Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Photoshop your Life



Last week a friend visited Hong Kong and like any tourist he had his camera ready to click.  He took hundreds of photographs, I had not seen Hong Kong like that before. Living in a place makes one immune to the intricacies that weave such a wonderful tapestry. His camera seemed to tell a very beautiful story.

Amongst those beautiful pictures there were many pictures that were not that beautiful, some were over exposed, some were underexposed, some were hazy, some had red eyes and some were completely out of focus. As I was going through the album I started saving the pictures that I liked and ignoring the ones that I did not want to see. Sadly I could not delete the ones that I did not like because it was not my album, I just had access to it.

Half way through the album I realized that I was being too self critical, I did not like any pictures that featured me and I was being extremely judgmental. I wanted to delete those that had me looking cross eyed or where I was showing my teeth like jaws, but sadly I could not delete anything. The best I could do was just ignore them and focus on the ones that were nice.

Isn’t life similar to a picture album? Not all pictures are beautiful but we have a choice of keeping the beautiful ones and ignoring the not so beautiful or as some of my friends would say ‘ see the beauty even in the apparent ugliness’.

I went through the whole album again and to my surprise actually started liking what I had initially disliked.  I had detached myself from me and saw the pictures just as they were and not as a reflection of me the body.

Even though I saw the pictures just as they were I still did not save the ones that I did not like on my computer. I only saved the ones I liked.

We can edit our lives the same way. Our lives are full of beautiful and not so beautiful pictures. Just as we keep only the pretty pictures in a photo album, why not keep only the pretty memories in our life album. Why should anyone revisit the dark moments over and over again? Acknowledge the dark moments for what they are and choose to skim over them just as you would the bad or out of focus pictures.

I remember attending a friend’s wedding a few years ago and when I saw the wedding album I was blown over by the beauty in that album, but I clearly remember that all was not so beautiful at the wedding. Many things had gone wrong, and there was a lot of anger, frustration and unmet expectations; but nothing even close to that shows in the album. The photographer chose the best pictures and every time any one sees that album all we see are beautiful smiling faces and not the angry or sad faces that too were a part of the three-day event.

Become an editor of your own life. Edit or photoshop the events that you don’t like. Just as you would not keep the bad pictures why would you hang on to unpleasant memories?

Memories and albums are made up pictures that we choose to keep. Ideally we should not hold on to anything whether good or bad for everything is transient. Nothing stays forever so even getting attached to the good is a waste of the present moment. But if we do need to revisit the past, it better be the edited colorful version and not the dark out of focus version.

Just as the bad pictures don’t automatically get deleted, the bad memories will not automatically disappear. We need to consciously focus on the good and ignore the bad. The bad pictures may not necessarily be taken by you, but you feature in those. Similarly the cause of your bad memories may lie outside of you but the ability to choose the memories of your life lies with you.

Choose the good ones …..

Luv/luck/happiness  

Slander and Gossip.





A friend asked me this question a few days ago and I could not answer her right away.

The question was : What should one do if you find out that someone is slandering your name?

I thought about it and put myself in her shoes. What would I do if I heard my name being maligned or misrepresented?

In the past I would have confronted that person and asked for an explanation or I would have gotten extremely upset, cried and tried to offer my own view point. Today I would do no such thing.

Why?

Because I understand that by focusing on something that does not feel good I am fanning that very fire which needs to simmer down. Confrontation or reaction will fan that fire more. But suppressing that emotion will also add fuel to that fire.

So what am I to do?

I need to step away from the situation and try and see the whole picture.  Sometimes a good photograph appears only when taken from a distance.  I need to understand that everyone wants to feel good. Sometimes for a person to feel good about herself or himself, she/he makes the other person look bad.

Our world is full of contrasts, good-bad, up-down, pretty-ugly, black-white and the various polarities are always present. In order for someone to feel good they may need to make someone feel bad. This is extremely flawed way of being but it is one of the ways a person can feel good herself/himself.

If I have clear understanding of who I really am, another person’s opinion will not affect me.  If someone was to say that I am a male, or that I am a one eyed monster, or a three legged alien I doubt I would react for I know for a fact I am not of the male species, I could be an alien but I don’t have three legs so that is ruled out, my husband thinks I am a monster but that is his opinion J

Because I am sure about who or what I am other peoples opinion about me will not affect me, but if I doubt my own integrity or lack faith in myself, another person’s opinion will matter to me.

The problem arises when we feel betrayed by our own inner selves. We feel bad when we feel that we were wrong in our judgment of another. We feel let down not so much by another but by our own inner being.

By allowing another person’s opinion of us to matter so much we are giving away our own power and it is this feeling of helplessness that bothers us more than the other persons opinion.

So what should be the solution?

Quantum physics is the branch of physics that tells us that our universe is created by our conscious thoughts.  If our thoughts are dominated by thoughts of sadness, anger, confrontation, revenge that is exactly what will keep showing up in our lives.  In order for us to move away from these toxic thoughts we need to shift our focus mindfully towards uplifting thoughts.

Instead of focusing on that one or two or three people who are bad mouthing you start focusing on the people who love you, who are there for you and will go the extra mile for you. If for any reason you feel alone always remember that you really are never alone, you have your inner being with you and that inner being is always in a state of bliss.

Another thing we need to keep in mind is that any negative emotion is an indication of inner misalignment and not necessarily a reflection of what is being said. Think of a time when you were feeling great about yourself, at that time even if someone said something horrible it did not leave a lasting impression, but if at anytime you were feeling horrible or low about yourself even the slightest nag was enough to get you really upset. So was it the other person’s words or your own inner state that determined your reaction?

99.9 percent of the time it is not the situation that upsets us but our interpretation of the situation based on our inner state of being. So next time you hear someone bad mouthing you, look within your own self and see where your  self esteem level is, if you are feeling confident and happy the situation will not disturb you as much as it would if you were feeling low and unfulfilled.

