through a Maya Angelou quote — why wait to do the next good thing? Sharon (@AwakeningYourTrueSelf) encouraged me to follow the new direction with the same passion that I have had for the weekly #SpiritChat and Quaratulain (@iquarattariq), the youth representative in the Zoom chat, lent her warm, heartful endorsement.

So, here I am. I am hoping that some of you who have been with the #SpiritChat community for a while will provide inputs, ideas and guidance to this not-so-new heart direction for many of us. I will need all of your help and more, to take the current energy of “we’re all in this together” and transform it into action, so as to effect a transfer of power that will create a new core of leadership at the heart of this world.

I know that we can do this by engaging a new generation that leads and acts with the heart — for that is the key to sustainability.

My three week retreat is over. I’m back. Refueled. Ready for a new launch. Join me. Let all of us young in heart and spirit, you and Me, turn this world upside down, and become We.

Let us arise, awake, and stop not!

Kumud

P.S. Join us in our weekly chat, Sunday June 28 at 9amET / 630pm India as we gather to celebrate the energy of youth. Maybe I will switch from tea to juice, and from cookies to fresh fruit. Namaste – @AjmaniK

The contagious joy and energy of young hearts and spirits…

Spirituality, unity and union

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The longer I wait to write this post on Saturday morning, the shorter the shadows get in the back of the house which faces west. The Sun, slowly ascending towards its peaking of the day, on this day when daylight reach its ascendancy over darkness in the northern hemisphere, I contemplate union and unity.

A tiny baby dragonfly in resplendent blue with translucent wings lands in the center of the rainbow colored hula hoop encrusted with silvery highlights lying on the floor of the deck. An orange winged blackbird lands on the wrought iron post holding the bird feeder, squawks loudly as it departs without partaking, as if to say that I need to fill it again. The two boys on their swings across the lake have been going back and forth for the past half hour, unassisted, as they have surely mastered their art of Joy. The lake glistens and ripples as it often does in the harmony of the slight breeze and the low angle of the Sun’s light from the East. My cup of tea is empty but I am too enamored by it all to move off of the deck, lest I miss something vital.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Union and Unity. In the 5th century BC, the Indian sage Patanjali, compiled a treatise called The Yoga Sutras. It is said to be the collation of the knowledge and practices of the lives of the practitioners of Yoga of the time. Patanjali wrote about Yoga as a thread of aphorisms explaining the relationship between the natural world, the inner spirit of humans, and the unity between them.

The practice of Yoga can be simply described as any practice which leads to union between the external and the internal. Yoga is the manifestation of the unity that we often intrinsically seek in the paradox of living in the transient external world while seeking the permanent within.

Swami Vivekananda describes this striving for union in the form of four paths of Yoga, all emerging from One as we move outward on them, and then converging into One as we return home. These four paths are the path of work and action, the path of knowledge, the path of devotion and the royal path of meditation. Why do we need four paths? Why not just one?

Perhaps because all humans, like the colors of the rainbow, have different propensities and inclinations that they bring into their physical existence. So, the offering of four distinct and yet non-exclusive and equal paths of Yoga, invites the practitioners of love to practice love in the way that they may be most attracted towards in their current state of life. Very often, a human may practice all four paths simultaneously, with different levels of intensity at different times of the day and night.

The Yoga of action may dominate during the day, knowledge path may prevail during reading or observing nature, devotion may take over during prayer, meditation may subsume one at dawn or dusk or other times. Yes, we are all practitioners of multiple paths, whether we are aware or conscious of the particular path, or even the goal, for that matter.

And the goal? One goal is to manifest the unity of the four paths into the realization that our true state is where the states of permanence, knowledge, and bliss, unite us in our union with the One.

A sense of unity often precedes Union. However, we know that unity cannot be decreed by a constitution or any number of bills of rights or legislatures or courts or executives and their orders. It is just like a rainbow cannot be decreed to appear or be perceived — the sun and the rain drops and a number of other conditions have to come together to create it with harmony. The rainbow appears when human nature recognizes that the union of colors, while maintaining their independence and their right to individually exist as equals, can only enhance the beauty of the world for all who set their eyes upon such a union.

How does union and unity manifest? We can observe union in father-children relationships, in a bride and groom’s joyfulness on their wedding day, in a decision to be aware of and celebrate all the physical light steaming upon us during summer solstice. Perhaps the greatest manifestation of unity and union is in an individual’s decision to work towards their union with the divine through the path of Yoga of their choice.

To be friendly towards those friendly towards us, to be joyous for them in their joy, to be empathetic towards those suffering, and to be indifferent without attitude towards those with evil intent – these four practices of maitri, mudita, karuna and upeksha – are considered to central to Patanjali’s definition of Yoga.

As I finish writing this, a baby sparrow has arrived on the deck and is loudly tweeting in a sliver of shade by the bird feeder. It is as if she’s asking me to get off the couch stat and do my Dad Yoga of re-filling the feeder. Such is the life of a householder- to stay unified in the heart while performing the actions related to the feeding of the world around me.

Now where did I put away that 50 pound bag of bird seed anyway?

