Gift yourself the Miracle of Mindfulness


As you start a New Year, gift yourself mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is not an impractical, difficult to do, practice if you understand the concept clearly. It is the ability to just stay engaged in the moment. Because Life is happening only in the present.

After last night’s revelry, it’s possible you slept late and woke up late too. But while you may have woken up, you may not be awake in the true sense. Mindfulness is being awake to the miracle of what’s happening to you in the present.

But the mind is cruel. It doesn’t easily listen to what you want it to do. It slips back into guilt or grief about the past or begins to worry for the future. When you are stuck in the past or peering into the future you are forgetting to look at what is. You are then forgetful, not mindful!

The Vietnamese Master Thich Naht Hahn, also called ‘Thay’ by his followers, helps us with a simple, 3-step process to become mindful. Whenever your mind strays, which is ever so often, bring it back by:

1.     Smiling

2.     Focusing on your breathing

3.     Going about whatever you are doing slowly

Let’s say your mind starts thinking of an important commitment you have to keep, say, an EMI is to be paid. And you don’t have the money nor visibility for the money. As you dwell on what you don’t have, the money in this case, you will start worrying. And soon worry will breed insecurity. Instead, the moment your mind starts to worry, smile, focus on your breathing and bring your attention to what needs to get done to raise the money required to pay the EMI. Mindfulness may not take your problem away. But will help you see a solution instead of simply worrying about a problem. And only a solution can solve a problem, not worrying!

If you like the idea, put it into practice by declaring one day of the week, starting this year, your Mindfulness Day. Spend the entire day doing everything only within the framework of the 3 steps that Thay recommends. Whatever you do, from waking up, brushing your teeth, sipping your coffee, reading the papers, looking out the window, watching a movie, having sex, taking an evening walk, drinking wine, whatever, do it mindfully. Review how you feel at the end of the day. And you will find that it would have been the most beautiful day of your Life. Make sure you have a Mindfulness Day, each week. Over weeks, you will want to make your entire week have Mindfulness Days only!

This doesn’t mean you don’t pursue goals. That you don’t remain aggressive. That you abstain from something.

It only means quit brooding and quit worrying. This will be the best gift you can give yourself this New Year! That’s when you will discover the miracle in Mindfulness.

When you really get this practice embedded in the way you live, you will have a really Happy, because it is Mindful, New Year!

Don’t intellectualize Life, just live it!


You can’t intellectualize Life. You can only live it.

And the best way to live is to see from your soul. From the real core of your being. When you open your soul, you will see the light.

You are really not what you think you are __ you are not your name or body or qualification or your job! You are the Universe’s energy that’s powering you, and is actually powering all of creation. This isn’t complex at all. Every thing that’s happening to you and has happened or will happen in the future, is transient. Which is why in Indian culture, we refer to Life as ‘maya’ or as an illusion. So, in the end, this entire lifetime will be over, this experience you have had will end, but you soul will go on.

All your problems, worries, anxieties, fear, suffering come when you intellectualize Life. I have no money, what will I do? I am starting a new job, what will happen if I don’t fit into the new place’s culture? I have cancer and I will die soon. All these are intellectual responses. You have been conditioned to believe that you need money to live. That you cannot survive cancer. That people are unkind and that you must be wary of them in general. The soul has no such issues. It is impregnable. Nothing can touch it. If you understand your true Self, and see from your soul, you will live Life. And not merely exist.

Swami Ramakrishna Paramhamsa explains this very well. He was asked: “What is the logical, rational support for your illumination?” The question really was to understand what as the evidence for Ramakrishna’s enlightenment. He replied: “I am the argument. If you can understand me, if you can feel me you will know my illumination. It is radiating but your eyes are closed. Now I am not responsible for your eyes. If you want to know me, open your eyes — and not only the outward eyes but the inward too, because my illumination is of the inner.”

So it is with each of us. Our souls are closed. We operate as if our excel sheets and smart phones and our decisions make our lives happen. The truth is that Life makes our lifetimes happen. We don’t! If we accept this reality, Life will be simpler and much, much, much more beautiful!

When you pause for a while and watch lazy raindrops fall rhythmically on water puddles, when you see a baby sleeping peacefully with no care about the world around it, when you hear the bleating of a goat, when you see the sun magically disappear over the horizon, when you reflect on your breathing…..in those times, your soul will be open. The key is to make this experience consistently repeatable. And that can happen ONLY when intellectualization stops and living begins!
                                                                                                                                                                                          

Every moment in Life is a Leap of Faith


Don’t approach the future with fear. Dive into it with complete abandon!

Many a time, thanks to the blows Life would have dealt you, you may choose to tread warily, cautiously. This innate human nature to be forewarned sometimes evolves into fear. Fear breeds insecurity. And that leads to worry. How can you deal with what’s coming up in your Life when you are not even present __ in the present moment?

Life’s inevitable situations are agreeably numbing. They just leave you scarred and socked. But don’t let a past experience prevent you from living what you are endowed with right now or prevent you from approaching what’s coming up, freely.

