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”
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.

A weaver, a verse and 4 haunting questions

Pause. Ask yourself four quick questions: 1. What am I rushing in Life for? 2. What security do I need in this Life to live doing what I truly love doing? 3. What am I praying for? 4. What is my deepest aspiration in Life?

Understandably, these questions cannot be answered in a jiffy. But asking them doesn’t cost anything. On the contrary, it awards you with inquiry, grants you thinking that can transform your Life. But these are also uncomfortable questions. And so we don’t want to dwell on them. We prefer just rushing along with our daily lives __ continuing to work without joy, to live in fear, feeling frustrated and insecure. Every now and then, we turn to God, demanding that our financial, emotional and physical problems be solved. With some element of probability coming in to play, when our prayers are granted, we thank God. When they go unanswered, we blame God.

Kabir, the 16th Century mystic poet, a humble weaver by occupation, invites us to find the God, who we desperately seek, in the Faith we (must) have in ourselves. For those who follow Hindi, find the verse rendered in Bhupinder’s soulful voice on this link:
This verse translates as follows in English:
“Where do you search for me? I am with you
Not in pilgrimage, nor in idols, Neither in solitude
Not in temples, nor in mosques
Neither in Kaba nor in Kailash
I am with you O man, I am with you
Not in prayers, nor in meditation, Neither in fasting
Not in yogic exercises, Neither in renunciation
Neither in the vital Life source nor in the body, Not even in the ethereal space
Neither in the womb of nature, Not in the breath of the breath
Seek earnestly and discover, In but a moment of search
Says Kabir, Listen with care, Where your Faith is, I am there.”

So, stop running. Stop searching. Stop seeking. Stop fearing. Start living. Live in Faith. You will find meaning in your Life. And, ah, yes, you will also find the answers to the four questions above! When you answer those questions, you will find joy filling your Life!!!

When you flow with Life, you will find peace and joy ‘in’ you

Learn to flow with Life.

Life is like a river. It has a mind of its own. It does not worry about precipice or a fall, nor is it perturbed by the boulders on the path. A crevice is all it needs, to make progress and find its way. The best we can do, as people who have been created without our asking to be born, is to enjoy the scenery as Life flows. When we don’t like what we see or experience, we can rave, rant, kick our feet, bury our heads in despair, but Life goes on – the way it wants to, not the way we wish it would! Such is the nature of Life. The only sensible option is to learn to appreciate the reality, accept it and to live with it.

Living is important. When you worry, you stop living. Even those who choose to go to mind-body-soul rejuvenation programs, are worrying. They are worrying about how the world will cope without them. They worry about their ability to ‘endure’ and ‘survive’ the program. Look at those words__endure and survive__they too are reflective of an inherent concern. So, when you worry, you have lost yet another moment of peace that was possible. And you begin to hunt for places where you will be peaceful. Temples, churches, mosques, gurudwaras, synagogues…a bar for some perhaps, a joint for others…you are forever seeking a place where you will find peace and joy! The best-kept secret is that when you start living, you will find these inyou! The fifteenth century weaver, mystic and Master, Kabir (1440 ~ 1518) says it perfectly: “Do not go to the garden of flowers! O Friend! go not there; In your body is the garden of flowers. Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the Infinite Beauty.”

Flow with Life. And you will find peace and joy overflowing from within you!

Stop being a ‘thought terrorist’!

