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!

12 Responses to “Saying Yes to No!”

  1. Ganga May 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    It’s a fabulous post. For sure it has deepened my intensity and I will be even more conscious to say YES to all the Definite ‘NO NO s’ when it comes to my practices and food.. In my experience this is the only way we can make ourselves deserve for the grace to descend upon us.

    • prakashswamy May 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      Namaskaram Akka. Thank you for your kind words. I’m nowhere near where you and Anna are in your journey. Glad this post found resonance with many as it came out of my own experience, something that Sadhguru emphasizes for every seeker!

  2. Kiruthiga Srinivasan May 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Prakash.. You are truly a living legend.. Its really not easy to be self disciplined adhereing to the principles and following them diligently without any second thoughts. Masters grace is completely with you.

    • prakashswamy May 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      Thanks Kiru. I’ve to humbly disagree with the title you’re bestowing upon this self, as I’m just a seeker who’s still trying to seek The Truth, while walking down the path my Master has shown to many. There are souls who’ve done Samyama 7 or 8 times. Compared to them, I’m a mere CAT :O Btw, about 1500 people are also undergoing similar preparation for this program of a lifetime – this self is just one among them!

  3. Shindhu Thiagarajan April 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    That is an awesome post Prakash !! The title only is so interesting 🙂 And it always takes A LOT to say an Yes to NO be it food , life or the habits !! And nothing more great than to know your inner self 🙂 Its magical 🙂

    • prakashswamy May 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      Thank you Shindhu. Glad the post resonated with many, despite the high probability of it putting off people who’re averse to or cautious about change – in anything!

  4. Soumya April 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    What can i say! We are fortunate be mentored by you in this birth. There’s not an iota of doubt that with Sathguru’s grace, you will successfully complete this program and continue to enlighten us with your motivational presence and actions. It is so true that one has to learn to say ‘yes” and “No” to the right things in the right manner.excellent insight.

    • prakashswamy May 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      Thanks MM. Forget completion (that’s a long time away), even the participation of self and 1500 others are only due to Sadhguru’s grace. And it’s I who am fortunate to have this wonderful bunch of Mentos who’re keen to listen to all things Life, rather than just leveraging mentoring to achieve their goals!

  5. Ekanthalingam Amirthalingam April 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Lovely post Prakash! I am so thrilled to know that you have enrolled for THE dream program for many spiritual aspirants. It is such a blessing to be with the master for one full week and all these preparations are required just to match the energy needed to absorb those vibrations. I knew getting in to Samyama was difficult but never knew that it was this hard.

    I believe everything is about practice and passion. No matter how difficult something seems, if we can practice it with unlimited passion, long enough, we will be able to achieve success. I am happy for you and pray that you complete this as desired and go through the spiritual experience with joy! It is obviously very important to say ‘Yes’ to ‘No’ and only the few who dare can make it big in life. Thanks again and willing you the best of experience!

    • prakashswamy May 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Thanks Ekanth. Sadhguru keeps telling Isha meditators “I’m available to you in ways beyond your understanding, if you’re willing!” From the time Shivanga happened with his grace, this self has started realizing the true meaning of that. What’s happening is happening only with his grace B:) And that boundless grace is available to all who seek and are willing!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The LaaSting Truth of Life! | Swamystery - December 5, 2013

    […] nothing is Swamy considered an exponent of the art of connecting the dots – oops.. time to say yes to no and deflate the “i”nflated ego :O). It is the act of being selfless, for a cause (a […]

  2. HMV! | Swamystery - June 3, 2013

    […] “Saying Yes to Know!” to know how to keep thinking about unnecessary things at […]

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