A River Within and Without

What I experienced on the river was of course soothing and exhilarating at the same time, but what I experienced on the ride back in the van – that was utterly sublime. That in-the-van experience makes that trip so memorable, so precious.

Write about the white-water rafting experience in Charlotte.

It is hard work – one-sided writing where only I am relating. How about you ask me questions (even though you know everything)?

Sure, I’ll like that.

I heard that you went white-water rafting in Charlotte. How did you manage that? You know, with MS and all.

I’d had enough. I’d had enough of being low-stamina. I wanted to live. I had been feeling better than a year back anyways. So I just decided to go for it and I am really glad I went. What I experienced on the river was of course soothing and exhilarating at the same time, but what I experienced on the ride back in the van – that was utterly sublime. That in-the-van experience makes that trip so memorable, so precious. Then the next day it was Sunday. Of course, I was tired. It had been physically strenuous, so I simply rested. There was zero mental agony or emotional frustration. The body needed rest, I gave it rest. Simple.

तुमने तो पूरा trip cover कर लिया – घर भी लौट गई, आराम भी कर लिया. I did not get to know anything about the on-the-river or in-the-van experiences. So now which one will you tell me first?

Let’s start with a bit of context.

Charlotte is a city in North Carolina USA. I was living there as a student at the university. After spending three years in frigid Iowa, it was pleasant being somewhat closer to the equator where the summer evenings are quite similar to Calcutta evenings. The East coast and Myrtle beach on the right is 4 hours drive from Charlotte, and the Appalachian Mountain Range on the left is just 2 hours drive from Charlotte.

A church at Charlotte had organized a white-water rafting trip for university students. Various churches in USA help international students and scholars to settle into the country. They help in crucial practical ways such as giving furniture for free. Also, they organize events in and near town because in coming to a new land many students and scholars do not have much of a friends group and social life.

I am so grateful to the church for having organized this and to Dave Weekly who took us on the trip. There were probably two others too, managing the group and driving other vans (there couldn’t have been only one van), but I only remember Dave as the organizer because I was in the van he was driving, and on the boat that he was navigating.

What was it like on the river?

It was beautiful – the greenery, the crystal clear water, all of nature so alive and pure. Yes, the water was rapid. In one place it was really strong. But despite such rapid waters, there was one man going down the river standing alone on his raft, navigating with a pole. That is the picture I cherish the most from on-the-river. It is so beautiful to be so one with nature as that man on the raft was.

I fell off from the boat once. That was fun. It was fun because it didn’t get serious. I was rescued pretty soon. My friends (fellow university students, boatmates rather, for I didn’t really know anyone much) hauled me back in, pulling me by my life jacket. Whew! That was something! For the few moments that I was in the water, it was quite an experience. The water was so strong. I was totally helpless. The rapids were shoving me under the boat itself and the weight of the boat was further pushing me inside the water. Exhilarating!

white-water-rafting1

Like I said, because I was rescued soon enough. Else, there would have been nothing exhilarating about it. Further down the river, from another boat in our group, a few other students had also fallen into the river. That was a bit more serious and was quite a scare for those students and others in that boat – especially for the trip organizers. Fortunately though, those students were also rescued after that initial scare and tension. It is quite a skill managing the boat in the rapids. At times just remaining seated in the boat becomes a challenge.

The whole thing was physically very strenuous. When we were all done changing and had boarded the vans to head back to the city, everyone was tired. Each muscle in my body was aching. We stopped at a highway deli to parcel food to-go before the long drive back. I went and bought myself a sandwich and came back to the van. Holding the sandwich I tried to haul myself up into the van but fell down – the body was so fatigued.

Now don’t you go about thinking that I keep falling here, there, everywhere. Fell out of the boat, fell down in getting into the van. The former was because the rapids were so strong, the latter because the body was exhausted.

I get it. Both a result of the laws of physics. You never fall down. You never can fall down – for you are forever in my arms.

Thank you. That is very sweet of you. Now let’s get back to the story at hand –

मुझे लगता है तुम्हे कुछ झिझक हो रही है, वह in-the-van अनुभव सुनाने में।

वो तो है। मुझे लगता है कि शब्दों में वह शब्दातीत अनुभव कैसे ढलेगा? उस अनुभव का महत्व और असर पाठक तक कैसे पहुँचेगा?

तुम कहो तो। मैं सब ग्रहण कर लूँगा।

I was worried. How will I drive my car back home, that I had parked in the university campus? Will I have the energy to focus as needed on the driving, will I reach back home in one piece? It seemed quite likely that I might end up crashing the car somewhere. These concerns were simmering on low volume in my mind as I sat on the back-seat of the van. I did not even have the energy to be actively worried.

Everyone in the van, in their tiredness, had dozed off — all the necks drooped in a variety of directions. Dave was driving. He was the only one who had not dozed off. He had been on the river too. He must’ve been dead-tired too – yet he was focused on the road, focused on getting the van and all its trusting passengers safe back to the city. Where did he get the requisite energy? It was all because it was his offering to God. He was doing this because it was the church’s initiative. It was the church’s initiative because it wished to welcome the international students and scholars into the beauty of this land, share a fun activity with them that they might otherwise not be able to organize on their own.

