Raavan wasn’t interested in Sita – not in the slightest

It was a personal duel between me and my teacher. She did not view it as such. My high-school teacher most probably was not even thinking of me. She was just doing her job, setting a Physics paper for the final exams. I stayed up the whole night studying, preparing. Not out of tension, not because I wanted x marks. I viewed it as a personal duel between me and my teacher, and I was enjoying myself thoroughly. I was having fun. It was the only time when I did an all-nighter.

That is what Raavan wanted too — a good hard knock with a worthy opponent, and who better than his teacher. Raavan wasn’t having fun mindlessly. He chose to abduct Sita but he was not interested in Sita one iota bit. He was interested in Raam. The idea was to pull Raam into his den for a good meaty duel. Which super-capable warrior will not want a good hard knock with a worthy opponent? There wasn’t anyone else available, other than Raam.

Of course he would get mad at Vibhishan. “Tejo-vaddha” it is called, when someone tries to shake our resolve and focus — and Raavan would have none of it. This happens at times. We worry about safety, but fail to honor the spirit.

“This is not the proper thing to do. We will all perish. Raam is God incarnate.”, Vibhishan said. It makes sense from a conventional perspective, especially if you are operating from the conventional rules of right and wrong. This article is, however, about the other perspective. Raavan knew of the consequences well — erudite and an ardent devotee that of Shiv that he was. So what if this, that and the other will get destroyed. He didn’t give a hoot about the body getting destroyed. His spirit soared. That is what he wanted — a good hard knock with the one whom he not only worshiped, but who he had started thinking of as his buddy. He wanted light (Raam) to come and penetrate the very core of darkness, his belly. He wanted it.

There is deep satisfaction in being destroyed at the hands of the one’s love.

All this talk of victory of light over darkness is a half story. What victory is there to be had? They are equals and they love each other. They are langotiyaa-yaar (buddies from when they were in their nappies) — light and dark. They are wedded to each other (Kali and Shiv), one willing to lay itself down for the other. Till we eulogize only one and not the other, we are doing gross disservice to ourselves. For the light and the dark in us are both equally divine, equally wise, equally powerful — and equally desirable.

“He was evil. He was filled with pride. Dambh“, people say of Raavan. That sounds superficial to me. If you are the best, you are going to say you are the best. Our reality is not half divine half evil, satan and God at war with each other. Our reality is already fully-divine. We slash ourselves into half and say this is good, this is bad. It is self-hatred.

Here is a direct example of how we slash our self in half –
“Serve water with the right hand, serving water with the left is bad. Take money in the right hand, not the left,” so many children are taught this from a young age. For some weird reason half the body is good, and the other half is not so good?

My right hand weakens during MS attacks. During this time I fall back on my left hand, for eating, for writing, and various other tasks. In the process I have become somewhat ambidextrous and have learnt of the deep wisdom and power that resides in connecting with the ‘other’ hand. We do gross disservice to our self by splitting our self into good and evil, desirable and undesirable.

The way to ‘kill’ evil is to recognize there is no evil. All forces play an extremely crucial role in the scheme of things. What we consider evil, is something beautiful and divine in us seeking acknowledgement and acceptance. When we consider any aspect of our self as undesirable, as an individual, family or society, then that thing rises further taking on grotesque proportions.

The should, should-not teachings of dharma talk of shreyas (what is good for you), and preyas (what is dear to you and you would rather do), as contrary things. We learn that we must choose one over the other – that we should get over our desire to do what is preyas and choose the shreyas instead. This again is an incomplete perspective that causes a horrible split within. Our good lies exactly where our joy lies. Self-awareness makes us know what is truly dear and preyas to us, and how it can take us to what is good and shreyas for us. But we go about denying our self.

While we celebrate Diwali and the victory of light over darkness, it is important to remember to celebrate Kali too – the seat of the dense dark and the power it holds. The darkness in us, the times of challenge, depression, even delusion – hold immense power within, which can only be tapped when we go deep into that darkness. The trick is to carry the light of self-awareness in one palm and self-acceptance in the other. The dark night is silken beautiful – the literal dark night, as well as the metaphorical dark night in our life – both are silken beautiful. Go forth and experience it.

