Why do we become Conscious?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I sat asking this question to myself, for even if you awaken spiritually, and become fully conscious, it is not sufficient to satisfy our mind. It wants to know why we are conscious too.

Given that my mind is the instrument I use to talk to my soul, it is a circular question – effectively becoming equivalent to my mind asking why it has done something. It is similar to you picking up a cup absent-mindedly and wondering, why you picked it up.

Upon pondering this further, we come to the realization that if we have ‘woken up’, we must have been asleep. And if we had been asleep, our minds must have been working in the background, and thus we must have lived a dream until now. Therefore, our entire life until now was a dream. And we merely awoke.

What woke us? Was it an alarm of sorts? Yes – but the alarm was inside you – the voice of your soul. Your soul is the alarm that keeps ringing for 2 hours, while you keep pressing the snooze button trying to go back to sleep. Ah, isn’t sleep wonderful? Society’s job is to keep you asleep. Society is your personal sandman, built by you to keep you asleep.

Then what woke you up now, and not earlier? Well, for some of us, it takes time to listen to our soul alarm, some of us are deeper sleepers. Some of us are too tired to hear the alarm, and prefer to ignore it and remain asleep. Some of us are in pain, similar to being caught in a fire and suffocating to death, but have no energy to get up and get out of the fire – in short to wake up. So, we have remained asleep until now, remained unconscious so to speak.

Why did we fall asleep then? Perhaps we arrived from a long journey, from another plane. Time is relative – on this plane, we may sleep for hours at night; but from an existential perspective, we have slept for lifetimes. Circumstances have changed around us, civilizations may have risen and fallen and yet we slept through it all. Such was our exhaustion, lethargy and the compelling nature of our circumstances. Perhaps our mind, body and soul were too injured in our journey to this plane and needed to recover. Unconsciousness was the only way it could gain rest. And rested it has, for eons.

Waking for us, becoming spiritually conscious, has thus been a struggle similar to waking up from sleep. We resist it at first, happy in our dreams. Until we begin to feel our body tossing about on our bed. But we roll over and go back to sleep. We prefer our dreams to the reality that awaits upon awakening. But soon, our dreams turn into nightmares, we suffer. There is no escape from this suffering, the nightmare seems to have no end.

That is when we realize there is no way to end this suffering, this nightmare, except by waking up. Sleep seems to be a poor choice to the light streaming through our windows from the sunlight of our soul. Our soul urges us to wake up and we finally listen to our alarm, gratefully this time and wake up.

Once fully awake, we wonder- how anyone could ever have fallen asleep when a beautiful morning is beckoning us from outside. We wonder how we never heard the birds chirping before, caught up in the mists of our unconscious state. We look around us and see our world still asleep – we try to wake our peers but realize only a few stir.

We write blogs, give sermons, conduct seminars on awakening, yet no one seems to want to awaken. Everyone is able to hear your words, but they seem to be present physically and mentally and absent spiritually. All you are able to do is hope that something of what you said has penetrated their dreams.

Why? The only thing you can hope for… as an awake, conscious person is to help others realize they are sleeping when their nightmares begin. For all of us have uncomfortable dreams, even the best of us. Those who don’t realize it is a dream suffer, those who do quickly jump up on the bed and glance around wide-eyed. We realize we cannot make others conscious, only help them know they are dreaming when ‘they’ decide it is time for them to wake up.

We realize consciousness was our solitary journey – everyone wakes up at different times. Our waking is not in our control, our sleeping was not in our control either. We can only wait for others to join us, as we plod to our spiritual kitchen and get ourselves a cup of coffee.

Will we fall asleep again? Very possibly, for we may get tired being awake forever. Thus, we realize consciousness is not a goal, but an interval for us to enjoy before we gratefully embrace sleep again at the start of the next leg of our spiritual journey to the nothingness we came from.

Understanding Peace

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

Peace is one of the most difficult needs to explain to another, for people in general do not understand peace. People who do not understand peace, seek refuge in noise – the noise of crowds and relationships. Such people who do not understand others’ need for peace will never understand the concepts of privacy, space and calmness.

Why do unpeaceful people not understand peace? For their souls are filled with suffering and noise. The only way they can drown out their own noise is by clanging objects and people around them. One who has terrific noise within, can only achieve silence by creating a greater noise outside his mind to distract him or her. It is best to never form a relationship with such people, for their noise within will create noise within you as well.

Thus, you realize that the only way to be ‘happy’ is to have peace. Peace is the subtext of all happiness, sorrows, ups and downs of life. We do not desire happiness for that is merely a fleeting high. We do not desire freedom from sadness, for every time you try something, you will either get what you want or not- which will either make you happy or unhappy. This is natural.

Thus, we replace:

Achieving Happiness and Sadness, with

Wanting something, getting it or not getting it,

Accepting what we get, and accepting that we may not get everything,

This acceptance is peace.

Those who aim at happiness or only achievement live a half-life, and never truly accept both sides of the coin above. Their half-life results in deep un-peace. Their un-peace translates into our suffering. The question we need to ask such people is: “Why are you not at peace with the way I live my life?”

Their answer will most likely create more noise and suffering within themselves and within you.

When you try to explain peace, unpeaceful people cannot understand it, for peace cannot be explained, only experienced. Peace only has a negative definition, not a positive one – peace is the absence of noise.

