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Choosing your fuel

23 Mar

This is something that has been on my mind since, well, always I suppose, but more sharply so since January this year. For context: soon after I received my Kriya initiation early Jan, I went to pay my respects to someone I hold in very, very high regard spiritually. I will always feel boundless gratitude to this person because he was the channel through which our Guru came to us in this life, and he has been a friend of the highest order to my whole family. We can never repay what he has done for us. Ever. Naturally, I pay more attention to his words than I would for other human beings, because I see him as more than an ordinary person, as someone who is more deeply attuned to the Source of everything than anyone else I know.

In this conversation with him, I got the sense that probably we approach the spiritual path differently. That the motivation for why we do our practices is not identical. I sit in meditation because I seek to love God the way I am loved- unconditionally. To learn to love unconditionally is my goal on and off the meditation mat. Atleast till date, I do not care for the wonders that a Kriya yogi is supposed to eventually encounter as she makes the journey from chakra to chakra. That isn’t enough to become a source of motivation for me. To him, love is an emotion, and something more than that emotion is required on the path of the yogi. Or atleast, that is how I received his words to me that day. And that was very upsetting.

If my motivation was misguided, then where did that leave me?

Love is the only factor and motivation that works for me, in all aspects of my life- it is the needle of the compass I follow in evaluating and correcting my behaviour, my actions, my thoughts…everything. Duty, responsibility, social correctness, prudence bla bla means nothing to me shorn of love. You do what you do out of love. A sense of duty that originates out of anything other than a desire to love well is misplaced, in my world.

The approaches of some God-realised individuals have emphasized the importance of prioritizing the love-aspect of motivation and behaviour, and the writings I have grown up on, Paramahansa Yogananda’s writings, have held love to be the highest motivating factor. So I know I’m not just stroking my ego in fixating on love.

The strength of this knowing got tested quite a bit after this January conversation. The desire to defer to the position of a person much more advanced than me is strong, and yet, and yet. It doesn’t feel right. Just as his position that I ought to pray for a life partner does not feel right, and yet I’m frequently assailed by the thought-how can he be wrong? Am I just being stubborn? Have I misinterpreted the many internal responses I have received thus far on this question? Is my steadfastness in believing I only ought to do what I’m shown I need to do, misplaced?

Oof, it is exhausting arranging these thoughts into words.

I’m realising that as the journey of life unfolds, people are faced by such situations, where they have to weigh their inner convictions against contrary advice/guidance by other, often valued, people in their lives. One has to choose where one puts one’s faith. And two, it is fucking exhausting going against the grain all the time, walking one’s own path, if it defies not one but multiple conventions of being. Sometimes I think about how much easier my life would have been if I would have just been satisfied by the things I’m supposed to be satisfied by.

But, who said it’s supposed to be easy? What are my ideals worth if I’m not willing to put up a fight for them?

All that to say that despite the seed of doubt infused in my mind (by that part of my mind that thinks other people will always know better than me) about what I need to use as fuel, I need to go with what I know works best for me. I need to fuel myself with love as motivation, and I need to surround myself with other people-real life people and online people- who have a similar motivation. I will continue to seek out and be fueled by other peoples testimonies of the power of love.

This isn’t as coherently written as I’d like, but it’ll have to do for now.

 

 

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A Very Happy New Year, all!

8 Jan

Dear reader,

I wish you a very happy new year. I wish you the symbolic renewal that every January brings, and hope you are able to take that and translate it into every day, so that every morning becomes a new year, a renewed chance at doing better, trying again.

In the past I’ve used the last day of December to sum up my year (mostly for myself) and write down my hopes for the coming year. The quintessential year end activity that many bloggers and social media users engage in (I love reading them!). This year though The Year That Was post was relegated to the back of my mind for a very good reason: my family was visiting and I learnt on the 31st that I have been approved to receive the technique of meditation my spiritual practice has been building towards since 2011 (and in a way, since I was born; in another way, many lifetimes in the past…)- Kriya Yoga.

