Living fearlessly with a wounded heart

Imagining a world full of compassionate beings might seem idealistic to many of us, especially those who have been exposed to public hatred, humiliation and injustice. Change makers, motivational speakers, healers and other visionaries might agree with me when I say that although the idea of awakening to our true nature seem straightforward, there is a lot of work to be done. In many parts of the world, things are getting back to the new post-pandemic normal. Some of us are struggling to re-learn how to function in the world as a social being after having gone through a period of isolation. Some of us have reinvented our careers while others have reframed our idea of happiness. A majority of us consider the past 1.5 years as a period of struggle and profound growth. The relationship between struggle and growth is very interesting to me. The traditional idea of growth involves struggle and rightfully so, because you cannot make bread without kneading the dough. If we were to look at growth closely, we might realise that it is actually a change of state. Just like the myriad of triggers that shaped us into the “thick-skinned” adults, I perceive the recent struggles of humanity as a catalyst for change and consequently, an initiation of growth. I feel many of us have been walking with eyes so wide open for distractions and hearts so closed up for compassion that the wrong things in the world had to become worse for us to take notice of those things.

Acknowledging growth is not merely the responsibility of the change makers and the dreamers. The type of growth that I am talking about is relevant to every simple, average human being. Conventionally, the concept of adulting has been about developing a “thicker skin”, holding ourselves accountable and adapting to the world. While we as a society have come up with a seemingly fool-proof system of adulting gracefully, it is not news when I say that adulting sucks. It is not uncommon to think that being an adult is to be in misery, to be often broke and/or have an identity crisis, race for power, chase after true love, survive heartbreak, evade trauma, starve and jump through hoops until you embody the overrated and possibly borrowed definition of success. I can’t help but notice that there is one thing that can make adulting bearable and that is compassion. Compassion from strangers, parents, friends and well-wishers and most importantly, from ourselves can undeniably cushion the impact of the punches life throws at us. Growing from being an adult who is a proponent of gulping the hard pills down the throat to an adult who not only favours compassion but also celebrates it as one’s true nature, could be the humble beginning of our path towards world peace.

Contrary to popular opinion, compassion is not brought out by broadening our minds or stretching our limits in order to contribute to society. Compassion is neither a monumental task nor an aspiration reserved for the wealthy members of the society. Compassion is the most natural quality we human beings can express with the least amount of effort possible. If you need proof that compassion is innate to us human beings, look at a newly born child. Even the most evil person on Earth would have been a baby, with a soul that is so authentically expressed and a heart so open that it is shaken upon hurting even a small plant. What happens when the innocent little baby grows up? The baby is exposed to layers and layers of conditioning to make it fit for the world, which also includes the process of adulting. Kids think, speak and act from their hearts. Energetically speaking, our hearts are the energetic centre of love and compassion. It is not only the source of romantic love-based emotions but also that of an overall sense of wholeness and well-being that another human being can never give us. It is our soul-base. It is the portal to the ever-expanding internal Universe. It is home to the feelings that make us euphoric, drowning us in the bliss of feeling connected to other life forms and Mother Earth.

What makes the quality of compassion seem so surreal and unattainable is not only because of our own survival instincts but also that of our parents, relatives, neighbours and well-wishers. There is considerable shame associated with being an empathetic human being, especially the shame we are made to feel by those who have been hurt so bad in the past that they had to dissociate from the cruel world by developing unhealthy coping mechanisms. What many tend to overlook is the fact that the construct of life is not meant to make humans cold-hearted. Life is meant to expose us to a variety of circumstances, people and stimuli, all of which can be labelled as merely different forms of information. Information helps us learn about and understand the world and our life. Learning lessons in life is similar to scientific research, you observe and experience everything, collect data and interpret, even make your own experiments, vary some parameters, test the validity of the results and save it for your follow-up experiments. Throughout the entire process of your research, the objects vary but the subject of interpretation is you. They are your results and your interpretations are unique to you and your conditions. A good researcher is aware of the need to be objective while a bad researcher tend to take the results so personally and blame themselves. A good doctor sutures a cut in the skin while a bad doctor accepts that cuts are dangerous, the world is dangerous and hence, never reveals the skin to open air ever.