Kumud

P.S. Join me and the #SpiritChat community in our weekly twitter gathering on Sunday, June 21 at 9amET/ 630pm India. We will integrate Fathers Day (US), International Day of Yoga, Summer Solstice and the kickoff of four days of online and offline events for my niece’s wedding in India… Namaste – @AjmaniK

On Spirituality and Privilege

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The tears came suddenly and as large droplets from my firmly shut and already moist eyes at the end of the morning meditation session; about midway through I had ceded any semblance of trying to get my mind’s thought pattern to calm down as the thoughts had somehow drifted to thinking about privilege by birth, and how much of it I enjoyed growing up in a middle class family in India.

The tears came as I thought of the one who probably saved my life when I was ten, as I lay bleeding and unconscious on a concrete floor, having fallen from about 20 feet high onto my left side from the first floor window. I had broken the raised bone in my left arm where it meets the wrist and bridge of my plastic glasses had embedded into my nose on impact, which was miraculously not broken, but was bleeding like the river Yamuna. She was the only adult in the house with all of us kids — the very dark-skinned South-Indian lady named Chalma who would wash dishes twice a day for three families of at least eight to ten people each who lives in a three-story home in a wealthy New Delhi neighborhood.

Her tools were used lemon rinds, and wood ashes that she brought from the remnants of the cooking fires from her home, and the husks of used coconuts that she used as a cleaning ‘sponge’. The family sized pots and pans of cast iron and copper were heavy; plates, spoons, glasses, knives were all stainless steel. One eight foot section of the granite kitchen counter top would be filled with the washed dishes after she was done. She wasn’t allowed to stand and wash in the marble sink next to the counter because the ashes would cause damage to the fine surface.

So, on the floor she sat cross legged on a small flat stool, with her frail frame bent over her kingdom of dirty dishes, coconut fiber in one hand, dipping it ever so often in the ashes sitting in an earthen bowl by her. In the morning, she did the dishes from last nights dinner. In the afternoon, she did the dishes from breakfast and lunch. Once or twice every day, she was chided by the lady of the home, not to let the tap of fresh water run so freely. Her job was particularly difficult in the summer when running water only came for an hour, twice a day — during the early hours of the morning and the late afternoon. If she missed that running water window because she was ‘late to work’, she would have to use water that we would have filled in heavy aluminum buckets the night before, and lined her workspace with in a quarter circle — water that she would treat like molten gold as she used it sparingly, and wash out thoroughly for the next day, after she had washed all the dishes…

And then there was the lady who would come and sweep all the finely crafted and smoothed concrete floors of our family’s 1500 sq ft home on the middle floor of the three story home. The ‘dry sweeping’ with the traditional broom was the relatively easy part. What was much tougher was the mopping that followed. It was done with a heavy cotton-roped cloth about two feet square, sitting on her haunches as she dipped the cloth with her bare hands in the water doused with phenylaline as a disinfectant, moving slowly, a few square feet at a time.

Her task was to remove the dust that is endemic in the oppressive summer heat of Delhi when the hot breeze called loo from neighboring Rajasthan brings hot sand with it and coats everything in its path — whether it be a shining, three story home in a wealthy neighborhood or the ramshackle tenement of the dish-washing lady who tries to feed her family every night with just enough money earned by washing dishes all day so that she can buy just enough wheat or rice filled with stones and dirt from the ration shop every week or so.

I have to admit that while all this was happening around me in middle-school, high-school and under-grad, I didn’t think about it much because it was considered “normal” for most middle-class families to employ multiple, task-specific maids. The maids and their families needed to work to live, and we were supposedly providing work, wages, an occasional cup of tea when they were done working — even a saree or some clothes for the kids on major holidays. It was a sort of unwritten societal labor contract — it was also a social network of ladies of the homes and the maids who worked through multiple homes every day.

For some reason, lately, I’ve been made aware of the privilege enjoyed by me in that contract, in painstaking detail. For me, the way out of that contract happened to be in coming to the USA for graduate studies. For them, the only way out of that contract, was perhaps death. For death does finally destroy all privilege accorded by birth, or does it?

I do remember talking to a teenage son of one particular lady who used to do the daily trash pickup and clean the bathrooms — the dish washing lady, the floor cleaning lady, laundry washing and clothes ironing lady, and bathroom washing lady were all separate — if he had ever considered going to school. I don’t know that he ever answered me directly except by saying with his brilliant smile and impish grin with slightly downcast eyes — bhaiya (brother), this is my life, and I am happy doing the work given me.

So, that is why all the tears came. His statement, which I never forgot, was such a simple reminder that “it isn’t the task that makes the person high or low — it is the manner in which it is done, that makes the person so.” The tears also served as a reminder of what I have read so often in two of my favorite essays delivered in London in 1896 — “Vedanta and Privilege”, and “Privilege” — both by Swami Vivekananda.

A quick recap may be useful. The Advaita (Oneness) philosophy of Vedanta says that for Oneness to be our truth, one needs to believe in Universal equality, in the fact that we are all manifestation of the One divine. Without that central belief and practice, our inner world is fragmented and we dwell in anger, hate, jealousy and all that which divides us. If we hold that central belief that we all have the same One light of higher embodiment, our inner world is united through an ever-flowing current of higher love.

So, what is it that destroys Oneness, ethics and equality?

“Everyone is the embodiment of Knowledge, of eternal Bliss, and eternal Existence.

The ethical effect is just the same, with regard to equality.

