Jan 31, 2023

Original or Inspired?

 A few days back, I randomly chose a Harris Jayaraj playlist on Spotify and started to listen while cooking dinner. His top hits came one after another and I was humming them happily. Then came a song that sounded familiar but also a little different. I haven't heard of it before and it sounded lovely. I was curious to know about the album. The song was "Thaen Kaatru" from the movie "Gethu", sung by Haricharan and Shashaa Tirupathi. Any ARR fan would immediately say that this is "inspired" by the song "Pookkale satru" in the movie "I"🙂

Though I'm a Rahmaniac, I love both songs. I don't mind such "inspired" versions. Frankly, I prefer Harris' "Oru Manam" from Dhruva Natchathiram over ARR's "Khamosh Raat" from Thakshak.

Such inspired versions are slightly different interpretations.

They might simplify the original tune to an easy-to-listen format.

They might elevate the lyrics to the forefront, keeping the familiar tune as a comforting support.

As I pondered over this experience, I felt this can also be extended to spiritual knowledge.

When we appreciate a specific concept that has been well explained by a new-age author, there have been instances where people might suggest that we refer only to the original sources (Bhagavat Gita, Upanishads, talks by J Krishnamurti, books written by Indian scholars, and philosophers of the past) and not the modern interpretations.

No doubt, the original sources are super valuable and authentic in their messages. But these could be complex to understand, interpret and apply to today's circumstances. When a new-age author explains the same in simplified language with relatable examples, it builds up our interest and curiosity to go deeper into the subject. It helps us take the initial steps towards complex subjects like philosophy and spirituality without feeling overwhelmed by the need to learn a new language (say, Sanskrit) or getting lost in the volume of original texts.

It is perfectly okay to start with understanding the modern-day interpretations written by new-age authors (even if they are from non-Indian origins). Eventually, we will reach a state where we will be able to appreciate and connect with the original sources.

Jan 27, 2023

Ladder of Wellness

 I came across a speech by Thalaivar (Superstar Rajnikanth), where he spoke about how the combination of alcohol, smoking, and non-vegetarian food is deadly. I'm so glad that he shared his thoughts on this topic and his honest declaration of how he had these habits and how he overcame them.

I agree with his point but would also like to add another angle.

I have come across people who never had these three habits and yet don't lead healthy and peaceful lives in their 60s and 70s.

I have also come across people, whose food habits aren't 100% healthy. It is worth noting that how foods are categorized as healthy is quite subjective, given the confusion prevailing in the media. Nevertheless, the point is that even though they may not eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, they enjoy a healthy and vibrant life in their 60s. A good social circle, active hobbies and interests, extended family support, and meaningful conversations - are the possible reasons.

A simplified interpretation to understand the different facets that impact our well-being is this Ladder of Wellness. Please note this is my perspective and not scientifically validated.

We all start to climb this ladder, but some of us get stuck in the realm of physical well-being (food and exercise).

Are we getting obsessed over food and ignoring the more powerful thoughts? The role of our emotions and our thoughts supersede the effects of food.

If we take a moment to introspect about what we feed our senses - day in and day out, we realize the quantity and quality of inputs that influence our thoughts.

A few days back, I watched a Malayalam movie, recommended by many - Mukundan Unni Associates. The protagonist is an evil, vicious character, who gets away with murder and violence. The movie is driven primarily by his mind's voice. I was hoping that towards the end, he would pay for his deeds, but nothing of that sort happened. He is shown to become an even more successful lawyer cum businessman. The movie made me feel so disturbed. 

There are many such movies off late, where you don't feel good after watching them. 

Let's be aware of what we feed our eyes, ears, and mind. Not only our mouths.

Jan 26, 2023

Book Review: Yoga for Women by Swami Muktananda

 I love the books from the Bihar School of Yoga. When I visited Blossoms bookstore a few weeks back, I picked up this book - Nawa Yogini Tantra - Yoga for Women.

As the name suggests, this book is focused on women - their connection to spirituality, physical well-being and relevant Yoga practices.

The initial chapters provide a basic understanding of the hormonal and reproductive systems, the role of ida/pingala nadis, the summary of chakras, and the pancha koshas. The author then moves on to the topic of menarche and menstrual cycles.

On the topic of seclusion and the origins, this point made a lot of sense - "This retreat was a psychological protection at a time of heightened emotional sensitivity". I wish the intention of this custom was conveyed with this meaning rather than making the young girl feel impure/polluted/disgusted.

As I started to tune inward with my body, I could so resonate with the point of increased sensitivity and awareness during my monthly cycle.

I have been quite curious to understand the four stages of life described in the Vedas - brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa.

The author elaborates on how these four stages relate to a woman's life. Menopause provides the ideal transition point for women to move onto vanaprastha and develop spiritual practices, though vanaprastha doesn't necessarily depend on menopause. Also called karma sannyasa, Vanaprastha "does not encourage us to retire from the world, but to live in it with a different philosophy and a wider deeper awareness."

The author also breaks a lot of myths and misconceptions about the role of women in society.

