Lessons From Cambodia For Current Times.

 

 

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 

Cambodia is a beautiful, photogenic country with much to offer. We can treat it like a two-day holiday and enjoy the spectacular sights. Or be overwhelmingly dismayed by its Killing Fields. 
Or, we can pay close attention to the whole and learn some invaluable lessons.  

Humans are capable of outstanding creativity as well as deplorable behavior. 
Conflict, terrorism, and political fallouts are not something far and distant, but immediate and impactful for all of us today. The growing levels of intolerance, separatism and violence are evident everywhere. Experts who understand NLP, group and individual psychology, economic unrest, strategic power plays, audio-visual influence and the craft of words and pictures are actively misusing their knowledge to influence the masses for their own vested interests.

While in the thick of things, one can miss the ripple effects of our actions and non-actions. Only time will reveal the full consequences of our denial or active/passive/participative response.

With this essay, I hope to invite the more conscious reader to consider engaging mindfully with what is happening around us, rather than stepping back. For if everyone turns away from the difficult and challenging, how are things going to get better?

In Cambodia, is an example of the far-reaching ramifications of history, alive and visible together, all in one frame: Provoking us to examine and understand how our individual choices unfold to a collective repercussion over time. 

Below is a brief, simplistic summary of the complex impressions I carried back. I share the highlights of what I consider as the three divergent filters through which we can view what we see today.

  1. Impassioned, unquestioned beliefs and their self-indulgent imposition on others can lead to unspeakable horrors.

It is estimated that one out of every four people in the country died during the relatively recent Khmer Rouge regime. 

“Modern research has located 20,000 mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era all over Cambodia. Various studies have estimated the death toll at between 740,000 and 3,000,000, most commonly between 1.4 million and 2.2 million, with perhaps half of those deaths being due to executions, and the rest from starvation and disease.” ~ Wikipedia.

We aren’t talking about an ancient, primitive occurring here. This happened as recently as a few decades back. Educated people were deliberately targeted and urban folk were driven out of the cities and forced to work at the fields in dismal conditions. The unbelievable horrors inflicted deliberately and otherwise during this civil war, are described during the audio commentaries at Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields. Locals add that a hugely significant percentage of the Cambodian forest cover was also lost. Landmines were planted all over, animals were killed and infrastructure was destroyed. Subsequently, those who could simply read and write became teachers and the younger generation face the consequences of this difficult legacy.

Some say that when those who were a part of the Khmer Rouge were asked why did they do what they did (to their own fellowmen), they say they acted out of fear for their life, or because they were brainwashed.

While the torture and executions were being carried out, people in surrounding areas, and escorted foreign visitors often had no idea as to what was really going on. Much of the world did not realise what had occurred in Cambodia until much after. As impossible as it seems, facts can remain hidden from public scrutiny, and propaganda can leave us deaf. 


For those who believe attack, subjugation and violence are an answer to things, they may do well to pause and reconsider. Heroic movies and video games are one thing. The cost on the ground is another. Can you imagine living in an area where every single family has suffered in one way or the other? Where life, limb, livelihood, dignity and everything honourable has been lost? 
Without the human story, every telling is simplistically reduced to soulless, cold numbers.

The effects of the chilling 1975-1979 years are still reverberating through the population today. And humanity at large would do well to pay attention. For God knows, we have many similar situations (some nascent, some churning, and some full blown) occurring all over the world today.

2. Together, with our intelligence, skills, imagination, creativity and co-operative action, we can create amazing wonders.

The stunning engineering, architecture, and intricate craftsmanship from hundreds of years ago, inspires thousands of visitors even today. These awe-inspiring monuments indicate that the science, arts, and skills of those days were of an extraordinary level. It is almost as though the very boundaries of what we could produce were being stretched.

These megastructures provided employment and inspiration to those who came hundreds of years ago – and they continue to provide a livelihood to hundreds in the tourism and hospitality industry there today. Not only archaeologists and artisans but also NASA and other scientists take an interest in understanding the mysteries of these structures.

Equally impressive is the demeanor of the Khmers. Despite the continuing economic, political, emotional and physical challenges(let us not forget the many innocent victims of landmines and war) Cambodians are largely warm, smiling, helpful and resilient.

They are apparently also rather forgiving. While many of the surviving Khmer Rouge have left the country, I am told, many have integrated back into their villages.


