On New Awareness

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They say that it takes twenty one days to create a new habit. The corollary would be that it takes twenty one days to break an old habit, yes?

The sixteen days in India were a great start to breaking the habit of the need for hyper-connectivity and hyper-awareness of the events of the world around me. Awareness is a good thing, but hyper-awareness? Perhaps not so much. When does awareness turn into hyper-awareness? It happens when we engage with the granularity of the details of a particular event at a very fine level, when moderation falls by the wayside…

Take the war in Ukraine. We can make it a hyper-aware event in our life if we follow and then get caught up in the constant coverage of all the minute details of the major and minor incidents of the war. This can put us into a state of constant stress, with our nerve stretched out in a hyper-elastic state, ready to snap at any given moment. Despite my best efforts at self-moderation, I found myself moving towards such a state in the two weeks leading up to my trip to India.

Needless to say, this was having a negative impact on my daily life. I was finding it increasingly difficult to stay calm during my morning meditation. I was getting more and more irritable about inconsequential things. I was even considering postponing my long-awaited trip, driven by the fear of the possibility of ‘what if the war becomes much worse and we can’t get back to the USA?’

However, once I got on the first flight of the trip, it was as if I went into a wormhole and got transported into a different world. I quickly learnt that fear and hyper-awareness are close cousins. Sometimes, one needs to go ‘cold turkey’ to break the cycle of fear, and to allow for new awareness to come through.

Somewhat by design, somewhat by lack of connectivity, and mostly due to lack of time, I mostly stayed off of twitter, there was no TV news or NPR or perusing newspaper web sites to feed my hyper-awareness. The fire-hose of news and information got turned off, as my time and energy got re-focused on family and friends. I stayed in touch with the macro events, but the desire to know about every single detail fell off like a snake shedding its old skin.

As a result, I was fortunate to be able to quickly go from hyper-awareness to a new, simple awareness. The large-scale shift in focus towards the people in front of me, in-person sharing of our life’s major events from the past three years, mini-celebrations, laughter and tears, all created a new awareness. The cycle of fear-led hyper-awareness had been replaced by love-focused caring and connection.

One pleasant result was that I had some of the best morning meditation experiences during my two weeks in India. The second week was particularly spectacular, being that I was on a beach resort where the evening walks by the Arabian sea set up the morning meditations. The birds would wake you up way before sunrise, which was the perfect time to sit and practice. Morning walks on the beach with my sister followed, and were invariably accompanied by watching the sun rise over the coconut palms.

I was still aware of the world, but it was a different world for sure. The slower unhurried pace of people in the tropics, the softness of the sand and warm waters, the rhythm of the tides, the beauty of flowers woven into hair-braids, new friendships with staff and a cat at the resort – all created a beautiful new awareness. I became aware that kindness, softness, tenderness, grace, honesty, humility and beauty still do exist in the world – we just have to be aware of and then get out of the spiral of pain and negativity that we sometimes tend to get trapped in.

As I write this, I am exactly twenty one days away from when I first landed in India on the family trip. I have been back ‘home’ for six days. I remain keenly interested in the world, but my interest in it has shifted towards awareness of its goodness and love-filled-ness. These three weeks have been a reminder to me that the Yogi, the practitioner of Yoga, of union between the lower and the higher, is the one who can practice awareness without being driven to the opposite extremes of exhilaration or despondency. I have been reminded of moderation in all things, including and particularly in awareness.

It is perhaps in moderate living that lies our path to the state of awareness where truth, consciousness and joy become our permanent home. In that home, we arise to discover that the morning bird still sing while the dawn is still dark – in her knowing through and beyond faith that the dawn is imminent.

May that new awareness be ours.

Kumud

P. S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat, Sunday April 10at 9amET / 630pm India, with the #SpiritChat community. I am happy to be back hosting after a gap of three weeks, and am grateful that community leaders stepped up to fill the hosting gap while I was traveling. I will have new questions, new goodies, and new experiences to share. Namaste – AjmaniK

A new awareness… of softness and tenderness

Spiritual journeys and destinations by @merryb923

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Spiritual journeys and destinations (by Meredith Bouvier)

What is the role of a destination in our spiritual journey? Is it even necessary? Or important? 