And yet, there is privilege – the bane of human existence. The privilege of the strong over the weak, of the wealthy over the poor, the subtle privilege of those who claim higher intellect, and the worst of all, because it is the most tyrannical, is the privilege of (birth and) spirituality – those who think of themselves as more (due to birth), or those who think they know more of spirituality (than others).” – Vivekananda

And so arise the questions in my heart-mind complex. What privilege(s) do I assert? Which privilege(s) have I inherited? What privilege(s) am I passing on in my legacy? How does privilege manifest in my actions and practices, my goals, my dreams and my aspirations? And perhaps most importantly, how do I break down the bondage of all these privileges that entangle me in the web woven by all my desires?

I don’t know. Perhaps I can begin by washing my own dishes, keeping my personal (office) space clean, and maybe doing (or at least folding) my own laundry. Or all of the above…

Kumud

P.S. Join our weekly chat, Sunday June 14 at 9amET/ 630pm India in #SpiritChat on Twitter. All are welcome. No privilege necessary to attend, to share some love with all. I will bring some questions, some tea and cookies to share, for that is the small loving privilege granted me by the community for that hour. Namaste – @AjmaniK

On Spiritual Restoration

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A beautiful cool breeze is flowing this morning before the heat rises. The blackbirds are practicing their landings on the fence — the young ones are learning how to land on top of cattails. I notice at least four or five new bushes lining the forest side with their white flowers now blooming.

The sun crests the roof from behind me and starts to warm the left side of my head behind the ear. Flap, flap, flap goes the edge of my sleep shorts as I sit cross legged clutching my cup of tea, The back of my right knee is cradled on top of the left, both of them supported by the toes of my left foot, heel suspended in mid air, lifted by the wooden rail of the deck running crossways. The bullfrog announces his presence by blaring out a morning song. As if in cue, a skirmish breaks out among some blackbirds — perhaps a heated conversation about ownership of a particularly fruited bush.

My thoughts shift. The world has destroyed itself and reconstructed itself, over and over again, for centuries. My hometown of the city of Delhi, the center of many an Indian empire, is said to have been razed to the ground seven times by invaders, and been built again. So, I sit here watching the birds go about their morning routine, which is rarely if ever interrupted unless there happens to be a roaring thunderstorm that forces them to take shelter in their nests and ride it out. Unlike humans, they don’t construct permanent walls or roofs or tenements or try to brave the storm by driving through standing waters.

Yes, the younger, more impetuous ones do fly a bit faster than their parents, and seemingly a bit more recklessly in between the bushes and trees, and occasionally miss their landings atop the cattails to end up closer to the water than their mothers would like to see. But what would you do if you woke up one fine morning of your young life and realized that you had been given wings, and one of your parents, knowing that you were ready, brought you to the edge and gave your quivering young body — that is shaking with fear at the prospect of falling to your death to the earth below — a final push with a prayer beneath her breath and said, fly!

She knows that if she has misjudged the strength of your wings, you may end up on the storm soaked ground below and the earth will either gently catch you so that you may try again, or embrace you forever, orange and yellow flecked wings and all — such is the nature of life, of discernment. We try, we fail, we learn, we adjust, and we try again. No progress, at any level, from the march of an ant to the launching of a new rocket to carry humans into space, has ever been made possible by simply sitting in our nests with the fear of flying or learning to fly.

When compared to birds and bullfrogs and geese and spiders and ants and willows and roses and pine trees and even rocks, we humans are mere fledgelings in the lifespan of the earth, let alone the universe. So, the creator has endowed us with Nature as a playground and observation space where we can learn some valuable lessons that can help humanity either rise and soar, or plummet and destroy itself. The laws of time, space and causation cannot be circumvented without first understanding the basics of cause and effect. Natural laws always takes precedence over human laws, for the wisdom of the One who created the former far exceeds the ones who created the latter.

However, we humans have been given one extraordinary faculty that distinguishes us from the rest of Nature.

And that is the faculty called ‘free will’ by some and ‘discernment’ or ‘viveka’ by others. As I arrive at writing this section, the wind has shifted. A cloud has temporarily come over the Sun behind me. The blackbirds are starting to retreat and the geese have left the pond momentarily to take shelter on land. Discernment on display, and yet it is a cause and effect response to nature’s stimulus. A bit like a child touching a hot stove and learning, forming a memory that it isn’t a good idea to challenge the laws of fire and heat.

So, yes, ‘viveka’ is a faculty and a facility granted to us to convert our learning into experience and then into wisdom. When Arjuna, the aggrieved Prince of the Bhagavad Gita, refused to fight to restore the justice due to him because he did not want to kill his own half-brothers who had connived to cheat him of his rightful inheritance to the kingdom of Indraprastha — the city razed and built seven times — his teacher Krishna said to him: you have been given the duty of a warrior, so you are bound by the laws of Dharma (natural justice and truthful living) to act in the cause of its restoration; rise up and discard this despondency; stand up and fight or else an entire race of good people shall be decimated at the hands of the promulgators of evil or adharma; do not let emotion cloud your discernment, for ‘viveka’ is your greatest faculty — the ability and courage to do what is right for the greatest good; action with love produces detachment to the outcome, and yet detachment does not mean that you be attached to inaction.

It is the restoration of the good, of goodness through the use of discernment that elevates us within.

