I’m feeling a little bit disappointed that I didn’t get to the umbrella on the deck in time during the last storm. As I try to open it, I notice that the middle of the three tiers won’t fully open because one one of the supporting tines has broken in half and gone missing. The puppy is standing beside me, looking at me like I’ve lost my mind as I raise and lower the cranking mechanism in vain, hoping that it will somehow fix itself.
No such luck. As I am about to give up, I look down onto the garden, and there, sticking out of the red flowering bush, is the other half of the broken support. Hope. I retrieve it and jerry-rig the two pieces together, and walla, I have a semi-functional shade from the sun. It’s imperfectly perfect in its deformity, in that the tension has gone missing from the fabric that the broken tine now supports.
In retrospect, the storm has given me what I had wished the umbrella always had — a bit of flexibility in its undue tautness, so that it can better weather a bit more of the frequent wind gusts that tend to come off of the water. It looks a bit bent and articulated, and not so pretty any more, but it is actually more relaxed and functional and free-floating in its existence.
I go back to reading my book on Tao with the essay about being “easy and relaxed”. It speaks about harmony with the universe, about transcending both “being” and “doing’” and effortlessly switching from one to the other when necessary. It seems to bring home the message of choice, without which, it is hard to imagine any sense of true freedom.
Some will not rest until they have achieved or restored perfection, while others are at peace with their ‘brokenness’ and their imperfections. Some use their freedom to choose to walk the hard, challenging, twisted paths of life, while others are content in choosing the ‘easy’ roads. We are often judged, even defined by the world by the choices we make, and yet that is all moot, for only our heart knows the inner peace that comes from choosing what is in alignment with the call of our soul.
The willingness to choose our own path, the courage to be answerable to the heart, the ability to keep growing in connection to the divine, the rising up to be in service to others, the releasing of our inner fragrance of love — and to do all of these in a relaxed harmony with the universe — are perhaps our true freedoms. And for us to practice them, our hearts’ freedoms need not be perfect, do they?
As I finish writing this, the creaking of the sunbrella tells me that the wind is picking up and another summer evening thunderstorm approaches. This time, I am ready and present to act before I lose any more tines. I hope to have shade for a few more weeks, for summer has just begun!
P.S. What are your thoughts on the heart of freedom? Are we really as free as we think we are? What is it that binds us, often without our awareness? I invite you to share in our weekly chat with the #SpiritChat community on Sunday July 4 (Independence Day in The USA) at 9am ET / 630pm India. Namaste – @AjmaniK
I decided that I was going to walk farther than ever before along my recently discovered walking trails around the lake. I figured that I would go as far around the circle that I was allowed, and then have to double-back on my path. It would be a good opportunity to view the morning interplay of light, water, sky, birds and trees from both directions — going clockwise and counter-clockwise.
What I hadn’t accounted for was that I would be presented with an invitation at the three-quarter mark around the circle. It was lying hidden among the tall grasses, in a shallow formed by the meeting of two down-slopes on either side of a moist stream bed. Perhaps the smallest of bridges I have ever encountered — one that a tall person like me would even leap over.
The invitation of the bridge created a decision point, an opportunity. Do I abandon my original plan to double-back and experience the trail from both directions, or do I accept, cross over, complete the circle and engage a different experience in that space and time?
We often encounter such ‘bridge experiences’ in our lives. Bridges tend to hold a fascination for most humans engaged in exploration and discovery, because they represent new possibilities. A bridge need not necessarily be a physical entity – far from it. People and practices, and their ability to facilitate new connections can serve as bridges too.
In many ways, music, art, dance, painting, sewing, hiking, reading, meditating, day-dreaming, sky-watching, cloud-spotting, gardening — name your favorite — can become a bridges. When we accept the invitation of any experience that transports us into a realm that creates sustainable silence, stillness, peace, we become a ‘bridge person’, don’t we?
And yet, we often refuse the invitation of bridges. Fear and uncertainty make us reluctant to build them, to cross over them, or invite others to cross with us. We often choose to double-back and keep reworking our well-trodden paths, rather than engage the ‘new bridge’ experiences, no matter how small the leap or crossing may be. What can help us accept the invitation?
Remembrance that faith, courage and grace are our friends can help us be bridges for others. When we experience our ability to help people in small ways, we gain spiritual strength. When we accept the help of those who have crossed before us, we open our heart to the light. In making small bridge choices, we plant the seeds of bigger crossings.
