ANALYSING 6 POSITIVE THINGS ABOUT PAIN

(Published on July 12, 2021 in The Spiritually Speaking Column of the Daily Guardian)

Everyone alive has felt pain at some point in their life. Pain is what most people fear the most in their lives. Think of your worst possible nightmare — losing a loved one, breaking up with your sweetheart, losing your health, your wealth or your happiness. These are the most common fears in life. What do they all have in common? It is not really the fear of these things happening, it is the fear of the pain that will accompany it. But is pain really all that bad? Is there any positive aspect of pain? There are many positive aspects of pain. Here we will look at six of them:

PAIN MAKES US STRONGER

 Going through pain teaches you lessons and these lessons make us stronger. Just like a diamond needs to be cut before it shines, we have to go through some form of pain to understand the value of happiness and this gives us strength. Pain leaves you better and stronger than it found you.  When you endure and survive painful experiences in life, chances are you will be able to handle painful experiences of the future better and you will approach them more boldly.

  PAIN TEACHES US HUMILITY

The pain you have experienced in your life is a reminder of how bad things can get. This wards off pride and makes a person more down to earth. We, humans, tend to think of ourselves as special in some sense and often think in terms of ‘this can never happen to me’. But facing a painful challenge head-on makes us realise that we are all in the same boat. When we face the pain we realise that we all face the same fears, fight the same fights, bear the same illnesses. We are all in the same challenging life here on planet Earth. This awareness keeps us centred, humble and empathetic towards the pain of others and helps to avoid situations that are based purely on pride. We realise that pride can only cause harm in the long run and pain to ourselves and others. Pride is dangerous and unnecessary. Humility is much more gracious. 

PAIN TEACHES US EMPATHY

Pain gives us a greater capacity for love, compassion and empathy. Pain brings you closer to others because you can empathise with what another person is feeling when they are in distress. Experiencing pain brings us to the realisation that we are not immune to it and this is what will drive you to help someone in need. You realise that the person in need could have just as easily been you and that there is really no special reason you have been exempted from another person’s misfortune.

 PAIN POSITIONS US FOR SUCCESS

When you go through the pain that results in gaining strength and resolve. These are attributes that will lead to success in the future. Since you have been through hell and back, how is a simple job loss or investment loss going to shatter your resolve? This is what pain does to you. It makes you tougher and ready to face challenges. It gives you the faith in yourself to overcome any obstacle. You are no longer fragile and do not give up. With this kind of persistent and tenacious mindset and behaviour, success will eventually come to you.  On the path towards success, there will be many obstacles and there are many factors that will make you stronger than you are now, but one of the biggest factors is pain.

 PAIN BUILDS CHARACTER

 Pain tests your  character and demonstrates to you either that your character is developed or that it could use a little bit of work. Learn to view any pain that comes your way as a test of your character and even if you fail the test you can always use that lesson as a reason to improve your character. Pain also serves as an indicator of your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you are losing a debate with a friend and find yourself getting angry, it may be an indicator that you need to sharpen your communication skills or expand your knowledge. Alternatively, the lesson could be that you are a person of conviction and values, which is a positive trait in most cases. Pain gives you self-knowledge and self-awareness that brings things about you to your own attention, highlighting traits in you that need some improvement, promoting inner growth. Life is a series of tests and every time you get an opportunity to improve on your character and prepare yourself for the next test, that’s a positive experience.

PAIN MAKES US ADAPTABLE

When you experience failures in life, you often feel pain. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. This teaches you to refrain from predicting that things will always go exactly as you expected. It teaches you to readjust your plans and strategies when things don’t go your way and not get discouraged and angry because they didn’t work out the way you expected. In fact, sometimes things will work out even better when you readjust your plans. You learn that the gifts that life brings us are not always what we expected. With such a positive attitude you start to perceive life’s unpredictability as interesting and spontaneous rather than inhibiting, you become an expert at readjusting in any situation and making the best out of it. There are other ways that pain can be helpful to us but the main thing to remember is that in life we have to feel. If we never felt pain, we would not appreciate pleasure or happiness. If we never felt the pain of others we would not have compassion or empathy. If we never felt the pain of heartbreak we would likely never know the feeling of loving ourselves. Pain makes us stronger, humble, empathetic, successful, adaptable and builds character. So the next time you face a painful situation, feel the pain and you will learn from it. Do not try to avoid it. When you face and feel your pain, you will make progress and grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Be at peace and know pain is an integral part of life. Everybody has felt and will feel pain. You are not alone. 

ETERNAL LIFE ON INFINITE WORLDS

(Published in The Spiritually Speaking column of The Daily Guardian on June 28, 2021)

The ‘known’ universe consists of about one trillion galaxies (give or take a few billion). Each one of those galaxies contain several billion stars. Most of these stars most likely have planets revolving around them. Many of those planets could be habitable. Many of those habitable planets probably have lifeforms living there. Many of these life forms are likely to be intelligent sentient beings like us.

At the moment we know that the greater part of the universe is yet unknown. Dark matter and dark energy collectively comprise 95 percent of our universe. The remaining 5 per cent is the actual physical matter—stars, planets, moons and everything on them—and this is ultimately nothing but protons, neutrons and electrons which combine together in various permutations and combinations to form atoms of different elements which in turn group together to form molecules. 

So, what is this dark matter and dark energy? We don’t know. But it is possible that these could be the spiritual realms where our souls are actually from. The parts of our universe which are not seen far exceed the parts which are seen. So, if we are souls that have come to earth to have a ‘human experience’ does that mean that ours is the only planet in the universe where sentient life exists? Definitely not.

As of 22 June 2021, there are 4,768 confirmed exoplanets in 3,527 planetary systems, with 783 systems having more than one planet. Most of these were discovered by the Kepler space telescope. There are an additional 2,366 potential exoplanets from Kepler’s first mission yet to be confirmed as well as 889 from its Second Light mission and 1,385 from the Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS) mission.