As I think on these questions, I remember some of the spiritual journeys I have taken in life. Some didn’t start off as a spiritual journey, but became one. Others, were aligned with life journeys, such as a relationship, or a big move, college, being a part of a community, or during a trip of some sort. And then some were intentional spiritual journeys- studying and learning things I’m passionate about, and journeys within.

I think about the destination of these journeys- I remember some of the original destinations I had in mind, and most of the time the destination I reached was far different than the intended destination. A move to NYC to find a new life for me in New York, led to me finding a new life back home in Massachusetts. A visit to a meditation retreat to learn how to become a super meditator, and the result was the pride of an accomplishment and a testament to my tenacity and adaptability, a chronic sense of peace.

The role of the journey is not often questioned. The journeys shape who we become. They are our lives, our struggles, our memories, big truths and hard decisions. But what initiates the journey? Is it a destination we seek? And when do we consider our journey complete? Must there be a destination? 

As I prepare for a spiritual journey to explore the beauty of Scotland as well as a journey within next week, I invite you to explore your spiritual journeys and destinations with me on Sunday for #spiritchat


💕✨Meredith

Author Bio: Hiiii! I’m Meredith Bouvier : Cheerleader for love, kindness warrior, seeker of truth, a masterpiece and a work in progress. Most adored and important roles in life are leader, friend and mentor. Spreading love, kindness, light and humor on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat @merryb923 💕✨

Kumud’s note: I am excited and grateful that Meredith, a #SpiritChat participant for about ten years or so, is going to host the weekly chat on Sunday, April 3 2022 at 9amET. Please do join her for this wonderful journey! Namaste – @AjmaniK

What role, if any, can companions play in our journeys?

Spiritual Trust by @womenandbiz

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Spiritual Trust by Elisa Balabram

The last few years, and what has transpired this year abroad, have caused many of us to reconsider our lifestyle choices, and to renew our connection to our deepest values. The year 2021 was named The Great Resignation, with millions of people leaving their full-time jobs in the United States.

Making decisions like leaving one’s home country either by choice or by inflicted conditions, or moving to a new city or state, or changing careers, or pursuing a different degree, or embarking on new relationships or adventures, all require a great deal of spiritual trust.

As we plan to take a leap into the unknown ourselves, by moving from the east to the west coast, the invitation to trust has been showing up on and off for several months in our lives. It has taken time to come to the decision of letting go of a somewhat secure situation, and to fully surrender and take the leap into the unknown. Yet, we decided to go for it.

There are so many unknowns regarding the path forward, and the only way we can do it is to trust. Trust that the universe has our backs. Trust that once we leap, even though we cannot see clearly now, the net will appear. Trust the support system available to us. Trust in each other. Trust in ourselves.

Join #SpiritChat this Sunday for a conversation on spiritual trust and leaping into the unknown.

– Elisa Balabram (@womenandbiz)

Please join Elisa as she steps up to host our weekly #SpiritChat on Sunday, March 27 2022 at 9amET, and share your stories about trust ~ thank you for hosting, Elisa! – Kumud

Nature can teach us a lot about trust… and growth

HOPE by @AwakeningTrue

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HOPE by Sharon Kathryn D’Agostino

In many conversations over the past three weeks, I have felt the need and the responsibility to be hopeful, and to share messages of hope with others. This caused me to spend a considerable amount of time thinking about hope and exploring its power relative to one of my favorite topics – love. At the beginning of this exploration, hope seemed more ephemeral than love, more like a flickering flame that, when the wind blew, persisted only if it was protected by sheer will and determination.

Why, I wondered, did I see love as more steadfast, more permanent than hope? Why did I view love as the strongest sibling in the family of these virtues, along with other virtues, that so many of us are committed to demonstrating in our thoughts, our words, and our actions?

We speak about unconditional love – love without conditions, without expectations or requirements. When we choose to love someone unconditionally, when we commit to loving unconditionally, our love is unwavering. Why, then, does hope feel more conditional? What is unconditional hope?