The night is the womb of power.
.
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Image credit: http://www.vanamaliashram.org/TWELVEJYOTIRLINGAMS.html

A Different Durga For This Mahishasur

He just sat there receiving all the arrows I was unleashing at him.

“I don’t like you,” I said, in no uncertain terms.

I had been feeling such distaste, such dislike for him that I would not even look at him at the dining table. After a few days of receiving this treatment, he asked me directly, “Why are you avoiding me? Why are you not even looking at me?” That itself was an act of Durga. It’s not easy to approach a person who seems to wish you didn’t even exist.

He approached me, he didn’t confront me as an adversary. It’s not as if he was all calm, compassion and composure. He is human. However, he is also home to Durga, just as all humans are.

So here I was, sitting on the bed, resting my back against the wall, and there he was, sitting on the chair, a little distance away — and I wasn’t mincing words. I was saying exactly what came to my mind. He did not budge. He just sat there receiving all the arrows of pain I threw at him. Even in the middle of pain, even in the middle of saying all kinds of unkind things, I was grateful to him — for receiving all that I had to say that day, in that manner. It was a different kind of valor he demonstrated.

My brother runs one of the foremost forex risk management companies in India. Serve the country, unto Him our best, serve The Guru – these mantras power him every day. Productivity is on my brother’s mind and tongue almost all the time. You can often hear him talking of achievers who inspire him, “That person works so many hours a day! Amazing. How does he do it?”

I, on the other hand, find all this talk of productivity totally disenchanting. It prevents me from being productive. I need lots of easy breezy air to caress my mind, for me to produce something of worth. The actual produce, be it words or lines of code, may take only 15 minutes, but my mind needs to be fertilized by hours of just-be.

I was working for my brother those days, helping him with his website — and I was hating it. Also, my self-esteem was sobbing in the dungeons. I had been searching for what work to do, and again and again, as much as I tried, I failed. Frustrated with myself, and with my head hissing, “Achieve! Achieve!” every time I saw my brother go to office, I felt shitty. He was innocently doing his jig, but it made me feel lousy. “Perform!” my inside would say, “See, he is going to office. You are doing nothing.”

Eventually light dawned on my dark mind. I wrote this to Marie Forleo one day, who taught me to honor my strengths

Now over the last few months I’ve reached a place where I sit at my desk every day. In those morning hours when I’m at the writing desk, I feel so totally at home and me. I write, or I read — deriving pleasure from it in the same manner I used to when I was a child, when I did not have to make anything of myself. I know something worthwhile will come out of this.

Recognizing, accepting, and honoring my personality also helped me unravel some knots in my relationship with my brother. He is an action-oriented person successful in his business. That makes conventional sense in the world. I used to try to perform, in his manner and in the ways of other achievers, and it was a constant struggle. Now I know that the nature of my doing is different — slow, meditative, like a tree, where the bulk of action is happening invisibly.

In recognizing my strength, initially I was all virtuous, self-righteous, and indignant about it, thinking ‘This is the truly wise way to be’. I thought my brother is not adequately wise. Now I understand, that is his natural self – action-driven. There is no reason for me to be intimidated by action-driven people and by the achieve talk. I can be my way. He can be his way. I’m now able to accept him and his way to be, I’m able honor it, just like I wish myself to be honored.

I don’t know what that Durga did that evening, by not fighting back, by just receiving arrows from the depressed and frustrated Mahishasur in me — but he did something. Maybe he opened up just the slightest possibility for this Mahishasur to find her Durga within.


Articles directly related to this one:
1. Achieve! Achieve! But why?
2. Honoring Our Personality, Honoring Our Uniqueness

Image credit: pixabay.com

Honor Yourself First – or How To Be A Ninja Ganesha

In the ticketing system of Spice Jet, Indigo, Jet Airways, and yes Air India too, a passenger is “born” when a ticket is booked. A passenger “dies” when the passenger commits suicide (sorry, I meant when the passenger cancels the booking) , or when it is transported to another realm (city!) on the hallowed flight of the airline. Every passenger must have a name, age, seat assignment. This is the blueprint of a passenger defined in the ticketing system.

