A Prayer from my heart to yours

A prayer

Find the true you

May you always wake up knowing that you matter

& be aware of the impact you have by simply Being

May you always see the truth

& choose to keep your eyes and ears open

May you always be surrounded by beauty and love

& spread the goodness you receive

May you always use your voice to uplift others

& let not fear or pain crush it

May you always live courageously

& act in accordance with the highest good of all those around you

May you never have to make a choice that pollutes your innocence

& find forgiveness in your heart if you do

May you be open to experiencing pain

& not have suffering cloud your sense of purpose

May you always be blessed with all that you need

& find gratitude in that which was not given to you

May you find moments of bliss where the ‘I’ no longer exists

& develop a reverence for silence when you do

May you feel compelled to create something larger than you

& lose sleep to fulfill this desire bestowed upon you

Beyond all else, know, that your biggest challenge & reward is to find & be the true you!

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Parallels between Vedic Wisdom and Western Psychology

In the past few years my interests have led me to dig up some info on psychology in the Western world and corresponding work in the realm of Eastern wisdom. In this blog I am drawing parallels between two Western Psychological models of understanding why we do what we do with the Eastern wisdom namely from the Vedas about the Energy Centers which exist in us connecting us to the larger whole. Let’s dive in!

Tony Robbins’ Human Needs Psychology teaches us that we as human beings have the following six needs:

  • Certainty – Our need to feel safe, comfortable and having a sense of control.
  • Variety- Our need for adventure, pleasure, fun, spontaneity.
  • Significance- Our need for achievement, a sense of accomplishment and recognition.
  • Love and Connection- Our need to feel loved and establish relationships, feel a sense of connection with others.
  • Growth- Our need to feel that we are learning, growing in different areas of our lives.
  • Contribution- Our need to give back without expecting anything in return, to make a contribution, to have a sense of purpose larger than us.

As per Human Needs Psychology, most of us spend our lives focusing on the first four needs but it is the fifth and sixth that bring us the true fulfillment we are looking for.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

  • Physiological – Our need for food, water, warmth.
  • Safety- Our need to be secure and safe.
  • Love/belonging- Our need to have intimate relationships, friends.
  • Esteem- Our need for prestige and a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Self-actualization- Our need to achieve our full potential including creative pursuits.

The first four needs are categorized as deficiency needs ( we get motivated to fulfill these when they are denied to us or are unmet) and the 5th one is our need for growth ( these become stronger the more we engage in them).

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Journeying between the East and the West

As per the wisdom of the Vedas, a human body has the following 7 energy centers:

The human body has seven different energy centers which are called Chakras in Sanskrit. Chakra translates to a wheel. These energy points spin in order to receive and give out energy. Each center governs a certain aspect of our life and organs in our body. Chakras are healthy when they are clear and moving in the clockwise direction. Most of us have more than one that aren’t functioning optimally at a given point in time which point us to our challenges/areas of improvement which are recognized as patterns/themes. The best part is that you can simply intend/visualize a chakra to be moving clockwise and it begins spinning in the right direction. Of course, there is an entire field of Energy Healing dedicated to balancing the chakras and one may need that depending on how blocked they are.

  • Root Chakra/Muladhara – Muladhara translates to Root Support Located at the base of the spine, this chakra is red in color and represents the Earth element. This corresponds to safety, security and longevity.
  • Sacral Chakra/ Svadisthana – Svadisthana means sweetness.Located between the root chakra and the navel, this chakra is orange in color and represents the water element. This corresponds to feelings, sensuality and reproduction.
  • Solar Plexus Chakra/Manipura – Manipura means a lustrous gem. Located between the navel and the sternum, this chakra is yellow in color and represents the fire element. This corresponds to power, will and courageous action.
  • Heart Chakra/Anahata- Anahata means unhurt, unstruck, unbeaten. Located in the center of the chest, this chakra is green in color and represents the air element. This chakra is the bridge between the lower three and the higher three chakras. This corresponds to selfless love , balance , relationships.
  • Throat Chakra/Visuddha- Visuddha means pure place. Located between the heart and third eye in the center of your throat, the color of this chakra is turquoise and represents the element of sound. This corresponds to speech, communication, true purpose.
  • Third Eye Chakra/Ajna- Ajna means command. Located above the eyebrows in the center of the forehead, this chakra is indigo in color and represents the element of light. This corresponds to clarity of vision, intuition or pure knowing.
  • Crown Chakra/Sahasrara- Sahasrara means thousand fold. Located on top of the head, this chakra is white/gold in color and represents the element of space. This corresponds to our connection with a higher power, intelligence.

