I always found small goals to be more attractive in my mind than really big ones- regarding the personal growth sector. Run three miles every day or run three every day this week only… invariably I will be more committed to the shorter term commitment. It always feels less daunting and like I will get a prize or something at the end. Open-ended goals seem to lose their holding power in my mind.
In that spirit I have undertaken weekly goals for self-improvement. Many of these are simple and universal ideas from the great spiritual traditions. We read about them, agree with them, and then hope we’ve already got enough of them in practice and that’s where it usually ends.
Each Monday is the start of a new week.
This week has been “Silence and Introspection”. Like a little mantra whenever I feel the urge to chit chat or complain about something or argue my opinion or watch other people doing, thinking, acting (and even judging what I observe); I start reminding myself of my goal this week and allow it to soothe me back into shape.

It has been mostly very successful- even when I didn’t keep my mouth quiet, I was able to reflect later if it would have been better to have kept to myself or say what I did.

These are all about looking at ourselves in closer detail and with manageable steps for spiritual or call it human progress/purification.
The good news is we can return to any one week and try it again later if we really felt it was good for us. But keep the time frames short so they don’t get lost in the closet and stay fresh in our minds and consciousness.

Do you have any suggestions for a week?

Like a Bank Clerk

December 29, 2011

There is a wonderful Indian analogy and advice for yoga practitioners, indeed for all.

Be like a bank teller.

When the clerk receives two thousand dollars he does not get bloated with pride and ego. Nor does he cry when he hands out four thousand dollars to another client.
A bank teller remains equal tempered in his position, steady as things come and go. He doesn’t have sticky hands, clinging to the money.

We too should be steady as things (materials, relationships, money, health etc.) come and go in our lives, not clinging or repelling anything.

And by doing this, we will always be content with whatever comes and whatever may go realizing that our happiness does not depend on either of these two.

Dear India,

I come from America. Many of you tell me how wonderful you think our culture is, especially the youth.

I can not help but see much of my culture influencing yours: television programs, fashion styles, popularity of eating in hotels, mass migration of Indians to America and Europe for jobs and education, corporate style businesses, politics, popular love marriages, shopping malls and even skin whitening creams.

But as these new fashions come I am watching what they are replacing. The English language replaces native languages in schools. White skin is prized over dark shades in advertisements and TV serials. It is rare that I have seen a woman under 30 years wearing a saree or a man in dhoti and upper-cloth.

There is a revolution happening in my country right now. Many cities in each of our 50 states are protesting our existing infrastructure. An estimated 951 cities in 82 countries are participating in this rebellion of the globalization of consumer culture. Why are we, the richest culture in the world, so unhappy?

I feel in some way responsible for the changes in India, and because I was born and raised in that culture I can share some information with you. My culture is not what they tell you on Television, in advertisements or in Hollywood. Journalist Chris Hedges describes it in the following statements:

The corporate culture, epitomized by Goldman Sachs, has seeped into our classrooms, our newsrooms, our entertainment systems and our consciousness. This corporate culture has stripped us of the right to express ourselves outside of the narrowly accepted confines of the established political order. It has turned us into compliant consumers.

Profit. Globalization. War. National security. These are the words they use to justify the snuffing out of tiny lives, acts of radical evil. Goldman Sachs’ commodities index is the most heavily traded in the world. Those who trade it have, by buying up and hoarding commodities futures, doubled and tripled the costs of wheat, rice and corn. Hundreds of millions of poor across the globe are going hungry to feed this mania for profit. The technical jargon, learned in business schools and on trading floors, effectively masks the reality of what is happening—murder.

Get back into your cages, they are telling us. Return to watching the lies, absurdities, trivia and celebrity gossip we feed you in 24-hour cycles on television. Invest your emotional energy in the vast system of popular entertainment. Run up your credit card debt. Pay your loans. Be thankful for the scraps we toss. Chant back to us our phrases about democracy, greatness and freedom. Vote in our rigged political theater. Send your young men and women to fight and die in useless, unwinnable wars that provide corporations with huge profits.

