Archive | April, 2013

Saying Yes to No!

22 Apr

Nuts_n_SpicesThe shopkeeper at the Nuts ‘n Spices store must’ve been really perplexed as he couldn’t comprehend why that lean man with a salt ‘n pepper beard was picking one item after another, stared at each for a few minutes and kept them back in the rack after shaking his head. The only solace to him was that this curious individual didn’t look threatening in any way. Yet, he remained alert as this man has been in the store for nearly half-an-hour but his basket was still empty.

It took me nearly half-an-hour to realize that there aren’t many items that I can consume anymore. Forget the exotic stuff. We’re talking about basic foodstuff that we consume every day. After another fifteen minutes or so, when I moved to the billing counter with a half-filled basket, I couldn’t comprehend the relieved smile in the face of the shopkeeper. Hmm… they must’ve been trained to welcome every paying customer with such a smile!

Monkay1Hey reader, why that bemused look in your face now? Oh, you’ve no idea what I’m talking about or what this post is about! Be assured that the above two paragraphs are actually the prelude to this week’s post and read on.

A few days ago I’ve registered for a week-long program that’ll happen in a few months. This is the highest possible program offered to mere mortals by Isha Yoga and requires completion of four other programs and clearing an interview as a part of the pre-program event. And this is also the only program that anyone planning to do is discouraged from doing, not once or twice, but multiple times during the pre-program event. Because, when meditators such as Swamy say Yes to this program, they’re also made to say No to many things that are an inseparable part of our daily lives!

If you’re as perplexed as the over one thousand meditators who were present during the pre-program event, here are some of the things we had to say No to lift the veil of confusion.

Filter_coffee_South_Indian_styleNo coffee or tea. For a typical south Indian whose day starts with a Filter Kaapi (that’s how coffee is called in this part of the world) and The Hindu newspaper (nowadays replaced or augmented by Times of India in many households), that’s a big ask. Add to the fact that I’m the official tea maker at home (what, don’t tell me you haven’t yet read about how to make Swai, aka Swamy Chai, in the blog post Calm in the Teacup!)

DairyProducts6No dairy products.I haven’t seen this bouncer coming. Neither did Gomaatha, who’s going to be very upset with more than a thousand people at one go, for shunning products churned out from her milk! This one’s really tricky compared to the previous one as milk, curd, buttermilk, ghee, butter and cheese are just the dairy products used directly. The indirect list extends to everything from biscuits (also known as cookies) and chocolates to traditional snacks such as Murukku, Thenkuzhal, etc., and pretty much all sweets that are made either using milk or ghee. More yummy items such as Pongal, Chakkarai Pongal and Payasam are also out of my plate (for the first time in my Life, I couldn’t consume my favorite Pal Payasam, sigh). Ice cream aficionados may cry at what they’ll sorely miss during the peak summer, but I wasn’t perturbed as it has been more than a decade since I’ve had one!

Chilly1No Chilly – green or red. This one takes away pretty much the daily south Indian staple food, i.e., Rice with Sambar and Rasam (buttermilk is already gone, in case you aren’t still out of the daze) as the powder used for both has chilly. All sorts of ready-mixes such as Puliyodharai (also known as Puliogare), Curry leaf powder or chutney, Parupppupodi (lentil powder) too are gone. Pickles of any kind that has chilly as an ingredient (that’s almost 6 sigma of them) are out as well. Heck, I can’t even take Idly – the safest edible food there is for children and adults alike – like I used to as Chutney, Sambar and Chilly Powder are all gone out my plate by now :O Thankfully, I’m not from the neighboring state where Chilly is almost worshiped!

NegativePranicFoodsNo negative pranic foods. Such as garlic, onion or brinjal (aka eggplant). While exclusion of onion ruled out many things such as the humble Upma (a rapid tiffin that my wife loves to make as often as she can for breakfast or dinner and one that we love absolutely as she makes the best Upma in the whole world, as far as my taste buds know) and any kind of sambar that uses it, the brinjal ban didn’t bother me a wee bit as I wasn’t a fan from my childhood. It’s a fact that my mom used to make ladies finger or some other veggie just for me, whenever she cooked brinjal poriyal or kootu, a fact that didn’t amuse any of my four younger brothers! We rarely use garlic so that wasn’t a problem either. For a change, it’s the mighty onion’s turn to cry as my better half has started making Upma without it now!