As I sat with my depleted body and the concern about what lay ahead, it occurred to me to meditate on my chakras. Those days I used to meditate on my chakras at home regularly using an audio course called “The Anti-Career Guide – The Inner Path to Finding Your Work in the World, by Rick Jarow”. As I used to meditate on the chakras at home, as the attention rose from the base upwards, that self-alignment did bring faint glimmers of self-empowerment at times. In the van You suggested I do just that, meditate on the chakras, sans Rick’s audio. So I did.

Often during meditation, the mind is fidgety and eager to be free of restriction, eager to be free to gallivant. This time, attention and focus occurred easily. Once I was done moving my attention from the base chakra to the crown chakra, I naturally moved into an immersed state. I do not know how long I was in “that zone”, a few seconds or several minutes. Only when I came out of that state did I realize I was in some kind of an immersed state. It was not the normal sleep, I know – for my neck and head had not drooped into slumber. When I came out of that state, the gnawing tiredness and body ache had gone. I was alert and fresh and enjoyed the peaceful remaining ride back to the city, for everyone else was fast asleep. Only Dave was at the steering wheel in the front of the van — steadfast. On reaching Charlotte I was able to drive back home with no problem at all.

It was amazing, the transformation that had occurred. This experience remains in me as a direct evidence of the immense power that exists within us. I am not able to tune into myself in this manner often, but it is good to know that it is always at hand. Yes, for me personally, at times a moderate amount of physical pain aids meditation. It gives me a physical sensation to focus on that is not as subtle as focusing on the breath. That evening I was so tired that the mind did not have any energy to gallivant. It seems that aided in the tuning-in too. The next day I rested the whole day, peacefully, without any suffering.

This is what happens when

भूल कर कशमकश ज़माने की
मेरी बाहों में आके रह जाती हो


Image credit: Protik Maitra

From a wordless place

Sometimes it is good to go to a wordless place, i.e. to not write prose or poetry. So here is a digital art instead that got made recently, during a no-objective-other-than-to-have-fun time.

What does it signify to you? What does it evoke in you? Does it evoke anything at all? Tell me. Then I will share where this image emerged from, what I called it, and how a friend interpreted it in a totally different way.

your entanglement is a dream sm

Hopping, Skipping, Through The Garden of My Mind

Thoughts are like particles that take birth and then die. Some thoughts live long. Some thoughts are short-lived. Some thoughts may be born often. Some thoughts may be born more rarely.

Thoughts cause action. Thoughts cause things to change. So thoughts are a force.

There are thoughts that I and other humans have. Then there are thoughts that create mechanisms by which seeds sprout, trees grow, eggs are fertilized, humans take shape. There is a mind that thought up these mechanisms and created all this.

Is it possible for one mind to meet another mind? Yes. That is what happens when you write to me. It is one mind reaching out to another. It isn’t your name reaching out to my name. It was not a body reaching out to another body, though bodies are used. That mind reaches out to this mind using lots of other things that the collective mind had created (internet, computer, controlled electricity and a lot else). The human body must also have been created by the collective mind, except that the human does not remember it.

Clearly mind is not limited by space and time. What defines boundaries of minds? Where does one mind end and another mind begin?

Minds are containers of thoughts. Thoughts are also not limited by space and time either. One human mind also seems to be a collective mind, ever amorphous.

How are thoughts born?

This question (how are thoughts born) itself is a thought. It was born by walking down a path, where the ground of the path is awareness and we walk from one thought to another like trees along the path.

Awareness that there is something like thoughts – that itself gave birth to a thought — for “there is something like thoughts” is also a thought, but it is also an observation. Observation itself leads to creation. Awareness leads to creation.

To be aware is also a faculty to have. Someone, something that created me also gave me the ability to be aware. Without awareness I would not have known that I think. Maybe thoughts would still occur and they would bring about the change that is brought about by thoughts, within me, around me — but without awareness I would not have known that this is happening. There is something very very powerful about awareness. It seems to be a faculty independent of, and in some sense, preceding thought.

Purush / Shiv is said to be the active inactive force of the universe. Prakriti/Durga, the inactive active force. It is seeming to me right now that awareness is purush tatva. Everything else — thoughts, emotions, and of course everything physical, is prakriti.

Without awareness, the thoughts, emotions will still keep rising and falling away, and all consequent physicality will still occur, but without awareness it is all mindless.

Ripe Tomatoes And The Mind

Make me a tomato
not potato —
that,
I may ripen.
Bulging with such
juicy juice.

This world is mean.
It will bite,
into you
if you are a juicy fruit.
Potato is a
much safer
proposition.

I shall ripen in the mind.
Juicy bodies
people bite
into like barbarians.
I shall ripen in the mind.

It is,
and will always be,
wholly mine.
I shall ripen
in the mind.

The Lure Of Cacophony

What’s here is now invisible
I search for life on internet.
In this room and in this house,
In this city I find nothing.
For meaning I go to internet.

To cacophonous thoughts that are
More cacophonous than my mind
I gravitate ―
To find an end to loneliness,
I turn towards the internet.

