What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday, an early morning storm with a lot of rain and electrical activity, tripped the breaker on the sump pump in the basement. The battery backup pump, which I thought was working, but hadn’t tested lately, didn’t work. The result was a minor flood in the finished basement, and a day of phone calls to insurance and restoration companies. Oh well, we needed new flooring and carpeting in the basement anyway.
Later that night, I evaluated how my wife and I responded to this “life event”. In the big scheme of things, we determined that we “got off easy”. Yes, it was inconvenient that our weekend had been disrupted, but at least we were home, and managed to minimize the damage (the main pump kicked right back on after I reset the switch :)). Yes, we needed to reevaluate our emergency systems in the basement and the home in general. And the greatest revelation from the evaluation?
We got a new perspective on what is truly essential, on what it is that defines our essence. There is a lot of ‘old stuff’ in our basement that has been with us through two moves over fifteen years. How much of it is essential to our lives? And, as I delved a bit deeper over the past week, I asked myself some more questions.
What is it that defines my essence? How do I know what is truly essential to me in a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level? Some of the answers have been filtering through me, and my exploration with the question(s) continues.
On Earth Day (two days after ‘the event’), I went walking my favorite trails. I often find that I have to make a conscious choice to accept the invitation to walk. The call is often so strong that the car seems to self-drive itself to the park on the way to work. So, I deem that walking the forest is essential to me. I have found that there is prose and poetry that flows through me as son as I step onto the trails. Here’s a sample:
Find your trail and walk
She will welcome you with open arms
From the tiniest of flowers hugging crocuses
To the tallest of trees holding birdsong
Her gifts will shower down upon you
Amid the remembrance – that her greatest gift is birth…
So, one way to connect with our essence may be through those actions that bring us face to face with unmitigated peace and joy. The world around us recedes like the floodwaters after the storm, and we can feel the essence of the tiniest of flowers, the freshness of new greenery emerging, the calming presence of tall trees gently swaying in the breeze, the river gurgling by past the boulders in the valley where it has been flowing for millennia.
What is the essence of our mental state? Is it our intellect? Is it intelligence and our power of discernment? We all have thoughts that swirl like eddies, or the thoughts are stirred by fresh emotions that cause highs and lows? The temporary nature of their existence surely means that they cannot be essential, right?
Awareness of our mental and emotional essence can be unfolded for us in physical stillness. Being still is not easy for many of us. Stillness is an essential that often needs to be cultivated. That which makes us still gives us the opportunity to connect to higher awareness – we can become observers of our mental and emotional states. As observers, we can then find our essential That by saying – it is not this, it is not this.
Allow me to posit that once we have found the trail to our physical, mental and emotional essences, and know how to (re)connect with them, our heart is ready to receive the spiritual essence. The invitation to receive then comes through clearly. We then awaken every morning, ready to receive the essence with joy, peace, silence and stillness, as we watch the source of light reveal itself to us in our heart filled with love.
We arrive at the awareness that the same spiritual essence energizes all of us, gives us life, and yes, a return to a dry basement…
P.S. Join us Sunday, April 28 at 9amET as we resume our weekly twitter chat in #SpiritChat ~ I will bring the essential tea and cookies. I invite you to bring your favorite flavor of essence. Namaste – Kumud
The daily nightsong that begins in the pre-dusk hour with great earnest, has been particularly persistent this season. Over the past few days, I have found myself trying to identify the player(s) of this orchestra through online searches of bird songs, Audubon societies, and more. Truth be told, I have not yielded much, if anything. It is more like a whole lot of nothing.
And then, one night last week, after another round of futile googling of the source(s), I was reminded of Winnie the Pooh…
My favorite thing is to do a whole lot of nothing – for something good often comes out of nothing.
I paused, and asked myself – what is so wrong with not knowing the source(s) of the nightsongs? How about I simply do nothing more than embrace the beauty of the orchestra, without trying to assign name, cause or reason to the sounds and harmonies? What if I were to simply choose to enjoy, even celebrate the gift of spring’s songs, without trying to analyze them?