Root Chakra corresponds to the needs for Certainty/Physiological/Safety.

Sacral Chakra corresponds to the need for Variety.

Solar Plexus Chakra corresponds to the need for Significance/Esteem.

Heart Chakra corresponds to the need for Love/Connection.

Throat, Third Eye and Crown Chakras correspond to the Growth, Contribution and Self Actualization needs in the two western models.

Drawing parallels between the first four chakras and the western models is an easy match to perform.  It is the higher ones that need some explaining. Maslow’s Self-Actualization and Tony Robbins’ Growth and Contribution needs correspond to the 5th -6th and 7th energy centers.  These energy centers when functioning well connect us to the bigger picture where we can see how our challenges and struggles can be used to help others, where we feel rooted in our authenticity and speak out truth, where we engage in activities where our life actions benefit others around us. This is where one moves higher up from the needs of the ‘I’ and being self centric to serving a larger good.

If anyone of the 5th , 6th and or 7th are blocked, one may not be able to feel fulfilled in these areas- perhaps one can see (6th) the bigger picture but is afraid to speak the highest truth (5th) for the want of losing someone’s approval in the process. The 7th one is our connection to the universe’s big data, to the universal intelligence.  Speaking your truth also entails recognizing the areas you need help with which is a pre-requisite to any kind of growth to occur.  The 6th energy center provides us with the ability to visualize and use our intuition to conceive bigger ideas which is enhanced once your 7th is open to receiving from the universal intelligence.

This is one of my posts that I have had fun writing..hope you had fun reading it! One can approach healing/growth from any direction using any method one is drawn to. The key is that you need to be able to feel the difference. Combination of more than one method at a time works great too.

In order to learn more about Chakras, I recommend you visit http://www.deborahkingcenter.com and or read the book Truth Heals by Deborah King.

Patterns- let’s decode. Shall we?

Today I am experiencing one of those beautiful synchronicities that life offers you. This morning I was reading a book titled ‘Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson’ and later in the day while surfing for something to watch I stumbled upon this video titled ‘ The brain that changes itself’ on Amazon. Let me share and elaborate how my little head connects the two and there’s also a bonus at the end. Have fun!

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Mastadon of IPFW, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I am only 10th page of the book I mentioned and I loved how the author talks about the different messages we decode everyday from our external environment unconsciously. How do we decode these messages? Via our senses i.e. sight, smell, hearing, touch. For most people only one of these senses is the dominant source of information. Our decoding of this information depends on our past conditioning to a large extent. For example: When you say or read the word ‘food’ , each one of us experiences this word differently based on our associations to the word food in the past. It could be an image, it could be a distinct smell, it could be texture or the clinging of vessels related to the word. While we are forming those experiences/associations in the beginning we don’t filter it out, we simply receive and save it in our repository. This then helps us to not have to go through this decoding process again when we hear/read the word food. This association becomes our default as we grow up and we never really challenge it. We assume that what ‘food’ means for us is what it means for everyone else in general. This assumption of sameness makes our lives easier for sure but this assumption can also limit our abilities to learn more and new meanings of the word ‘food’. As I write this, I can think of how so many individuals argue over the definition of what is and what is not ‘food’ which is a never ending argument for many. So remember that we as humans like certainty and we create these patterns which need to be used by default without being questioned so that we can then utilize our brain power on other important issues like performing on job, rearing children etc. This can also be called our need to maintain homeostasis. Some of these patterns are helpful but some of these limit us.  But can these patterns not be changed or should they be changed at all in the first place?

The answer to whether or not they should be changed depends on what life circumstances you are facing and if you are happy/content with where you are then there isn’t exactly an incentive/need for you to change anything. What’s fascinating though is that our brain and bodies are constantly taking in and processing information and in a constant state of change. Even the food we eat is nothing but information/data in a different form which is then processed by our bodies and provided to us in the form of energy.