When you book a ticket, a specific passenger, with a specific name is born in the system. There is jubilation all around. You are encouraged to share the good news in the heaven of social media, so that divine fragrant flowers in the form of likes may be showered on the blessed airline and hapless passenger.

This is the method of software development called Object Oriented Programming. The essential attributes and behavior of objects of one kind are defined in a “class”, in a blueprint. As per that blueprint, objects are created in the system as required.

Ganesha is the blueprint of all us beings. Ganesha is the class definition.

The kiddo of the supreme feminine force and the supreme masculine force – that is us. We are the gana (beings), Ganesha is the blueprint of all ganas, of all beings. Lord of the ganas means class definition of the ganas.

Voracious appetite implies endless desires. The mouse as the vehicle implies we mostly do whatever we do, riding on our ego. A bloated tummy implies unprocessed and partially processed experiences, that we keep accumulating.

Hopeless as we may seem to be, we are the remover of all obstacles. Its defined in the blueprint. Ganesha is the remover of all obstacles implies you are the remover of all your obstacles.

How does a hapless ganesha, that we mostly are, become a Ninja Ganesha?

Simple. Honor Yourself First.

Ganesha, as the remover of all obstacles, is worshiped first in any undertaking. This implies that in any undertaking, right as its first step, honor yourself.

Entering into a marriage alliance? Honor yourself first. And do so right through the relationship.

About to become a mom-in-law? Honor yourself first.

Received that marriage invitation with Ganesha sitting prim in the middle? Honor yourself first. Don’t go if you don’t want to! 😉

Aah! “If you don’t want to… ” Do we even know what we want?

When we honor ourselves first, this is one of the first miracles to happen, precursor to a string of miracles. When we honor our self first, we become more self-aware. We learn to become aware of, and honor our thoughts and emotions. Thus we get some clarity, after some practice, on what we want. Miracle 1.

Then we state what we want, firmly, and without malice. Miracle 2.

Firmly, because we honor our self. Miracle 2a.

Without malice, because we honor our self. Our increased self-awareness teaches us that malice makes us feel shitty, and we don’t want that. Miracle 2b.

When we honor our self first, we hold our self and others to higher standards. When muck raises its head inside our brain, we learn to say a simple and firm “no” to it – but since we honor our self, we do not beat our self over the muck that raised its head. Instead, we appreciate our self for the increased awareness and for nipping the muck as soon as we could. When the other person behaves in a yucky manner, and we can do nothing about it except walk away, we simply walk away. We do not subject our self to keep experiencing the muck, because we honor our self. We say no to the muck but continue loving the person, for we know that loving the person makes us feel good. Holding malice in our heart makes us feel bad. Thus we learn to hate the sin, not the sinner.

When we honor our self first, we learn to live our joy. We do our duty, and we live our joy. In fact we learn that to live our joy is our first duty. Thus children receive joyous parents, who, along with parenting, live their joy too – parents who do not manufacture children as crutches of old age. Children learn to stick to their choices without resentment towards parents, for they understand that their parents are products of a different time, a different social mindset. Eventually, the parent and child become friends (on Facebook and otherwise).

When we honor our self first, we learn to state our needs explicitly and kindly to our partners, rather than just expecting to be understood. Our increased self-awareness increases our awareness of the underlying emotions of our partner too.

When we honor our self first, we learn to honor our body and our mind. We know when to seek a doctor’s help before it is too late. When our mind is buzzing with thoughts and emotions, we have no qualms in seeking professional counseling help, for we know it will help to talk to a stranger who has no relationship investment with us.