And by the way all of these exoplanets that we have found so far are just in our own Milky Way galaxy. Certainly, there are countless numbers of extragalactic exoplanets as well. The numbers involved are so large that it is hard for the limited human mind to comprehend.

With so many worlds out there, it is almost certain that extra-terrestrial intelligent life exists. We have not officially found any yet but soon certain revelations could be made by governments. In the US, the Pentagon is to be submitting a report to the US Congress about its study on UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon [previously known as UFOs]) over the years. US military pilots have recently come on the record that they observed objects that flew much faster and manoeuvred in ways that our current technology would not permit. The US military has also released video footage of the ‘Tic Tac’ UFO and a pyramid shaped UFO that have gone viral. 

Even former US president Barack Obama came on The Late Late Show with James Corden in May 2021 and said, “What is true, and I’m actually being serious here, is that there are, there’s footage and records of objects in the skies, that we don’t know exactly what they are. We can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know, I think that people still take it seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is,” the former President said.

When asked about aliens, Obama said, “Well, when it comes to aliens, there’s some things I just can’t tell you on air.”

So obviously there is something out there that is visiting us. Are they from other planets, other dimensions or possibly even from our own planet from places we are still unaware of like the deep ocean, for example? We know more about the surface of the moon and Mars than the deepest oceans on planet earth.

If there is some form of extra-terrestrial or intra-dimensional or deep aquatic or deep underground civilisation that is visiting us then we are certainly living in an unimaginably largely inhabited universe with multiple forms of life spread across infinite worlds. That puts things into a much different perspective, doesn’t it?

Where does that leave us spiritually and physically? Does it open up many new worlds where we can incarnate. Does it mean that some of us here on Earth in this lifetime have had past lives on other planets in our own galaxy and possibly on other planets across the universe including other galaxies. 

Is our afterlife realm of spirit worlds likewise divided into different spiritual galaxies and maybe even multiple universes either physical or spiritual or both? 

A great description of this is found in the chapter called ‘The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar’ in the famous book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramhansa Yogananda where the great guru Sri Yukteswar’s departed soul appears before Paramhansa Yoganada and describes the entire creation to him. He says there are basically three universes—physical, astral and causal and each one has its own inhabitants, its own planets, own star systems and galaxies. However, he doesn’t really mention whether we are born on other worlds other than this one in the physical cosmos but does imply it when he talks about the highest astral planet of Hiranyaloka and said that souls only can incarnate on that high astral planet when they are considerably advanced. So, it means that in the astral world, we can be born on different astral planets. The same thing applies for the causal universe as well. However, he does not mention any name of any highest causal planet. 

Accounts from past life regressions also have had cases where people who are on Earth currently remember past lives on other planets. The book ‘Souls on Earth: Exploring Interplanetary Past Lives’ by Linda Backman explores these kinds of cases. 

So, we live in a huge creation with seemingly infinite numbers of planets, stars, galaxies in multiple dimensions in different universes in terms of density—physical, astral and causal. Who knows how many more there are? The universe seems to be teeming with life on all of these multiple realms and the soul travels across these different arenas on its great adventure to return to the creator of all things.

It seems very likely that we are not alone in this universe! Never have been and never will be. But the real charm of how the creation has been made is that though we have infinity and eternity ahead of us, we should never forget that we are here and now on this tiny planet for a purpose. This world has plenty of problems and it is our duty to solve them because everything and everyone in creation is connected in some way. We must live here and experience life, learn our lessons and try to make the world a better place before we head back to the spirit world and then set out on another voyage somewhere beyond the stars!

What Soul Remembers The Mind May Not

(Published in the Spiritually Speaking column of The Daily Guardian on June 14, 2021)

Have you ever seen something or met someone that looks and feels very familiar although you are 100% sure that you are seeing it or meeting them for the first time? Have you ever painted something purely from imagination but when you look at your creation, it looks profoundly familiar? We have various kinds of memories. Some things we remember mentally. This means that there is a clear reference point in our minds of things that we have very consciously experienced — maybe a person we knew in childhood, a book we read, a place we visited and so on. These memories are very matter of fact and their basic nature is mental. This means that they are very cerebral and logical and may not invoke any kind of feeling or emotion in us. 

Then some memories are triggered by some form of energy, the most common being either a visual or sound energy that can instantly trigger not only one but an entire stream of memories that are generally very emotional. They are full of feelings. These are memories like nostalgia for the past and dreams for the future. Sometimes hearing just a particular sequence of music can awaken memories from an entire period of life like school, college, vacations, and so on. Sometimes this particular song or music may not even have any connection to the particular memory or memories it evokes. It is just that a particular energy unlocks something in our minds that we cannot really explain. These could be referred to as emotional or energetic memories as these are the things that trigger these sorts of memories.

Are all our memories from our mind or emotions or things that happened in this current physical life? What about memories that people have from past lives? Some people remember things, people and events from their past lives. There are many cases reported of young children who remember who they were and the people and places from their past lives and some of these children have even visited their past life families. 

For the past 20 years, Dr Jim Tucker, now the director of the Division of Perceptual Studies, has focused mainly on cases found in the United States. His book ‘Return to Life’ offers accounts of very strong American cases of young children who remember previous lives. In this book, Dr Tucker writes about the now well-known cases of James Leininger, a young boy who had verifiable past-life memories of being a WWII pilot, and Ryan Hammons, who had verifiable memories of being a Hollywood extra and talent agent.

So are our memories simply confined to our neurons or do they reside in a much vaster, eternal and non-physical web of information? Our minds are not necessarily a construct of our brain. The brain may just be a mechanism through which the eternal mind is stepped down to the level of this physical world and through which the human body is controlled. Kind of like the cockpit of an aeroplane. The cockpit is where a plane is controlled, but it is the pilot who is actually flying the plane. This pilot is not really a part of the cockpit itself but a representative of the intelligent lifeform that designed the aircraft. 