The power to feel is always with us. By allowing another persons opinion of us to affect us we are giving away our power and no wonder we feel miserable.

Next time you hear someone bad mouthing you, just remember that they have no other way of feeling good about themselves so they have to indulge in slander and gossip just to feel good.

End of the day, all anyone wants is to feel good. So allow them to have their moment of joy and you rejoice in the fact that you are important enough for them to spend time talking about you. J

Mark Twain said  “ the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about!”

Luv/Luck/Happiness

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Who Am I?

Who Am I? I am not the first person to ask this question and I can bet my little finger I won’t be the last!

 I never really stopped to contemplate the validity of my existence. I never doubted that I was a human being with XX chromosome. I know my name, I knew my parents, I know I am married, I have a daughter I know how I look and am sure that I would recognize myself if I were to see my reflection in a mirror. At least till yesterday I knew who I was. Today I am not so sure.

 In our Vedanta Class we were asked to contemplate on the question “Who am I?” According to Vedanta teaching, I am not the body; I am not the mind; I am not the intellect; I am not my thoughts; I am not my memories and I am not my breath. If I am none of the above then who am I?

 This was not an easy exercise. My entire belief system was being questioned. If I was not my body, my thoughts, my mind, my intellect then who or what was I? It all sounds very easy when we are having a discussion with our teacher and she steers us towards the understanding that the real ‘I’ is unchangeable, imperishable, all pervasive and a part of Brahman or God Consciousness. Having been a student of Vedanta for a few years now, I can intellectually understand that the I that I have been talking about is not the imperishable ‘I’ that she has been talking to us about.

 My understanding of I has been limited to my Body, Mind and Intellect. I relate to the world through my senses and my faculties of discrimination which are predominantly the mind and the intellect. I have also learnt that the mind is not in me, but I am in the mind. Our bodies change, our minds change, our thoughts change, our relationships change. Everything around us changes. The only thing that is changeless is the ‘I’ that observes the change. This ‘I’ cannot be created and cannot be destroyed. It is beyond birth and death and therefore eternal. ‘I’ am eternal.

 As this knowledge is becoming clearer I am coming to more and more realizations. I am becoming aware that somewhere along our evolution we forgot that the ‘I’ is eternal, changeless, formless consciousness. In our mis apprehension we started identifying with the mind, body and the intellect. We started to put boundaries around ourselves and around others and started becoming smaller than who we really are. The truth of our real selves got veiled by mass hysteria. The body became our point of reference and we cut ourselves from others. We built walls of separation; both physical and emotional. We started seeking happiness outside of our selves. We gave away our own power and are now constantly in search of fulfillment. The reason our lives feel so unfulfilled and limited is because of separation. Separation from the real ‘I’ which is universal consciousness. The only way to feel fulfilled and connected is to first understand that we are all connected. Another persons joy and happiness has an impact on our own joy and happiness and similarly another person’s sadness and anguish will impact our own state of mind.

 There is no other way.

 We have forgotten this and this is not our fault. The present consciousness is such that each individual feels unique and separate and wants to leave behind a mark of himself or herself. We feel small and mortal because we have not understood that we are immortal. The body is mortal but the real ‘I’ is not. The body may perish but the real me will not perish. I heard one teacher explain to the student the above analogy by using the example of electricity. He compared consciousness to electricity and the individual humans to the various electrical appliances. Just as electricity makes the appliance run, consciousness makes our mortal bodies function. When an appliance breaks down, the electricity is still running, its just not running through that particular appliance. Similarly when the body dies, consciousness is still around and manifests itself through a different body. We are all a part of the same consciousness and so should not feel small, separated or limited.

 I am making some progress on this journey but the physical I insists on being the master. I still struggle to go beyond the mind and the body. The body reminds me when it is hungry, thirsty, sleepy and so on. The mind also reminds me of its existence by going from thought to thought without resting. But amongst all the chaos and confusion there is this reservoir of peace and fulfillment which lies deep within my inner being. Just as a pearl lies at the bottom of the sea and the foam floats on top, the real jewel of joy, happiness and bliss lies deep within ourselves and the mundane appears on the surface. One cannot deny the physical I but we need to recognize the real ‘I’ and practice discernment every time we are confronted with the question “Who am I”

 I now also understand what is meant by the very commonly used phrase “ Become the observer of your thoughts and action”. I had heard this phrase often but never really understood what it meant. How could I the doer become the observer? I the doer could not become the observer because I never understood who or what ‘I’ was. I am not the doer. My mind, body and intellect are the doers and the thoughts and actions of the mind and the body arise out of my subconscious and latent desires. The real ‘I’ is not affected by the actions of the physical I and can therefore be the observer. The observer is just the observer and not a judge, so when I watch my thoughts all I need to do is watch them with a sense of detachment and non-judgment.

 Next time I see my reflection in the mirror, I will try and see the unchanging, eternal me and not feel so unhappy when I see the extra pounds and a few grey hair. But till I reach that state of nirvana and unlimited bliss I will have to contend with what meets the eye and ensure that my mind, body and intellect are being prepared to meet the real ‘I’.

 Love, luck, happiness

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Betrayal, Anger, Revenge, Forgiveness

This last week has been quite revelatory and insightful for me. I heard from three different people their stories of betrayal, anger and an all consuming desire for revenge.

 One of my friends had been let down by a friend and was extremely hurt and shocked , another was suppressing very deep anger and the third was plotting ways to take revenge for an act committed almost 25 years ago. Each one of them had their version of the story and was reacting in a way that was expected and they felt that their anger, frustration and a desire to take revenge was justified. As I was listening to these very personal stories, I was quite moved and saddened by what they had to endure.

I realized that most of us choose to carry this sack of anger, resentment, frustration, guilt and jealousy.
Although this sack really weighs us down we still choose to carry it with us all the time where ever we go. Any opportunity we get, we open it and share what we have inside.

