Category Archives: Meditation

The Art of Being You

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Your lucky enough to be different, never change

I used to take art lessons as a child and stopped in my early teenage years.  The result of my 2 to 3 years of lessons was a public exhibition of what I created at the most advanced stage of my learning.  I am now in awe of my oil paintings which are hung beautifully in my Cleveland home. I pride myself on calling myself an artist: I used to paint, I write, and I sing (in the bathroom).

Is it just me or does the title artist have a cool ring to it? We generally refer to someone as an ‘artist’ when they know how to create of something, when someone has a skill to do something that requires a bit of imagination. I think everyone is an artist in their own right. At an early age we learn to mask our emotions, hide behind our feelings, and plug our sentiments for propriety.  In tandem we learn to fake our smiles, make sham emotions, and invent reactions to please others.

There always seem to be those moments where showing our real emotion is inappropriate, but have we faked ourselves into feeling something we do not? If there is a need to hide our emotions for propriety, do we know when we needn’t hide our emotion? Culturally people have mastered the art of being themselves by becoming situation chameleons.

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Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.

The beauty of art is that we can manipulate the canvas, notes, or words to elicit the emotion that we want.  Essentially when an artist constructs, composes, or otherwise forms a creation they have the liberty to build and rebuild based on their mood and the mood they hope to elicit. How is this different from what we do on a daily basis?

Our faces have become a canvas on which we paint smiles, tears, creases of concern, and frowns based on propriety, pleasing others, or for leverage.  It seems as though we have for so long become attuned to masking our emotions and hiding our true feelings that  now we are grasp at moments that will allow us to feel a trickle of genuine emotion.

I have learned not to cry even when my heart strings are pulled. I have learned to smile even if I am sad.  There is a Jamaican quote that is applicable, ‘we laugh to hide our tears.’ This sounds like a sentimental exaggeration, but unfortunately it is true.

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Most people just want to see you fall, that’s more reason to stand tall.

For so long we have disguised our feelings into something  more appropriate and pleasing that I wonder if we can recognize and cope with our raw emotion.  Our ability to express our emotions seems constrained at best and our need to feel passionate about anything is inadequate at best.  When I was young I started to write poetry and  was able to I retain my interest until my college years, and this helped me stay attuned to my emotions, but as we combat adulthood the stings of emotional attunement become looser.  Work, family, and sense of propriety all combine to form a semipermeable barrier between our emotions and exhibition of them.

There are indeed times when are unable to portray what we are really feeling, but we have allowed these times to reign over and decide how and when to show emotion.  As an exercise I invite you spend 5 minutes everyday feeling your emotion.  Cry out your tears, laugh out your smiles, and scream out your frustration.

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Go ahead and be ordinary. Eccentricity is extraordinary.

When we can truly feel ourselves our person hood no longer has to be an art.  Our emotions represent our natural bodies.  Over the years we have been taught to shy away from our emotions and instead rationalize, analyze, or mask our feelings away.  This exercise serves as a catharsis and let’s us feel a raw emotion that we have forgotten how to feel over the years.

I impel you to stop camouflaging what makes you unique and start coloring your emotions again with vibrant hues.  If we can live and feel our true emotions for a few minutes each day, we will become more attuned to our core and start to understand and thereby grow from our insecurities, sadness, and hesitations.

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Disappointment promotes Courage

disappointment affects us all
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Disappointment makes us downhearted

Disappointment makes us downhearted

When we are faced with disappointment we usually get discouraged. Recently there was a question posed on disappointment as to which of two extremely unfortunate scenarios would make you more disappointed. The scenarios were something like this: getting a failing grade after studying so hard, having your ATM thieved after saving for one month for that special present for your girlfriend, and being educated at a top university then sitting home unemployed.

Every situation described above would dishearten and disappoint me and probably you too; my typical reaction would be: anger, sadness, then, at times, helplessness. This creates clouds of haze, confusion, and uneasiness in my body that interfere in my thinking, my emotional output, and my physical output. At these times I will be moody, uncoordinated, and temperamental. Maybe you share a degree of these symptoms, maybe not; but if this is a version of what you would go through I would like to share my revelation.