When we honor our self first, however shitty life may be, we know we are beautiful and we deserve a beautiful life. We know such a life must be there, ready for us – because we are beautiful. We seek that life by seeking external and internal well being. We do not wallow in victimhood. We learn to let go of pseudo-virtues and the plethora of ‘should’s that have been thrust upon us, for we now honor our own internal guide that speaks to us through our thoughts and emotions. We start keeping our friend and guide as permanent partner of our enterprise – it’s just easier that way. When caught in a bind, we know that we have mommy Durga, or daddy Shiva to turn to – or whichever form of the cool dude we may look up to.

“When we honor ourselves first, obstacles undo themselves automagically!” says Bejan Daruwalla Ganesha!


Image credit: Whoa.in

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

No Longer Chasing Good Health or Nirvana

In 2008 I was officially diagnosed to have Multiple Sclerosis.
In 2017 I have now officially accepted the diagnosis, made it my own.

Yes the mind body connection is so deep and intrinsic that maybe two different words ‘mind’ and ‘body’ is a gross misconception. Yes thoughts do impact the body absolutely directly. Ever since I learned about the mind body connection, and learned to watch my thoughts and emotions, with almost every cough and sniffle I know which thought caused its onset.

Louise Hay cured her cancer totally by cleaning up the muck in her mind. The same thing happened with Anita Moorjani in a more miraculous, dramatic manner. Terry Wahls “fixed herself” by fixing her food. As I read these and countless other stories after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I aimed for the holy grail too. Not only did I aim for it, I had touched it once. In communion with God when I was in Charlotte, I had experienced such good health, energy, vigor, joy that I had never experienced even in childhood.

However, Vani Murarka, in general is a person of low immunity. Not only does she get the cough and sniffles easily, there are various other things that are challenging for her, physically and mentally. Stuff that is not as challenging for other “normal” people such as others in her family and countless others on the planet. As I was focusing on “fixing myself” by cleaning my thoughts, I did not explicitly speak about these challenges to my family.

“I am going to free myself of them all”, I had implicitly told myself. The challenges and limitations. I really had freed myself of the invisible MS label I had begun wearing pasted on my forehead. I no longer had imaginary conversations with people in the queue such as, “Please let me go ahead. I have Multiple Sclerosis.” As if that explained everything. I got rid of that label and that pining, whining.

Now I hereby reclaim the MS label. I realize that by not talking frankly about my challenges, I have been doing disservice to myself, my family members and to every one really. When the need arises, I no longer have any qualms in saying, “I have Multiple Sclerosis. Hence for my rightful place in this event (whether that event is life or whatever) matters need to be adjusted thus.” When I state my needs, I help not just myself but others who also have that need but are not voicing it.

I hereby reclaim the MS label also because I realize I am not broken. So I don’t need to be fixed. The body’s health does not indicate the health of a person, surely not the spiritual health of a person. We all have our role to play. Threads in a grand tapestry.

On one end of the spectrum is Louise Hay, Anita Moorjani, Terry Wahls and others of their ilk who cured themselves of their respective ailments.

On the other end there are the likes of Ramana Maharshi who first got enlightened, then got cancer – and actively demonstrated to throngs who were there in his physical presence, how one can be in pain and be totally ok with it. He demonstrated this simply by being.

In between, there are all other kinds too, at every point of the spectrum.

There is one who met kidney failure and cancer and hip replacement with such grace and fortitude, that his mere presence must have been a blessing to the doctors, nurses, friends, family, as they went about doing what they were supposed to do, as they went about helping him. I know it is that way when I meet him even now, hail and hearty, and sweetness and light.

There is one who underwent an eye operation without anesthesia (because her body was too battered by other ailments to be administered anesthesia), all on the basis of mindfulness. Who knows whether it was the nurses and doctors attending to her during that operation or vice versa. She clearly did impact me – from a fat book, her anecdote is the only thing I remember.

There are all kinds. We all have our role to play. In every way that MS has weakened me, that weakness itself has become my strength. Each of those strengths are not for me alone. They are for everyone.

Till I was concerned only with myself, I wanted to touch the holy grail that Louise Hay and Anita Moorjani touched. I wanted to become so immune and fortified by my devotion to the one I love, that gluten be damned, I may consume even poison and still live and thrive as Meera Bai did. These were my aspirations.

