Tag Archives: #vipassana

Have You Experienced Time Yet?

  

We might all think we run our lives – and we are all wrong. Time runs this entire world. The little watches we have on our wrists, calendars on the walls, or our electronic devices rule the world. From the time we wake up to the alarm to the time we go to bed – all we do is run around the clock.

It is almost ten. Is breakfast ready yet?
I have a meeting in ten minutes – can we do this later?
I have to get this done now.
I wish I had more hours in the day?
Where does the time go?

Sounds familiar! We live in a mad world where the human-made concept of time shackles us all. Nature does not live on a timetable, and neither do the planets and sun. I understand that we need to have some concept of time to live in a civilized fashion. But like all things, we have become slaves to time.

Given that time has such significant importance in our lives, one would think that we have experienced time, right? But, have we – experienced time? The past and the future that we talk about are just thoughts that occur in our mind, but not something we know as real—the closest thing to time that we do experience is this moment – NOW. We may plan for the future or repent our past – the only place where we can live and do something is this moment. However, we all live everywhere except in the present – and we wonder why we are not happy?

Imagine you need to get a loaf a bread. You get into the car so that you can get a loaf of bread. You go to the grocery store so that you can get that loaf of bread. You stand in the line so that you can get the loaf of bread. And finally, you get home and eat that loaf of bread so that you can get on with the next thing. And you never even taste that loaf of bread.

Can you see why life is unfulfilling because we never live? We treat this moment as a means to something else. We are conditioning our mind to ‘Live’ in the future or the past but never NOW.

Since we treat every moment as a means to do something that we are never living, no wonder we all go through life feeling something is missing. So, what do we do? First is the awareness that there are two dimensions to living – vertical and horizontal. The purpose of washing dishes is to wash dishes and not to clean them. The primary goal is to wash dishes, and the secondary is to clean them.

In summary, it means doing one thing at a time without thinking about the result and the next item after that. Even if you do, it is secondary – what matters is how mindful you are of what you are doing now.

As you read this article, are you aware of the letters flashing in front of your eyes, or is this article stopping you from getting on with the next moment – which will happen in the NOW?

HumanKind-ness. It’s the ultimate truth

A young woman lost touch with her dad as a child when her parents divorced. As she grows up, she desires to meet him – she finds out that he is dead. She wishes she had made an effort to reach out to him sooner.

A woman’s in-laws shun her because she could not produce a male heir. And the problem is not with her but her husband but still she bears the grunt of insults.

Another young woman is in a toxic relationship with her boyfriend. They are going to therapy but cannot break the vicious cycle of emotions that keep them tied to each other and unhappy.

A young girl’s parents demand that the boy they found with her marry her even if he is not of the same caste. Boy’s parents have no choice but to agree.

All these stories, I am sure sound familiar to you right. You might have had some experiences yourself or know of friends who did. As a part of the human experience, we all suffer through the same emotions. Even if the situations are different, some situations may be as drastic as the death of close one or minor like a car breaking down, but the feelings we go through remain the same.

If I told you that the first three stories are about billionaires who buy a fifteen thousand dollar fish maw for soup and the last is of a poor farmer of a low caste. Does your perspective change?

Until we knew that they were super-rich or poor, we had a different kind of connection, and when we got to know their financial status, there was a small shift. And the shift happened in our head – our mindset. Why does race, finances, skin colour, country of origin have to play in part in how we relate with each other? We all have two eyes, two ears, one nose and a mouth.

Imagine you and your friends are playing a video game where you each have an avatar. One of your friend’s avatar hits the jackpot and can fly now. And your avatar becomes a mean underworld don. Will you start treating each other differently? No, right because that would be silly. Just because a bunch of pixels on the screen can fly does not mean you treat your friend differently.

But we do this in real life all the time? If somebody is rich, they get a different preference than somebody who is not. If somebody is a CEO, they are looked upon differently from a janitor? Who said that just because somebody is a CEO, they are better than a Janitor? As a society, we came up with this structure because our mind (ego) likes differentiation. If there was no comparison or need for control, then there is no need for ego – Ego will have to die, which it does not want.

Life is no different from the video game where we have avatars who go around doing all this stuff – underneath it all we are all the same.

Are you in touch with the essence underneath the avatar?

Lost In Russian Dolls?

