Thursday, December 17, 2009

ACHAR or a daily routine : Are you a procrastinator? Join the club!

Do you find yourself putting off, waiving, tabling, suspending, deferring, adjourning and delaying certain things in your life repeatedly?! I often find myself in this situation.

For the longest time since my first vipassana, I have always found the thought of waking up early and meditating 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening really attractive. Since I am a freelancer with no big responsibilities like family, children, job, etc. to get in the way - I really have no excuses! At one point I found that I was getting frustrated and angry with myself for not being able to achieve this simple thing that I know will give me so much peace and pleasure.

How to make a mountain of a molehill?!
Now that I think about it, is what I want really that simple? Waking up early means a change of lifestyle where my eating on time, sleeping early along with many other life style changes come in. I also realised that by clubbing the 3 acts together I was making it into an impossible task. After all whenever you wake up, you can make the time to sit and meditate and the evening siting is possible even if I didn't wake up early or sit for my morning meditation!

Dr. Jaydev of the Yoga Institute says that if we could do just 1 worthwhile thing every day at the same time, our whole life would change and we would see big results.

The ONE WORTHWHILE thing is the Keyword here! Found a very fitting saying while designing the vedana website : Stress is an ignorant condition where everything is important.

What are my Priorities?
If something is a priority in our life, maybe we postpone it by a day or 2 but eventually we do it. I make a list of things to do everyday. A lot of the list is full of trivial small everyday activities. I think I include those just so I can cross something off the list and feel productive! :)

Just looking at the activities you perform daily would give you a good idea of what you actually prioritise in life. And what you actually prioritise could be very different from what you would like to or think you should prioritise!

ACHAR or a daily routine

Another thought that came to me is that everyday we do certain things which come naturally to us. [Drinking water, eating food, bathing, brushing teeth, etc.]The things we want to do should become natural; we cannot postpone a bath beyond a day or 2 before feeling like a dirty slob! The same feeling should come for meditation or yoga.

Yoga stresses the need for a healthy daily routine. Setting mealtimes, sleeping and waking up time, time for exercise, for work, for family, for yourself, for fun, etc. This sort of a structure would go a long way in creating wholesome habits and tendencies which then would become a natural way of living.

:)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Art of Receiving Gracefully

I always have a problem receiving gracefully whether it is a compliment, present or love. In my mind I was always a giver hence I am not comfortable receiving. But aren't giving and receiving 2 sides of the same coin? How can one have the ability to give generously but not be able to receive?

"When you put your hand on someones shoulder, send them all the love in your heart, your whole life energy through your hand.

When you look into someones eyes, pour your whole heart through your eyes.

Not only will you awaken your own love and friendliness but also move something in the other."

Osho - The Path of Meditation

Do we ever give of ourselves so completely? The mind comes in here and says "You live in Mumbai for heaven's sake! How can you possibly give in this manner to the 100's of people you meet? And all those awful men on the street - Do I really want to move something in them! " :)

I guess the thought that the men on the street are awful gives away the unfriendly feeling in my heart towards them!

Life is a mirror and we are constantly throwing negativity at it. Even though at some rational level I get this, I cannot even begin to count the number of times I am surprised when people act in a manner offensive to me!

In conclusion, the effort to give of yourself completely has to start with safe things in safe environments - with trees, plants, animals and people that you love. Then at a far far away stage, I will feel only love towards everything...:)

My positive affirmation for today: I will try to use every opportunity that comes along for being loving and avoid using some opportunities for expressing hatred.

The lovely thing about the spiritual path is that you get immediate encouragement in small ways from life when you follow the path of the good and the right!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Parikarmas -Developing friendliness or MAITRI

Today I woke up in a perfectly good mood, somewhere along the way, I found myself snapping at my housekeeper and my father's friend who called to chat. Almost immediately I realised I was being mean and went out of my way to make amends.

As I sat there feeling guilty about my bad behaviour, I realised this stressed out feeling and lack of patience was not my own. I was picking it up from my friend, who had a number of perfectly valid reasons to be stressed out!