So, are we all bad researchers and bad doctors then? Do we really need to harden our hearts because the world has been mean to us or instead we seek help to heal our wounds and march forward with our hearts open? Do we live in fear or do we brave the cold and live fearlessly? Do we go back to courageously emanating love from our hearts like we used to when we were children or do we choose to secretly curl under the bed and call ourselves wounded? Whatever you decide, remember that your heart still beats just for you, waiting for you to tune in to the frequency of love.

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The magical experience of walking

Who would have thought walking can be magical? I know, walking hardly sounds magical. In fact, with the new quarantine lifestyle, even walking seems like a chore. I am here to convince you that walking can be the most joyful experience you will have today. Have you ever closely looked at your legs? Stop everything you are doing, go to your closet and look at your legs in the mirror. Appreciate them for what they are. Think about how strong those leg muscles are and how wonderfully they carry you from one place to another with grace. Your legs dance with you, sprint with you, support all of your organs and your entire weight. Your legs tell you when you feel chilly and need a pair of warm socks, they help you find balance when you trip on the road and even train with you at the gym every single day. When you walk, your legs coordinate with each other, the nervous system and the external stimuli so perfectly that you hardly have to pay attention in order to walk properly. Over the years, you have gained experience walking on hilly, rocky, smooth, slippery and puddly surfaces. You now know exactly how to walk on those surfaces, how much pressure to apply on your feet, how long a stride to take and how to avoid obstacles. We hardly give ourselves credit for our amazing capability to walk and excel at it. If we get a stroke, we might possibly forget how to walk and have to learn it all over again. Fascinating, isn’t it?

You can walk while you talk, walk while you eat, walk while you read, walk while you think and the best of all, walk while you overthink things in your head. Have you ever thought of, you know, just walking? I remember the time when I first discovered that walking is simply amazing! I was in the second year of College and I was very much into mindfulness at the time. It was a sunny afternoon on a weekend and the corridors of my dingy Indian dorm were poorly lit. There were not many people in the corridor at the time and the foyer led to an open space that connected my dorm to a long walkway. I decided to take a nice long walk from my corridor through the well-lit foyer towards the long walkway that opened up to a huge outdoor seating area. I was preoccupied by school stuff and my head was about to blast open. So, I said to myself that I can’t allow any more stimuli into my headspace and I started walking like I have nowhere to be. The moment I decided to let go of the inner arguments and “just” walk, I noticed something remarkable. I started to consume the experience of walking with all of my senses and awareness.

With every step I took, I started to feel my own body weight a bit more than I usually do, as if I am literally dragging this 130 pounds of flesh standing up against the gravity. I started to feel with my feet the rough topography. I was involuntarily trying to sense the temperature of the floor. I suddenly became so aware of the empty space around me. If I stopped walking, the space remained the same and if I resumed my walk, I was moving through that space. I looked at the ceiling with a child-like curiosity. I felt time slow down ever so slightly for me to feel relaxed and didn’t need any alcohol or drugs to feel that way. I simply started to witness the various background noises of people talking originating from a distance. Somewhere within me, a seed of joy was growing. I felt this insane rush of happiness, just by enjoying my newly expanded range of awareness. It was purely delightful. I couldn’t explain why such a simple act of “just” walking made me realize the beauty of everything about that moment. A wave of gratitude hit me. I reached the outdoor area, I looked at the beautiful patterns of the pebbles on the ground. I sat down at the corridor near the mud and could clearly see the grains of sand. Wow, what a texture! I took a palmful of sand and felt it, as if I am a 5-year old at the beach looking at sand for the first time. I looked around, some people were in a group laughing loudly while others occupied the corners with their laptops and study material. I looked around, I looked at all of it as if I don’t belong to this scene in the movie. A deep sense of peace and contentment rested inside of me. The only way I would describe that moment was magical. From that point in time, I feel in love with the habit of being fully present when I take a walk in the park, especially on days when I really crave for some magic!