The thought of the need to change our patterns is the connection to the video I watched. In the video they talk about the concept of neuroplasticity which is the idea that the brain is capable at any age to make new connections and therefore rehabilitate itself/heal itself. My main takeaways from the video:

  • Unless the existing pathways are blocked or rendered useless, we don’t look for new ones. Some researchers have worked with individuals who lost their ability to use parts of their bodies due to traumatic incidents/strokes/paralysis. When these individuals were brought into treatment, the doctors restrained the dominant/usable hand and began exercising the other hand making slow and gradual progress everyday. What’s profound is that the new pathways weren’t built until the old ones were restrained/blocked. More often than not in life, we create suffering for ourselves when the situations around us seem to be blocking/restraining us. For example, you are a waitress and the restaurants in our area have stopped hiring. We create pain when we say..’ What will I do now? ‘and we keep looking for the same type of jobs. What if we looked at that block as a push to find a new pathway?
  • In another study, a person who had been blind for 38 years was given a device which sent feedback to his brain using the tongue instead of sight and he could navigate a physical path with turns simply based on that feedback he was receiving via his tongue. The man reported that the feedback he was receiving formed a mental image in his brain which is the same as seeing it with the eye. The brain doesn’t distinguish between ‘how’ the input is received. This is exactly how fears are real to people. Using this imagery available to us we can imagine new outcomes which is then enough for our brain to establish those new connections. Techniques like Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive behavioral therapy help us rewire our brains.
  • Brain is a neutral receptor and storage house..so what are you feeding it and storing here on a daily basis? Meditation and mindfulness are two practices that help us become more aware of our unconscious patterns and bring those to the foreground for us to then work on them. In the same breath I would also like to mention that more than 90% of our body’s serotonin is produced in the gut region. More than one third of the microbes in our gut are not human microbes but microbes from the food we eat. So, the source of your food, the way it reached you, the soil it grew in, the way you cook it and the manner in which you eat your meals all determine who you think you areJ. If you are interested to read more on the mind and gut, please read Eat Wheat , The Mind-Gut connection and The Second Brain for the more scientifically inclined.

Solitude

It is often when we are alone that our faith gets stronger

It is often when we are alone that our fears crawl out into the open

It is often when we are alone that we are silent

It is often when we are alone that we do take a deep listen.

 

Being by yourself is no easy task and avoid it, we must at all costs

For one who learns to cherish solitude taps into her higher self

Needs no one to tell her who she is

What would then ‘they’ do if she doesn’t need them anymore?

 

Free and wild she soars in the sky

Talks to the winds when she needs advice

Hugs the trees when she needs comfort

She leads the way for another who searches for her highest truth.

U.S. Election cycle of 2016-my takeaways.

“Hillary doesn’t come across as a strong candidate because she isn’t very dynamic and doesn’t have radical ideas for change. She wants to continue on Obama’s legacy whereas Trump is all about shaking up and bringing in change.” My father’s words rang in my head last night while I was watching Hillary Clinton’s last rally in Philadelphia. I was looking at the Obamas and HRC together and I said to myself, What’s wrong in a picture where power comes from a shared source?  In my humble opinion it’s time for people to honor and understand the collaborative aspect of power in addition to the existing aggressive individualistic concept. An individual can make a difference but real change can only be impacted as a system. Collaboration being a feminine ideal perhaps struggles to find its voice in our masculine competitive view of the world. We need a healthy balance of both to thrive. Assertion is needed to raise issues and collaboration to find solutions.

For someone who has kept herself aloof from politics, I must say that this election cycle has taught me a thing or two and I am writing this blog to share what I have learned.