My ancestors, the natives, who lived in harmony with the land predicted the outcome of the European settlement in America:

“…Either the White Man would bring peace and harmony or attempt to totally destroy the Indian’s [Native American’s]  way of life and take all his possessions and the land. If the latter occurred, (which is clearly the case today) there would come a time when the [Native American] people would appear to be almost non-existent. Yet, one day, they would rise out of nowhere, as the white race is falling due to their own ignorance and destruction, to lead a spiritual revolution, so all people on this continent would become attuned to the Great Spirit. To hold fast to the traditional ways even if it seemed that everything was against them. To protect Four Corners at all cost, because there is great power under the land that if it is allowed to escape, great destruction would result. Today, the Indians [Native Americans] are going through the test to hold onto their traditional ways and protect the land. The White Man’s society is trying to swallow the Indians [Native Americans] up. Many of their people, especially the young, are falling prey to the White Man’s ways.” (1)

Unfortunately my ancestor’s words were true but few listened. Now, more and more people in my country are giving up money and rich lifestyles,  changing their priorities and values, choosing to live with less material comforts in hopes to regain health and happiness. They are coming to India to learn these invaluable lessons because we have lost it.

Maybe you feel you are getting richer by following the model of the west, that your lives are improving. Now you have cars for transportation, television entertainment, and you can buy more materials that, for now, make your life easier. Our model wants to turn every Indian into a consumer who will spend their hard-earned money on objects that they don’t really need by creating unnecessary desire. There is documented research that compares consumerism and happiness of people. The ones who consume the most are the least happy in the world. If you are happy as you are, you do not need anything. Our system thrives on keeping our people in a state of unhappiness and discontent with their lives, so that greedy people who worship money over God will get rich. My culture may appear to have given you prosperity, science, education and healthcare advances but I beg you to please consider the costs and disadvantages.

Where have all the oxen gone?

We have sold you a system which relies entirely on a limited supply of fossil fuels, a system that creates enormous waste rather than food for other creatures, a system which is cutting down your forests and polluting your Bharat. Our culture developed chemical weapons for wars. The companies who make these chemicals wanted more profits so now they have convinced our farmers and yours that we should spray these warfare chemicals onto our food. Every family in India is affected by the greed of such corporations. Most chemicals (including food preservatives), most of our science and medical practices has not been time-tested, particularly not tested on humans but we are seeing the results and they are not good. India, you have the capacity to be a great leader of the world, but not by following our footsteps- we are collapsing.

Please turn back now before it is too late, before your parents and grandparents die and there is no one to help you find your way. My culture is a dead-end road. Innovation is not a bad thing but look to your elders and ancestors for advice. Your traditions have been tested over time for centuries. In fact, India is the oldest living culture, dating back to the rshis. There is a reason why your traditions exist even if you do not know why today. Follow them and educate yourself on why they are so important and why my culture is coming to India to learn them. Be proud of your wise culture and traditions because once the thread from your ancestors to you is broken, it will not be like before and you will someday regret it. Your mother and father will someday die. If you do not learn your mother’s cooking, which came from your grandmother and her mother, what will your children eat? Who will cook these wonderful dishes if you don’t learn them yourself? Your ancestor’s knowledge is your greatest asset and heritage. What will your western educations and lifestyles give your children in comparison?

My money is worth more than yours, my house is probably bigger and more well-built, our roads are better, my rice and daals are clean from insects and stones and so many more comforts. What I am telling you is that my children will not have the same comforts in their future. But you India, you still have time to look at the big picture and make the wise and sustainable choices for your ancestors and your future generations.

India, you are rich. Richer than all the western countries combined. Rich in priceless treasures your ancestors have struggled to preserve for you. No one can take these treasures away from you. They are lost when you forget them.

Love,

America.

 

 

 

For more information and resources:

(1) Transmission by Native American Elder Thomas Bancyaca

http://www.welcomehome.org/rainbow/prophecy/banyacya.html

Speech at the United Nations: http://www.welcomehome.org/rainbow/prophecy/hopi.html

(2) Declaration by my people against existing infrastructure:

http://www.nycga.net/resources/declaration/

(3) India ranks higher score than any western country on the World Happiness Index:

http://www.happyplanetindex.org/

(4) Chris Hedges Columns: http://www.truthdig.com

#Occupy The Self

November 20, 2011

Our ego is the the 1% and the heart is the suppressed 99%.

What is the use of tearing down Bank of America when we ourselves have similar corruptions in our own minds, greedy and deceiving not only our friends and families but even our very selves? What are our self interests and what is the ‘self’ in which these interests claim to serve?

Numerous examples are there….

Without any solid evidence we blame others and even prosecute them in our minds, words or actions. We ourselves don’t want to be wrong or to take responsibility. ‘Who took my _____?’ Then we discover later that actually we misplaced ____ ourselves. Often even after recognizing our error, we won’t apologize because of pride.

We’ll interrupt others speaking because our ego feels it is more important. Observe how the television, advertisements, etc. talk to us, not with us. There is generally a one-way communication channel with the 1%.