Memory has been written about for millennia. In his autobiographical account called ‘Confessions’ written in the 4th century A.D., Saint Augustine talks about the vastness and power of memory as “a spreading limitless room within me”. Memory is the seat of human self-transcendence, despite being that part of the soul where the individual is most deeply his or her individual self. “Who can reach memory’s utmost depth? Yet it is a faculty of my soul and belongs to my nature. I cannot totally grasp all that I am. The mind is not large enough to contain itself.” In both its nonmateriality and in its self-transcendence, human memory is an indwelling analogy of God. Augustine asks, how does man find God? First, he turns to God’s creation, his mighty world. God made them but is not of them. 

Having exhausted external possibilities, Augustine turns inwards, to the soul. He goes beyond the vital force which we share with other living things, past consciousness through which they and he possess sense-perception until he reaches a place uniquely human “the fields and vast palaces of memory.” Here Augustine sees that man is truly made in God’s image, for human thought, human memory is purely non-material. The memory of an object displaces no volume. Mental life, like God, is purely spiritual. Indeed the vastness and power of memory is “a spreading limitless room within me,” says Augustine. So while Augustine talks about the mental nature of thought and memory, there is another aspect of memory that is even higher and goes beyond just the pure mental nature into a sphere of higher emotion and feeling. This is the spiritual nature of memory.

As Rumi said, “The soul has been given its own ears to hear things that the mind does not understand.” Have you ever felt a oneness, a connectedness with everything? A lot of people have. Sometimes there is really no logic to this. You meet someone that you consciously know you have never met before, but yet you feel a deep familiarity and liking towards them. You go to a place where you feel like you have been before, yet you know you have not been there. You paint a picture of a place that exists only in your imagination. These are examples of what could be spiritual memories from another life or memories of the other side (where we will return after our physical incarnation is over).

We retain deep-seated memories that we are not consciously aware of. These memories may not immediately be remembered by us. In today’s world dominated by mental processes and information, there is too much noise and mental chatter. To access spiritual memories, switch off the chatter and give more attention to your feelings and emotions. Your feelings are telling you something. Maybe they give hints about your life’s true purpose or about some spiritual task that you need to do. Give more attention to your emotions as emotions are the language of the soul and can only be experienced through the heart. 

The most powerful memory which is also the most deeprooted is that memory of oneness and connectedness. It goes right to the creation itself when we were all one and together in the bosom of the creator before we began our eternal adventure. The adventure itself is to go out into the universe over multiple incarnations and learn and grow as souls as we try to return to where we came from – our Source or God. The process of returning is an adventure and memory plays an important part. It is only through memory we can discern the truth. For the truth is already within us, our true spiritual identity is already within us but we have only forgotten. Enlightenment is the process of remembering who we truly are.

The Changing Nature Of Relationships

(Published in The Spiritually Speaking column of The Daily Guardian on May 31, 2021)

Life is full of relationships. From the moment we are born we have relationships of various kinds and degrees of involvement and intensity. From parents, friends, teachers, spouses, colleagues, children, and so on, our lives are full of relationships. But like the people behind them, relationships also change and grow. There are very few that stand the test of time. Are there ways to make sure your relationships remain healthy over time?

Our relationships evolve with time. Relationships with family members are the ones that generally remain throughout most of our lives. Starting with parents and siblings and extending to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on. As the world is changing rapidly, we see that nuclear families are becoming more common. The interaction with aunts, uncles and cousins is less than what it used to be in the past. Extended and even immediate families are often spread across the country or the world and meeting physically become less frequent. When we were children and played with our siblings, cousins and classmates, we rarely paused to savour the moment. We thought that these people who are such a major part of our life would remain there throughout our lives. Is that the case?

Have you ever been to a school reunion, say 10 or 20 years after passing out? Many of us have. Do you still feel the same way about many of the people who were your classmates? There are many people with whom you were close in school but now it doesn’t feel the same. You no longer have much in common. You have grown out of the relationship. If this has happened to you, do not feel bad or guilty. This is a normal part of ‘growing up’. The process of ‘growing up’ never ends. Each day we learn something new about ourselves, about others and about life itself.

The reverse can also be true. At the same reunion, you may come across someone who you were not very close to in school but now you both vibe better. This is also a part of the ‘growing up’ process. You may now be ready to interact with that person on a mental, emotional or spiritual level that you were not ready for in the past.

Your relationship with your parents also will evolve with time as you both mature. Realise that expectations from any relationship can be detrimental. Parents are people. They also have their flaws, weaknesses, insecurities and you should not expect otherwise. The same applies to spouses or other romantic interests.

One of the most important relationships with other people is with your spouse or romantic interest. When these relationships start, everything always seems hunkydory. This is quite literally the ‘honeymoon’ phase of the relationship. But in time, reality sets in. What is this reality? You and your spouse are two different people. You have your likes, dislikes, interests, passions, ambitions, beliefs, favourites, and so on. If your relationship is to survive, there must be acceptance to this.

Certain time must always be spent without anyone other than yourself or “me time” as it is called these days. Time should also be spent with your friends and other people apart from your spouse or romantic interest. Give each other space and time.

As the great poet and author Kahlil Gibran wrote in the poem ‘On Marriage’ (excerpt) — “But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

Space and time are as important to life and relationships as to Physics. One of the killers of any relationship is ‘suffocating’ the other person by constantly wanting to be with them. Just like trees need space and time to grow, so do relationships. This way there is a longing for the other person that will keep building. And as Gibran wrote, “Let the winds of the heavens dance between you”. For air to flow smoothly, it needs some space. So do relationships.

