Spiritual & Worldly..The Dichotomy.

My tryst with spiritual contemplation and exploration began with the questions: Why do I exist? Why am I here?

Most of us have struggled with these existential questions at some point of time in our lives. Some of us chose to ignore it and agreed to bury it deep down inside forever.  One way or another, it’s not an easy path to tread.  I was born, brought up in India and lived there for the first 26 years of my life and then moved to US. India is a land which is synonymous with almost everything spiritual/religious/mystic and US is the epitome of materialism. In this blog, I would like to share some parts of my life journey with you dealing with the spiritual/worldly dichotomy.IMG_2094

I was born in a Hindu family but was fortunate to not be forced to do things a certain way. I explored my way through the questions of ‘why’ chant certain mantras, follow certain rituals and visit temples. I never bought into ‘this is how it is’ type of responses. I read a lot of books on different religions and alternate modalities, dived into different prayer rituals, the concept of idols (I don’t think I ever was an ‘idol worshipper’), contemplated on why I was born in a certain city to a certain family etc. You get the idea. I was bursting with questions and searching everywhere. Through most of my searches in India I did realize that most ‘spiritually’ inclined people didn’t pay much attention to everyday life which was filled with the challenge of facing ‘desire’ in many forms. Renouncing your family duties and not wanting to associate yourself with any material wealth was what most people aspired to do. I internalized that allergy to material wealth and never focused on trying to make more money and living a comfortable life. I could never relate to my friends who talked about their 5 year plan of getting married, buying a house, car etc. This was all gibberish to me. I could respect but not relate to their goals. It was easy for me to not place money and material goals on my priority list when I was 25 and living with my father in a good two bedroom apartment in Mumbai.  Having completed my MBA, I found a decent job with a company and made good money just for myself. My worldview completely turned topsy-turvy when I came to US as a student and had to do odd jobs, study , pay my rent, buy a car with working heat to survive in Chicago’s winters. I am not a quick learner though or should I say I am strong-willed and I couldn’t grasp the fact that I needed to align myself with the realities of the world where you ought to have a certain amount of money to feel safe, have a car to commute etc. I took my time but I learned my lesson.

My understanding  with respect to this dichotomy of spiritual vs material is that one is asked to be like a ‘lotus’ where one is in the dirt( you are free to question whether this world this needs to be referred to as dirt in the first place) but not of it. In my opinion, it’s easy to simply renounce everything and not have to perform any duties. It’s like being an addict whose life revolves around his drug of choice. The drug of choice here being the illusion of self-realization and nirvana. During my search I also came across a Buddhist thought which said something to the effect that: Before you are enlightened, you chop wood and carry water, after you are enlightened (which isn’t an end), you continue chop wood and carry water. This thought made perfect sense because it isn’t all or nothing. It doesn’t have to be ‘either – or’, it is meant to be an ‘and’. It’s about striking a balance. A few weeks ago, I was reading The Quran and was impressed by the clarity with which it portrays the need for this balance between spirituality and materialism.

The truth is that understanding these spiritual concepts is one part of the struggle and like any other subject, you need to be able to apply it in your everyday life. It is this application which isn’t easy and makes people want to find an escape and run away. I meditate everyday and there are times when I don’t want to come out of it because it’s a state of pure joy whenever you manage to tap into it. Despite feeling this joy during meditation I cannot say that I always emanate joy from my being in all my dealings on this earth. This is where one needs to laugh at oneself (am a huge work in progress on this one). It is easier to sit in the Himalayas and say that one needs to love thy neighbor as himself because all is one and a totally different thing to apply that thought when your neighbor’s dog shat on and ruined your first go at having a herb garden( On second thoughts, isn’t that manure for crops).

Be true to yourself on your journey as hard as it may be. Strike a balance with an ‘AND’ not ‘OR’.

Affirmation- My Best Life

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My Best Life

Affirmation- My Best Life

I am living my best life, right here, right now.

I intend and life provides.

I take the required action in faith when guided to do so by my divine intuitive self.

I love life and life loves me back.

 

Pooja Joshi

Stress, stress..go away.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a close friend. She and I were first roommates and then turned into friends sharing the same wavelength on philosophy, humor etc. Life took us to different cities and we both became occupied with our lives. In the past few months her work and studies demanded a lot of her time which led to us not being in touch daily. Now that you have the background, let me get to the core.

She mentioned that there was a lot of stress at work, school and personal life too (sounds familiar?). For someone who believed in planning everything in life and being calculative about each decision, she gave into the stress and booked herself an ‘escape’ trip all by herself to a city she had never been to. She told me that she had fun for two full days where she cared for nothing and splurged with abandon. While she was giving me descriptive details of all the fun she had, it also took me back to times where I had indulged in some kind of escape. It struck me that often times when we feel like breaking free and escaping from any stress we tend to choose activities like drinking, smoking, drugs, casual sex, and extreme sports. Any mood altering activity that lets us numb ourselves and the vehicle we choose is our body.

