Cancer injected with a gift of happiness

happinessI met a young mother full of verve in my colony recently. She knew almost everything about nutrition and health. I asked her if she was a doctor or a nutritionist to which she just shook her head.

After she left, another young woman who was sitting next to us told me her story, which one could call heart wrenching or inspiring, depending on one’s perspective. This lady’s young son was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just ten. After a few rounds of chemo , radiation and the works when she found no improvement, for a while she felt extremely  depressed and went into the “Why me?” kind of thought pattern.

The doctors did not have an answer, her friends did not and she just started praying again and again for guidance.

Serendipitously she met a senior in the ward who told her that all she could do now was to make her son as happy as he could be in the days of his life to make his mind and spirit more robust.

With this began her journey of looking for solutions for a complete life for her son. She began consciously giving him healthy, nutritious food and taking him to see all the events he loved. The boy started taking part in all games and sports in the colony, read a lot of books and made many friends everywhere.

With this, the little boy’s life changed from being only about treatment to one that made him look forward to life.  Life for him and the family started becoming joyous with hope for complete wellness injected in the process.

“I do not know what will happen next but I do hope and pray for as must happiness as is possible for my son. This can happen only if I myself remain as happy as I can be. This is possible only with complete faith that I shall be guided on the right path by the Almighty,” became her mantra in life, which is why she became an inspiration to everyone around her.

After all, this mantra is indeed applicable to all of us.

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Gratitude, the mantra of life

gratitudeRecently met an old man who was aged 87 on a morning walk. He was grappling with Parkinsons and had recently lost his wife who had also been grappling with an illness.

“The very fact that I had an opportunity to serve my wife is something I was always grateful for,” After a pause, he continued, “I also had a home in which I could take care of her.” I asked him if he missed her now to which he said, “Of course I do but I do know she has moved on to a better world and am therefore thankful for God’s mercy in not subjecting her to more challenges,” he said. As far as his own illness is concerned, he again only thanks God for his mercies in giving him a complete life. “Then and now, my only communication with God is to thank him for all that he has given me,” he said.

I realized more than ever before that it is indeed only gratitude that we should eternally convey to the Almighty no matter whatever the situation that we may be placed in may be. Life is indeed all about perception. We become what we are through our own perception of the world. A challenge becomes an opportunity instead of an obstacle and we then become inspirations not people who are either ignored or pitied.

This is true for all situations in life and like the gentleman said, our world could indeed become a better world with just the simple prayer of thanking and not deriding or asking for anything.

If we all begin thinking like this, the world itself would be a better place where we perceive blessings and not problems.  The more we notice blessings, the more the blessings that are endowed on us. This is the pattern of the Universe.

Maturity with awareness

maturityI recently got a message that talked about what maturity, or what was termed in the message as ‘spiritual’ maturity.

Now, I am a staunch believer of a higher power, whether we call it a higher consciousness, inner power or spirituality. The fact is whatever one may call it we all need to focus on what we need to do.

The fact is any kind of maturity is possible only when we work on our own selves in all areas. We often do not this at all but just focus on the externals, whether it is other people and what they should be doing or see what even we think they should be thinking of us and everything in the world.

The reality is that the more we focus on others, the less work we do on ourselves. This is a simple, logical truth.

No matter how much success we get in the external world, true success is when we are comfortable with where we have reached and what we have attained. This comes only when we know what we are doing and this comes only with complete awareness of our own selves.

Essentially, peace comes only when we seek to please own selves. This does not mean we do not care about others. In fact, when we seek to please own selves we will realise that the more we please others, we will understand it is indeed relationships and understanding others that is the one factor that makes us more complete. Even if there are so called conflicts, we need to think about what these issues are trying to teach us.

After all, we must remember that life itself is all about learning lessons all the time, however old we may be. After all, when we stop learning, we stop living.

Adieu, Louise Hay

louisehayesWhen I came to know recently that Louise Hay, who had brought in the power of affirmations, hope and faith had left us, I started thinking about what she and her book meant to me.

We all know that Louise Hay has inspired millions of people to heal themselves. As far as I am concerned, I too read her book, Heal your life, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). According to her theory, MS indicates rigidity and lack of flexibility.  In my case, I have always been extremely determined in doing my best in my profession and in all other areas. If one thinks deeply, determination when carried to the extremes does become rigidity as well.  This rigidity usually focussed on the results that I started expecting for my efforts.

