Harbingers of Hope

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It was one of my Grandmother’s favorite quotes. When I would ask her about the minuscule impact that her giving of yesterday’s flatbread to the the sadhu (monk) who would come and clang the wrought iron gate every morning to announce his presence, she would say — “doobte ko tinke ka saharaa’ — “to the one who is drowning (in a whirlpool) in the middle of the river, even a blade of grass floating by seems like a lifeline”.

As you can tell, I never forgot her interpretation of giving. She wasn’t merely giving yesterday’s flatbread – she was giving Hope. She was giving light for another day, or maybe even for a few hours, to a single human being, who would arrive daily in the hope that his hunger would find some relief. She was helping to sustain someone who had chosen the life of detachment — not beggary, mind you —  but a conscious, aware choice of total, unconditional surrender to divine sustenance. 

There are very few among us who can practice that  level of complete faith. Our faith is often an incomplete one, where we think of our spiritual practices as tools in our tool belt. Today, I feel emotionally down, so let me meditate a bit more. Today, I feel really good, so maybe I’ll give my meditation tool a rest in my too-belt. One of my Vedanta teachers describes it as a “faith of convenience”. We employ faith as a tool of bartering with the divine and the universe. 

And then we are left wondering why our faith does not work as and when, and in the way, we expect it to. Imagine that we were to only breathe when we found it to be convenient for us to breathe. We wouldn’t last very long, would we? Then why do we expect our intermittent faith to sustain us? I posit that this is where Hope enters our practice. Hope fills the voids and cracks that our incomplete and intermittent faith and half-hearted actions create. 

This is not to say that Hope isn’t necessary for the world at large. It is. In Rabindranath Tagore’s famous verse, he says — oh, wait. As I google the quote, I see that many have used ‘hope’ and ‘faith’ interchangeably… “Faith (Hope) is the bird who feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark”. And then there is Emily Dickinson’s poem which begins with… 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

The practicality of life necessitates that we may need both, faith and hope. When one flounders, the other shores us up. When we lose faith and start drowning in life’s storms, hope steps in and becomes the blade of grass that keeps us afloat. We can then find strength to sing our song while the dawn is still dark. With both hope and faith, we can discover Joy in the gaps between the breaths of our life, and make every season a season of giving.

In the pure spirit of Joy that emerges from a complete faith, we can choose to become harbingers of Hope. Our giving is then complete. That’s a season worth celebrating. What say you?

Kumud

 

P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering of a community of faith, hope, joy and giving in #SpiritChat – Sunday, Dec 13 at 9amET / 730pm India. I will bring some tea and fresh flatbread (with a drizzle of caramelized brown sugar) to share. Namaste – @AjmaniK

 

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Our Spiritual Companions

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On most mornings, she doesn’t sleep much past six o’clock in the morning. It means that I am up with her too, so that Mom gets to sleep in for an extra hour or so. It also means that if I didn’t wake up before six o’clock, my morning meditation opportunity is pretty much gone. Why? Because it’s tough to sit and meditate with an eight month old puppy who is solely focused on play when she first wakes up in the morning!

So, one morning, instead of forcing her to settle down so that I could focus, I decided I would play with her first and then sit for my morning meditation. A funny thing happened after the first few days. One morning, she decided to come and nap next to me while I was meditating. A few days later, she decided she was going to curl up in the space in front of me as I sat in lotus. Some days, she would actually come sit in my lap as I was sitting – yes, it was tough to focus on those days. 

It has been a few months of this new morning routine now. You could say that I have found a new spiritual companion who “sleeps” while I meditate. I play with her when she wakes up, and she naps while I meditate. It’s a good harmony. She has taught me that it is sometimes better to bend to the new flow of life and create new accommodations, than to create unnecessary stress by persisting with old routines.

In relieving external stress, I have also found new companions within. Some mornings, the non-stop spiritual music that plays in my home-office during the day, becomes my inner companion. The sound of music is sometimes accompanied by the moonlight that is still in the sky as the sun rises slowly. Some days, the companions are the sparkling brilliant colorations of the sunset from the previous day, as it reflects golden orange off of the clouds, and glistens bright blues off of the thin sheets of ice that are floating on the lake waters.

Some mornings, sound and light transition the heart into nothingness. When you return, you know that you have been with that companion which defies description through words. You come slowly awake, and are grateful that the physical world is mostly as you left it, as evidenced by the puppy who is still fast asleep at your feet. And yet, once you experience the company of sound, light and nothingness, there is a renewed awareness of truth, permanence and joy within you.

