The brilliant author of "A stroke of Insight" and harvard's own "Brain Banker", Jill Bolte Taylor, has found through studying the human brain that it takes "less than 90 seconds for an emotion to get triggered, surge chemically through the blood stream, then get flushed out".
What does that mean in spiritual terms? It means that the days, months and sometimes years that we spend blaming someone for our own state is a complete hoax.
How then is it that we remain angry, disappointed, frustrated and hurt by someone else's actions for way, way longer than 90 seconds? Well, the painful and short answer is: we do it ourselves. Through the replaying of events, attaching past experiences that seem similar and building up many scenarios of victimization, blame, revenge and fantasies about re-doing the past or fixing the future we re-live those stories in our heads over and over and over again. This in turn internally re-creates the trigger and response cycles.
We jail ourselves into this torturous internal storytelling causing ourselves our own suffering. Many of us resist this idea as it gives us full power and control over our own mental and emotional state and yet once you accept it, there's nothing more liberating.
"How people treat you is their Karma, how you react is yours".
Looking at mountains left to be nurtured by nature, I imagine what life must have been like before the ego's interruption of the human mind. I imagine earth to be colourful, abundant, radiant, wild, harmoniously chaotic and rhythmically quiet.
Reflecting on that I find myself wondering what it is that is so beautiful about the chaos, unpredictability and wonder in virgin nature? What had habitual programmed interpretation of "beauty", "profit" and "order" done to countless breathtaking nature spots? Why have we allowed ourselves to interfere, stripping those spots of chances of being adored and watched in awe the way they were intended to be.
Yoga believes that everything that exists in the macrocosm of the universe also exists in microcosm of the human being. How then do we do the same to our internal "nature spots"? We interfere. We consistently try to manipulate others passively or aggressively (or both) in an attempt to fit them into a standard we have decided to set. This standard that is so disoriented as it originates from years of emotional baggage, false understanding and plain moments of shut heart. We then cause ourselves to suffer as we experience feelings of disappointment and frustration as it is rare that anyone will always fit that standard.
We also apply those ridiculous standards on ourselves. We constantly interfere with ourselves, consistently trying to veil who we are in an attempt to create an image that might better be accepted by ourselves and others.
What would happen if we just observed ourselves in all our glory, all our beauty, all our chaos and mistakes? What if we considered for just a moment that we are an embodiment of perfection? What if we stopped interfering for a little while and stopped to admire the beauty of a never touched forest, of a quirky and strange human being, of the version of ourselves only seen by us?
It happened to all of us. You meet someone that brightens up your life every time your eyes fall upon their face. It happened with your mother, then friends, then lovers, more friends, maybe a teacher, a child, sometimes even strangers.
You observe them with wonder and see a light that shines so bright you cannot believe its brilliance. A majestic, Divine flawless light that makes your heart sing in recognition of what you also are. You feel light, childlike around them, supreme, important.
Yet this drunkenness of Divine love is often followed by a pang of soberness. A feeling that we weren't seeing and now we can see. We don't grow sober because we realize their imperfections. We grow sober because we cheapen our love with words. Words that turn into concepts that we put on the other like a cloak of flaws because their brilliance is blinding. Blinding not from the truth but from the lies that we have been telling ourselves. Their brilliance is real, but the cloaks are illusions.
We get uncomfortable with their magnificence because it reminds us of our own. And so we put on our picky, critical cloaks on them, one on top of the other till we can't see their light anymore. And we do it not because they are flawed. But because knowing that we too are flawless around them gives us no space to forget our Divinity. Leaves no more space for the small self we have always identified with. Leaves no more excuses not to love completely, openly, madly and limitlessly the way were created to.
Our bodies are constantly working towards perfect health. As soon as something goes wrong we cough, sweat, sneeze, puke, sleep or slowly work towards healing it.
The symptoms often appear to be what's bothering us. Because we're beings that perceive the world through our senses. We have a fever and think "I don't like this", completely forgetting that the fever is making us better. We forget how we got ourselves sick to begin with, and focus on our aversion to the symptoms.
I imagine the universe exactly the same. A massive body constantly working towards perfect health. Each planet, star and all the beings within, count. I believe God to be the loving Consciousness that is showing us how to achieve that perfect health. When we make a mistake we are not being "punished", we are lovingly being steered, healed and cleansed towards more wholesome choices.
That's why it often looks like peaceful people always have it their way. It's because their will is aligned with the will of the collective. They don't need much steering and so they seem to have more free will than the others.
This is Union with the whole, this is Yoga.
