Tag Archives: #vipassana

The Biggest Culprit Of All – Time

Eckhart Tolle tells the story of his dad, who in his older years remarked that the quality of mirrors has deteriorated since his younger days. I am sure most of us have looked at the mirror and wondered what happened? Or, go for reunions and somebody remarks on how young we were? Or, go through the albums and realize that some people are not alive anymore. Albums are a significant source of this realization – the wedding, the party, the celebration each of them was so crucial at that Time, and now they are just memories.

What happened? Time happened. Time is the biggest culprit of all, but nobody has ever seen Time. Because Time is a human-made concept that exists only in our heads. And in the head of society at large. But life does not happen in Time – it occurs in the now. Right now, there is no concept of Time – it may be 7:33 PM, but you cannot experience 7:33 PM. You can see it on the ever-pervasive timers on the laptop, phones, clocks on the wall, but you cannot feel it. You can only experience what is happening now. Hence, Time is the biggest culprit, but nobody has seen it.

Time manifests itself as past or present. Time – this four-letter word has become so powerful that it runs the world. We have even come up with sayings like Time is money or Time and tide wait for no man. Some courses teach you how to manage Time. Time management is a skill that you are supposed to have.

And in all honesty, it is driving most of the society mad. In my parents time, I never remember calling somebody to say, ‘Hey, can we come over?’. We would go over – and they would be there or not there. In our village there is no time – people follow the natural body clock – when the sun sets it Time for bed. Fast forward a few decades, we have calendars that sync with each other. We have watches and phones that remind us of different events. ‘Finding’ Time on people’s calendar is a nightmare. God knows what shape will Time take in the future.

We believe in the artificial deadlines that we have created that we do not even question anymore. I am not advocating that we do away with Time. Then it will create chaos – the world will stop functioning. But maybe there is a possibility to revisit our relationship with Time. Perhaps we stop thinking about the past or future so much but focus on the now? Maybe instead of thinking about what we need to next, we focus on where we are now? Instead of Time driving us – let presence drive us.

It is about Time (no pun intended) that we took our life away from Time and lived in. Instead of blocking into chunks for things to do – have some time where we live in a timeless – eternal world.

So, what has Time planned for you next?

Do Ducks need to go to Ivy League? And Humans?

A few weeks ago, we saw Mr and Mrs Duck looking for suitable accommodation for producing ducklings. They looked far and wide, from our sidewalk to the pond few blocks away. And our dog Aki was always excited to play with the ducks.

And then we did not see them, so we assumed they had settled on a place. A few days ago, when Adam was taking Aki for a walk, he sniffed in the bush right in front of our house, and a duck came out of it. Adam looked inside the bush, and to his surprise, he saw a concerned duck sitting on her eggs.

I was curious, so I decided to take a look. And if I did not know that there was a duck in the bush – there is no way I would have known that the duck was in the bush. From the outside, all I could see was the bush. Even when I looked inside, I had to really look to see the duck as she was camouflaged so well. Hopefully, we will get to see the little ducklings come out into the world.

It made me wonder, though – ducks do not go to schools to learn how to find a nesting place. They do not go to ivy league schools to get a fancy degree. Yet, the places they find are THE BEST. This is true for birds and their nests – be it rain or wind, the nest stays put. It is inbuilt in them. Nature and everything in nature has an innate quality that guides them – they have an inbuilt compass.

Now that leads us to the question – what is inbuilt in us? As we are also part of nature right. We are not separate from the rest of the planet. This is where it gets tricky – because, for most of us, we have lost touch with ourselves even to understand what is innate to us. Let’s spend a little bit of time on this.

The one thing that differentiates us from other beings is our Mind – which creates a self-image. Humans are the only creatures on the planet who have a relationship with themselves. I am happy. I am sad. I am so good. I hate myself. I love myself. I am bored. It’s like we are two people – I and Myself. Isn’t that weird? My dog does not go around thinking about him – he does not have a relationship with himself – Thank God!

If we are not even sure who we are – I or myself then how we can get in touch with what is innate in us? It is like the ocean and the ripples on the ocean. If we think we are the ripples all the time, how will we discover the oceanic depths?

The next question is how do we do get in touch with the deeper dimension in us. Awareness is the first step – recognizing that the voice in the head is not YOU. It is pretending to be you so that it can stay alive.

Are you ready to go beyond thought to who you really are?