"That women must bear the children is a biological fact. That they must carry the chief burden of tending to them is not a biological necessity, It is convenient, but convenience is not a necessity. There is even less reason for women to maintain the household just because they are females."

"The most effective and happy individuals are those who have developed both the masculine and the feminine sides of themselves"

"Closely following traditional sex patterns is not consistent with optimum mental health."

I found the first half of the book to be super insightful. The second half focuses primarily on various health ailments concerning women and the corresponding Yoga sadhanas that will help address the symptoms and the root causes. This section will be useful as a reference guide.

Jan 20, 2023

Melancholy and music


Melancholy - As a word, it may not be too popular in our everyday conversations, but as a feeling, I'm sure all of us have experienced it in some point of time.

According to how I have interpreted it, it resides in that space between feeling normal and feeling sad. Many women might have experienced it in their fourth week of monthly cycle. You don't feel normal, at the same time, you are not too sad either.

Sometimes, it is easy to pinpoint a reason (or many reasons) on why you feel this way. There are also times when there is no reason that your conscious mind could decipher.

When such a feeling occurs,
Sometimes you try to distract your mind by watching TV / scrolling through social media feed / eating an indulgent dish etc.
Sometimes you try to go deeper to understand what triggered this feeling in the first place - a contemplative walk / journalling / talking to a friend etc.

I'd like to bring to your attention those rare times when you just want to sit with that melancholic feeling without distraction or introspection. Just let it be. During those times, I find music to be a perfect companion. Mind you, music isn't intended for distraction here. The genre matters.

When I was a kid, I often used to wonder why my dad used to play his collection of sad songs on the tape recorder.
His two favorite songs in this genre - "Manidhan enbavan dheivam aagalam" and "Mayakkamaa Kalakkamaa"

I now get why we sometimes intentionally seek out sad or melancholic songs.

Last evening, I went through a similar feeling and I started to listen to ARR's Bollywood songs in this genre. Started off with "Agar Tum Saath Ho", "Rihaayi De" and I continued to listen to more such gems from ARR.

I didn't resist the melancholic feeling and let it subside on its own, with the help of ARR's soulful music.

And a new playlist titled "ARR Melancholy" is ready!

Jan 17, 2023

Thank you, planet Saturn

If you don't believe in astrology, please kindly skip this post.

I'm a beginner in the field of astrology. Apologies in advance if there are any mistakes in my interpretation.

Today marks the day of the transition of planet Saturn from Makara to Kumbha.

When Saturn is in the 8th place from a person's Rashi (moon sign), the planet will influence certain events and challenges that will teach valuable lessons. This period can also be a significant period in a person's spiritual understanding, as planet Saturn is considered as the planet of life lessons, Karma, hardships that test your resilience and help you gain new perspectives on life.

Since 2020, there have been back-to-back challenges in my life. As a person who used to be extremely analytical and expecting logic in every aspect of life, I was clueless when certain events happened one after another. One morning, when I was under serious stress, I came across a video recommendation that talked about the monthly rasi palan (predictions). I viewed the same and realized that the date when an emergency situation came up out of the blue matched with a certain planetary transition. I was shocked and it made sense at that time.

Though I haven't taken steps to learn the deeper science behind astrology yet, I'm now a believer that everything in the cosmos is driven by energy. Just like how the Moon influences our mood during new moon / full moon, the planets and the stars have an influence on certain aspects of our lives as well.

Along with teaching important life lessons through tough situations, planet Saturn has also helped me in kindling my interest towards spirituality in the past 2-3 years.

Acceptance, surrender, trust in the Universe, destiny, karma, everything happens for a reason, everything is interlinked, every experience happens to teach us something - these powerful concepts are added to my mental vocabulary only in the past 2-3 years, all thanks to planet Saturn. 

Jan 14, 2023

Book Review: Living Spirituality by Meetu Bisht


First book review of 2023. I'm so glad that this book picked me at this time of my life. I have been following Meetu Bisht 's posts for the past few months and I find them very insightful. I bought her book "Living Spirituality" on Kindle sometime back but didn't start reading it immediately.

A week ago, I had written a post on spirituality and how we shouldn't blindly succumb to influencers' ideologies. That same night, as I was casually browsing through my Kindle, I stumbled upon this book and felt a strong urge to start reading it right away.

The first few chapters just spoke the same words that I was trying to convey through my post. The author elaborates on the various misconceptions about spirituality and the myths and beliefs surrounding the same. Her explanation of the differences between religion, philosophy, and spirituality was super insightful.

The subsequent chapters set the context on what spirituality is and what it isn't. Spirituality isn't focused on external actions, but is a way of life - the "being" instead of "doing".

Living meditatively vs Doing meditation for 10 minutes - the same point emphasized in the book "Atmamun".

The author unravels spirituality layer by layer - the prerequisites, hurdles,  challenges, when to start exploring, essentials required on this journey, etc.

Spirituality is for everyone since the "spirit"/soul is within each of us. As we turn inward and start to listen to our conscience, our soul starts to speak to us. Seeking external solutions through spiritual leaders might act as a catalyst and provide a slight push, but it is up to each of us to understand our soul's desires and patterns.