The 1% hungers without satisfaction for more. We receive gifts, food, shelter, money, clean air to breathe and earth to walk on without any gratitude or recognition. We feel we deserve what we get that is good. What we have is never enough- there is a new this or a latest that which we are craving and consuming. We too are trapped in the mindset of exponential growth syndrome, insatiable hunger. The corporations are no different, increasing bonuses and profits without any sight of satisfaction or a sense of what is enough.

We give gifts not from our hearts with humbleness, we give gifts because we want something in return. Corporations give us a token, discount, or a ‘sign up for a free ____’, so they snatch us and our wallets to spend spend spend. Where has generosity gone? Where is genuine customer care?

Though we may acknowledge the fuel-burning jets are contributing to global warming and all it’s implications, we still can’t restrain ourselves at the grocery store from buying those out-of-season specialties that have come from those very jets. Often we are completely deluding ourselves when we think we’re better than anyone else because we shop locally or organically. Look in your pantry. Who among us doesn’t consume sugar, chocolate, coffee, tea, and countless other luxury commodities which have now become to us ‘essential’ commodities.

What about our healthcare? Do we take care of our own health or contract it out to others? Are we serving the 99% when we push our bodies to stay up late for a t.v. show, to over-exert ourselves, to consume take-out and too-good-to-resist junk food? Are we taking care of our ‘subordinates’ health like our children when we don’t have time to make their food and serve them processed foods?

Sometimes we keep our selves misinformed under the guise that ‘ignorance is bliss’. We are afraid of the Truth and what changes that may imply. If we acknowledge certain things are simply not working for us, we will be obligated to change those things. So really, our ____ isn’t so bad. If we really look, we know. Of course we know but we choose to ignore or we control the ‘media’ input to ourselves. Likewise, if the corporations acknowledge even a fraction of the Truths about themselves and their actions, they would be forced to change.

 

Let’s not be hypocrites. Ought we to ‘fight the good fight’ on both frontiers? Let us redefine the world we want to inhabit by redefining ourselves and leading by example. Look with scrutiny at the truth of our own state. Leave no stone unturned. If everyone led this movement by example of the very principles which we are asking for from others, there certainly would be a shift and that shift would be within the hearts of the people. Why not take this outrage as a great opportunity to practice. Practice generosity. Practice Truthfulness. Practice non violence in your thoughts. Practice all the noble qualities.

Ghandi’s wise advice: “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world”.

Suffering as blessing

November 9, 2011

Imagine you are a rock in the slingshot. You are ready to strike, fly through the air like a weightless thing…when suddenly you seem to be moving backwards and backwards. ‘What is going on?’ Actually we should be going over there.
Suffering is our momentum to launch forward into the life we want to live; it is consciousness shining a spotlight. Actually, we are constantly doing, thinking, speaking and generally moving along in our lives. There may be a problem with the engine of our car but unless it shows any outward signs, smoking, noise-making, engine lights blinking, we keep moving along unaware of any problems though they exist. The same is true for our lives and our bodies. The more sensitive we are to the subtleties, the earlier we can catch the warning signs before we get stranded on the highway without a cell phone! If we are too busy and preoccupied we may not recognize the symptoms before they become painfully obvious. Sometimes we want to ignore the signs because we need to ‘get there’: do our job, feed our families, take care of everyone else’s needs and expectations of us before we take care of ourselves.
Suffering, though we feel like it is painful, is really only the recognition of a pain we’ve been feeling all along, of some discord beneath the surface of our consciousness. We should honor our pain, for without it how would we ever heal, change, grow…..

How else will we fly with open arms into happiness?

On Suffering

June 2, 2011

Be happy is probably the hardest simplest thing- of which I’m trying to follow my own advice here. I came to the conclusion that I need to stop being afraid of suffering and need to just surrender to whatever comes my way- that my resistance to “suffering”/pain/heartache IS the actual suffering itself. When I was sad I could only think of how happy I used to be or would like to be and that was an endless spiral into depression. Wanting to be happy is my primary obstacle to beong happy! Just like a friend told me today that the principle issue for singers is for them to want to sound like something, to sound “good” which prevents them from being raw which is where beauty truly lies.
This doesn’t mean we should wallow in our own self badgering either. Each time we feel we are suffering there is a message within that waiting for us to unlock it and be freed. Too often in the present age we feel something and run away from it through distractions, pain killers and masks. I am simply putting forth that we will continue to suffer until the message or lesson has been revealed so why not take a pause from within the discord to look, listen and feel with all of our senses and all of our heart.

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