To a hall of blathering
Again again compulsively, I go.
Facebook is this gathering
Of brains turning to soggy mush —
This is now the internet.

Not all is such. There’s
Humans of New York and humor
Refreshing me and telling me
That we are One.

What’s all around
The joy and peace that still abound,
Is invisible…
For power that is wholly mine,
Do I need the internet?

~ vani murarka

My Mind and The Internet – The Dangerous Divine Relationship

That was the most lonely and isolated period of my life. Then the internet came to me — when the world was, as per Jesus, in its late 1990s, and I was in my late 20s. My brother had bought home the first computer of the family, despite bitter criticism from my father. He also subscribed to a local Bulletin Board Service.

Through the box my brother bought, I saw a bunch of guys in the BBS — it wasn’t porn — they were jabbering about technical stuff, freely sprinkled with jibes at each other. It was all only text. It was all about the joy of this fascinating, liberating new technology which gave direct power to people’s minds. I kept myself discreet, a silent spectator to what seemed like a perpetual bachelor’s party.

There was a programmer’s forum I could access via the BBS where I could go for help if I was stuck somewhere in my own programming explorations. If I asked my question clearly and politely, after having made reasonable attempts at solving it myself, invariably some kind stranger from somewhere in the world had just the correct answer to resolve my problem.

A girl whose circle of interaction had only been friends in school and then colleagues in office for a couple of years, who knew only those strips of the city that led to school and office, and the roadside food along those roads, who having left her job was now bereft of even that slim slice of the outside world — was suddenly looking into a box of magic. I also got my first two software development clients on the BBS.

Then came The World Wide Web!

Content from places around the globe, about diverse topics, was now available to me sitting in a small room. I started exploring. Project Gutenberg, probably the original archiver of literature online, gave me complete classics to read. I saw people exchange the joys of Urdu shayari in Usenet groups, in roman script. It made enigmatic Urdu all the more enigmatic. Some Usenet groups had already decayed into a series of flame wars about which operating system is holier. They were amusing for a few reads, but I did not linger there. Geocities was community housing for netizens across the world — possibly the first free service that enabled people to make and upload their websites, long before blogging came along. People were using it to make personal homepages which listed their favorite books and movies. Some pioneers used it to share their original writing.

It was virgin territory then, the internet, akin to vast open meadows with a few humble settlements. The desire arose — I too want to plant a humble dwelling on this vast land. Thus “Kaavyaalaya, The House of Hindi Poetry”, the first Hindi poetry collection website, was born on the internet. For some reason, now obscure to me, I put it in the Tokyo section of Geocities.

Thanks to Kaavyaalaya, I started receiving heart-warming emails from NRIs — some homesick and soggy, some sunny and surprised with this new offering on the web. The son or daughter (I don’t remember which) of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, the erstwhile national poet of India, wrote to me. Pandit Narendra Sharma’s daughter from USA shared poems of her late father, the man who had penned sublime lyrics for Hindi movies. I even received an email from a real, live physicist.

I was hooked. Every day, as soon as I woke up, I would go straight down to that little room, without even brushing my teeth. It was the place where people interacted with me for my mind, not for the safety of my body.

The lure of the internet deepened further still when I started Interact Inn All India Mailing List. In Silicon Valley, John Buckman was in the initial stages of making his superb software Lyris. He wanted to host email forums of interesting topics that would demonstrate the prowess of his software in practice. I got a free ride. He agreed to host Interact Inn. Now I was connecting to pioneers of the Indian internet scene, whether they were in India, or in Germany pursuing their Ph.D., or somewhere else that I did not even know, or care about. What mattered was the exchange of ideas.

All during this time I had no interaction with people in person. No school or college friends, no office colleagues. I had no school, college, or office to go to. I had quit my software development job a few months back, bringing my one-year-old career to a halt. Although in the same house, interaction with family members was also at near-zero levels.

*

The internet is the foundation of my career, the source of friendships that have drastically changed the course of my life, my canvas of self expression, my connection to this vast world and to my roots. I am also a slave to the internet, and I’m now trying to break free.

Yes, it is a real thing — addiction to the internet — addiction to Facebook, to Whatsapp, to seeing memes after memes, addiction to simply just checking your mail. These are all real and they have the ability to crumble my mind to sand.

It is sublime and powerful, the internet. My mind is sublime and powerful too. My mind is the most powerful tool given to me. For my own sake it is imperative that I take care of my mind and reclaim it from the internet.

Each meme that I see, each harmless Whatsapp message I read, each luring video I watch on YouTube, fragments and chips away at my mind one more tiny bit. When I throw away thirty, forty minutes scrolling through meme pages on Facebook, if I keep awareness towards my mental state, I can almost see this happening literally — this fragmentation, this chipping away of mental strength. This is just the same as the erosion of a cliff by repeated waves of water. We may not see the erosion happening, but the cliff does undergo change and can ultimately become just sand.