You are human first. Your gender, your religion, your nationality, your qualifications and your income come later and, quite honestly, don’t matter at all.
Misbah Quadri
Picture Courtesy: The Hindu
This morning’s Hindureports the shocking story of a 25-year-old young lady, Misbah Quadri, being denied accommodation in all of Mumbai just because she is a Muslim! “Mumbai – of all places?” I thought. If Mumbai has become so parochial, the rest of India may well be damned! But this is not an isolated story or occurrence. The other day I was at a friend’s place for dinner. And he openly acknowledged that he would never rent his apartment to Muslims. He confessed: “Call me conservative or anti-Muslim, I cannot simply trust people who belong to that religion.” My friend is educated, widely traveled, does business globally and yet he holds such a regressive view? Within my own family, I have someone who cannot refer to Muslims without using an expletive alongside. This is a sad trend and needs to be condemned with as much intensity as it is being propagated.
When I think about it deeply, dispassionately, I believe we are finding it convenient to generalize and to hide behind our insecurities and flawed assumptions. While it is true that most acts of terror in the world are conducted by Muslims, it is wrong to imagine that all Muslims are terrorists. Perhaps, people find it simpler to banish an entire community because they have never tried to – or wanted to – be discerning in their judgment. Another reason why people cannot understand or appreciate Muslims may be because of their inscrutable practices, rituals and traditions – from circumcision to Muharram to the ubiquitous burkha. But that is no valid argument. Every religion, the way each of us is raised, every community has its own idiosyncratic methods and beliefs. If you find a burkha restricting women empowerment, then you should find the Hindu practice of disallowing girl children from performing the last rites of a dead parent equally restrictive. A sandhyavandanam can be as banal as Muharram if you don’t understand the significance of either.
I think there are as many reasons to divide humanity in this world as there are people on the planet. We don’t need to invent newer ways or choose to alienate a particular community or religion just because we don’t know or understand someone or something. Those who think they are very smart in exercising options such as the ones my friend has chosen, or what building societies in Mumbai have chosen against young Misbah, are actually sick in their heads and hearts. The very thought that you can discriminate against someone just because he or she belongs to a particular community or religion is an act of violence. As Gandhi would say, it is himsa (violence) of the highest order. It is worse than the acts of terror that kill people around the world each year. We must drop this tendency to be violent in our thoughts, in our perceptions, that lead us to discriminate against fellow human beings – urgently and wholeheartedly.

Fundamentally, let’s remember that there are only two kinds of people in the world. Humans who practice love and compassion. And humans who indulge in hatred and violence. If you cannot immediately decide which category someone belongs to, it is fine. But don’t imagine they belong to the latter category just because they come from a community that you think is redoubtable. If you do that, in the absence of valid, irrefutable evidence, unfortunately, sadly, you will be indulging in himsa too! When you discriminate against someone, you are being violent in thought. And, to be sure, thoughts can kill – they are like cancer, chewing away humanity! So, unless you are one, stop being a ‘thought terrorist’! 

Peel off the unnecessary layers to discover yourself!

Unmask yourself. And you will find pure joy, unadulterated bliss, with no expiry date, limitless, in a nano-second.
You are not father, son, husband, brother, sister, mother, wife and daughter. You are not an engineer, doctor, CEO, writer, lawyer, student, gardener, cook, cleaner, pilot, whatever. You and I are not what we yearn for, or toiled, to become. You__and I__are a free spirit. You are because you can breathe. When your breathing stops and someone declares you dead, they will pack you off and cremate or bury you. Kabir, the 15thCentury weaver-poet, describes this so matter-of-factly: “While you are busy perfuming your body with sandalwood, someone else is chopping the wood for your funeral…you forget that when you die, they will truss you up with a rope, just like a common thief, and put you on the pyre to burn…can’t you see that Rama is the only truth says Kabir…” When you are gone, gone too will the engineer or brother or wife or CEO. But what about the energy that powered you? Has it perished and been consecrated like you? Or is it free – and out there in the cosmos!

This is all there is to understanding Life. When you unmask yourself and stand naked, you see the truth. Kabir refers to it as Rama. Shirdi Baba called it Maalik. Jesus called it Father. The truth is that the Self, the atman (in Sanskrit), the soul, is indestructible. When we know this truth, then living becomes so simple. Life acquires an indescribable hue, a beauty that cuts across race, caste, protocol and stays anchored on being human. Khalil Gibran (1883~1931), the Lebanese-American author, has taught this so powerfully: “If a man knew himself, he would know all of mankind. I say if a man loved mankind, he would know something of himself.” To know yourself, therefore, and to become love, capable of loving all, you must unmask yourself. Peel off all your layers. And anchor in the energy that is you. This is where you__and I__and all of humanity will meet and drink from Life’s cup of bliss, together! 

Goodness, in ourselves, and in others, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder.