Back to my morning by the lake. When the mighty hawks stray and soar too close to the blackbirds and their young, the much smaller but deft in flight blackbirds do not hesitate to guide them back to their nests. Order is swiftly restored. The blackbirds’ size isn’t a disadvantage – they are much more flexible in changing speed and direction as compared to the hawks, because of their size. Each of us, as individuals, may be smaller than the big machinery that wants to endanger our young, and yet, with the exercise of ‘viveka’, with consistent action that works towards the restoration of ‘dharma’, we can engage in reconstruction of truth, kindness, empathy, friendship, and bliss.

Our greatest faculty and facility is the divine’s love that we carry in our heart. Let us wield that love with courage in all that we do, even if it means that we run the risk of being thought of as weak and ignorant. The evil and unjust are the ones who are weak, lacking in ‘viveka’ —and it is their hubris and heart calcification that will be their destruction. We, the wielders of love, will be the agents, the dispensers of that justice.

Natural justice is dispensed by the natural laws of time, space and causation. It is the law of karma charioted by the holders of ‘viveka’, that has for eons and civilizations, ensured victory for those committed to action for the restoration of Dharma — truth and justice.

For when the storm of natural justice arrives, it restores equality among all, regardless of size, strength, power, status or color — the hawk, the blackbird, the finch, all respond to the storm by taking refuge in their nests. Their use of discernment is in full display. Maybe we humans can observe, learn and use natural wisdom to restore ‘viveka’ in our lives too. I believe we can. How about you?

Kimud

Epilogue: Written mid-week during my week-long ‘virtual retreat’ to effect some inner restoration. A lot of wandering threads here, so feel free to take what appeals or relates to you. Namaste.

P.S. Join our weekly twitter #spiritchat on twitter – Sunday, June 7 at 9amET / 1pm GMT / 630pm India. We will talk about restoration, dharma, karma and more over tea, fruit and maybe even some cookies. Bring a story to share. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Spring flowers bloom… a sure sign of restoration

On EnLightening the Heart

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From the very beginning on Saturday morning, I sat with colorless tears in my eyes that sealed my eyelids shut at the edges — perhaps not wanting to see any more darkness, perhaps mourning the state of a country ravaged by disease, death, destruction, despair, discrimination and disintegration.

And yet, after relaxation and prayer, there was the ever-present invitation to focus on the light within the heart…

After a few minutes, lightness came as a reminder of what many of us may need to do to cross the street safely – blinded as we may be right now by anger and despair and helplessness or even rage. What we may need to do is to hold on to the person in front of us… just like I would see the kids do at the school for the blind  which was virtually across the street from my high school in New Delhi, India. In a show of great trust, they would each put a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them. In a show of great hope that the person leading the line could actually see where they were going, they would safely cross the road towards light. 

Enlightened, emboldened, encouraged and empowered, I closed my eyes even tighter. Another thought came to lighter the heart. Perhaps all we need to do to walk the lighted path, to lighten the heart, is to be like toddlers holding on to the hem of the divine mother’s garment as we navigate these new worlds around us. By having child-like faith that the divine knows what’s best for us, and is lighting the heart path that is best for us, we can take another light step.

We take a step forward in a faith that has stood us well through previous trials and dark times. We take a step towards light and lightness, even though that path may occasionally lead us through some seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We take another step forward, even though the path may be filled with the thorns of divisiveness.  And yet, we need not despair, for we know from previous direct experience, that within all of us is planted the reservoir of love and light.

And if the reservoir of love, light, lightness is within us, then it is within them too. They may be unaware of the reservoir, but it is there — for its absence in them would violate the natural law of existence, of fairness, of divine justice. There is the existence of  love within, so that we may learn to lead with it. There is the light within, so that we can turn inward towards it in those dark nights when there are no stars or moons to guide us as the storm rages around us and within us…

Light and lightness within the heart grow trust and faith. They are good defenses against the heaviness of cruelty and injustice. When we add the personal practices of mercy, empathy and kindness, we become the blooming flowers that give light and soil and water to the next generation of leaders. With our example of an enlightened heart, we encourage a new generation of youth  to lead with a sense of fairness, empathy and justice. We construct a brand new world with a brand new generation of heart-centered leadership.

As a gardener, I know that it is often with the dregs of past growth, often called ‘organic matter’, that a brand new lawn or garden can be created. We spread soil mixed with organic matter over a barren land. We use good, enlightened seeds infused with great heart potential, fertilize them with hope, water them with trust and let them be warmed by the sunshine of divine grace. Then we step back and watch a new, kinder and gentler individual, family, community, society, and nation emerge.

It all begins with one heart full of light. An EnLightened heart. One heart that upholds truth, fairness, and yes, even justice — particularly justice. A heart that understands, respects, even reveres natural laws. How can I be so sure that a new lawn of leaders can be seeded? It has been said that “The divine is no respecter of persons”. My interpretation of this is that if it has been done by person, one set of people in space and time before, then it can surely be done by another person and another set of people again.

With that sense of faith and hope, let us heed the call to EnLighten our own heart. Our lighted heart full of warmth is needed to create a new landscape where flowers of truth and justice can bloom again. The woods may be dark now, but we need to keep waking and walking. “We have promises to keep” to those of the next generation holding on to us, as we lead them cross the street to light, just like we held on to the generation of light-bearers before us.