All this raises the bar on what we as humans think ourselves capable of: whether that be physically, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually.

3. We need to recognise, respect and work with the powerful energies and presence of the land and forests, instead of exploiting them like lifeless resources.

 Those familiar with energy ley lines and energy vortexes consider sites here to be significant and powerful locations. A visit to these lands makes it easy to understand why animism predated Buddhism and Hinduism here. Every space has a geomagnetic force and that is something that not even the skeptics can overlook. (If you are interested in learning more about the electromagnetic force fields we generate, how they interact and the correlation with the earth’s force field and solar activity, do have a look at Heart Math Institute research.)

In Cambodia, especially in the jungles, the raw, intense vibe of the land and it’s forests is yet palpable. The fact that those ancient people knew enough about the stars to build the temples in a configuration that reflects the Draco constellation at equinox over here, gives us some food for thought. Perhaps, that civilization knew something we are yet figuring out? For they must have had some compelling reasons to go out into those thick, snake-infested jungles and carve out these temples in those places. 

Whether you are a sensitive who understands subtle energies, or someone who is open to the possibility that an ancient civilisation was more advanced than we are today, or an environmentalist who cringes at the destruction wrought by civil war and modern, short-sighted thinking, one is reminded here that any potential needs to be handled responsibly, with care and respect.

Technology (whether new or ancient) and energies(whether subtle or measurable) can be harnessed for good, or carelessly exploited.

Each of the above three ‘filters’ highlights a different aspect of today’s reality. In a 3-D world, the very same object will concurrently appear different from varying perspectives. And until we learn to listen, to co-exist, to interact with some modicum and mutual respect, we are doomed to fail to see the whole picture, let alone find a harmonious view point.

We inherit not only DNA, but trapped emotions, beliefs ,and even memories from our ancestors. Unhealed wounds do not fade away. World over, we have people still reeling from historical Partitions and Wars. Episodes of mindless mob contagion that leave scars for generations.

Do not for a minute underestimate your contribution to current times.

The unquestioned, passionate, verbal and physical outbursts that news and social media encourage, endorse and multiply – is adding up to the legacy we leave behind. 

A recurring theme at Angkor Thom is the ‘Churning of the Ocean’ motif. Every bridge across the moat has Devas(Gods) lined up on one side and the Asuras(demons) lined up on the other. The walker is thus encouraged to consciously choose the mindful middle path.

For myself, I believe change begins with me. So I continue to work at walking mindfully, staying in the present moment, without being carried away by any extreme, polarized views.

I have no simplistic solutions to offer. All I can do is share my thoughts and hope that they provoke some introspection in at least a handful of readers. 

Thank you for your time. 

(For a photo album showcasing lesser known sites and more details on Cambodia, please visit my FB album.)


(If taking responsibility for the world we co-create appeals to you, you may like to read: “Poems: Restoration of Peace”.)

 

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Ta Prohm. Cambodia

 

Outer Travel And Inner Journeys

 

Musical_Pillars_at_Vittala_Complex-bicubicMusical Pillars at Vitthala Complex, Hampi, India.

In this last year, I have been fortunate to have visited several UNESCO World Heritage sites and other energetically powerful places. These trips are an integral part of my work as an earth sensitive (see Are You An Earth Sensitive And Why You Need to Know).  However, apart from the energy work involved, these journeys also enable rest and introspection.

Natural surroundings provide us with a deeply healing respite from the storms of life. Also, as we reconnect with our Self and our environment, the significance and meaning that we attach to our individual challenges undergo a sea-change.

Similarly, historical and heritage sites can also have an interesting effect on our perspectives. Each UNESCO and ASI site I have visited so far has been unique and most clearly deserving of our appreciation and preservation. The symbolism and what the makers attempted to convey highlight diverse human obsessions, from the personal ego of a ruler wanting to leave his mark, to the universal questions around the meaning of life. They indicate what was valued in the collective and was the prevalent culture at that point in time.

What is most striking is that they all remind us that great art and architecture demand immense dedication, skill, thought, unsung effort, co-operation and often, much time. The fruit of such undertakings impacts generations to come. Such projects are living testaments to the fact that man seeks to understand his role in the world; that for generations, people have attempted to do something meaningful with the time and breath gifted to them.