The biggest casualty in Life is trust. And all the problems in the world are because of a trust deficit.
Look at the way we have been brought up. In a real world, with crime, terror, deceit and falsehood, we bring up our children pretty much the same way as we have been. We insist that they don’t speak to strangers, don’t accept eatables from them and don’t leave school unless one of us, parents, picks them up. In our zeal to protect and ensure safety of our children, we are, unwittingly, teaching them not to trust fellow human beings. Nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when, after we, or our children, reach adulthood, we don’t ‘unlearn’ what we have learnt to do__more as a necessity than as a choice. Resultantly, we end up harboring and breeding mistrust all our lives.
A few weeks ago, a friend, a very accomplished businessman who is worth several million dollars, advised me thus: “You should not trust three kinds of people. Don’t trust the three Ms: Muslims, Mangaloreans and Marwaris (the second being a place in Northern Karnataka, and the last being a businessman community from North India).” I was shocked. Here was an educated, successful man, wealthy and civilized, and yet having such primitive, conservative misgivings? But he isn’t the only one with such views. To someone else, it could be three other Ms: Malayalis (people from Kerala), Madrasis (all North Indians call anyone South Indian, a Madrasi) or Mongolians! Or it could be the three Hs: Hindus, Hungarians and the Hungry. Or the 10 Bs and so on. This is endless. And Meaningless. My response to my friend therefore was: “Well you can definitely trust one M: ‘Manithan’!” ‘Manithan’ in Tamzih means human!
Let us get this straight and right: just because we had a few bad experiences with a few ‘unevolved’ people, it does not make the whole human race bad. The number of peace-loving people in the world is far, far more than the small number of misguided, blood-thirsty extremists. There are more mothers around than the draconian mothers-in-law (saas) that Indian brides keep fearing! There are so many, many more people that are willing to help you in Life, at work, on the street, than that are out to cheat you or exploit you. There is so much goodness that’s waiting to be embraced and experienced from fellow humans than all the misery that we see and all the miserable people that we dread. To see the goodness in people, in Life, you need to stop generalizing and extrapolating your past experiences, and simply learn to trust both people and Life!
The 15thcentury mystic weaver-poet Kabir (1440 ~ 1518) says, “The river that flows in you also flows in me.” He championed seeing the oneness in creation and argued that if you could trust yourself, you could trust others. Lalon Fakir (1774 ~ 1890), a singer belonging to the wandering mystic sect, Bauls, criticized the superficiality of religious divisions in the 1850s when he sang these lines:  “Everyone asks: “Lalon, what’s your religion in this world?” Lalon answers: “How does religion look?” I’ve never laid eyes on it. Some wear malas [Hindu rosaries] around their necks, some tasbis [Muslim rosaries], and so people say they’ve got different religions. But do you bear the sign of your religion when you come or when you go?” This, incidentally, was the moot question raised by Aamir Khan’s PK too!
As much as we seem we are divided by religion, community, color of skin, nationality, social standing, education, wealth and whatever, we are still united and one as people. Goodness, in ourselves, and in others, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder. So, change the way you see people. Learn to trust them. And in the event you still are let down and your trust is shattered one more time, treat it as the handiwork of someone unevolved, view it as another exception and not the rule. Trusting, forgiving, moving on, you will have found one sure way to live happily, peacefully!

What a Sunday really means and is meant for

Pause. Reflect. Repair. Restart.
This is what a Sunday is supposed to be used for. This is the real meaning of Sunday. For most Christians, Sunday is observed as a day for worship of God and rest, due to the belief that it is Lord’s Day, the day of Christ’s resurrection. It perhaps derives from the Hebrew Sabbath or a Sabbath, which is again generally a weekly day of rest or time of worship. While Sunday is considered a day of rest in most Western and Eastern countries, in most Muslim countries and in Israel, Sunday is a working day. They take their Sabbath on Fridays. The important thing is not what day of the week, per the English weekly calendar, a Sabbath is taken. What is important is it is taken.
Do we take a Sabbath? Do we pause, reflect, repair and restart with fresh vigor? Or do we laze, drowse, feast and snooze on Sundays? Nothing wrong with the lazing and snoozing, except, when done mindfully, even that is a process of rejuvenation. But we are hardly mindful. True divinity, real repair of the soul, is experienced through mindfulness.
Here’s a story to illustrate this point. A priest went to Japan to study in a Zen monastery. He said that after sitting in meditation for long hours his legs would often begin to ache terribly. The Master advised him on the proper procedure and then asked what practice he was following in meditation. The priest explained that he was sitting silently in the presence of “God” without words or thoughts or images or ideas. The Master then asked if his God was everywhere. The priest nodded his head, “yes.” He asked if he was wrapped around in God, and the answer again was yes. “Very good, very good,” said the Master. “Continue this way. Just keep on. And eventually you will find that “God” will disappear and only you will remain.” The priest was offended by this logic, for it sounded like a denial of his sacred beliefs. He contradicted the Master and said, “God will not disappear. But I might disappear and only God will be left.” “Yes, yes,” the Master agreed, smiling. “It’s the same thing. That is what I mean.”
Indeed. That’s what a true Sabbath really means. That’s what a Sunday is for. For you to discover the God in you. For you to pause, reflect, repair and restart. And not for you to bury yourself, wearily, warily and slothfully. It is a time and opportunity for intense mindfulness, for filling our souls with bliss, for recharging our batteries. When we do this, we will find the God within. As Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet, has so beautifully said. “Jaise Til Mein Tel Hai, Jyon Chakmak Mein Aag, Tera Sayeen Tujh Mein Hai, Tu Jaag Sake To Jaag”. [Just as seed contains the oil, fire’s in flint stone. Your temple seats the Divine, realize if you can]”
So, use this Sunday intelligently for your Sabbath. Your temple seats the Divine. Invest this Sunday to realize your true Self__the Divine!

