Archive for the Category »Driving through life «

@ The river is your life! – Alfred’s progress

See (1) to know about Alfred. 

“Imagine a beautiful and wild river.  As you travel down it in your boat, you encounter fearsome rapids and long reaches of calm water.  Rain pelts down on you chilling you to the bone and the sun warms you like a snake on a rock.  At night, the forests along the banks, which were so beautiful by day, can become dark moving shadows, mysterious and unsettling.  The river has so many faces, boring and exciting, beautiful and treacherous.  It goes on and on ever downward, never revealing its final destination.

The river is your life.  The boat, which enables you to navigate the river, is your thoughts .  Now imagine you come upon a tranquil glade by the river-side.  You pull your boat to the river bank and tie it securely to a tree.  You sit in the glade and focus on the present, filling your heart with peace and calmness.  You can hear the river gurgling nearby but now you do not have to think about it.  If you do have a worrisome thought about the next rapids or rain storm, you can put that thought into the boat knowing it is securely tied to the bank and is safe.  You can allow yourself this present moment on the bank in the sun, knowing that life, with all its beauty and challenges will be there when you return.

When you return to the river, it will be with new calmness which will not only help you better navigate the rapids but also appreciate the infinite beauty around you which so often is missed.”

(1) Alfred

All his posts

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* Walking on gold coins, eyes closed

‘Focusing on breathing’ is a technique that is easy to understand and practice.It reduces and prevents stress without demanding time, posture, teacher or money. Many people under stress  admit it may relieve some of their problems. But they are unwilling to try it, even at bed time which is the first step I suggest on this path. I believe it shows that they are not yet ready to come out of their stress and its consequences. This idea is brought out in the following story from Indian mythology.

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Once upon a time, there lived a great devotee of the God named Shiva. He was always chanting the name of God Shiva. But he was always poor, unable to support his large family. He would visit the nearby village every day, asking for donation of food from the housewives and return to his family to feed them.

One day, God Shiva’s wife, being aware of this devotee’s condition, asked Shiva why HE was not helping HIS great devotee. Shiva replied that the devotee’s time to come out of his suffering had not yet come. But Shiva’s wife, felt a lot of compassion for the devotee and insisted that Shiva must do something immediately, to help that poor devotee.

To pacify his wife, that night, Shiva sprayed gold coins all along the road on which the devotee walked every day to the village.

In the morning, Shiva and his wife watched from the heaven, to see what the devotee would do. When the  the devotee was about to step on that road, he got a brilliant idea. He thought “I have been walking on this road every day, for so many years. I know all its turns and pot holes. Let me challenge myself today, by walking on this road with my eyes closed.”. Then he closed his eyes and walked confidently, stepping on the gold coins lying all along the road. At the end of the road, he opened his eyes and congratulated himself for his great achievement!

Shiva told his wife “I told you that he is not yet ready to come out of his suffering!”
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I tell this gold coin story in the introduction part of my seminars. At the end the story I say that every breath that enters and exits our bodies is like a gold coin lying on our path. Noticing a breath is like picking up a gold coin for free, because every time we focus on a breath, we prevent stress and also reduce our stress, for sure, though only a tiny bit (1). In all our non-sleeping moments, we have this ‘golden’ opportunity to prevent and reduce stress (2). Stress being the root cause of many mind and body problems, this practice has immense potential to help us get relieved of many problems (3). Participants appreciate this powerful message.

(1) ‘It is only a little’ – My Article
(2) Stress – Its causes and effects
(3) Helping mind and body

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* Only doing works, not just knowing

I learned this lesson from a funny experience in our kitchen area.

The trash can has been in the laundry room which is adjacent to the kitchen for many years. All our family members must have made thousands of trips to it by now. Sometime back, we had to temporarily relocate the trash can a few feet away , by the side of the kitchen island. This was to create space around the washer for opening it and replace some parts. Getting the parts and replacing them took about 10 days. We had been seeing the trash can in its new location, several times during the day. During this period , I learned the lesson that we can’t do the right thing, just by knowing what is to be done and how. Knowing is simply not enough. You won’t believe it unless you experience something like this. Read on …

After the trash can was moved, every time we had to drop something in it, we quickly walked to its original location, only to find it missing there, recollect its new location and walk to the new location. After this happened a few times on the first day, I cursed myself for forgetting the fact of its new location, even though I saw it in the new location several times while walking in the kitchen area. I thought my brain would guide my feet to the correct location, at least from the second day. But no! Not only the second day, but for several more days, I continued walking to the  original location, cursed myself and walked over to the new location. The first few times, it was a funny experience. Then it was very frustrating and irritating. After a few days, I gave up all my negative thinking. I realized that an action repeated thousands of times, can’t be changed just by knowing the revised action intellectually. The intellect, with all its knowledge about the new location of the trash can, could not make my feet walk to its new location. It was incapable of redirecting my feet.

My stupid action of walking to the wrong location of the trash can corrected itself, after about 7 days. I would still walk towards the old location, half way through suddenly realize that it is at a different location and redirect my feet. I was happy for this huge improvement. Before my habit corrected itself 100%, the washer repair was done and the trash can went back to its good old location.  Not surprisingly, I quickly went back to the long established habit of walking to the old location. I might have walked to the new location only a few times. I was sort of relieved and happy to get into the old groove.

Now I fully sympathize with any one trying to change an old habit. If walking to the trash can can be so difficult to change, it is no wonder people find it so difficult to give up addiction to overeating, smoking, alcohol and angry outbursts and such habits, even after realizing their negative consequences.