I know how to remain loving when someone says or does something hurtful. I know how to remain compassionate when tempted to judge rather than forgive. But I must admit that during these past three weeks, there have been days when I did not know HOW to remain hopeful. Meditation and journaling helped me understand that hope, like love, is a choice. This obvious conclusion had not been obvious to me on those days when hope seemed so elusive. Today, though, I better understand that conclusion and I choose hope. I choose to be hopeful and hope-filled, reminded that this is how we are able to move through the most challenging hours or days or weeks of our lives.  

Some of us live in places where Spring is now arriving. The crocuses and daffodils that survived the snowstorm and icy weather near my home last weekend are symbols of hope for me as I commit to choosing unconditional HOPE, unwavering hope, from this moment on.

I very much look forward to discussing hope in this Sunday’s #SpiritChat, and to learning from this hopeful and hope-filled community.   

Thank you all very much, and many thanks to Kumud for the opportunity!!  

Sharon Kathryn D’Agostino@SharonDAgostino, @AwakeningTrue and @SayItForwardNow

Author’s bio: I believe in the power of love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, and…hope! And I believe that each of us has an important role in shaping a kinder, gentler, more compassionate world for all.

Kumud’s note: I am delighted that Sharon @AwakeningTrue will be hosting #SpiritChat on Sunday, March 20 at 9amEDT / 1pmUTC / 630pm India on twitter. I am so looking forward to all the hope and love that emerges from her leading the conversation on this topic. Thank you, Sharon!

 

 

Photo: Daffodils by Sharon Kathryn D’Agostino

Daffodils sharon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Spiritual Identity

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What does our sense of identity consist of? Where does it come from? How does it change over time? What makes us lose our sense of identity? Why do we identify much more with certain environments or people as compared to others? How does our identity manifest in our living?

These are some the questions that I mulled over during my walk on a gloomy Friday morning as the Sun was doing its level best to break through and provide a bit of warmth on an unusually chilly spring morning. As I watched a pair of geese swim peacefully with mallard ducks in the pond, I felt a surge of peace within me too. It was a reminder of how much of my identity is shaped by nature through its effects on my energy levels and inner vibrations.

Why does nature have such a powerful impact on our identity? I believe it is because of the amount of diversity that nature offers to us — there is something in nature for everyone to relate to. Regardless of the time of day, the season, the weather, our emotional or physical state, we can often identify with nature and its ability to heal and comfort us. The always available nature of nature, ready to serve us unconditionally, helps us experience the nature of divine love.

When we experience unconditional love, it removes fear and adds courage to our sense of identity. In addition to nature, there are people in our lives who can deeply affect our identity too. The ones who influence us in a positive, uplifting way are the ones whom we identify with deeply at a heart and soul level. I like to think of them as identity partners. Our inner vibrations align closely with theirs, we feel at peace around them, and they elevate rather than negate our sense of identity.

In order for our identity to fully manifest through love, we may need to examine that which stands in its way. This greatest obstacle is often our ego, particularly when it is fed by an excess of anger, expectation, sadness, and more. An excess of positive emotions can also create imbalances for our ego, which can then manifest in our identity as arrogance and hubris, and disconnect us from our true self.

The good news is that we, through our awareness and practices, can get closer to our true identity, which often gets hidden under the layers of dust which accumulate over time on our heart’s mirror. The energy of our identity partners — nature, supportive friends and family, spiritual guides — is available to us. We simply need to choose to tune our heart’s frequency to their transmissions filled with peace, harmony, and yes, love.

There are so many aspects to our identity, and yet, we discover, that they all emerge from, and eventually merge into One. Will we take the journey to discover?

Kumud

Join us for our weekly community gathering on twitter in #Spiritchat, Sunday March 13 at 9amET / 730pm India. We will play with some questions about identity, and connect with each other over tea and cookies. Namaste. – AjmaniK

So many aspects to our identity… and yet they all merge into One

On Spiritual Stress Tests

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What a difference a week makes. As we take steps out of the shadow of the pandemic, we find ourselves in an equally long, if not longer shadow — the shadow of another Cold War. The stress levels for millions of people went up so rapidly that one could feel the energy shift palpably towards fear, angst, anxiety, grief and disorientation. By Thursday evening, my mind was perturbed enough that I decided to shut off the faucet for a day or so. It was time to take a ‘mental health’ day and try and restore a bit of inner peace. 