Walking can be a great form of meditation, In fact, Buddhist monks practice walking meditation, which is basically “just walking” but with a bit more grace, love and total awareness. Any activity can be turned into meditation if you use the entire range of your awareness. It is that simple! Next time, when you find yourself walking, spare a few minutes of multitasking and try “just” walking. I wish and hope your experience turns out just as magical as mine, leaving you with a heart full of peace and a face decorated with a big smile.

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Simple tips for beginners to slip into the silence

It is the year 2020 or might I say, the year of “feeling things” instead of “doing things” and I am intrigued by the fact that the topic of meditation is still a bit “woo-woo” for many out there. Some people recognize its importance due to the various scientifically-proven health benefits of meditation and mindfulness while others practice it to temporarily escape the chaotic events of their life. As someone who is training to become a meditation teacher, I was thinking about the reasons why is it so hard for some people to meditate and the common assumptions which some people might have about the practice of meditation. In its essence, meditation is an effortless process and is supposed to be very natural and easy. It is our birthright and to meditate is to get in touch with the silence within ourselves in order to, sort of recharge our “batteries” and to enrich our daily life experiences. Today, I would like to share some simple ways for a beginner to prepare before you can transition into a state of meditation that I have learnt during my 12-year long friendship with this wonderful practice.

  1. Household chores

This is the easiest way to get into a state of meditation and I have personally suggested this to many of my friends/acquaintance who had trouble cultivating the practice of meditation. You may not realize it at first but when you are by yourself doing the dishes, folding your clothes or cleaning the furniture, the chances of slipping into the “now” moment is higher than if you were accompanied by music or other people at home. This is probably one of the reasons why some of us feel satisfied after we clean something. Without paying much attention to it, the chaos within settles down while our “batteries” are charged and at the end of it, most of us feel much calmer. For beginners who feel a lot of inner resistance to sit and meditate, performing these simple tasks can prepare you for a successful meditation session.

  1. Mindful walks

Everyone who knows me in person can agree that I am a huge fan of connecting with nature. In spirituality, we consider the environment we live in as a part of our physical body. Our environment is just as alive as we are and they highly influence us. It is not news to say that nature is bountiful and that we ARE nature. When we have trouble connecting to the field of silence and pure awareness through meditation, we can get help from nature. Taking a walk in the park with total focus on every sensory stimulus and every vibrant scenery instantly connects us to the state we would be in during meditation. Although this state of meditation, just like the one while performing household tasks, is accompanied by some background mental activity, taking quiet walks is a very good way to start meditating as a beginner.

  1. Weaken those inner arguments

We all have been there. We play out scenarios in our head and even if our lives are more or less stress-free, our mind never shuts up. Our mind loves the drama and that’s not at all surprising! If you truly want to cultivate the habit of meditating, you have to clap your hands and bow to the director so he would end the rehearsal that he keeps orchestrating inside your head. I am not saying, you have to control your mind. Let me tell you, it is going to be IMPOSSIBLE to meditate when your intention is to CONTROL your mind and your thoughts. So, what do I mean by ending the rehearsal? Over the past few years, journalling has been of immense value to me to find out the root causes of the arguments that play in my mind from time to time. I would ask questions like- ” Why do I so badly want to defend myself to that person?”, “Why do I feel so strongly about this or that?” and “Do I have faith in myself to be prepared for such a disaster when the time comes? Why am I so anxious about this right now?”. When you truly heal or address your concerns, those mental rehearsals end and you can be more at peace, ready to step into silence.

  1. Listen to drumming music

When you listen to rhythmic music without words, your root chakra is healed and that makes you firmly anchored to your body. Why is this important? When you feel ungrounded or might I say, unsafe, threatened or in a state of constant self criticism, you are energetically depleted which makes it impossible for you to WANT to calm your mind. Rhythmic music can command your mind to focus on the music. Automatically, your feet starts tapping to the music and you start nodding your head, which can put you at ease. Bonus points if you wish to stand up and really feel the beats with your entire body with your eyes closed. Your life force energy gets activated and it charges your entire body, relaxing your muscles and makes you feel more fluid or in control of your body, which is a wonderful way to feel before you sit down to meditate. After some movement, moments of stillness of a meditation session doesn’t feel so restrictive to your body and to your mind.

Picture: Royalty-free, sourced from http://www.unsplash.com.