We are almost home. It’s time to take the leap, to cross over. Are you ready? Let’s walk.
Thirtieth January. It was on this day in 1948 that the simple life of Mahatma Gandhi was snuffed by an act of violence, as he walked to an outdoor prayer meeting in New Delhi. His final words as he breathed his last were, “hey ram” — a remembrance of the God Rama. Gandhi, the man who was instantly recognizable by his simplicity – a pair of glasses, a walking stick and a white cloth made of homespun cotton draped around his body, as he travelled all across India inspiring a nation to rise up in non-violence to shake off the chains of British rule.
It was Gandhi’s simplicity that made him relatable to India’s ordinary people who felt that they too could join him in his fight for freedom and justice. His mission was simple too — complete independence for India. Inspired by the Bhagavad Gita and the likes of Paine and Thoreau, he inspired many lovers of non-violence and freedom in his wake, including Martin Luther King, Jr.
We all have had experiences with simplicity, or at least the occasional and intermittent desire for it in our lives. We often marvel and reminisce about the joy and lightness that we felt in those stages of our lives when ‘life was so simple’. One reason that our heart may even ache for a rerun to simplicity, to create it again in our lives, is that it is our natural state.
The ease of flow that we experience in simplicity is what attracts us to create it again. Simplicity, and the allowance that it creates in our lives – the idea of living a simple life of observation instead of a life of a desire to control people’s behavior and the tendency to jump to conclusions and judgement. Simplicity engenders a life of peace, tranquility, lightness and creativity rather than a life living the death spiral of the ‘outrage of the hour’ brought to us by our hyper engagement with (social) media.
How do we begin to create simplicity (again)? One area we can examine is our daily habits and practices. What habits can we simplify, or even eliminate, without much effort? What (spiritual) practices are portable and sustainable? In what ways are we introducing more complex thoughts into our daily life? Some questions I often ask at the end of the day. For how long did I sit still today? What did I consume and how did it affect me? Did I engage with nature today? What was my greatest moment of Joy today?
As we ask these simple questions and watch the answers emerge, our awareness will create more simplicity in our lives. The more that simplicity grows within, the more we will be attracted to it because of its rewards and its ability to return us to our natural, holistic state. Simplicity creates sustainability and warmth for the heart, like the rising of the Sun. A sunrise is simple, and yet, is there any single act more effective and essential for the health of the planet?
Join us for our weekly Twitter chat, Sunday Jan 31 at 9amET in #SpiritChat – we will ask some simple questions and create some simplicity. Namaste – @AjmaniK
And I’m back. After two days of missing my morning meditation, it’s good to be back. It took a concerted effort to get back, and now I know why I missed the light, the lightness, the peace of the condition of the heart that is often established, and more. There is no reason to feel shame, or even guilt for being derailed, as long as I learnt from the experience, recover, re-heart and reset.
I had to ask for all the masters for help, and then wait. I didn’t have to wait long, for the help did come, and it came quickly. The bonus was that there was additional help from my beloveds who have passed, and the loved ones who are present.
The shame receded, I worked through the guilt, I decided to abjure blame, which inspired accountability. It was only after transitioning through the shame, blame, guilt and accountability, that I felt ready to acknowledge what derailed me, and then make a renewed commitment to my practice, with a revised plan of action.
After all of that groundwork, came the invitation to healing, and moving on towards growth. I paused to introspect and ask. What if I had bypassed all the intermediate work and jumped straight from shame and to try and effect healing, even growth?
I believe it would have been a lost opportunity for engaging in deep introspection. I would have buried the guilt, taken no accountability, and forgotten that I had ignored the warning flags being waved by the station masters of the stations that my freight train of the mind filled with anger had passed through on my way to derailment.
The unprocessed anger would have led to more guilt, perhaps even rage and bitterness, and I would have left myself vulnerable to being even more easily derailed the next time around. In the words of the great Ramakrishna Parmahansa,
“The three things that we have to get rid of in spiritual life are shame, hatred and fear.”
How do we begin to get rid of them? Introspection is part of the process. According to step five Patanjali’s eightfold path of Yoga, pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses helps quieten the mind, which then opens the door to dharana (concentration) and then comes dhyana (meditation). Very often, we want to bypass the first six steps, and go straight to meditation. We run into all kinds of obstacles, we get derailed, we tell ourselves we failed, we start believing we are failures, and plant seeds of self-blame, guilt, and even shame.