Hello…is it you who you are looking for?

Understand yourself. That’s more important than having others understand you. Believe in yourself. That’s more productive than insisting that others believe you.

But as humans we do just the opposite. We crave for being understood by others and lament the lack of faith others have in us. What use is anyone else’s understanding if you don’t know, don’t realize, don’t accept that you are special. That you are capable. That you have been created to enjoy this Lifetime and not suffer it? It is from awareness of your true Self that you will be introduced to the God within. Most of us just refuse to consider the argument that the energy that powers us, that keeps us alive, is the God who we so desperately seek.
Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet, has explained this so remarkably:

Moko Kahan Dhundhere Bande Mein To Tere Paas Mein
Na Teerath Mein, Na Moorat Mein Na Ekant Niwas Mein Na Mandir Mein,
Na Masjid Mein Na Kabe Kailas Mein
Mein To Tere Paas Mein Bande Mein To Tere Paas Mein
Na Mein Jap Mein, Na Mein Tap Mein Na Mein Barat Upaas Mein
Na Mein Kiriya Karm Mein Rehta Nahin Jog Sanyas Mein
Nahin Pran Mein Nahin Pind Mein Na Brahmand Akas Mein Na Mein Prakuti Prawar Gufa Mein
Nahin Swasan Ki Swans Mein Khoji Hoye Turat Mil Jaoon Ik Pal Ki Talas Mein
Kahet Kabir Suno Bhai Sadho Mein To Hun Viswas Mein
Translated it means:
Where do you search me? I am with you
Not in pilgrimage, nor in icons, Neither in solitude
Not in temples, nor in mosques Neither in Kaba nor in Kailash
I am with you O man, I am with you
Not in prayers, nor in meditation, Neither in fasting Nor in yogic exercises,
Neither in renunciation Neither in the vital force nor in the body,
Not even in the ethereal space Neither in the womb of Nature,
Nor in the breath of the breath
Seek earnestly and discover, In but a moment of search
Says Kabir, Listen with care, Where your faith is, I am there.
When you awaken to the spirit of Kabir’s message, you will, with due respect to Lionel Richie, discover within you the one you are looking for!

Enjoy (your) God! Cheers!!!