Raise the banner of love. Arise, awake, and stop not until the goal is achieved! – Swami Vivekananda

Kumud

Saturday, May 30 2020. 640am. 

P.S. I invite you to join our weekly conversation in #SpiritChat on twitter, held together by the glue of love and light. This week, we will gather at our usual hour of 9am ET / 1pm UTC / 630pm India. Come and share some practices, some stories, that help you EnLighten your heart. Namaste – Kumud. 

After the rainstorm – light and lightness of raindrops on flowers

After the rainstorm - Lightness

On Living Memorials

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My search for a topic for the weekly chat usually begins around the middle of every week. During most weeks, the topic that I have picked out on Wednesday or Thursday is rarely the final topic that I pick on Friday evening or Saturday. The process of picking the topic isn’t exactly cerebral — it is an amorphous, heart-energy driven act of deep listening. This week was no different. By Friday evening, the topic had gone from ‘welcoming traditions’ on Wednesday to ‘remembrance’ on Thursday to something related to Memorial Day’ on Friday evening.

Saturday morning’s meditation happened to be filled with the ‘Memorial Day’ thought-parade. This mental chatter is actually predictable every week, particularly If I don’t write the weekly cover post by Friday night before bed. Today’s thought-stream was filled with suggestions and questions about how to frame the Sunday conversation. As I emerged from the ‘meditation’ that really wasn’t that still or silent, I noted down the questions that had flowed to me. And then, as I sat outside with my tea, I was prompted  to try something different in lieu of the usual weekly blog post.

I decided to share the questions about ‘Living Memorials’ that came to me during the morning meditation. I don’t believe I have ever shared potential chat questions in the weekly blog post on the Saturday before the live chat on Sundays. And yet, I thought — why not? Maybe it would inspire folks to reflect a bit more deeply about this special Sunday in the USA. Maybe it would inspire them to write and share a blog post of their own, or privately journal about the idea of a “Living Memorial” over the weekend. Maybe it would take the pressure off of those who valiantly try to keep track of, and try to answer every question during the live chat!

So, without further do, here goes. On Living Memorials. Some questions for you. They are in no particular order other than ’stream of awareness’.  I invite you to sit with them. 

  • What is the best memorial we can build to our spiritual inheritance? Our spiritual teachers?
  • How can we truly live in memoriam of those who have nurtured us in life so far?
  • Is it possible to build a living memorial to honor the forgotten? Why or why not?
  • Memorials which hold great importance to us often create a great sense of attachment. What is the psychological, emotional, spiritual impact of memorials?
  • Public and private memorials. What are the similarities and differences in the creating, the living of each one.
  • If and when they look upon how we lived — what would their memorial to us say about our legacy….
  • Physical memorials have been built by mankind for centuries. Why may this be so?
  • Some memorials are expressions of gratitude for those who sacrificed. Others are remembrances of those who perished… How can we best honor both in our daily actions?
  • The greatest acts of remembrance are done by those who ______ for those who _____
  • What kind of memorial, if any, could be ‘constructed’ about humanity’s response to the current pandemic? Should there even be one? Why?

I hope you will take one or more questions and do a deep dive into the answer. Maybe the answer will change color with every sunrise and sunset over the next few days. I invite you to share some of your answers — either in the live chat Sunday at 9amET in #SpiritChat or through any other medium you choose to share in. If you have questions to share about the subject, I welcome them too.

Namaste, and Stay Safe!

Kumud

Nature is a living memorial to life and all that sustains it…

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On Spiritual Grounding

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The the longer I sit here, cross-legged on the floor, the deeper and deeper the fog gets. It feels like it is now at the window, knocking on it, asking to be let in. It is as if I have come awake at one of those hill stations in India on a Saturday where the morning cup of tea on the porch, watching the fog do its magic, is a rite of passage of every summer vacation.

And yet, amid the fog, I feel grounded. Grounding. Yes. Connection with the earth that reminds us that gravity is what keeps us attached to this planet. Without gravitational force, we would all be like the fog, floating, simply existing in suspended animation. Actually, gravity is what keeps the fog hugging the earth too. It is perhaps evidence that suspended animation needs gravity and grounding too. In that way, fog is a bit like electric charge.

I think of electric current as the flow of potential across resistance. Potential, in order to do its best, useful work, seeks closure. It seeks to return to its source, the power plant from whence it originated, by the shortest distance possible. It can only achieve that ‘return to source’ by finding ‘ground’ or being grounded.

Did you ever wonder why every structure or device which flows electricity also includes a path to ground it? It’s a safety mechanism. In the absence of such a path for (excess) current, electricity and its surges would fry our electronically devices, our toasters and refrigerators, and even our homes. Electricity behaves badly when it isn’t grounded. It resorts to short-circuiting.

Humans are electrical beings too. This means that grounding is essential for us to make best use of our potential. Most of the external inputs fed to our senses raise the energy of our electrons. Their internal potential rises, and if their energy doesn’t find a path to ground by the discharge of that energy, they change state. In a sense, our electrons, and we, get short-circuited, suffer burnout or permanent (negative) change without regular grounding. The result is emotional, mental, physical, spiritual ‘crackling’ within us. We become ‘noisy’.

The solution? Give the electrical surge a path to ground. Develop a practice of inner grounding. Where may we begin? During the weekly Zoom chat this week, Sharon shared her deep ‘grounding experience’ when simply sitting by a campfire. Yes. The simple act of putting down our armors, our pros and cons, our devices, can quickly bring us to the grounding that we intrinsically need.