Happiness, on the other hand, has a positive definition – it involves goals to achieve, things to do, places to see, people to meet. But peace underlies the success or failure of these events. If you succeed in finding what you want, you will be happy and at peace. If you fail in achieving what you desire, you will be sad, but very much again at peace.

Peace is the constant beneath it all. Peace is silence. Peace is nothingness. Nothingness can only ever be explained by the absence of ‘things’. The absence of sadness is peace, The absence of happiness is also peace.

Once you pursue peace as your overarching goal, every other aspect of your life falls into place and begins to make sense.

  • You need boundaries to achieve peace
  • You need to give up the concept of right and wrong to achieve peace
  • You need privacy to achieve peace
  • You need truth to achieve peace
  • You need silence to achieve peace
  • You need financial independence, but not necessarily riches, to achieve peace
  • You need contentment to achieve peace
  • You need a spiritual backbone to achieve peace
  • You need emotional intelligence to achieve peace
  • You need to die internally (ego, false self) to achieve peace
  • You need to accept bodily death to achieve living peace
  • You need to accept others’ lives and life paths to achieve peace
  • You need to respect others’ boundaries to achieve peace
  • You need to respect others’ privacy to achieve peace
  • You need to help others achieve peace, if required, to achieve your own peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that others may never understand you
  • You need to make peace with the fact that others may never find peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that you may be alone (but not lonely) in your peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that some relationships may fall away as you seek peace
  • You need to be alert to relationships that can teach you more about peace

In the end, you will find yourself making peace with the last frontier, all forms of noise and un-peace.

Why Social Media Mindfulness Techniques don’t Work

I hear a lot of people saying, “Live in the present”. They chant it like a mantra, post it on LinkedIn and Facebook but don’t know what else to do with it. It is easy to get comments, likes and reactions from a desperate audience who applaud the poster as insightful but don’t practice it. The words “live in the present” have become another Fix (like alcohol, Netflix and serial dating), something intended to distract you from introspection.

We have mistaken distractions as happiness boosters.

Source: Image by 4144132 from Pixabay, Author’s Edits

Yes, for that moment, you are living in the present, you are reading that post, you are envisioning a vacation surrounded by mountains and whispering trees. But since I find people rarely thinking deeper about how to apply that statement in their daily lives, here is what I hope, a thought provoking guide, to understanding yourself and your present (consciousness) at a deeper level.

We live the present in two ways —

  • Externally (focusing on the things that surround us) and
  • Internally (watching and becoming conscious of our thoughts and behaviors).

Most cliched viral posts exploit the External aspect — they make you focus on a mountain or a stream and say it is the key to meditation and happiness. Since most people are not internally self-aware, they do not focus on the Internal aspect of living in the present — being aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions; understanding why you do things and changing yourself — thereby allowing yourself to grow.

It is easy to chant and meditate till you go mentally numb. But that is not living in the present. Meditation or being present or aware or consciously walking or any of these synonymous words are intended to help you understand yourself, not (1) numb yourself, or (2) shut out the world.

You don’t need a mountain, you don’t need a far-away resort, you don’t need a yoga mat. If you are really interested in understanding yourself, all you need is peace and quiet, which you can find in your bedroom, the nearest coffee shop or beside a dumpster (where no one hopefully objects).

The Cycle of Pain and Release

Growing up, I was a happy child. I am a happy man today, but that’s besides the point. Spiritually, as babies we are clean, we have no thoughts, no emotions…just needs. If our needs are fulfilled, we are content. If our needs are not fulfilled, we feel pain, BUT we are not unhappy. Babies do not know unhappiness, they know need, satisfaction and pain. But not sadness.

Pain is not sadness

We feel pain when we don’t get what we want mentally or emotionally. This has nothing to do with physical pain, or the BDSM industry wouldn’t be thriving today. Massages create pain, but the release of the hand pressing down our shoulders creates relief. We mistake this relief as pleasure.

When I say pain, I do not mean sharp jabs. Pain can also mean discomfort or unwanted stimuli (someone jabbering in your ear?).

We value release only because we experience pain.

Let’s talk about sex (in a humorous context). Arousal is confusion, frustration and madness. We tumble around as our mind shuts down all ‘non-essential’ activities like you know, taking care of your kids, food, homework, your job and so on. Your mind acts the same way it acts on an alcohol addict seeking just a sip.

  • It plays you tantalizing videos of your partner or fantasy
  • It tells you that you can’t work without getting this need fulfilled
  • You need to do something about it…right now

Pain is any feeling that overpowers your body to the extent that you are unable to choose what you wish to do. Pain is loss of control because one stimulus has taken complete control. The only way out of pain is relief. Or release.

Sex does not not make you ‘happy’. Sure it floods you with endorphins and dopamine…in other words, with pain medication and anti-depressants. It is the release we crave at the zenith of our needs, not happy cuddlies. We seek release from the temporary “depression” and “pain” we feel before sex, alcohol or drugs.

Release and relief from pain is not happiness. It is a cyclic trap.

Crashing Waves

Back to the baby. We feel sadder as we grow up because we learn (because we are taught) to divide what we get into good and bad. We learn to analyze the motivations of what is given to us. We become “educated” and socially “responsible”. We are taught that a good man or woman is one who constantly takes on the burdens of others around him or her.

