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!

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.

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

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

The Changing room

Past few weeks things have been changing around me. It is probably more appropriate to say  that these changes are big enough for me to notice them. I feel like I am inside a changing room trying on new clothes and find out what I like:)

Old is making way for the new. I think about the process a snake goes through when shedding the old skin and coming into its new skin. I have heard that it is painful for the snake but it happens anyways. It is natural and there is no way around it. The snake endures this process for days and then shines in it’s new avatar. The purpose of the ‘old’ is fulfilled and it has lived its course. Imagine how would it be if our skin did not expand in response to the growth occurring inside the body. When we grow physically, for the most part we are excited and even there we do experience growing pains.

Change by itself is a natural and neutral occurrence. We inflict the pain/pleasure upon us by choosing to do so. We can resist change as much as we want and it will still happen.

We can exert some influence by utilizing our free will and wait for what turns up. Most likely whatever is in your best interest will come to you even if it is an outcome different than one you had visualized. At the beginning of this year I had created a vision board mentioning a specific amount of income for myself through a certain profession. The ‘what’ of my intentionality is being fulfilled and I had to adjust my sails for a totally different ‘how’. This is what was needed for me to upgrade and fortunately I was able to welcome it with open arms. I needed new hardware:) This is what I mean by using free will to affect change. And there is always an element of our higher good which is not visible to us immediately but is more of a feeling. Go with it when your heart tells you ‘it is going to be ok’.

Change is good:) This is how I choose to see it!

 

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The Bean-Chicago

 

Passing Clouds-Pain & Pleasure

Yesterday was a beautiful spring day in Chicago with bright sunshine and a cool breeze. A stop light made me pause and look at the sky while I was driving. I observed the clouds floating around in the sky. The sky being ever present and allowing the clouds to wander around, there was an engaging stillness about it. The clouds seemed weightless and moving across. Right at that point I wondered, what is it about being huma

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Floating Clouds

n that makes us believe in the permanency of fear based emotions and situations? Pain and pleasure are clouds that wander around in our life i.e. the sky. They are both temporary in nature, one making way for the other..moving along. As humans, it is perhaps our failure to foster our inner stillness in this fast paced life that leads us to focus on the clouds.

The Wisdom in Stillness

 

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Folsom 

 

Being still does not mean you are stagnant.

When you are separated from external activity, through an illness, job loss etc, it is not a punishment. Embrace it as a time for renewal and healing.

Winter is nature’s time to lie low and renew. Everyone one of us lives through different seasons in life. All seasons play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature.

You will know when life presents you with this ‘still’ and ‘down’ time. Go inward. Spend some time in silence. Retreat into your being. Utilize this time to rest your body. Become a witness to all that you have created without judging yourself or others.

I believe it is for this purpose that several people go on a pilgrimage. You need not always travel to a different destination. You may choose to do so if your heart so desires. Spending time in nature will provide you with the inner stillness and grounding that you need. For some of us, it may present as a time to do some soul searching.

Until you find that ‘stillness’ inside you, you will continue to experience restlessness because your spirit is not at ease. A lot of us need a ‘time out’ from family and friends too. Some of us recognize that we need this time for ourselves but are unable to do so due to familial responsibilities. The more we ignore it, the more pronounced it becomes and then comes a day when circumstances build in a manner that we have no other excuse to reach for. We also find some people who take a break from a successful career to satisfy their soul’s longing and wonder how does one give up a well settled life in search of an unknown. I am reminded of the book ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma as I write this.

Having lived through some such seasons in my own life, I can also say that there are some who choose to fight and fret this period which makes it even more gruesome. Ultimately, such periods are nothing but chances for us to grow on a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical level.

Not to say that there is anything easy about these stretches.

Similar to most other experiences in life, we can choose how we respond.

Namaste.