Whether or not we agree with the values(such as personal glorification, or idol worship) embodied here, these impressive, physical forms can easily prod us to to examine our own valuesto reassess our individual place in a far broader context, and to reprioritise our relationships with the divine, the planet, and all living beings.

How and why does travel to such sites deepen our self-inquiry?

Well, for one thing, what such structures highlight is that in other times, and in places yet untouched by the global standardisation of modern, urban life – the meaning and use of time, space and other resources can be remarkably different from what we are accustomed to.

Immediate gratification, quick results, individual credit, fame and rich returns(at least for the artisans), all these do not seem to have been prioritised as greatly as they commonly are today. In many cases, one would not even live long enough to have the satisfaction of completion and closure. (Gaudi’s ‘La Sagrada Familia’ at Barcelona is a more recent project that illustrates this. Under construction for over 132 years, it yet has a long way to go.) The focus seems to be more on continual dedication and excellence, rather than on reaping the fruits of labour.

Similarly, as objective viewers of a distant past, the disrespect, violence and destruction that we can cause in the name of our beliefs and allegiances also become clear. Seeing the consequences of the dramatic destruction of a rich city like Hampi (or the careless damage brought about thanks to the abuse/neglect by the victors at sites around the world) force us to face our own inner demons. These locations showcase the atrocities that we as humans may commit when we perceive a threat to our way of being.

As individuals, we are all capable of demonstrating similar levels of creativity and destruction. It is our awareness that determines which potential we draw forth. These places and their historical narrative naturally provoke questions such as:

  • Why are we doing what we are doing?
  • What are we doing with the time and talents given to us?
  • What would we rather be doing instead?
  • How well are we using our resources?
  • How are we impacting the world?
  • Are we leaving it a better place?
  • What do we need to stop doing?
  • What do we need to start doing now?
  • Are we in sync with our natural surroundings, our community, the cycles of life?

I could go on, but then, I am an introspective writer after all.

These days, popular travel tends to be ambitious, micromanaged and super-packed. The emphasis is frequently on quantity rather than quality, with the focus being on visiting the largest number of famous landmarks. Local flavour, ways of being and philosophies are often missed by us choosing to remain with our habits of food, language and people, even in foreign locales.

Such constraints on time, venues and local interaction cost us dearly: For too often, we return having done little more than having ‘checked-in’ at the different locations.

It is no ‘Secret’ that a conscious intent significantly influences what we notice and experience.

My invitation to you is to set out with the resolution to travel with awareness. That instead of being swept off-centre by the sensory overload, to decide to use the sights and impressions to draw out newer aspects of yourself. To open yourself to not just new sights, but new energies and experiences. To deliberately include free time in your schedule, so that when you feel called to linger in a place, you have the bandwidth to do so.

Allow yourself the luxury of contemplation, surfacing thoughts and emotions that you have been repressing or denying. Welcome the opportunities to sit in leisurely silence at sacred places, processing and evolving effortlessly. Let the meaningful questions take precedence for a change.

In my experience, such conscious travel leaves us with a far richer experience than otherwise.

External wanderings can help us discover and express newer parts of our self. I know I return changed by every trip. Perhaps this post will gently remind you to explore newer dimensions in your own travels as well.

Wishing you de-lightful and meaningful journeys!

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Stained Glass Windows at La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain.

How Are You Affecting Others? – 16 Things You May Want To Stop Doing

Land Art by Richard Shilling

Tools For Empaths’ is the most highly viewed and shared post on my blog. It seems that many of us(myself included) often feel that we are at the effect of other’s energies. However, nothing is a constant and nobody is one thing all the time. It is only fair to examine the other side of the coin and see if we may be impacting another in a less than positive manner.

For better or worse, our interactions shape each other. Energies(much like water trying to find its own level) tend to move in a way that achieves resonance and balance.  When these shifts move us to a higher vibe, we describe it as harmony and flow.  If we find ourselves moving to a more agitated state, the experience is unwelcome and off centring.  While we tend to find harmony more easily with some and feel less resonant with others, it is best not to make this personal.

Contrary to popular articles, I don’t think that a great majority are narcissists, self-centred, or ‘energy vampires’  wishing to gain strength at the cost of another. The energy drain itself may feel real but is often unconscious and usually unintentional.