When you are taught that the only way to “be happy” is by constantly solving other people’s burdens and sadness, we lose our personal power and identity. We lose our boundaries. We lose our peace.

You can’t be happy when society keeps teaching you to make others happy at the expense of yourself. You become like a candle struggling to stay alight in a constant gust of wind.

Society teaches us that

  • if you are happy with who you are, you are selfish
  • If you are unhappy with who you are, you are depressed and unstable
  • If you are half-happy with who you are while making others happy, you are a disappointment (or should work harder on your dreams)

There is no making society happy.

By celebrating and propagating this confusion, we are now in the clutches of an epidemic of discontent. Discontent is sadness. Give yourself permission to make yourself happy.

Do not harm, but make sure your candle is lit brightly before you light another. It is nice to say that “ a candle loses nothing by lighting another”. It is crazy if your candle (with a struggling flame) gets extinguished in the process of sharing its flame.

We have become like a person trapped alone at sea in the midst of a thunderstorm, buffeted by wave after wave. We have lost all sense of direction, of who we are. Sometimes, all we want is to get out of the cold…but more importantly to get onto land…dry, hard, stable land.

It is okay to want to be happy.


Living in the present requires two things:

Stop trying to control your mind and thoughts — it is okay to have thoughts about anything, yes seriously. Random curiosity about crime doesn’t make you a creep. Movie directors, cops and doctors think about it all the time. Accept your mind completely for what it is — just a thought generating machine. This was the premise of the movie: Minority Report.

Thinking about something doesn’t define or shame you, your actions do.

We have hundreds of thoughts and emotions every day, what you choose to act upon defines you — your thoughts are just options given to you by your mind.

The frustrated mother who thinks about strangling her screaming children in the middle of the night doesn’t do so. She gets up, cares for and nurtures them. Between the hundreds of thoughts you have and action you take, there is a space, a choice. That is where your soul decides what you need to act upon. That space — the entity that makes that choice is your true self. It shows you your true values. Your true self is hidden behind the noise of your thoughts and mind.

Your mind is noisy, but rarely makes good decisions. Your true self is silent, but takes decisions aligned with who you really are, at your deepest core.

Know your true self.

The next time you read a social media post on “enter the silence” or “60 days of meditation complete, Yay!” and wonder why it leaves you stone cold, you will know why.

Realizing your True Self- Understanding the Meaning of Surrender

One of the hardest or shall I say most difficult concepts to understand in spirituality is surrender.

Most people view surrender as just giving up their life’s duties and trusting it all to God or Life or Nature or the name they prefer for a higher power. Surrender is not abdication of your responsibilities. Which brings us to the next question- who are you responsible for? And equally importantly, who are you responsible to?

We are born with our bodies and minds. Some of us are born intelligent, some of us not so. I shall be straightforward here, but it takes intelligence to know you are intelligent, but a far greater intelligence to know you are not the most intelligent. Only an intelligent person can know how dumb he or she is, how little he/ she knows. It is therefore easy to get caught up in an appreciation of our intelligence, for who better can appreciate the vastness, diversity and uniqueness of our intelligence than ourselves? Some of us are given parents who constantly point out how intelligent we are, in school and college – this adds to our misconception that our intelligence is ours – that our intelligence belongs to us.

Let us go into this delusion further and see where it leads us.

Intelligence is not just about our minds but about our bodies too. A beautiful woman is born with a body that is ‘intelligent’ enough to realize the power of attractiveness. Her looks help open doors to jobs, relationships and networks that others may find more difficult to access. This is no less true for an intelligent man, but given the role of biology as it plays out, a man may likely create or pursue a persona of power, as compared to a persona of vulnerability and trust that a woman may pursue. Again, all of us are both male and female to varying extents and a woman can rely on her masculine side to obtain power as much as a man can rely on charm (his feminine side) to get ahead. So, we see that our bodies are intelligent too, not just our minds.

Our protagonists above are often ignorant of this fact and attribute this intelligence to themselves. They begin taking credit for all of their social and professional success and thanks to magazines that idolize success, social media that encourages likes and shares, this is not difficult. This goes on until they age. Death comes to us all, not just in bodily form (where we leave our bodies) but also to our minds (say we get Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s). Sometimes, our minds simply age, our memories begin to fade, our hands are not that steady any more, our skin begins to wrinkle. We rush to combat these through medication, Botox and any other boosters we can lay our hands on. But over time, skin that is Botoxed begins to harden into ugliness, minds that are ‘boosted’ through drugs begin to atrophy into rigidity.

Our creativity begins to decline, whether we fight death or not. The only difference is, when we do not fight death, our bodies and minds age gracefully – our bodies become softer and warmer to look at (our grandparents?), our minds become less ambitious and easier to live with once they are free of ambition. In short, surrender to death makes us beautiful, makes our journey worthwhile. Fighting death brings to the surface the ugliness that we so desperately seek to hide.

Does surrender to death make us less ugly, less unattractive? Hardly. Just as milk boils and releases cream, our bodies release beauty to balance our ugliness as we age. But putting a lid on boiling milk, we only cause spillage and a mess, and lose our appetite for the vey milk that we boil. Then we can ask, if we are boiling milk and see it as an analogy to aging and the fight against death, who is boiling us- our bodies and minds? We realize the presence of something outside us, or perhaps inside us that seems to have the master control over our lives. This realization is one part of surrender.

