सोच रही हूँ इस बार
लातूर की होली कैसी होगी?
सोच रही हूँ इस बार
लातूर की होली कैसी होगी?
Writer is an artist with a form–
that sings with the music of heart
and flows fearlessly on the canvas of imagination
Writing can be as subtle as the breath…
and as literal as the word.
What’s even more magical is the shape-shifting of creative writing
When a soul’s longing transforms itself
in word, on paper, in print,
travels readily across the oceans, infects the field,
meets another eye, ear and heart–
shifts back into fire, water, spirit–
rekindles many souls and the earth…
and hibernates to be rediscovered in future…
Writing is alchemy
Its an ancient discipline of transforming
unformed emotions into shining words
After each para… I am born anew
Writing is healing
It channels wounds
A secret passage for tears and scars
To find their salvation
Writing is a great sacred ritual
When I write, I am dancing with my soul
With the discipline of a samurai
and surrendering of a devadasi
Do I write or am I written…
By the great pen of life
Filled with deeply felt experiences
On the paper called humanity
All arts are great expressions
Soul yearning a creative from
Writing is special for here the masterpiece
Is the writer himself (herself)!
— manish srivastava
(the sacred well)
A conversation with Ram (the divine masculine)
10 lessons from Lord Rama’s life journey for our current time & context
As I was entering the barber shop, I noticed tension on the street. Generally its a busy street especially after the construction of the Mumbai monorail pillars. Over last 2 days, I have been noticing a new addition. A police van, parked right in between a mosque and a chapel. Policemen dressed in khaki uniform, standing outside the van. I assumed that its either for pre- 15 August security or post- Yakub caution.
As I entered the salon, I was surprised to see an deserted shop with hair scattered all over the floor and chairs standing in a mess. It felt as if the salon was busy few moments ago and suddenly everyone disappeared.
A young man in professional salon uniform followed me and asked me to take a clean seat. He was shivering and disturbed. I asked him if he was okay. He replied in a disturbed tone “mujhe bin baat maar rahe hain (they are hitting me for no reason)” … Then he looked out and ran shouting “malik (owner) has come”.
It’s a nice air conditioned hair cutting salon. I still call it a barber shop. New in this area. The owner has another high end salon near by. While the owner is Muslim, his team is comprised of both Hindu and Muslim boys. I like them. They are stylish, hardworking and professional.
I walked out sensing some tension. Policemen, shopkeepers, young barber and his owner were in a mob. Some intense conversation was on. I learnt from other barbers that a policeman came in the shop and asked for some change for Rs 100/-. The barber at the counter had none. Policeman insisted that barber must give change and soon got angry. He started slapping the young man. The young barber was shocked, angry and deeply hurt.
The owner generally sits in high-end salon. He came rushing to the shop when one of his boys went running to call him for help. He maintained his posture and tried to get his boy out of the skirmish.
Sometime later, I heard policeman say “ok sorry. Now go!”, dismissing the matter. Young barber was still agitated and wanted to explain his truth. At which his boss shouted. “Enough. Sir said sorry. Now go inside.”
He came in even more agitated. Fuming with anger. I was already on chair now with another barber combing my hair. I could see his face in the reflection of the mirror. He saw mine and our eyes met. He burst into a violent mix of rage and tears. “H-H-How can he touch my face. how can he h-hit me? I am trying to make a good living. Struggled so much to come out of all that shit. Got married. I am earning a decent living. And he hit me and got away. Just cause he has a uniform. Just cause he is government. If I was in my old world, I would show me. I would teach him…”
It was heart-breaking to see a young man with nice build and heavy baritone, crying. His ego crushed. His ideals questioned. His boundaries deeply violated.
Two of his protectors had deceived him. The police and his own boss. The law-keeper and the king. He was left vulnerable and alone.
I could sense that owner was also concerned but hid his emotions behind a boss-like sternness. He said to the young barber– “why do you have to get in this mess. I know you are right but now its over. He can’t take out the slap from your face. Water has fallen on ground. You can’t pick up and drink… Cool down… You are supposed to please police men not argue…”
None of this made sense to this young man. None of this was making sense to his colleagues. None of this making sense to the owner either.