Have you ever seen a new-born baby? For the first six months or so they have no idea of who they are, they are not aware of their legs and arms. One of my nieces used to pull her hair as a baby and start crying – unable to tear her hand and stop the pain.

Babies live in the NOW – there is no concept of past/future or self/I. They do have minimal basic desires and wants like milk/sleep/food. They have no great desires or plans – a baby does not think when I drink milk twenty-four times a day I will become a millionaire or other ridiculous cravings/aversions that we tend to get as we grow up. For the baby, there is nothing except the present moment.

As we grow up, we get to know the mind-based concept of time. And with time comes the need to get somewhere, the desire to meet our plans or the aversion towards something happening. And we leave the present moment and start to live in the future and past. The conditioning becomes stronger.

Another thing that happens as we grow up is our sense of ME. We start creating a picture of who we are, what people should think about of me, what society should think of me? And we go about making that image to our liking. A baby does not think – my dad should think of me as pretty or my brother should look up to me. When we grow up this self-image becomes so ingrained that we are not even aware of it.

The society, media and other factors are all egging us to live in the future/past or create an ‘Ideal self-image’. The TV ad that tells you that if you use their aftershave lotion, you will find love, the news piece about a spiritual coach, the interview with an actor/actress with a so-called perfect body.

Nowhere people tell you that the practically impossible to live in the future or the past. My body is right now sitting on a couch, typing these words in the keypad. I can’t skip to the next weekend – but my mind starts thinking about the following weekend, and I have lost touch with reality. I can think about it all I want – the weekend will get here when it is NOW.

We/our minds keep jumping away from the present moment all the time – into past or future or dreamland. There is nothing wrong with planning. We do not stop at planning; we derive a sense of self from something happening or not happening in the future, which becomes futile.

Like the nested Russian dolls, we have lost sense of who we are or where we are. There is so much depth to the present moment that we never explore because we are so busy looking at the outer covers – its paints, designs. A big part of understanding the depth is the acknowledgement of the inevitable is-ness of the present moment.

Where are you right now?

Plain Old Living

I just watched the latest Pixar animation movie – ‘Soul’. It is a must-see even though not at the same level as their other movie – ‘Inside Out’. Before we get into the actual blog a word about the creation process for these movies. Pixar movies generally speaking come from a very different place. If you ever watch a Pixar movie and read some of the spiritual books like, ‘Untethered Soul’ or ‘The power of now’ – you will see some overlap. For a movie to reach that depth level, the creation has to flow through you and not forced. The creation process happens through the presence and not ego, which is a feat in itself. Hats off to that creation!

In the movie, there is a dialogue where a little kid is asking about his/her purpose. The kid says, ‘Maybe walking is my purpose; I am very good at walking or even watching the sky.’ And the other person replies, ‘Well, that cannot be your purpose, it’s just plain old living.’

We have reduced the majority of our life into a Plain Old Boring Job. What do most humans do in their daily lives – sleep, eat, walk, talk, watch – right? And even if you have a purpose – most of that also includes – walking, talking.

Now – we have two options. First – not do everyday things like walking, talking, eating etc. – but then how will you live your life? Second – Remove these activities from the boring list – but these are boring!

There is a Zen saying – ‘Chop Wood and Carry Water’. It essentially means that it does not matter if you have chopped wood and carried water for the last twenty-five years. It is new every time you do it because it is NOW. Our mind/ego finds it boring – I have carried water for so long, it is hard work. Why do I have to carry water? It is so dull. Do I have to carry it forever? Why cannot somebody else bring water?

Our minds live in the past and present – which is practically impossible. We hardly live IN the PRESENT moment, which is the only place you can exist. If we could start living in the now without living in the mind-created world, our lives would become so much more straightforward. And then chopping wood and carrying water will be more enjoyable.

Another example is walking – we have made walking a means to an end. You want to get somewhere, a meeting, home so that you can do something else. How many times have we walked without really walking but running through the todo list in our mind? All it does is – it uses up energy from the actual doing of the todo list, so when the time comes to do the tasks you are exhausted.

You have thought about carrying water and chopping wood so much that when it comes to doing it – you are exhausted! Are you carrying water and chopping wood or thinking about it?