Everyone has their ups and downs.  A respectful and sustainable way to support each other is through an open, transparent and synergistic way of operating.  Herein, both parties feel free to voice their needs without fear of backlash, comfortable offering wholehearted support when possible, and also uninhibited in admitting inability or disinclination to do so – if that be the case at that time.  Healthy friendships and families learn how to do this for each other. 

An ideal space is where all concerned can simply rest together, in deep acknowledgement of the presence and grace that is omnipresent.  In this state, there is no give and take, nor orchestration of balance.  We taste our true nature and know that all is effortlessly well.

However, when we are not in that space of being, it is sometimes practical to take proactive measures. In addition to energy tools, meditation,  prayers such as Ho’oponopono, practices such as heart coherence and Tonglen, it is also necessary to examine our way of communication and interaction with others.

After all, we take life far too much for granted. What if you don’t get another chance to meet this person?  How would you like your last interaction to be?

Listed below some ways in which we end up hurting others.  Are you demonstrating any of these behaviours? How much more joy, ease and harmony would become available to you and your loved ones if you stopped?

  1. Not being in touch with your own thoughts, emotions and feelings. 
    The more that you are self-aware, the less likely you are to thoughtlessly react, or project onto another.
  2. Neglecting your inner work.
    Being aware of our patterns, beliefs and trapped emotions is the first step. A constant discipline in such awareness itself helps to dissolve the same. Yet, some pro-active clearing work is usually helpful and called for, as neither denial, nor pretension can make our hurts and patterns go away. The less baggage we are carrying, the less we need or demand of others.
  3. Playing The Victim In The Blame Game.
    Making another responsible for our misery is exhausting for both. It perpetuates the perception of victimhood and will have you constantly targeting the other with anger, resentment, accusations and guilt.  Imagine fending off such silent (or blatant) onslaught and you can well imagine how draining you are being to the other person.
  4. Making The Other Responsible For Your Happiness.
    A more subtle version, this is normally harder to spot – until the other no longer delivers what we want and we shift to the ‘Blame Game’.  Here, the object of our affection is made solely responsible for our happiness.  If we have little life and love outside of what they mean to us, you can be sure its one hell of a burden to shoulder.  Again, imagine being in their shoes – one wrong move and you bring someone’s world crashing down.  It will have you rethink common notions about love, and the attachment and dependency they often imply.
  5. Continual Judgement And Criticism.
    Holding up the mirror is what good friends do for one another.  Bringing things to their awareness is helpful, but it is better received when accompanied with loving encouragement. More stick and less carrot, and all your good intentions will be forgotten by the tired other. We are hardwired with a negativity bias and without healthy doses of genuine appreciation and celebration, the receiving party often ends up remembering only what they didn’t like to hear.  The more that your opinion matters to them, the more it will weigh them down.
  6. Not Listening.
    Few of us know how to listen deeply.  We are usually busy formulating defence or attack in our head, paying little attention to the non-verbal cues and underlying energies. We may also have our minds already made up and can’t be bothered with the facts. It doesn’t matter who does this first. When we stop listening, differences only escalate.
  7. Being Insensitive To Another’s Vulnerability
    A corollary to inattention is missing the other’s vulnerability, especially whilst revealing their authenticity, regrets or fears. If you are not present to their vulnerability, you eventually lose their trust.
  8. Unexplained Silence and Disengagement.
    A favourite habit of those prone to passive aggression, or playing the Aloof in the Interrogator-Aloof drama, this one can be particularly damaging to any relationship.  The one at the receiving end runs through endless scenarios and emotions in attempting to understand what is happening.  Your lack of communication can leave them thoroughly lost and drained.  If you feel unable or unready to communicate, at least let them know that you need some time out. It is an indication that you wish to build, not break down bridges.
  9. Revisiting History Repeatedly.
    If you tend to replay the same story again and again, whether your own, or any other complaint, it can be quite taxing for the other to remain patient and tolerant. Do the work required to free yourself from the past.
  10. Disallowing Space and Silence.
    This is true especially if you are dealing with an introvert or Highly Sensitive Person.  Silence and space are rejuvenating in small doses for almost everyone, and more so to such people.  Practise a few minutes of sitting together in silence and see how much it benefits your interactions.
  11. Manipulations, Deceit and Secrets.
    Our energies speak louder than our words. When we indulge in any form of deception, others tend to intuitively respond to the underlying truth.
  12. Violence.
    Suppressed emotions tend to erupt at the most inappropriate time and in the most inappropriate manner.  A repeating pattern of physical or verbal abuse is unacceptable for obvious reasons.  Even minor incidences take their toll, with the other living in anxious anticipation of an escalation.  Work on your anger management.  Learn to respond to your own stressors differently.
  13. Needing To Be Right All The Time.
    Variations include the need to have the last world, to be superior, to be smarter, and so forth.  You don’t have to come out being top dog all the time.  Defence and attack are a waste of energy. Complete alignment of perspective on all matters is an unrealistic expectation. Agree to disagree, when so required.
  14. Being The Uncrowned Martyr.
    Believe it or not, your constant rescuing, serving, mentoring, sacrificing, or whatever other ‘selfless’ behaviour you think you are demonstrating, can leave the other feeling guilty, inferior worthless, overwhelmed and even resentful. Remember that the other is made of the same essence and is as capable and self-sufficient as you.
  15. Enforcing Love.
    Quite an oxymoron.  For here, one person is demanding the demonstration of caring while the other feels imprisoned by expectations.  Love has to flow of its own volition, it cannot be insisted upon. Know and accept that there are times to peacefully part ways.  Ebb and flow is natural in life.
  16. Withholding Love.
    By far the most punishing of all, withholding love is deeply hurtful to all concerned. When we wall ourselves in and others out, we are fighting against our very own essence.  Recovering from such energetic disconnection can be a long, painful process.  Whenever possible, to whatever extent possible, in whatever manner possible, allow love and appreciation. (Sending good energies, love and prayers are all valid and sometimes the only possible ways.)