 The anger and desire for revenge feels justified but what I have learnt from my spiritual teachers is that nothing that is happening to us is because of another person. All that we face in life, whether painful or pleasurable is all because of our own karmic seeds. The reason we don’t see it as such is because the moment we take form in a new body we forget our previous life, but the soul remembers all that is owed to it and what it needs to give. So when a person shows up in our life who gives us too much pain we invariably end up angry, frustrated and desire to take revenge. We question back and forth and wonder how and why did a person do this to us. Sadly we have forgotten our karmic debt towards that person and cannot fathom why a particular episode should occur.

I have now come to understand that there is no one who is doing anything to us. We ourselves have created the events in our life. The analogy used by one of the teachers was, lets say we borrowed money from a friend. On the day we borrowed the money the friend was wearing a red outfit. We see the friend a few days later and this time the friend asks us for the money back but now she is wearing a white outfit and has her hair done differently. Do we deny her the money just because she is wearing different clothes and looking different? We could try but the consequences are not going to be pleasant. Similarly our life is one big give and take. All that is happening in our life is due to some kind of karmic credit or debit. The sooner we realize the better. Instead of blaming another and seeking ways to take revenge why not just focus on healing the pain instead of causing the pain.

The cycle needs to break. We get all these opportunities to pay our karmic debts but instead we add more to the debt.

 I know some people do not believe in reincarnation or the continuity of soul, but I do and the only explanation that seems plausible to me is the understanding of the law of karma. How else can we understand how and why things happen to us? God is not responsible and God cannot be blamed or given credit for all that happens. Instead of asking why me, the question should be; how did I attract this particular event in my life and what can I do to ensure a different outcome if what I am experiencing is not pleasant.

 I heard a very heart -breaking story from a young woman yesterday who spoke about the ill treatment vetted out to her parents from some relatives. She saw her parents suffer and was so angry that she vowed to make the people responsible for the suffering pay. She said to me that she did not mind burning in hell but she wanted the perpetrators to suffer and feel the pain that they had caused. The pain in her voice and in her eyes was palpable. Her anger was justified, but my question to her was, what would it achieve? She will probably end up with ulcers as she is unable to digest this pain. She has young children who will pick up on the pain that the mother is going through.

Even though we think we are keeping the pain hidden from our children. This is seldom the case. Children know and they care. And sadly our children end up bearing the burden of our doing. Karma always comes back. If we are responsible for some one’s suffering we can be one hundred percent sure that we will create a cause for our own suffering. Similarly if we have given joy to someone, we can rest assured that we will partake in joy.


 However much be the temptation to take revenge and do tit for tat, take a step back and see how and why you attracted this particular event in your life and instead of reacting think how you can cut the tree before it bears any further bitter fruits. My three friends and I had a long and interesting discussion on this subject and we did an EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) exercise on forgiveness and acceptance and all felt relieved and not so vindictive and angry any more. The key to any kind of pain is to focus on the healing and not on causing more pain. Next time you feel angry and feel that another’s behavior is causing you pain, think that you are paying of a karmic debt.

Clear all your karmic debts as soon as you can because they come back exponentially in other life times.

 Love, luck and happiness Shveitta Sethi Sharma

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Parent’s instruction manual

Parent’s instruction manual

My new I phone came in a beautiful box all nicely packed with all the accessories and the user guide. It’s working well and once in a while when I have trouble figuring out something I immediately Google and learn how to fix the bug.

Sadly there is no user guide or instruction manual for raising children. Although there are quite a few web sites and books teaching us how to raise happy children, I doubt many of us follow their advice. We mostly seek answers from our friends or peers.

Yesterday at lunch one of the mothers I met almost cried when she shared her inability to make her children conform to peer expectation. She said that she spends all her time driving her children from one activity to another and yet her children don’t excel at anything. She went on to share that her friend’s children are over achievers and she feels so let down and then feels guilty for not having her best and blames herself for not being a good mother.

How many of us feel that we are not doing the best for our children? Every time a group of mothers meet, the conversation invariably veers towards children and how to discipline them and yet keep them happy.

This particular mother feels pressured because she is comparing her children with the children of her friends who seem to be excelling at sports and at school. When I asked her why she was comparing her answer was, “ well we are in the same circle and have similar backgrounds and the children go to the same school and do the same activities, then why are my children not up to speed?”

Children are not I-phones. No one person is like another, in-fact nothing in nature conforms to any kind of regularity. No snowflake is like another, no leaf is like another and yet we want our children to be like some-one else’s children. Children are not factory made unless we bring upon ourselves to have genetically engineered children who will be perfect in all aspects……. but till such time lets allow our children to be individuals who were born for their own unique purpose and divine path. Lets respect that and allow each flower to bloom as naturally as possible instead of pruning it down right from the start.

This reminds me of a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”

Allow your children to be who they are. Allow them to develop their personalities. Allow them to explore new frontiers and allow them to find themselves. As parents, our role should be to be there for them as guides and mentors and not whip cracking, comparison-shopping Neanderthals.

I too have been guilty of comparing my daughter with other children. I remember one day I came back home very distraught as I found out that some of my friends children had started reading at the age of three and my daughter was not even close at age five. Today however she has read almost eight hundred books and I have to snatch the books away from her while she is eating or bathing. Luckily I did not panic much and allowed her to develop at her own pace and now she is doing great.

None of us are perfect but we are all trying. Parenting is a wonderful opportunity for us to experience and share love and compassion. Instead of always complaining and looking at yourself coming short in your own eyes, show yourself some compassion and extend the same compassion towards your children and allow them to become who they were meant to be.

Life is meant to be happy and full of joy. Allow it to be so.

Much love and happiness

Shveitta Sethi Sharma

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Meditation is not Mind Control.

Meditation is not Mind Control.