Reading articles about varied injustices in society seems to fulfill a crucial purpose, but it actually does not. Yes, the articles generate outrage, or discomforting bile at the least — and they also steal my focus. Once I know the news item of the fellow in Sirsa’s Dera Sacha Sauda for example, how does it serve anyone if I read about all his varied extravagances? Compulsive time spent on the internet turns my most powerful tool, my mind, into limp cabbage.

What is at the core of this addiction?

Loneliness.

I have observed this time and again in myself — the days when I spend more time on Facebook are the days when I am more lonely and sad, or scared.

“Give this up, give that up, does not work. Take up something higher and the lower will fall away,” Parthasarthy ji had said in a talk I attended years back. This year, I have taken up three things to counter wasteful time spent on the internet.

The first is books. I noticed that the greatest regular time spent on social media needlessly was when I retired to my room after dinner. It was my way of relaxing. Now, I try to always keep a book available to read, a book that I really do want to read, even if it costs me money to keep buying those books. Reading a book focuses the mind, is relaxing, entertaining and a more concrete contribution to the honing of my abilities. When I do not keep a book I want to read handy, I find myself easily slipping back to relaxing on the internet.

Some recent reads that have been specially worthwhile:
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed
Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

The second frequent vulnerability for internet addiction is being mentally disturbed or being clueless about what to do with my day or the present moment. It is so easy to open social media and numb away the vague discomfort when that happens. I now turn to adult coloring books instead. While coloring, I can focus on my breath and be in a space devoid of words. This enables me to re-gather myself.

Two pieces that I finished recently:

IMG_20170912_093841367
IMG_20170912_093934599_HDR

Lastly there is the urge to check mail and turn to social media as soon as I wake up. Despite belonging to the software world, I kept delaying owning a smartphone for this one reason, for I knew I can easily fall into this trap. But now I have two smartphones, and so, I have fallen into the trap. This urge is especially strong when gratifying comments have been showered upon me the evening before. It also occurs when I go to sleep feeling lonely, when I am hoping to receive some feel-good email in the morning, which I do not receive. Opening Facebook as soon as I get up can be specially damaging to mental strength and focus. To counter this vulnerability and to work directly towards my objectives, first thing in the morning I now sit down to write. It has been so fulfilling ever since I started doing this…

That is a lie. First thing in the morning I am groggy. Ok, so I had to adjust matters a bit. First thing in the morning I just sit and stare out of the window. Thoughts run through me listlessly. Then I sit in meditation, groggy or not, whether the mind chooses to comply and meditate or not. Then I do some exercise, but I skimp on this one so easily. Then I sit down to write, and yes, it has been very fulfilling ever since I started doing this.

With all these counter measures, am I free of slavery to the internet yet? No. I still turn to the internet wastefully more often than I would like to. But things have improved. The mind is less muddy, more clear and quiet. The real question is, however, as it always was — what can I plant on this vast landscape, that may be of some value to some fellow-traveler.

**

Are you addicted to the internet? How do you counter it? When and how did the internet come into your life? Share your nostalgia and self-therapy measures in the comments below.

Processing Pain: What I Have Learned

The child was playing. The child fell down, got hurt and started bawling. The mother (or whichever other elder was in the vicinity) rushed to the aid of the child, picked her up and started consoling her. The child continued bawling.

One strategy that mothers (or elders in general) resort to in this situation is to distract the child from the pain. There is one thing they do which I find mighty fascinating. The elder stomps the ground, or slaps it saying in a mock scolding tone, “तुमने वाणी को चोट पहुँचाई? (You hurt Vani?) Bad ground.” Or the elder says in jest, pointing to the ground, “See how many ants have died!”

The child looks with fascination at the ground. Her mother slapping and scolding the ground? Or ants (which the child can’t see) have died? How curious! The child gets adequately distracted, feels adequately pacified by a boosted ego (someone else is having to pay for her pain), stops bawling, strategy successful, elder feels like a good caring elder.

And so it goes for the rest of life. When we feel pain, be it physical or emotional, the first strategy and in most cases the only strategy is to find who is to blame. If it is someone else and that someone else is adequately slapped and scolded, we feel pacified. If it is not someone else, we blame our self and slap and scold ourself. Extremely intense, mean, vicious and private slapping and scolding at that! At the very least, if we find others who have suffered too, we feel “OK, it’s not too bad then” and are thereby somewhat pacified. This is more-or-less the only strategy we adopt for processing pain. Either someone has to be found to blame and has to be made to pay for it, or someone else has to suffer with us. Be it the individual human being or any other collective – nation, community, religion whatever. This is our system of “justice”.

What if the true answer is that there is no one to blame? Not even you. Not even God.

I share below what I have learned of processing pain

  • Physical Pain: When I first learned a new way of processing pain
  • Emotional Pain: Transferring the learning from physical to emotional pain
  • Keeping A Childlike Curiosity and Fascination Towards The “Phenomena”
  • There is no blame. No one is at fault.

Physical Pain: When I first learned a new way of processing pain

I had gone to USA to study computer science. A dream come true, finally. However, as I got into the tune of living a student’s life, my health deteriorated. Along with attending classes, the days and the semester comprised of several visits to the hospital for various tests and perplexing conversations with the doctors – not to mention the perplexing increasing weakness and a new array of sensations in my body. I was scared. Eventually it was declared that I have Multiple Sclerosis.