It takes a strong intent and self-discipline to change our deep-rooted habits.  While learning and evolving seem to be a life long journey (at least for me), we need never procrastinate as to how we choose to be in this moment

For myself, if I am a little more conscious and kinder than I was yesterday, I consider myself headed in the right direction. So if you have any suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments below. And if you like any of the above, please share with others.

Land Art by Richard Schilling

Don’t Let The Language Barrier Keep You Home.

UFO Bridge, Bratislava

I was seated at an old wooden table, in one of the proverbial, European open, road-side cafes. The evening was now dark, chilly and breezy, with persistent, musical sounding rain. Equipped with only a light jacket, I was happy for this warm, sheltered space. My apartment was at least a thirty-minute walk across the windy Novy Most bridge, in the newer part of town.

With the rich, red Slovakian wine and the homely pasta plate before me, I had no complaints.  The smiling waitress had been kind enough to bring an English menu and a napkin that said, “Ladies, Rio loves you.” Back home, this old town restaurant’s slogan would have seemed discomfiting. Here, it felt like a thoughtful welcome for the solo woman traveler.

The fact that I didn’t know a single soul in this city, or for that matter, for hundreds of miles in all directions – was not disturbing, but strangely comforting. I wondered at the oddness of that thought.  I considered if spending the morning with a Segway tour guide meant he could be counted as an exception. Or if the non-English-speaking landlady who handed the keys to my apartment stay counted as an acquaintance.  I decided not. 

She had, after all, failed to introduce me to the resident poltergeists.  Only after they tripped my electric range and kitchen lights a couple of times in succession, did I figure out how to negotiate a peace treaty with them.  (They finally agreed to limit themselves to the small drying balcony while I stayed there.)  So no, the landlady didn’t count.  Her daughter, who had earlier pretended to be her mother, and corresponded with me before, and during the stay, over email and phone – now perhaps she could be counted as an acquaintance. But soon after I arrived at the local station, did I realise that she was in fact away, studying in the States. 

So it was true. Here I was, late on a stormy evening, alone in a city who’s souvenir t-shirt reads, “Where the F#$@ is Bratislava?”.  I could have laughed out loud.  But I restrained myself to a content smile. 

The stranger who happened to walk in at that point thought I was smiling at him and nodded back with a smile.  He sat across me, a couple of tables separating us. From the discussion over the menu, it became clear that he knew neither the local languages nor English. Through gestures, he managed to have food and wine come to his table. Other groups came in and went while we shared our solitary meals in quiet acknowledgment of our similar situations.

It seemed to be the flavour of the day.  Companionship with strangers who don’t speak your language. 