Yet the show went on. Barbers were quietly cutting hair. Owner was sitting on cash counter. Our young man was standing, looking blank in the mirror. As if, he could not see his own reflection. The silence, with only sound of scissors cutting, had a piercing quality. With such an unsettled air around us how could they resume the business of grooming. I felt suffocated in the white cloth tucked around my neck and body. I guess all of them felt the same. Young men coming from harsh slum reality to make a career as barbers, were confronted by the barbarianess of the police system.
As they completed my haircut, some more young men gathered around the shop. I learnt that the policemen who hit the barber is considered short-temered and insane by his own colleagues. I looked at the area around police van. There was no shelter or chairs. These policemen were on extra duty, standing, in sun all day due to anticipated communal tension. If I was them, I would have my own pent up frustration. We all know that frustration mixed with power leads to insane aggression.
I wondered, would adding police force on street help? Will they help check the communal tension or aggravate it?
Another little piece of data was sitting on the salon mirror. The policeman happened to be a hindu. The barber was a muslim. And the young men gathering outside the shop, to support the young barber, were not barbers. They didn’t seem trained to groom their barbarianess. They were “provoked!”
Aug 9, 2015
(from the sacred well…)
When a mighty oak falls
It rises again in little mushrooms & moss
Dear Dr. Kalam,
The news of your departure
Hit me right in the core
Perhaps I took you quite for granted…
And yet, I recall you
As my favourite man of contradictions…
An aeronautic engineer,
with a look of a wild artist
A genius nuclear scientist,
and yet a great storyteller to kids
A village boy with humble beginning,
who led world’s largest democracy
An upholder of clear consciousness,
in a country crippled with corruption
A humble, earthy, common man,
whose vision can put you on the wings of fire
In midst of million potential limitations,
how could you be so limitless?
Your life challenges all my excuses to shy away,
from my own greatness
When a great star falls,
It’s dust shines on us all
Like a talisman reminding us
Of our own greatness
I will not mourn a single day
I will raise a toast…
To the Man, the Rocket, the President
To the Great Soul
To the Kalam in me, in you, in us
(from the sacred well)
A rustic old man. Sitting next to me. In the middle seat of the aeroplane boarding at Abu Dhabi airport. His head low, feet tapping, carrying a restless, nervous energy around him.
An elderly lady, similar to his age, was sitting on the window seat. She was getting worried by the restless man. She asked the air hostess for a change of seat.
As I settled in my aisle seat I sensed the restlessness and discomfort that I was edging in the little 3-seat space on this plane.
The old man, grey-haired, unshaven, foul-smell coming from his mouth, looked very different from the way I would define a cultured international traveller. Yet, his rustiness, including his childlike curiosity to gaze at my iPad, was endearing.
I asked him, if he was okay?
He rested his head on the TV screen and said nothing.
An air hostess came by and inquired if he needs any medical attention. I translated the same from English to Hindi for him. He told us that he had an headache but he needs no medicine. Later he shared with me that while he was coming thru the immigration check, his daughter was in a different queue and she is held back. He was getting worried, what if she is in some trouble. I asked the air hostess to make the announcement. Our plane was still boarding.
He got curious seeing me help him, and asked me in Hindi:
“Kya aap Pakistan se hain?” (Are you from Pakistan?)
“Nahi, Mumbai.. India.” (No, I am from Mumbai… India), I replied.
“Musalman (Muslim)?”, he further asked seeking some familiarity.
I was a bit reluctant to disappoint him again and said, “well, I am Hindu”
He responded with some assurance “chalo aap insaan hain, achchhe insaan” (Well, you are a human, a good human)
This short conversation seemed important for him to establish familiarity and relationship, that he could only find at a humanity level. Not national. Not religious.
We continued some conversation. I was assuring him that his daughter might be delayed in the long immigration queue for non-US passport holders at the Abu Dhabi airport. Every time a new passenger would board the plane he would hopefully look for his daughter to enter. And I would look at him to hear his relief. I secretly started chatting a Buddhist chant, that I used to practice few years back, for well being of his daughter. Somehow, I became a member of his family.
In the meanwhile, the elderly lady at the window seat started engaging with us by assuring the old man that the plane would not leave till his daughter is back. They started talking and the old lady exclaimed with a sense of new found familiarity.
“So you are from Pakistan, I thought you are an Indian!”
They spoke for some more time trying to figure out each-other’s native cities, community, caste etc. But their familiarity was short-lived. I could guess that inspite of their same country of origin, they had significant differences. The lady was turning uncomfortable with old man’s inquiry. The old man quickly resorted,
“Sabsi badi baat, aap insaan hain” (biggest thing is that you are human).
