Monthly Archives: February 2017

Priceless !

This blog is dedicated to all the priceless entities.

Vipassana meditation retreats that I keep mentioning in my blogs are free – they are run on a pay it forward or donation basis. You pay with what you can and pay only if you want – a lot of people come back and volunteer for another course as it is a completely volunteer run retreat.

The reason I mention this is because in one of his discourses Goenka Ji says, “What price will you pay for this teaching? This teaching is invaluable.” And I am beginning to realize more and more how invaluable it is. It helps us get out of the suffering that comes from being in the human predicament. If Buddha hadn’t figured a way out we would have to do it on our own. Buddha went through lifetimes to find this invaluable jewel – it is truly priceless.

Similarly, if you have gone to yoga class – the sequence of asanas has a reason behind it. And the asana itself – why lift your leg only this way, why not do only the right side – there is a lot of science and art behind it. Imagine coming up with a yoga sequence, be it Ashtanga – Iyengar – Bikram.

Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.

How would we ever put a price on yoga?

Creativity is another example. We recently went to a Taiko performance by a Japanese Group Dadan.

There was a moment during the performance where I had tears in my eyes and I am not the sentimental type. But the energy and the creativity is so pure that you connect with it at such a deeper level that it stirs your soul and you experience a glimpse of the ultimate peace – that is priceless.

If you think about even the other items that have a price tag on it – for example a carrot – some farmer somewhere put the seed in, mother earth brought up the carrot along with little help from the weather elements like rain and sun. Someone plucked it, put it in truck, cleaned and through many other change of hands it ended up in the grocery store. Does the price tag take into account all that?

Another movement which is picking up some speed is the pay it forward movement. Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor. An example of this is the Karma KitchenImagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads $0.00 with only this footnote: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you.”

This blog is my namaste to all these priceless items which have helped me in my life and without these it would be incomplete.

We are all in Prison

Raymond Fiest, one of my favorite fantasy authors writes in his book, “The Magician”

we are the architect of our own prison

What does he mean by that? Let me tell you a story.

A rich couple are blessed with a baby boy after several years of marriage. They bring the boy up and groom him to be a business man so that he can take over his dad’s business. Twenty five years of father’s life have gone in building the dream that his son will carry on his legacy. You can imagine the dismay when his son announces that he wants to be a farmer and not a business man like his father. The father tells his son, “You have made me very unhappy.”

QUESTION: How many of you think he is right? That the son is responsible for his father’s unhappiness.

Here’s a tip: All that the son did was tell his father that he was going to be a farmer. The father had the choice to be happy or unhappy. And he made the choice to be unhappy. That was the prison he created for himself. He not only made himself unhappy but refused to take ownership for that as well.

Imagine how many times in our life we refuse to take the ownership of our own choices. In fact some of us live under the delusion that the external circumstances have made our life miserable and not us. We are not even aware of our own choice.

For example, I remember telling my dad that I was probably going to hate Columbus after London. And my dad in his practical fashion, responded, “You can hate Columbus all you want, Columbus doesn’t care.”

You don’t get the promotion you want, your spouse divorces you or your kids take to marijuana or somebody you don’t like became the head of your office/country – you make a choice to be happy or unhappy.

It’s ok to make either choice – even if you decide to be unhappy about it – do it knowing that it’s your choice nobody’s making you unhappy. Own the decision. That’s the first step – it’s harder to accept the decision as the best thing that can ever happen to you though. Difficult but not impossible – practice does make everything perfect.

Let’s take the prison theory to next level. This gets a little into the spiritual realm more so than usual. Even when we own our choice or decide to be happy about it all that we are doing is getting better food – in the prison. In the human predicament we are all already in the prison we are just moving to a better one. It is very hard to explain such things in words because words are not enough.

My favorite quote comes to mind,

“In this plane there is no answer and outside the plane there is nobody to ask the question.”

However, in his book UnTethered Soul, Michael singer provides a great description of what I am trying to say. Imagine space/vaccuum in which things are floating like Cars/your ideal job/ your partner/ your savings account etc. The minute your mind focuses on the car , it becomes a block and many such blocks build the prison. It’s all an illusion but we have forgotten that we are actors and are convinced that this is the reality.

How do we get out of the prison? All paths lead to Rome. If this article has planted a seed in you then nurture it, watch for it – if you are drawn towards painting/writing/aerobics or something that you always wanted to do as a kid. Go for it, it might open the door that may be your path out of the prison. For those of us who meditate or do yoga – when we breathe or we are focused on sensations at that moment there is no thought – in that moment we are free

Namaste and Accepting Thanks

I practice Ashtanga Yoga – Mysore style. I started it in London at Hamish’s studio who is one of the most content people I have ever known. And I admire people who are content – truly content with what they have because I “think” I lack that. Anyways, I digress. It was at this studio where I picked up the habit of bowing down to the teachers in the studio after the class which is also known as Namaste.

