Try just being and slow travel on your commute today

Sometimes, doing nothing, just being, is very calming, very therapeutic.

The first day of work in the New Year is upon us. And interestingly, it is a Monday morning!!!
Instead of rushing off to work, honking and struggling through traffic, try slow travel if you can. Slow travel need not be a vacation idea alone. You can slow travel daily. Start early, don’t drive if you can avoid it – take a cab or take public transport. And when you commute to work, don’t get immersed in your mobile device. Instead observe Life as it happens around you. Allow your mind to soak in each detail – the way people behave, the way vehicles snarl at each other, the way the city moves, the way the method to all the madness unfolds. In all this chaos, you remain silent – and calm. Don’t let your mind complain. Just be an observer. Don’t opinionate, even to yourself, or to a fellow commuter, on what you feel. Don’t label what you see as good or bad. Just take it all in. Breathe well – observe your breathing – slowly: in, out, in, out…
To be sure, what I suggest you must try is not a bizarre idea. This is just bringing in the ancient Zen practice of Mindfulness into everyday urban, city Life. Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 ~ 1986), the thinker-philosopher, has said this: “You see, you are not educated to be alone. Do you ever go out for a walk by yourself? It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed.” I believe – I have practiced this and found it to be true – that this same principle can be applied to rush hour traffic, while waiting at airports, on crowded metros, on a plane ride…wherever, in any context, in fact, as long as you remain silent and are willing to be just an observer, a witness.
Obviously, the nicest thing to do would be to go sit under a tree or by the beach. But in today’s world and time, when each of us is berating ourselves for being slave-runners on the rat race, any suggestion to “take time off from everyday routine” will be considered preposterous, inhuman and insane! So, why not tweak the routine, without disrupting it, why not employ silence periods (when you remain silent and detached from your mobile device), alone-ness (certainly not loneliness), witness-hood, slow travel and conscious breathing in your daily commute?
Another great thinker-philosopher of our times, Thich Nhat Hahn, now 89, and recovering from brain haemorrhage-led coma, has said: “In our busy society, it is a great fortune to breathe consciously from time to time. We can practice conscious breathing not only while sitting in a meditation room, but also while working at the office or at home, while driving our car, or sitting on a bus, wherever we are, at any time throughout the day…While I sit here, I don’t think of anything else. I sit here, and I know exactly where I am.”

So, try just being – no doing, no analyzing, no messaging, no complaining – for the duration of your home-work-home commutes today. Try it – it sure works! 

PS: All illustrations are property of the creator. They have been sourced from the Internet. No effort is made to infringe on the original copyright or to commercial gain from using them here.

Dharam ‘paaji’ and the secret of living above this world!

The surest way to stay grounded is to be silent. Not just in the face of emotional and physical provocation, but in terms of making it a daily practice.
Practicing silence periods awakens you to your true Self. This method is called Shubha Mouna Yoga.
Dharmendra in ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana 2’
Picture Courtesy: Internet
Listen to Bollywood legend Dharmendra, now 80, on how silence helped him. In a recent media interview, he’s quoted as saying: “…In 2001, I was alone in America with a back problem. Loneliness was killing me. No one to share sorrows. Guess what? I started talking to myself. Then tanhayee (solitude) started talking to me, ‘You don’t know me. You are afraid of me. You can’t escape me. Remember your childhood dreams of becoming a star? You were on my lap then. I was in the lullabies your mother sang. You didn’t need me in all those years of mahurats, megahits, parties, tamashas. But now you are in my arms again’….”
The benefit of mouna is orgasmic in nature – it has to be experienced. It cannot be explained or described. Your being silent does not require the environment to be quietened by you. It requires only you to remain silent. When you are silent you encounter your God – the ‘one’ within you. When you converse with your God, you understand the truth of your creation. “Then you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free” – Jesus (John 8:32). When you are free, your world looks and feels different; there are no pressures, no worries, no fears. This does not mean problems vanish and challenges cease to exist. It means your problems don’t trouble you and the challenges don’t weigh you down. You live in the same world. But you now know how to live above it.

Reaching this state of evolution requires just 20 minutes of being silent each day to start with. Won’t you give 20 minutes of your time daily to gain control over the remaining 1420 minutes in the day? If you invest in the stock-market or real-estate or mutual funds hoping to get a good return on investment (ROI), you will understand the value in giving 20 and taking back 1420!!! You don’t have to listen to Jesus or to me, but listen to Dharmendra, a man who has lived Life fully, is a very colorful personality, has a glad eye, has married more than once and drinks even today with true Punjabi flourish! For he’s one of those who have discovered the secret of living in this world and yet being above it!

In order to find time for yourself, simply create it!