The author elaborates on the role of Karma and its influence on our lives. She also brings an interesting linkage between Karmic baggage and our birth chart that astrology helps in decoding the set patterns.

Karma, past lives, rebirth, destiny, soul's desires, astrology - I have started to resonate more with these topics in the past few years and this book connects these aspects so beautifully.

The chapter that just wowed me is the last one where the author talks about the qualities of the spiritually inclined. I seriously couldn't put down the book once I started reading this chapter. The list kept going on and on and at the end of it, there were 99 qualities listed. If each of us starts working on this list, that in itself is a life-long project.

I could resonate with many of the qualities - the ones that I consider are my strengths and the ones where I want to improve. This chapter reinforces the path and gives a clear direction.

If you are on the journey of self-awareness, I'm sure you'll find this book insightful and eye-opening.

Sharing a few powerful quotes:

"As long as one remains caught up in external practices or the mere act of following something or someone, one's spiritual self will not manifest, as true spirituality is more of an internal thing".

"We awaken only through our own will, determination, and sense".

"The role of the body is to act as a carriage that helps the soul journey from one lifetime to another".

"For life is not what happens to us, life is what we become as a result".

"Spiritually aligned people are energy transformers because their inner composure adds power to the collective consciousness of their immediate environment".

Jan 10, 2023

Everything has its time

 I learned to ride a bicycle when I was 17. After wrapping up my 12th std, I started to learn, taking help from my friend and my younger brother. Until that time, I used to be a pillion rider on their bicycles, holding our school bags 🙂

Once I learned this skill, it helped me tremendously in reaching my college bus stop and back home for the next 4 years. And I enjoy cycling even to this date, though I don't do it regularly.

I narrate this story to my daughter often. At times, she does feel left behind when her friends cycle or skate. She hasn't learned them and honestly, as a parent, I'm not worried.

When we were kids, life's race began when we were starting our 9th grade.

Kids of today's generation experience competition and bear the weight of expectations from the time they are as young as 3-4 years.

Rollerblade skating at 4 years, wakeboarding at 5, cycling at 6, football/basketball at 7, keyboard/violin at 8, etc.

We left D to pick activities she is interested in. Though she tried a couple of "organized" classes, she insists that she wants to teach herself.

She loves singing, especially Western pop. Every single evening, she sings on her own for around 15-20 min - either during bath time OR just before bedtime. We never interfere in her self-initiated efforts. If she asks me to listen to her songs, I gladly oblige.

She showed interest in chess when she was around 8 years. We enrolled her in a chess class and she used to go to classes twice a week. She enjoyed the classes, but then Covid struck. She didn't want to be enrolled in an "online" class. Her interest in chess faded away.

After the three waves receded, we asked her if she wants to rejoin the class. She refused. Now, out of the blue, she has regained her interest and wants to self-learn. We play with her whenever she calls us. She also learns through the lichess website.

Be rest assured that everything has its time. We don't need to follow the timelines that society dictates or peer parents choose for their kids. This only creates pressure on ourselves and our children.

If kids aren't showing interest and when we forcefully enroll them, it brings up a distaste towards that particular skill. They hardly learn much and the resources we invest (time, money) are futile. In a city like Bangalore, the classes for extracurricular activities burn a big hole in the pocket.

Given the ample resources and opportunities, any skill can be learned at any point in time. Neuroplasticity of our brain helps us in this regard. All we need is a growth mindset and encourage the same in our kids.

Jan 9, 2023

Spirituality is NOT a business

 I don't follow the news, but somehow a particular incident came to my attention via Youtube recommendations. After following the sequence of incidents and the news anchors' analysis, I felt quite disturbed. My mind was racing with so many thoughts and questions.

Spirituality is becoming a growing business, especially in this post-pandemic world. As we face the challenges of life (grief, trauma, tragedy, stress, daily struggles), we are looking for solutions. We are looking for leaders who can help us get resolutions, who can help us see things from new perspectives, or who can help us process our feelings.

A spiritual leader doesn't grow overnight. It is up to us as followers who decide the growth trajectory of a spiritual leader.

Just like food influencers, lifestyle influencers, and fin-fluencers, there is a growing breed of spiritual influencers on social media.

I don't understand the blind adulation and complete faith that people entrust in such influencers without understanding the hidden motivations.

Nothing gets shared for free. Any gyaan or information they offer (which they call a "service") is behind a paywall.

How can a living person with not-so-much life experience offer perspectives on ALL facets of life, I wonder.

Over the past 3 years, I have enrolled in multiple workshops, attended online meditation sessions, and read many books on the topics of philosophy and spirituality. But I don't think I'd blindly surrender to the ideologies of ONE person. 

Taking in multiple perspectives and making choices that would best suit your personality and environment is what I'd always recommend.

Let's keep in mind - NO one person has answers to all your questions. Search within. Ask the Universe. Gather perspectives from multiple sources. Question them. Journal and self-reflect. You don't need a paid course to do the same.

Simplify your approach to self-reflection.

Your lack of self-trust and self-esteem is someone else's gain. There's big money in play (tax-free!).

You have ALL the abilities to understand yourself and your situations. HAVE TRUST IN YOURSELF.

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