"Attempting to understand Conciousness with your mind is like trying to illuminate the sun with a candle" Moojj
How fond we are of our minds. We all place a personal value (or lack thereof) on ourselves based on our intellect. "Spiritual" people, myself included are guilty of this too. As soon as I read a concept that resonates with me I add it to my mental library of "things that tell me I now understand, because that makes me feel safer in this confusing world.
Surely, my attention span is too short, mind too restless, and having commitment phobias mean I am constantly changing my mind, reinventing myself every so often to start a new practice or another. And so I never managed to become an "extremist" of any sort, not yet anyway.
But in the end sometimes I think it's all a distraction. Because truth is timeless, it was there before concepts, religions, practices, workshops, books, rituals and ceremony. And if truth is timeless then I'm sure God wouldn't have said "you're not going to know the truth till you practice this and that".
What if there was no more offerings to give, no more mantras to chant, no more verses to recite, no more prayers to say, no more meditations to sit, no more seva to serve, no more books to read, no more alms to give, no more feelings to release, no more malas, bowing, kumkum, insence, embraces or effort?
What if "I" dropped it all in this moment, in my heart of hearts, like my teacher before me, and remembered? What if I remembered where "I" was before this body and mind and where I'm heading after it? What if I went beyond my ideas of "Enlightenment", my "Intelligence" and ideas of who "I am" and held my awareness there. In the silence that comes with meditation but deeper, softer and quiter?
I received the news that my beloved grandmother has left this world. Grandma or "Ayya" was our endearing name for her was an embodiment of Divine mother. She was nurturing, accepting and greatly loving.
When I received the news my initial reaction was to habitually respond the way I was conditioned to: "we belong to God and to Him we returned" I calmly mumbled, my head spinning. Then I took a deep breath and the sobs came.
I don't know why I sobbed. I was relieved. I don't mean to say this but in compassion. Ayya lived her last years with very little sense of hearing and seeing. Her senses were completely withdrawn. She sat there hour after hour mumbling prayers. I can only imagine she was in a constant state of meditation.
But I was relieved because her last months were of physical suffering. I was relieved she was finally free of the dress we call the body. And yet I sobbed. And in my grief a side of me was still very calm, very aware of the grief and yet unchanged. And it seem to have asked me "how are you going to use this pain to awaken?". I felt like a child with a tantrum responding to a calm loving parent. "I know You are still with me" I cried back.
I owe this insight to years of mindfulness practice. I watch my mind often and although I haven’t completely mastered it, I have managed to detach from it. I have managed to look at it without being in it and that had made me feel safer, calmer and stronger.
In our grief, in our joy, in our ups and downs of the always changing mind there is always a silent witness within that remains calm, remains the same, watches without judging. Who is that witness? Who are we? On an end note thank you to all of you who voted for Namaste at the Bahrain Entrepreneur People's choice award. It is an honor to have been a part of it and I feel blessed to be sharing my passion with all of you.
I have felt a longing for a long time. The closer I get to the Divine the stronger, and often more painful, that longing gets. I often get restless, fed up and even look down upon the endless “worldly” things I have to do, say and be, to go through an uninvited adulthood.
And what hit me as a strong realization recently was something that my teacher lovingly to me as I sat at her feet and sobbed at how I couldn’t bear the longing to God for a second more. She said “You have always been with the Divine, once you realize that, there will be no suffering”.
All my mind could do with that is think. And thinking often doesn’t work. It took me many hard lessons to realize that my adoring eyes that falling upon saints, teachers and spiritual heroes should have also fallen upon me. The teachings that came through them also can come through me. The love they radiate so brightly also lives within me. Not my body, or mind, or story, or idea of who “I Am” but the “I Am” that lives in me and you and trees and birds alike.
And like all spiritual experiences trying to put this realization into words fails to deliver the profound peace that comes with understanding the Divine essence of who we are and so this poem that came through, as I became more silent, attempts to do that.
I rest in my mother's womb
With my eyes closed, fixated on You
A lightening, a chill and boom!
I no longer knew
Felt that hallow in my belly
Thought it was hunger
And though mother's breast arrived
Her love didn't suffice
I had a mother, I remembered
I just didn't know who
My heart was longing for You
I couldn't bear the separation
Always chased new destinations
Begged to be reunited with that nectar
I didn't know I didn't have to go far
All you asked me is to rest on your palm
All I had to do was trust and stay calm
You'll carry me the rest of the way
And yet I long till this day
For I have not yet realized in a head so wrong
That you had been within me all along
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
As an extreme extrovert, I spent a good portion of my early adult life trying to be okay with time spent alone. I remember weeping uncontrollably the first night I had alone when I arrived at my university dorms. I had to be stimulated all the time, with people, music and activities or I would feel very uncomfortable and quiet often, sorry for myself.