If Vani Murarka tries to do what Louise Hay or Anita Moorjani or Meera Bai did, it is rather silly of her. So Vani Murarka shall be what Vani Murarka is. A cell in a vast, wondrous, single, whole organism.


What about Nirvana?
What about it? Like I said, no longer chasing it. Too much to be done. No time.


Image: “We Are Like That Only” digital art by yours truly.

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

Seeing Us With Wonder

I have seen how vast and wondrous you are and that is a permanent. Your present behavior does not change that in any way. You are hitting out wildly in the dark. That will not dent me because I am vast and wondrous myself. I am light. Hitting wildly at light does nothing.

It gives me joy to perceive myself as vast and wondrous. It connects me to something gentle to even glimpse you as something more than your present behavior – something that permeates this whole universe. This joy, this gentle feeling is mine. I will not trade this for any other victory.

Do you wish to be my friend? Tell me of your feelings. Tell me of yourself. Tell me what pains you, what gives you joy. Do not tell me who behaved how. Do not tell me what is right or wrong. That conversation does not go anywhere.

Friendship means equality. The exalted goal of *every* relationship. Only when we know we are equal can we be one. If there is something other than equality, it means there is something other than love that is also present in the relationship (love is always present). That something else must be removed, for only love to remain.

Irrespective of when you were born and when I was born, we are equal. Even if this body came out of that body, we are equal. Irrespective of our earnings, achievements, occupation, education, irrespective of even words and thoughts we are equal. Irrespective of how you spend your day and how I spend my day, we are equal.

You may be my nephew or niece, you may be my parent or brother, or a stranger who left a lasting impression of whichever kind, but we are equal.

To my niece, nephews, to all friends younger than me – how can I ask you to touch my feet? You are vast, wondrous, infinite! I do not need you to touch my feet for me to feel love for you. I wish only to see your vast, wondrous beauty. I would much rather you stand up for yourself, as my equal. It’s much more fun that way. I love and respect you. I cannot ask you to bow down to me. Please know that you are lesser to no one.

To my parents, brothers and all friends whose bodies took shape before this body – sooner or later it gets rather stale, being ‘elder’. I am sure you have experienced that. It’s much more fun to have a friend. I do not need to touch your feet for me to feel love for you. I would much rather hug you than perform robotic compliance. I would much rather see your vast and wondrous beauty.

I am the wind, you are sunshine. We can only hug each other.

Let us meet and see each other with wonder and child-like curiosity. As a flower is meant to be seen.


Image credit: Pixabay.com

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

They Speak In Silence

Spring speaks using words
(also known as flowers)
Winter speaks in silence

The day speaks using words
(also known as birds)
The night speaks in silence

I honor my night,
when it comes,
(also known as sadness)
I turn inward, to silence

I honor my night,
when it comes,
every month
(also known as periods)
I turn inward, to silence

It happens there,
The true work –
In winter, at night
In silence

It happens with a tool called
Awareness –
The way to hear the silence

~ vani murarka

From the collection 12 Drops of Silence


Image credit: Photograph by Melmak from Pixabay.com

Honoring Our Personality – Honoring Our Uniqueness

I perceive this world and universe through the filters of my unique personality. Same goes for you. You perceive this world through the filters of your unique personality. That is the way it is for all of us.

Grand teachers of all ages and races say that our true self is exalted, beyond any limits and definitions. Beyond our unique but limited personalities. Maybe my truth is beyond my limited personality – unlimited, infinite. I do at times get glimmerings of being connected to and being at one with the vast energy force field that permeates our whole universe. However, I do not experience that all the time. Not yet. I am operating in this world through my personality. Sometimes when I am frustrated with myself, I find that personality limiting, exasperating. Feeling hemmed in and frustrated with myself, I wrote once –

शरीर का सीमित आकार
व्यक्तित्व में गिरफ़्तार
भटकती फिरती इधर उधर
कहाँ है कहाँ है मेरा घर
(a limited body, imprisoned by personality, I roam about cluelessly – where is my home?)