We can take this a step further – for if death is indeed releasing us from our bodies and minds by an act of God, surely the same God had attached us to our minds and bodies during birth. This takes us to the natural questions – what do we mean by ‘us’? What is this ‘us’ that our bodies and minds are being attached to at birth, and what is this ‘us’ that our bodies and minds are being detached from upon death? It is to be noted here that we see our minds as separate from ourselves, our we would never use phrases like ‘my mind is not working today’ or ‘my legs are troubling me lately’. Clearly, we subconsciously realize that is something else separate within us, beyond our bodies and minds, beyond our physical power and intellect. We can call this our soul, our deepest true self, our primal self.

Different religions make an attempt to describe this – Hinduism tries to help you realize the existence of your soul through renunciation – giving up possessions, wealth, eventually your food, air and the body itself. During this process, you come to realize that however much you give up, something inside you refuses to die – that is your soul. Christians are shown this path through Jesus dying on the cross – Jesus decided to show a path rather than giving too many steps like the Hindus – he has essentially said ‘Try out death for yourself, and you will see what doesn’t die’. Now, death here does not mean suicide, but the experiencing death in the form of loss of our families, relationships, jobs, careers, possessions and the like. Any loss feels like death – it pains us, rips our heart apart. As the Buddhists say, when something is dying, let it die. If your job is being taken away from you despite your best efforts, let go. If your marriage is failing despite all you are doing, let it go. Let things die around you.

When you let things die around you, you master death. For now, death instead of being a force acting against you becomes a tool that helps you wash away the old and ring in the new. Death is a shower; death is a bath with soap and shampoo after a day in the sewers. Death cleans you. You begin to make friends with Death, you embrace change.

You then realize, Death is not always available at your command. True- you can kill things on your own through divorce, a job resignation or a yard sale of unwanted property. But often, Death comes calling when you are not ready or have asked for it. Who has asked Death to come to you? Who decided you needed a shower for you were stinking from not having taken a bath for years? Just like you can’t control when it rains, you also can’t control when Death decides you need a cleansing shower. Death is God in disguise, cleansing you, closing doors you no longer need, opening doors you don’t have the courage or foresight to open on your own. Death is your best friend, and sometimes Birth (of the wrong relationships, jobs, families or friends) can be your worst enemy. You realize you trust Death. This is surrender.

We now reach the next level of questioning – how do I know what I should do, and what I should trust to God in the forms of Birth and Death? You will never know – think of God as your boss who never interferes in your work but allows you complete freedom to make a mess of things at the office. He/she steps in only when you are messing up in the wrong way. Messing things up is perfectly fine as we now understand, for if we are going off path, we experience corrections in our life by either getting things added to our life or removed from our life. So, if we need to allow God to be our boss, we need to allow things to be added or removed. Let us remember, Death is our best friend, not the friends we talk to everyday. If Death decides to remove our friends because you want to marry someone against their wishes, let it be. If Death decides to allow you to start your own company by sacking you from your job, let it be. Therefore, the only way Death can be our friend is through keeping our other relationships on earth ‘loose’. We call this detachment, best explained in Buddhism. Detachment is what helps us prioritize the main relationship in our life, with God, allowing him to do his work. God does his work anyway – the difference is whether you accept his (her) decisions with understanding or you accept his/ her decisions kicking and screaming. Accepting God’s decisions comes through understanding- this understanding reduces our suffering when Death comes knocking. This is surrender.

We now come to the final part of surrender. If we decide surrender is the only way to live, it becomes a religion and cult, rather than a philosophical guide. Our ultimate act should be surrendering surrender itself. Do not accept surrender as the true way, do not force others to surrender – instead surrender yourself to their lack of knowledge. Do not force yourself to accept or apply this article, you are free to surrender this article too.

Thus, as its final parting gift, surrender teaches you that the only person you can control, the only person you can make decisions for regarding surrender is yourself. No one else. By allowing you to surrender everything, including surrender itself, it leaves you with the greatest gift of all- complete, personal freedom of the soul.

Learning to Die Gracefully- Everyday

I have seen this occur to many people I know. You get a new job, and you fear leaving what you have. You get a chance to relocate, and you fear what lies ahead. Cliched I know, filled across the web with advice on stepping out into the unknown, bridging your fears….yawn, I know.

But if you are the first in your circle of friends or family doing something untried, be assured of resistance. Not from the outside, but first from within you. You might begin to feel like a part of you is dying. Your ego has become too attached to what you have. You know that feeling of being stuck- you ARE stuck, or more precisely, your ego is to something that is no longer you.

The beautiful thing is….yes, a part of you is dying. You just need to let it die.

Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

There can be no new life without death.

You feel scared primarily because you have defined yourself as only your past. When you realize you are also your present, and your future, you realize that you haven’t lost anything- you were only aware of one part of yourself.