Relationships with others keep changing and growing constantly. But there is one relationship that will always exist. It’s the relationship with yourself. Whether we feel good or bad in saying it, this is the truth. Others will come and go but the relationship with our own self will survive this life and the next and the next and so on. There are only two permanent relationships — God and yourself. Everything else is a variable. They may or may not exist for aeons. However, even the relationship with God and yourself, though permanent, is also evolving.

We learn new things about ourselves and we learn new things about God. That is the purpose for which we are here in this world. But in the process, we need to remember that the same God who has a permanent relationship with us also has one with everyone else. So, indirectly, we are all permanently connected in a massive web that is larger than we can imagine.’

Relationships often are the things in life that give us true happiness. That happiness can be found within us and through others as well. But the real lesson is this — let the source of happiness be from within and not be determined by other people (whosoever they may be). Enjoy their love and cherish the memories and time you spend together but let it never be an essential thing to have for your own happiness. In other words, it should never be “I can only be happy if so and so is with me” or “I can only do this if so and so allows me”.

Having said all that, relationships also involve humility and compromise to work. If you are in a marriage, for example, while your own happiness is in your own hands — communication, consultation, commitment and compromise are needed to make a relationship work. If we want the relationship to work then all these four things are needed along with time and space.

So enjoy the journey you are on in this world. Learn, love, explore, and grow. But remember that there will be bumps on the road. You and your loved ones will have arguments, fights and such. There will be lonely moments but that is all part of the story of life. Love God, yourself and others and don’t depend on others for your own happiness. Just enjoy the ride.

Keep on Living

(Published in the Spiritually Speaking column of the Daily Guardian on May 17, 2021)

Life on earth is just a small chapter in the storybook of our soul. It will pass away as all things do eventually. But the good news is that our souls live for all eternity in our true home on the other side. That is where all our departed loved ones are today and you will meet them again. So do not worry. Keep on living.

We are living in challenging times. The Coronavirus is rampaging India and has caused many people to pass away. Those left behind are mourning the losses of their loved ones and those who survive should be thankful that they have been given some more time here on earth. But the irony of physical life is this – there is only one certainty in life and that is that everyone is going to eventually pass away and go onto the next part of our soul’s journey. Some call this the ‘afterlife’ but the term ‘other side’ seems more appropriate. Because ‘afterlife’ implies that life is only the ‘physical’ life which is just not the case. We need to understand that life itself is permanent. There is no end to life. It is just moving into another realm of existence and it is reportedly as painless as moving from one room to another. 

Our souls were on this ‘other side’ even before we were born. They chose the life experiences that they would have. They chose their parents, nationality, race and other things before they came here as they wanted to create a life that would help them overcome whatever pending karmic issues they had from their last life. They also chose particular situations to let them learn certain lessons that they still needed to learn. Life on planet earth is a much sought after destination in the spiritual material universe. There are unlimited and uncountable other planets that can be chosen and surely there are also other popular destinations to incarnate but earth offers a place where spiritual growth happens faster because of the immense challenging nature of this world. Many other planets are more advanced and therefore do not have wars, diseases, poverty, hunger and therefore life is a lot easier. While this sounds good, it does not offer much potential for spiritual growth as there are fewer challenges. 

Think of these physical incarnations whether on earth or other planets as like a complex package of experiences that the soul undertakes willfully. Like we can choose a location on earth to go for a vacation, the same way our souls choose which planet they want to have their next physical incarnation experience on. There is always more to learn and explore and physical death is just like getting onto a flight and going back home. It may be the end of that particular visit but not the end of the person concerned. When it’s your time to go back to the other side (which is our true home) you will meet your loved ones again. 

So how do we know this? Well, there are thousands upon thousands of accounts of NDEs (near-death experiences) where people have been declared physically dead for a few minutes. There is no heart or brain activity but they miraculously returned to life and claimed to have floated painlessly out of their bodies, entered a tunnel or vortex that took them to another realm or frequency. When they emerged from that tunnel they were in a room where they met loved ones that had passed on before them. Some of them emerged into a meadow with beautiful flowers and met their loved ones. They felt an overwhelming feeling of love, peace and well being. They had no desire to return because they then remembered that this was their true home and they had just returned. They also met people from other earlier lifetimes and their memories of other lives in physical worlds returned. But in addition to that, some of these people say they visited large libraries which contain the Akashic records, a record of every life lived by everyone who ever lived or will ever live, they visited healing chambers, they visited a council of elders and spirit guides where they had a life review, they visited a huge planetarium that contains information about every inhabited planet in the universe, they visited large concert halls, lakes, waterfalls, temples and many other things. 

The other side is a detailed world like our own but much better. The NDErs say that earth is like a bad photocopy of the other side. Something like how in a virtual reality video game the world within the video game looks kind of like the ‘real’ world but isn’t exactly. Same way, the physical earth plane is kind of like the other side but not exactly. The other side is more real and the experiences there seem more real in every way than on the physical earth plane. Some of the NDErs even say that many of the ideas that are there on earth have been sent into human minds from the other side to gradually improve the earth and make it more like the other side.

Situations like wars, pandemics, famines, earthquakes and other natural disasters keep happening from time to time. People do leave this physical realm in large numbers and sometimes we lose people we love to these situations. We feel hopeless, lonely and sad because we think the person has gone forever. But this is not the case. It is just like someone you love has returned home from a vacation before you. You can no longer see them physically but you know that they are safe and at home. This is the message that needs to be spread to everyone. Your loved ones still exist and are aware of the happenings on earth.

In life, nothing is permanent. This too shall pass and there will come better and brighter days. Until then, remember we have a true home where we will all return someday. Do not be in a hurry to get there. We are all in this physical realm for a reason. That reason is to live life, learn our lessons and love one another as you love yourself to create a better world for future generations of spiritual explorers who will invariably return to or come to earth for the first time. 