Most of the afternoon had been spent with an international group of mathematicians.  Their English speaking host had decided to take me into their fold, soon after we met on a cruise down the Danube river. Impressed with the fact that I was traveling alone, he wanted to know how I was managing despite the language barrier. Himself a local, who had returned after a stint in the States, he explained his interest in communication to me.  Given the complex history of the place, it seems between his wife and their parents, they shared a lineage of five different languages.  He said, “They say New York is a potpourri of different cultures, but they don’t know what’s been happening here in Bratislava, in every family!  I could relate to this, thinking of the myriad languages and cultures intermingling back in my hometown, Mumbai.

Devin Castle, Slovakia

We soon reached the geographically and politically significant site, Devin Castle.  It has witnessed many wars – something which is extremely difficult for the heart to comprehend. How do humans engage in such violence, and that too at a place so awe-inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful? No short answer there. As we had to return to Bratislava by the evening ferry, unfortunately, there would be no time to explore the extensive natural park around the castle grounds.

While there was some conversation with an Indonesian family on the boat, I explored the ruins largely on my own.  Without any formal agreement, one of the mathematicians accompanied me around. Besides a nod, we exchanged no other communication.  Distinguished, handsome and with sparkling, alert eyes, he seemed well respected amongst his peers.  He, and I, though had no scope for any verbal exchange and nor did we seem to feel the need for it.  Despite that, after several hours of comfortable silence and walk together, I left the ferry with the odd feeling that we had really met each other in a very meaningful manner. There was also an inexplicable sense of closure at the end of the day.  As though a long pending conversation and been completed.  Perhaps it was a karmic connection or a matter explained by modern day heart coherence findings. Whatever it was, the time together was memorable.

As I happily reminisced the satisfying day over my candle-lit wine and dinner, with the other solo diner similarly ruminating a few feet away, I thought this in itself was one wonderful, powerful benefit of solo travel:

To remember that it is possible to communicate with others without words. To find kinship with strangers and warm hospitality in unknown lands. To meet without an agenda, to befriend without reason and to part ways without regrets. 

How wonderful, these opportunities!

Back home, when I sometimes struggle to converse, either because of the superficiality of the content, or the seeming impossibility of finding the right words that will reach to another what we experience in our own individual bubble – I remember such days and feel reassured:

It’s okay to be quiet.
Silence can indeed be golden.
And completely adequate for bridging divides.

Playing The Game of Life

keep-calm-and-play-on-serene-reflection

Creating an oasis of inner peace can be hard work.  Actively interacting with a chaotic outer world often threatens to undo all that has been accomplished. Consequently, we may begin to minimize engagement with our environment. As a conscious, unafraid preference, this is unremarkable.

However, if it arises from a fear-based avoidance, sense of inability, and or unwillingness to face difficult situations or conversations, this option will provide us little relief or growth – because our perceived provocations are but our own projections. 

Whether we retreat to the Himalayas or remain here as men and women of the world, we will very likely encounter exactly the same demons.  After all, they live within us. (If you wonder about this, I suggest reading Tenzin Palmo’s experience as described in the book, “Cave In The Snow” by Vicki Mackenzie.)

Running away from the game of life is not the same as rising above all games.  Resisting something only perpetuates it. So a defensive retreat can leave us stuck with the very challenge we are unwilling to meet.

I recently saw a touching movie based on a true story.  ‘We are Marshall’ is about the rebuilding of Marshall University’s college football team following a plane crash that killed all 75 passengers (including the school’s 37-member team, coaches, and other community members).  The new coach, Jack Lengyel, obviously had an extremely difficult task on hand.  At one point this is what he says:

You see, Red, it doesn’t matter if we win or if we lose. It’s not even about how we play the game. What matters is that we play the game. That we take the field, that we suit up on Saturdays, and we keep this program alive.

It took close to 20 years before Marshall had a winning record.  But that was only possible because of the grit and dedication of those who ensured that despite all reservations, football continued to be played in that emotionally devastated university and town.

I found those lines memorable and thought-provoking. 

It was a reminder that while we may not have it all figured out, that while there are still layers to be unpeeled and wounds to be healed, there are also unimagined possibilities and new vistas, yet unknown, that can only be discovered by living through the tough matches.

These are interesting times of rapid change and we can either succumb to the overwhelm or use these challenges to accelerate our own transformation. Though we may occasionally lose our peace of mind, forget our learnings, fall back into mind-body or ‘favourite-story‘ identification (any of all that and more may happen) – playing the game may be exactly what is required of us right now.