Once again, I found in their search for familiarity, they could not find a lot in common except their country and language. Finally, the relatedness was established as a human, beyond caste, class, creed and gender.
Three of us had been through awkward exchanges. While he thought, I might be a Pakistani Muslim, I happened to be an Indian Hindu. While the lady on window seat, expected him to be an Indian Hindu, he happened to be an Pakistani Muslim. Yet in that moment, we three were connected by a deep human emotion. A longing of a father to reunite with his daughter. Inspite of our non-familiarity, we were connecting to eachothers’ emotions like a family.
The old man shared his deepest fear. He was scared– what if his young daughter is abducted from the airport. Such things can happen in the world where he came from. He was shivering and stammering while saying that. His fear was real to him. He also shared that he was suffering from diabetes and the blue lunch box in his lap carried insulin. So far, I thought that this rustic village man was carrying his food in the blue lunch box. I regretted my judgements.
His open-heart sharing touched my heart. I thought of my father, who is quite emotional and rustic like him. I touched his shoulder and assured that “she will come”. Part of me was growing worried too.
Somehow, some other elderly men and women sitting around me started relating to this side of me. A women asked me to guide her to her seat. A man asked my help in opening his water bottle seal. I became aware of my youthfulness and felt valued in helping elders.
Suddenly, the old man next to me jumped in excitement.
“Meri beti aa gayi!” (my daughter has come)
He was half standing, trying to reach out to the aisle, bending over me and extending his hand out. His lips shaking, eyes wet, love evident.
I could see a young beautiful women walking towards us. She was assigned a seat somewhere towards the back of the plane. She looked at her father from distance, showing her hand as if asking him to relax. She looked tired and embarrassed by her fathers emotional expression. As she went pass our seats, she just said, “baad mein sab batati hoon” (will share everything later).
The old man folded back his extended arm trying to cope with the emotional expression that could not meet a response in reciprocation. He then turned to me and shared his gratitude for helping and comforting him. He said that this is father-daughter love and paused for a while. I held his shoulder again and asked him to relax.
This exchange between father and daughter had another quality of unfamiliar familiarity. An old rustic father deeply caring and expressing his love and worry. A young, modern daughter, feeling embarrassed to receive and respond to that love in public. The unmet longing of a parent. The overwhelmed distancing of an adoloscent. A real yet incomplete family.
I looked around the plane as it took off. So many people from all ages. Fathers, daughters, sons, mothers, wives, husbands. In spite of our distinct religious, national & racial identities, we are deeply familiar to each-other in our being as a human… longing for love…
In the auspicious week of Navratri, I felt an inner longing to reconnect with the divine feminine within. She has shown up in my dreams and life upsets earlier. I have been reluctant, and little scared, to understand her. However, this Navratri, she knocked my heart’s door again. Offering me a path to journey from hurt, ignorance & rage to love, wisdom & grace.
Since, I am not well versed with our scriptures, rituals or mantras, I started running to invoke the divine goddess. The rhythm of my body became a hymn & a chant. Silence of my mind allowed me to contemplate on the essence of 3 powerful goddesses I have known since my childhood. As a child and an adolescent, I used to adore their magnificent form, nurturing gaze and voluptuous figure. Now, I could relate to them as a collective energy or consciousness. In some way, I am invoking their felt-sense within me and my environment. Offering my experience to my blog-mates as a shared gift from the Goddesses of Navratri.
From hurt (scarcity) to love (abundance)
Maa Lakshmi Namh..
Give me love, give me healing
Teach me abundance, and, teach me giving
Make me a source of your boundless love
Help me see it in every one
When I am hurt, it feels as if something is snatched away from me. Leaving a deep void & incompletion within. Projected as victimhood created by others. Either ways, I am living is deep scarcity and longing for love and healing. Believing that it can be compensated either by others mercy or my revenge. Neither approach fills my void or honours my self-esteem. I become further hurt, insecure & manipulative. Stuck in an endless cycle. Goddess Lakshmi helps in breaking this cycle by filling me with boundless love for self and others. When I stand on the reservoir of her abundance, I feel internally secure, assured and complete. What was deep hurt earlier transform into the pain necessary for my growth. I become open to wisdom hidden in advertises (the realm of Goddess Saraswati). This evokes deep gratitude and compassion for the prosecutor. Goddess Lakshmi when invoked in one heart transform the whole field by reminding us of the endless love and wealth that we naturally inherits.