What is the result? Osho describes the experience of inner grounding as ‘becoming the witness’. Grounding will help us simply listen — to birdsongs and waterfalls and partners — without interpreting. Grounding will let gravity do its work on us, as we let it hold us and hug us. Grounding can allow for our inner current to find its way to the heart’s playground, and uncover the path for the heart’s current to flow into us in return.

Over time, with regular spiritual grounding, a lightness of flow will emerge within us. The humming of the divine song will become our constant companion. The song divine will lighten us so, that we will float our way home, listening to its melody.

Ready to try experience grounding? Consider it as a four step process.

We gather our best energies to build up our potential. We ground the inner electrical circuit to source. We recalibrate our resistance by regulating our inputs. We then watch, be witness to the flow of the inner current.

We can do this. Let’s begin. Let’s meditate.

Kumud

P.S. Join the #SpiritChat community in our weekly twitter gathering, Sunday May 17 at 9amET. Some say that it is quite a unique, even a grounding experience. I will play host with some questions – but I mostly show up because it is an excuse for me to drink tea and eat cookies! Namaste – Kumud

P.P.S. In the time that it took me to write this post, the Sun emerged, the fog cleared. It’s a brilliant day. And all I had to do was to sit and watch, be witness.

Yellow Flower above ground

Our Mother’s Energy

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While there may be some perfect children, there are no perfect mothers. Wait. That didn’t sound right. 

Let me try this again. 

While there may some perfect mothers, there are no perfect children. Hmm. That doesn’t sound right either. 

One last time.

Just like there are no perfect children, there are no perfect mothers. Yes. I think that’s how the adage goes. 

If we can accept this premise of two-way imperfection, then we open the door to a lot of possibilities for Mother’s day. We open the door to accepting that both mothers and children are often doing the best they can as they muddle their way through their lives. The occasionally collaborative muddling is clouded with doubt and constant questioning, perhaps more on the part of mothers than their children.

For the most part, mothers are tough on themselves. To a large extent, I saw this with my own mothers.Yes. That’s a plural. Both my birth-mother and her sister who raised me for fourteen years, were tough on themselves. My aunt was tough on the kids too, but in a this-is-for-your-own-good kind of way. I also see this tough-on-self, but in her case, soft-on-the-kid approach in my wife, as she works on her role as a mother. Our daughter gets a (really) wide berth from her, and yet, my daughter also knows when she’e reaching the end of rope. It’s a very interesting dynamic for me to watch. 

The burden of perfection wears heavy on women as they learn their way into their roles as mothers. Society expectations of women in this role is extremely high. Women are expected to be primary caregivers, providers, nourishers, teachers and much more. It is a miracle that they can stay in sound mental health under all this pressure. During Mother’s day week, I often think about the pressures that my Mom must have felt, having her first child, my brother. at the age of nineteen, ten months after she got married. Barely out of childhood, and here she was, taking care of a child of her own. 

I wonder what her life would have been like if she hadn’t been handed the early-in-life of Mother. She was twenty one when I was born. What kind of dreams of her own did she have, that got put on the shelf — some of them to stay there permanently. She was very happily married to Dad, and they had lots of travels and adventures together, with us. There were a lot of moments of joy and family times full of tea, music, food and playing cards. And yet, I could feel that there was a sense of searching (for something) within her.

In her case, the search led her to her meditation practice late in life. She was always a devoted to her faith and religious person. However, her meditation practice gave her persona a lightness of heart and joy which had been missing in her life. It was as if she had received a re-birth of her faith through personal experience of divine energy in her life. There was nary a weekly phone conversation where she wouldn’t bring up her practice and her experiences with it. To say that this new child-like joy of hers had an influence on me, is an understatement. And so, a new journey began for me, as I decided to follow her method, a mere few months before she merged with light. 

This is the story of two people, mother and child, who began their journey together by muddling through the early years, and then spent most of their physical lives at long distances from each other after the child turned seven. And yet, the connection on the emotional level was rarely frayed — even during, and particularly so when we strongly disagreed with each other. Her final bequest to me was the sharing of her late in life spiritual practice, for which I am eternal grateful, for it shall keep me connected to her in stillness, silence and light. 

That’s part of the story of me, one of my mothers, and our imperfections. What’s your story? Are you among the few whose mother thought that you were the perfect child? Do you (or did you) believe that your Mom could do no wrong, and that she  ‘walked on water’? What were some defining moments of your ‘travels’ with your Mother or the one(s) who raised you? Were there any influences, weak or strong, that your Mama had on you, or that you had on her?

I have learnt over the years of hosting #SpiritChat that Mother’s Day is a day of widely varying emotions for many of us. It isn’t necessarily a day of celebration for some, particularly those who may have had negative experiences with their mothers. In addition, this day is very tough on those mothers who may be grieving the recent loss of a child, or children grieving their recently lost mother. And then there are those who want to be mothers, but for various reasons, can’t. The mothers of the disappeared. The mothers of those in refugee camps. The mothers of those in ICE detention centers. The mothers of those caught in human trafficking. The single mothers coping with the pandemic. The mothers trapped in heightened domestic abuse during the pandemic. The mothers across the world who struggle every day to provide drinking water, food, maybe even soap, for their children. And many more. 