And so, for the past few nights, the night’s songs that last from dusk to dawn, have taken on new tones, new rhythms, new colors for me. It is as if they have been reborn. I have been opening the windows a bit more, drinking a bit more tea, and simply been sitting in open surrender to the all and the nothing.
The result? The allness and the nothingness have often flooded me, occasionally stopped my breath, flitted a not-knowing smile across my face, and filled me with the very same orange-peach glow that sunset often spreads across the sky at spring’s twilight. I have stopped my wandering and wondering in those few moments, to allow for something good to happen as a result of my celebration of nothing(ness).
Impossible to do, you say? Well. Consider another Winnie the Pooh gem of living wisdom:
They say that nothing is impossible. But I do a bit of nothing every day…
Embrace the impossible moment. I invite you to create time and space, where you do a bit of nothing every day with loving effortlessness. Maybe something good will be created as a result. Maybe, in embracing nothingness, time and space will cease to exist, and be reborn as love. Maybe we will discover that our inner black holes are in fact filled with the allness of light, and that nothingness is simply a portal to That something, which is in fact, everything.
P.S. Join us Sunday April 14 at 9amET, as we embrace nothingness while listening to each others’ songs, drinking tea, and sharing light. Namaste – Kumud
Sunset and twilight – an invitation to celebrate nothing(ness)
The journey began Monday evening, when the iPad which had gone dark over the past few weeks, and refused to start up inspite of my best attempts of geekery, decided to come to life. I went searching in the library app for something good to read, and an incredible journey into breath began when I downloaded, and read, that same evening, from cover to cover – WBBA – but more about that a bit later….
Breath has come into the forefront for me this week. There is a story in the Upanishads where the student asks the teacher – who among sight, speech, hearing, touch and breath, is the most powerful in life? The teacher says – ask each of them to leave, one at a time, and you shall know. When it comes the turn of breath to leave, the student’s question is answered…
I have been led to work with, observe it, and develop a greater awareness of the physical act of breathing this week. When the emotions rise, when I feel the stress level change, I have tried to pause and check my breathing pattern and cadence. The interesting thing about breath is that it is easy to observe, because it is always with us, even when it is temporarily is taken away. My observations have been quite a revelation. It is no surprise that I have discerned a direct correlation between feeling stressed and the disturbance in my breathing pattern.
So, how do I plan to use this breath awareness? I believe that, with practice, one could modulate, if not to some degree even consciously control, the autonomous breath and the nervous system connected to it. When our new breathing practice becomes habit, we shall find an emergence of new patterns, new pathways, new possibilities.
For when breath remains, all is possible in the field of possibilities, and then some… is it not?
What began on Monday evening, came to a head this morning. I share with you, my entry from my meditation journal:
There was a such a surge… a wave as high as me… in the final ten minutes… that it literally seemed to push me sideways… the intensity and breadth of the light was such as if it became like the air around me and that I was breathing it with every breath… it held no force, it’s nature was gentleness and pure being, and I was awash in its wholeness… it felt that the white light was energizing every single alveoli in the lungs… cleaning, cleansing, oxygenating, healing, liberating, and filling me with the life force that travels between every channel of the many layers of my being… it felt like the same way that I might have felt in my first awareness of being born into this physical world… the aggregated energy of all the prayers she might have said from the instant that the was aware of me, until her last… and with that breath of first new light, I felt such immense gratitude for the experience that I was led to celebrate the breath of light and life with you… and I hope… no, it’s more than hope… it is a knowing that every breath you breathe is also filled with light… and that you are enough light in this moment, and you will be enough in the next moment… and when the breath stops and leaves, the aggregate of the light you breathed and shared would also have been enough…
for when we add or subtract the infinite from the infinite, the infinite breath of love and light still remains… and that, breath, in life and what we call death, is worthy of celebration… so, let that celebration of love continue… even when breath becomes air….
Thank you. For awareness. For breath and light. For breathing light into me.