Anchor in faith though. Know that if you have lived through your worst times, then you are ready for anything. And believe me when I say that what you fear most never happens. And if it is death that you fear, then that’s foolish. Because if you were to die, you would not even know you are dead. Someone else will have to be called in to certify that you are dead.

By letting fear get to you, you are losing Life as it is happening. Going through challenging times IS Life! While planning is important and we should all work towards higher fiscal and physical efficiencies, we must also understand that Life’s Master Plan is above all else. And when Life happens, you better be present. If you are busy planning, fearing or are swamped in the past or worrying about the future, you will miss living. And when you think you are ready to live, it’s already too late and the time to die, to depart has come!

Remember: Life is a bunjee jump. Every moment of Life is a leap of faith. Either you can let the fear of unknown cripple you or you can anchor in faith and know also that during the course of your jump, even as you think it’s all over, you will either be given wings to fly or a hand will haul you up!
                                                                                                                                                                                          

Life Really Is A Mind Game


Life really is a mind game. And you need to be on top of the game to live your Life fully!
The human mind is an amazing, to use a Gen Y term, App! It can do more things than even your iPhone or the fastest supercomputer on the planet ever can! The key is to use it effectively, efficiently and point it to whatever you want out of your Life.  
Examine each of your feelings. Worry, guilt, anger, jealousy, sorrow, pain, suffering __ all of them are born out of your mind. Have you ever asked yourself why do these feelings arise? Let’s take a case. You lose your job. And are out of money. You need to pay your bills. You are fearful as a new month dawns. Is the month fearful? Is the bill fearful? Is non-payment of bills fearful? Or is it that your mind tells you that a scary future awaits you? Indeed it your mind that induces feelings in you. What if someone told you__and proved to you__that non-payment of bills is moksha or nirvana or salvation or bliss?   
According to the Buddha, the mind is full of drunken monkeys who are always jumping around, aimlessly, boisterously, mischievously, cantankerously. They are noisy and there is an incessant chatter that they cause. The drunken monkeys are Buddha’s metaphor for the 60,000 thoughts that arise in your mind daily. Research has proven that the average human mind throws up 60,000 thoughts daily. And these thoughts are random. They sometimes have no relation to what you are doing. For instance, while driving to work, you may see a lady in a red dress. And that lady could remind you of a girl from your college that you once had a crush on. And soon the thoughts could move to how difficult you found Economics back then. That thought could lead you to how you cheated in exams. And then you start wondering how hypocritical it is to be counseling your adolescent child on integrity. Then you think about the lack of transparency in public Life. You think of the state of your country. And then your mind complains about how bad the roads are and how messy the traffic has become. One red dress took you, in a few seconds, on a trip that spanned several decades and various issues! 
That’s really how powerful your mind is. The Buddha also taught that it is imminently possible to tame the mind monkeys. He said don’t resist them, don’t control them, because what you resist, persists. Instead tame them. And that means give them something meaningful to play with. On a spiritual plane, giving the monkeys awareness of your true Self is a beautiful way to tame them. When your mind knows who you really are__that you are simply the energy that powers the Universe__the mind will quit playing stupid, senseless games. You will begin to see everything__EVERYTHING__as petty, transient, fleeting and inconsequential. Success, failure, sorrow and joy, will mean the same to you. On a more practical plane, taming the monkeys means giving them a higher cause, a Purpose and a Vision, to play with. Which is, when the monkeys know why they do what they do, they will do it with involvement, with passion and with diligence. Then there will be no jumping around. There will be a certain aesthetic quality to your thinking, bringing a beauty, a sense of Purpose to everything that you do! 
On Sunday, Aadya Kaktikar wrote, in The Times of India’s Crest Edition, a piece on Odissi exponent Guru Mayadhar Raut. In the article, reviewing Raut’s biography ‘Odissi Yatra’, Kaktikar asks the Guru how he has such a phenomenal memory at his ripe age of 83. And Raut replies: ‘Ye man ki ekagrata se hota hai. Ye man ek rai ki pudiya jaise hai. Yadi bikhar gaya to use phir saath lana assambhav hai’. Meaning, “This is possible due to the focus of the mind. The mind is like a bag of mustard seeds. Once the seeds scatter it is impossible to gather them again.”
Mindfulness: This is so simple and yet so profound!

That’s at the same time so simple and yet so profound. For all of us who have not tamed our mind monkeys, our thoughts are like those mustard seeds__they are all over the place. Which is why we worry, fear, are anxious, sometimes jealous, often angry and are quickly filled with suffering at the slightest hint of pain! Which is also why we don’t see the beauty, magic and miracle of Life, in everyday occurrences. 

Change your Manic Monday today to Mindful Monday! Point your mind in the direction of your true Self and on your Vision for yourself. Let nothing distract you.  
Remember as long as your thoughts, your mustard seeds are gathered and your mind monkeys stay tamed, you will be alive to the magic of each moment. It is the sum of all these awakened moments that will make up the rest of your Life! To make them memorable or keep them manic, of course, is your personal choice!