If you can pause and reflect, for a quality period of time daily, the quality of your Life will undoubtedly improve.
Yesterday, at The Brew Room, a beautiful café in downtown Chennai, I caught a hand-written sign that read: “Everything gets better with coffee.” I smiled as I took a picture of this sign. And I thought to myself, how true this simple promotional line for coffee is – in a real world context.
If there’s one thing that we all need desperately in Life it is time. And if there’s one thing that’s available in abundance, and uniformly, to all of us it is time. To be sure, we have the same 24 hours at our disposal. Within our reach. No one has a minute more or a minute less than the other. Yet we scramble along, stumbling and falling, struggling and heaving, complaining forever that we don’t have enough time! Now, the reason why time seems elusive is because we expect all our responsibilities to be settled, all our tasks to be completed, all our goals to be achieved, before we sit down to experience some quality time for ourselves, with ourselves. That certainly is not going to happen. Because each gone moment is gone. It is never going to come back. With each moment that is past, we have lesser time on this planet. This is the bitter truth. And unless we invest time we are not going to be able to create quality time – for ourselves, our families and for doing what we love doing. Period. Just as investing money wisely helps multiply it, investing time wisely alone helps create time.

So, the simplest way to find that time for yourself is to create it. Just drop everything and sit down for 15 minutes to half-an-hour quietly, each day, and feel your breathing. Read something. Check Facebook. Listen to music. Just don’t be under pressure. Think through your day and week. Do this diligently, daily, and watch the quality of your work and Life improving with this practice. I am not sure really if “everything gets better with coffee” all the time, but everything does get better when you pause and reflect. As someone has wisely said, “Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

Unless we know when we worry, we will never be able to quit worrying.

The key to being liberated from worry is to be aware. Being aware requires only being. Just being. Nothing else.
There’s a perception, as a follower of this Blog commented the other day, that simply being is tough. No, it is not.
Examine yourself. Most of the time you worry without even applying your mind. It is a mechanical affair going on in your head. What will happen to this? Or that? Will I get what I want? Will my child be happy? Will my spouse survive? What if something terrible happens and what I want done is not accomplished? It is an incessant chatter. A cacophony in your head. And one worry sparks off another and another. Often times, this becomes uncontrollable. And you seek remedy. Someone tells you to lean towards meditation. Someone else tells you to propitiate the Gods. Someone again tells you to meet an astrologer or soothsayer or a tantric. Why? Because your mind refuses to listen to you.
Kabir, the 16th Century, weaver-poet, says this so beautifully in his couplet!
“Maala To Kar Mein Phire,
Jeebh Phire Mukh Mahin
Manua To Chahun Dish Phire,
Yeh To Simran Nahin”
Translation
The rosary rotating by the hand,
the tongue twisting in the mouth,
With the mind wandering everywhere, this isn’t meditation
(counting the rosary, repeating mantras, if the mind is traveling – this is not meditation)
Meaning: Control the mind, not the beads or the words.
That ability to control the mind will come only from your awareness. Awareness can be inspired in you by practicing silence.
Spend an hour being silent every day. Just being. Read a passage. Write your thoughts in your personal journal. Do whatever you want, but remain silent and refuse to attend to anything that calls for you to disengage from what you plan to do in that hour. Don’t sleep. Don’t speak. Your hour of silence can make you super productive and aware during the other 23 hours in the day! So, it is good return on investment. This is the practice of ‘mouna’.
To be sure, it will not eradicate worry. Worry will arise, but your awareness will cut off that flow of thought. It will arrest the worry in its tracks. And help you come back to focusing on whatever you are doing in the moment. Practicing ‘mouna’or silence periods bring you to appreciate the power of now! Remember, there is precious little you can do about what you worry about by simply worrying! You can either act on a situation and succeed, or act on a situation and if you fail, accept that outcome. Or just leave the situation to Life to sort things out over time. Why worry? And then, worse, why worry about your worrying? The bottomline is don’t worry about worrying. Focus on where that worry germinates, sprouts, takes root. Go to that point and stem the flow of worry.

Be mindful: have a ‘serene encounter with reality’!