Oops – I Made A Mistake!

As some of you may know, I took a new role [Read a bit about it in this blog]. I changed my profession. And being the kind of person I am, I read a book called ‘The First 90 Days’ as I transitioned into my job. One of the exercises is to evaluate how complex the move is, and my change was difficult at all levels – new area, a new profession, a new team and a lot happening in the role. 

In the past, I have made moves with unrealistic expectations of myself being a superstar the day I started. This time I thought I had set my expectations correctly – of learning for a year and give myself grace. Setting expectations did not prepare me for the actual thing – ‘You cannot tell how it is until you experience it.’ And it’s been such a long time since I had made a change. I forgot what it was like to struggle, feel like you are underwater some if not most of the times, realize that you just don’t something even if it is required for you to know. And worst of all, I did not consider I will make mistakes – things will happen that shouldn’t have. 

And I acknowledge my emotional maturity just because I can say – I am struggling, or I made a mistake publicly. It is ok to be vulnerable. Do not get me wrong – this experience, however painful it is right now, is precisely what I wanted when I took the new role. But it does not make it any easier as I go through the experiences. 

What am I learning from this situation? It feels like a time of change and upheaval in my life. I need these experiences to realize how much I have grown. Remind myself that the universe does not give me anything that I cannot handle. It will require me to dig deeper into my inner reserves of courage, patience and growth (more than now). Maybe it will teach me the much-needed lesson of humility. And strengthen my practice of looking at the entire picture. For every challenging experience I have – I have pleasant experiences. Connection with people, bonding with my team, the little aha as I learn something, feeling that you are using all parts of your brain. The feeling of quiet satisfaction when I realize I am fully capable of what the situation requires of me, newness, fresh perspectives, no judgements – not feeling bored. It has made me realize the importance of laughter – not to take life too seriously.

And most importantly, an opportunity to revisit what is essential in my life. Every painful situation is a way out of suffering. It is a reminder to ground myself even deeper in the NOW. This is the time to put into practice all that life has prepared you for. The question to ask is not what I want from my life but what life wants of me. Be the conduit for life.

How to deal with cracks in your life?

How many times in your life have your plans gone awry? You wanted something to happen, and it does not happen. You did not want something to happen, and it happens. This is the basic definition of Suffering. So, as per this definition, we all suffer and – we have all suffered a lot. Our addiction to Suffering is like filling up a bottomless bucket. 

My last blog was about holes in our lives’ tapestry and how they are a way out of Suffering. As humans, we build stories about how we want our lives to pan out and when they do not we are upset. The travesty of our sandcastles not being able to withstand the first small tides. Our stories are meant to have cracks in them because they allow us to see the light shining through the cracks. Everything in the world of objects is temporary, and the only truth is they are temporary. Change is constant. Don’t believe me – then think about your life so far and tell me one situation that worked out exactly as you had imagined it to be, and you are still content with it now. If you do have such a life situation, wait, and dissatisfaction will creep in. 

Imagine you are playing with clay, and you have made these fascinating creatures of clay. They have names, relationships, cars, houses – everything they wanted but all in clay. And you become so engrossed in the play that you forget they are temporary, and when the figures start to sag – you do your best to bolster them. They stick around for sometime before flagging down. What if, instead of trying to do the impossible, you enjoy the clay figures while they last. The primary focus is your awareness of the drama, not what the clay figures are doing in their very short-lived life. It does not mean that we do not enjoy the clay figures – we do, but our primary focus is our awareness of the drama being played out.

When a clay figure flags or when something unwanted happens, there is space that opens up. And in that space, we have a chance to realize that we are the awareness, the witness. We have an opportunity to see our identification with the clay figures for what it is – temporary and futile. When the crack appears, the light shines on our ignorance. Instead of letting the gap appear, we fill it with another clay figure because we are so identified with the clay figures that we are afraid to realize who we are. It’s like trying to drink water through a thimble when you stand in a vast bottomless lake of water. (Read here about why we started playing with clay figures in the first place)

Next time a crack appears be aware of it and if the desire to fill it with another story comes up, watch that too for however long you can. And more you do it, the more you realize that the crack stays open for longer and longer until there is only light.

What cracks are you filling up right now?

Hole In The Tapestry Of Life

Imagine an intricate tapestry made of a rich fabric of vibrant colours. It is so huge that it covers the entire wall. You have never seen the wall behind the Tapestry. For you, the wall does not exist. You spend all your time admiring the Tapestry – so beautiful, so breathtaking.