“Imprisoned” was just that sad feeling at that time. I wouldn’t say I’m imprisoned by my personality, but rather that it is the unique vehicle I am riding as I navigate this world and life. We all, each one of us, is riding the vehicle of our unique personality as we navigate this world and life.

Our personality is not an inconvenience to be endured through life. Not something to make snide jokes about as veiled self-criticism. Our unique personality is the unique vehicle we ride as we navigate through life and this world. And it serves us well to know, understand, and love the vehicle that we ride. It makes the ride that much more enjoyable and smooth.

Ask any car rally enthusiast or wise practical city-dwelling man, he will tell you – it is important to know the car you drive. Want to earn your father or husband’s approval? Here’s a way to crack it – become a super-knowledgeable-your-hands-dirty-with-grease dude with your car. (Better still, don’t try to win their approval. Live your joy).

So while I navigate this world, with my limited personality-filtered perceptions, it is important for me to know, understand, honor and love my personality, the unique vehicle that I ride, so as to better navigate this world and life and have some fun while doing it.

When we do not know, understand, honor our personality we are just passive passengers “riding” our personality – letting God or the devil do whatever crazy they wish to do at the driver’s seat. When we take the time and effort to know, understand, honor and love our personality, we get to sit in the driver’s seat (sometimes) with God as the navigator. Yay! Himalayan Car Rally here I come!

Knowing, understanding and honoring our personality, the unique vehicle we ride while we are here, enables us to function better.

Two things have helped me tremendously in getting to know my personality better.

1. Astrology
2. A “Know Your Strengths” Exercise suggested by Marie Forleo

What??? Vani you love science! You are so logical and analytical. And you turned to the silliness of astrology? I am disappointed in you!

Simmer down. We’ll talk about astrology in another post sometime. Let’s tackle the second first – a very simple Know Your Strengths exercise. Rather, know your Unique Awesomeness.

Know Your Unique Awesomeness

Marie Forleo in New York / New Jersey, the creator of MarieTV, runs B-School – an online course for wannabe entrepreneurs and already-at-it-and-wanna-rocket-to-the-sky entrepreneurs. The most heartening thing about what she offers is how to do business while aligned with your soul, your inner truth. That is at the core of her message – honoring our true self. She, so very kindly, gifted me a fully-paid scholarship to her B-School program a few years back.

The first week of the B-School program is the deepest. It is about acquiring clarity about our own self and about the ideal customer of our business. One of the “classes” in that first week is “Leverage Your Uniqueness” and Marie Forleo recommends that we go out into the world with our UAP “Unique Awesomeness Proposition” (not just plain bland USP, Unique Selling Proposition)

uap

It is all about, to quote Marie, “finding that sweet spot: that purposeful, joyful, clear place where your greatest gifts meet your customer’s needs”. And this is not just about business. It is about living our life.

Conventional (read, hackneyed) wisdom tells us to work on “improving” our self, work on identifying and acknowledging our weakness and then working on improving ourselves in those areas.

As we work and work and work on improving our weakness (mostly just by beating ourselves up in our private admonishments) we wilt and wilt and wilt – while all the time our strengths that are automagically (yes, that is a word) God-given to us are sitting tapping its fingers, waiting to be used, still as fresh as day one, despite all the self-flagellation.

So the wise thing my dear devoted reader (I do hope you are my devoted reader. Subscribe if you want to become one.) is to consciously know and honor your strengths and leverage that!

Ok Vani, how do I know my strength? I am so hopeless…

You are not hopeless. The instant you accept that, you shall become hopeful! Magic!

Here are two simple ways that worked superbly for me. Suggested by Marie Forleo, I now pass them onto you-

#1. Now Discover Your Strengths book

nkys
This book includes access to a personality test. People play with all kinds of funky personality tests on their way to office and share on Facebook – but this is different and good. I am different and good am I not? Ergo, it is but logical – what I recommend is different and good. (Btw, you are different and good too. Same pinch!)