It all happened very unexpectedly, because as I’ve noted several times on this blog, I’ve not yet managed to become a regular meditator. A pre-requisite for Kriya in the organization I take my teachings from is twice daily practice of the preliminary techniques.

(This is with good reason because Kriya is powerful, and one doesn’t want to fry one’s nervous system. Besides, the preliminary techniques do many important things like give good training in interiorizing your consciousness, becoming aware of energy and learning to move it at will, and building an attunement with Guru and God. They are powerful in themselves, and speaking for myself, I haven’t even come close to exhausting their potential, if that is even possible.)

Owing to my lack of regularity, I had not applied for Kriya and would not have done so this year either, had my steps not been guided to a monastic for counselling one Sunday in December. I love how these things happen- inner promptings that nudge you towards where you need to go, almost independent of ‘your’ self. The monastic suggested applying despite lack of regularity, so within a few days I did.

And oh, the melodrama of human emotions! First I was so happy and excited at finding out I had a shot at Kriya now, when mentally I had become prepared to wait for who knows how long, given my massive struggle with regularity, that it was as if someone had switched on a motor inside me. I couldn’t sleep properly for a week. And then my hopes plummeted when it turned out that the review of my application would happen differently from what I had been given to understand, and I thought that meant it was all a mistake, I’d have to wait for eons after all. Resigned to that, I put it out of my mind and focused on enjoying my family’s visit to the city and the year-end festive feeling. And then on the 31st I found out that I was eligible, and that initiation would come in four days time! And now joy mingled with dread, when the longed for thing was within reach.

Anyway, I am initiated now. It was lovely. I wasn’t sure if the initiation went as it was supposed to go for a while (predominant fear being ‘did I fail?’), because I didn’t have anything to compare it with. Hurrah for the internet, eh? As things settled down, and as I came across what looked like reliable accounts of experiences of others, I am at peace with mine. It was lovely, it went as it should, I have what I need. The techniques themselves will need a bit of practice before I get them right, but I am finally feeling at peace there too- my massive fear of cocking things up has been replaced by an awareness and reassurance that Guru will guide.

So here I am! Eight days into 2019, with an intention of making this an active year. Actively embracing good health practices like regular exercise, and cutting out food deliveries (made easier by the fact that I’ve finally run out of my savings, ha!), actively engaging with my writing in a bid to finish my dissertation by year end, and actively embracing regularity in meditation. Actively exploring the freelance employment market, and putting my creative work out there in a semi-professional blog. Active, conscious movement will be the goal for 2019.

And, because it does serve a purpose, the highlights of the past year, for me, include:

PhD life:

*My book review being published in a journal.

*The book review leading to the planning of chapter structure for my thesis that will most probably stay stable.

*Applying for a year’s extension on my PhD.

*Sorting through and organizing five years’ worth of PhD material.

*Coming to peace with the possibility of staying within academia at the end of this, and not fantasizing about running away at the earliest opportunity. This was aided in part by a tarot reading a dear, generous friend did for me, out of the blue.

*Being selected to attend a philosophy workshop at Bangalore, and being thoroughly stimulated by the experience and Bangalore.

*Being invited to consult on a research project in Bangalore relating to my area of experience/expertise (slightly chuffed about this!).

*Womaning up to facing one supervisor at the end of the year and sharing with her, yet again, my lack of writing progress. Full honesty about having lost my way again, and feeling a lack of meaningful connection to the PhD, but having found some resolution to these problems towards the end of the year, led to a very good exchange. She was understanding, especially of the existential angst, and so we move into the next phase of work with no secrets, so to speak. This exchange might be required with my other supervisor too, but it’s going to be harder to do it over email.

 

Spiritual Life:

*Getting back to the full sequence of routines for my meditation practice, for the times when I did sit down to them.

*Briefly resuming the practice of Pranic Healing, and this time being guided to a place where I lost the fear I used to have while doing it. A more devotional/prayerful approach to the techniques is more suited to my temperament I find.

*Having a friend to meditate with for the first time, in Delhi. Her influence led to my returning to the ashram space with more regularity. And helped me return to the Dakshineshwar ashram space nearly two years after I last went. It was time.