From arrogance (of intellect) to humility (of wisdom)
Maa Saraswati Namh..
Give me wisdom, give me learning
Make me humble for my shortcomings
Show me how my life is my creation
And how will it help me in my evolution
When confronted with complex, emotional challenges, I feel hurt and helplessness. All I want is to fix the issue, the person, the problem, forever. Ego makes me believe as if I am in-charge of the same. However, I have spend lifetime, striving to solve, fix, eradicate these issues. Yet, they surface again and again. Often I am oblivious to the patterns and my own blindspots. When my intellect fails me, I become even more cynical and hurt. I invoke Goddess Saraswati to bless me with wisdom to understand the larger whole. Help me see my part so I can transform from within. Give me courage to learn from my challenges and turn them into crucible of my evolution . Make me humble to honour the wisdom in others.
From rage (outer madness) to grace (calm strength)
Ma Durga Namh…
Give me courage, and, give me faith
To take a stand with resilience
Teach me how to forgive with grace
With outer calm and inner strength
When hurt & cynical, my anger manifests as wild rage. Like an erupted volcano, my outburst creates more damage and hurt for self and others. It gives me a momentary sense of power but soon leaves me very weak and powerless. I end up becoming the part of same drama— displaying the same animality that led to my hurt in first place. On others times, I am frozen by fear of such rage within me or other. Either ways, I loose my centre and calm. I give away my capacity to listen and influence. And worst of all, I miss the opportunity to learn and transform myself and others. In such possessed moments, I seek the almighty Durga to invoke within me her grace— a powerful presence with inner strength and outer calm. I seek her courage and faith to stay centred in the middle of fire. Her magnanimity to forgive self and others.
May divine mother goddess energy show in all our life. May they bless us and our worlds. May we all shine in their love, abundance, wisdom, humility, courage & grace.
Om Hrim Shri Lakshmibhyo nāmahā
Sri Sarasvatyai nāmahā
Oṃ Duṃ Durgāyai nāmahā
(above mantras & pictures from wikipedia.com & hdgodwallpapers.com)
from the sacred well
on March 27, 2015
Showing up is vulnerability.
Standing for is vulnerability.
Staying still is vulnerability.
All acts of leadership are vulnerable.
Any moment lived with authenticity is….
The most important life skill
is to stand still with a naked heart…
Feeling the softest wind on the skin;
Drenched, when rain of judgements washes us over;
Shivering, when fear shakes every foundation;
Blown away, when joy marries madness;
Enflamed, when rage comes from deepest violation;
Dissolved, when tears know no other way;
And empty, when there is nothing else to hold on…
Vulnerability is rendezvous with Self!
(Dec 21, 2014, from thesacredwell…
inspired by David Whyte’s recent Facebook post)
First there was naivety,
They ruled us and exploited our resources.
Then there was apathy,
We were aware but powerless…
They thrived on corruption
Then some of us said enough !!!
And gathered the grassroot power of masses…
To challenge their might!
The country got polarised between 2 choices:
At one end were those who vouched for experience, stability, growth
and were okay to live with inauthenticity and corruption.
On the other end were activists of authenticity and honest governance
but lacked experience and political stability.
Between these two, there was a huge void
Both sides exposed the gaps of other
The best conversations from either ended in a compromise
“Well… he is the best choice we have”
“He may not be authentic, open, honest, inclusive but he will help us grow!”
“He may not have experience and stability but he is honest and inclusive!”
We have made a choice
Lets call spade a spade
At best it’s a compromise
When the celebrations
settles in the darkness of the night
And the bones feel the real weight of tired muscles..
When all the fanfare and fanaticism is over
Leaving behind empty stadium with wavering trash…
Then, just before the sun breaks in dawn
Lets wake up…
Wake up to the job yet undone
Wake up to the responsibility that can’t be outsourced
Wake up to the voice that calls for authentic leadership
Election is not a elixir
The leadership void still exists…
Looking at us
Echoing our name
Calling each of us to step in
To be the leader…
Who is committed to serve selflessly
Who is courageous enough to be vulnerable and authentic
And who can hold inclusion, diversity and progress in same breath
Remember, 67 years of exploitation and 100’s of years of slavery
Was build on our own ignorance and fear
It’s time to break these patterns
To reclaim our power back from few representatives
To name the facade in the face
And hold them accountable in service of the nation.