Thinking3No non-vegetarian food. This was absolutely not a problem for me as I had been a vegetarian all my Life. But I can hardly imagine some of my friends signing up for this program considering how they relish every living moving being other than their kind!

No smoking or consumption of alcohol. This too wasn’t a problem as I had been a non-smoking teetotaler all my Life. But for all those who smoke only when the drink (ah, c’mon you must’ve heard this lousy excuse from more than one of your acquaintances) or don’t bat an eyelid even when they had to walk out in the burning Chennai heat or bone chilling Minneapolis cold, many a times during the day, to light up that cancer stick, this will be one big Nooooooo!

By this time, we were not worried about what not to eat anyone, but already wondering what, if any, can we eat! They had answers for that, of course.

Vegetarian-diet100% Natural Food is recommended, but at least 50% is required, daily. Now that’s easier said than done, however clichéd that might sound, as we’ve the habit of cooking everything – including vegetables – than eating them raw. But having been an Isha meditator for over four years now and having tasted the natural food offered at various Isha Yoga programs – the ones I’ve attended at the Ashram and the ones where I’ve volunteered closer to home – this one sounded reassuring than depressing.

Pepper_Ginger_CapsicumPepper to substitute Chilly. Pepper and Chilly have a completely different kind of taste, but this too wasn’t a major problem as I was already familiar with preparing a variety of Isha salads with Pepper, Capsicum and Ginger and know fully well how good they taste and how much filling they can be, without making one feel heavy.

Soya and Sprouts as Calcium substitutes. Supplements rather as the sudden elimination of all dairy products will lead to calcium and some vitamin deficiency and these two are healthy natural supplements.

PeanutsGroundnut (aka Peanut) for energy. The humble groundnut – soaked overnight in plain water – is part of the daily meal at Isha and is a veritable source of energy. Those of you who’ve read my post Shambho and the 7th Hill will know how I (and thousands of other meditators) survived 42 days of Shivanga sadhana, till noon every day, just by consuming a handful of soaked groundnuts and a drink made with a mix of lime, honey and water.

vegan-pyramid-800x600By the time we managed to convince ourselves that we can somehow manage this diet regimen, which is nothing but the Ethical Vegan Diet, came the Pashupathi Asthra (read part 3 of the enchanting Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi – The Oath of the Vayuputras – to understand what this is). Daily practice of what we’ve learned from 3 out of 4 Isha Yoga programs (the 4th one is a lifetime experience about ‘Life the way it is’ and doesn’t teach or require any daily practice) and another additional hour of a kriya done in a particular posture. This means another No, to the newspaper this time, as I now need that hour for my daily practice, which could be anywhere from 3 to 4 hours.

Then came the Brahmasthra – the conditions that need to be adhered to during the program itself. There were many and any violation means immediate elimination from the program and a lifetime ban from attending it ever again in this Life!

Thinking_ChimpBy now the reality of why they discouraged us from attending the program dawned upon us. We were given one final chance to leave the pre-program event. To my surprise, not many took that offer (other than a few brave souls who did) and remained seated, looking forward to the selection interview. After about an hour – during which we were promptly made to perform the kriya we were supposed to practice every day from now on – my interview was over and I was asked to start my preparation for the program.

Sadhguru3Some of you may think the journey is impossible. Some others may even think the conditions are improbable. A few might already have concluded all those who’ve signed up for this program are just out of their mind. But I won’t have any hard feelings even if you’re suspicious of my sanity and look at me the way that Nuts ‘n Spices shopkeeper did, for I (and many other fellow meditators) have signed up for the program willingly, fully aware of all the conditions we’re expected to adhere to.

Banner3My daily practices and strict adherence to food restrictions started on 10th April and will continue for over 60 days. With my better half’s unflinching support as ever, I’m discovering new food items that won’t violate the restrictions, almost every day. It isn’t easy, but hey, I’m still alive and kicking, much better than I used to be. And Pazhamudhir Nilayam or Solai and Nuts ‘n Spices are at present my favorite shops!

Sadhguru1The path chosen by a seeker may raise many an eyebrow because many times in Life, intensity is mistaken as insanity. It doesn’t matter to the seeker what others think, as this program is an opportunity to be in the presence of a living Master for a week, fully immersed in his boundless grace, offering a possibility to dump all the karmic trash accumulated over lifetimes and start Life afresh. Having been there and done that a couple of times, Swamy knows how powerful and life altering being in the Master’s presence can be.