Celebrate. You have taken another step on the path with your spiritual companions. 

Kumud

P.S. Join us Sunday, December 6 at 9amET for a chat with our #SpiritChat community on twitter. I will bring some questions, we will play some music and gather for satsang with friends, old and new, and walk a few more steps on our path.IMG 6092 Namaste – @AjmaniK

 

 

 

The Heart’s Transitions

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I hadn’t seen them on the pond lately, which seemed to coincide with the fact that it had been heavy, overcast and a bit gloomy over the past few days. The cloud cover had been so thick that it was difficult to discern the sunrises and sunsets. However, last night, as I was woken up by the almost-full moon shining outside the window among scattered clouds, I anticipated that today was going to be different.

Sure enough. They came by the hundreds, in groups of two dozen or so, as they landed ever so immaculately in the water and made their way on to the frost covered ground that was being quickly warmed up by the languidly rising sun. The ones who had already claimed their temporary abode on the shore, raised quite a cacophony to welcome the next batch. The first transition that had started at sunrise, was fully underway. 

The second transition would happen around noon. All of those who had gradually made their way into the warming waters, would now reverse course and park on the grass for their afternoon nap. I did not see them make the third transition today, but I imagine that it was sometime before sunset. They had all taken off, onward in their migration south, by the time I went outside at dusk. 

Nature teaches us a lot about transitions, and how to possibly simplify our lives by paying greater attention to them in our daily actions. The rising of energy into the heart at dawn, the peaking at ‘solar noon’, and then the waning at dusk — all these transitions give us guidance, if we so choose to pay attention. On a slightly longer time-scale, there are the transitions marked by the lunar cycle — one which is most noticeable to the heart at the advent of the full moon. Further more, there are the seasonal transitions. The farther away we live from the equator, the greater is the variation in the length of daylight with the seasons.

The seasons makes for a more subtle energetic transition for the heart . We often become aware of this transition hrough our emotional response, particularly when the days trend towards becoming really short between fall equinox and winter solstice. And so, here we are. The short days of late autumn and the full moon is upon us again. A lot of nature’s daily, monthly, seasons, and annual transitions are temporary. And yet, the heart does not need to necessarily follow suit.

What if we were to prepare our heart for some permanent transitions. What if we were to permanently transition our hearts from indifference to compassion? From doubt to faith? From weariness to resilience? From indifference to empathy? From callousness to kindness? From arrogance to humility? From sadness to joy? From condemnation to respect? From prejudice to inclusion? From debasement to dignity? What would our inner world look like if we were to effect one or more of these permanent transitions?

When, where and how do we begin the heart’s transition? More importantly, why would we want to do so? Even more importantly, what would we be willing to give and accept, for such a transformation of the heart? 

Kumud

P.S. The migrating geese, another few flocks of them, will be back tomorrow. It’s supposed to be another day of sunshine. Join us for their  morning song and conversation with the #SpiritChat community on twitter, Sunday November 29 at 9amET. I will bring some tea, cookies, and yes questions. We will work on our heart’s transitions. Namaste – @AjmaniK

When transitions become transformations…

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On Giving Through Conversation

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Sometimes, it isn’t easy to find what we are looking for, particularly when it’s right in front of our nose. This challenge seems to get even  greater as we grow older in years. We walk into a room looking for something with intent and then stand there like icicles frozen in a stiff winter wind, wondering — what did I come in here for? We rush out of the house because we are running late, and halfway to the car, we realize we’ve forgotten our phone. We rush back to the front door, and realize that we can’t turn the door handle because one hand is holding the keys and the other hand is actually holding the phone! 

Do you remember how you felt on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2020? In a decade that started with great hope and aspirations for millions, it is perhaps difficult for many of us to find reasons to give thanks as we approach the end of November. And yet, here we are in the USA, staring at the annual holiday of ThanksGiving. The “third wave” of Covid-19 cases has brought stay-at-home orders, curfews, overflowing hospitals, case and death numbers that are difficult for our minds to comprehend. As if that weren’t enough, we are squarely in the middle of a constitutional crisis and a threat to our very democracy from within. 

At the individual level, life as we know it, is in some ways, unrecognizable from what it was at this time last year. We may have lost a loved one, lost our jobs or endured business losses, suffered a physical or mental health setback, and more. We may have become way too familiar with the workings of Zoom or Google Meet or other video conferencing platforms. For those with kids of all ages or older adults at home, we may be feeling overwhelmed in our new roles as full-time care-givers, educators, and more. 