P. S. Join us Sunday, Feb 17 at 9am ET / 730 pm IST as we celebrate, breath, light and breathing light. Namaste – Kumud
Breathing light during one of my walks…
The one who took eternal breath, Feb 17 2016…
For those of us who have been in and around the weekly conversations with the #spiritchat community on topics related to spirituality and spiritual practice, the answer to “why spirituality” may be plain as daylight. Many of us may even think the question to be irrelevant, or take the answer for granted.
Yet, I have been wondering about this question over the past few days, with a sense of wonder, with a sense and spirit of inquisitive, curious, scientific examination.
So, let me share my sense of wonder with you, and ask the short question – “why spirituality”? What is it about your ‘spiritual practice(s)’ that sets them apart from the rest of your daily life? How do you integrate the results and outcomes of your spirituality into solving the challenges of life and living? Has your approach to ‘spirituality’ changed as your life situation(s) have changed? If yes, how so?
I have often found that the answer to the question, particularly the question that is borne of wonder instead of being borne out of doubt, is already present in our awareness. Over the past few weeks, in preparation for spring, I have been doing some ‘house cleaning’ of my books, media, music and notebooks. During one such episode this week, I came across a few books that were given to be by my mother over my past few visits to India.
As I was sorting through them, one of the ‘bookmarks’ that I came across was a trifold brochure called ‘why spirituality’! The brochure, published in 2011, contains a few quotes from the then leader (Chariji) of the ‘Sahaj Marg’ foundation (http://sahajmarg.org). It contained not one, but a few answers to my sense of wonder. Let me share some of them with you in the quotes below – maybe one or more of them will resonate with you.
“Spirituality is the need for an inner existence. The whole idea of spirituality is to revive in us that which is sleeping in us – the true inner being, the Self”
Why Spirituality? It is a path to an awakening within. It is a yearning for something more than the routine of daily, worldly life. In spirituality, life becomes a wondrous journey to uncover that inner Self. Wonder leads to a wondrous journey. Yes!
“As a bird needs two wings to fly, a human being needs the two wings of existence, the spiritual and the material, to lead a natural and harmonious life”
Why Spirituality? For harmony, for the restoration of balance. Balance is restored by integrating a spiritual practice into daily life. A practice that blends into our daily living like sugar dissolves into tea.
“Happiness is the natural inner condition that we will reach when we have removed all unnecessary things”
Why Spirituality? Spiritual practice leads us to find true happiness and love. Joy is the quality of the inner Self, and is nurtured in spirituality, along with other qualities of the heart – courage, hope, faith, wonder, compassion, tolerance and, most of all, universal love. By following a spiritual practice, we have the possibility to experience universal love, the divine essence, within our own heart.
The brochure holds more wondrous messages. I shared the thoughts above with you, so that perhaps, you too shall wonder with a sense of inquiry – why spirituality? What is this spiritual path that I walk in my practice? How does my spirituality grow my heart and its inherent qualities, and the sense of joy and love within it?
Let the wondering begin. Let us share our wonder, our heart, and our joy and universal love with each other. And I will keep cleaning, exploring, practicing, uncovering more wonder. Namaste.
P.S. Join the #spiritchat community in our weekly twitter conversation – Sunday, Feb 10 at 9amET / 730pm India. Bring your sense of wonder with you, as we share the answers to ‘why spirituality’, over a cup of tea. Thank you!
After the storm, a double rainbow outside my door…
“I am loyal to the throne. Who are you loyal to?”
It is interesting that we can watch a two-plus hour movie (during a polar vortex shut-in) filled with action, and the one fragment that adheres to us, days later. In the movie “Black Panther”, the question above was asked by Okoye (the General) of Nakia (the future Queen), in the moments after there is upheaval in the country of Wakanda.
I thought about the question that evening, and it kept returning to my brain box for a few days. I am still thinking about it. Let us begin at the beginning. What is loyalty? One definition of loyalty is a strong feeling of support of allegiance. The other synonyms are faithfulness, obedience, adherence, devotion and the like. It would seem that loyalty would be a good quality or virtue to develop in our character, yes?
Before we answer the original question (who are we loyal to?), maybe we can reflect on some related questions. Where does our sense of loyalty come from? What qualities in others incite, grow and sustain loyalty within us? What makes our loyalties wax and wane over time? Have you experienced real-world examples of long-term, unwavering, even permanent loyalty in your life? If so, how did such examples of loyalty influence you, your life?