Few years ago when I attended my first vipassna meditation retreat it felt like a concentration camp. I had never ever shut my mouth or my mind for even 5 minutes, leave alone 10 days. That was the worst kind of torture for me and it was self created.

In hindsight, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. Something changed in my cellular structure and I have not looked back since. Have become a bit of a self help junkie and am always trying to study and find out of ways that can help one lead better and more fulfilling lives.

Last week I spent a few days with a Cambridge Theoretical Physicist turned Buddhist Monk – Ajahn Brahm http://www.ajahnbrahm.org and of course like any novice on the path of self enquiry I had a million questions. Ajahn answered them all very patiently and humorously. I never thought that Buddhist monks would have such an amazing sense of humor, I thought I was at a comedy show instead of a serious Buddhist gathering. I guess that is what makes him so endearing and easy to understand.

One of the questions that had bothered me for a very long time was, what does one really do during meditation? We always hear about how meditation is the panacea for most of life’s ailments. I too have meditated and must admit that I have had a few good meditations but often I have been unable to control my mind and concentrate on my breathing. I have tried various techniques and have at times tried to induce the brain patterns associated with meditation via brain entrainment and HoloSync CD’s. Have had a few successes and a few near misses.

Trying to understand meditation and then having successful meditations has been one of my pet peeves. Most meditators know what they experience and talk about the bliss that they experience, they talk about watching your thoughts, concentrating on the breath, reciting a mental mantra, visualizing a God, concentrating on a picture, flame or a sound and so on. All these techniques are helpful but I still had not been successful in achieving the blissful meditative state that most meditators spoke about.

Yesterday as I sat down for my usual meditation, it just hit me. Ajahn Brahm had said to me “ Have fun in meditation and feel free to move and adjust yourself if I felt uncomfortable. This was so freeing. I did not have to force myself to contort my body or do anything that was uncomfortable. According to Ajahn Brahm, meditation was not about control but about freedom.

This was such an eye opener for me.
My husband loves to watch serials like CSI and Hawaii 5-O. He seems to be addicted to detective action serials. Every time the detectives get a tip off they don’t immediately nab the suspect but sit patiently, stake out and gather enough evidence before making an arrest. This was the perfect analogy. How to catch or control something as elusive as the mind? We don’t even know how the mind functions so how can we ever control it?

The only way to eventually nab the unsuspecting suspect is by sitting still and observing his/her every move and gathering enough evidence before making an arrest. Similarly the only way to control the mind is by first observing the mind and seeing its every move and every thought without judgment or prejudice.

Just as the detectives job is to observe and apprehend and not judge, we too should just focus on watching and eventually catch the mind from wandering. Alert attention is the mother of all intelligence. Watching the mind with patience, sincerity, love and compassion is the key to controlling the mind.

Next time you think of meditation, don’t think of it as something that requires a lot of self control. Just sit with an attitude of a detective and observe all the thoughts that may come to your mind. Watch them and let them go. Keep watching and eventually you will get tired of watching and unknowingly slip into meditation.

If you go to sleep while meditating, that too is fine. According to Ajahn Brahm- “your body is tired and it needs to sleep, so let it sleep.” Allow whatever happens to happen but just keep an attitude of meditation.

The whole point of meditation is letting go. But instead of letting go we often try and exert control in meditation thereby defeating the very purpose of meditation. Compassion and non judgment towards the self are the two main keys of meditation and being a meditator should never become about the ego or control.

Seeing myself as a detective sounded like a lot of fun, but after about an hour of watching my senseless thoughts I got so tired that I am sure I must have slipped either into a comatose sleep or a great meditation, for when I came out of the room a good two and half hours had passed and I had no idea where the time had gone.I was most certainly not in the posture that I had started, I was lying flat and I think my eyes were rolled back, but who am I to judge myself. Self compassion and acceptance is the key.

Happy meditating everyone and see yourself as a detective of your thoughts and don’t be too hard on yourself if you catch yourself wandering or sleeping.

Much love and happiness
Shveitta Sethi Sharma

Saturday, February 11, 2012

From God Fearing to God Loving!

Namaste- The divine in me bows to the divine in you. I grew up saying Namaste but had no idea what it really meant. I knew it was a greeting like hello but had no clue that it meant something so wonderful.

I learnt the meaning of Namaste from a friend who was passing through HKG and staying with us a couple of days. Gary greeted me with Namaste and I greeted him back. I showed him to his room and he wished me Shubha Ratri ( Good Night)

Next morning as we were sitting for breakfast , Gary suddenly started reciting Gita shlokas and that too in Sanskrit! I did not know if I should have felt embarrassed or chuffed? Embarrassed that I knew so little about my own culture and philosophy or be proud that some one valued my heritage so much that they took the time to understand it, learn it and disseminate it.

Of course I knew the essence of Gita, I knew it was a chapter of the epic Mahabharata and was the part where Krishna teaches Arjuna the truth about Karma and Dharma. I had seen the Gita in my house since I was a child but had never really taken the time to read it or understand it. In fact not only the Gita but Ramayana, Shiv Puran , and various other sacred texts were an intrinsic part of my house hold . My mother and my Grand parents read from some book or another very day. I too was asked to read but I never bothered. I did not think it was cool to read spiritual literature. I was too busy reading Any Rand and Sidney Sheldon. I wanted to be cool, I wanted to be hip and I wanted nothing spiritual or religious.

My family was very religious. Every day was some God’s day and we were expected to show reverence to the God of the day. Monday was Lord Shiva’s day , Tuesday was Lord Hanuman, Wednesday was Lord Krishna , Thursday was the day Satya Sai Baba, Friday was Goddess Durga , Saturday was Lord Shani ( believed to be he one responsible for a lot of turmoil in life) and Sunday was Surya or Sun God. ( In my mind I wondered, when was my day ??????)