God has to be enjoyed, not feared! Live your Life simply, purely, being present in the moment, and you will experience the God that you always seek. Today is as auspicious as any other day. This moment is as sacred as any other. It is our beliefs, primarily conditioned through the medium of religion, that have taken us away from enjoying Life for what it is and have led us to fear (a) God! And anything that’s feared cannot be enjoyed!
Mandarins of religion, historically, down the ages, have written or propounded principles that are aimed at scaring people that something grave will happen to them if they “disregard or ignore” an external God! As a child, I was warned, by my grandmother, that if I don’t eat my meals on time, “sami vandhu kanna kutthum!” (God will come and pierce or gorge your eyes out). So, the first conditioning we often receive is to “fear” God. More recently, a family member who lost her mother, was not allowed to attend the obsequies by her husband because someone else (a distant relative) had died in his side of the family – and per traditional “religious” practice/protocol you must mourn your husband’s loss first over your own! What kind of a religion is it if it prevents a daughter from mourning the loss of her mother and being with her own siblings and father in a time of grief? But such absurdities abound – and worse, they are adhered to because the protagonists “fear” God will harm them if they “dare to disregard, disrespect” or “sin”!
There’s a story from Guru Nanak’s Life that delivers an awakening message. It is said that, per Islam, sleeping with your feet in the direction of Kaaba, which is one of the most sacred sites for Muslims and is in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is not permitted. Now Nanak is believed to have visited Kaaba and was found sleeping with his feet pointing to the Kaaba. The Imam, the holy priest, of Kaaba came over and angrily shook Nanak awake. He asked Nanak to explain how dare he point his feet at the holy site.
He thundered at Nanak, “Whether you are a Muslim or not, can’t you obey the rules? Shame on you! Now change your direction and go to sleep.”                                                                                                                                                                      
Nanak replied humbly: “Sir, I have tried but it is just not working out. Why don’t you try pointing my feet away from the Kaaba?”
The Imam was furious. He violently dragged Nanak’s feet away from the Kaaba. But however much he tried, the Kaaba moved too, to be always ending up facing Nanak’s feet. The Imam tried a hundred times. But a hundred times, the Kaaba moved following Nanak’s feet.
Nanak laughed and said: “This is my problem. I also tried. And I also gave up. In which direction do I point my feet? I realize that every direction is holy – and all creation, existence, is divine.”
So it is. A memorable point-counter-point among three famous Urdu poets, spread over 200 years and three generations, further amplifies this message!
 The venerable Mirza Ghalib (1797~1869) was once caught drinking alcohol in a mosque. He said, when asked to explain himself, “Sharaab pene de masjid mein baith kar, ya who jagah bata jahan khuda nahi…” It means: “Allow me to drink in the mosque or tell me a place where God isn’t present (so I can go drink there!).
Allama Iqbal (1877~1938), perhaps offering a counter to Ghalib said: Masjid khuda ka ghar hai, peeney ki jagha nahin, Kaafir ke dil mein ja, Wahan khudaa nahin… It means: “A mosque is God’s abode, not a place to imbibe alcohol, go to the heart of a non-believer, as God does not reside there”
Ahmed Faraz (1931~2008), offered his take on Iqbal’s, saying: Kaafir ke dil se aya hoon mein yeh dekh kar, Khuda maujood hai wahan, Par usey pata nahin… It means: “I have come from seeing a non-believer’s (perhaps referring to himself) heart, God is resident there too…but the non-believer doesn’t quite know this!”
I am not sure if an external God, a Creator of the Universe exists, in reality. But I do believe that all of creation is so beautiful, so divine. And each of us has been created to experience this. Through this experience, we will find our God – within us! As Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet says: “As oil is in the oilseed, so is the Lord within three, unrevealed”. I also have come to believe that this God within has to be enjoyed, not feared! As the Quran says, Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim__meaning, if you believe there is a God, then that God is, in the name of Allah, Benevolent and Merciful!

Here’s hoping that this Eid, you too celebrate the Universal Energy that powers you and enjoy the God that resides in you!

Everything’s as it should be and all is well

Everything happens at the right time. In Life, there’s really no concept of a good time or a bad one. Good or bad are labels that we human beings place. Life’s happening at its own pace, of its own accord and in the way it must happen.
We agonize over things, events and people because we seek instant gratification. In an SMS generation, this is even more starkly evident. Everyone wants everything now and fast.
Practicing mindfulness, enjoying every breath we take, every morsel we eat, every sight we behold, is the best way to live. This doesn’t mean you must not be ambitious or aggressive. This means don’t rush through Life as if it were a 100-meter race. It is not. Learn to be patient. Everything happens to a plan, and just because we are not aware of that plan it doesn’t mean there isn’t one! What we may like to accept and keep in mind always is that, this Master Plan has no flaws.
Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet, has said this so beautifully:
Dheere Dheere Re Mana, Dheere Sub Kuch Hoye
Maali Seenche Sau Ghara, Ritu Aye Phal Hoye
It means:
Slowly, slowly O! Mind….everything happens at its own pace…
The gardener may water with a hundred buckets, but the fruit arrives only in its season….

So as you rush through another Monday, breathe easy, slow down, be mindful. Don’t let the traffic affect your mood. Don’t let your meaningless meetings drain you. Don’t let any no disappoint you. Know that everything is fine. And as that memorable line in the classic Hindi movie ‘3 Idiots’, which I was watching on TV last night, goes, ‘All EEZ WELL’. In fact, everything is as it should be and all is well!