Now, you might ask, why is the present and future part of me, when I have not lived it yet? To answer that, you need to understand things beginning with your birth. Before you were born, who were you? Did you have a past before you were born? If so, you are currently living the “future” of your past life — you think your life’s movie started only when you were born, but your birth was merely an intermission in a far longer life. Your birth was merely a gateway to what you are living right now. So, there is no more getting over a “past” because you are already living a “future” of sorts. If you don’t believe in reincarnation, I suggest you read “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian Weiss, and his experiments with regression therapy.

But, I shall also offer one more perspective. When do you fear “losing” something? Only when you have it in the first place. You didn’t have your past earlier- it has only now become your past. Tomorrow, this post on Quora will be part of your past and you may fear not finding it. So, fundamentally, you fear losing the past because you think it “belongs” to you.

Your experiences don’t belong to you, they are already part of you. Let me give you an analogy. Think of yourself as a meal/ curry — earlier you were the vegetables in your childhood, over time life has added a bit of oil, some butter, some spices and you have become a complete curry now. You are not the vegetables, you are now a curry. Letting go of the past is the only way for life to convert you into a curry, a meal, something nice and appreciated. Now, thinking you are no longer a vegetable is truth, but realizing that life has made you into a lot more is also truth.

Now the question arises, what is my true nature? I was a vegetable earlier, now I am a curry. Or a better analogy- you were a caterpillar earlier, then you were a pupa in a cocoon, and then you became a moth/ butterfly. Does the butterfly miss being a caterpillar? Maybe. But is it also the caterpillar? Yes. So, your true nature is the past, but it is also the present. And soon, your true nature will also be the future, for today’s present will become a part of you. Life ADDS to you, it doesn’t exchange your past and give you a new present- it BUILDS on your past and gives you a present, and then a future.

You become more complete as you move through life. But what you miss is the feeling of incompleteness, the hope that you would one day be complete (which you had in your childhood). And now that you are more complete (not fully, for that is an ongoing process), you wonder, now that I am complete, I have nothing more to look forward to. My advice, stop looking forward to anything and life will present you with something to excite you- a child never looks forward to growing up, and he/she is happy. You miss that feeling of incompleteness which you had as a child. But when you realize you are still incomplete, you have a lot to look forward to, you attain peace.

Fear is felt when you lose something, but you neither lose nor gain anything with time. You merely see different versions of yourself. And one day, when you move on from this world, your future of today will become an “intermission” of sorts before the next act begins. Your life movie was incomplete before you were born, it will remain incomplete tomorrow however much you try to “complete” everything in this life.

So I leave you with this…it is only once “you” as you know yourself die, that your real true self can come to life.

The Invisible Ego Behind Conservation and Philanthropy

Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

Growing up, I was taught not to waste food, water or much of anything else. I was taught that when the world is suffering from poverty, it did not behoove us to throw away even a morsel of food. The same went for things we owned. Everything was reused. Old clothes became wash rags. Old newspapers were recycled. Electronic items were stored in the hope they would be of use some day. When nothing is thrown away, you learn to find happiness with very little (however affluent or not you may be). Everything was used until its full value had been extracted. People like us have been praised for our focus on conservation. We are grateful for what we have been given and ask no more.

On the other hand, I know many friends and acquaintances who have a ‘giving mindset’. They purchase new things to upgrade their lifestyle and give away previously cherished items. These could include old clothes (similar to the Salvation Army concept), old vehicles, gadgets and the like. People bless them for their generosity. My friends are grateful enough to give away what they no longer need.

While there is nothing wrong with either of these approaches, I am sometimes troubled by the unconscious pattern behind these actions.

Conservationists — Receiving with gratitude:

Conservationists live lives of gratitude- they feel themselves blessed to receive. They maximize the utility of all that comes into their lives. But by throwing little away, newness eludes their lives. When they purchase new stuff, old stuff remains and accumulates. You can’t move easily into the future if your past weighs you down.

However, at some point, every item loses its value and has to be thrown away. Conservationists cope with loss by delaying it.

The Conservationist’s Invisible Ego:

Conservationists try to live above the laws of nature — they cope with loss by delaying it.

All discarded food and water ends up in the trash, which is then fed on by stray dogs and insects, and later by microorganisms that decompose it into the soil. This is ashes to ashes, and dust to dust in the truest sense, and we are part of this cycle.

Becoming attached to ‘what is’ prevents Conservationists from experiencing the new. They cling to life so gratefully that it loses all purpose and meaning.

The Conservationist’s Path to Enlightenment:

This is best illustrated by the following story:

A Zen master named Gisan asked a young student to bring him a pail of water to cool his bath. The student brought the water and, after cooling the bath, threw on to the ground the little that was left over.

“You dunce!” the master scolded him. “Why didn’t you give the rest of the water to the plants? What right have you to waste even one drop of water in this temple?”

The young student attained Zen in that instant. He changed his name to Tekisui, which means a drop of water.

Reference: 122 Zen Koans

Philanthropists — Giving out of gratitude:

Philanthropists also live lives of gratitude. They feel blessed with enough to give away and derive satisfaction from alleviating the suffering of others. They consider themselves loving, caring and compassionate. Seeing others happy makes them glow inside.

The Philanthropist’s Invisible Ego:

Philanthropists don’t delay death, they delegate it. They hate to destroy or discard items, so they assign this task a recycler or second hand purchaser who takes on this burden and hides it from the previous owner’s eyes.