After some months I enrolled into a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at the hospital. These programs at hospitals across USA teach meditation, extended shavaasan, and a smattering of yoga to participants to enable them to receive whatever life is throwing at them with greater awareness in a manner that can be rather empowering. At the mindfulness program, for the first time I learned a way of processing pain that was totally new to me.

In the extended shavaasan, over a period of 45 minutes say, one lies down with eyes closed and brings one’s awareness, in turn, to each and every part of the body, from the toes to the skull and experiences whatever one is experiencing there. “Whatever you are experiencing at that point where your awareness is, it is just a sensation. Experience it as just that. A sensation. Is it a tingling? Is it a throbbing? Experience the sensation completely”, the program guide said.

When the mind is totally absorbed in experiencing the sensation completely, there is no further assignment of additional thoughts and stories to the experience – This is so painful! What is happening to me? My symptoms are getting worse… future projections of seeing oneself in a wheelchair… and all other exotic future projections that we are all very capable of.

At that moment, that which you are experiencing at that point in the body, is just a sensation. Even if it is a pain it becomes more painful and harrowing than it actually is due to the grand ensemble of stories that we attach to it.

As I did that extended shavaasan every day and received whatever I was experiencing just as a sensation, fear towards those sensations faded away. Often, complete awareness of the sensation also made the sensation go away. One day after one of the extended shavaasans, as I was applying cream and getting ready to go to the university I found myself actually apply the cream with a gentle love and appreciation for my body. This was a rather new experience for me for I have always just lived in my mind since childhood. The body has just incidentally been there. For the first time I was acknowledging my body and all that it enabled me to do in life.

This learning has stood by me in good stead. Whenever I feel physical pain, most times I simply experience it. It does not bring on fear the way it did in those days. If there is anything practical to be done about the pain, I do it as best as I can. Often I found that receiving the pain with complete awareness brings tremendous transformative power with it – the pain and discomfort melts away in a most fascinating manner and sometimes even leaves me with greater clues and information about myself.

Receiving pain completely with awareness sure connects us firsthand to an intrinsic power we have within. We find that we are not victims of what we are experiencing. Irrespective of how debilitating the weakness becomes, one tiny grain of strength remains. A grain that is totally indestructible.

Emotional Pain: Transferring the learning from physical to emotional pain

Most of the pain we experience in life is mental, emotional. A person may have no physical ailments but chances are there is substantial emotional pain she is nevertheless experiencing. Relationships are the most fertile ground for emotional pain. It is a challenging domain for almost every person on the planet. This is also where most of the ping-pong blame game matches are held which go into lengthy rallies extending over years. The challenge of physical ailments is also exacerbated by the mental/emotional appendages we attach to it. Every person’s quest for finding her own valid place in the world itself is rife with painful experiences.

I gained confidence about processing physical pain by bringing my complete attention to it. I felt empowered. I also found that all physical challenges I was facing was a tip of the iceberg. The true underlying ailment that was rusting me was hurt and resentments I had harbored towards people in my life. It also included feeling not-good (on mild days) and shitty (on intense days) about myself. All this information and its resolution did not come in fragrant floral greeting cards. It came in a series harrowing experiences interspersed with some nice relief periods of song, dance and joy. The challenge was (and mostly always is) at the mental-emotional level.

Having successfully processed pain at the physical level, the thing to do was to transfer the learning to the mental-emotional level. It is kind-of like having learned and practiced division with smaller well-behaved numbers, we apply the same approach to larger more unruly numbers. Higher gaming level basically. How nice!

I found processing physical pain easier and carried that learning over to mental-emotional pain but it need not always be that way. My friend in Udupi feels confident about dealing with challenges that life may throw at her but physical pain trumps her. However when physical pain strikes she knows it is time to slow down. She feels totally unapologetic taking the day off from work on the first day of her periods for example.

Be it physical or mental-emotional, the strategy is the same: to bring our complete awareness to the pain. With physical pain there is a tangible well-defined point in space to bring attention to. With mental-emotional pain it is easy to get buffeted around in the mind with nothing tangible to hold onto. However, there are ways to counter that. One effective strategy being – bring your attention to the breath again and again, while you are talking to someone, while you are doing whatever. Even one or two breaths that you become aware of in a day has tremendous transformational power.

On more-or-less ok days, awareness on the breath is very effective to come back to again and again through the day. What do we do when things get really mucky? When we are seething in anger or we are pulled into the depths of perplexing depression?

When emotional pain becomes intense it almost takes on a kind-of-physical form. Then one can almost see the black ink moving and changing shape within the mind and the body, the thought intensity moving and changing shape. Awareness on this movement of pain opens the doorway to its resolution.

Keeping A Childlike Curiosity and Fascination Towards The “Phenomena”

This is another strategy that helps me tremendously. To look at what is happening with childlike curiosity and fascination. The fundamental aspect of a scientific bent of mind is not analysis, but childlike curiosity. Everything is simply a phenomenon worthy of curious observation. There is nothing good or bad about a phenomenon. It is a simply something that is happening.