Don't let your disappointment discourage you

Don’t let your disappointment discourage you

Staying on the negative, ruminating on the disappointment will discourage, dishearten, upset, and debilitate you. What I am experiencing and experimenting with (when I can) is instead of dwelling on the bad shift your mindset quickly to how you can change the bad to good. What this does is it allows you to bypass all of that negativity and let you live your life. Though this sounds like a cliché, it’s true. I noticed that when something goes awry: does not meet my expectation, does not go according to plan, or fails to produce the outcome I am looking for I get disappointed and upset. If instead of dwelling on the why, the blame, or the frustration, I divert my mind to focusing on something else I come up with a solution that much quicker. I just bypassed all the negativity and blockages that would have manifested and came up with a solution while ‘smelling the roses.’

Don't let your disappointment disturb your attempts at success

Don’t let your disappointment disturb your attempts at success

When we get an outcome that does not match our expectation we get disappointed and then discouraged. Getting a C instead of the A we had our hopes on, not being selected for the promotion we worked so hard for, being discarded by the boy we tried so hard to impress, or not being able to buy that car we saved 3 years’ salary for are examples of situations that cause disappointment. If we are not careful this can quickly lead to discouragement and negativity. If instead of dwelling on the disappointment we take this step of failure as a learning experience, you can view disappointments that were once discouraging as encouraging.

disappointment affects us all

Disappointment affects us all

Life is a journey meant for the experience, and because we get so caught up in materiality: wanting the most money, the newest gadget, the most popularity, or the best appraisal we often forget the meaning and purpose of this journey. Changing our view on disappointment and taking a step back allows us to enjoy the experience instead of getting caught up in it.

It is difficult to change your attitude, very difficult in my case, but if I can do it you can too. Try not to dwell in your disappointment: divert your focus and once your mind frees itself from any negative energy go back to the disappointment and see how your next attempt may lead to a different outcome. Let your disappointments become forms of encouragement instead of discouragement and try again until you get it right. Don’t get disheartened; the most courageous people learn from mistakes.

couage is the 1/32 success story who will try despite rejection, disappointment, or humiliation

Courage is the 1/32 success story who will try despite rejection, disappointment, or humiliation

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The Need to Win

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Life is a game without winners or losers

Life is a game without winners or losers

Life is a maze. Life is a puzzle. Life is a game; but we generally forget we are just players not competitors. Have you ever played the game Life? It starts with an empty car and if we are lucky we add passengers to our car. Sometimes our car breaks down, sometimes we have to take a detour, and sometimes we get to move ahead 4 spaces, but all cars take the same route and eventually get to the same endpoint. Similarly, in life we experience setbacks, complications, and smooth sailing, but we are all on the same platform at different stages. However sometimes we forget that life is an experience with ups and downs, not a game with winners and losers.

I never considered myself competitive; as a child I was involved in the most competitive sports; gymnastics, soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball, roller blading, and track. Despite partaking in some very competition worthy activities and receiving a high school education from a prestigious preparatory institution which produces high achievers, I never felt the need to compete with others. Whether this disinclination was due to my youth, maturity, or disability I don’t know but while my peers learned to compete for the best [running] time, the most accurate goal, and the highest grade I began to compete with myself for these things and thus became a perfectionist.

the glories of winning

the glories of winning

The need to compete is inborn; it is that incessant voice in us that uses that word ‘than.’ In school, I had to earn a better grade than Joan; at the prom, it was ‘I am prettier than her.’ In whichever sphere, that troublesome word than puts unnecessary stress on outside circumstances. Whether we are playing a game, using social media, or performing daily activities, our mindset usually harbors on comparing ourselves thus competing with others.

When we compare ourselves with others we are putting our attention where it is not needed. The need to compare is instinctive as we are so immersed it competitiveness that we are not even able to censor our own thoughts from it. Our minds naturally start comparing when we see two girls: who is prettier, when we see two books: which is more interesting, when we see two grades: which is higher, when we see two swimmers: who has a better stroke, or when we see two puppies: which is cuter. Our minds are trained in this way, to see hierarchy and rank; this is one way our mind categorizes and organizes information, but it’s when we start subjectifying comparison and start molding it into competition does it start to affect our output and mindset.

When we start competing for the best hairdo, car, outfit or any other best we start losing the focus on ourselves and start putting the focus on outward experiences. I recently started playing the Spellathon with my

Spellathon

Spellathon

dad; trying to make a word out of seven jumbled letters. It interesting to note that when I play this game on my own I cannot seem to get it, but when I play with my dad the word seems to jump out at me. In this sense, competition can be constructive, but usually competition is a mindset that drives us to excel and be better that everyone else.