Becoming dependent on others’ happiness to justify their actions, they fail to notice the egoistic self-admiration that fuels their giving. Living in an illusion of selflessness, they do not spot the self-interest hidden within.

The Philanthropist’s Path to Enlightenment:

This is best illustrated by the following story:

While Seietsu was the master of Engaku in Kamakura he required larger quarters, since those in which he was teaching were overcrowded. Umeza Seibei a merchant of Edo, decided to donate five hundred pieces of gold called ryo toward the construction of a more commodious school. This money he brought to the teacher.

Seisetsu said: “All right. I will take it.”

Umezu gave Seisetsu the sack of gold, but he was dissatisfied with the attitude of the teacher. One might live a whole year on three ryo, and the merchant had not even been thanked for five hundred.

“In that sack are five hundred ryo,” hinted Umeza.

“You told me that before,” replied Seisetsu.

“Even if I am a wealthy merchant, five hundred ryo is a lot of money,” said Umezu.

“Do you want me to thank you for it?” asked Seisetsi.

“You ought to,” replied Umeza.

“Why should I?” inquired Seisetsu. “The giver should be thankful.”

Reference: 122 Zen Koans

We compete with nature everyday, trying to utilize our minds and bodies to the fullest before we are forced to let go. On the other hand, we sacrifice our needs for others in the hope that we are seen as better people. Which group do I fall into? Possibly both — at different times and in different areas of my life.

In a world where conservation is celebrated and philanthropy is eulogized, it might serve us well to be honest with ourselves. It has become fashionable to use social media is used to shame those who do not meet society’s standards of sustainable and selfless behavior. But rather than finding others as selfish, I find it useful to hold up a mirror to see how (unconsciously) false I myself may have become.

8 Common Expressions of Frustration

And the secret spiritual meaning behind them

Hopefully, in a dictionary somewhere…

  • Antigen (n): A substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it
  • Anti-Zen (n): An article that sticks to your mind and helps produce antibodies against it
Photo by Indrajeet Choudhary on Unsplash

I was recently talking to a friend about some problems she was facing, and it became a deep discussion. We dived into new areas, explored ways of looking at things. All considered, it was an excellent psychoanalysis session (between friends). And then she said, “You are not a very emotional person, are you?”

I was flummoxed — I mean we had been discussing nothing but emotions for the last hour or two, but in an objective way. I told her that to even analyze emotions objectively, one had to feel emotions. She wasn’t convinced. She believed that to truly understand emotions, one had to sink into them.

When you sink into your thoughts and emotions, you lose control, flail around and drown, instead of floating on top in a boat. Our mind produces thoughts at random — you really can’t control your mind. It is just an organ, an instrument- a TV aerial capturing signals from all over the place. We should use our mind, not join its randomness.

I realized there are many other statements that we make in frustration, but provide secret advice when decoded (deep deep down)…

1. Have you lost your mind?

This made me reflect. “You” and “your mind” have to be separate, or you couldn’t lose your mind. You can only lose something you have. So if you have the ability to ‘lose’ your mind, it means you possess a mind in the first place.

‘Possessing’ means owning. It means ‘you’ are the ‘owner’, the mind is your ‘ownee’ or possession. When you act crazy, people think you have lost your mind. The logical conclusion is that when you are acting normal, your mind works as some kind of filter to keep the ‘crazy’ out.

Perhaps it is not a filter, but a prison… Perhaps the ‘crazy’ you is the real you. Perhaps your mind is like cocaine- keep sniffing enough of it, and you will be a ‘good boy or girl’ unable to put your thoughts together, unable to form your own opinions, unable to stand out from the crowd.

It seems very important to everyone that you not lose your mind. They want it to be safe with you. Keep it with you.

2. Put your thoughts together

Did I just say above, you would be ‘unable to put your thoughts together?’ This means there is a “putter’ who puts thoughts together and ‘thoughts’ that have to be joined by this person. This can only imply the thoughts are outside the person, or the person wouldn’t be able to play with the pieces.

You are not your thoughts — you may think of suicide, doesn’t mean you are suicidal. If you get an accidental dream of murdering someone, it doesn’t mean you are a murderer. If you dream of yourself having an affair, it doesn’t mean you want to (without going into dreams here). You are not your thoughts, you are the product of the thoughts you choose to follow.

Drinking or drugs basically turn off your ‘put my thoughts together’ switch. They destroy the connection — you press the button to weld ‘thought pieces’ together and it doesn’t work.

Your mind is free now…it can go where it wants and do anything. You can say “Hey, that wasn’t me— my mind acted on its own. I wasn’t even pushing the buttons to join thoughts in the right order, the plug wasn’t even connected!”. That is like allowing your cows to eat your neighbor’s grass, telling your neighbor that it is the cow’s fault, and getting surprised when you, the cow’s owner is asked to pay a fine. You own the cow- letting your cow free doesn’t release you from ownership.

You own your mind. Drinking or drugs don’t cancel your ‘mind ownership’ license — they only make you forget about the purchase contract (before you were born). So if your mind plays tricks on you, or if you drink and drive, your mind won’t get fined by the cops — you, its owner will.

3. You are out of your mind, dude!

Disagree with someone and they will say you are out of your mind. Clearly it means two things: (a) if you were ‘in’ your mind, you would have been okay with whatever they said, and (b) if you are ‘out’ of your mind, you are wrong.