I didn’t really imagine that this unraveling would be happening in our world, and happening so quickly. We live in a hyper-connected world of supply chains, social media, travel, food and energy dependencies, global partnerships and more. I have been asking some questions. How did we get here? How prepared are we to cope with these unprecedented stresses? How can we support each other better in these times?

It seems like we are all being given a stress test of the mind, the heart and our spirit. It reminds me of engineering school, where we used to perform stress tests on materials to determine their ‘breaking point’. There were tensile tests to measure stretchability, compression tests for crushability, torsion tests for bendability, and more. In medical science, we have stress tests to assess the heart’s health and functionality. What serves as a good stress test for our spirituality? 

A good stress test will stretch us, bend us, squeeze us, and maybe even break us in some ways.  It will make us question the efficacy of our practices, our ability to maintain inner peace.  On my ‘mental health day’, I shut down social media, the news stayed off, and I stayed off the internet at large. These steps helped stanch the inflow of stress-producing inputs, and yet, it wasn’t enough to reduce the effect of the accumulated peace-disrupting thoughts from the week gone by. I realized that I had to do some additional work to start restoring my equanimity. 

The work began by adopting a contemplative attitude, by asking questions. How could I, as an individual, influence the outcomes of the events that were stress-testing my mind? This contemplation led me to regain some focus of those things that I could indeed influence through my actions. Regaining focus led me to ask — what are my core, go-to practices, that best help to calm my mind? The four-fold answer was relaxation, meditation, inner cleaning, and prayer. Any and all of these practices work well to help me de-escalate stress when my mind is under attack. 

In the past twenty four hours, every time my mind has tended to wander off into the field of stress-inducing thoughts, I have used my awareness to pause and contemplate. What can I control? How many details do I need to know? Is this bit of information a consumer or a contributor to my vital life-force? With every contemplation, I develop a higher sensitivity to what is happening outside and within me. With greater sensitivity, I feel that I have better answers to respond to life’s stress tests. With better answers, I can create better outcomes, trust myself more, and orient my awareness towards peace, which creates happiness. 

Maybe the occasional stress-test is a good thing. Maybe I need to be grateful for the gifts of courage and resilience that stress tests bring with them? They can help me give me a reality check on how much spiritual progress I am really making! I don’t know of any curriculum that will prepare me for all of life’s stress tests. Awareness that love, truth and inner peace are all worth fighting for — perhaps remembering that is preparation enough?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat with the #SpiritChat community, Sunday, March 6 at 9am ET / 2pm GMT. We hope to gather and share techniques to pass our stress-tests with flying colors. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Nature often uses symmetry to cope with her stresses… or so it appears…

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On Spiritual Grounding

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This post was written on the day after the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Like many of you, my heart and mind is having difficulty processing the events as they unfold. Reviewing my daily ‘grounding practices, which are part of my broader meditation practice, is helping me return to some sense of equilibrium. Writing heals me, so I share these thoughts with you in the hope that they are somewhat healing for you too. Namaste.

The Friday morning walk around the lake went quicker than I had anticipated. On a fresh sheets of ice that fell overnight after all the snow had melted over the past few days, I walked with slow measured steps. Even though the path is familiar to me, and my muscle memory stands me in good stead, I learnt quickly not to step into the gray, for those are the thin ice areas with water underneath them.

As I walked the lake’s periphery, I wondered how I would cross the small valley that separates the East-facing section of the path from the west-facing one. The answer came as I was pleasantly surprised by the sight of the small, familiar, slightly broken, but still crossable bridge over the vale. As I started to cross over, the bottoms of the tall bushes entwined my feet, and the tops wrapped their arms around my chest through the heavy coat. I could not see much, what with the snowflakes whirling around in the breeze that carved icicles on my cheeks. I cannot explain it, but I did wonder – was this similar to the cold that those escaping the war half a world away were feeling? Who was giving them warmth and safety?