Today Namaste is used most commonly for Hello, but it has a deeper meaning that that. The more I spend time with books like Ramana Maharishi and Webu Sayadew the more I realize that the rituals of the past had a deeper purpose, a vision to them which the people of today have forgotten. It’s like we keep reciting the prescription without ever tasting the medicines prescribed on it. Namaste is another one of them – when we bow low to somebody we are essentially reminding ourselves that we are all one. That’s what the movie Avtaar meant with the dialogue – “I see you.”

When we moved to Columbus and started practicing at the Ashtanga Yoga Studio I did the same thing. However, I noticed that most of teachers are uncomfortable to the namaste. A bit like when somebody expresses Thank You and you brush it off or try to talk over it. A lot of people are not comfortable with accepting gifts/compliments or even a simple Thanks. I was also in the same boat.

Until I realized the following two things
1. Scenario time: Let’s say a friend has sent you a package that you have been waiting for ages. The Fedex guy comes over to your place to deliver it. He knocks on the door, you open it and immediately offer him drinks, put a garland on him, touch his feet because he got you this lovely gift. – Right it would be taking it a little too far.

Life’s a lot like that – we are all Fedex couriers. Yes, everything happens through us , it’s the ego and pride in us which makes us think I did it. And it is this “I” which brings in the UN-comfortableness. If we accept the thanks and express gratitude for being the medium what is there to be uncomfortable about?

Yoga and Meditation are two such jewels where the teachings have been poured into this vessel which we call body from one generation to the other. It’s to this knowledge and teaching that I bow to – not the body/vessel that contains it. Once we grasp this at a deeper level the discomfort will vanish truly.

2. Something that my prof at Creativity and Personal Mastery course in London Business School,had mentioned. He had said that if we do not accept the thanks or help that somebody is offering then we are blocking the flow. If you help somebody and if somebody else helps you , accept it gracefully and keep the flow going.

That said, last thing I want to talk about is helping others. There is a difference between helping and being of service. If we say, “Let me help you,” it automatically puts you above the other person in some fashion. Where as if you ask,”How can I be of service?” then it takes a different tone. The idea here is that you should be grateful that you can be of service. The words – help/service do not matter, what matter is the intention behind it?
Are you helping because it stroked your ego?
Are you helping because its filling up an empty space within you?
Are you helping because that’s who you are?

A lot of different messages in this thread and I will leave you with this one.

Sinking Ship – SOS

Let’s start with a scenario simulation. You have got this nice trip on cruise ship. You are enjoying yourself and all of a sudden the ship starts sinking due to a large hole. What do you do?
Option a) Leave the Sinking Ship
Option b) Dig the hole faster

Ship sinking while worker is still painting.

You are probably thinking what a dumb question – obviously option (a) – Leave the Sinking Ship. That’s what all logical, sane people will do.

Yes, option (a) is the correct one but the question is which one do we really do/act on. We all know that leaving the ship is the best option. However we not only choose to stay, we even dig the hole faster.

What do I mean by this? Let’s me state another example. A person is learning how to swim – they go to their first class and instructor says pop down under the water and blow bubbles. They are scared but they take a plunge and to their surprise its quite easy to blow bubbles through the nose under water. Now the instructor says – hold the edge of the swimming pool and put your face down and blow bubbles.

And this is where the hole appears in the form of your mind chatter – “Oh! my god. How can I do this now? How will I breathe if I blow bubbles with my nose under the water? I should have never come for swimming. I will never be able to do this.
And this is how we make the hole bigger. The best thing to do would be to abandon the train of thought completely.

It is ironic that even though we know the best option we never actually exercise that option. It’s like we have been hit by an arrow and instead of nursing the wound we keep jabbing ourselves again and again. One of the reasons is that we are used to being under water the so much that we don’t even realize that we can be above the water. In fact some people find it scary if they are above the water and if things are going too well.

In the human predicament and due to the conditioning of our mind we [most of us] have a tendency to let our mind chatter go amuck and take us to places where we really don’t want to go. But we have no control over our own mind chatter or in some cases even the awareness that it’s taking us places where we don’t want to go.

What’s the way out of it you ask? The stage of evolution we are in it’s not possible for majority of us to get rid of the mind chatter but we can influence it, nudge it so that it takes us to happier places. This does not take us out of the prison just gives us better food. But at the very least our head will be above the water.

Like most things the first step is awareness – be aware of your mind chatter as much and as often as you can be. And once you become aware of what’s it thinking it will be impossible for you to not interject and change its trajectory.

What option will you choose? Swim or Sink with your Mind Chatter.