One day you see a tiny hole in the Tapestry – and slowly, it starts to grow. The hole is big enough that you can see the wood-like brown colour of the wall. Your Tapestry is no longer perfect, so you weave another pattern to fill the hole. And then these holes keep appearing more and more frequently, and you are so busy weaving other designs that you no longer enjoy the tapestries.

What if I tell you that this is what we do with our lives? We build a story of how our life should be in our minds. 

I will get a promotion, get a wonderful life, marry a rich, handsome guy, have lovely kids and live happily ever after. 

I will write the next famous app like angry birds, and it will earn me millions, and I will never have to work again.

I will win a lottery and become the richest man in the world and be happy.

It never quite works out as the story in our head. For starters, your car may decide to break down in the morning, or your heater broke down, and you have to fix it. Or your friend marries a rich guy. So a hole appears in the story of our lives, and we fill it up with other stories. We are so uncomfortable with holes that we have a back up ready if a spot does appear – we stuff the backup plan to cover the gap.

Let’s go back to the Tapestry on the wall for a second – what if one day you got so tired of filling up the holes that you give up. You let the gaps appear, and you do not fill them up. Your wonderful Tapestry dissolves right in front of your eyes. You weep as you see it decaying. But, then you see that there is a door in the wall. The Tapestry had been preventing you from seeing the door. 

You open the door and enter inside to find an entire room filled with beautiful tapestries. Even more importantly, you do not feel the need to fill the holes in them anymore because you still see the beauty.

Our lives are the same way – we are so busy building stories that we never discover the wonderful treasure that waits for us behind the stories. It is like Tolle says in his book – ‘Power Of Now’, we are all like beggars sitting on a treasure chest who never look inside it. 

What is that treasure? What is the door hidden behind? Our true self – unchanging self, the self that watches the story unfold without becoming the story. The screen on which the story unfolds does not care about the story – it exists. Are you ready to not fill the gaps anymore?

Humanity’s True Religion is the capital ‘I’.

‘I was born into the Hebrew persuasion, but when I got older, I converted to narcissism’ is a famous quote by Woody Allen. 

He is more aware of the core belief than most of us, who harbour the belief that we are not in love with ourselves. The truth is we only love ourselves – the sooner we come to terms with it better for us and humanity as a whole. The degree to which we all suffer from this dis-ease may vary, but there is no denying that this is a universal illness.

Anytime something happens in your life – your car breaks down, your husband leaves you, your kid is expelled, your boss leaves the company, your pizza delivery guy is late. What is your first thought? What about me? What will I do?

The ‘I’ is so important in our lives; we capitalize it. If it is not, then it is considered a grammatical error. Look out for yourself, stand up for yourself – and the I have become collated into bigger I’s based on caste, race, gender, birthplace, financial status. These bigger I’s are now fighting other bigger I’s because they believe in their I. They are fighting for a cause – a cause that is bigger than the smaller I.

Does this mean that we should stop thinking about ourselves and focus on others – give up everything and live like a monk or a nun. Unfortunately, how much ever we try, we are wired to be selfish. We are focusing on the wrong I. We have mistaken the sign for the destination. It’s like the dog who keeps looking at his owner’s fingers when he needs to look at what the fingers are pointing towards.

We are focused on the role that we play in our short time on planet earth. We play many roles – boss, employee, mother, wife, widow, pet owner, vegan, meditator, spiritual seeker, capitalist. The list is truly endless. Unless we are in touch with the unchanged within us – these roles are like filling up a bottomless bucket. Beneath all the roles we play, that entity observes the role. The very fact that we have a relationship with ourselves means there is a watcher and the watched. 

When we say, ‘I am sad,’ – the I is aware of the sadness. There is a part that is sad and a part that can observe the sadness. No other species on the planet except humans have a relationship with themselves. A dog does not have a self-image. A bird does sit on a tree branch wondering, ‘Should I fly now? Can I make it? What if this gust of wind is not good enough? Will I get where I want to go?’ No, this is the speciality of human minds alone. [Read my story about how this came to be at this link]

It is time to awaken from the drama and realize who you are. We need to be aware of the roles we play and take them for what they are – Roles. Only then will we be able to get in touch with the true self, which is love. And for that self – talking about love is like talking to a fish about water.

What role are you playing now?

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?