I am sure that I am just scratching the surface of the ‘litany of woes’ that this year has brought our way. And yet, you well know that I wouldn’t be writing all this if I weren’t going to eventually ask you to pause and take a deep breath. Let’s do it together. Let’s pause, close our eyes for a minute, and take a deep breath and feel the inhaled air travel deep into our lungs, purifying the blood, returning it to the heart, and then bringing the impurities out of our body with a deep exhalation. Go ahead and do it a few times. I will wait. 

If you did what I suggested, you should have felt a bit lighter. Breath awareness creates an environment which shuts off the wanderings of our mind and activates the light of our heart. In moments of pure breathing and its awareness, we give our mind permission to breathe too, and allow it to let go of our micro and macro challenges. As the mind exhales the chatter of challenges and preoccupying it, it creates space for giving and gratitude to enter the conversation. Once gratitude enters the heart-mind, we can then give it forward to others, can’t we?

One Sanskrit word for expressing gratitude or ‘giving thanks’ is dhanya-vaad. The first part of the word is dhanya – its root is the word dhan – which literally means ‘wealth’. However, as is often the case in Sanskrit, the word dhanya has many meanings, depending on the context in which it is used. According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary, dhanya refers to one who is fortunate, who is blessed with wealth, happiness, goodness, virtue and joy. The second part of the word is vaad – which means ‘having a dialog or conversation’. Hence, dhanyavaad can be said to be the sharing and giving of our wealth through speech, dialog and conversation. 

Awareness of our wealth has to precede its giving. If we are unaware of the wealth within our heart’s treasury, we will feel that we have nothing to give or share.  Millions of families will attempt to celebrate ‘Thanksgiving at a distance’ this year. As we gather, we can perhaps share a few seeds of kindness, shine some rays of the heart’s light, and nourish each other with some sweet waters of gratitude. If we can do any or all of that, it will be a celebration full of healing and remembrance of the power of giving. 

Let me say dhanyavaad to all of you for being you. May peace, health, wealth, and yes, breath, be always with you and yours, and may you share of your moments of abundance with joy. 

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat with the #SpiritChat community on Sunday, November 22 at 9amET / 730pm India. We will share some moments of giving (and receiving) through conversation. Namaste – @AjmaniK

 

When the heart is engaged in giving, sky is indeed the limit… Breathe the sky…. 

The Sky is the limit....

Towards the Light of Truth

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I did not exactly plan it this way. Three weeks ago, when I collaborated with my good friend Jon Mertz on the topic of “betterment”, I hadn’t looked this far ahead. Two weeks ago, we talked about “common ground”, and how it would be vital for us to find some, despite all our differences, in order to have a thriving and sustainable future. A week ago, with the goal of betterment in mind, we discussed the idea of sowing “seeds of kindness” on “common ground”. 

Assuming that at least some of us have planted some seeds of kindness, or are at least planning to plant some, we now need some nourishment for those seeds to successfully germinate. Nourishment comes from the nutrients in the soil, the water, and from sunlight. Yes, seeds are typically sown beneath the surface, but some light does reach them even below ground. Sunlight is in fact essential for the process of photosynthesis – the process by which light is synthesized into sustainable life. In essence, light plays the same role to grow seeds, as truth does to grow love in our lives.

How long would we be able to live a holistic, sustainable, growth-oriented, thriving life of joy without a constant stream of truth flowing into our heart-mind? I surmise that light and truth are interchangeable in our lives. Where there is light, there is truth. Where there is truth, there is light. When truth is felt by our heart, we feel lightness. When untruth is felt by our mind, we experience darkness. The victory which we often talk about, and even celebrate – that of goodness over evil, kindness over prejudice, love over bigotry – is in some ways encapsulated by the light of truth dispelling darkness. 

When a seed is able to encapsulate light, its darkness begins to disappear. With light, the seed’s ‘mind’ realizes that its purpose isn’t to remain buried beneath the surface. With light, the seed’s ‘heart’ begins to manifest its truth, which is to become a giant oak tree. With light, the seed starts growing root of truth below the surface and shoots of awareness above the surface. In some ways, seeds and trees are perfect examples of the circle of light, life and truth. 