Stretching our comfort zone has benefits for us as individuals and also provides us an opportunity to contribute to the collective: for by returning to the playing field with awareness, we also bring back and inform our environment with whatever little lightness, peace and love we have reclaimed thus far.

But for this, we need to find that elusive balance between contemplative retreat, and a mindful stepping out. Instead of trying to escape from the old paradigm, or conforming ourselves to it, we then proactively bring in a whole new set of playing rules: Guidelines that lead towards greater love, peace, harmony, wellbeing and co-existence.

So these days I remind myself that while taking time-outs, and refresher practises in remembering who we truly are continues to be appropriate and usually necessary – while here, how about simply showing up whole-heartedly and playing a better game?

Without Apology

Giving and receiving

Someone dear to me is accustomed to saying ‘Haq banta hai’ (I have the right), whenever he requests anything that could be considered an imposition. Even though I often suffered from the story of ‘I am often and easily taken advantage of’ in the past, his saying this never triggered any resistance in me. However, I understood why this was so only recently.

The shoe was on the other foot.  I said something similar to another friend, confessing how I had done something on the assumption that he would back me on it.  I felt neither guilt nor apology, and there was no complaint from him either.  He smilingly said that us taking each other for granted is a given.

So what is the difference between my old ‘story’ and these situations? Having given my old habits due attention, I see that the old story was just one more way for the personality to solidify and make separation real. When I succumb to this particular story, I am operating from the space of being an individual, dealing with another person. This necessitates a constant check and balance system to ensure that both parties feel respected and looked out for. In the latter case, one is resting in oneness and flow is taking care of things effortlessly.

To think of ‘yourself’ alone, or to ‘only look out for others’, are both rooted in an error in perception. What results is a polarised manipulation of resources(including intangibles such as care, attention and so forth), imbalanced by the strenuous attempt to serve a particular individual or group. Consequently, someone is left with suffering, resentment, guilt and or pain, as self-centredness is at the cost of others and sacrifice is at the cost of our self.

Correct perception is in seeing how we all are an interwoven One. Hence, in the larger context, when being and acting from oneness, any improvement in well-being (or alleviation of suffering) is unfailingly beneficial to all concerned: There may be different manifestations in form, but in essence there is only One.

In Oneness is a remembrance of universal, omnipresent divinity. As this eliminates all feelings of lack and inadequacy, what emerges is a natural flow of goodness that brings balance and harmony in its wake.  For now, ‘the cup’ truly ‘runneth over’.   Even if the ‘other’ behaves in a disturbing way, our own response comes from a deeper wisdom and compassion. Our choices and behaviour are no longer ruled by fear based negotiations, but become an expression of love and wholeness.

Just as we use Newtonian Laws at one level of perception and experience in physics, and understand that concurrently, the Laws of Quantum Physics are also at play at a different level, there are different guidelines for our behaviour, depending upon whether we are operating from ego or oneness. Politeness, thoughtfulness, negotiation and protocol all have their appropriate place and bypassing these has its own consequences when we are located in separation.  So it is inadvisable to pretend to oneness and use that as an excuse for disrespectful choices.

However, when we are genuinely centred in oneness, our interactions take on an unremarkable ordinariness.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience this kind of love, ease and simplicity in our lives more consistently?

May this thought provoking piece from Chuang Tzu serve as a reminder to such grace.

Apologies
by Chuang Tzu

If a man steps on a stranger’s foot
In the marketplace,
He makes a polite apology
And offers an explanation:
“This place is so crowded.”

If an elder brother
Steps on his younger brother’s foot
He says, “Sorry.”
And that is that.

If a parent steps on his child’s foot
Nothing is said at all.

The greatest politeness
Is free from all formality.
Perfect conduct is free of concern.
Perfect wisdom is unplanned.
Perfect love is without demonstrations.
Perfect sincerity offers no guarantee.

(Photo Source: Facebook Gratitude)

Poems: Clarifying Love

Roses and Feet by Tanushree Vaidya
Love is not a commodity
To be negotiated over, bartered
Rationed or held within
Its not an investment, dependent
Upon what returns it brings

It’s not to be withdrawn
As a means of punishment
Or offered as a bribe
Allow it to pervade and flow
Set all risk analysis aside

One took form not to seek it
But to be it…
Breathe it into life.