Now that we have put the questions out upfront, we can reflect on them and probe for the answers. If we choose not to probe, we can cast the questions out like seeds, and wait for the answers to bloom in their own time. Either way, if we remain loyal to the process of asking, and then provide space and time for the answers to be received by us, the process has a chance of working. In this increasingly hurried world, we can perhaps reflect on the question – how loyal are we to the process of receiving (answers)?
But I digress a bit. As I asked myself some of the questions about loyalty, one common answer that seemed to emerge was that a lot of our loyalties, allegiances, adherences, even devotions – are transitional and transient in nature. Time and space and relationships change as we transit through life, and so do our loyalties. Even the long-term loyalties of satellites (moons) to planets are constantly changing (albeit ever so slightly) over time. (Aside: what examples of ‘deep loyalty’ may Mother Nature reveal to us?) So what chance do we mere mortals, of finite life-spans, have of developing and honoring permanent loyalty?
Maybe we need to look beyond, if we are to experience a permanent sense of loyalty. Our physical frames of existence and our actions within them, bound as they are by time, space and causation, are bound by impermanence. Hence, the resulting loyalties are (mostly) impermanent. What if we were to go beyond the physical, and into the spiritual domain? If we were to become and be meditative, examine our heartspace and feel our heartsense, what deeper loyalties may be revealed in That light?
Before she asked that question of Nakia, Okoye actually said… “I am loyal to the throne, no matter who sits on it“. If we ask the same question of our heart, what will be the reply? Who sits on our heart’s throne? Who are we really loyal to? Does that relationship have a nature of permanence?
On behalf of the #SpiritChat community, I invite you to join us for a conversation on this topic – Sunday, February 3 at 9amET / 730pm India. We would love to know – who sits on your heart’s throne? Namaste.
Postscript: Fragments of a poem, that keep coming, as answers to the question… if you can think of additions, please share in the comments… Namaste…
There may be be love without cause,
But what is the nature, of cause without love?
There may be clouds without rain,
With loud refrain…
But what is the worth, of rain without clouds?
There may be heat without light,
Warming the night…
But have we felt the love, of light without heat?
There can be sight without vision,
A heart’s decision…
But can there be vision without sight?
– A Traveler’s Loyalty
I miss my mentors. All of those who have passed…
My Dad was perhaps my first real mentor. Long before there were those outside the home, and they were few and far between because good mentors are hard to find, Dad was there. Even though he had an inclination towards silence and stillness, it was his carefully measured, softly uttered, frugally spoken words that still linger with me.
Words uttered on a railway platform as the train was departing and I had come to bid him farewell till the next school break – “I expect nothing but the best of effort from you”. When you are in middle school, that stuff somehow stays with you for a while. In my case, it’s been a few decades and I still remember that message from my mentor. The home was always stocked with all kind of books (mostly from American fiction authors!) and music (Indian and western). It was his way of creating an environment for me to ‘learn’ outside of my education. And there was much more. That was Dad’s mentorship.
My mother’s sister’s husband, my second Dad, was pretty much cut from the same mold of silence. I got to know him well because I spent fourteen years (from age seven) growing up in his household. His mentorship to me came through his relentless devotion to providing for his family. He worked long, long hours working the family business, and you did not want to be ‘talked to’ by him after he got home after a twelve hour day. His reverence and dedication in celebrating the major Indian festivals was also a great lesson in ‘slowing down’ for me. And when it came time for me to leave his home and come to the USA for graduate studies, he was instrumental in convincing my parents that it would be okay. He was my biggest cheerleader, and that gave me tremendous belief in myself. That was Uncle’s mentorship.
When I moved to the US, his youngest brother here became my ‘American Dad’ and mentor. He and his family provided a sense of ‘home away from home’ that was vital for someone whose nearest family was on the other side of the world. An electrical engineer for Ford, he always kept a keen eye on me all through graduate school. I looked forward to meeting up with every Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that I could learn from him about how to raise a family with a blend of American and Indian values. A lot of his wonderful advice about faith, career and family, continues to linger with me. That was my Ann Arbor uncle.