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US Election 2016-Climax time

The 7 things that stood out to me during this election cycle were:

  1. This election had two candidates who hit the core of our hearts and conscience. Their mere existence asks you, ‘What are you made of?’ – Is your baseline marked by love or by fear?
  2. Emotion trumps rational thought process unless we as human beings use our highly prized ability to discern. Emotion provides us with instant data of what lies beneath and we can choose what we would like to do with this data. Being aware would be the first step.
  3. A message that is hammered long enough around you can become a belief. Constant flow of visuals through media influence what you focus on. What you focus on consistently becomes You.
  4. Collaboration is perceived to be weak and aggressive competitiveness is perceived to be a winner’s attribute. This very notion goes against biology and physiology where every element works in tandem with the other. Can you imagine any single organ of your body being able to function optimally if something else in the system is compromised?
  5. You need to blow your own trumpet. If you boast enough about yourself, your followers will emerge. This is perhaps what social media helps you with. To find and connect with your audience.  A case in point is Bernie Sanders’ campaign whose authenticity and passion resonated with millions.
  6. We need our leaders to be flawless. We can’t tolerate imperfections in the people whom we choose to put high up on a pedestal. Is this even possible? I think this only allows for us mortals to sin without guilt because we aren’t up there. We need to let them be human beings who can err.
  7. You cannot focus on what you don’t have or have lost and expect to become great again. It’s similar to how one cannot focus on disease and expect to become healthy. Disease can be used as a pointer/indicator and only a vision of health can move you towards wellness.

Not afraid to be ordinary

I have to admit right at the outset that ever since I was a kid I disliked anything which was ‘normal’, ‘regular’, ‘conventional’.  I would often ask why rituals are done a certain way or why do I have to follow social rules which my brother didn’t have to follow. And you know what the rest of the why’s would look like..

The story began one afternoon when I was sitting in our family’s apartment balcony and looking at what people in the apartments living opposite to us were doing( I know it wasn’t a nice thing to peek but hey..everything was too close not to watch when the curtains are open) . It was yet another sunny day in Mumbai and I had just returned from school. While I was watching,  I noticed one apartment in particular where the kids were playing and the maid was drying the clothes in the balcony. They weren’t doing anything extraordinary and in fact they were doing exactly the same thing as they did the day before and the day prior to that. It was then that I wondered:

  • Will I die one day and no one would know?
  • Will my existence go unnoticed?
  • How can I be different?

Trust me when I tell you that I was all of 10-11 years old thinking about such glum stuff. In that very moment

  • I decided to be different.
  • To not follow the routine, mundane and mechanical life.
  • To create my own rules and
  • To learn everything on my own ( this wasn’t a smart intention to set but I did set it that way)

This existential thought storm also triggered a resistance towards anything normal. If someone had a normal childhood i.e. sans any major struggles or discomfort then that didn’t interest me, two people who got married with ease didn’t give me as much a kick as did an odd couple i.e. Older woman marrying a younger man, if everyone was afraid of the walking alone in the dark then I would surely try and see what the fuss was all about. I wanted to be above the rest but not in the normal competitive manner where you tried to score better than your peer. I got above the rest using some spiritual and philosophical understanding. Being competitive also meant being normal so I wasn’t going to engage in it.

Fast forward some years and some first-hand experiences , I craved normalcy and all I wanted was a normal life. I was at a point where I was tired of ups and downs and desperately wanted the comfort of the plateau, the known. I needed certainty/ stability and thankfully I was able to achieve it after some challenges. The truth is that had I not tasted these challenges where being able to make ends meet in a foreign land was my daily concern, then I wouldn’t have been able to value normalcy. I am stubborn like thatJ

With this new found respect for normalcy and my 10 year old still inside of me, today I have reached a point where I can say that no matter how ordinary you are, there is an inherent uniqueness in each one of us which can never be suppressed (unless you choose to suppress it). You don’t have to try too hard to be extraordinary.

Accepting the beauty of normalcy takes courage. Accepting somewhere that most of life is lined with routine tasks which are not to be fought with but won over. The ‘difference’ lies in the choices we make while leading an otherwise ordinary life. There is an ease in this approach to life. An organic wisdom if you will. It is the beauty of a homemaker who sings while she cooks, the compassion of a man returning from a 9-5 job who helps a wounded animal on the street,  the courage of an otherwise ordinary bystander to stand up for a woman who is being eve teased.

In my opinion, if we can simply learn to be good at being ordinary with an elevated consciousness/humanness then we will never be ‘just another’ person who lived/died. As long as we keep fighting the normalcy, that’s what we stay busy with and staying busy in our own head doesn’t mean that we aren’t ordinary. This constant battle we create for ourselves can induce more fear in us than needed.