Unconsciously we pick up negativity from other people and then pass it on as if it was ours.

Holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal with which we intend to burn others. We end up burning our self first - Buddha

Here we are picking up other people's anger and burning our self for no reason at all!

So how about sharing a feeling of Friendliness or Maitri with other people with the same generosity we show when sharing our bad mood! Osho says very wisely that if it is difficult to share friendly feelings with people, start with nature. Be friendly to the sun, moon, stars, trees, plants and animals. Its much easier. What is now considered to be Pagan Nature worship helped nurture this seed of friendliness, love and compassion we all have in us.

I had Pudding, my delightful street dog spend the day with me and it worked like a charm! :)

Yoga talks about 4 social attitudes or Parikarmas -

Maitri (Friendliness) - Developing this feeling of friendliness towards all things, not just your friends, family or the beautiful or lovable but towards all beings and all things in all situations.

Mudita (Joy) - Choosing to maintain your peace and joyfulness in all situations.

Karuna (Compassion)- The ability to empathise with some one's misery and to act in whatever way we can to reduce it.

Upeksha (Indifference) - Showing indifference to the negative qualities we see in others or situations and instead focusing on the good. This does not mean we need to become doormats, it simply suggests that you look for the good in every person and situation instead of the bad.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yogic Action - Reducing your personal ecological footprint.

The Bible: "As you sow, so you reap"

Newton's law of motion: "To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction..."

The Universal Law of Nature or Dhamma: "One cannot perform an action which harms others without first generating a defilement in the mind - anger, fear, hatred, etc.; whenever one generates a defilement in the mind, one becomes miserable and experiences suffering. Similarly one cannot perform an action which helps others without first generating love, compassion and goodwill; as soon as one starts developing such pure mental qualities, one starts to enjoy feelings of peace and harmony.

When you help others, you simultaneously help yourself; when you harm others, you simultaneously harm yourself."

The Yoga Sutra's of Patanjali -
Chapter 4 Sutra 7: "The Karma of a Yogi is neither white nor black; of others it is three fold."

[BLACK: Actions are performed with the intention of hurting others.
BLACK AND WHITE: Actions come out of ego and selfishness, some may hurt while other actions may benefit other people.
WHITE: Action performed with good intentions.
ACTIONS OF A YOGI: These do not fall into any of the above 3 categories. Nature acts out of a yogi, so they are not really the yogi's actions and therefore do not create any binding or reaction for him/ her]

This idea that we need to act consciously and with care is repeated in all spiritual disciplines. I used to consider each natural disaster to be natures revenge! I don't think nature is vengeful though, only humans are! I realised that I need to make small changes in the way I use/eat/consume my way through life.

Wikipedia: "The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. It compares human demand with the planet Earth's ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate the resources a human population consumes and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste."

These are questions I have been asking myself lately. What is my personal ecological footprint on planet Earth? How can I minimise it?

Many products found in our kitchens, bathroom, garage or garden shed are potentially hazardous substances. Because of their chemical nature they can poison, corrode, explode or burst into flame when handled improperly. When discarded, they are household hazardous wastes.

Found a site on Non toxic household cleaning solutions. http://www.ecocycle.org/hazwaste/recipes.cfm

I have purchased some vinegar and baking soda and shall try out these recipes:

Tile cleaner: 1/4 cup vinegar + 1 Gallon of warm water
Air freshener: Simmer cinnamon sticks. clove and orange peel (sounds yummy)
Absorbing odours: 2-4 tbsp baking soda or vinegar in small bowls. Place in fridge or around the house.

:)

Yogic recreation or VIHAR: Growing your own vegetables.

The purpose of all yoga techniques (asana, pranayama, kriyas, etc.) is to control the fluctuations / movement/ vrittis of the mind. These vrittis can be painful or non- painful. Since completely stilling the mind is a very difficult goal to aim for; the next best thing would be reduce the painful fluctuations / vrittis. Yoga asana and pranayama create positive, happy, quiet and peaceful states of mind.