And while all three of them have physically departed, I can honestly say that I often find myself asking – what would Dad (or my Uncles) do in such and such situation? I can also say that I have had a very tough time replacing them as mentors. The closest ‘replacement’ was my NASA mentor – I am greatly indebted for his decision to take me under his wing when I was first starting my career.
All this talk about ‘male’ mentors doesn’t mean that I did not have any ‘female’ role models. I have talked about them (my Mother, my Aunts, my maternal grandmother) extensively in many previous #spiritchat blog posts. For some reason, as I sat in morning #meditation this past Sunday, I was asked these questions – Who are your mentors? Who are you mentoring? How are mentors different from role models? And what about our (spiritual) guides? How do I go about identifying some new mentors in my life? What effect is the (apparent) lack of influential mentors in my life having on me and my growth?
I share these questions that were asked of me with you, with the intent that perhaps you can relate to (some of) them. Yes, we have all the power within us to do great things, but a lot of that potential lies latent – like fuel needing a spark. What if the heart-based guidance of a good mentor could ‘raise us to that stage’, and help us manifest our power, so that we may expand our experience of truth, awareness and joy?
Share your stories about mentors and mentoring in our weekly twitter conversation – Sunday, January 27 at 9amET / 730pm India in #SpiritChat. Who knows – maybe you will find a new mentor, or have an opportunity to mentor someone you haven’t even met yet? Namaste – Kumud
Swami Vivekananda – A mentor whom I met through his books, poetry, lectures and essays…
A New Daily Ritual
Every morning, some days even before our multiple rounds of morning tea (or coffee) were yet to be completed as we sat by the pool overlooking the vast lake, she would arrive. Her smiling, glowing, full-of-life greeting was always the same – “Namaste, Sir. Namaste, Madam”. She would be decked with gold jewelry as if she was ready to attend an Indian wedding. This ritual became part of every single one of our ten days in Kerala.
She was the housekeeper who took care of the entire span of the five bedroom home that we were staying in. After her welcome greeting, she would immediately start her work. Broom in hand, she would start her slow back and forth walk. First, in all the common areas and all the walkways. Then, when we were at breakfast or at lunch, she and her helpers would take care of the bedrooms and attached bathrooms. Every time I saw her, she was working, focused on her task at hand, standing tall, head slightly bowed, radiating pride. If she ever took a break, I did not see it.
Adherence to Ritual
Now that I have been back for almost two weeks, my sleep cycle has mostly reset itself. Except when it isn’t. I was awake at 1am last night, and decided to pull the “Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Vol. 1)” from my go-to stack of books. Randomly opening the book, I found myself in the midst of the essay on “Karma Yoga” (Science of Work) titled “We help ourselves, not the world”. It happens to be one of my favorites because it includes the following quote:
This world is like a dog’s curly tail, and people have been striving to straighten it out for hundreds of years; but when they let it go, it has ruled up again. How could it be otherwise? One has to know how to work with attachment, then one will not be a fanatic. If there were no fanaticism in the world, it would make much more progress than it does now.When we have avoided fanaticism, then alone will we work well.
It often comes to pass that we so fervently believe in our path, our vision, our righteousness, our desire to do good that we may unwittingly take on the traits of working like fanatics. Our work-ritual becomes our refuge, our excuse to become so hyper-focused on our goal that we lose sight of detachment and the real purpose of our life’s work. We think that our single-minded devotion to our cause is doing good to the world. But is it really so?
Ritual and Philosophy
At the beginning of the same essay, Vivekananda posits that there are three components of every religion: philosophy, mythology and ritual. Philosophy forms the essence; mythology explains and illustrates through legendary lives of great men and women; and ritual gives to that philosophy a concrete form so that every one may relate to it. Ritual is in fact concretized philosophy.