Now, I have understood that I need to accept the situation I find myself in and am yes focussed on doing my best but am NOT focussed on the results that I would get.

This brings me to another tenet that I have been taught since childhood, that of the Bhagavad Geeta  which says “Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani”. When translated it means “To work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof.”  When applied, it  means that our only concern should be about doing your duty to the best of your ability. Don’t worry about the results of your actions for those are outside of your control.

This when applied in our lives is really complete acceptance of the situation we find ourselves in while continuing to do our best in all the areas we find ourselves in. I tried doing this to the best of my ability and found that this ailment was not so dreadful after all. In all areas, I just did my best and did not expect anything. Soon, Voila, I did find myself completely healed through alternative therapies, primarily acupuncture whether one calls it a cure, a remission or recovery. This indeed is the pattern of the universe. Miracles do happen when we accept and then surrender to the divine will.

As far as Louise Hay is concerned more than the cause she had pointed out, what she had given me was an indelible hope that nothing is incurable and we do have the power to heal ourselves.

The affirmation she suggests for multiple sclerosis that I suppose is applicable to everyone is “By choosing loving, joyous thoughts, I create a loving, joyous world. I am safe and free.”

In my case, I did affirm  all the time and it surely did help me in never feeling depressed in any part of my journey of healing.  This I am sure did have a role to play in my recovery.

Seek and let seek

indianflagWhile wishing everyone a Happy 70th Indian Independence Day, I request everyone to pause and think about what being Indian is to us.

India and Being Indian to me has always been all about accepting and understanding all the cultures this land has been home to.

We have been home to many saints and philosophers and have never stopped learning spiritual lessons all the time.

seekingApart from established religions, India has always honoured the mystic, the seeker, people who wants to have nothing but God in their lives.

In India, spirituality and religion are part of everyday life. In no other country, perhaps, will you see a sadhu (a renounced ascetic or a practitioner of yoga) walking on the street with just a blanket and his rosary as his possessions without attracting any attention. India is home to all the major religions of the world, thriving in harmony since centuries.

It is perhaps only here that one can see people making the symbol of a cross while going across a church, giving a chadar (blanket) to a mosque and then proceeding to a temple to pay obeisance at a temple while singing the gurbani (hymn) of the Sikhs and/or a Buddhist chant to complete the process of reaching out to the Divine.

Why just organised religion? Even minstrels of all kinds are always honoured in this land. In fact, even became insane for the love of God is considered a valid path like those shown for instance by the Bauls.  The word Baul comes from the Sanskrit “Batul,” which means mad, or “afflicted by the wind disease.”  The Bauls are India’s wandering minstrels of West Bengal, whose song and dance reflect the joy, love and longing for mystical union with the Divine.

This is true Indian freedom. Freedom to pursue the path you wish to while respecting all who follow their path. For in India, it is the act of worship is the thing that matters not the names and symbols.

This is indeed the true strength of India. It is not just ‘live and let live’ but ‘seek and let seek’.

 

The three sieves

There are many oft repeated tales that we all need to keep telling ourselves to lead a life that does not harm others and our own selves also.

socratesIn the times of social media and exchange of excessive information exchange, this is indeed what is happening to most of us all around. The three sieves of Socrates indeed guide us to understand the principles we ought to apply. .

Socrates had many students. One day, he took his students to go outside. When they were passing a village, there was a man running near Socrates, almost out of his breath, : “Socrates I have to tell you something about your friend who…”

Socrates : “Hold on”,

“About the story you’re about to tell me, did you put it through the three sieves?”

The man asked : “What are three sieves?”

“First sieve, did you examine what you were about to tell me if it is true?”

The man scratched his head and replied : “Well… I just overheard about it from others”.

“Oh, then there comes the second sieves, sieves of good. Is it something good what you’re about to tell me?”

“Ehm… maybe it’s the contrary?”

“The third sieves, is it necessary to tell me what you’re so excited about?”

“Well, Socrates…I don’t think it is necessary”.

Socrates smiled, “Well, if the story you’re about to tell me isn’t true, good and necessary, just forget it and don’t bother me with it”.

This is perhaps why people like Socrates rose to the highest level of humanity as he could focus his energies on only those things that mattered and just ignore those things that either had no relevance or substance to move further on the right path.

Let us try and apply these very principles in these days of TRPs and trying to prove ourselves right in each and every area of life. This would be good for us and by extension for the world.