It’s time for us to stand in our own leadership…
The world is watching its largest democracy to lead responsibly
And the ‘one in the mirror’ is calling the authentic leader within you!
Art is nothing but the expression of fearless love.
And Artist is none other than the one,
who takes risk and dives deep in his own soul…
to make the unseen seen
to name the dare not
to blow the facade
to nurture the unborn
Living on the edges of our collective unconscious,
he sees the contrasts and contradictions
and dies a thousand times
to let the new birth from his heart.
he is the womb and the midwife…
Art is never complete but always whole
And artist is his best work-in-progress…
There is one in you
One in everyone!
The artist in you..
and you will see beauty in your longings
and purpose in your pain
For, if you can liberate a soul
You are an artist!
(from the Sacred Well)
Love so pure,
That it desolves all past
and makes the future, irrelevant.
Transforming all resentment
into a refreshing morning mist.
Lightness so magical,
That you forget,
Whether you are a bird
or the wind beneath her wings
(Poetry by Manish, inspired by a morning walk at Hajii Ali, Mumbai)
To the father who just crossed the street
Ahead of my car
With two toddlers in school dress
To the old man
Pushing the cart with two wheels
Carrying heavy loads of steel
To the women who is walking fast
Reliving some old conversation
Oblivious to the street
To the man in the next car
Restlessly adjusting his collar
And may be his pride
For some challenging day ahead
To the little boy
Bathing with drum and mug
In front of his thatch house
Right on the street
To the man on the bike
Who just jumped ahead of my car
Almost banging in me
To the anger within me
That shouted “careless bastard”
And the fear in me
That shook my belly
And reminded “you can’t hurt another being”
To the crows, cows & trees
Witnessing the morning human drama
To all those I witness
As I go out to work…
I open my heart with love!
Cause they hold a part of me,
As I carry a part of them,
And then there are few loving ones:
Who open the door when I get back home
And the 2 feet tall ones,
Who run to greet me with love: “papa”
There is so much to see,
So much to thank for,
So many to love!
Jyot se jyot jagate chalo
Prem ki ganga bahate chalo
(Hindi song. Meaning:
Light the light with light
Let the river of love flow…)
– Manish Srivastava
Only love is real
I am a vessel of love
Love is my stand
Only love is real
Life is so small…
By the time we truly fall in love,
It’s time to let go this life…
Love is so eternal
Life is so small
Hatred is amnesia
Ego is ignorance
My heart is crying
For I have just realised
That only love is real
Love has no boundary
It knows no gender,
No caste, no religions
No class, no age
Love is so real
It transcends reality
True power resides in love
True love is so powerful
Life is too short
To miss any moment
I am breaking free from my cage
I am floating in the street
Hugging every soul,
I despised, avoided, hated…
Oh you are so lovely
How could I not see…
My heart is melting
I can see your soul
Yearning to belong
Just like mine
My throat is choking
Words are insignificant
Can I cry loud, with love?
I am dissolving in you
In the street
In the field
In the Universe
I am not crying cause you will go away someday
I am crying for every moment you were here and I could not see you
I am crying to honour your full being
I am crying to wash away all that was left unsaid
I am crying to love you so deeply
That you are set free…
For only love is real…
(With pure, deep, boundless love for all my loved ones)
– Sacred Well
How hard we work to distance ourselves from those
who have come to our life to complete us!
We develop emotional strategies
and justify that it’s the only way out
We get busy building the castle to protect ourselves
and become prisoners of our own fears!
More precious the gift,
more painful it is to accept it
For gifts from beyond are hard truths
reflecting our true power,
hidden beneath our dark sides
My heart cries, when I see fellow souls,
struggling hard to protect themselves from their brilliance;
closing their eyes when their gold is about to shine;
killing the ugly messenger before the beauty unveils itself
It seems, half our lives goes in,
marking out those we cant stand.
Have you ever wondered,
Why are the most unbearable ones nearest to us in kinship?
In blood or in spirit,
they carry a part of us… a sacred part!
it may be a part not owned, not healed, not accepted;
it may be a part longing to be acknowledged;
it may a part seeking to gracefully depart…
Reclaiming our lost parts, is becoming whole
Those we distance with are the there to help us,
find the missing pieces of our puzzle
That’s why we invited them in first place
Sometimes when I catch the glimpse of the larger design,
I discover that all those who baffle me are my projections
Born to help me discern and integrate again
From up in the air, sometimes,
I am saddened to see myself,
working hard to develop strategies after strategies
to avoid, to distance, to protect from what is inevitable.