And yet, I have also learnt, that there are those who do embrace this day to honor, celebrate and express gratitude for their journey together – mothers and children alike. What message can we send to all of them on Mother’s Day? Maybe we can make a small donation to women’s shelters and organizations like MitzvahCircle or UNICEF or UNHCR. We can send them a message of Hope with our giving, because it would mean the world to them.

In a spiritual sense, no matter where we may fall on the spectrum of joy or grief on this day, one thing is for certain. We can warm our heart in the knowing that the energy of the Divine Mother is constantly watching over us with deep love, suffusing her healing light into our heart, and is ever-present with her grace in our life. When we experience that divine energy, we can all find cause for remembrance and celebrate Her on this Mothers’ Day.

Namaste,

Kumud

P.S. Join us as we gather for our weekly conversation on twitter with the #SpiritChat community. Sunday, May 10 at 9amET / 630pm India. We will talk a little about “A Mother’s Energy”, and share some stories about how we muddled through childhood together. Namaste – AjmaniK

A blue (or is it purple or magenta?) iris blooms – my Mother’s favorite colors…

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Spirituality by Numbers

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The Big Numbers

If some of you are like me, then the month of April probably felt like it had much more than the normal thirty days. Some days  seemed like to run into another, and we would sometimes forget what day of the week it was. Some days even seemed to last longer or shorter than the usual twenty four hours depending on our frame of mind. 

So, it was a bit of welcome relief to actually see the calendar roll over from April to May. There was a sense of freshness about seeing the single digit, 1, in the calendar icon on my phone’s home screen. It felt like the universe was nudging me to begin anew and re-establish some sort of a normal schedule — whatever ‘normal’ even means or will mean any more. As I looked back at April, I couldn’t help but think about some numbers.

We dealt with a lot of really big numbers in April. Trillions, billions, millions, hundred thousands, tens of thousands. In various different contexts, these numbers with lots of zeroes attached to them, came into our awareness. Some of these large numbers  will perhaps remain in our awareness for a while, if not permanently. We may rarely ever again treat them as mere numbers, because they attempt to quantify the impact of Covid19 on our collective consciousness. 

However, numbers big or small, did not always a role, or any role in human life of the past. Humans only invented numbers a few thousand years ago. Before that, humanity led a life on Earth for a fairly long time without numbers. This doesn’t mean that the ancient humans did not know how to count – they probably didn’t use numbers in the way that we use them. Some of us humans like me, even get obsessed with numbers occasionally. 

Learning Small Numbers

One of the very first things we want to teach toddlers is the skill of counting. As parents, it is often a great moment of accomplishment and pride when our child can learn how to count from one to ten. It’s a milestone of sorts. If they didn’t learn  how to count, children would be greatly impaired to function in this world. The parents and teachers would be deemed downright failures. And yet, I would posit that counting, numbers and the ability to eventually learn mathematics is mostly a mental skill. 

So, I reflected on the question – how do we remove ourselves from our dependence on numbers, if only for a moment? Nature provides the immediate answer. Walking the forest trail, I have never counted the number or trees. I have never even thought about counting as I walk across a bridge, marvel at the river’s flow, watch the woodpeckers tap on the trees, get blinded by the sunlight streaking through the trees or watch new flowers springing before my very eyes. When the storm starts to build up over the lake and the clouds do their dance, numbers are erased from my consciousness. You get the idea.

To quote Shakespeare — “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. I would take some liberty and replace ‘philosophy’ with ‘numbers’ — particularly the really large numbers. The ones with all those zeroes, particularly those which quantify pain, suffering and death, tend to overwhelm the heart and mind. It isn’t that every single person’s grief and healing isn’t important. It’s that when we look at suffering in mass aggregates, we run the risk of losing empathy for the individual.

Spirituality and Significant Numbers

And yet, there are some numbers which are very important from the heart’s perspective, from the spiritual perspective. In the vein of ‘paint by numbers’, let us be creative and look at them as ‘spirituality by numbers’. I was going to list a countdown from twelve, but for the sake of brevity, I will limit it to five. So, let us begin. 

Five. The number five represents the elements, and our senses. Our body is considered to have ten (a multiple of five) doorways, through which we receive sensory input. It is the tenth, the invisible space between the eyes, the third eye, which is the most significant from a spiritual perspective. It is used by many as the doorway to travel within, and as also the seat of awakening. 

Four. The four quadrants of the heart space and the cardinal points come to mind with the number four. In spirituality, there are the familiar three — the heart, the mind and the body — and also an additional fourth, unexplored, unearthed dimension. Can you think of any more spiritual interpretations of the number four?

The number three immediately evokes the Trinity of Christianity. In Sanatana Dharma (hinduism), three represents the powers of creation, sustenance and destruction that govern the cycle of life. The notion of word, thought and action, all interconnected, represent the number three. There is no thought without word, and thoughtless action notwithstanding, there is no action without first being impelled by thought. 

What about the number two? The philosophy of duality follows from the notion of two. Man is created in the image of the divine. Man eventually merges into the divine. These flow from the ideas of duality, which are often the creators of the ego, which can be the cause of great pain and suffering. One proposed solution is to discard the notion of duality. 