Grim Reaper

Make Your Life Easy, and You Can Do It are two of the books that I have authored. And they both start with the chapter on Suffering. My preference was to begin them with Grim Reaper, but my husband managed to convince me that it might be too morbid for the general audience.

The reason I started the book with Suffering is to highlight the impermanence of our lives. Each of our lives is like a book with a definite ending of Death. The only thing that is guaranteed in our lives is that we will die – we do not know when. For some reason, this truth has become a taboo. In some cultures, it is a common practice to put makeup on dead bodies to lessen the effect of Death. Why is Death such a secretive phrase when it is so common – I will never understand, but I have accepted that Death makes people uncomfortable.

As long as I can remember, Death has never been a touchy subject for me – I can talk about it in the same breath as cheesecake. One of the questions that I always ask myself is, ‘What if I was to die now?’ And the answer to that question helps me live fully. The unfulfilled desires, ambitions, dreams all are suddenly put in perspective. As some say – you have to master the art of dying so that you can master the art of living.

I am even contemplating putting this question at my office desk. Are some of you wondering why I want to stare at this so-called morbid question all day long? Let me give you a couple of examples. A colleague comes into my office and tells me that they haven’t done something that they should have done. And I remember giving precise instructions on how important it was. I get annoyed, and then I glance on the question, ‘Am I ready to die now?’ and it helps me realize that in the big scheme of things – this situation will also pass. The result is – I probably deliver the same message with compassion instead of anger.

Another example: Ruby has wanted to be an athlete since she was a kid. Her entire life revolves around her exercise routine, competitions. She wins some matches, and she loses some. And it so happens that she has an accident and is confined to a wheelchair. If she asked herself, ‘What if she was to die now?’ then maybe it might be easier for her to accept the reality as it is and move to gratitude.

I am in no way suggesting that we do not complain or give up our goals or never say anything harsh. All I am saying is that keep life in perspective because Death is the only constant. And the constant reminder of Death will eventually make us more compassionate and more alive. If we knew we were going to die then would we still be annoyed with our friend over something that happened eight years ago? Would we still hold a grudge against a family member who ignored us at a party?

What is your relationship with Death?

Glued To Your Seat

Imagine you are in a theatre watching a string of movies. The movies and the actors cater to all the emotions you can think of – fear, sex, violence, love, family, patriotism, terrorism, heist – the whole gamut of life as we know it.

Let’s say that the movies are so fascinating that you identify yourself with the actor in the film. And the identification is so strong that you have forgotten who you are. Let’s say that the actor in the movie is a hotshot playboy and now you are the playboy, and you feel everything that he feels in the film. Or, Let’s say the actor now is a CEO who has gone from rags to the riches. Or, the actor is worried about how he/she is going to feed her kids in the future. Or, the actor’s friend betrayed him and he is possessed by revenge. Or, the actor’s family does not get along, and she is upset.

The list is endless, and you go through each of these emotions with so much conviction that you have no recollection of you sitting in the leather seat with popcorn and soda. For brief instances of time, you realize that you are the watcher, not the actor but then the pull of the movies is so strong that you lose yourself over and over again. You are confused to the point that you have trouble understanding who is real – the person sitting in the chair or the actor on the screen.

How can you find out who you are? By touching the chair, you are sitting on – by feeling the popcorn that you are eating. By being grounded in the physical act of sitting, you can be sure that you are the person watching the movie and not the actor. If you are ever confused if you are the actor or audience feel your feet or hands and you will be back to the ‘real’ reality.

If you are identified with the actor, you are not enjoying the movie, but you are suffering through everything that the actor goes through on the screen. If you are grounded as the watcher, then you enjoy it thoroughly for what it is.

All of us do this every moment of our lives. We lose ourselves in some actor in the movie we makeup, and we forget we are the audience. And in that, we suffer because we lose touch with the reality of the moment and start suffering or enjoying whatever the person in our mind made movie is doing. And the way out of this is to be present in NOW.

Why is it so important to live in the NOW? Because it is the only place you can live – the rest is all in your head. You can worry about the future or replay the past – BUT the only action that can take place is in the NOW. Sure the past and future can guide you but if they consume you that you do not have the energy to live in the NOW.

Are you glued to your seat or are you lost in the screen?

Another Ten Days

It is time for my annual Vipassana retreat blog. 