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* Speak and act with a clear mind, clean heart and compassion

Sometimes we are faced with challenging situations, unable to decide anything. We feel stuck. We need a strategy to get unstuck and keep going. The following approach may be helpful.

Protect yourself with the three  ‘C’ s

1. Clear mind: Seek clarity on facts. Make a reality check on the situation, people, their actions and intentions. Keep on working in this sphere, till you feel confident that you are not imagining things but seeing truth. Make sure you are not in confusion or doubt (1). First task is to achieve this mental clarity. Don’t speak or take any action even now. Read on for the second ‘C’.

2. Clean heart: Check your heart if you have any negative emotions like revenge, hatred, cheating, fear, guilt etc.  Clear your negative emotions as they will surely trip you on the way. The comes the third ‘C’.

3. Compassionate attitude: Check whether you have a compassionate attitude towards ‘yourself’ and ‘others’ who may be affected by your words and actions. If your words and actions are not arising out of compassion to everyone (everyone includes your own self), hold all speech and action. Take time to develop a compassionate attitude (2).

Now speak and act

Once you have put on these triple protections around you – a clear mind, a clean heart and a compassionate attitude, speak and act with confidence and conviction. You can’t do wrong to yourself or anyone. You won’t have regrets. You can stand before GOD and say boldly “I did the right thing. I am proud of my self.”. If you won’t be afraid of facing GOD with conviction, why should you be afraid of any human being?

(1) Is it a snake or a rope?
(2) Read My articles on ‘Relationships’

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* My shopping cart pulls to the side

I go to the nearby Walmart store often for fresh milk and vegetables. As soon as I enter, I pull out a cart from the train of stacked carts and go into the aisles, to pick up the stuff. Occasionally, after pushing the cart for a few feet, I realize that wheels are not in alignment, pulling it slightly to left or right. I am not happy with its condition. But having walked a few feet ahead, I am reluctant to walk back to the entrance to replace the defective cart by a good one. So I go ahead and continue the shopping.

If I remain passive and allow the cart to move as it tends to, my cart will soon hit another shopper or the shelving. I silently curse the defective cart and the people who should have have taken such carts out of circulation. To prevent any mishap, I periodically adjust it to go straight ahead. With a number of grumbling adjustments, I complete my shopping and walk out of the store, without any mishap.

One day it occurred to me that my mind sometimes behaves like that defective cart. I am aware of my mental bias pushing me to obviously unwarranted judgments of people. If I go by its dictates, I will definitely regret my judgments and consequent actions. Taking a clue from my experience with the defective carts, whenever I am aware, I ignore the wrong tendency of my mind and make a deliberate effort to judge and act correctly. Due to such repeated efforts, self correction of my mind has become natural and spontaneous, with less regrets.

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Parent page: ‘My articles’

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* Focus on the Message or the Messenger?

We see this situation often. Consider these scenarios.

  • A sufi teacher (1)  was pointing his crooked index finger, bent due to arthritis, at the moon. He was asking his student to look at the beautiful full moon in the sky. The student was focusing on the crooked index finger. He could not see the moon as he could not detach his attention from the finger. The communication between them was a total failure. Who is responsible? Who is the loser?
  • I receive a partially damaged and dirty envelope from the tax department. I feel like throwing it in the trash bin. But then….What if it is a notice of an audit of my tax return? Or it has a check for the tax refund? Should I ignore the dirty condition of the envelope and open it, pull out the letter and then toss the envelope in the trash bin?
  • I parked my car crossing the dividing line between the two parking spots, close to the entrance of a famous temple and went inside with my family. The adjacent parking space was wasted, as it was risky for any one to park in that narrow space. That being a week end, there were many visitors and the parking was very tight.  When I returned after the worship, I found a paper under the wiper of the wind shield with the pungent message “Stupid! Don’t you know how to park?” I felt very bad. Should I curse the hot blooded person, may be a youngster, for his crude message? Should I regret my negligent parking, depriving another devotee of a convenient parking space? Should I etch this incident in my mind and not repeat the parking negligence any time in future? Should I thank the youngster for teaching me an important lesson that I definitely needed, though in a crude manner? Could I have realized my inappropriate action affecting other people on my own, if I did not get that crude message,from whoever it may be?

(1) Sufism is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a Sufī.

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Parent page: Articles on ‘Relationships’

* Thoughts are like balloons without air

We constantly get thoughts in the mind – mostly negative ones and rarely positive ones. Most of them are random thoughts and vastly vary in content and rarely relevant to the task on hand. Often we get carried away by the content and message of such a thought without questioning its validity. We don’t raise the question “Is there any truth in this thought? Do I believe it?”

A thought has no impact on our mind or behavior unless we believe it.

I can visualize thoughts entering the mind like limp balloons landing on my desk. I don’t know where they are coming from. I don’t have to blow air into every balloon that lands on my desk. I can take a look at each balloon and decide which one I like to keep. Then I can spend my energy blowing air into the chosen balloon.

Similarly, we can decide which thought arriving in our mind has significance to us at this moment, examine its validity and decide whether to believe in it and act on it. Believing in a thought is like blowing air into a limp balloon, giving it an attractive look and utility. Not believing in a thought is like leaving it limp, lifeless and insignificant, as good as dropping it in the trash can.

Related article: Is it a snake or rope? on the importance of correct perception, in saving one’s life and in not missing a potential opportunity.

Parent page: Thoughts are like………

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