In my mid twenties, as I moved into introspection, self enquiry and spirituality, I understood the importance of solitude. I began to enjoy time spent reflecting, meditating and contemplating life so much that I withdrew more and more, finding ease and joy in time spent alone.
I went from one extreme to the other recognizing how much easier it is to just be with my own company creating my own theories, realities and beliefs rather than deal with dramas that come with relationships regardless of their nature.
Then I hit a plateau, there was very little I could learn from myself. I knew I had to open up and engage more in order to grow. Some human relationships continue to challenge me in many ways and yet I realize now that without a human interaction, it is difficult to measure where you stand in life and what you need to work on in yourself.
There is no way to practice spirituality on your own all the time. Doing so might create a very stable and comfortable state of being so long we are alone (anyone moving to the Himalayas soon?) and yet we find ourselves challenged as soon as we engage with another person. Yes, time spent alone is still a very important part of any spiritual practice. Yet if we do not find another person that will act as a mirror, annoying us, challenging us, driving us mad, then we will never know if our knowledge is wisdom or mere theory.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Karma in the west has a negative ring to it. In Sanskrit Karma translates literally to “action”. The concept of Karma is that each action (good or bad) has an equal reaction (of the same kind). Our Karmic “account”, if you wish, is full of not only our actions, but also our thoughts, emotions, even belief system (and if you believe in re-incarnation, both baggage and knowledge from past lives too).
Every thought and feeling (even if left not acted upon), has a consequence. If your belief system dictates that you cannot beat the disease you’re fighting, or ever get out of debt, or have children, or leave an abusive relationship then that becomes your reality.
Karma is not a “punishment” system as such. I see it more of a learning system. Whatever you’re lacking in your life, mind, emotions and actions will continue to haunt you till you know better and make a change (whether internal or
It is also not “personal” in the sense that next time someone wrongs you, know that it is your karma as much as it is theirs. I know many will disagree (and some will even get aggressive), but there are reasons why some people find themselves as “victims”, “sufferers” or even “under privileged”. Studies have found that most women who were subject to domestic violence, find themselves in equally abusive relationships after receiving help. Why? Because the belief system didn’t change. The problem is not the person delivering the Karma to you (in the form of a disease, abusive relative etc) but rather the reason that Karma landed in your lap: the lesson you are yet to learn to become the version of you that you that is happier and more peaceful.
The beautiful thing about “bad” Karma is that not only does it consistently provide valuable lessons of growth and liberation. They also provide endless opportunities to be reversed. There are many stories told of people who solved their own problems by helping others: the paralyzed man who finally walked after donating an artificial leg to an amputated man, the man who found love after helping a couple in need, the stories go on.
One of the main lessons that Karma continues to try to teach us is simple: we are One.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. Metta Always, Weam
I spent all of August in India on a spiritual quest of prayer, self reflection and study. Something I have found vital for my mental and emotional health but also for my spiritual growth.
It was apparent to me that I have spent many years taming my mind and retraining it to become more quiet and skillful. This in turn created enough space and stillness within me that opened me up to many possibilities and joys. Yet all of those on the path of spirituality know that it is a constant process of peeling layers of ourselves moving towards the center. And although I had a mind that no longer scared me nor controlled me the way it did before. Something was missing.
This reminded me of the journey that Mawlana Jaluldin AlRumi, a respected scholar, went through right before he met his teacher, Shams, who actively moved him away from rationalizing judgments and moretowards feeling his experiences by opening his heart, and that’s how the mystic poet was born.
A month spent on opening the heart showed me potential of what can be achieved when we love unconditionally, without expectations. It showed me the selfish joy being selfless can bring. Having been nurtured by the place I was in and the people I was around, I felt so full of love I had to overflow. And with eyes full of wonder I kept seeking my next “fix”, my next opportunity to love human beings for no reason other than the recognition of our oneness.
It also showed me my demons, that acts of love done with impatience and irritation bring nothing to the giver nor the receiver. That external acts of kindness do not bring the same kind of joy when done out of duty or concepts of what “should be done” rather than a spontaneous and joyous outpour of affection.
This may sound like a simple question that remains unanswered: we all know that nothing brings more joy than giving from a place of love. Why do we then shy away from the endless opportunities to be in that place?
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
Metta Always, Weam
Weam is the founder of Namaste. She had started a very deep and intense spiritual journey at a young age having refused to continue to suffer with the common challenges of her generation: depression, anxiety and being lost. She insisted that there must be more to life than the constant rat race she was in