Know that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience and that life is not the opposite of death. Birth is the opposite of death. They are simply entry and exit points into incarnations. Life is eternal, therefore it has no opposite.

STILL YOUR MIND AND LET THE HEALING BEGIN

(Published in Spiritually Speaking of The Daily Guardian on May 3, 2021)

The world is going through a terrible crisis of Covid-19 pandemic and our beloved country of India is, in particular, going through a terrible second wave that is causing fear, sadness and pain in the lives of many. It is a good time to look inwards and realise who we truly are and try to do what we can to raise the vibrations of ourselves and in the process of the world and our country.

Through these raised vibrations we can do our bit in bringing healing to the world and the country. Having said that, we must continue to follow public health guidelines like wearing masks, using hand sanitisers and social distancing. Also, we must honour the rules of the land and avoid moving outside for some time unless necessary.

Now let us take a look at how we can realise who we are and through that become a force of positive change in our world and nation.

The stillness of mind is necessary for us to realise who we really are. “Be still and know that I am God”, says Psalm 46:10, clear advice in the Bible by the Lord to meditate.

When a stone is dropped into a pond of water, it creates ripples, which prevent a person from seeing his reflection in the pond.

It is only when the ripples subside and the water is still that you can see your reflection. Our consciousness is like the pond; if thoughts enter into our mind, they create ripples in our consciousness and these ripples prevent us from seeing our self in the pond of our consciousness.

Stubborn thoughts need to be stopped if true knowledge of self is to be gained. This must happen smoothly. A thought is like a fire, which is fuelled by attention.

By not paying attention to a stubborn thought, it can be made to pass through the mind unattended. Do not try to wrestle with your unwanted thoughts. Wrestling with them is giving attention to them and will make it difficult for them to go away.

A person can only truly concentrate on one thing at a time. In today’s social media-dominated world, it is not easy to concentrate on one thing at a time and this causes our minds to be constantly in a state of flux – fluctuating from one thought to the other. Our constant bombardment with messages either on WhatsApp or Instagram or the like is something that can be considered like an addiction. Though these things have their uses, they must be controlled. We have developed a kind of dependency on these things.

You don’t have to respond immediately to every message or text that comes your way. Take a breather!

Negative thoughts are very natural especially in these testing times of Covid spreading like wildfire throughout our beloved country of India. But the spreading of negative thoughts must be controlled by each one of us to create a positive aura in our country. Stray thoughts of any kind are not welcome when we are trying to still the mind.

Focusing on our breath is a good way to divert attention away from stray thoughts.

Breathe in deeply through your nose and while breathing in, pay attention to your breath. Hold the breath inside you for just a few seconds, maybe five or six seconds, and exhale slowly paying attention to your breath as you exhale.

This technique will relax you as well as help in stilling the mind. After repeating this exercise about 10 times, say the word, ‘Om’, ‘Amen’ or ‘Amin’ — depending on your choice, they all refer to the creative word of God — three times.

Now focus your attention on the point between the eyebrows about one inch above the eyebrow level. This is the centre of Krishna or Christ Consciousness, which is called the Kutastha Centre by Paramahansa Yogananda.

In the Bible, this place is mentioned by Christ when he says in Matthew 6:22: “The light of the body is the eye: If therefore thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light”.

The idea is to concentrate on this point without thinking or allowing thoughts to enter the mind. True meditation is the complete stillness of the mind.

Though thinking about God is a good thing and can help raise the levels of positive energy around you, while meditating try not to think of anything — not even God. Remember what the Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God”.

A feeling of complete relaxation and tranquillity is soon followed by joyous bliss that is all-pervading. When the eye is single — the single eye of intuition or the Kutastha Centre becomes the focus of attention — then the body shall be full of light.

When the attention is focused like a magnifying glass at the Kutastha Centre, the eye of intuition will see the divine light of God and the body shall be bathed by the Divine and Glorious light.

In that moment of blissfulness, direct that peace and light that you see towards the world and especially towards India. Imagine an India that is healthy and pandemic free. In your mind gently let go of any kind of anger, fear, resentment that you have towards anyone and forgive. Send thoughts of love and healing to India and the world. This will surely help to raise the vibrations of the world and the country. The more people who do this, the better it is.

It is a wonderful feeling to still the mind and see your true blissful self in the reflection of your pond of consciousness. Seek God within you now and ask that you be filled with love, light and the power of healing. With these things directed towards the planet and the nation, you will be doing your role in healing the planet and helping to bring brighter days ahead.

FACING FEAR ITSELF

(Published in Spiritually Speaking of The Daily Guardian on April 19, 2021 [e-paper] and April 21, 2021 [online edition]

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

—US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his inaugural address in 1933.

We live in an age dominated by fear. Whether now because of coronavirus or earlier because of the threats of nuclear war, terrorism, environmental destruction or economic depression; there is always something to be afraid of.

Whether it is on the global scale like the things mentioned above or it is at a more personal, family or local stage – fear is a constant in our lives. There is no point denying it but instead to overcome it by pulling the bull by its horns.

Courage is not the absence of fear but it is the management of fear by facing it head on and changing the mental conditions within us that have contributed to us feeling afraid. Everybody in this world has some fear or the other, but through a conscious effort we can overcome our fears in order to live better, peaceful and more productive lives.

Many times, the things that we are afraid of are just in our minds and the likelihood of these things happening is very rare. Let us look at some examples through a little mental exercise. Think of the worst fear you have. It could be anything. You could fear losing a loved one, or falling very ill, facing financial crisis or any other such fear you may have. Think about it in a calm and rational way. How often has it actually happened? Probably never or at the most rarely.