I wondered why is that in an attempt to numb the pain and to create momentary pleasure, we end up abusing our bodies. While we are engaging in these band-aid/feel good solutions, I don’t think it even occurs to us that we could perhaps be abusing ourselves.

The other question being, does this approach really work? Perhaps for a short time (if that’s the goal) and then it resurfaces the next time our emotional immunity is at a low. If only we could learn to be kinder towards ourselves, then we would think of learning different ways of coping with stress. Having said this, I know that we are not meant to be perfect and can take a fall every once in a while.

Some of my favorite coping mechanisms include talking to a friend, writing, exercising and being in nature. What are yours?

My best to you,

Pooja

I held back..

I held back, not wanting to feel. I held back, protecting my innocence and my purity.

I held back, fearing the wrath of emotion. I held back, forging a defense.

I held back when I was happy and I held back when I was sad.

I held back until you touched me and scattered my being into pieces.

Shredding all the pain, all the grief, I stood beside my broken light.

I hold back no more and have begun to flow uncontrollably.

I hold back no more and allow my heart to feel it all. The pain, the hurt, the joy and the love.

Encircled in your light I stand in all my might.

Thank you and the you that has found its place in me.IMG_9873

Dead wild goose

My typical drive to work wasn’t as typical today. I left home knowing that I was running late ( well..coz I woke up late). I was driving on my normal route which had regular traffic as you would expect in a busy Chicago suburb. While passing through one of the intersections and singing along with the radio, I couldn’t help but notice a goose fluttering its wings by the side of the road. It was a busy intersection with an exit to an interstate. I couldn’t stop right away and drove a couple of miles while my mind was trying to reason whether or not to turn around since I was already late. My conscience won the battle since I knew I wouldn’t have been at peace knowing that I could have perhaps done something to help the innocent creature lying on the street. I turned around and prayed that I get some help if I need any. Right when I turned by the spot, another man did too. We knew why were there. Our hearts couldn’t simply pass it by. I asked him if he thought we could help the bird. He looked and said it’s probably dead and checked to confirm the same. I asked if we could just move the body to a place where it wouldn’t be hit again although it was dead. He said, he would if there was something to lift it with. I searched my car and found some papers I didn’t need. The gentleman then moved the bird and we parted ways.

If it was me alone over there, I would have simply acted out of emotion and tried to move the body with my own hands without bothering to protect myself. I wouldn’t know how to check whether or not the bird was actually dead.

What I learned here was that while we try to do a good deed, we also need to think about our safety which is easily forgotten or frowned upon several times. Also, letting your conscience take the final call is a good idea. It only hints to the notion that one is capable of compassion despite the busy mechanical lives we lead. I also knew in that moment that I perhaps did what I could and worrying about how the body will be dealt with by some landscapers working there wasn’t going to help. I prayed over it while I was with the body.

As I am getting ready to post this blog, an image of a white swan pops up on my reader. Wonder what’s that about:)

Sending my best to you,

Pooja

Hello again..

I know it has been a while since I last spoke to you. My last conversation with you here was about the changes I was experiencing in my life. In the midst of those changes I had to ask myself- Who I was and who I wanted to be? Whoever tells you that this process is fun is definitely not telling you the truthJ

The environmental factors which weren’t in my control were reshaping me in such a way that I saw no better way but to surrender and quieted this side of me.  I had surrendered with a prayer that if this piece was still needed of me then it would flow back in with ease.  What I can tell you is that it has been easy in a way and not so much in many other ways (internally).

When I saw it coming back I questioned it and felt like I didn’t know anything yet again. This isn’t a comfortable feeling to have if you have experienced it. The thing about questioning is that it can soon turn into self-doubt.   It very easy to feed into a mind trap which makes you believe that you perhaps aren’t good enough to dive back in. It took a couple of months  of battling with doubt, asking for signs to guide me and promising myself that I would take action when I get my sign.

One of my signs was in the form of a woman whom I admire and her mere presence reignited the life within me. You know it when you feel it and there’s no other way to describe it. After a 2 year hiatus, I logged back in to my WordPress and clicked on ‘forgot password’ and ‘reset my password’ which is only another metaphor to my current state. Simply loving this! There couldn’t be a better time for this to occur than the spring season.

Thank you for reading and relating to this,

My best to you,

Pooja

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P.S: I only write when I so choose to and I am grateful that I can do so.