And yet, standing on the bridge lightly, holding my breath for a bit to absorb it all, shifting my attention to the earth as it began to flow all its love upwards through my feet, I felt a deep sense of grounding. All the cold and the gray and the starkness of the sunless winter morning dissolved around me. I even felt a momentary sense of warmth in connection with my core. The earth has a way of doing that to you – literally and emotionally and spiritually grounding you when you return to it. Have you felt such a grounding lately?

Yes, in the midst of our harsh winter days, it is hard to imagine that the sunflowers of spring will be here soon enough. And yet, from past experience, we know that they will. In the midst of the callous cowardice of those drunk on the desire for conquest, it is hard to imagine that courage and goodness still exist. And yet, from experience, we know that they do. In the midst of life pulling the rug from underneath our feet, it is hard to comprehend that the earth, the ground still exists. And yet, we know that it does, for we sit and stand and walk on it every single day, drawing energy and sustenance from it.

Let the sunflowers bloom within us. Let us plant their seeds of peace in the fertile soil of love. Let them be nourished by the waters of hope-driven action and the light of the rising sun. As the flowers bloom within, let us re-connect with the ground of truth, joy and awareness within us, as we recommit to kindness, empathy, and greater connection to all that which feeds our heart, mind and spirit.

What kind of world do we want to create within and without, for ourselves, our planet, and for future generations? Our choices about who we stand with, what we stand for, what ground we stand on, and what grounds us, will define us. The health of our faith, friends, families and futures depend on our attention to the ground we choose to walk. May we walk it with care, concern and courage.

Join me as I take one small step to ground myself in love, peace, light, lightness and the power of the energy flowing from the earth, again. We can create a better world with a single step. So, what’s stopping us?

Kumud

P.S. Join us in our weekly twitter gathering with the #spiritchat community, Sunday Feb 27 at 9amET / 730pm India. We will check in on each other over tea, cookies, and yes, some questions. Namaste – AjmaniK

Flowers remind me of the importance of staying grounded

Do You Remember?

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As I was doing some early spring cleaning of the audio recordings on my phone, I came across a Vedanta lecture titled “Do You Remember?” from a 2017 visit by Swami Tyagananda to Cleveland. I remember his visit clearly, and the impact it had on me, and so, in this week of remembrance of my Mother’s transition, I decided to listen again. Allow me to share some highlights from the talk.

The phrase ‘Do you remember?’ was often used as a greeting by a particular senior monk when he met other monks. The question served as a reminder to the monks — to think back to their energy, enthusiasm and idealism when they first decided to become a monk. Of course, the analogy can be extended to us – do we remember the excitement when we first stepped into a project, relationship or spiritual journey in our lives? How does our current enthusiasm compare with that of when we began?

The opposite of remembrance is forgetfulness. What makes us forget? Let us examine. As humans, we tend to form attachments because they make us feel more safe, give us security. With attachments, come desires and expectations – we want people to act and behave in certain ways. When these desires aren’t met, we tend to respond with irritation, and then anger. Anger changes us, and causes us to act in ways contrary to our nature — we can become anger itself. Anger creates delusion — a state of mind where we lose awareness, forget what is appropriate, forget how to live and how to think.

This is the process of forgetfulness according to the Bhagavad Gita. Attachment, unfulfilled desires, anger, delusion, forgetfulness, loss of memory — we forget who we are. So how does one strengthen the memory and the mind? We strengthen the awareness of what we feed our mind. We are often very mindful of physical health, and the quality and purity of what we feed our body. The mind-body connection also gives us feedback from our mind about what we are feeding the body.

But what about what we are feeding the other senses that directly feed our mind? What is the purity and quality of the books we read, the media we consume, the conversations with our friends and family, and such? In order to strengthen the mind, the mind needs our commitment to purity in all the ways we feed it. It is that daily commitment through our spiritual practices, of awareness of the ‘junk food’ we feed our mind, that will help keep the mind in good health and keep our memory strong. With a strong memory, we won’t easily yield to delusion, anger, desires and attachments, because we will have clarity of mind. With clarity of mind, remembrance of our values, our principles, our purpose, and our path, will become our lifestyle.

May our practices be such that they yield an unqualified Yes to the question – ‘Do you remember your true Self?’