Let us take the coronavirus situation that we are all currently facing. Let us look at some numbers. According to JHU CSSE Data—the total number of cases of coronavirus in India since the start of the pandemic is 14.3 million out of which 12.5 million have recovered. The total number of deaths is approximately 174,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. That means of the people who have got it only 1.2 per cent have died. 98.8 percent of people have survived. The current population of India is about 1.36 billion, which means that 1 percent of the Indian population has gotten Covid-19 since last year. 99 percent of the population have not got it. About 174,000 deaths out of 1.36 billion people means that only 0.01 percent of our population died of coronavirus. 

Now let’s look at normal non-Covid deaths in India. According to Medindia data, 26,789 deaths occur daily in India, this means 9,778,073 deaths annually. So, in a span of more than a year 174,000 deaths happened because of Covid—this is only 1.7 % of the total annual deaths in India. This means that 98.3 percent of people who died in India in the last year, did not die of Covid-19. 

Having said this, we should take all proper precautions to save ourselves and others from getting Covid but we should not unnecessarily panic. Heart disease, cancer, road accidents, TB, suicide kill more people annually in India than Covid-19. 

What is it that we are afraid of? How likely is it to happen? What will happen if it happens? Most of the time we never get to see the things we are afraid of—either they never happen or even if they do they weren’t as bad as we thought it would be. But in either case, it is important to face the fear head on. There are many situations in life that we are afraid of. Most of these situations do not involve any kind of physical harm. There is a fear of failure or rejection.

Have you ever had a lingering anxiety or worry about having a particular conversation with someone about a ‘difficult’ topic? Have you wondered how someone would react if you said or did something in particular? There are many situations in life that we dread. We constantly keep imagining the worst possible outcome. The fear, anxiety, worry and dread keep increasing with each moment that the fear is not faced. But when you take a bold and courageous step and face your fears—stand up to that bully, have the difficult conversation, get that medical checkup done, take that plunge and start a new business and so on – when you actually do the thing you feared you will immediately feel a huge burden lifting off your shoulders. 

Some other ways to ease your fears are:

Deep and slow breathing whenever you are afraid. This will instantly make you feel better.

Ask yourself ‘What is the worst that can happen?’ Many times we are afraid of irrational situations that never happen.

Don’t be afraid of rejection. Sometimes we put off having a conversation or asking for something we want because of fear of rejection. Most of the time this is irrational and unwarranted because many times the rejection does not happen. But even if it does, ask yourself “So what?”. Pull up your socks and try again later

In relationships as well, we are afraid that we will lose our loved ones in some way either through death or an end of a relationship. In the former case, there is really nothing that we can do about it. People die when and how they are destined to die. You can only try your best to help them. In the case of an end of a relationship on the other hand, people are often afraid of losing their significant other through a variety of ways. The most common fear is that the other person will stop loving them. If this happens, it is not the end of the world. Life and love go on and you never know who you might meet in the future.

Keep yourself calm by having faith in a higher power that you invite into your life to give you what is best for you, irrespective of if it is the outcome you want. Have faith that a higher power resides within you and that it will always do what is best for you.

So yes, we are living in strange times. But it is not the end. This is only one more chapter in our human story. Do not take the pandemic lightly but also do not overly panic. Numbers are rising but they will subside when people start to take more precautions. Live your life with caution but not worry or panic. Remember you are not alone. We are all in this together and as FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

All Is One And One Is All

(Published in the Spiritually Speaking column of The Daily Guardian on April 5, 2021)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. — Matt. 5:14-16

The ancient wisdom of the ages is this—you are a drop of the ocean called God. However, most have not realised this truth. “The Kingdom of God is within you,” says the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 17:21 and this is so. Yesterday, we celebrated Easter, the day Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion. But in a way, we all must rise from our delusion and stupor and awaken to the truth that we are all a part of God and that God resides within all us, just waiting for us to remember. For God realisation is also about remembering this truth that is eternal but currently forgotten.

Think of this truth. When the creation of the Cosmos took place, the raw materials had to come from somewhere. So where did they come from? Even if you believe in the Big Bang theory that the Cosmos was condensed into a tiny ball of energy that just exploded one fine day and continued to expand until the present cosmic setup, the basic elements of the cosmos had to come from somewhere. It is too simplistic to say that they “just came” out of nowhere. The basic building blocks of the entire Universe are the same three sub-atomic particles – protons, neutrons and electrons. There is absolutely no difference between the protons, neutrons and electrons in you and in the paper that you are reading and the chair that you are seated on. They are the same. There is fundamentally no difference between you, your car, your house, your best friend and your worst enemy when it comes to the basic building blocks that make you. This is important to note because it immediately makes you feel the ‘oneness’ of all things throughout the Cosmos.

So, the Creative power that made the entire Cosmos had to have used ‘itself’ as the basic ‘stuff’ that made the protons, neutrons and electrons as well as the almost unimaginable energy that goes into every single atom of creation. So not only are we (as the late astronomer Carl Sagan loved to say) ‘starstuff’, but we are all ‘Godstuff’ that has been mixed and matched in different permutations and combinations and is made to interact with each other amidst the delusion that we are actually separate. 

We are as separate as the individual drops in the ocean—which still retain their existence in some stretch of imagination, but at the same time, have merged with the larger entity called ocean. They still exist, but now as a part of a larger, more powerful being. Like the cells in your bodies are individual beings in their own sense—they have a fixed boundary or body, they are born, they reproduce, they absorb oxygen (so they breathe in a sense) and then they die. They may even have consciousness, but miniscule compared to the consciousness of a human being. Yet, our physical bodies are nothing more than a conglomerate of trillions of cells. So, are we the single body or the sum total of trillions of cells?

Extending this thought to the next level—or souls are like the cells that make up the body of God. We are drops of the ocean of God and are one with God whether we recognize this or not. But we are blessed. It is possible through meditation for our consciousness to become one with the cosmic consciousness.