We then get well-intentioned advice like, “if you don’t succeed at first, try again” or “get over it and move on.” I say that if you’ve tried enough times and are stuck in a whirlpool of shame, hatred and fear – then consider pausing your freight train at the next station and refueling for some Introspection. Ask some questions.
Who am I? Why am I here? What do I stand for? What won’t I stand for? What do I want my inner life to be like? What are the strengths and weaknesses of my plans and actions? What resources do I have to accomplish my purpose? Do I need help? If I ask for help, and I am offered it, will I receive it with good attitudes? Add your own questions.
As answers emerge, Introspection helps us polish the mirror within. We may even see some dark, ugly truths that we don’t like. Acknowledgement of those long buried truths is the invitation to excoriate shame, fear, and hatred.
Or we can simply keep driving our freight train, ignore all the warning signs, and get derailed again. To introspect or not, is our choice. There is great power in our choices. The consequences are often greater. Your move.
P. S. Join us for our weekly chat on Twitter with the #SpiritChat community. We will introspect through some questions as we pause for some tea and cookies. All are welcome. Namaste – @AjmaniK
Walking in nature has grown to be one of my favorite outdoor activities over the past four or five years. This invitation to walk the local reservation came about suddenly one day as I was driving to work. That was then, and this is now. Hundreds of miles and thousands of photographs later, there are still new paths that remain to be walked and new experiences to be had on the frequently traveled ones.
Nature has taught me much about life and shown me some glimpses of its inner workings during my walks. The variations of the seasons and how one season’s end is a preparation for the next. The contrast between the stillness of the water in the lagoons and the rush of flow in the river after the snow melts. The trees that grow taller every year so that they can carpet the ground with leaves every autumn to provide fuel for the forthcoming spring. This, and much more, has unfolded on the many paths for me.
Such is the nature of the physical paths that have unfolded for me over time. It is hard to imagine that one could really walk in deep harmony with nature without experiencing a parallel spiritual journey within. Nature does not promote any path to the walker. It provides a new canvas every day and invites the sojourners to bring their imagination to paint a new path with every step. Some of my most satisfying walks have been where I simply wandered and let the sounds of the river and the play of sunlight among the trees be my guides. May every day bring a new way — that seems to have become my mantra.
According to Osho, ‘The Way’ is a good description of the philosophy of Tao. There is no goal — there is only the way or the path.
Each moment, wherever you are, you are at the goal if you are on the path. In Tao, there is no talk about moksha, nirvana or enlightenment. The spiritual work is that you have to find the path, the Way.
So, what does the Way look like? How do we find it? How do we know that we are on it? The challenge of this approach, if we choose it, is that we have to find our own path before we can start walking it. It cannot be given to us by anyone, or walked for us by anyone. There are no footsteps to follow, or leave for others. This may be disconcerting to many who have had a ‘religious’ upbringing, and yet it is an opportunity for great freedom of exploration. The variables are courage, risk, and adventure. An adventure of self-discovery, and of the path itself.
There is a blue heron that I have often stumbled upon during my walks. She shows up at different locations in the reservation depending on the season and the hour of the day. She invariably sees me before I see her, and starts to leave before I can take a picture of her. So, I stopped trying to photograph her. Then, one day, without preamble, there she was. Standing still on a log in the lagoon, for what seemed like an eternity. It was as if she knew that I had stopped trying to ‘capture’ her, so she stopped trying to escape from my presence. That was a really good moment on the journey, for I felt that I was one with the goal and the path.
And so, we keep walking, keep discovering, keep on letting the curves and bends of our path unfold before us. We draw from nature as we learn more about ourselves and our heart’s capacity through direct experience every day. It’s a great way to feel alive, isn’t it?
Join me and the #SpiritChat community, Sunday August 16 at 9amET as we continue our journey and cross paths on twitter yet again. Namaste – @AjmaniK
One of the sights on one of the many paths in the Valley Reservation
The tears came suddenly and as large droplets from my firmly shut and already moist eyes at the end of the morning meditation session; about midway through I had ceded any semblance of trying to get my mind’s thought pattern to calm down as the thoughts had somehow drifted to thinking about privilege by birth, and how much of it I enjoyed growing up in a middle class family in India.