So every day there was some sort of prayer followed by Prasad distribution. I really did not like any of this. Even on a Sunday we had to wake up early and go to the temple and listen to kirtan ( songs sung in praise of God). I grew up pretty disillusioned and angry with God. Firstly because my father had died when I was just about 9 and God did not come to his rescue. Secondly, we had to go through fairly tough times after my dad passed away and thirdly, I was forced to pay my reverence to GODs that I had no idea about. I was forced to wake up early and participate in rituals that I did not understand. No one ever explained why we did what we did.

I got even more angry with God when my mother passed away. This really was unacceptable to me. My mother was only 54 and was completely besotted with Krishna – How come Krishna did not save her? Why was God so cruel and so mean?

I was angry but a part of me started fearing God. I felt that God had the power to really hurt me and take away from me what ever was dear to me. I believed that God was an angry God and that any ill thought or ill action would lead to retribution and wrath.

No wonder I wanted nothing to do with religion or religious teachings. I never even made an attempt to understand what was being prescribed. Religion just seemed so heavy and tedious. God had so many expectations! God wanted to be revered! God wanted to be sang to! God wanted to be fed! God wanted to be begged to and made to feel important!

At least that is what I believed.

I never even tried understanding God, until one day when someone I was speaking with said “ Oh! he is a very God Fearing Man”. I immediately realized what my problem with God had been. Consciously and subconsciously I had come to fear God and never really understood what God really stood for.

Maybe, it’s a growing up thing or something that we all have in our DNA, but somehow I came to understand the meaning of GOD. GOD means nothing but love, joy, peace and happiness. God is supposed to be omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. If we think about this very carefully, God is this power of love that exists in all of us. God is not outside. He or she does not reside in temples, mosques, churches, synagogues or other places of worship, GOD is a quality that we all have within us.

There is no God or Devil on the outside that is waiting to take us to heaven or hell. We create God by our thoughts, acts and deeds. Every time we do something good and are in joy we experience God and every time we experience unpleasant emotions and contribute to unpleasantness of any kind we experience the Devil.

With this understanding, it was so much easier for me to start loving God. To love God, it meant that I had to love myself and love everyone and everything around me. This sounded much easier than it turned out to be. We all have conditions that we adhere to when it is a matter of loving. We have a set of beliefs that make us love or hate. If our conditions are met we can love but if our conditions are not met we are unable to love.

What differentiates us from the Gods is our capacity to love. This reminds me of a story I read recently.

Once Jesus Christ and his disciples were walking through a forest. On the way they came across a dead dog that had probably been dead for a few days and his decaying body had the most awful odour and was completely infested with maggots. Each of the disciples turned their head in disgust and covering their nose tried to get away as quickly as possible. When they had walked a few meters ahead, they realized that Christ was not with them. They turned back to see Christ bent over that dog and looking at him lovingly and completely oblivious to any unpleasantness. Upon the disciples request to move away, Christ reluctantly walked away exclaiming that he had never ever seen such perfect teeth.

Christ did not see anything ugly or disgusting. Even in ugliness he saw beauty! This was the quality that made him God.

How many of us can really put our hands on our heart and say that we are made in the image of God and that God lies within all of us? Are we really capable of unconditional love? Can we put our hands on our heart and say to ourselves that we have never caused anyone any pain or sorrow? Can we acknowledge even to ourselves that we have lived our life in God like ways and have understood and contributed to higher truths?

Even though now more of us are turning towards spirituality and acknowledging that God is not on the outside but something that lies within all of us, we are still unable to really see or feel that God!

So now that I know what God is I do not fear God. But I feel at a loss. How can I blame something or someone that resides right inside of me? Who can I blame for my mishaps? Who can I complain or cry to when I am in so much pain that it feels unbearable?

It is a very difficult concept to understand.

If God lies within me, why do I still pray and who do I pray to?

My comfort zone seems to have been stretched way outside my comfort limit. There was a sort of comfort in knowing that God was something that was outside of me and I could always cry, scream or pray to someone who was all powerful and had the capacity to change the outcome.

Even acknowledging to myself that I have the same power in me is extremely unnerving .

Paramhansa Yogananda in his book Autobiography of a Yogi writes about the various miracles that he saw his guru Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri performing. Sri Yukteswar had tapped into the reservoir of Godliness and had become one with God. Similarly when Paramhansa Yogananda took Maha Samadhi in 1953, his body displayed no signs of decay. There are many examples of great teachers who had managed to chip away at their access to reveal the God that lay dormant within.

Do all of really have that power and ability? Can we really reveal the God that lies within all of us? Could we really align ourselves with our true nature and drop the access baggage that we have picked up over so many life times.

Just as the acorn has the mighty oak within itself, could it be possible that we too have the mighty God within ourselves?

Maybe we could all create heaven on earth and then none of us need to wait for death to experience heaven.

Heaven and Hell both exist here. What ever we give our attention to keeps appearing in our life. So why not just focus on the Godliness and experience God right here, right now.

I don’t fear God any more. I love me.

Much love and happiness

Shveitta Sethi Sharma

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Being a Nobody

Being a Nobody!

I have accomplished nothing, I have not given the world anything to remember me for, I have not created anything major nor destroyed anything . I am a nobody
As I sat by the sea contemplating on these questions, I felt really small and insignificant.

I thought to myself, does my life have no meaning? What is my role in this cosmic creation? Why was I even born? Am I just a biological accident or is there a deeper meaning to my birth?

As I kept contemplating on the above questions, it dawned on me….. what if had no purpose? Could I be at peace with myself, just in the knowing that I exist and just because I exist my world exists. I am an intrinsic part of this creation, so every thought that I think and every word that I speak and every move I make, adds or detracts from the cosmic consciousness.

Instead of constantly focusing on doing something, could I just be happy in being me? What if just by virtue of being born I have fulfilled a divine purpose and that purpose is to be in joy and happiness and if I am happy and in joy I have in some way contributed to the happiness of this world?

As I got deeper and deeper into this thinking, I really felt a sense of peace and calm. Could my purpose be that simple?