Just like the sound of the sea lays hidden inside every seashell, the vibration of God’s kingdom is hidden within every soul just waiting to be found. It can be found by tuning into it. So, the drop can still have its existence in consciousness, but at the same time can draw on the wisdom and experience of the grand ocean and be one with it at the same time. When this happens, we will realize the truth that we are not separate beings in isolation, but parts of the creator of the entire cosmos and since we all are parts of the Creator, and like drops of the cosmic ocean, therefore we are all one.

How do we as human beings realise this truth?

There is a way, tried and true, that saints, adepts and avatars have walked.

The way is universal and timeless and will reunite you to your higher self and when this happens, the subtle consciousness of God realization will shine through you. 

This is the path of individuated Christhood and Buddhahood that Jesus, Krishna, Gautam Buddh and Mahatavar Babaji and many others, even in civilisations long forgotten, helped forge.

As you follow in their footsteps, you will become one with Christ, the universal Christos, which in Greek means “anointed.” 

You will discover, nurture and expand the spark of divinity within you. Gradually, you will become awakened and enlightened and this is the ultimate divine mission of every soul.

There is no division in God. The duality of the physical earth plane will be transformed to the Oneness full of love and light experienced by many who have had near death experiences and glimpses of the higher realms during meditation and out of body experiences. When you are set on this truth, you will taste the Water of Life promised by Jesus and other Masters.

As self-realisation expands, the thought of God as an outer deity to be worshiped or appeased releases its grip and you realise that God is in you and in everyone and everything else.

We are all a part of God. We are all One.

The consciousness of being separate will be replaced by an unfailing guidance within your heart and soul. You will learn to engage in an inner conversation between your outer consciousness and your own Christ mind. 

The path leading to Christhood and Buddhahood is a testing path of determination and testing, especially in a world that does not reward this calling. At times, you will feel uplifted in the joyous experience and bliss of divine union.

At others, you will feel empty, alone and unworthy as you pass through the shadows where God’s light within you has been eclipsed. 

This is known as the dark night of the soul. All saints have passed through this, as did Jesus on the cross and Lord Buddha during his ministry.

The key to this mystical journey is to find your inner light, to expand it through love and to brighten life around you.

Love God with all our heart, soul and mind, keep on keeping on through the ups and downs of life and honour your neighbour with good works. In doing so, you will balance karma and fulfil your specific mission, the divine plan or dharma that can only succeed through you. Your reward lies beyond nirvana, unto your ascension—the permanent reunion with God that Jesus, Krishna, Gautam Buddh and Mahatavar Babaji and many other Great Lights East and West so beautifully demonstrated.

Spiritual Growth Through Mistakes And Forgiveness

(Published on March 22, 2021 in the Spiritually Speaking column of The Daily Guardian)

Spiritual growth is what we are all here for. Nothing else matters because there is nothing that happens to us in our physical lives which in some way is not connected to spiritual growth. Even the most seemingly insignificant or random situations we face can teach us something. Spiritual growth is a constant part of our lives. It is the fire that should drive us.

Our soul has chosen to come to Earth and experience life in this physical world with all its good and bad moments. Just knowing this is helpful in removing any negative or fearbased energy that attaches us to this karmic drama. Knowing that we chose this life should reassure us that it is okay to be happy when we overcome ‘bad’ things because this means that we are evolving.

We need to slow down and live and embrace every single moment of our lives. In moments of silence and stillness, while being in the present moment, pay attention to your breath, the gaps between the breaths is where the pure love that resides and radiates within us will be felt. Love is the way to happiness. This is a love that simply is – it need not be directed towards anybody in that moment. It simply is.

This moment will never return. As Heraclitus put it in the 5th century BC: “You can never step into the same river twice. Because neither the river nor you are the same.” You will never again experience this moment again. Yesterday is the past and the future is a mystery, it often doesn’t happen the way you plan it.

 In life we all make mistakes. We may hurt people or ourselves but at the end of the day remember we are humans. We are not perfect and that is why we are here. Life is all about learning from our mistakes. At the end of the day, it is how we love ourselves and others that is important. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

Forgive everyone who has hurt you. Guilt, anger and resentment will cause more harm to you than to those who have wronged you. These will manifest as negative emotions, like anger and worry for you, not for them. These emotions first manifest in your energy body and from there they grow into physical and psychological diseases. Make a choice to give no more energy to negative emotions. By forgiving, you are benefiting yourself by removing the negative energetic link that is created by negative emotions. By forgiving others, the one benefiting the most is you.

Be thankful for the mistakes you have made in life. These mistakes have given many opportunities for your soul to learn and grow. There is no room and no reason for guilt. Feelings such as guilt only have a negative effect. It is natural to feel guilty at times, but just feel it, learn from it and move on.

 We are falsely conditioned to believe that when we make mistakes we will be judged by God, but this is not true. After we cross over to the next world, we ourselves assess the life just lived and analyse the mistakes we made and are given a chance to rectify it. God does not judge us. God is unconditional love. The only thing God expects from us is to do our best. But having this knowledge saves us precious time. We can start learning from our mistakes now. We do not have to wait until the next time round. Now is a perfect time to start. We should learn from our mistakes but do not regret them, for there is nothing you can do to undo them. What can be undone is the negative aspects of guilt or anger associated with them. Also always forgive yourself, be kind to yourself and let go of negative emotions gracefully.

Be kind to yourself and let yourself go at times. This could be the day to take out time for yourself and do the things you have always wanted. Be a little lenient with yourself over the harsh things you may have said to your loved one. Stop worrying about the terrible disease you might have or how you could have prevented some misfortune from occurring. Stop judging and being so harsh on yourself. Love yourself unconditionally!

Right now, you are a human being on earth who is trying to develop spiritually, trying to make the most of this life and all of the beauty it has to offer. You are also trying to master the skills of trying to jump over all the hurdles that are a part of life. Be comforted in the knowledge that your soul is evolving in the process. Do not get too attached to this world – good moments and bad moments are temporary – everything in life is just a fleeting moment which will soon be over. Only our spiritual growth is eternal and our lives will continue forever but in different forms.