Screaming4There are many instances in my Life, when I just said No. A chance at being an eminent athlete (it’s another story that my sprint dreams came to an end when I was just 15 with a knee shattering sports accident); An opportunity to study Architecture (that would’ve helped me pursue one of my passions – sketching/drawing/painting); A chance to study Computer Science in my engineering course (it was a field at the beginning of its astronomical growth trajectory); A shot at following the illustrious footsteps of my writer idol Sujatha (my first short story was published in the popular magazine Ananda Vikatan in Dec 1990); An offer to join an IT major around the time of my wedding (I eventually joined another one after an year); The family pressure to have a second child (it would be amusing to know that parents expect such things from their progeny even today); A possibility to remain and flourish in the USA (where I’ve spent nearly four years on two long term assignments); The choice of continuing in one of my most successful roles as Global Operating Leader of a Hosted Captive – a first for my organization, no less (as some of you know, I moved to the Learning and Development function rather than continuing comfortably with what was practically my baby, one that I nourished and still cherish) and so on.

3Monkeys3The list of incidences and opportunities that I’ve said No in Life is long, just like any other fellow human. While some of them were obviously stupid, a few did turn out to be prudent as well. I remain wiser for those incidences and my choices taught me the most valuable lesson in Life – you’re responsible for the choices you make, so learn to accept the consequences and stop blaming others.

Mylo_MaggiS1I’ve also said Yes in many cases that have either turned out as a blessing such as marrying my lady love (a living example of how to be a better half of the other half that isn’t that much of a half but is on the pursuit of the whole nevertheless) or pursuing a sports career for my son (a professional Chess player of some repute, he has already represented India at international level and won the Bronze medal along with his team in the World Youth Olympiad at Turkey in 2012) or inviting two adorable daughters who exemplify unconditional love into our lives (they walk on all four and wag their fluffy tails to communicate, in case you’re flummoxed by one of my ‘No’s above) or treading the spiritual path through Isha Yoga with the grace of my Master Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev or hopping onto the Blogging bandwagon wholeheartedly a while ago to unleash the writer within on unsuspecting readers like you through my posts in SwamysteryBeen there, Seen thatSwamyverseSwamyView and quotes in SwamyRay!

Truth be told, saying Yes or No in Life, the way we know it, isn’t that hard. But the only way to know Life, the way it is, is by Saying Yes to No!

Middle of the Endless Beginning!

1 Apr

Kalachakra2A while ago I wrote the post “Endless Beginning!” It’s about Life, like many of Swamy‘s posts. Just the way there are two sides to a coin (in fact, there’s a third side too – check this post if you’re keen to know Third side of a coin!) there’s the other side to Life too. It’s a side none of us want to see or experience but all of us eventually will.

Most mortals call it death. Some call it afterlife, with a faint hope that there will still be some life, after Life! All think it’s the end. Only a few know it isn’t.

Death3Death is as omnipresent as Life and is everywhere around us. Yet, unlike Life, we wait for an instance of death to acknowledge it. Acceptance is still far away for most.

When some stranger gets killed on the road and finally (no pun intended) manages to get his 15 minutes of fame in the newspaper or TV, it doesn’t crate much of an impact in us, beyond the few minutes of reading or watching, or at the most a tea or lunch time chat.

Death6When someone known passes away, the effect lingers on a bit longer. We’re flooded with their memories for a while. A young relative of mine passed away recently. He was just a teenager with a long and vibrant Life to look forward to, until that future ceased to exist, on a certain day. He did suffer for long due to a medical condition, but his family wasn’t prepared in any way when he finally bid goodbye to this Life. I was more an observer than a mourning family member during his last rites. Not because I’ve a heart custom-made with the choicest granite from the now controversial Madurai (my dear home town) quarry, but because that’s the fact – however cold it may sound!

Death5When someone very close to us ceases to exist, the effect is much stronger. Even devastating! We cry, curse God (we even have a God – Lord Yama – specifically for this purpose) for snatching their Life away, chide others who don’t seem to be as impacted as we’re and do many other things that keep the memory flame burning long after their Life flame was doused. Whenever I look at my two lovely daughters Mylo and Maggy, the fact that their lifespan is all of just 12-14 years never fails to flash in my mind. Half-way through their Life now – a very happy one for sure, they don’t resemble middle aged women ravaged by health issues of body and mind in any way, but certainly fall in that category – at least in human age scale! I don’t see my family reacting any differently from you, whenever the inevitable happens.