*Discovering the existence of Quantum Hypnosis Healing Technique (QHHT), and reading a book on the laws of the spirit world (by Khorshed Bhavnagiri) that added new dimensions to my understanding of life and the world of energy and spirit. QHHT is too expensive for me right now, but in the process of making enquiries, I consciously experienced the manner in which deeply and intensely posing a question to one’s inner self makes it certain that the answer to the question will come. And how identifying the question itself is a big movement towards the answer.

*Becoming eligible for Kriya!

 

Personal Life:

*My father’s surgery and consequent healing.

*My mother’s retirement.

*Taking up the making of art again, and finding newer directions creatively speaking.

*Resolving to put my creative work on a blog and a visiting card. The friend’s tarot reading helped here too with the decision that I had been dithering over.

*Having a dear friend and kindred spirit in the city for the whole year, making a nice change from being kindred-spirit less (in the flesh) in Calcutta.

*Ticking off some items from my Calcutta bucket-list.

 

This isn’t a blog which is very generous to its potential readers, by way of material. So if you are still reading, thank you!  You are very patient, and I value your readership. All the very best for 2019!

 

Warmly,

The student in Kolkata

To be writing again

11 Sep

It’s been a while, and perhaps it would be good to write a little post in here. I’ve been estranged from my words recently, not just in here but also in my journal. I’m doing that millennial thing of drowning in the internet, consuming shtuff. Most of what I consume is immemorable, although I have to say The Office was not. The Office, the US version, was surprisingly heartwarming, funny and wholesome. I might be in love with Dwight Schrute 😀

While most modern TV is designed to induce binge watching, The Office seemed to be an exception. Most episodes stood on their own and didn’t leave you frantically wanting to know what happened next. The Pam and Jim romance was not milked for the usual kind of drama (I’m looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy!), there was a stability to even that story line! I guess this shows there are ethical ways to keep a show popular and one doesn’t have to programme in a binge watching element to narratives! Which is not to say that I DIDN’T binge watch, hehe. It is just that when I needed to, I was able to limit myself to one episode per day.

What have I been up to? Well, I spent two months in Delhi as my father underwent the surgery we were waiting for since December. The whole thing ended up being more complicated and serious than hoped for, though we were warned by the surgeon of all possible outcomes. Through it all, before, during and after, we felt the unmistakable hand of God and Guru carrying us physically and emotionally. We were calm, we felt prepared, and the post-surgery finding feels manageable. There is a road ahead of us to be journeyed, and we will embark on it with prayerful gratitude in our hearts.

I felt zero inclination to even try and work on the PhD whilst there. I wanted to make my full self available to my father and family. To an extent, I met the goal of setting myself aside and diving into small acts of care. But I won’t kid myself that outwardly it translated into a whole lot. In my ideal world, good caregiving translates into keeping the home in order, making warm and nourishing meals, and cultivating an environment of peace and joy that infuses positivity and joy into hearts. And alongside that, most importantly, regular sessions of pranic healing. I found that all my energy went into ensuring semi-regular pranic healing sessions. Order in the home, meals etc all fell on my mother as I quickly became overwhelmed by it all. All I did was that semi-regular pranic healing. One blessing from this season was that I lost my fear of healing. I received good advice, and now I feel more able to perform the healing as worship and prayer, which suits my temperament more than performing it as a ‘healer’, one who can do damage if the channel through which God’s healing comes isn’t pure and holy.

I’m back in Calcutta now, and have just applied for an extension on my PhD registration. This has sort of become the norm now, everyone seems to be doing it. Next week I head to Bangalore for a workshop. And then, I need to find a way back to my writing, a way past-or through?- the many worries and anxieties about my future and my decisions that are becoming my steady companions.

As always, there is but one way ahead- regular meditation. It has been nearly a month since I meditated. The time and situation are right to begin again.

 

8 Feb

A yogic way of living life is incompatible with blaming bad fortune (and praising good fortune?) on external circumstances. However, the power of one’s external environment is acknowledged, and one is exhorted to strive for an environment that is compatible with one’s goals, inner or outer. Between the external environment and inner resilience, spiritual protection and will power, it is the latter that is acknowledged to be the more powerful tool.