This mindset is engrained into us from early childhood when we are ranked by the best grade in class or the prettiest picture drawn. In 2nd grade when we were learning multiplication, every week we were given a timed test and the person who won was awarded. In high school, we competed for titles like Most Handsome or Most Likely to Succeed. When my senior poll came out, I was voted Friendliest and Sweetest, but even titles like this were popularity contests and ostentatiousness rather than merit.

From early childhood into adulthood we are thrust onto the field of competition. We compete for the best grade, the best dressed, the thinnest figure, the sleekest car, the best paying job and the list goes on. In school, on the sporting field, in the workplace, and in organizational settings we strive to be the best by scoring the most goals, being awarded for being the most productive, or being recognized for being the best dressed.

When we worry about being better than or the best we are expanding our attention and thoughts to others. This takes the focus and thus energy away from our own experience. When we compete we are trying to win and in most contexts this means thinking about others’ actions, reactions, and moves. When we compare, we focus on two or more characteristics, actions, or processes that we try to be better than.

Comparing is an effect of competition that affects our mindset, awareness, and consciousness. As we get older our inherent need to win decreases as our organized activities decrease, but this need prevents us from experiencing our individual journey fully. Everyone has their own path, their own purpose so why continue to compare apples to oranges? If you compete, compete with yourself. Strive to outdo yourself as it is futile to compete with someone else as they will have a different mindset, strengths, ideals, and knowledge.

The next time you find yourself comparing, striving to be better than, or outdoing another take a minute the think about why you need to be better. What will it give you, what will you gain, and how much effort are you putting into this interaction?

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Technology Tirades

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Technology brings the world to your fingertips

Technology brings the world to your fingertips

We hear about how great technology is; the building block of the next invention.  We hear and see all the advancements there are due to technology, but how come we seldom hear of the drawbacks of technology? Technology has helped tremendously in virtually every field: medicine, communications, automotive, engineering, and the list goes on.  But like with everything, the good comes with the bad.  Our dependence on the technology that has increased the ease in our lives has impoverished the wholesomeness in our lives.

I became an AOL addict in my late high school years which is around the time I got my first mobile phone (2000).  As a child in the 90’s, television was an after-school pastime, but playing outside with friends was still the preferred activity. Nowadays children receive their first mobile phones at a prepubescent age, a time they also become familiar with social media. Television is now technology of the past and children navigate through their pastime, and sometimes learning, on their iPad or Nook.  I’m sure any kid would beat me with their knowledge on social media and such.

I came to India in 2012, leaving behind a job in a highly reputed technology company. Although my job was not technical, being in the company of techies you can’t help but become a little techie yourself.  My occupation was related to HR/ Finance/ and administration, but the amount of time I spent on my computer was comparable to any full fledged techie.  I think I spent 17 out of 24 hours on the computer and of the remaining 8 hours I spent 3 on the phone.  Once I came to India my laptop usage was severely cut down then entirely cut out 9 months later, my phone usage was also severely cut down, and my television watching which was minimal to begin with remained minimal.  Although this mandate was not easy for me to follow at first, within 3 months I lost my dependence.

Till now, using the phone or computer seems to be a burdensome distraction. Where I used to obsess over my phone: calls, music, emails, apps, and messages, I refuse to tempt myself by getting an iPhone today.  Within 2 years I have become more aware of the negative effects and dependence of technology. What did people do when there was no television? They formed other pastimes that involved other people. What did people do when there were no phones?  There was more face-to- face interaction. What did people do when there was no light? They woke and slept with the sun.  What did people do when there was no gym? People did manual labor and stayed healthy by doing chores.

Although I always had an idea about these issues I never felt as strongly as I do now about them.  I feel our dependence on certain technologies has begun at such an early age that our wholesomeness is being affected.  Advancements in technology in fields like medicine, education, and marketing have greatly increased society’s ease and awareness. But dependence on these advancements is inevitable, if not there already, and can  serve as a great handicap to society in the long run.

Watch technology run you life

Watch technology run you life

My main concern was with the development of the individual as exposure to uncensored ideas and images are now available at a very early age, that the social interaction has severely declined, and the means of entertainment have become very technology and solitary based. Technology has its pros, but if not careful they can quickly become cons.  Dependence on any good thing can become an addiction.