The tears came as I thought of the one who probably saved my life when I was ten, as I lay bleeding and unconscious on a concrete floor, having fallen from about 20 feet high onto my left side from the first floor window. I had broken the raised bone in my left arm where it meets the wrist and bridge of my plastic glasses had embedded into my nose on impact, which was miraculously not broken, but was bleeding like the river Yamuna. She was the only adult in the house with all of us kids — the very dark-skinned South-Indian lady named Chalma who would wash dishes twice a day for three families of at least eight to ten people each who lives in a three-story home in a wealthy New Delhi neighborhood.
Her tools were used lemon rinds, and wood ashes that she brought from the remnants of the cooking fires from her home, and the husks of used coconuts that she used as a cleaning ‘sponge’. The family sized pots and pans of cast iron and copper were heavy; plates, spoons, glasses, knives were all stainless steel. One eight foot section of the granite kitchen counter top would be filled with the washed dishes after she was done. She wasn’t allowed to stand and wash in the marble sink next to the counter because the ashes would cause damage to the fine surface.
So, on the floor she sat cross legged on a small flat stool, with her frail frame bent over her kingdom of dirty dishes, coconut fiber in one hand, dipping it ever so often in the ashes sitting in an earthen bowl by her. In the morning, she did the dishes from last nights dinner. In the afternoon, she did the dishes from breakfast and lunch. Once or twice every day, she was chided by the lady of the home, not to let the tap of fresh water run so freely. Her job was particularly difficult in the summer when running water only came for an hour, twice a day — during the early hours of the morning and the late afternoon. If she missed that running water window because she was ‘late to work’, she would have to use water that we would have filled in heavy aluminum buckets the night before, and lined her workspace with in a quarter circle — water that she would treat like molten gold as she used it sparingly, and wash out thoroughly for the next day, after she had washed all the dishes…
And then there was the lady who would come and sweep all the finely crafted and smoothed concrete floors of our family’s 1500 sq ft home on the middle floor of the three story home. The ‘dry sweeping’ with the traditional broom was the relatively easy part. What was much tougher was the mopping that followed. It was done with a heavy cotton-roped cloth about two feet square, sitting on her haunches as she dipped the cloth with her bare hands in the water doused with phenylaline as a disinfectant, moving slowly, a few square feet at a time.
Her task was to remove the dust that is endemic in the oppressive summer heat of Delhi when the hot breeze called loo from neighboring Rajasthan brings hot sand with it and coats everything in its path — whether it be a shining, three story home in a wealthy neighborhood or the ramshackle tenement of the dish-washing lady who tries to feed her family every night with just enough money earned by washing dishes all day so that she can buy just enough wheat or rice filled with stones and dirt from the ration shop every week or so.
I have to admit that while all this was happening around me in middle-school, high-school and under-grad, I didn’t think about it much because it was considered “normal” for most middle-class families to employ multiple, task-specific maids. The maids and their families needed to work to live, and we were supposedly providing work, wages, an occasional cup of tea when they were done working — even a saree or some clothes for the kids on major holidays. It was a sort of unwritten societal labor contract — it was also a social network of ladies of the homes and the maids who worked through multiple homes every day.
For some reason, lately, I’ve been made aware of the privilege enjoyed by me in that contract, in painstaking detail. For me, the way out of that contract happened to be in coming to the USA for graduate studies. For them, the only way out of that contract, was perhaps death. For death does finally destroy all privilege accorded by birth, or does it?
I do remember talking to a teenage son of one particular lady who used to do the daily trash pickup and clean the bathrooms — the dish washing lady, the floor cleaning lady, laundry washing and clothes ironing lady, and bathroom washing lady were all separate — if he had ever considered going to school. I don’t know that he ever answered me directly except by saying with his brilliant smile and impish grin with slightly downcast eyes — bhaiya (brother), this is my life, and I am happy doing the work given me.
So, that is why all the tears came. His statement, which I never forgot, was such a simple reminder that “it isn’t the task that makes the person high or low — it is the manner in which it is done, that makes the person so.” The tears also served as a reminder of what I have read so often in two of my favorite essays delivered in London in 1896 — “Vedanta and Privilege”, and “Privilege” — both by Swami Vivekananda.
A quick recap may be useful. The Advaita (Oneness) philosophy of Vedanta says that for Oneness to be our truth, one needs to believe in Universal equality, in the fact that we are all manifestation of the One divine. Without that central belief and practice, our inner world is fragmented and we dwell in anger, hate, jealousy and all that which divides us. If we hold that central belief that we all have the same One light of higher embodiment, our inner world is united through an ever-flowing current of higher love.