In materialist conceptualisations of the social and the political, the environment is seen to have the greater hand in guiding human fate. Human agency and endeavour is to be directed outward to re-arranging material society, which will ultimately lead to inner joy, satisfaction and meaningful life.

This distinction is somewhat crucial to my academic work and post-PhD life. Merits further concrete thinking. I need to know exactly where I stand on this and how far I want to push this distinction while reformulating my own politics and figuring out my working future. The overlaps between the two make it difficult to definitively make declarations.

So, 2018.

17 Jan

We are seventeen days into the new year and I sincerely hope it brings renewal, hope, determination and keep-on-keeping-on-ness to every single soul on the planet, and more specifically, to those who continue to read this blog. And gentle peace and happiness, too.

Image result for top cat gif

Ok, and maybe some madness too!

After my small success with the October-November experiment last year-where, for one month, I vowed to meditate twice a day for 15 minutes only*-I’m after some more goals this year.

1) I’d like to resume full practice of my meditation, including the energisation exercises that precede the actual sitting down part of it. Once a day will do, because:

2) I’d also like to resume the practice of Pranic Healing which I started learning in stages from 2011, without ever becoming a regular healer. Pranic healing is an energy healing system developed by Master Choa Kok Sui, and my family became acquainted with it more than two decades ago. One parent was a patient, the other learnt it so that it could be practiced at home, and we’ve been receiving healing from that parent ever since. It is powerful and effective in a manner that can only be understood by someone who has experienced it.

Pranic healing has played another very important role in my life; it kick-started the present phase in my spiritual life by giving me intellectual and experiential knowledge of the yogic system of inner and outer worlds, and bodies, and taught me how to meditate (even though I went on to practice a different system of meditation than the one they teach). For a long time I thought perhaps that was where its role in my life ended. I couldn’t find a way to actually practice the healing because I tended to get very, very anxious at the mere thought of it.

However, time’s up for anxiety! I’m approaching the re-introduction to Pranic Healing like I do my meditations; leave it up to the Divine Guide to do the actual healing, as I follow through with the motions. As long as the responsibility lies Up There, I won’t get nervous. I think!

3) Getting regular with the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra. The immediate motivation is the health of a family member, but I hope to keep with with the 108 times chanting, which takes about half an hour for me. This mantra was my experiential introduction to the power of mantras. A skeptic of anything canonically religious, I became a convert when I finally decided to try verbally chanting along with my Yoga class one day, some years ago. They begin the class with this one-

https://bodymindlight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Opening-Prayers.jpg

And end with-

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Chanting it felt wonderful in a very physical way, like the words entered deep inside my back and resonated. It released energy and gave me peace. Since then, I’ve frequently started my meditations with the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra chanted thrice, followed by the Shanti Mantras, just as they chant it in Sivananda Yoga Centres.

4) Walks. Every late evening, after the crowds thin, for atleast 30 minutes. This one is motivated partially by health reasons and more so by vanity. Several months of eating out via food delivery services led to the necessity of buying what I call my fat pants. I need my fat pants to not fit me anymore, even with a belt! 30 minutes of regular walking might not be anywhere close to a heavy-duty workout, but perhaps combined with a diet of home-cooked food it will be enough for me to regain my regular levels of metabolism.

5) And oh yes, finish writing that dissertation!

 

 

 

*It led to more continuous twice daily meditations than I’ve ever had since I started meditating in 2012. Since the focus was regularity, I allowed myself to set aside my usual techniques and length of time spent on it.

Practising

5 Dec

*I found out today morning that the Britts apparently spell it like the above and that ‘practiCing’ is the American way to do it.

I grew up with British English spellings, but somehow never got the memo about practising. Whatever I learnt in my primary schooling years of Wren & Martin grammar books have long been forgotten and I have been doing grammar and spelling by intuition ever since. Today’s flash-bulb moment courtesy the book reviews editor who offered me the book review.