The energetic matrix of life includes various emotions – love, forgiveness, humility, kindness, compassion, joy, anger, guilt, fear, arrogance, greed, fear, hate, etc. Do you notice that it is like a spectrum going from high frequency to low frequency? What we need to realise is that the situations that happen in our lives do not create the frequency that we experience. It is our reaction to the situations that we face that guide us to the kind of energy we attract.

This is the reason why we should always react in a manner that we move towards the higher frequencies of love, joy, compassion and forgiveness. When you move in this direction, your inner happiness will be maintained and lessons will be learned more smoothly even in harsh circumstances and situations.

It is, however, a universe of like attracts like. As Jesus Christ said, “Judge not and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Each of these teachings of Jesus are true and apply even to yourself. In other words – judge not yourself, condemn not yourself and do forgive yourself.

Do not be a slave to fear and guilt. You may have made mistakes but God has forgiven you. Now it is time you forgive yourself. Go ahead with your life and make tomorrow a better day. Love yourself and others and always remember to forgive others (and yourself) in order to free yourself from emotional bondage. We are all human, we all make mistakes, you are never alone. We grow spiritually every moment in small steps. This is all a great lesson that our souls are partaking in.

EVERY PROBLEM IS A STEPPING STONE TO STRENGTH

(Published on March 8, 2021 in the Spiritually Speaking column of The Daily Guardian)

Why do bad things happen in our lives? This is a question that surely everyone has asked sometime in their life. We all have experienced problems and hardships in our lives some time or the other. Maybe some of us are going through a crisis at this very moment. Maybe it is related to health, finance, legal issues, relationships or something else. There are myriads of situations that we all have to face in this physical world.

If you are facing a problem or crisis in your life and do not know what to do, the first thing I will say to you is: You are not alone! No matter how alone you think you are.

 When ‘bad’ things happen in our lives, the first question that comes to mind is: Why me? Why has this happened to me? The right question to ask is: Why not me? When you ask this question, you are already on the path to overcome the problem. First things first, please know that everybody in life goes through different problems. Therefore, you are not alone! No matter what problem you are facing in your life currently, someone has faced it before.

What good does it do to ask yourself why? The answer you’ll get is: I’m unlucky. That answer gets you nowhere. The only thing that will come out of that is self-pity, something that accomplishes absolutely nothing. You can feel sorry about yourself, or deal head-on with the problem at hand.

Better questions to ask are: What am I going to do about it?

How am I going to solve these problems that I have? What strategies am I going to employ? What knowledge do I have to arm myself with? The answers to those questions will get you somewhere. 

 To effectively deal with any problem, you first have to ask the right questions.

 Many circumstances in life are beyond our control but what is in our control is our attitude and approach and frame of mind towards these difficult circumstances. We should never get caught in an endless pit of self-pity which keeps getting deeper and deeper. If you can change a situation change it, if you cannot change it then accept it and move on towards something better. 

 Each hardship that life brings is also an opportunity to learn and grow and become stronger. Facing the challenge and the struggle is a way towards success.  There is a story about a chrysalis that was still in its cocoon and was trying to break out and become a butterfly. So, it started to kick the boundary of the cocoon and tried to break out.

There was a man nearby who was observing this happening and felt pity for it and broke the cocoon for it. The man thought he did a great service to it. But little did he know that he would actually cause the early demise of the butterfly. How? In the natural course of things, the chrysalis’ muscles become strong by kicking through the cocoon surface and it is this strength that allows them to fly. Since in this case the man helped, the butterfly did not gain enough strength to fly and therefore died of starvation. What is the moral of the story?

Hardships in life need to be endured for us to become strong.

Sometimes being too sweet or always wanting sweetness will end up giving you diabetes. Every hardship in life is like a workout in the gym for the soul. It is the resistance of weights that gives strength to physical muscles and likewise it is the resistance to problems by working through them that gives strength to the soul. 

We need to at times also ‘let go and let God’. Pray over the problem and hand it over to God and keep striving towards moving towards the solution. When we say ‘let go and let God’ this doesn’t mean become passive. It means hand over your worries and troubled mind to the Divine Power and trust that God will help you towards a solution by clearing your mind and showing you the path forward—even though the path may have many bends, curves, thorns and rocks. But with resilience and persistence you will overcome the problem at hand and grow as a person. Running away from problems never solves them.

Regardless of your situation, know that we all have cycles in life. One season of going down, another season will come when we will rise up and see the best in life. Keep your faith. What weighs you down today, you will develop resilience through it, and grow in strength.

Bad things occur to teach us what is good for us. Each and every situation in everyone’s life is a lesson. These lessons might be materialistic or nonmaterialistic but both of them give us an opportunity to learn.

So instead of thinking why ‘it’ happens, think what is the best and most important point that you can learn from that situation.

One thing for sure, bad things occur in everyone’s life but the solution is to be strong internally.

 It is easy to get caught up in the misfortunes of our lives and as one thing goes wrong followed by another and another it is natural to assume that fate has somehow targeted us specifically. Everything takes a bit of work and practice and changing our bad luck into good is no different. Sometimes it is a case of negativity breeding negativity or focusing so much on the bad we miss opportunities for good to squeeze in. You have to actively and consciously look for happy things no matter how small they seem. Start with noticing blue skies, a pretty sunrise, a majestic waterfall, children playing together or anything that is good in life. Put forth the effort to smile at others. When you get that parking spot, or fast checkout line, or green light give yourself an instant mini-celebration. As you get into the habit you will begin to notice you indeed have more to celebrate.

 Pay attention to all the good moments in life that are always interspersed between any number of difficult moments. It is in these moments that we need to be thankful and also resolve that we will overcome all challenges and difficulties and succeed with our purpose in life.

Good luck and keep smiling. You are never alone.