Out of what has the tree been produced? Out of the seed; the whole of the tree was there in the seed. It comes out and becomes manifest. So, the whole of this universe has been created out of this very universe existing in a minute form….….every evolution is preceded by an involution. The seed is the father of the tree, but another tree was itself the father of the seed. 

— The Cosmos: The Macrocosm – Swami Vivekananda

Some of you who have read this far are probably wondering – what does all of this have to do with spirituality and spiritual practice? Remember the story of the “bowl of lentils” from last week’s post on sowing kindness? What if every single one of us was to choose to only see the light of truth that shines within us? If we were to practice that, will we not see our own truth, and start germinating rapidly to our manifest destiny of enlightenment? If we were to be in the process of rapid growth, what would we see in the world around us?

Immersed in the light of truth, would we not tend to see more of goodness, joy, kindness, faith, gratitude, honesty, integrity, acceptance and justice? Would we not perform more of the actions that produce light instead of darkness? Light begets light. Truth begets truth. The light of truth begets truth and light, just like the tree begets the seed and the seed begets the tree. “Every evolution is preceded by an involution”. So, where do we begin our new practice of germination?

Any time that we feel ‘darkness’, let us choose to immediately light a new lamp or candle. A newly lit lamp can serve as a reminder that we can evoke the source of light that we carry within us, at any given moment. When we evoke the source, the tree, we, the seed, also evoke its qualities of omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, self-luminousness, joyfulness, awareness and truthfulness.

Is there a better way to celebrate the light of truth?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly community gathering on twitter, Sunday, November 15 at 9amET / 730pm India. We will celebrate kindness, truth and light, and perhaps even make a commitment to goodness. I hope you can join me and indulge some of my questions as we gather on common ground. Namaste – @AjmaniK

 

A reflection – on the source of the light of truth within us…

Diwali Light of Truth

On Sowing Seeds of Kindness

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Growing up in India, the primary source of protein for our primarily vegetarian diet was a regular supply of lentils. They came in all kinds of colors – red, green, yellow, orange, black, and more. There were the split lentils and the whole bean variety like the black-eyed peas, red kidney beans and the white and red garbanzo beans. The first step to cooking dry lentils is to sift through them to find any stray pieces of rocks that may have come with them. Once sifted, you soak them – sometimes overnight – and then cook them with spices suitable for the particular lentil. Without the sifting, the rocks end up cracking your teeth when you bite down on them while eating the soft, cooked lentils.

She was a wonderful cook and the kindest soul I have probably ever known. No one – friend, family, or stranger – could visit her simple home and not be treated like the most important person that they were. She lived the axiom that every “guest” is a messenger of the divine. I asked my maternal grandmother one day – what is your secret? How is it that you can be so kind to everyone who comes into contact with you?

She sat me down on the coir mat in her kitchen and made me my favorite flatbread on her griddle, drizzled it with a bit of clarified butter and sprinkled some brown sugar on top. “Eat first”, see said. “Then we will talk”. Once I was done eating, she asked – “will you have some tea”. All I wanted was the answer to my question. What I got instead was sweetness and kindness. After we were both done drinking a bit of tea in small glass cups, she gave me the answer. 

“Every person in the world is like a bowl of uncooked lentils,” she said. “If each piece of lentil in the bowl is a character trait, then  every person is bound to have some ‘rocks’ or flaws. You have to learn to ‘sift’ out these ‘rocks’ when you engage with them. Then  you are engaging only with the goodness within them. In essence, you are doing them a great kindness. The benefit of this practice  is that you end up sowing seeds of kindness within your own heart.”

Kindness, empathy, dignity, compassion, inclusion, dignity, faith, resilience, humility and joy. These are all seeds that are ready and waiting for us to plant in the fields of common ground, for the betterment of all. Kindness is the first seed. When we begin with kindness, then all the other seeds can germinate well and eventually yield a new, healthy crop of seeds for the next generation. My grandmother would be so happy today to see her namesake, Kamala, getting ready to sow seeds of kindness, unity and healing for the growth of a new world.

Will we exhibit leadership by taking their cue and plant a few new seeds of kindness of our own today, and every day from here on out? 

Kumud

P.S. Join our weekly twitter chat, Sunday Nov 8 at 9amET / 730pm India. We will sow some new seeds of kindness together for health, healing and harmony in our world. Namaste – @AjmaniK

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On Spiritual Common Ground

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At the beginning of the month of October, I decided to step onto the “battleground”. Up until then, I had decided that I would stay on the sidelines and watch, and not get involved in any of the election action. I had already decided who I was going to vote for a while back, and I had never been really engaged in political activity in any US election. I truly believed that even if I wanted to get engaged in the action, my actions wouldn’t amount to much anyway. In addition, I didn’t even know how or where to get engaged, even if I wanted to.