While alternatively if I just accept and allow…
the grand design reveals itself…
And I start loving myself
as I am, with whoever showed up in my life, in the very moment…
from the Sacred Well…
I have almost discovered a formula:
the intensity of our need to distance from someone is
directly proportional to their importance in helping us
in our journey to happiness, well-being and wholeness
“There will come a time when all your ‘strategies of mind’ will fail. You will wonder, why all your efforts to understand, connect, do the right thing are not being acknowledged. You will soon realise that all your strategies are products of your mind, marinated in your ego. It served your sense of identity. This realisation may lead to a helpless letting-go of all your strategies. You must wait till the pain of your failures turns into a still void. Then, when you are completely empty, you may experience a deep longing. As if, its coming from a deep well inside your heart. This longing will someday become action that is guided from deep within. It may baffle your mind cause its not what the mind can create or fully comprehended. It’s a deeper call. When this call puts you in action, you may once again connect, act, serve. This time, you will flow and generate a magnetic field that drives everyone in. This time you will lead effortlessly cause you a being led from your deep well. This time every action will be a supreme success.”
Today morning my inner voice (from the Sacred Well) told me so.
I could see the difference between my actions…
that are guided by my ego-mind and that come from a deeper source.
Between aspiration and inspiration
Between strategy and longing.
Transactional world of strategies:
Often times, ego gets involved in a transactional act. “I will do this cause you did that” or “I gave so much what did I get in return?”. This transactional act is often 2 dimensional. There is a give and take. There are expectations met or unmet. Investments returned or not. Such a consciousness often leaves us unhappy, desiring or at best temporarily satisfied. Personal aspirations, strategies, ego-mind games, comparisons etc are all product of this transactional consciousness. It also disrespects the complex, mystical nature of the Universe. It limits us in time and space in which we feel fair or unfair. Constantly looking for immediate returns on our investments. What if, our investments are actually returns from a different time and space? Or our returns are the investments we made in another lifetime?
Transformational world of deep longing:
On the other side of the spectrum is transformational consciousness. It’s when, one drop of love is enough to fill the whole heart and forgive for many lifetimes. It’s where our action is inspired from a deeper source within us. “I am doing this cause I long for it” or “Loving you completes me, I don’t have any expectations”. When we live in such a consciousness we honour the Universe. We instantly trust whatever the Universe offers us. We feel free and empowered. We see ourselves as timeless, powerful, spiritual beings. We receive every drop of love, respect, care as timeless gifts. We see challenges, difficult people and circumstances as part of the grand design and practice patience for the real gifts to unfold. We may engage in transactional acts with others but we are able to see the transformational design of the Universe behind it.
Both exist in the moment…
In any give day, hour, moment, we live in both worlds simultaneously. Both have their own purpose. Transactional world keeps us grounded and protected. It helps us in our journey from dependence to independence. Transformational world opens new possibilities and reminds us of our limitless power. It generates compassion and love for all.
However, sometimes we helplessly oscillate between the two. I guess, this happens when we don’t honour either of the two worlds, fully. We try to bypass transactional matters by disowning our fears and insecurities and create a personal identity of universal caretaker or a hero. Have you come across highly insecure gurus or highly competitive collaborators?
I am slowly learning that the transformational consciousness is not from another world. It coexist in the very moment we are dealing with our fears, defending our turf, or, protecting our gold. It’s important, therefore, to remind ourselves that we are the timeless, Universal spiritual beings and then step into the transformational consciousness. One way to do that is to connect with our own (and others) deeper longing behind our strategies.
Lets try it today and see the difference…
What are you longing for? What if, you drop all your strategies for a day?
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
(James Baldwin’s quote triggered an inner dialogue within me)
What do you see, when you look at me?
Why are you so disturbed to see me?
What about my presence makes you feel so alienated?