Like all things this year, Vipassana retreat centres have been closed in most places. At the beginning of the year, I thought I might be able to do it in a centre – but as the year progressed that possibility dwindled. I have always done a course at a centre and was not sure about the self-course at home. So, I waited and watched to see if the desire remains, and by grace, I realized the need to do a 1-day even if it is at home. And I am delighted to announce that I finished it today. 

At the core, it is just like any other course at the centre – the meditation technique remains the same. Water will boil, and ice will melt regardless of where in the world you are (depending on the temperature), it does not change its nature. However, this course was a lot harder because I had never realized the energy boost that the centres, teachers and other students provide. And I had to fill that gap by myself – it was tough. There were days when I found myself wondering what I have gotten myself into.

 All I did was meditate, eat, rest and sleep. And meditate mostly, 4:30-6:30 AM, 8:00-11:00 AM, 1:00-5:00 PM and 6:00-9:00 PM. Pretty hardcore, eh? All I did was observe my breath or my body sensations. And in this technique, you have to keep silent, and you cannot read/write/check emails; it’s just you and yourself.

Vipassana means to see ‘Reality as it is’ and not as we would like it to be. And it is a means to get rid of all suffering (misery, anger, anxiety etc.). For example, we all know that we should have compassion for all human beings. But I am sure we all can think of at least one person right now towards whom we have negativity. At the level of mind, we all know that it is not right, but we cannot help ourselves. Vipassana helps you see how you are the root cause of the negativity and not the other person and enables you to eliminate it. When we generate negativity there is an unpleasant sensation in our body (also our regular breathing rhythm changes) – once we become aware of the sensation and do not react it – we have changed the habit pattern of the mind.

Why I do Vipassana? Because there is the inner knowing that this is the right thing for me. It helps me achieve my personal vision of – ‘Becoming a better version of myself every day.’ Because I am a better person, I can make a better contribution to society.

Whether you do Vipassana or something else – it does not matter. What matters is you do – there is nothing more important in this world that self-awareness. It is not about building the next iPhone (god knows we don’t use the existing technologies a 100%) it is about understanding oneself.

Gnothi Seauton: How well do you Know Thyself?

What Am I Going To Do With My Life?

I just finished watching, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ on Netflix, based on a novel by Walter Tevis. To summarize, it’s about an orphan who is a chess prodigy and how she battles the demons of her mother’s death and wins at chess – dealing with drugs, addiction, loneliness.

It is quite thrilling for a movie about chess. It took all of my will power to restrain myself my googling the ending or moving the cursor forward. What caught my attention was the statement by her adorable friend Jolene who says, ‘Girl, you have been the best at what you do for so long that you do not even know what it is like for the rest for us.’

And I also recall a video from Brene Brown where she says that in today’s world all of us want to be the best. And in a room full of people – if you apply the law of averages it is not possible. All of us cannot be the best, and this means only some of us will be the best and not that rest of us are not the best. This is where society’s fixation on the top three or five has skewed the entire world.

I want to speak to the person who first introduced the concept of first and attached so much importance to it that is outright silly or illogical. My litmus test these days is to ask myself, ‘What would an alien say?’ And if an alien did come to earth, sat through all the games – regional, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals – and saw that people only spoke about the person who came first – what would his response be.

He would be flabbergasted – it’s like preparing for a hundred-mile walk and only talking about the last step across the winning line. He would probably laugh saying that we have missed the point of the race or the walk or the competition or even LIFE. We focus only on 1% of the life which society shines a light on – what about the 99% which is us. Sadly for most of us, we never get to discover what is essential for us. Most of us go through the life trying to live the life we believe we chose BUT believe it or not society – our unconsciousness had a big role to play in it.

Don’t believe me – then tell me one thing in your life that you would do even if you were penniless. If you can think of one – good, I commend you for maintaining sanity in the mad world. Let me ask you this – would you still do that one thing if no one was watching?

That is the litmus test – what matters most to you? The journey or the end or both. And to find out what ONLY YOU are best at – let life flow through you – be life and then the question – what am I going to do with my life DOES NOT MATTER.

Will you be one with life and let it flow through you?

What Are We Going To Do?

I am participating in a hackathon this week – called Give Back Hack. In essence, it’s about a group of strangers coming together to launch a business by the end of it. The caveat is that the company has to have a social impact. 

I chose to work with a team called – ‘Pay It Forward.’ 