It was all going ‘according to plan’ until a few things happened, almost simultaneously, on a single day. Driving my daughter to school one morning, she saw a few yard signs pop up on the main road, and softly asked – “Dad – what will happen if they get elected again?” To put her heart and mind at ease, I quickly said – “don’t worry honey, good people are doing their best, fighting the good fight to make sure that that doesn’t happen”.

On my way back after dropping her off at school, the question was asked to me – “who are these ‘good people’ that you mentioned to her, Kumud?” That was the first whisper. In the afternoon, my cousin from Michigan, who now lives in California and is very engaged politically, asked me on Messenger – “so, how are you folks doing in Ohio?” That was the second whisper. Later that evening, as I was out for a quick grocery run, a text message popped up on my phone. “Will you be voting in this upcoming election?” It was an outreach effort by a group of ‘South Asians reaching out to fellow Asians’, asking for my intent and support. I said, “yes, of course”. That was the third whisper. 

The universe had different plans for me. Three strikes within twelve hours and I was out of my inaction. It was time to step onto the battleground. At the end of the text outreach conversation, I found myself asking the lady, “How do I do what you are doing – text other people about their voting plan?” She said, “let me check and I’ll get back to you.” I waited. There was no reply for a few hours. I figured, oh well, I tried. It isn’t meant to be. Then around 11pm, I got a text with a link to sign up for “text banking”. The floodgates were now opened. 

For those of you who are not familiar with US elections, certain states are “battleground states” because unlike a lot of states which are “safe bets” to be “Red” or “Blue”, these six or seven states are a “toss up”. Ohio, the state that I live in, is one of them. In a tight election, the outcome in a single “battleground” state or few can decide the outcome of an entire election. I will spare you all the details, but once I stepped into action, I drank from a firehose. I learnt how to “text bank”, “phone bank”, started posting about “martial arts” analogies on twitter, joined a FB group of fellow action-takers, and much more. Every waking hour outside of work and spiritual hours, I was immersed in thought and action.

A few days ago, I started hearing and reading about the doubt, fear, anxiety and concerns of that mirrored my daughter’s original question and concern. I found myself asking – does only “our” side have these feelings and concerns, or does “their” side have some of them too?  The more I asked this question, the more I found myself trying to find “common ground” while being on the “battle ground”. The logical answer was that if “they” are human like “us”, they also feel the same emotions as us.

They also fell the loss of loved ones, and the joy of a newborn. They also feel thirst and hunger, heat and cold, fear of death and anxiety of loss. They also get up at sunrise and go to work, and need sleep after a hard day’s labor at home or outside the home. They also look upon the changing of colors in autumn with delight, marvel at the flight of the bumblebee in the spring, and wonder about the magic of the blue moon on Halloween.

There is “common ground” enough, even in the midst of the battle in the “battle ground”, if we are willing to look beneath the surface. As spiritual practitioners, would we not be well served, even in the heat of the battle in the battle-ground, to remember to adhere to our foundations of oneness, awareness, kindness, empathy, decency, integrity, compassion, truth and love? If so, then the common ground lies beneath us. All of US.

Let us not poison our common ground with hate, for we will need the same ground, after the current battle, to re-seed it with the seeds of hope for healing, unity, equality, respect, harmony, integration and transformation, as we move onward to create “a more perfect union”. 

Kumud

P.S. Join our weekly conversation on twitter in #SpiritChat – Sunday, Nov 1 at 9am EDT / 7:30pm India. We have been meeting every Sunday, in our “common ground” of #SpiritChat for many years. We will continue to do so. ALL of you are welcome. Namaste – @AjmaniK

P.P.S Note that the US switches to Daylight Savings on Nov 1, and the chat will (most likely) be an hour later than usual in your time-zone. 

Nature is filled with examples of common ground, common waters, common skies and more – may we watch, listen, learn and integrate into our lives

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Towards Betterment – with @JonMertz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple and Transformational. Betterment is the calling.

Will we step up and answer the calling?

Kumud 

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

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

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

Jon Mertz TD

On Being Forever Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us all celebrate our journey of becoming forever young. 

Kumud

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

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On Knowledge and Knowing

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It’s good to be welcomed back home again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kumud

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

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

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