A yogic life style involves 4 aspects: AHAR (healthy food), ACHARA (a routine which provides enough time for yourself, family, freinds, work, eating, sleeping, exercising, playing and resting at the appropriate time), VIHARA (recreational activity) and VICHAR (thoughts)

I am going to focus on Vihara. Hansaji of The Yoga Institute says, VIHARA or a recreational activity is a very essential means of having a creative outlet for your disturbed emotions. It needs to be a part of your daily routine. Choose an activity which you enjoy, that you can remain with for sometime forgetting all your tensions and worries.

The recreational activity you choose should create happy, quiet and peaceful states of mind. In terms of being a wholesome recreational activity that not only brings joy but is also productive; gardening scores a 100% in my mind!

I have always been fond of gardening. I have an open air terrace attached to my 2nd floor flat and my mother has a green thumb. She would buy a plant, admiring its small delicate leaves. After a week in my mother's care, the leaves would have grown into giants! :)

I spent 3 months with my parents in the UK and my mum has been growing her own vegetables there. After 3 months of walking into the garden to pick salad leaves, capsicum, cabbage and tomatoes, I came back to Bombay inspired!

Despite the absence of my mum's green thumb, as a first time experiment I planted seeds of tomatoes, lettuce and capsicum. Soon I had saplings and found my sweet little plants were being eaten up! They were moved to a corner of the garden and covered with a sheet. As the saplings grew it was time for re-potting. Now the saplings have been separated into pots of their own with lots of khad/ manure in each pot! They are growing happily under a mosquito net. They are still too small to bear fruit; lots of patience and love is required while I wait for the fruit of my labour! :) [www.vedana.in/garden.htm]

Taking this one step further I decided to try composting. I came across these very informative sites on growing vegetables and using your organic kitchen waste. I am trying the bag method. Tightly pack the bottom of a goni or sack with sugarcane baggase. Add some compost and a layer of soil. Plant seeds or a sapling, allow them to grow a little and then start adding your raw kitchen waste. For complete details visit http://www.devalt.org/newsletter/jun05/of_5.htm or natuecocityfarming.blogspot.com/

AHAR : Recipe for Baba Ganoush (Arabic Aubergine Dip)

You are what you eat! Hence Yoga emphasises that we eat small meals of fresh, healthy and wholesome food at regular intervals. AHAR or a Yogic diet is one of the pillars of yogic living. Praying before you eat, being thankful and grateful for all the people and circumstances which made it possible for this food on your plate; tends to make the food even more delicious!

I have always known the joys of eating but recently discovered the joys of cooking.. :) I lived in Oman for 2 years and being a vegetarian there were not many arabic food options. Mainly I would end up with salad, pita bread and the dips - humus and baba ganoush.

Here's the recipe for Baba Ganoush (Arabic Aubergine Dip)

INGREDIENTS:

A medium sized purple brinjal/ aubergine/ eggplant
2 spoons of tahini paste
Garlic
Ginger (optional)
Juice of 1 and a half big Limes
Olive oil
Salt to taste.

METHOD:

Wash aubergine, make small cuts in the aubergine and place the garlic cloves into these. Cut the stem. Put the aubergine on a skewer. On a slow gas flame, roast the aubergine till the skin gets brown and the steam comes out of the cuts with garlic inside. Once the insides are cooked. Remove skin and place the flesh and roasted garlic into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of tahini. Salt to taste. The tahini requires lemon and olive oil to help it to mix smoothly.

Add a sprig of parsley or mint on top and your dip is ready!

It combines really well with bread or chapati or pita and a salad.

Bon Apetit! :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Concentration - A natural ability of the mind.

In my last blog post I mentioned my lack of concentration. However, today at 5:30 am after having spent most of the night trying to sleep because my mind cannot let go of something that upset me yesterday; I have come to the conclusion that my mind does have the ability to be one pointed and focused. What is apparently lacking i being able to focus on the positive, wholesome and healthy with the same effortlessness!