Reprogram and deaddict yourself

livingfreeMany of us may think addiction is only about substance abuse either smoking, drinking or using drugs. This is actually not true and complete at all. Addiction could be about anything. One may be addicted to sweets, situations or even people. Now, there is nothing wrong with either the people or things we are addicted to. It is our attitude that needs to change.

How do we do this? One thing we could explore is to see how the addiction makes us act mechanically like a robot. I know a friend of mine who would blindly keep eating sweets although she had been diagnosed with diabetes. This of course created problems but she could just not stop. To change the pattern of tests and retests, she had to reprogram herself. Slowly she did begin changing her behaviour and life did begin to change.

The same is true even of emotional needs. Many of us are addicted to other people’s opinion of us. This is surely not necessary and logical. We could be happy when compliments are given but not make it an addiction. To change the old programming, choose one or two short, pithy reprogramming phrases that counteract specific demands.  Thus to counteract the demand for approval and /or compliments, the phrase “I don’t need approval/compliments” would be appropriate.

Similarly for a situation when one is addicted to never making mistakes, we could say, “I don’t have to reject myself if I make mistakes” would help. We could reprogram by replaying the scene and re-experiencing our emotions.  We could get in touch with the suffering your addictions have caused us and with a determination to get free.

Some simple steps we could use are

  1. Close your eyes. Take ten deep, rapid breaths. Tense the  muscles. Build up all the emotional energy we can.
  2. Reprogram with intensity and power.
  3. Repeat your reprogramming phrases with gut-level determination until we feel that they have become part of us.
  4. Put yourself back in the same scene — this time with the new programming in operation.
  5. Reaffirm the new programming by visualizing yourself responding to the situation with new positive responses and feelings based on your new programming. Reaffirm that you can be free of old programming — free to be how you really want to be in order to enjoy all of your life.

With this, let our energy build for a drive toward freedom.

The two wings of enlightenment

togetherness2Though there is hatred ruling the world all over now, I firmly believe this time will indeed pass as mankind has shown us time and again that it is sharing and caring that can save us and the world.

All masters have taught us that in order to realize enlightenment, we must work on developing two qualities, wisdom and compassion. These two qualities are sometimes compared to two wings that must work together to achieve flight, or two eyes that work together to be able to experience depth perception.

What does being nice to others have to do with personal enlightenment?  Actually, it has everything to do with it. Wisdom teaches us we all are interconnected and therefore, interdependent. With this thought process, we begin to understand that the idea of “others” vs “self” itself is mistaken. Everything is interconnected. When we see someone suffering and feel their pain as if it were our own, we strive to lessen or heal that pain, we are experiencing compassion.

To truly understand the pain and suffering of others, we must understand pain and suffering ourselves. When we finally understand that others suffer in the very same way that we suffer, we can start to develop true compassion. This is not pity but genuine empathy. From this we manifest sharing, comfort, sympathy, concern, and caring, which are all manifestations of compassion.

When we begin thinking in this manner, we do indeed move on the path of enlightenment for it is never ‘us’ versus ‘them’ but all of us together that can save us and the world. This is the primary lesson we all need to learn in our lives if we wish to move on the path of enlightenment and not just speak of it using jargon that may sound fancy but no one really understands, let alone follows.

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with understanding

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive,” says the Dalai Lama

connectwitheveryoneThis is indeed true for humanity and all human beings in general. The fact is all positive emotions are interlinked and hence when we connect, love increases and therefore our world seems a much better to live in. This is a fundamental truth of life itself.

We do need to know here what to take seriously and what not to. Most of the problems in life itself is because we do not work on understand all kinds of people in the world. The world does indeed consist of different types of people but it is entirely in our control to see how we handle each kind. This is indeed one of the primary tests of life. One of the stories that I still remember in this context is that of a heap of skulls.

A Sufi mystic was passing through a cemetery and he came upon a heap of skulls. Out of curiosity he took one skull. He had always been of the thought that all skulls are almost the same, but they were not the same. There were a few skulls whose ears were joined together; there was a passage. There were a few skulls whose ears were not joined together; there was a barrier between the two. There were a few skulls both of whose ears were joined to the heart but not joined together; there was a passage running to the heart. He was very surprised. He prayed and asked God, “What is the matter? What are you trying to reveal to me?” And it is said that he heard a voice. God said, “There are three types of people: one, who hear through one ear; it never reaches anywhere — in fact they don’t hear, just the sound vibrates and disappears. There is another type, who hear, but only momentarily — they hear through one ear, and through the other ear it is lost into the world again. There are a few souls, of course, who hear through the ears and it reaches to the heart.”