Ritual leads to symbols, to language, to communication and connection. In its pure state, it is in fact the seed bed of the science of work. In addition, the connection between word and thought often occurs through symbols. When I offer a greeting to you with folded hands and a radiant smile, my whole being assumes the symbology of love. The energy transfer in this ritual needs no scientific proof – try it and experience the goodness that it creates for the world, and more importantly, within you.
The Ritual of Hope
Her name was Asha. It simply means, Hope. On my last day at the lake house, I engaged her in a bit of conversation. A high-school graduate, married to Shenoy, mother of two kids – a boy aged eight and a girl aged six. She worked because she wanted to help supplement her husband’s income, so that they could save up enough to send their boy and girl to college. Her philosophy in life seemed to reflect her simplicity. “Do the work that is assigned to you with joy”.
Every time I think of her approach and attitude to her work, I draw hope from her daily ritual. She seemed to model Vivekananda’s suggestion for us regarding work:
It is the level-headed person, the calm person, of good judgement and cool nerves, of good sympathy and love, who does good work and thus good to themselves.
Thank you, Asha. I am going to adopt your attitude to work. And if you will allow me, I also plan to adopt your family – not to help you, but to you help myself. For you reminded me of the power of joy in work, and making work play.
Playing with Ritual
And as I played with this topic, it dawned on me that ritual is embedded in spi(ritual)ity. It may seem like wordplay, but maybe there’s more to it. There’s more. Ritual begins with ‘ritu’, which means season, i.e. in every new season, we can adopt a new set of actions, create new rituals. A further reduction leads us to ‘rit’, which reminds me of ‘writ’ and the Sanskrit ‘reet’ – which means code (of ethics), tradition, and yes, concretized philosophy. Finally, there is ‘ri’ – which is the root word for ‘rishi’ – those who follow the path of goodness and become illumined.
So much for science, eh? Sometimes it just gets in the way of play. Maybe we will just rebrand ritual as #workscience. What do you say? Who’s with me?
P.S. Join us in our weekly conversation on twitter with the #spiritchat community. Sunday, January 20 at 9amET / 730pm India. We will talk about the role of ritual(s) in our lives. Which ones did we inherit? Which ones serve us well? Which ones do we need to walk away from? How do our ritual(s) help us on the spiritual path? Does science understand the effect that ritual(s) have on our emotional and spiritual well-being? So many questions. Come share – in the ritual that has become an integral part of my well-being. Namaste – Kumud.
Asha – the Hope of Kumarakom, Kerala
A thirty minute walk around noon – the wind was calm when I embarked, and was even behind me a bit when I went out. But as I turned around in the far cul-de-sac in the new phase of the development, there was a distinct shift… and I was suddenly walking uphill, the wind picking up and biting into my cheeks, scuffing my lips, tearing up my eyes till they bled salt. And yet, in the midst of all this, I noticed that the mind had been strangely be-calmed, focused by itself without any effort on my part. It seemed like the mind had been frozen into a simple single thought, a single goal, a single ideal.. to somehow will the body, make it endure so that I would get back home, walking head-first through this freezing change…
And as I made the turn to home in that half circle that has the infinite at it’s center, I somehow decided to keep on walking, still head-first into the biting wind that might have now even picked up a notch… for I knew, or at least hoped, that the worst was probably behind me. I voluntarily walked in the belief that most of the rest of the walk that would unfold, unplanned as my ‘route’ often is, would be filled with the grace of the full-moon rising. I took refuge in the knowing that there are two phases to every journey…
The two simple phases of life are of light and darkness, like the waxing and the waning fortnights of the moon. The two phases are like the wind beneath your wings that uplifts you, and the same wind that turns on you and cuts delicate icicles on your face. Very often, we voluntarily keep walking, knowing that at the end of every phase, is an opportunity to change direction. On that thanksgiving morning, I walked with the simple truth that there is indeed a finite end to every waning, and even to waxing.