So, what is it that destroys Oneness, ethics and equality?
“Everyone is the embodiment of Knowledge, of eternal Bliss, and eternal Existence.
The ethical effect is just the same, with regard to equality.
And yet, there is privilege – the bane of human existence. The privilege of the strong over the weak, of the wealthy over the poor, the subtle privilege of those who claim higher intellect, and the worst of all, because it is the most tyrannical, is the privilege of (birth and) spirituality – those who think of themselves as more (due to birth), or those who think they know more of spirituality (than others).” – Vivekananda
And so arise the questions in my heart-mind complex. What privilege(s) do I assert? Which privilege(s) have I inherited? What privilege(s) am I passing on in my legacy? How does privilege manifest in my actions and practices, my goals, my dreams and my aspirations? And perhaps most importantly, how do I break down the bondage of all these privileges that entangle me in the web woven by all my desires?
I don’t know. Perhaps I can begin by washing my own dishes, keeping my personal (office) space clean, and maybe doing (or at least folding) my own laundry. Or all of the above…
P.S. Join our weekly chat, Sunday June 14 at 9amET/ 630pm India in #SpiritChat on Twitter. All are welcome. No privilege necessary to attend, to share some love with all. I will bring some questions, some tea and cookies to share, for that is the small loving privilege granted me by the community for that hour. Namaste – @AjmaniK
The idea of liberation, of freedom, is perhaps as old as humans have been around on planet Earth. One of the freedoms that we seek in our daily lives is to be liberated from the bondage of the laws of Nature and its hold over us.
We want to climb a mountain? Nature stands in our way. We want to grow crops? Floods and droughts thwart us. We want to reach the Moon and Mars? We have to overcome gravity. We want to cross the oceans? Storms pose all kinds of disruptions. We want to be in good health? We are constantly fighting off all kinds of microbes, germs and viruses.
How finite it seems that we are! How helpless like soft clay in the hands of the potter who moulds us and our lives on his spinning wheel of time, space and causation! How little control we seemingly have of our own existence, for we do not even know whether we will get the next breath or not!
So, it is natural that we seek liberation, seek freedom from the agency that Nature exerts upon our every exertion towards progress. Our seeking for liberation is essentially an affirmation, a confirmation, an assurance that we are not just finite, but possibly Infinite. How can we be both finite and Infinite?* How do we resolve this conflict?
To resolve conflict, the first step is to heal, to harmonize, to integrate with Nature. When we take actions to live in integrity with Nature, then our life becomes more peaceful. In the presence of this peace and healing with the without, we can begin the journey to exploring our Infinite nature within. On this inner journey we can experience the bliss Absolute of our integrity with the whole, with the Oneness. When we experience that divine Oneness, we have the opportunity to become the living free, the jeevan mukta — one who walks awake in the state of moksha, of nirvana,
The how to question of spiritual liberation, of experiencing the infinite, is often much simpler to answer than the why to question. The paths to the inner experience are many and multifarious. Some say that walking the path is more that important than the path itself. In that vein, some prefer the methods of deep prayer, practicing intuition, extra-sensory perception, divination, and the like. Some prefer the method of withdrawing their attention seed from the external, from Nature, and sowing it within, in meditation. Through the regular practice of meditation, we can give the seed sunlight and water, and an opportunity to grow in the heart’s soil.
How do we know that our spiritual practice(s) are being effective to move us towards liberation? We begin to experience our Infinite divine nature is experienced by us as a state of bliss absolute, a state of permanence, a state of truth and higher knowledge. Once we have experienced a glimpse of the infinite, of our divine reality, we are on the path to liberation from our limited, finite nature. We are breaking the shackles of the external, of Nature itself. True liberation is thus like the butterfly who emerges from the cocoon of finite existence, with her wings having been energized with the experience of its own infinite potential.
Yes, butterflies are still subject to the laws of nature, to cause and effect, to life and death. And yet, every flap of their wings as they defy gravity and gracefully glide among flowers sends messages into eternity. They seem to be saying — yes, you are finite like us, but you have also been given the opportunity to realize your Infinite nature.