I remember reading a beautiful story in which it was mentioned that when the soul leaves the body and is ready for transition, the gods appear and ask just two simple questions. “ Have you had joy in your life and has your life brought joy to someone’s life? “ If you answer these two questions in affirmative, you have achieved your life’s purpose.

So, could I just focus on being a happy me and ensuring that every day I made at least one person happy?

This is not a lofty goal and I thought it was pretty easy.

I embarked on my journey but was very quickly stopped in my tracks as I realized that I had still not understood the meaning of happiness. I still believed that happiness was something that I had to find. My past experience had shown me that happiness came in the form of fulfillment of desires. But every desire fulfilled made room for new desires to take their place ☺. This was an endless journey, with no real end or happiness

Then of course came the reality check- My husband and daughter told me how I claimed to be a Chief Happiness Officer but in reality I was a Chief Misery Officer by wanting them to behave and act in ways that made me happy. I was failing miserably in bringing joy to myself and to the people around me.

This was the start of my understanding of happiness. I started reading all I could on happiness and was very quickly led to positive psychology, spirituality, philosophy and psychology. The underlying aim of all was to help humans lead more fulfilling lives. Different approaches but the end was always the same. A year into the studies and I thought I pretty much knew how to spread happiness.

In jest I started calling myself Chief Happiness Officer and little did I realize that just by calling myself and believing that my job was to spread happiness I had in some way managed to make inroads into my desired goal.

I made a pledge to myself that my goal in life would be to ensure that every person I met, I would in some way or another try and add to their feel good factor.

I did not realize at that time, that by making other people feel good I was actually raising my own happiness levels. Every time I did something nice or said something nice to another person, I got back 10 fold. I had never really bought into the hostile universe theory, but neither did I believe that all that happened, happened for the best. I still had many unanswered questions and enough people who I believed were responsible for my happiness!

As I kept going further with my belief and studying all about the law of attraction, I kept getting more and more convinced that we get back in life exactly what we give out and more.

After all we do live in a connected universe, where every thought, act and deed has a compound effect on our own well being.

Happiness is no rocket science, it is something we have all experienced and deep down we all know that happiness does not come from things, jobs, spouses, children, money, name or fame. In our misunderstanding of what happiness is we all keep trying to pursue and change the above. Because many of us –including myself have never been taught the real meaning of happiness, we all equate joy and happiness to achievements and laurels. We live in a society that applauds the outliers. There is no room for mediocrity. From a very young age we are conditioned into believing that it’s not OK to be a nobody.

Have you ever picked up a book that says, its OK to be average? Have you ever been patted on the back for being you? Have you ever jumped with excitement and joy when your child came at the bottom of the class? Have you ever dreamed of just being a nice person, living in a simple house with the bare minimum? Have you ever aspired to be one of the crowd?

I doubt it? I haven’t !!!!!!!

We all grow up, believing that we have to achieve lofty goals in order to be acknowledged. Just being me is not good enough. I need to achieve something that will make people take notice of me. We all read biographies of people like, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Martin Luther King, Churchill, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, and various others who have left a mark and always find ourselves paling in comparison. What we fail to realize is that all people who achieved something did so because they really believed in what they were doing. Also we don’t see the dark side of their lives and believe that just because they have name, fame and money, they must be happy. The evidence suggests that this is not entirely true.

We forget that our purpose is to live in joy and happiness. We become miserable in pursuit of happiness. Joy and happiness is really our natural state and every time we are feeling miserable we are not in our natural state.

If you think about it very carefully and ask yourself, what really does make you happy? You WILL get the answer, but our conditioning does not allow us to hear that answer because that is not what will give us acknowledgement and reverence.

Contemplating on these questions, I decided that it was really OK to be nobody as long as I was happy.

Only I know what my definition of happiness is! I may not be living up to someone else’s definition of happiness but I surely am living up to mine.

By living in happiness, I am contributing to the mass happiness of this planet. We are all manifestations of one source and by experiencing a certain emotion I am contributing that emotion to the cosmic whole. After all we can only give what we have. How can I ever make another person happy if I am not happy myself and how can I ever expect to be happy if people around me are unhappy.

For very selfish reasons, become happy and make sure that people around you are happy and take joy in the fact that its OK to be a nobody as long as you are happy.

To much happiness and joy and being a nobody ☺

Rosicrucian Initiation (playlist)

('http://www.youtube.com/p/6F4702A842021801?version=3&hl=en_US',)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Put The Glass Down...

he Professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it.
He held it up for all to see & asked the students
How much do you think
this glass weighs ?
50gms!'
'100gms!'
'125gms'
The students answered.
"I really don't know unless I weigh it," said the professor,
but, my Question is: "What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?"
Nothing' the students said.
Ok what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour ?' the professorasked.
'Your arm would begin to ache' said one student.
"You're right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?"
"Your arm could go numb; you might have severe muscle stress & paralysis & have to go to hospital for sure!" ventured another student & all the students laughed
"Very good" said the professor.
But during all this, did the weight of the glass change ? Asked the professor
'No'.. Was the answer.
Then what caused the arm ache & the muscle stress ?
The students were puzzled.
"What should I do now to come out of pain?" asked professor again.
"Put the glass down!" said one of the students
"Exactly!" said the professor.
Life's problems are something like this.
Hold it for a few min in your head & they seem OK.
Think of them for a long time & they begin to ache.
Hold it even longer & they begin to paralyze u.
You will not be able to do anything.

It's important to think of the challenges or problems in your life, But EVEN MORE IMPORTANT is to 'PUT THEM DOWN' at the end of every day before you go to sleep...

That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh & strong and will be able to handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!

So when you end your day today, Remember to 'PUT THE GLASS DOWN'.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happiness Workbook to help make us happier- produced by BBC Breakfast

As the name suggests it's all about happiness and whether some simple daily actions can have a positive impact on how happy we are and how happy we make the people around us.
We're going to start by asking you to think about how you're feeling about life and what happiness means for you.