Tell your parents or partner you want to become an artist and live on the streets, they will say you’re out of your mind. Clearly, without our mind, we are seen as rebels or crazy. Our mind helps us avoid such rebellious creative thoughts.

Our mind keeps us in check. Our mind is very important to those around us. When they are not around to control us, our minds will do the job (they have programmed it for us). So when we are ‘out of our minds’ we become uncontrollable and dangerous (to whom I wonder?).

Ask yourself this, do you want to be ‘IN your mind’ or be yourself?

4. My mind is driving me crazy!

You say this as you unwind at a bar or sauna after a long day of work. You wish your mind would stop zig-zagging around for a second. You find your thoughts have become erratic…not matching your speed at all. You find your‘self’ slower than your mind. Perhaps ‘you’ are not moving at all. Perhaps ‘you’ are still and your mind refuses to stop jumping around.

The mind is a very uncontrollable immature pet — always running in random directions. When it wants to run, it doesn’t care for your opinion. Ask it to stop and it will jump some more. Ignore it for a while and it will come sit at your feet.

Watch your thoughts, and do nothing. Don’t try to control anything. Your mind will follow your lead and lie still.

Surprisingly, the moment you need to start that very important project, it will refuse to move (!). Even our mind seems to have a mind of its own (😊 ). Which brings me to…

5. He never listens! He has a mind of his own!

When someone says this to you, they don’t want you to have your own mind. They want to own your mind.

This is as odd as your neighbor coming and telling you, “You like to have your own wife/ husband eh? You are so selfish”. It is odd that others constantly want your mind. The same people say they ‘don’t have your ear’, when you are not listening. Or ‘they want your hand’, when getting married. People like collecting parts of you for some inexplicable reason.

Once someone else has your mind, they can do things with it. Here’s a sample recipe:

  • They tell you you have a mind of your own. You surrender and give it up.
  • They powder 5mg of their ideas,
  • Add it to your mind in a steady pour,
  • Stir it slowly 4 times clockwise so you don’t notice, and
  • Watch as your remaining independent thoughts die away
  • They can now tell you what to do — they own your mind

If you don’t own your mind, someone else will.

6. Why are you roaming around mindlessly?

It’s a warm day, golden sunlight dappling the footpath. A woman with two dogs (perfectly groomed) strolls past you. Birds chirp above you. Trees wave lazily in the breeze. Cookie smells waft at you from the bakery. The buildings are friendly, your mood is light. You feel relaxed. This is the perfect setting for a rom-com movie. Ah, a beautiful day and a mindless soul.

Side note: Such is also the scene in many a horror movie, just before the tinkling music stops and the happy people turn into zombies.

But I digress…back to the weather. You feel like taking a walk. You feel free of worry, rid of all anxiety. You wonder about nothing- your job matters no more. You can handle anything. You roam mindlessly.

If you had roamed with your mind, you would never appreciated this wonderful day. If you had taken your mind with you, you would have felt heavy- hearted, ready to jump into the nearest fountain.

Many times, mindlessness implies recklessness. But sometimes, mindlessness can also mean freedom.

7. You blew my mind!

Which is what you might say when you encounter genius. Or the other extreme. Clearly after your mind has been blown away, you are still able to stand, surveying the wreckage of what was once your mind. You survived! A situation we should fear is often embraced with open arms.

You don’t need your mind to keep standing. You don’t your mind to be still.

8. (You should) be more mindful of others

Taught to children all over the world by well-meaning parents. They encourage you to fill up your mind with everyone else’s worries. You start as a child with an empty suitcase — then your mother may say, “Dear, pack your sister’s things in it too”. Your friends say, “Don’t you ever keep us in mind?”, so you pack them in too.

After a while, it becomes a heavy suitcase — filled with others’ thoughts but carried around by you. You have become their (mental) bell-boy (or girl). Life loses meaning and all lightness, but you don’t want to be selfish. You still own your mind, but you have rented all the rooms out.

How do you handle it? Learn to manage your mind-hotel. Rent out your rooms, but be firm with your tenants. Put up a sign, “Rights to admission reserved”. If your tenants play loud music, start changing your decorations or make trouble — throw them out.

You own your mind. Everyone else is there on rent, at your invitation.

Street Zen — Driving to Enlightenment

Zen is a way of life, not a religion. As observed, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”. I found myself ready, and the road appeared.

Photo by aranprime on Unsplash

I live in an area a bit distant from nearby shops and facilities. If you need groceries, you have to drive 5 minutes. If you want to eat out, it means 20 minutes. If you fancy a movie, you add a few more miles (and minutes). The thing about driving? You encounter people on the road who drive you nuts.

This means drivers cut into your lane without warning. Factor in that I drive a bike, and the other person may be driving an SUV, and you barely have time to say, “Hello- Lord of the Underworld!” before you are flushed into his living room. I am a patient guy, but just for fun, I decided to get frustrated.

I gave a few guys the bird. When a car kept honking behind me, I allowed it to pass me by and drove for a mile honking behind it till the person stopped their vehicle in panic, looking at their seatbelt. Hey, I can honk too- with great power comes great responsibility. Yeah, this might appear immature, but I hope you are also rubbing your hands in glee…no pleasure like the vicarious.