I found the personality test in this book to not only be good, but for me, rather accurate. After you answer the questions, it gives you your five topmost strengths, in decreasing order of impact.

My two biggest strengths as per this test are –

Connectedness
Quoting a bit what the book implies by Connectedness: “Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our judgements, possessing free will, but we are part of something larger. Some may label it spirit or life force. Whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it.”

Intellection
Quoting a bit what the book implies by Intellection: “You like to think. You like exercising the muscles of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; simply that you like to think. You enjoy your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection…”

Man, for the personality called Vani Murarka, this is bulls-eye accurate! Ever since I fully understood and acknowledged these aspects of my personality, (by observing my thoughts and emotions), I committed myself to sharing this strength with you on a consistent basis (Every Saturday and Tuesday. Have you subscribed yet?) via my blog “vani expressions”. I decided to consciously channelize and leverage my strength. But that became possible only after I explicitly recognized and acknowledged my strength. Not just because this personality test said so – I found, out of self observation that it was indeed so.

The same goes for you my friend. There is something about you that is so absolutely beautiful and comes so automagically naturally to you. Please find out what it is and love it and honor it and live it. Don’t wait for your spouse or parent to acknowledge you. Even if they do, it won’t help much. It will help a bit, but not much – unless you must find out and acknowledge and live your beauty.

There are many ways that beauty manifests itself. There are many basic strengths the book has identified, 34 to be precise. Give it a shot to find out what they think about you. Borrowing a used book might not help because to take the personality test, there is a scratch patch with a number at the end (kind-of like a password) which gives you access to the test online.

They seem to have a direct online (paid) version too – Gallup Strengths Center. I used the book.

Note: I have no referral association for the sale of this book or Marie Forleo.

#2 Ask Your Friends

Another method Marie suggests for knowing your strengths is to ask your friends. Mostly we are so conditioned to focus on what is wrong with us that we have no visibility left to see what is right and good about us. So it is good to ask. It can give us visibility about some aspect of our self which we were not aware of. So the method is simply to ask your friends – “What are my 3 best qualities?” Email them, or whichever other method you want to use, but I suggest you don’t just ask publicly on your Facebook timeline! 🙂

Ask at least 25 people Marie suggests, and I agree with her. You will see a pattern emerge in the responses that people give. There may even be just one clue that you get which is crucial for you at that point in time. When I did this, when I asked people I thought I could ask, I did get some pattern. However one feedback from one friend really stood out. At that point in time I was in a position to consciously acknowledge and leverage that strength. She said I have the “Ability to say ‘NO’”.

Those days, after having left the corporate and academic world, I was at a loss for what to do with myself, my time, my life. I realized that while I did not yet know what to do, I clearly know what I do not want to do. I also recognized what exactly happens inside me which enables me to reach that clarity. If I continue with an activity or engagement that I do not want to be engaged in, I feel a strong sense of being coerced, of my arm being twisted so to speak, by the person or system or whatever imagined ghost I am struggling with – and my being protests against that and I reach the clarity that I must *not* do this. I even feel a strong distaste in doing or continuing with that activity. Ever since I have explicitly recognized this aspect of my being I have learned to honor it and trust it as a guiding force whenever that kind of feeling arises. As I know that feeling clearly now, I can also differentiate it from other tendencies to say no that I may have, either out of fear or because I just want to take it easy, or whatever other reason. Hence I have the faith that this strength of mine will not misguide me.

So dear devoted reader (I know you have subscribed by now) – go on, write to 25 friends and ask what your 3 best qualities are.

Whether you use these methods or not, do honor your personality. Recognize your strengths and honor them. Maybe you’ve heard this thing that is said, “love yourself” and maybe it did not make much sense. Well recognizing, acknowledging, honoring your unique personality is one place it starts. The beginning of seeing the beauty in you. The tender, sweet, absolutely gorgeous, luscious grand beauty in you.


Image credit: BBC TopGear Magazine India Car Gallery – Volvos in Himalayas