So this is happening – whatever the ‘this’ may be. I am feeling this way (anger, hatred, jealousy, depression, lust, horribly unwell whatever) – whatever I may be feeling and experiencing, it does not make me a bad person. That does not mean I am a failure. This is simply what is happening at this moment. To think in this manner frees up huge amounts of mental bandwidth. It becomes much more feasible to look at what is happening properly and from a fresh perspective. By not beating our self up for what we are experiencing, we can now truly look at what is happening. It enables us to wonder, “Is there another way?” It even becomes possible to acknowledge that our perspective is not working, it is not making the pain go away. Maybe we are not seeing things quite correctly? “I am at a loss here. This is not working. I need guidance. I want to see this differently.” – when this thought-feeling comes in, the ball of transformation sets rolling in a super-fascinating way. Sometimes the answer to the challenge wafts in with floral fragrance almost immediately. Even if the guidance comes in time, over layers of increasing clarity (and challenges), the guidance comes in a manner that is absolutely tailor-made for our unique personality.

For me, the book A Course In Miracles brought fundamental transformation. It taught me about emotional pain and the pain in relationships in great depth. It taught me about the incorrect thinking and perceptions of my mind. It then held me by hand, and step by step, via a series of thought exercises, took me to a place where now I feel more empowered to honor myself and honor my relationships. It taught me how there are only two fundamental emotions: love and fear, and the idea is to shift our thinking from fear to love. It taught me how we are so intrinsically connected, literally one organism. A Course in Miracles is an excellent book to learn how to process relationships and emotional pain.

It may be the book for you, it may not. However, when our mind comes to even the slightest place of wondering, “There must be another way”, tailor-made guidance flows in.

There is no blame. No one is at fault.

In every case, and I say this with 100% certainty – there is no one to blame. Yes, every, with emphasis. This applies to each and every thing that is happening in every individual’s life and in the life of every collective – be it community, nation, the human race or all of universe. No one is at fault for what is happening, for what happened. No external x person or process in life is at fault, you are not at fault, God is not at fault. God has not failed you. You have not failed anyone. No one has failed you.

At each given moment, each entity does the best it can do as per what it knows and understands at that moment. This is intrinsic to the way each and every particle of the universe functions. It is an inbuilt property of the universe – immutable, unchangeable and exists at every level of the universe.

Greed is “bad” but no person is being greedy – they are only doing what they can do best at that moment. The person is intrinsically feeling impoverished, there-in lies the source of that insatiable greed.

Saying a lie is “bad” but the person who is saying the lie, will say the lie, while being aware that it is a lie because there are greater forces within him that are convincing him that saying the lie is at that moment the best option, for the sake of self-preservation or whatever other reason.

This applies to you, this applies to each and every one of us. If you had known better, you would have done better. If he had known better, he would have done better.

Even the rapist and the person who throws acid on another person’s face is also essentially not to blame. No person can inflict such pain on a fellow human being without first being in worse pain himself. However, he has no clue how to be aware of his pain, his feelings. He has no clue how to process it. The lack of awareness and acknowledgement of his pain, makes the pain rage as a demon, makes the person a zombie, takes him to the depths of insanity.

There is no blame. No one is at fault. This might be totally opposite of everything you see around with so much strife clearly happening all over the world. However it is all a result of pain not being processed with awareness. When pain is not processed consciously, with awareness, it does not go away anywhere. Seeking acknowledgement the pain festers and erupts in a myriad ways. It erupts in a person shouting, it erupts as depression and a sudden disinterest in the world, it erupts in partitions of nations, it erupts in continued wars.

What we can do, is to learn to process pain better, let that learning improve our life and share that learning in our own unique manner with others. Not only is it something tangible that we can do, it is absolutely vital that we do this. It is vital for our life and it is vital for our world and the universe.

Unless you learn and share your learning, unless you touch love and share the love you touched, our world will not heal. We are pieces in a grand jig-saw puzzle. Even if one piece is missing, the puzzle is not complete. One missing piece means one center of pain, and pain spreads.

You are not alone in being affected by your thoughts. Each and every thought that you think, even in the privacy of your room, a thought that you did not express to anyone, each and every thought impacts you, it impacts all the people in your life, it impacts every person and being on this planet.

Do not run away from pain. Immerse into it, with awareness. Ask in your mind, “This is hurting. What is the way out?” The answer that is tailor-made for you will come to you.

I might write in a future article someday why even God is not to blame. This article has already become too long.


Image: “Pain” Oil Painting by Vani Murarka

Dumb Employee. I’ve Decided To Become One

It’s not easy being a dumb employee, but I’ve decided to try and be one. Whether it is easy or not, it’s good strategy – being a dumb employee of my inner guide.

You see dear reader, it is my habit to overthink. So with this great habit, I plan and I keep planning. I imagine and I keep imagining. All in my head. I gallop several kilometers ahead on the time scale. I imagine success and feel excited. I imagine success and feel scared. As I do this, completely engrossed, in any giving sitting 45 minutes easily pass and nothing has happened. The day passes and nothing much has happened. A little something, but not much. Then the month passes and the year is over.

