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!
My very first deep friendship on Twitter was with Wayne Mcevilly. A fascinating gentleman who was as comfortable talking about Sanskrit and chanting SamaVeda shlokas, as he was fluid in playing Bach and Beethoven. It was his direct, honest, authentic as it gets approach to life that kept me around on Twitter when I was barely sure about what I was even doing on the medium. I finally got a hold of his “Bach Preludes and Fugues” on piano, and classical music entered my awareness. Among many phone conversations, I have learnt much from the journey of this musical mystic. (my interview with Wayne)
In his own unique way, Wayne taught me that we are all have a bit of the musical mystic within us. From the very dawn of our awareness in our mother’s wombs, sound is an integral part of our being. When sound find arrangement in pitch, tone, meter and such, it can become music. What are some of your earliest memories of sound or music?
The line between music and noise is often as fine as the tuning of our ears, the state of our mind, and the station of our heart. Indian classical music thus has different classes of musical compositions (called ragas), each of which are best suited to a particular time of the day, or even a particular season. Are there particular genres of music that you tune into, are attuned towards, depending on your mood or the state of your life?
One gift of music that has words attached to it is that we can be influenced by the words as much as we can be moved by the instruments. Some of the earliest mantras and shlokas (Sanskrit collections of syllables, words and hymns) were set to music in the form of meters – the most famous being the eight-step Gayatri. The rhythm of meters enabled for smriti (memorization) , and hence the ancient ‘scriptures’ were preserved through generations. What are some songs, prayers or hymns that were ‘passed on’ to you and have perhaps become an integral part of your life?
Beyond the external sound of music, of nature and the noise of our daily living, there is the incessant internal rhythm within us.
“Within ourselves is this eternal voice speaking of eternal freedom; its music is always going on!” – Vivekananda in ‘Practical Vedanta’
Our spiritual work, if we so choose to do it, is perhaps to take time, make time, to create a space of silence and stillness so that we can hear the musical rhythm that leads us to freedom. It is often in the company of fellow seekers (satsang)that we can find this space where we can do a ‘group sing-along’ (kirtan) in the presence of sound and light, embracing joy and bliss in our harmonious energies that contribute to the orchestra of community.
And who knows, someday, we may even learn, through sustained (inner) musical practice, we may discover anew some music, and even learn to sing some of the most difficult songs of life. And in the singing, we shall laugh and love life deeply again, as the healing spreads through our heart, and radiates to all who connect with us, in new radiant connections.
P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat – Sunday Aug 4 at 9amET in #SpiritChat – bring your favorite music to the kirtan and I will bring the tea and questions – Namaste – Kumud
A location, where my heart often tunes into its inner music…
The waxing first quarter moon flirted with me from outside the upstairs window as it emerged briefly from behind the clouds at late twilight. I had just finished my evening meditation, and was slowly emerging from the gift of freedom from being immersed in a deep peace from the stillness beyond light. The gift of the moon made my heart feel like a lotus that opens its petals at the first signs of light.
I needed to see more of her magic, so I walked downstairs, and on to the deck outside, just to catch a few clear glimpses before some dark clouds engulfed her for the night. Just as I was to walk back inside, out of the corner of my eye, I saw yet another gift – the first summer sighting of a firefly in the grass. And as I swept my gaze towards the trees, I saw a forest full of fireworks – hundreds of fireflies silently floating, dancing, sharing their light from within. The Fourth of July fireworks from a distant suburb that sent ‘lightning’ into a clouded sky barely held a candle to this gift of Mother Nature.
So often it is the inclination of our human nature to get focused on, get trapped by, or even become despondent in despair about our lack of freedom, or the state of our independence in the world. When we forget about our gifts, it often takes a few courageous men and women to stand up and say – enough. Inspired by divine providence, they draft a new declaration, and then pledge to it their lives and sacred honor. Then, the battle to reclaim the gift of freedom, truly begins.
Such is often the state of our inner world too, isn’t it? Immersed in fear, doubt, anger, envy, and our desire for likes, we forget the gifts of our truths. It often takes a new declaration, a new resolve, a new inspiration for us to be (re)awakened to walk our path of constant remembrance of the gifts of our freedom. It is when we are awake to our inner gifts of peace, joy, silence, stillness and more, that we can pledge to share the same with our fellow freedom fighters.
That is perhaps the significance of the Fourth of July, Canada Day (and similar ‘Independence Day’ celebrations) to me. In addition to the fireworks, the concerts, the picnics, the road trips – it is the freedom to observe and embrace the gifts of light, however small or slivered they may be, that glow constantly within my reach.
P.S. Join us for a community celebration of our gifts of freedom – Sunday, July 7 at 9amET on Twitter in #SpiritChat – Namaste. – Kumud
A (de)light gift of summer that burst forth this weekend!
I believe in the healing power of love, in the transformation created in our lives when we allow ourselves to give and receive love with our hearts wide, wide open.