And as I walked with a half frozen smile, it dawned on me that every big and small journey, every walk that I choose to take, unfolds for me, something new. It is akin to every walking and sitting meditation that is now a part of my spiritual practice. How much more simple can a voluntary practice be? You wake up, you sit in a comfortable space, you relax the body, you focus on the heart, and… that is all. Voluntary simplicity. Every walk becomes a cycle within a greater cycle…
Simplicity of practice comes from what guides us, who we sit and walk with, and what we walk towards, or away from. Simplicity is when we become volunteers in working for, and with, joy, peace and light. It is the wholeness, the holistic nature of the process, that heals and uplifts us, and those around us. It is in volunteering, that we become like the light of the full moon, which finds its best expression when it is reflected in the clear blue lake of our arisen, awakened, conscious heart.
P.S. What do you find simplicity in? Is your practice simple or complex? Does your practice feel voluntary or…? Join me as I host a twitter conversation on “voluntary simplicity” with the #SpiritChat community – Sunday, November 25th at 9amET / 7:30pm India. Dress warm, as we will walk some old and new paths… and who knows, we may even share some Thanksgiving day stories…
If the number of blog posts that I have written about Thanksgiving are a good measure, then it is an open secret that this is my favorite American holiday. The confluence of many events after my arrival here in the fall for graduate studies, led to a heart-warning introduction to this family-first holiday of “giving thanks”. Even though the holiday itself was “all new” to me, the notion of giving thanks felt as old as the hills.
It reminded me of two words – the first being dhanyavaad – the formal expression of thanks in India. It is a combination of two words, dhanya, meaning blessed or most fortunate, and vaad meaning, an event or a happening. The second, somewhat informal word expressing thanks often used in India is shukriya – a combination of shu-bh meaning auspicious, and kriya meaning action or practice.
It ought to be no surprise that the words used in the expression of gratitude are similar across languages. The very sound of a heartfelt “thank you” or “gracias” or “merci” or “shukriya” is often music for our hearts. When the music of thanksgiving creates harmony, it brings joy to the giver and the receiver. So, with these apparent benefits, what possible challenge(s) could there be in the path of our practice of gratitude?
The first challenge is that we are much more open to giving thanks to others than receiving it. We somehow carry around the notion that we are perhaps undeserving of others’ gratitude. The second notion is that “no thanks is due” because we are simply “doing our duty” and that we are best off doing it without any expectation of reward and such. The third notion is that if we accept it from them, we are somehow bound into reciprocity. Do you identify with any of these notions of receiving gratitude?
The second challenge is that we are unsure of the who, why, how, when and where of giving thanks to others. In a world where our offline relationships are getting lesser and lesser time, space and engagement, we are perhaps losing the opportunity to practice the art of saying thanks. Or maybe we don’t have enough role models in our communities who give thanks with grace and unfettered joy. Who was a role model for “giving thanks” for you? For me, it was my maternal grandmother. I don’t know that I remember her saying “dhanyavad” or “shukriya” very often, but her actions spoke volumes. A slight smile, a gentle tilt of the head, a leaning in during conversation- they all felt like she was giving gratitude with every action, in every engagement.
The third challenge in our gratitude practice is the notion that we don’t have “enough”. The great irony that “Black Friday” comes earlier and earlier every year may not be lost on many of us. To my mind, it is simply an outsized attempt to somehow convince us of the “lack” in our lives.
But I have news for you. The first part of the Heartfulness meditation practice is “relaxation”. The intent is to creates awareness of our body, in the form of a slow scan beginning from the toes, traveling through several parts of the lower and upper body, to the crown of the head. As I did the relaxation this morning, I became aware, and thankful, for the mere presence and good health of every single one of my body’s internal and external organs. The gratitude that swept through me after I was done, was a bit overwhelming. Try it. It will only take a few minutes, and you can do it wherever you are. Repeat this ‘relaxation into gratitude’ exercise often, and it will become a portable resource that you can take with you.
So, here we are. Thanksgiving is here again. Maybe we will continue to work our challenges, of giving, of receiving, of (lack of? too much?) abundance. So that the day of, and the days before and after Thanksgiving will bring us a series of opportunities to experience dhanyavaad or gratitude-filled interactions.
P.S. Join the #SpiritChat community on Twitter for our weekly chat – Sunday, November 18 at 9amET / 730pm India ~ shukriya and Happy Thanksgiving!