Why do I do this, you might ask. Because I am brilliant. Because my mind is so powerful.

Not much use this kind of brilliance is it?

Become dumb. That will be the smart and strategic thing to do, I’ve figured.

Become dumb and like a pestering child. And pester whom? My inner guide. Pester my inner guide for each and every thing, for each and every action through the day, for each and every thought, need, challenge – the way a child pesters her mother, “What do I do now? What do I do now?”

Become the utterly dumb but sincere employee.

“Sir, I finished pasting the label on the envelope. What do I do now?”
“Sir, I finished putting perfume. Now I am not smelling no? What do I do now Sir?”
“Sir, I’m feeling sad. Just like that, no reason, I am feeling sad, Sir!”

My inner guide is not only much more brilliant than I am, but wise too. It is also very kind. It knows how to use overzealous exasperating employees (or any kind of an employee for that matter). My inner guide loves me. It wants me to rest. It wants me to take it easy. Which boss of which company wants that for their employee? All the joy that is there to be had, my inner guide wants me to have it all. In good nutritious doses. Not in overwhelming imagined gulps.

There are a lot of practical advantages to being an employee of our inner guide.

So my inner guide told me to write this thought overflowing from my head. I wrote it. Now it’s telling me, “Ok, go have a bath” – so bye.


Only your inner guide knows what you need. For He will give you all things that do not block the way to light. And what else could you need? In time, He gives you all the things that you need have, and will renew them as long as you have need of them. He will take nothing from you as long as you have any need of it. And yet He knows that everything you need is temporary, and will but last until you step aside from all your needs and realize that all of them have been fulfilled.
~ A Course In Miracles Text 13.VII.12

Circles Of Harmony

Products Of Calm

From August to December last year, almost every morning, I went for a different kind of a walk, engaged in a different kind of meditation.

Corals In The Deep
Corals In The Deep. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,500. Click to buy.
Ocean Song
Ocean Song. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,500. Click to buy.

When we sit down to meditate, eyes closed, bang! all the cacophony of our mind becomes apparent and most of the time is spent being buffeted around by all those innumerable thoughts and pointless inner dialogue. Walking is an age-old way of calming the mind. Scientists, writers and all kinds of creators through generations have turned to walking everyday as a means to keep their mind clean and efficient. It is easier than sitting meditation since untamed energy has some place to be used – in the physical movement. In fact walking meditation is officially a part of some meditation programs.

Yin Yang
Yin Yang. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,500. Click to buy.
Forest Joy
Forest Joy. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,500. Click to buy.

Coloring and writing is another kind walking meditation. The wrist and I go for a walk on the paper. Coloring being wordless, brings on a quiet of its own. My brother gifted me a coloring book last Rakhi and I took it up wholeheartedly as the designs by the artist Cynthia Emeryle were exquisite.

Peacock Group Dance
Peacock Group Dance. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,250. Click to buy
Emerald Ocean
Emerald Ocean. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,250. Click to buy.

It was a rewarding experience as I got to experiment with making different color shades and combinations. Each time it was somewhat of a discovery for myself, what colors I will choose. While I kept coloring, I used to try and keep awareness on my breath. Of course the Brownian Motion of the mind would take over at times. However, doing this each day for so many days had a tangible positive impact on how I processed challenges, specially challenges of relationships. Often if I was having a hassle with someone, if I sat down and did some coloring for some time, it calmed me and I responded to the challenge differently than my first instinct.

Carrot Patch
Carrot Patch. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,250. Click to buy.
Cocky!
Cocky! 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,250. Click to buy.

These are 9.7 inch X 9.7 inch watercolor and brush ink artworks. Most took 5 or more mornings to complete. Price includes framing and shipping costs. If you are in Kolkata you will receive the painting framed and ready to hang. If you are elsewhere the painting will be mounted and shipped secure within boards. You will have to get the glass and frame added.

Partridge Party
Partridge Party. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,250. Click to buy.
Russian Ludo. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,250. Click to buy.
Russian Ludo. 9.7in x 9.7in. ₹2,250. Click to buy.

You can see bigger clearer pictures on Facebook. There are 24 in all! Here is the link to the store. This is a perfect way to bring joy and color to your space this festive season.

Three Blind Mice
Three Blind Mice
Leo
Leo
Flutter
Flutter
They Love Blue
They Love Blue
Dalmatian Clock
Dalmatian Clock
Secret Cats
Secret Cats

Emotions Are Totally Rational And Reliable

Any good engineering system has a robust reliable feedback loop built into it so that the user of the system may get an easy view of what is going on inside. When you type ‘a’ on the keypad and ‘a’ shows up on the screen, that is also a feedback loop of a good engineering system at work. It tells you ‘a’ has been saved and it tells you where this ‘a’ has been saved. It tells you that the system is working fine, or whether you should adjust your actions (eg. change the cursor position).

Our emotions are excellent feedback loops built into our system, a feat of fantastic engineering that is totally reliable. And since it is engineering, it is rational. Super rational. Superbly designed and executed engineering systems that we are.

So what do our emotions give us feedback on? Our emotions give feedback on how we have been performing with our thinking.