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Unconditional love: Crossing the limit when you love someone

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Where I end and you begin

 When we love someone, at what point do we decide that our threshold of tolerance has been exceeded? We all know the concept of unconditional love; we all want to be loved unconditionally, but what does it really mean? Loving someone this way means that there are no expectations, limitations, or conditions to the way you feel. Let’s consider this: loving someone regardless of what may come is a romantic notion, but is it practical? It expels the notion of ‘enough is enough’ and negates your individuality. So we would like to be loved unconditionally, but can we love unconditionally?

Loving someone limitlessly is a tall order to fill. It presupposes the ability forgive, accept, and persevere. Forgiveness, acceptance, and perseverance are virtues we all strive to acquire, but our ego usually gets in the way. Letting go of our anger and pride to forgive, letting go of our prejudices to accept, and persist despite disturbances and disagreement is not the natural human nature. The relationship that comes to mind is that of mother and child; mothers usually love their babies despite who they are and what they do. Loving without expecting to receive anything goes against human nature as well. Our capitalist culture has been ingrained into us that ‘you give to get’; we are programmed in this way and practice this philosophy throughout our lives; in the workplace, in relationships, and in commercial activities. This is tied to conditional love, because it is this philosophy that we base our conditions on. We work for an employer to get money and in return we perform services. Our actions are conditional in this way from the playground: if we work hard we get the A. An example of conditionless love can be found in a true servant of God. They will perform duties and prayers to God without seeking anything in return.

We all want to be loved regardless of our mistakes, our temperaments, and faults. I want that security and assurance, but it requires an almost saintly being at the other end. Unconditionally loving someone requires putting aside your ego, forgetting your principles, and releasing your intolerances. The prime examples are mother/ child relations and servant/ God relations. Even the mother/ child relation tends to evolve over time as loving another human being unconditionally can be exhausting, demeaning, demoralizing, and even damaging as it requires an understanding and acceptance beyond the self. I try to unconditionally love someone and even the attempt I make leaves me feeling used, dejected, and degraded as I have to put aside my own opinions, thoughts, and beliefs for her happiness.

When we love someone we harbor deep feelings for them that usually help to overcome arguments and disagreements, but there comes a point when will not be able to stand for the grave mistakes, the intolerable abuse, or the inconsiderate behaviors that challenge us. Loving another then reaches its optimal point when both parties have a mutual respect and understanding of the others values, beliefs, and temperament. Unconditional love thus becomes a more elevated experience requiring first wholly loving yourself first. Only when you can absolutely love yourself despite your faults, imperfections, and impurities can you even fathom to unconditionally love other.

Everyone has a limit, a tolerance level and when we understand and accept this we end up in harmonious relationships Life is an adjustment so why wouldn’t we adjust for the ones we love.

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Second chances are given in small packages

Small Packages
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All good things come in small packages

Would you give someone a second chance? Most people would like to think they do; but actually our society is very close minded and tunnel visioned. Would you befriend a murderer, or engage with someone who committed a crime?

Most people live in denial as far as our true identities are concerned. We won’t readily admit to personality inadequacies and provide intricately woven manipulations to defend our misguided thoughts or actions. In short, our nature and culture have molded us into very magnanimous hypocrite; telling ourselves we can give second chances when in fact we can’t or don’t.

A Second chance entails redoing something in a different capacity. Were you ever given the liberty to redo an action that resulted in a mistake or rethink a decision that resulted in an unfavorable outcome? Giving second chances implies forgiveness, a toleration most people are not ready or equipped to give. We teach ourselves that it is invaluable to forgive and it is of virtuous character yet fail when we try to attain and apply this virtue.

Recently I was on a blog that asked if you would get married to someone who had a history of cheating. What were the circumstances that resulted in the cheating action? How would the decision to marry be effected if the cheater cheated only once, was caring and loving, cheated on all his partners, or cheated on only his most recent partner? So even though the circumstances under which the negative behavior was acted must be considered; who doesn’t have a history? Some worse than others, but no one has a clean slate. Everyone has a propensity to engage in some adverse behavior, but forgiving the bad behavior can result in changing the behavior.

If everyone judges a person on their past behavior society will go nowhere. People can change, but if we don’t give each other a second chance there will be no reason for us to understand or act differently. If for example a person commits a petty theft, will the label of Thief be applied regardless of the circumstances? And if this label is applied to this person and he has no chance of retribution will he not continue to act in this manner? Words are not empty vehicles.

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