The uncontrolled mind loves to dwell on negative thoughts, ideas, emotions and experiences. They probably seem juicy and dramatic in comparison to the good feelings created by looking after my plants or playing with Pudding, my sweet and lovable street dog.

When my mind is getting over worked and giving too much importance to stupid things; I find it useful to flip open any yoga, osho or spiritual book. It always gives me some sort of understanding to help deal with my mind.

I flipped open Osho's "The path to meditation"
Every time you remember an experience , you re-live the emotions and feelings that it created. Every day for 10 minutes remember the good feeling created in meditation or a moment when your heart was filled with love or when you felt vital and alive, energy flowing through every cell of your body.

Thank you Osho! :)

Will try to keep this message alive in my heart and mind today.

Focus on the negative and it grows and creates more negativity. Focus on the positive, feel gratitude for the blessings and these will multiply creating more positivity and blessings for the future.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Responsibility - an ugly word?!

For years I have hated the word responsibility. In fact I have taken on as little responsibility as possible! In the last few months however life/ existence/ god! have been sending it my way in small doses. Taking responsibility has turned out to be a good experience and not at all the awful ugly burden I thought it to be..:)

Responsibility comes from 2 words: Response and ability, simply meaning your ability to respond. During my Yoga teacher's training at the Santacruz Yoga Institute, it was always emphasised that we need to learn how to react less and respond more and more to the various situations we face daily. Below I have tried to explore the reasons why responding is so difficult for me.

DO WE SEE THINGS/ PEOPLE / SITUATIONS AS THEY REALLY ARE?
Unfortunately NO! Even though it seems like a perfectly rational thing to respond instead of reacting, it is not easy as the mind is constantly judging, creating diverting fairy tales or horror stories or jumping to conclusions or being far far away in an entirely different situation; all of these and other similar antics of the mind prevent us from seeing a situation as it is. From this warped perception, any thoughts, emotions or actions which come up are all REACTIONS!

THE MIND- A BELLIGERENT TEENAGER?!
All my experiences with yoga and meditation have only served to emphasise the fact that my mind rarely listens to my wishes and most of the time does its own thing! For example, I decide to sit and work, suddenly I feel like tea and a snack, I give in and come back with food in my stomach which was probably not needed! All right, ready to work- oops did I leave my geyser on? I really need to call for groceries...my boy friend has been so grumpy for the last few days - is there another woman?! .. I realise I need to be working and bring the mind back. A chore which should have taken 10 minutes ends up taking me hours to do because I lack the ability to control my mind and to concentrate on one given task!

IS PATIENCE & TRAINING REQUIRED?
For years the mind has played master of the house and now if I suddenly expect it to do my bidding, its an unrealistic expectation which is going to lead to so much frustration. The mind needs to be treated with the firm and gentle patience which one has when dealing with a child. But first we need to develop awareness to recognise that the mind has wandered away to do its own thing. Most of the time I end up rolling in thoughts and emotions for a while before I realise that my mind is not doing the task given to it. This training is an ongoing project which for me is coming through Vippasana meditation and yoga. For a few hours everyday I keep the mind on the breath or the sensations or the body movements and this I find actually works wonders.

TOO MUCH ON YOUR PLATE?
One of the things which led to frustration for me was that I wanted to do too much in a limited amount of time. Now I recognise this also as another of the minds many tricks to distract us from taking back the reins and being masters of our own houses again!! Imagine wanting to be immediately able to make the mind unlearn traits which have been strengthened over lifetimes (or if you believe in only one life - over a period of 33 years!). In the words of Freddy Mercury - I want it all and I want it now! This is our biggest shortcoming which leads to impatience, frustration, so much unhappiness, stress, and disease.

As last note on responsibility, I would like to quote Goenkaji: An ignorant person always lays 100% blame outside (on external factors such as - other people, the weather!) for one's suffering. As one grows on the spiritual path, one starts to take more and more responsibility, eventually knowing that 100% blame is on me.

What is beautiful about being responsible for your suffering is that you hold the key to coming out of suffering into a blissful, joyful world in your own hands!