There are primarily just two emotions: love and fear. ‘Peace’, ‘joy’, ‘ease’ are other words for the primary emotion love. ‘Anger’, ‘sadness’, ‘dejection’ are other words for the primary emotion fear.

When we are thinking in alignment with truth, in alignment with what truly is, we feel peace, joy, love. When we are conjuring up all kinds of stories, figments of our imagination, stuff that does not exist at all, we feel fear, anger, sadness. Fear indeed is looking at a rope as a snake.

Thinking what is not true induces fear precisely because we are such excellently built engineering systems. We have been built to live with joy and love. We have not been built to be mired in a web of illusions. Joy and love is what we inherently want. It is intrinsic to our being. We have been built to bring beauty forth into this world. We do that with the power of our mind, with the power of our thoughts. When our mind is not being used for the purpose of joy and love, it means our mind is malfunctioning. Since we have been built to live joyously and since we are excellently built engineering systems, when we are not living and thinking joy and love our system responds by giving feedback, causing discomfort and fear, like a red alert error notification that something is wrong in the system.

This is kind-of like the hot-cold game I play with my niece sometimes. Player 1 has to look for something in the room and as Player 1 approaches the assigned object Player 2 gives clues by saying “warm” or “hot” for being on track and when Player 1 goes off in a wrong direct Player 2 gives clues by saying “cold” or “chilly”. Similarly our emotions give us clues of whether we are thinking in alignment with truth or not. Feelings of ease, love, gentleness when we are on track and feelings of fear, anger, low self-esteem, anxiety, racing thoughts and all other varieties of dis-ease when we are off track.

Any good manager, who runs her system well, looks properly at her management dashboard with all its charts and data. Observing and honoring our emotions dashboard and taking corrective action when required is one of the best things we can do to live our life joyously, to manage and use our mind like a cool dude ninja.

If we are feeling love, peace, joy then everything is hunky dory. Nothing need be done other than enjoy the moment, admire the beauty of your charts and management dashboard and your exquisite engineering system, pat yourself on your back for being such a cool dude manager and feel grateful to your team members and boss for working in such a superb world.

If we are feeling anger, sadness, fear then alert attention is required. A seasoned manager will pay careful attention to every red alert notification he receives, be it in big bold letters, or in tiny font. The clumsy manager will callously ignore tell-tale signs of malfunction, or if it is too huge for her to handle, she will unthinkingly just offload it to another person (eg. shouting when angry). The thing to do is to go forth into that error notification, into that discomforting emotion, rather than turn away from it, distract ourself, push it under the carpet or unthinkingly offload it to another person. ‘Engaged in wrath, stay so.’ says my favourite thin spiritual book Vigyaan Bhairav (The Science of Shiva). As we gently go forth into the discomfort, with as much attention and awareness we can muster, we experience all the movement of that emotion within our mind and body. Rather than trying to analyze it with our ineffective logic and analysis, rather than trying to figure out who is to blame for this, ask the question gently in your mind, “Is there another way to look at this?” and let the answer come to you. That is the best question we can ask – “Is there another way to look at this?”. It is the first step to breaking habitual thinking patterns that have served us no good but have only brought the same pain again and again over years and generations.

The slightest curiosity that comes in the mind, that may not even be clearly articulated “Is there another way to look at this?” sets the ball rolling onto the track towards truth, towards gentler, healthier feelings. The same engineer who created our fantastic system, does answer as our internal guide. It has answered me every single time that I have asked. The internal guide gives a totally fresh perspective to the matter, a perspective that we had not considered at all before, a perspective that is in alignment with truth. It is such a beautiful experience when that happens, when we get that fresh perspective. When we are able to change our mindset from fear to love, the system gives immediate feedback. The palpable sense of ease that we feel is immediate. When we remain fixed within our perspective, convinced that that is the only way to see the issue at hand, we make zero progress and conflict continues.

Emotions are a very powerful force. Even if we push them away their power does not diminish. If we do not use it expertly, with awareness and acceptance, they will cause havoc due to their inherent power left unattended. Emotions are not bugs. They are an inbuilt fantastic feature we been manufactured with. They are reflective of our own power. Emotions are totally rational and reliable. Being aware of our emotions and honoring them is all about managing our life deftly. It is about living an authentic life.

It is about having fun while we are here – for every time we are able to get a fresh perspective on programmed age-old patterns of struggle, it gives an immense sense of self-belief, success and gratitude all rolled into one. The power of emotions, especially when they seem to be sweeping us away into tsunamis can be extremely challenging, but challenges are fun! To whatever extent possible, the thing to do is to try and remain aware of the movement occurring internally with the knowing that there is wisdom hidden in there.

We do tremendous dis-service to ourself by considering emotions to be irrational embarrassments, an inconvenience. They are not.

All that I have written here, I learnt from my favorite fat spiritual book – A Course In Miracles. I have only re-expressed it in my words.

We are so deeply programmed to think from a mindset of fear that it requires learning (or un-learning rather) to think from a mindset of love. This book taught me how to make that switch.

It is possible to change our perspective from fear to love.


Image credit: Pixabay.com