It then struck me. This is exactly what I needed to realize the road as a teacher. I had to stop riding the streets, I had to read the streets.

And I was enlightened…

1. Competition makes no sense:

Everyone on the road is coming from somewhere, and going somewhere. Overtaking a person doesn’t make you ‘ahead’ of any person on the road. You might overtake a car, only to watch sadly as the car parks down the next driveway. All your energy wasted. The car didn’t stay long enough on the road to let you enjoy your success (of being ahead).

Competing with people is fun only when they’re going the same place you are. But for the most part, competing serves little purpose.

2. We create our own drama:

All of us come from different buildings (homes or offices or stores). ‘Other Guy’ and I didn’t even share the same starting point (or street) as mine. So we found ourselves running half-races- I either ended up joining them for 5 miles from Intersection X or he joined me well after I had left my house.

Once he turned off into a different street, I came to realize that the race was all in my head. He was sharing the road with me, but he barely knew I existed. All he wanted was to go home for an emergency or a date or just to sleep. He was driving on autopilot, I gave his auto-pilot a personality and made myself the star of an imaginary drama.

Others create drama in our lives, but we have the choice to refuse to be an actor. We can walk off the stage. Or even better, join the audience. The best option- don’t enter the theatre.

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. — War Games (Movie)

3. Focus on what you can control- yourself:

There are times to honk, and times to overtake but no right time for accidents. Accidents only slow you down. Hit a car, and you will spend your time arguing about why you are not the victim and your (lack of) insurance. You will experience greater delay as you recount your story to the police. Getting better at driving is about choosing your battles and knowing when one isn’t necessary. Pass the crazy driver and pray for the souls he might overrun.

We are all crazy, but the trick is to manage your own craziness. Others are too crazy to listen to you anyway.

4. Find your own path:

When you want to get somewhere, you find the fastest route. Traffic jam for the next mile? Take a few side streets to bypass the bumpers ahead of you. Sure, it might be slower than the main road or expressway, but the route you were on was going nowhere. Rather, the road was, but the traffic wasn’t.

Find the route that works for you. You know where you are going, and when you need to be there.

5. Faster may not get you there sooner:

You might work a block away from your workplace in a traffic congested area. You might even be able to see the building from your bedroom window, but if you take your car, you might have to travel 3 miles before you stop at a light for 10 minutes, take a U-turn and drive in the opposite direction to land on the other side, after which you will also have to find a parking space.

Sometimes, it is easier to walk. You know your landscape. After all, Time = Distance/ Speed.

6. Focus on the road, not the rearview mirror:

You do not drive by looking in the rearview mirror. Keep driving that way and you will end up in a ditch. You may glance at the rearview mirror once in a way to make sure you can turn, but only after making sure your way ahead is clear. It is pointless glancing at the rearview mirror if you are not moving forward in any direction. Yes, you might have to reverse once in a while, but I assume that this is not the population’s preferred mode of driving.

7. Focus on opportunities, not obstacles:

You drive by wriggling through gaps in the traffic. You don’t worry about the cars or trucks or bikes in front of you and how big they are (unless you are a detective or a guy in an action movie). Your eyes are trained to see gaps and assess if they are big enough for you. You need to know your vehicle well- how big it is, its turning radius, its acceleration and braking power, and use this self-knowledge to decide if you can make it through that gap in the next 5 seconds.

You progress through self-knowledge, not by defeating every possible obstacle before you.

Source: Wikipedia

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winston S. Churchill

8. Renew yourself:

You have to refuel your vehicle periodically. You can’t wait till the fuel tank is empty before running around for gasoline. You are going to plan your journey. You know that if you don’t fill up your car today, you will be late for an appointment tomorrow The same goes for servicing your vehicle- too many rattles and jingles and you will have to get it checked, or your car may give up its ghost when you least expect it (and are most desperate).

9. Shed your skin periodically:

Occasionally, you may have to purchase a new vehicle– sometimes your current one simply refuses to work properly anymore. It might be time to get better accessories, a newer look, perhaps more leg space. Your new vehicle needs to reflect who you are and have become. It is your statement to the world, however humble or fancy it might be.

10. You are not what you drive:

Have you noticed how people behave the way their cars are? A person driving an SUV may become a jerk, the same person on a mini-bike may act peppy and have a ‘don’t care’ attitude. Behind the wheel of a Hummer, this person begins to ‘rule the road’, with little concern for the ‘puny humans’ trampled under the wheels.

To summarize:

  • You are not your vehicle. You are merely the driver.
  • You can choose the way you drive, but not the traffic.
  • You can’t change the roads, but you can choose the best route for today
  • You have to focus on today’s traffic, in order to reach tomorrow
  • You may be bored driving the same route, but you can learn to enjoy it
  • When you arrive at your destination, you leave your vehicle
  • You park it for the night. You go to sleep.
  • When you wake up, you may not leave in the same vehicle you arrived in.
  • You realize that your vehicle was never yours, it was merely for rent

Realizing your true self

Bringing it all together while paraphrasing from the Upanishads:

  • Our body is our vehicle,
  • Our soul its passenger.
  • Our intelligence is the driver,
  • Our senses and values are our navigation system.
  • We park our body when we die,
  • We then go to sleep, to wake in the beyond.