We will then ask you to try a few simple actions out over the course of a week. They are all things that recent scientific research suggests can have a positive impact on people's feelings of happiness and fulfilment.

We want to hear how you get on with the actions as part of your normal daily routine. We're interested in how you choose to do them, whether you find them enjoyable or difficult and how you feel about it all at the end.

Can we affect our happiness?
Each of us is unique and how happy we are depends on lots of different factors including our genes, our circumstances and our approach to life.
We often think that our circumstances – where we live, what we have, what we earn and so on – have a big effect on how happy we are. However, these things tend to have much less impact than most people expect.

Instead, research suggests that a big part of how happy we are is determined by our attitude and choices, rather than our circumstances.
So we have an opportunity to make ourselves and others happier by the way we approach our lives and the actions we choose to take.

About this workbook
This workbook is intended for you, so please write things which are a true reflection of how you feel. There are no right or wrong answers.
The Happiness Challenge was put together by Action for Happiness to support a BBC Breakfast feature on happiness. Action for Happiness is a charity which aims to encourage and enable the move to a happier society. Find out more and join the movement at www.actionforhappiness.org
The Happiness Challenge was developed in partnership with Headspace which specialises in teaching mindfulness meditation. You can find out more at www.getsomeheadspace.com

Your happiness
Overall, how happy would you say you are these days?
Give your rating on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high).
What is happiness?
Take a moment to think about what happiness means to you. Note down whatever comes in to your head.
Now think about specific things that often make you happy. These could be activities, people, places or anything else that comes to mind.
Score out of 10
What does happiness mean to you?
Example: Feeling good about how things are going
What things make you happy?
Example: A relaxing day at home with my family

The Happiness Challenge
We would like you to try some simple actions in your daily lives, initially over the course of a week. They may be things you already do. If not, then you may want to make them part of your on-going routine if they're useful.
They are all things that recent scientific research has shown can have a positive impact on people's feelings of happiness and fulfilment.
Be Mindful
Do less and notice more
Be Grateful
Remember the good things
Be Kind
Do things for others
Want more action ideas?
These are just three of the many areas where scientific research suggests we can take action to make both ourselves and others happier.
For more evidence-based ideas to increase happiness and well-being check out the Five Ways to Wellbeing, developed by nef as part of the UK Government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital.
www.neweconomics.org/projects/five-ways-well-being
Also, in April 2011 the new interactive Action for Happiness website will be launched packed full of ideas for happier living. Sign up to find out more.


Be Mindful
Do less and notice more
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment. When we're mindful we become more aware of our thoughts and feelings and better able to manage them.
Being mindful can boost our concentration, improve our relationships and help with stress or depression. It can even have a positive effect on physical problems like chronic pain.
Anyone can learn to be mindful. It's simple, you can do it anywhere, and the results can be life-changing.

Action: Take 10
Take 10 minutes each day to do a simple mindfulness meditation.
Many of us spend much of our time focused either on the past or on the future, paying very little attention to what is happening right now.
Being mindful involves staying in the moment, spending more time noticing what's going on both inside ourselves and in our surroundings. Rather than trying to change things it involves accepting the way that things are, for better or for worse.

Be Grateful
Remember the good things
Being grateful is about much more than just saying thank you – it's about not taking things for granted and having a sense of appreciation and thankfulness for life.
People who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Being grateful can help people cope with stress and can even have a beneficial effect on heart rate.

Action: Three Good Things
Each day write down three good things that happened. They can be anything you feel good about or grateful for.
Even on a bad day there are normally some things that we can feel good about. Taking time to be grateful is not about ignoring the bad things – it just helps us focus our attention more on the positive, rather than dwell on the negative.
To get used to the idea, start by filling in the boxes below to describe three good things that happened to you yesterday and why they were good.
Try to include why you felt each of the things was really good.
Now repeat this activity at the end of each day for a week. Use the blank boxes on the following pages to write down your Three Good Things down each day.


Good Thing 1
Example: Best night's sleep for ages so felt much more energetic !
Good Thing 2
Example: Lunch with Steve and Jane – great to see old friends again
Good Thing 3
Example: Home in time to bath the kids. We really had fun together

Action for Happiness

Three Good Things exercise
Write down three good things that happened to you today. They can be anything you feel good about or grateful for.
Use this sheet to keep a record of your Three Good Things each day over the course of a week. Try to include why you felt each of the things was really good.
Try to write down your three good things every day if possible – but if for some reason you miss a day then don't worry, just carry on the next day.
You could even talk to your family or friends about your three good things and ask them about theirs.
1
Day/date:
Good Thing 1
Good Thing 2
Good Thing 3

2
Day/date:
Good Thing 1
Good Thing 2
Good Thing 3

3
Day/date:
Good Thing 1
Good Thing 2
Good Thing 3

4
Day/date:
Good Thing 1
Good Thing 2
Good Thing 3
5
Day/date:
Good Thing 1
Good Thing 2
Good Thing 3
6
Day/date:
Good Thing 1
Good Thing 2
Good Thing 3
7
Day/date:
Good Thing 1
Good Thing 2
Good Thing 3

Be Grateful
Remember the good things
Action: Letter of Gratitude
Who are you really grateful to?
Think of three people who have been a really positive influence in your life and that you feel really grateful to.
They could be a member of your family, an old teacher, long-lost friend, colleague or someone else who has made a real difference in your life.
Person 1: Who is it and why are you grateful to them?
Person 2: Who is it and why are you grateful to them?
Person 3: Who is it and why are you grateful to them?
Now choose one of these people to write to and tell them how grateful you are; perhaps someone you've not thanked properly before.
Think about the impact this person had on you and write a letter to tell them:
• • •
What specifically are you grateful for? How did they help you? How did it help make you the person you are today?
You can write the letter any way you like – but try to be really in touch with the feeling of being grateful to them as you write.
If possible, arrange to visit the person and read the letter aloud to them. Otherwise post or email the letter to them and maybe follow up with a phone call.
Who did you write your letter of gratitude to? How did it feel?