Mission: Empower individuals to adopt a lifestyle and mindset to make sustainability a way of life by providing accessible habits and insight into their daily impacts and enabling them to pay it forward

Vision: Propagate Sustainable living by inspiring individuals to act and create a ripple effect in their communities

We plan to get people like you and me to pick one habit which will result in a sustainable lifestyle and stick to it for 21 days and then spread the word. Will the idea work? We certainly hope so.

Is it needed? YES, a resounding YES. As I have been researching on google and speaking to people, a part of me feels like maybe it is already too late for us to save the earth. Are we doomed to live in a world where existing habitats may become unhabitable? Will we live in a world where not all of us will have to access to drinking water or electricity or even food? Maybe all the dystopian movies are just a trailer of what’s to come.

One of the people I interviewed said something interesting – ‘That we have the technology, but capitalism is a fundamental problem.’ Since 90% of the world’s wealth is with 1% of the world’s population, not everybody may be able to access the technology that will enable the future.

And history is witness that money and power are called evil forces for a reason. How many of us reading the blog feel comfortable with giving away 50% of our monthly salary? Right. Working on this project has made me realize that something has to be done – appreciate what Greta Thunberg is trying to do and the urgency of it all. 

What it needs a change in consciousness. Human consciousness has to evolve, something which we have failed at miserably. Look at the bloodshed and wars if you don’t believe me. We never learn. We want more, and now that we have almost destroyed earth, we are starting ventures to see how we can repeat the same thing in outer space. 

The problem will not be solved by going elsewhere because the source of the problem is us, humans, humankind as a whole, each one of us as an individual. We have not experienced the oneness that is common amongst us. If we genuinely realized trees as 50% of our lungs or our fellow humans as an extension of us – we would have a completely different attitude about climate change.

How can that change be brought about? Be still – get to know yourself well, Breathe, meditate – see the world for what it is, an illusion. Will we be able to make it? Some of us will, and some of us won’t.

Which group are you a part of?

You can find it – NOW

Meditation, Spiritual, Journey, Self, Isha, Tolle, Yoga, Consciousness, Presence – these have become buzzwords today. Almost everybody I know is aware of these things even if they are not actively practising. There is an aura or mystery around the whole spiritual journey which feels to be very remote from our day to day lives. For an ordinary householder who has a family to feed, a job to go to this seems irrelevant or impractical. And also to some unattainable unless you are going to sacrifice everything in your life or become a monk.

The reality is – that is not the case. It does not matter who you are – your race, wealth, family, gender – none of it matters. Each one of us can achieve inner peace NOW.

Imagine a drop of water longing to be an ocean. It keeps saying that it is stuck in a river, and there is no way it can experience the vastness of the sea or feel its unfathomable depths. What we forget is that the very essence of the drop of water or an ocean or a river is H2O. If the drop of water realizes that – then the vastness/depth of the ocean will not matter as much. Now, I am aware that this sounds very esoteric so I will switch to other examples.

Have you ever watched a beautiful sunrise, or a rainbow or a lovely tree or a flower? Have you ever watched a beautiful bride and cried? Have you ever looked at a baby or a young child and felt indescribable joy? If, the answer to any of this is yes – then you have already experienced inner peace within you. It might have been for a tiny fraction of second, but you have. Eckhart Tolle says that without these kinds of spaces, we would go mad.

Or, let’s say you have wanted something a car, promotion, a bigger house and you get it. At that moment for a brief second, you are happy because at that moment you are fulfilled.

And you know why we cry or feel so much joy and peace – because at that moment we have no thought. We experience the situation for it is – nothing is lacking or added. The moment as it is perfect. And to be honest, that is all there is – the present moment, NOW. If we can increase the span of time, we feel that space of ‘no-thing’ or no thought we will live in joy.

You can actively, consciously become aware of such moments, or you can induce them as needed. Please take a look at anything around you, be your dog, house plant or leaf anything and look at it without labelling it, or interpreting it. You will experience no-thought for a microsecond which will turn into seconds, minutes, hours – and an entire lifetime. And you will notice that when you genuinely look/see/hear or experience something in this manner, it will become more beautiful, melodious.

If it weren’t possible, we wouldn’t be discussing it. A part of us wants the inner joy and peace – that is why we do what we do.

How will you find space today?