Namaste.

Kumud

P.S. Join us in our weekly twitter chat with the #SpiritChat community, Sunday February 20 at 9amET / 730pm India. I will remember to bring tea and questions – you bring the cookies! – @AjmaniK

The rose – a great example of the mind and its thorns…

Matters of the Heart

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The walk lasted only about twenty minutes – a third of the time that I typically walk when the trail isn’t covered with ankle deep snow. Walking in the tundra can be like where every step involves expending energy to pull your shoes gripped in what seems like wet cement.

And yet, walk I did because the calling after a couple of weeks of not walking was strong today. The invitation of the orange glow of the sunlight filtering through the trees branches and the cloud cover was hard to resist. I also needed to check on the health of the lake and the trail. As unexpectedly difficult as it was, I am glad that I went.

The first thing I learnt quickly was to not walk in snow tracks left be those who walked before. It’s tempting to walk in their tracks, because you think that it would be easier than walking on thinly iced snow — but that isn’t true. The previous tracks tend to be slushy, icy, and are tougher to navigate than creating your own new trail. In walking my own path, it took me longer to half-circle the lake, but it was more fun because I felt like I was more engaged and aware during the walk.

The lake looked like it was in good health, completely frozen over as it was, except for an oval patch in the middle, where it was clearly melting from the center out. When I got to a vantage point where I could get a closer look, I was fascinated to see that the water was actually gurgling out from the center, and sending circular waves into the enclosing ice. Fascinating. And the reason?

My speculation is that the lake is deepest at the center, and hence is able to retain the most warmth during the freeze. It’s a bit like how the love that has been poured into us over time and space finds a reservoir in the deepest parts of our hearts, keeping us warm through. The warmth of this very same love gurgles up and melts the ice of the world that may have frozen us out of the remembrance of who we truly are — truth, awareness, and joy.

Yes. Sometimes we may have to go without to go within. Sometimes we may have to walk new paths created of our own walking, in the middle of our winters, to rediscover That center where the depth of our love’s warmth resides. Sometimes we may have to be reminded that what truly matters — in the beginning, the middle, and the end — is the heart.

The home of light softness, stillness, kindness, lightness, listening, compassion and more. That is why our center matters. May we find ways to return to it.

Kumud

Join us for our weekly gathering with the #SpiritChat community on twitter, Sunday Feb 13 at 9amET. We will explore what matters to us. Namaste – @AjmaniK

The heart matters… in all its colors and patterns (Art by A.A.)

Signs of Spring

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After the huge snowstorm that swept through over the past few days and covered the landscape with a foot or so of snow, it is difficult to wrap my head around the idea that we are about halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox! If I want to lean into spring, I surely can, as was evidenced by the sighting of the first robin a couple of days ago – the very day that the snow was coming down at its heaviest.

As if to leave no doubt that spring is imminent, my inboxes today, February 5th, are filled with greetings for the Indian festival Basant (spring) Panchami (fifth day of the lunar month). The festival celebrates the onset of spring, decked in yellows, and honors the Goddess Saraswati, the patron of arts, education and knowledge.

Yes. My mind and body may be still be stuck in winter, but no matter where my heart looks, the flow of spring has already begun! When has winter had enough power to hold back spring anyway? All the external signs are asking me to get ready for spring — the sun is getting higher in the sky, its arc between sunrise and sunset is getting wider, and the light is getting brighter.

In addition to the external signs, there are internal signs of spring too. These ones are a bit more subtle, but they are there for sure. As I observe the flow within, I can make better decisions on what to keep and what to let go — inner spring cleaning. As a result, the heart flows easier and feels lighter overall — a sign of spring — even though there are ‘heavy’ winter-like days when a storm or squall comes through.

Are you seeing or feeling any signs of ‘spring’ where you are at in your life right now? Or do you feel that the ‘winter thaw’ is a ways away for you yet? Or are you at a stage in life where you remain in a state of deep content, regardless of the ‘signs’ or the ‘season’?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering on twitter with the #SpiritChat community, Sunday Feb 6 at 9amET / 730pm India. We will chat about signs of spring in our lives. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Spring – a sign of creativity…