Let us heed the messages. Let us not hanker for or rush to return to the old normal. It didn’t serve many of us very well, did it? Instead, why not pause to create a new normal with our newly discovered infinite nature? Can we imagine a new, sustainable world of caring, compassion, courage, empathy, forgiveness, giving, healing, joy, kindness, purity, simplicity, solidarity, and Ubuntu?
Are we ready to realize our Infinite nature? What do we have to lose? Let us take the first step. Let us begin with simplicity. Let us take responsibility for our own spiritual liberation.
*Swami Vivekananda. The Open Secret (Los Angeles, CA, Jan 5 1900)
P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter gathering and conversation – Sunday, April 19 at 9amET / 1pmUTC / 630pm India. We will talk about the finite and the infinite, and yes, even a bit about liberation over tea and coffee, fruit and bakery. Namaste – @AjmaniK
Breaking free – expressing their infinite potential – the first blooms of spring…
“Have we ever had a #SpiritChat on the idea of ‘holding space’?”
The minute Lucille asked this question as we were close to wrapping up the hour of the #SpiritChat monthly video get-together, I knew that she had brought forth the topic for the weekly chat. My immediate answer was to say, “no, we haven’t ever discussed that as a topic — but, it is one of my favorite phrases and ideas to practice!”. In fact, I had benefitted from practicing it just the previous day.
A few weeks ago, I had received an invite to attend a meeting at 8:30am on Thursday morning. My first reaction was to respond that I wouldn’t be able to attend because of another scheduled meeting. However, when I read the agenda, it was to review the by-laws of the Parents’ Association of my daughter’s school. I thought, this is really important, and maybe the other meeting will get moved. So, I found myself responding with — “I am not sure, but please hold space for me as I am going to do my best to attend”.
Unbeknownst to me, the organizers must have done just that. Thursday morning came and I was running behind because my daughter woke up with a nasty cold. I hadn’t even showered or shaved yet, and it was time to leave, if I was going to make it in time. As I got ready to text the organizer that I wasn’t going to be able to make it, a thought passed across my heart. What if they are actually ‘holding space’ for me, just like I asked them to?
So, I put my phone away, brushed my teeth (yes, this was an IRL meeting, not a twitter chat :)), put some clothes on and drove the short distance through the sleet that was falling quickly and icing up the roads. Four smiling faces, including the broadest of smiles of a little baby girl that one of the Mom’s had brought with her, greeted me with the words – “we are so glad you are here”.
In that instant, I knew that they were not looking at my unshaven face or my uncoordinated clothes that I had thrown together. It reminded me of something my maternal grandmother used to say and practice — “ बेटा जी, जगह इंसान के लिए दिल में होनी चाहिए – फिर सभी अपने होते हैं, कोई मेहमान नहीं होता।” My dear one, when we learn to make space in the heart for others, then there are no guests — the whole world becomes our family.
So much truth wisdom in Grandma’s words, don’t you think? How often do we forsake the opportunity of ‘holding space’ or ‘creating space’ for others because of how we think we may be perceived by them? How often do we forsake ‘holding space’ for own selves because of how we think about ourself? And yet, if we take our eyes off of ourselves, we can then embrace the attitude of ‘holding space’. Our heart can open to the idea that ‘we need to take care of each other, be kind to each other’.
So, here we are. We have some decisions to make, some questions to ponder. What is it that prevents us from ‘holding space’ in our hearts for some, but not for ‘others’? Despite filling ourselves with so much, why do we occasionally feel ‘empty’? What is the spiritual benefit of holding space (and time) for each other and for our own selves?
Here are some possibilities. In ‘holding space’ in our heart, the whole world can become ‘us’, not ‘them’. When there is no separation of us and them, we are in fact creating true freedom, aren’t we? In this freedom, real exploration of the vastness of inner space can truly begin — we may yet discover that the infinite has been forever holding loving space for us.
P.S. Thank you, Lucille Fisher (@sageandsavvy) for this week’s grand question, and inspiration for our Sunday Feb 9 twitter chat in #SpiritChat at 9amET / 2pm GMT / 730pm India. I invite all of you to join us in this community that has been holding space for each other for many years. Namaste – @AjmaniK
Flowers, in various stages of flowering, held by Nature’s loving space…
One benefit of sitting next to my daughter study American history this semester is that this immigrant is also learning some important bits by osmosis. Her course’s current focus is on the American Civil War of the 18th century and all the battles that were fought between ‘North’ and ‘South’. Many of the war’s stories are stark reminders of the cost of war in general — the cost of human disagreements gone greatly awry.