Life events this year have led me to examine more closely the various aspects of love, and to feel love even more intensely. In the process, I have been exploring forgiveness, an aspect of unconditional love that is sometimes overlooked. We may lose sight of the fear, anger, resentment and sadness associated with our decisions not to forgive others, or ourselves, for the conscious or unconscious hurts we have experienced. Some of us carry the burden of past hurts around with us for years with little awareness of their weight in our day-to-day existence. Fleeting or persistent thoughts about hurtful things that were done or said to us, thoughts pushed aside but not truly addressed, can sap our strength and energy, and they can interfere with our ability to experience joy in our lives.
Forgiveness has the potential to free us from these burdens, though the act of forgiving may be more difficult than we think. For the most hurtful experiences in our lives, the advice to “forgive and forget” misses an essential step even when our intention to forgive is genuine. Once we decide to forgive someone, we must take steps to heal the hurt, to truly let it go, before we can move to the step of forgetting it. We need to release the pain, the anger, the resentment that resulted from the actions or words that injured us. This release may come through meditation, through prayer, in conversations with a friend, in therapy, or by any of the ways we move through our important life lessons. Releasing the hurt must be intentional, as it is highly unlikely that the pain will magically disappear simply because we made the choice to forgive.
In our personal exploration of forgiveness, we can also benefit greatly from understanding the things for which we blame ourselves. That list may be short or long… the experience of not meeting the expectations of ourselves or others… the feeling of letting others down… the could haves, should haves… all of the hurtful words or actions for which we hold ourselves responsible. Self-directed blame, disappointment, and anger can be the most significant burdens in our lives and often we carry them without asking ourselves why we have not chosen to let them go.
Our choice to forgive frees us. Our requests to be forgiven free us further. Forgiveness gives us the space to love others and ourselves more fully. In every moment, we can choose the freedom of forgiveness and thereby open our hearts completely to the healing power of love.
Editor’s Note: Please join Sharon as she steps up to host our weekly twitter chat on Sunday, Dec 9th at 9amET. Sharon is a long-time regular in our Sunday morning gatherings, a great proponent for women and for choosing love, and a wonderful friend of the community. Thank you. – Kumud @AjmaniK
For a long time, for what seemed like months, as my morning meditation practice grew, the dreams had stopped coming while I was asleep at night. I have always been a good sleeper, but these dreamless sleeps had taken it to a greater depth of dreamless sleeping. I would awaken greatly refreshed, ready to go upstairs and begin my day with meditation, and so on.
But then, over the last week or two or so, as is the wont of change that often comes suddenly, the ‘dreaming while sleeping’ returned. The seemingly ‘on-the-surface’ yet ‘active’ dreams took me on journeys with long-out-of-touch friends and long-departed family members. How ‘real’ they seemed while I was “in” them, and how quickly they disappeared on the first early-morning awakening out of broken sleep! And as is also often their wont, the more I tried to remember them, the more they slipped through my awareness like water flowing through fingers. And the net result was that I awoke tired, even lethargic.
Lethargy is not this seeker’s friend. Or of the wanderer. Of of the explorer. Or even the sitter. So, being the engineer and analyst that I am, the one whose propensity is to ask “why”, I asked – why did they return? Was it because of my increased work-related tasks, my staying up later and later before bed, the usual uptick in reading during summer, or the general cluttering of the brain? Regardless, I would like to return to my dreamless state, so I can wake up to my previous, non-lethargic, jump-out-of-bed and ready-to-go state?
But, I digress a bit (as is my wont). From a spiritual perspective, our ‘dream state’ goes beyond the surface dreams that occasionally may come. We are immersed in the deep, deep ocean of this great dream that you, the reader, is somehow fundamentally different than me, the writer. And hence, we live most of our physical life immersed in the ocean, like fish in deep water, whose awareness knows only water, and more so, its immediate waters. We may even claim ‘privilege’ of prosperity, of wealth, of knowledge, of (yes) spirituality, over those, some of whom we may even call family, friends and neighbors. We are unaware, or have lost awareness that our differences, our dreams, depend simply on our degrees of manifestation. Is this not simply a deeper dream state that we can perhaps awaken from?
Perhaps this awakening to reality is the purpose of the work of our spiritual practices.
For what is ‘reality’? Is it not the awareness that we ALL are “Infinite, Absolute, Eternal, Knowledge, Existence, Bliss”? If this reality is our truth, then perhaps we can let go of our current dream-state of illusions and delusions. If not, then immersed we shall remain, until, perhaps, grace finds us, ready to return us to a dreamless state.
For no matter how sweet my dreams may be, I feel an awareness, a knowing, that walking in an awakened reality is going to be sweeter than the sweetest of dreams.
P.S. This post was heavily inspired by my stumbling upon the essay, “Vedanta and Privilege” by Swami Vivekananda. Do read if you have a chance. And then join us for #SpiritChat on Twitter – Sunday August 5 at 9amET/ 630pmET. Namaste. – Kumud
What is the the flower’s dream? What is its reality?