I am not suggesting here that you shouldn’t challenge yourself or try to grow or be complacent. If you do any of the above then you are not respecting your inherent uniqueness and not allowing it to express itself. What I am saying here is that not everyone needs to be a Mark Zuckerberg or a Bill Gates to make a difference or to live a life that has created an impact. If you live your life with authenticity then it will indeed be a life well lived. Some of us spend too much time and energy focusing on what we are NOT in this moment. You don’t have to know everything OR be restless at all times because you aren’t doing enough to get somewhere.

Cruising the skies or waiting in the Hangar?

I do not know what is it about air travel or travel in general and the flow of thoughts combined with the urge to pen them down. It’s almost like an irresistible urge. Something very similar to when you just have to go to the bathroom and can’t control your pee any longerJ Wonder if I could have given a more subtle example but then the relatability factor of natural instincts in unquestionable. Right, and now that we have established that…

Enroute to the airport today I got consumed by the sight of airplanes on the runway waiting for their turn to get the OK signal for flying. Then there are planes which were simply standing by which are even farther away in the process of taking off and nowhere close to the runway. Can you guess what I am getting at? Perhaps it’s too early to have you guess. All those airplanes standing over there and also the ones closer to the runway have their routes planned and their times of flying set. The mere act of ‘waiting’ close to the runway or being farther away in the hangar does not negate the fact that they will indeed fly. They will fly but only at a certain time and on a certain route.

I have often wondered…

What’s the need for yet another life coach, doctor, healer, teacher, dancer when so many already exist and what could this yet another person could even dream of contributing that hasn’t already been done.

What’s the point in starting yet another company if you are not the pioneer in the industry?

What’s the point of doing anything if I am only going to be lost in the crowd of me toos??

The starting point here is the thought that knowingly or unknowingly we all strive to contribute/make a difference. Even if you think are you are not the ‘helper’ or ‘social worker’ or ‘activist’ type, no matter what you are doing, you chose it to make a difference and to contribute. Some of us who work a job simply to meet ends and take care of a family are making a difference in that exact manner- providing to the family. If you are driven by intellectual kung-fu and have chosen to be a business analyst or forensic psychologist , you are making a difference. If you have chosen to be a full time home maker then you are making a huge difference in several lives at once. No matter what hat you are wearing, you are making a difference.

The second point is discovering our own uniqueness (I know that’s such a clichéd term but please bear with me) that lies within us. What is your USP? It’s everything about YOU. The type of family you were born in, the school you went to , the religion you follow or chose not to, major life events that have occurred and shaped you, are all factors that are unique to you and you alone. These experiences impact our thinking in unique ways, the way we make decisions, the way we interact with the world etc. You are a me too only until you see yourself through a different lens. And yes another important factor is that you need to honor your unique gifts yourself i.e. be authentic and embrace all the crap you have been through.

Much like the different routes for airplanes and a different timing to fly, each one of us has followed a unique route and will continue to do so. Even if you are doing the same job with the same set of tasks, you do it and process it differently than the next person who does it. There always are differences.

In a spiritual/philosophical sense your plane will take off when it is the exact match of your abilities with a time of need which is much larger than what our rational minds can comprehend. All airplanes never cruise the sky at once and neither can we have all on the runway at the same time. If we can get out of our heads and appreciate the ‘whole’, we would perhaps be able to see that not all people who have been successful did it at age 20 or 50. Each one has a different story. What is the common is their ability to acknowledge their uniqueness, embrace some level of uncertainty and take action. Don’t beat yourself up if 5 of your friends are millionaires and you are not right at this time. (On second thoughts, you could absolutely choose to do so if you do enjoy self-torture.)

I don’t have a count for how many airplanes exist today and how many cruise the global skies at once but there’s always room for more or so it seems. There’s always room for YOU to BE YOU! There’s a difference that ONLY YOU can make living in the most ordinary circumstances. A certain set of people with whom ONLY YOU will interact in the way YOU do. There is a micro in this whole macro that can only be touched by you.

Would love to hear if you have been able to relate to any of this..