*The book review was, in the end, written to my satisfaction and submitted much in advance of the deadline. By which I mean in the middle of the due day, instead of 23.59, which is what I am wont to do.

The manner in which the book review got written captures the essence of why I’m to stick with the PhD and why the PhD is first and foremost, and only most, my specific spiritual training ground. Till about four days before deadline, the words were not organising themselves into anything write-able, in my thoughts or rough drafts. It was a minor crisis situation and the pitch of my panic was rising on cue. On the morning of the third day I felt a deep internal reassurance that the words would flow, and in the correct order too. And, despite it being a day of outdoor and indoor chores and plumbing crisis, the rough draft got written.

If the ONLY thing I learn for good at the end of this is that action flows not from the ‘I’ but from God, and learn to operate with that conviction, I’ll be satisfied. As always, experiencing something is very different from knowing it intellectually.

*In Delhi I have Sivananda Yoga right behind my CGHS. As I am a lazy bum, that is most fortunate. I’ve signed up for a monthly pass, as I tend to do once or twice a year, and yesterday was my first class. Sometimes the energy flow in the body is a blessing rather than a consequence (of hard work) and yesterday was such: the body was falling into many asanas with ease, despite the levels of unfitness I have worked myself into.

However, I realised I have plateaued in my practise because of one thing: effort. When I first began a regular practise in 2010, the maximum benefit came not from what I could do easily, but in pushing myself to hold the asanas that challenged me longer than I thought I could**. In recent times I find myself doing that less and less. I must remedy that today.

**Edited to add: I guess this is true of meditation as well.

21 Nov

Coffee makes me garrulous and feeds the tendency in myself to make epic plans. Like, epic. For example-

Caffeinated brain-

Did you know that you could go to Sarajevo (and come back) for under Rs.50,000? I could totally do that. If I finish my PhD without exhausting all my savings. As a grand gesture and all to celebrate becoming a ‘Doctor’.

De-caffeinated brain-

Then again, Rs.1,00,000 could be put to much better use. It might even fund a writers retreat for one in a picturesque mountain cottage.

Why Sarajevo? Because I’m reading Bruce’s memoir, and came across the chapter where he speaks of going to war-torn Sarajevo to play a gig during his solo, non-Iron Maiden career. He describes the incredible beauty of the mountain roads leading to the ravaged city and I was struck again by how some of the most beautiful places in the world suffer from extraordinary violence.

Except, Sarajevo is now free of war. And I could go there. Except I won’t, because travel for the sake of travel died for me in Berlin, 2014 (R.I.P.). I was spending a week there as a tourist, after presenting a paper in a workshop. Why? Many factors came together that led to that natural death.

For one, I got serious about meditation and my relationship with spirituality became all-encompassing. I realised that I would seek only that which would be in sync with my spiritual goals. Chasing travel was not, but travel itself could be. I became even more interested in exploring from where I was, rather than going away to explore where I was not. If the source of joy lay within the self, why waste time chasing what could never be found externally? A long local bus ride on a new route can give me as much pleasure as going to NYC, or Sri Lanka, or Goa.

For another, I have become more conscious of consumerism, and travel is often about consuming experiences that one can buy with money (including that airplane ticket). Spending money just to travel feels meaningless now, I prefer to club some other purpose with it. Like work, or visiting family.

And also, I’m a person who likes to absorb slowly and how long can ‘trips’ be, after all?

And also also, reaching the end of my twenties made me come to terms with the whole FOMO thing. On the whole, I do not anymore, if I ever did, suffer from the Fear of Missing Out. I’m at peace with knowing that yes, the potential exists to do a million wonderful things, and I have displayed a potential to be a jack of all trades, but a time comes when one makes choices and sticks to them, at the cost of ignoring other possibilities. You choose what you want to focus your energy on, because it is not possible for most of us to focus with intensity on several things at once.

As the last traces of the morning cup of Bru Gold leaves my system, and the November sun retreats from my balcony, I come back to more pragmatic matters. Time to work on the draft of the book review due next week.