Be Kind
Do things for others
Doing things to help others is not only good for the recipients - it has a positive payback for our happiness and health too. When people experience kindness it also makes them kinder as a result – so kindness is contagious!
As the saying goes: "if you want to feel good, do good"

Action: Daily Acts of Kindness
Perform an extra act of kindness each day.
This could be a compliment, a helping hand, a hug, a gift or something else. The act may be large or small and the recipient may not even be aware of it.
Ideally your acts of kindness should be beyond the kind things you already do on a regular basis. And of course the acts mustn't put you or others in danger!
Do at least one extra kind act each day for a week, ideally a different one each day. Here are some ideas for acts of kindness:

1. Give up your seat
2. Hold a door open for someone
3. Give a (sincere) compliment
4. Make someone laugh
5. Give someone a hug
6. Take time to really listen to someone
7. Make someone new feel welcome
8. Let one car in on every journey
9. Give directions to someone who's lost
10. Have a conversation with a stranger
11. Pick up litter as you walk
12. Let someone in front of you in the supermarket queue
13. Tell someone they mean a lot to you
14. Let someone have your parking spot
15. Read a story with a child
16. Offer your change to someone struggling to find the right amount
17. Treat a loved one to breakfast in bed
18. Buy cakes or fruit for your colleagues
19. Invite your neighbour round for a drink and a chat
20. Offer to help with someone's shopping
21. Tell someone if you notice they're doing a good job
22. Pass on a book you've enjoyed
23. Say sorry (you know who to)
24. Forgive someone for what they've done
25. Visit a sick friend, relative or neighbour
26. Buy an unexpected gift for someone
27. Bake something for a neighbour
28. Pay for someone in the queue behind
29. Do a chore that you don't normally do
30. Help out someone in need
31. Offer to look after a friend's children
32. Offer to mow your neighbour's lawn
33. Donate your old things to charity
34. Give food to a homeless person and take time to talk with them
35. Visit someone who may be lonely
36. Give blood
37. Get back in contact with someone you've lost touch with
38. Organise a fundraising event
39. Volunteer your time for a charity
40. Plan a street party

Note: Kindness benefits and exercises based on work by Lyubomirsky, S. (2007)

Acts of kindness exercise
Do at least one extra kind act each day for a week, ideally a different one each day.
Ideally your act of kindness should be something beyond the kind things you do on a regular basis.
Use this sheet to keep a record of your acts of kindness. You can also note down how you felt about doing them and whether you found them easy or difficult.

1 Day/date:
What did you do? Who for? How did it go?
2 Day/date:
What did you do? Who for? How did it go?
3 Day/date:
What did you do? Who for? How did it go?
4 Day/date:
What did you do? Who for? How did it go?
5 Day/date:
What did you do? Who for? How did it go?
6 Day/date:
What did you do? Who for? How did it go?
7 Day/date:
What did you do? Who for? How did it go?

My Action Plan
Things to try this week
Be Mindful
• Daily 10-minute Mindfulness exercise
Be Kind
• Daily Act(s) of kindness
Be Grateful
• Three Good Things each day • Letter of Gratitude
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions"
Dalai Lama

If you think happiness matters and want to be part of creating a happier society for everyone, then join thousands of others at www.actionforhappiness.org
Tips to get more out of the exercises
If you find any or all of these actions useful then you may want to make them part of your on-going routine. Don't worry if you find some actions work well for you and others don’t - everyone has their personal preferences. Variety is good so try different exercises on different days.

Mindfulness has most benefit when done regularly, ideally every day. But the other actions don't necessarily need to be done every day. Acts of kindness are great to make part of your normal routine, but the effects can be greater if you do a number of different kind acts all on the same day. The Three Good Things action can have a positive impact if carried out every few days or even just once a week. The Letter of Gratitude is normally a one-off activity, depending on who you want to thank – but of course you can still take time to thank the people who help you day-to-day.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Four stages of Spiritual Development

The Four Stages of Spiritual Development

According to Scott Peck , author of the best seller 'A road less travelled ' there are four stages of human spiritual development :

Stage I is chaotic, disordered, and reckless. Very young children are in Stage I. They tend to defy and disobey, and are unwilling to accept a will greater than their own. They are extremely egoistic and lack empathy for others. Many criminals are people who have never grown out of Stage I.

Stage II is the stage at which a person has blind faith in authority figures and sees the world as divided simply into good and evil, right and wrong, us and them. Once children learn to obey their parents and other authority figures, often out of fear or shame, they reach Stage II. Many so-called religious people are essentially Stage II people, in the sense that they have blind faith in God, and do not question His existence. With blind faith comes humility and a willingness to obey and serve. The majority of good, law-abiding citizens never move out of Stage II.

Stage III is the stage of scientific skepticism and questioning. A Stage III person does not accept things on faith but only accepts them if convinced logically. Many people working in scientific and technological research are in Stage III. They often reject the existence of spiritual or supernatural forces since these are difficult to measure or prove scientifically. Those who do retain their spiritual beliefs move away from the simple, official doctrines of fundamentalism.

Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature and existence. While retaining skepticism, he starts perceiving grand patterns in nature and develops a deeper understanding of good and evil, forgiveness and mercy, compassion and love. His religiousness and spirituality differ significantly from that of a Stage II person, in the sense that he does not accept things through blind faith or out of fear, but does so because of genuine belief, and he does not judge people harshly or seek to inflict punishment on them for their transgressions. This is the stage of loving others as yourself, losing your attachment to your ego, and forgiving your enemies. Stage IV people are labeled as Mystics.

So where do you think you belong ???