Yes, I am a lot different…
I don’t belong to your class, caste or creed
I am not the type you would relate with
Definitely not the one you would ever want to become
I don’t fit your sense of human or humanity by far
Yet I am familiar, so much familiar…
Yes, I am the one you never wanted to be with
That’s why you know me so well…
You wish your life could have been an amnesia without me
But life is a cruel magic
I am stuck on you…
The more you wish you wouldn’t, the more you end up being with me
I sense, you are longing to meet me
So that you could touch that part within yourself…
— — — — — — — — — — — —
And that’s why, I guess, we love to hate
It helps us in covering the deeper pain
Pain of our sense of loss, failures, inadequacy
Pain of accepting ourselves and the truth of the moment
Hatred gives us a sense of identity
Making us distinct from (and secretly superior to) the ones we despise
And we fear loosing it all
And so it persists
— — — — — — — — — — — —
What if, you could let go this fear
And touch your own pain
However old, however hurtful,
Just sit in the center of it
Without any need to find a cause outside…
What if, you could accept your pain as a part of you
As something that happened as it happened
And let it go as a tree farewells its old yellow leaves
May be then, you would see me beyond what you see now…
May be then, you could go beyond my history, adjectives and stories
And look into my deep eyes
Reflecting the pain similar to yours
You could also see my wrinkles, my eye sockets,
And in the middle of my hatred towards you,
you may see my deep longing to belong to you…
Through my eyes, if you look long enough,
You may see my soul
And it’s long long journey,
With struggles, fears, failures and hopes
All so similar to yours
In such a moment you may experience a strange wet spark in your heart
Flowing right upto your eyes
This is compassion- a deep feeling of oneness
You may also see my upright yet fragile body
My rooted strength yet my vulnerability to open my heart
You will see that my heart is big enough to consume all of you and all your lifetimes
It may be hard to believe such a moment
It may feel like betraying your old distinct identity
Yet it’s the most powerful, liberating moment you can experience
And trust me, if you keep practicing it
Looking at people long enough
Beyond your own love for righteousness, distinction and hatred
You will soon start seeing their soul journeys
You will become their co-traveller
They will become yours
Life will transform
With magic every where…
And you will wake up with a magic wand in your hand!
If your being is a guest house,
Who all do you welcome, who gets to share your bedroom, who is tolerated in the drawing room and to whom do you shut our doors and windows to?
What if, all of them were representing a part of you, your psyche?
What if, all of them come to remind you of your forgotten parts;
to mirror what you love and what you can’t stand?
What if, all those who visit you are your soulmates from many lifetimes–
forgotten, unforgiven, frightful, frightened, loved or longing…
What will you do then?
Would you shut your doors on their face? Once again? And carry it forward to another life?
Would you let them in and offer a cup of tea and some company you both longed for?
Would you let some of them see your most hidden space– your bedroom, your study, your basement?
You may start with some guests
Choose few you find hard to tolerate
Let them in for a while in your house
Welcome them with selfless hospitality
Let them sip tea in silence while their purpose in your life is revealed
Then they may dissolve in the being of your house
And you will become a richer and happier soul…
Beneath our detest lies deep pain. Beneath our pain lies a deep longing. We all seek to belong to each other.
In a meditative moment, I heard an inner voice telling me a story:
“Let me tell you a real story… I come from the womb of life. That mysterious space where we go after death and where we come from to a new life. A sleep-like awakening: cause there you remember everything. You know who you are, what has been your dharma and your karma. Every Soul, comes from there. We make our choices about who we want to be and what life experiences we would like to have. Soul wants to experience life in the body. But then we take the human form and we forget all about the womb.
Each Soul is on a transforming life journey. Each Soul is living with a deep longing. Each Soul is seeking deep love and wholeness.
This includes you, your 1-year old son, your 65 year old father, your wife, your neighbor, that irritating cab driver, your client… everyone…
You can engage with all those who show up in your life as physical beings: warm bodies sharing your house, city, planet.
You can relate to them as social beings: having roles and responsibilities towards you. Which they fulfill or fail to do so. Pleasing or irritating you.
Or you can connect with them as spiritual beings: longing to seek wholeness and completions. Being your co-travellers in your Soul journey.
All three choices are available to you in any given moment.”
Listening to the spiritual being
As I reflected on this realization, I remembered the moments when I have become aware of Soul’s longing in myself and others. As I walk down the streets, I come across people from different walks of life: security guards & auto-rickshaw drivers, college students on bikes, executives in posh cars, mothers walking with their babies in prams. Sometimes, I just become aware of them beyond their appearances and occupations and I see fragile bodies and human souls with deep longing. I connect with their sadness hidden in their laughter, anger or silence. I see their soul’s simplicity and sometimes helplessness.