CrashedBike1While this is understandable as humans are highly emotional beings, it is worth knowing that the attachment we’ve with other beings – human or not – is not too different from the attachment we’ve with many other objects of desire. All of us have our favorite objects – a pen, bike, watch, shirt, mug, jewel, recliner or any of the million things that every household is packed with. It’s not hard to recall how we felt the last time one of them got broken, stopped working or had to be given away.

Bhishma1When someone dies at a ripe old age, we try to pacify ourselves saying they lived a good Life. I was witness to this when my grandfather died a few years ago, a relative of mine lost his mother and a neighbor lost his father. They all lived well, died old and everyone seem to have come to terms with their death soon.

DeadBird3When someone dies too young – as a baby – we try to console ourselves saying they were saved from the suffering that we go through in Life. The recent incidence I recall is the baby pigeon that died during the Operation Pigeon Rescue we’ve performed not so long ago and the entire rescue team was actually glad that the baby didn’t live to suffer more.

FuneralPyre1But when someone neither too old nor too young dies, we find it hard to apply the same logic, though they too lived their lives fully before their time was up. I had seen this thrice in my Life so far – twice in person – and the reactions of near and dear were similar in both cases. Acceptance is hard and time seems to be the best healer of the scars left by the untimely death on the psyche of family members and a few close friends.

Sadhguru10If we know Life, the way it is, while Living Life, we’ll understand and accept death better. my Master Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says we fear that we don’t know. We’re afraid of death, because we don’t know it well. Since all our focus is on living, we don’t spend any time thinking about death. In the absence of thought light, lack of knowledge shrouds our mind like darkness. So, we invariably conclude death as dark and end up fearing it.

Monkay1As firm believers of ‘Ignorance is bliss’, we eternally (pun certainly intended) live hoping death isn’t going to knock our door today or some day in the near future. What’s inevitable appears as improbable in our minds – especially when it comes to our own Life. But when the inevitable happens – it will for any and every being – we are unable to come to terms with it and continue to live in denial. We try hard to fill the assumed void with thoughts – about the one that is no more.

FuneralProcession4Interestingly, we also glorify death, when it happens to those who we revere. A saint is said to have attained Samadhi, when he leaves his physical body, which is then enshrined and worshiped  long after they’re gone. A popular actor or politician gets a grand farewell and some of them a memorial too, which eventually becomes a tourist spot. Armed services personnel who lost their lives in a war are remembered and even rewarded, posthumously. And intriguingly, all these events also involve vast amount of flowers – as decoration in the form of garlands, a mark of respect in the form or wreaths or thrown at the passing carriage to pay obeisance.

Sadhguru10Flowers themselves die every day, yet we cherish their blossom and fragrance but don’t bother too much when it’s time to throw the withered ones away. my Master Sadhguru, a Gardener of Life with boundless grace for all beings, loves flowers and says flowers are wonderful examples of what’s possible for every being. But before our ignorance starts shining with vivid imagination, Sadhguru also clarifies that flowers don’t blossom to be liked by us nor do they give a damn about whether we like them or not. They just blossom because that is Life the way it is for them.

Flowers2Instead of just be born, live and die like any human being, we too can blossom to our maximum potential, pleasantly, and spread the fragrance of joy in others’ lives. And when our true inner self blossoms, without attaching any expectations, it also offers us the ability to transcend Life and accept Death as just another phase of Life.

RamanaMaharishi2Very few beings such as the enlightened masters attain realization of the true self during their lifetime. But death is a phase of Life in which the true self can be realized by all, without the trapping of the physical – even at the very last moment when we breathe our last breath. If we’re prepared to accept death in full consciousness, when it happens.

Aum-Namah-ShivayaIn that state, we’ll remain a mere witness to what we love as Life and dread as death. While one is manifest to be seen, heard, smelt, tasted and touched by the five senses, the other is unmanifest and can be understood only when we can go beyond the senses. If the manifest is Shakthi, then the unmanifest is Shiva. And comprehending Shiva isn’t an easy thing to do as he’s beyond comprehension (Swamy’s limited experience of being a Shivanga – an anga or part of Shiva – can be read in Shambho and the 7th Hill)!