Finally, we arrive at the number One. The idea of Oneness is very appealing to many, because it represents our Universal nature. If we can remember to constantly embrace our fundamental nature of Oneness, then the world would be one of infinite love. And yet, the practice of Oneness is a work in progress. It is a seemingly huge task and yet it can be accomplished if we begin by recognizing and experiencing our own Oneness with the divine. The heart is our instrument, our flute to the experience of Oneness — if we let the divine breathe the breath of love through it. 

The lesson for me from April has been that it is easier to focus on the small tractable numbers. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Learning to count, all over again. Not to be outdone or ignored, zero is possibly the most powerful number of all. Zero can take any number, no matter how big or small, and by multiplication. reduce it to itself. Zero can also take any number, big or small, and by division by itself, create infinity.

From zero to infinity. That is all the spirituality by numbers we will ever need in our new present, won’t we?

Kumud

P.S. Longest blog post ever, isn’t this? I get carried away by numbers. Thanks for reading. And join us for our weekly gathering of folks in #SpiritChat on Sunday, May 3 at 9am ET / 1pm UTC / 630pm India. We will talk about some small numbers over tea, coffee, fruit, cookies, and a few questions. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Sunset – Spirituality, beyond the Numbers

Sunest Spirituality by Numbers

Our New Spiritual Earth

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Earth Day celebrations this year followed the trend of so many events that have gone virtual or online over the past month or so. It has been a month where every day seems the same, and some days we are hard-pressed to remember what day of the week it actually is. In such times, one would have ample reason to forget about Earth Day, let alone celebrate it in any meaningful way. 

On the other hand, this is a year where the fiftieth Earth Day and Earth month observances could not have come at a more appropriate time. The incidence and spread of the SARS Covid-2 Virus or the Novel Coronavirus has brought large parts of the world to a virtual standstill. Some are referring to these times as “The Great Pause”. Country-wide “lockdowns” and “stay at home” orders have entered the vernacular of our awareness. 

There have been many visible and measurable effects of the pausing, the slowing-down, the stopping of everyday human activities on our planet. Early on in the pause, we saw satellite imagery of noticeable reduction of pollution over countries like China, large parts of Europe, India, and more. Residents of a city in northern India woke up to a new landscape of reduced air pollution. After almost three decades, they could now actually see the snow-capped peaks of their neighboring  Himalayas. Scientists have reported that the great pause had actually changed the level of seismic activity, the way the Earth was moving.

It is reasonable to expect that the effects of this unprecedented, large-scale pause in human activity are going to be short-term in nature. However, if seeing is indeed believing, then these changes have shown us how rapidly and dramatically we humans can effect change on our planet. One may argue that we are in extraordinary times, and that the current drastic reduction in human activity is a blip on the radar. That argument is probably correct. However, even small, incremental, persistent changes in our behavior can eventually change the energy and the vibration of our planet. It is like boiling cold water – it often seems like it is taking forever for the water to warm up. Once the water reaches 211F, it only takes a single degree of change, for it to change state and becomes steam. Massive change often comes in slow increments, from small commitments.

The newly minted weekly video gathering of #SpiritChat folks occurred on Earth Day this week. Four of us gathered briefly, and contemplated asked the question – what does Earth Day mean to us? Sharon (@awakeningtrue) offered that her hope was that more folks would take the opportunity to meditate on Gaia and her warm, golden, healing energy. Julie (@juliejordanscot) said that she was going to act on a challenge to hug a tree deeply, with a warm loving embrace, and feel its energetic, inner vibration. Quratulain (@iquarattariq) spoke about how the great pause has led her to ‘reduce her footprint’ on this One Earth, and to be grateful for her abundant life, when compared to so many others’ lives. On behalf of the community, I offered a reading of a short poem by Emily Dickinson…

Nature rarely uses yellow
Than another hue;
Saves she all of that for sunsets, —
Prodigal of blue;

Spending scarlet like a woman,
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly,
Like a lover’s words.

– Nature XXXI #EmilyDickinson #CollectedPoems

 

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Sunset in the backyard (Fall 2018) 

What may Earth Day mean to you? We have a few more days left in this Earth month of April. We still have time to consider some small changes that we can make in our lives — changes that will eventually make a huge impact on all the elements of our planet. The water we drink, the earth we plant seeds in, the air we breathe — all these elements, this ecology, is looking forward to helping ensure for our healthy, long-term survival. On this Earth day, in this Earth month, we can perhaps commit to meeting the planet and its elements at least half-way, can’t we? And yet, we have something greater to do.

The greater commitment we can make on this Earth Day is to take a great pause, and examine the state of our inner Earth. What can we do to cleanse our inner Earth’s elements of the toxic pollutants of fear, anger, jealousy, prejudice, and the like? How can we create a sustainable, rare Earth that embodies the five elements of simplicity, purity, peace, amity and compassion? If it is true that the outer world reflects the state of our inner world, then let us accept the invitation to begin within.

Let us embrace the opportunity provided by the great pause with a sense of urgency. The time to act is now. We have the heart and soul of the planet to heal. 

Kumud

P.S. Please join us on Sunday, April 26 at 9amET / 1pmUTC / 630pm India for our weekly gathering of the #SpiritChat community on twitter. We will discuss our commitment to action to the Earth within and without. Thank you for reading. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Do the best you can, until you know better; Then when you know better, Do better — Maya Angelou

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