Some of the ‘greatest’ wars that humans have engaged in are perhaps the ones which incurred the greatest casualties and deaths. Some are deemed ‘great’ because they were fought to gain freedom, to preserve freedoms. Others are considered ‘great’, even termed ‘world wars’, because their conflagration spread across nations and continents.
And then there are the wars that us humans have fought, even fight today, because we deem that ‘our’ religion is superior to ‘theirs’. Or that ours is the only ‘true’ spiritual path to ‘liberation’ and all others paths are ‘false’. Millions have died in wars to assert religious superiority — to what effect, one has to wonder?
There are those who will assert that war is sometimes essential to maintain peace, to enable and ensure the practice of religious and other freedoms. Yes. History is full of examples of power gone berserk in the hands of those whose greed and ambition know no bounds. If we all were to evolve to the point where we could regulate our own selves well, examine and limit our wants and words, love and give more, then war would become an anachronism.
Until we get to that stage where all war becomes unnecessary, the greatest respect that we can perhaps pay to veterans is to acknowledge and respect their ability and willingness to go to battle, to suffer the pain and horror of war on our behalf.
In return, may we practice constant remembrance — to use the time, space and freedom gifted to us by them, to involve into spiritual veterans. Perhaps the result of our daily, hourly, minutely spiritual practice can be to honor and cherish the truths of joy, love, light and kindness in thought and action.
Maybe we can give new meaning to ‘remembrance’ on every future Veterans Day. By working toward a sustainable inner peace, by supporting those who work for peace, we can create new kinds of heroes. Through constant remembrance of peace, our spiritual work and practice can help create an alternative to war for future generations.
P.S. Join our weekly gathering on Twitter – Sunday, Nov 10 at 9amET/ 730pm India in #SpiritChat ~ Namaste – @AjmaniK
Have you ever thought that “discipline” was invented to put you in a “box”, restrict your freedom(s), prevent you from living the life that you were meant to live? Have you ever met someone who is allergic to, inherently resists the idea of “discipline”?
In my younger (read ‘teenage’) years, discipline was perhaps the last thing that I wanted to be subject to. The very notion that I was expected to make my bed before I went to school seemed like an injustice. And the bus came at 6:30am! In high school, there was no ‘sleeping in’ on weekends. Saturday morning discipline included going shopping for milk, vegetables and groceries. Then there was the choice of dusting the furniture and bookcases, folding the laundry, putting away the washed dishes, setting the table for lunch or dinner, clearing the table after the meals, and much more. There was no escape from the seeming prison of chores and discipline. And I haven’t even talked about the take- no-prisoners attitude of discipline of some of the teachers at school!
But little was I to know that it was all preparation for what was to come my way a few years later. On my arrival as a graduate student in the USA, I realized that the ‘prison of discipline’ in my aunt’s home in India had taught me self-awareness. I was pleasantly surprised that I knew exactly what it would take to thrive on my own in a foreign land. I was able to work out chore-sharing with my roommates, just like I chore-shared with my cousins growing up. I quickly became aware that grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, cleaning, and even cooking, were all things that I was already good at. I actually began to fall in love with the idea of discipline!
After the self-awareness, I began to realize that freedom from the ‘prison of discipline’ had led me to the practice of self-discipline. The more I practiced it, the more my self-respect and self-image grew. With this growth, I found that I was comfortable in reaching out and making friends with all sorts of nationalities, and particularly the Americans. The land that I considered foreign, adopted me over time.
I believe that this two-way adoption happened because self-respect grew into self-love. It took self-love to keep an open mind to learning about western customs and culture, and harmonizing them with my eastern foundations.
As a parent and teacher, I began to consider that most of our parents’ (and teachers’) discipline is perhaps borne out of love for us. By by ‘drawing lines’ for us, they are teaching us self-awareness, self-respect, and self-love. Theirs, and now mine, is evolving into a loving discipline indeed.
Loving discipline manifests because true love takes some discipline, and true discipline takes a lot of love. What’s your take on ‘loving discipline’?
P.S. join us for our weekly #SpiritChat gathering – Sunday, Aug 11 at 9amET – I will bring some questions on discipline – with love 🙂 – Namaste. Kumud.
Nature’s discipline takes many forms – mostly of a loving nature!