And God said, “I have brought you to this heap of skulls just to help you remember it when you are talking to people. Talk only to those who take whatsoever you say to their hearts — otherwise don’t waste your energy, and don’t waste your time. Your life is precious: you have a message to deliver.”

This tale shows us that though there are different kinds, we need to know how to handle each one of them. Essentially, it is our attitude we need to try to improve. After all, we all have messages to deliver and this is exactly what we need to focus on.

A Thousand Rupees

 

There is enough in this world to meet every man’s need

But not even one man’s greed – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

‘Could you give me a letter allowing a friend to stay for a month’, my maid, Heera, asked.  She looked uncharacteristically anxious.

thousandrupeesWe lived in a defence colony which had strict security guidelines for allowing outsiders to stay.  Heera was a verified member and lived in a small room close to our home.  She had worked with us from the time we had arrived in Mumbai, and I knew we would miss her a great deal when we moved to another city, something that could happen anytime.  Transfers were a part and parcel of an Indian defence officer’s family after all.

This was the first time Heera had asked us to give her this kind of letter.  It must be important to her, I thought, and completed the necessary formalities.

Her friend, Sona Bai, arrived soon after. I realized in a couple of days that she was partially blind.  Yet, I could see her doing her best to be helpful by cleaning Heera’s room.  The month passed and Heera asked for Sona Bai’s stay to be extended.  This was a little difficult, but we managed to get the required permission.

It was then that I found out more about her.  Sona Bai’s eyesight had gradually failed and she had been supported by her daughter, her only living relative, for a few years.  A few months back, her daughter had developed high fever and suddenly died.  Sona Bai now had no one to call her own.

It was then that Heera had met her.  Even with her limited means, Heera had not hesitated to immediately bring her home, though she was just a casual acquaintance.

Would I have been so large hearted ? I wondered.  So called ‘educated’ people like us tend to think too much about long term implications:  ‘How long can I keep her’, ‘What will I do later ?’ and so on, and stop ourselves from a natural, human response; simple folk like Heera have much stronger values and courage.

Soon after getting Sona Bai’s permission extended, I realized we needed to try and help Sona Bai settle down in a more permanent manner because of the colony’s restrictions, and also because, once we moved, Heera might not be able to ask her next employer for permission.

However, this was easier said than done.  Options were limited as blind homes in Mumbai could not take her in; they were already fully occupied and, besides, her case was weak as she was only partially blind.  She was not old enough for an old age home.  And her blindness did not allow her to take on the kind of job she could do earlier.

As I was pondering on what could be done, I got a call from one of the blind homes that I had approached in Mumbai. ‘We understand the difficulty of the lady and have just got information that there is an ashram for the blind in Surendranagar in Gujarat, which has room for Sona Bai.  Would you like to send her there ? the director asked.

This seemed suitable, but I wondered whether Sona Bai would want to move so far from her friends, and to a place where she did not understand the language.  I spoke to her hesitantly and was amazed at her equanimity. ‘God has opened yet another door for me’, she said calmly, ‘yes, I shall go’.

We completed the formalities.  Just before the social worker from the blind home came to take Sona Bai to Surendranagar, I gave Sona Bai a thousand rupees – a small amount, but enough to see her through for a couple of months at least.

When we got a call after three days from Sona Bai saying she had reached and was comfortable, I felt at ease and was happy that I could play a small role in making it possible for her to have a home.

There was one more surprise in store for me.  The social worked called me in a few days saying she wished to meet me.  Wondering what the matter could be, I went to meet her and was handed an envelope with a thousand rupees.

‘Sona Bai asked me to give this to you’, the social worker said. ‘And she asked me to write a letter to you on her behalf’. She opened up a sheet of paper, and read out:

‘I am very happy here.  We spend our time weaving and knitting.  Thank you for finding this place for me.  Please don’t feel bad that I have returned your money.  I took it thinking I might need it for travel or for some expense I might have in the ashram.  But I spent nothing on travel.  The social worker told me you had already paid for my ticket.  When I reached here, I found I am given food and two sarees every year.  What more do I need ? The money is probably more useful to you.  So, please take it back’.

The sheer courage of the woman and her perception of ‘need’ astounded me.

This remains the most precious thousand rupees I have ever received.

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This was one of the first stories I wrote and it got published in Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul. It remains one of my favourite stories and  I feel truly proud to have shared it.

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