Whatever you do, do it with total immersion. Enjoy the process of doing what you are doing. That’s called mindfulness. And that’s the key to inner peace.
Doing the dishes, to me, is a meditative practice
Yesterday my daughter, a psychology graduate, caught me dusting a thin layer of dust on top of a cupboard in our kitchen. She quipped, “Dad, cleaning around the house makes you happy, doesn’t it?” I smiled at her. And confessed that indeed it does make me happy. In fact, to me, house-keeping, is a meditative practice. It is not a chore. Yes, it does become a challenge when you have to juggle with your other schedules and have to try and fit in quality time for house-keeping. But I have realized that I am very mindful when I am cleaning up around the house. I go about it calmly, methodically and, however physically strenuous it may get at times, I enjoy the process. I love doing the dishes or cleaning surfaces, I invest time to get the toilets to be squeaky clean and generally love the idea of having a dust-free home environment – something that’s so difficult in Indian conditions and so requires being at it continuously, consistently!
I have discovered that when you are mindful of whatever it is that you are doing there’s great inner peace and joy. And no work or task is menial or burdensome as long as you don’t treat it as a chore. In fact, immersion really means being completely involved in, engaged in, and mindful of whatever it is that you are doing. Of course, it is possible that you may not always like to do some things. But when you don’t have a choice – and you have to also do what you dislike doing – if you choose to be mindful, you will get through that task or activity even more efficiently than when you are resisting it.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, a.k.a Thay, says it so beautifully: “In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.” The essence of what he has to say is contained in the last phrase – ‘it is a serene encounter with reality’. Most of the time, almost all of us, resist our reality. We don’t like what we are going through. Or we dislike what we have to do. Or we are so engrossed in dealing with our ‘extended’ realities that we miss the magic and beauty of everyday living. Thay recommends that we must awaken to the reality in each moment. And not just to be stuck with our ‘extended’ reality. For instance, if you keep worrying about your fourth stage cancer and the fact that you will soon die, how will you enjoy a sunrise? So, in this context, your cancer is your ‘extended’ reality. But the more immediate one is the sunrise. Enjoy it, says Thay, because soon it – the moment bearing the sunrise – will be gone. Meditation is really what the art of living is all about – the ability to value each moment, cherish it, be joyful in it and move on to the next moment with undiluted enthusiasm. How can you enjoy a moment when it is painful, you may wonder? What if someone is dead? What if someone’s betrayed you? How will you cope with a moment when you are wishing it away? That’s why Thay prescribes a ‘serene encounter with reality’ – he says, don’t resist, don’t fight, instead accept, what is. Accepting what is, is the best way to gain inner peace. When you accept your reality, you begin to experience joy in the moment.
The human mind is like the human body. It can be trained. I have trained my mind by practicing both silence periods (mouna) and mindfulness – immersing myself in what I do. Over time, I have learnt to banish worry (despite the daunting circumstances my family and I are faced with owing to our grave financial state) and just be in the moment. Often time, cleaning around my house gives me that sense of equanimity. Through my own experience I know that if you immerse yourself in whatever you do, enjoying the process of doing it, being always mindful, you too can be happy, despite the circumstances!

A frustration is a clear sign that you are resisting Life

When you feel frustrated about something or someone, stop wanting to control the situation or person, and simply let it – the frustration, the situation or the person – go!
I spent much of yesterday battling with my laptop. My laptop was gifted to me by someone last year. For some vague reason, in today’s age and time, it has only an Intel Pentium processor. For that reason, it is an awfully slow machine. I also have a Norton anti-virus software installed on my laptop which further inhibits its speed. Yesterday, I discovered that the Norton anti-virus program had crashed and when I tried to trouble-shoot and fix it, it made my machine even more slow. Now, I am not a tech geek. I just know how to use my machine and that’s it. So, while I battled with my laptop and agonized over every click of the mouse, my frustration mounted. I realized that I was letting my frustrations get the better of me, when I took it out on someone who rang the door-bell mistakenly. Soon, I was also hopping mad at the maid and beginning to sound irritable with a business associate who had called up proposing something impractical. That’s when I decided to let it all go! I said to myself that if this is the way my machine is going to be, so be it. If this is the way the Norton anti-virus program is going to behave, so be it. If this is the way people – my maid, the person who rang the door-bell and the unreasonable business associate – are going to be, let them be. I shut down my machine and went for a long walk with my wife.
I was healed at the end of that walk. I then returned to my desk and observed 20 minutes of silence. I forgave myself for letting my frustrations control me. I simply surrendered to the situation. I decided to live with the machine that I have – than lament about its idiosyncrasies or its slow speed or pine for a better, faster laptop.
I am sharing my experience – and learning – here just so that you too realize that it is perfectly normal for frustrations to happen in everyday Life. But to allow them to govern and control your moods is to push yourself into a depressive spiral. You feel frustrated only when you dislike whatever is happening to you. A frustration is a clear sign that you are resisting Life. You can’t avoid frustrations from arising though – a flat tyre, a computer that hangs, a phone that loses its display, an unreasonable fellow passenger on a plane, a delayed paycheck – anything, or anyone, can cause you to feel frustrated. But if you refuse to get dragged by that frustration into depression and instead are aware that your frustration is an early warning sign of your resisting Life, then you can overcome the situation and heal yourself. On the other hand, if you let the frustration take over and control you for more than a day, chances are you will let anger consume you soon, and before you know it, you will be depressed. Funnily enough, if you watch your thoughts and behavior patterns when you are frustrated, you will realize that you often end up feeling frustrated about everything around you – and not just with the one thing or person that ticked you off in the first place.
So, at the first sign of a frustration arise, pause, take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of the situation or the person who is frustrating you. Awaken to the realization that your being frustrated with a situation is not going to make it any better. On the contrary, it is surely going to make you feel worse!