YinYang1But it isn’t that hard to comprehend that Life and Death are entwined together all the time, which is symbolized by Ardhanarishwara – a form that’s a combination of Shakthi and Shiva. Yin-Yang is a representation of the same truth as well. Binary, the core of all things digital, too is an embodiment of this. The smartest ignorant beings – with an overrated sixth sense – that we are, we look (by using just one of the five senses) at all of these as mere symbols without comprehending what they truly represent.

UnmanifestDeath isn’t the full stop for Life, i.e., the end of Life, as perceived by most. It’s a semicolon rather, indicating continuity of Life, in a dimension that can’t be perceived by most.

Butterfly1A worm slithers around, becomes a fly, flutters around and falls back and merges with earth – in the space of a few hours.

A flower buds, blossoms, gets plucked, adorns and withers – in the space of a day.

Birds3

A bird cracks out of the egg, eats worms fed by its mother, grows wings, flies away, lives in a nest, perishes with age or gets killed, cooked and eaten by another vicious two-legged being that relishes feeding on anything other than their own – in the space of months.

Gadgets1A shiny new gadget gets crafted out of metal and silicon, wows its potential buyers with mesmerizing power and abilities – many of which they won’t need, gets bought by millions, used for everything other than brushing the teeth, and gets traded or gathers dust when replaced by another shiny new gadget – in the space of an year or two.  

CowCalf1A mammal slips out of the womb, suckles, stands up, learns to walk, makes noises, feeds, finds a mate or falls in love, copulates, gives birth, takes care of its offspring, grows old and dies – in the space of years.

BanyanTree2A sapling springs out of a tiny seed, sprawls into a tree offering shade to all and bearing fruits for any, witnesses many a monsoon, typhoon and summer, gets cut by a stupid two-legged monster or falls when its purpose is served – in the space of hundreds of years.

Unmanifest1A universe appears out of nowhere, with a big bang, gives birth to planets and stars, lets Life find a way, spins around while Life flourishes and gets sucked into nothing, i.e., a black hole – in the space of many a millennia.

That’s the way of Life. That’s how it has been from time immemorial and how it will be for as long as there’s timeAs the Present becomes Past in the Future in no time, not learning the art of Living Life only exposes the Absurdity of Existence further. But to truly understand Life the way it is, one must be willing to go From Ordinary to Extra Ordinary!

Flowers3It’s always a Flower’s form at full blossom that’s remembered – as a garland adorning a deity or Guru, strung together and worn on hair or neck by humans, a sacred offering during puja or a natural ornament on the plant that gave birth to it. Their withered form, when removed and thrown away,  is hardly remembered by any, as they’re invariably replaced by fresh flowers, time and time again, starting the cycle all over again.

When the end comes, inevitably, it’s the Life we lived that should be remembered and cherished. Not the death, which is just another event in one’s Life. While celebrating death may be a bit far-fetched for many, accepting death as an inevitable event in one’s Life shouldn’t be so.

Death2

Fear not, for Death isn’t the end. Learn to embrace it, for it’ll anyway happen to all when their time’s up. Like the glorious crescendo of an orchestra, signaling the conclusion of perfect music played to a packed audience in a concert hall. In the Game of Life, both the musicians and the listeners will move on for another performance in another place on another day!

AfterLife2Fret not, for Death isn’t the beginning either. As the Life beyond it isn’t comprehensible with our limited senses. Like the glorious light from the Sun at dusk, which isn’t that different from that of the dawn! In the Dance of Life, the Sun is another dancer that goes on about its business, as long as it has to, before running out of gas and shrinking into nothingness.

Cemetery1

Face Death nonchalantly by knowing it better, for Death is more the Middle of the Endless Beginning called Life!

.

உயிர்மெய்

ஸ்வாமியின் தமிழ் பதிவுகள்

G.Sairamesh's Blog

Business of helping people Prosper & Grow

Coach4excellence's Blog

Committed to the business of helping people to effectiveness & growth!

Joshi Daniel Photography

Images of People Photoblog

E-Learning Provocateur

A blog by Ryan Tracey

Donald H Taylor

This is an archive blog. Please visit donaldhtaylor.co.uk

Leadership Freak

Empowering Leaders 300 Words at a Time

Been there, Seen that

Unraveling Life’s mysteries, one blog post at a time!