Sometimes, I see young children, doing weird things and driving their parents crazy. When I pause and look deep, I experience little souls longing to express themselves. Weirdness then generates compassion.
Likewise, I have started experiencing elders differently. In their anger, idiosyncrasies, egotistic conversations, confusions, amnesia etc, I sometimes get in touch with their deep fears of aging. Its their soul longing to complete, to resolve, to find a meaning.
Many depth psychologist and Jungian analysts like James Hillman & Marie-Louise von Franz explore that psychologically dysfunctional or socially inappropriate behaviors are unique expressions of a Soul in his/her journey to wholeness and individuation. Every interaction is a spiritual longing. If you could hold your breath and listen beyond their physicality and social awkwardness, you will experience their Soul’s calling.
Whenever, I have been able to connect with the deeper Soul’s longing, even the most unbearable moments transform me. I become compassionate, magnanimous and gracious human being. My Soul starts honouring other’s Soul journey. Their Soul reciprocates. It’s like two warriors meeting and honouring each other.
We can practice it everyday!
When you come across any difficult situation or find yourself in a duel with another person, just become aware of the stuckness. Often its some kind of either-or, right-wrong, always-never polarity. Its manifested on the body as well, as some pain or stiffness. Just pause for a moment. Take deep breath and connect with your feelings… anger, fear, hurt, pain… Experience your feelings fully for a moment while resisting the need to externalize it.
Now, ask yourself: What am I really longing for in this moment?
(I often connect with my longing for love, attention, independence, peace etc…)
Now, you may connect with the other person or the situation. Inquire with an open heart: What are they feeling? What are they really longing for?
As we become aware of our Soul’s longing, we connect with others at deeper level. We feel deeply acknowledged, understood and loved by ourselves and others. This way we not only transform a stuck situation or relationship but also help another Soul in their journey.
When we start listening to Soul’s longing in difficult conversation, we generate compassion and love where there had been hurt and struggle. We become the compassionate, magnanimous and gracious human being!
I have started practicing it daily and celebrating my soulful moments. Hope you enjoy it too…
…from the Sacred Well
“Gentleness and understanding create in others an unconscious willingness to be led.”
“The I Ching teaches a simple but effective method of influencing difficult people and arduous situations. It advises us first to lay aside our prejudices – our feelings of being wounded, angry, or in the right – and second to seek to understand the positions of others and the lesson that the Sage is teaching us with the situation. ” (I Ching translations by Brian Browne Walker)
I Ching is the Chinese Book of Changes that has been consulted for sage’s advice at life’s turning points. It has been an oracle to rulers & warriors for many centuries. Yesterday, while dealing with an arduous situation, I consulted I Ching and it gave me some wonderful advice that I would like to share here with my reflections.
To better understand this insight, you may take a moment to recall a difficult situation or encounter with a difficult person that you have recently experienced. I Ching presents a counterintuitive approach to leading in difficult situations. It highlights 3 warrior-like qualities: “acceptance, gentleness, and a desire to understand the lesson underneath”.
We often misunderstand acceptance with passive behaviour. Instead, acceptance is an aware choice.
We are tempted to escape to future or resort to past– demanding what we expect or fighting for what we lost. Accepting the moment helps us in being present in the here & now. We accept each experience with the awareness that it is “necessary for us to learn something about ourselves and about the higher laws of life” (I Ching). Such acceptance shifts us from being a victim of the situation to engaging with it as a curious learner.
In your difficult moments, how could you practice ‘accepting the moment’ and truly welcome all that it has to offer?
When faced with difficult situation and people, gentleness seems to be counter-intuitive. It appears like a softer, weaker quality that is not appropriate or possible in difficult moments. We wonder– how can warrior be gentle in midst of a war? We need to deepen our understanding about gentleness.
Best way, I have understood gentleness is through an image: a strong warrior, gently holding a sparrow in his palms. Thus, gentle to me, is full awareness of your power and therefore being gracious and mindful of how you use it. Gentleness is deep centeredness in who you are. It has an element of care, love and respect. Gentleness melts the barriers, generates trust, deepens awareness and inspires a willingness to be led.
In the difficult situation that you are confronted with, could you gently hold the other person, their point of view and their deeper needs?
Desire to understand the lesson beneath:
When we are confronted with difficult people, we feel stuck. We slide into victimhood and externalize the blame. Its natural. It helps us, temporarily. All we want is to unstuck ourselves but we end up being, further entangled.
I Ching advises that all difficult situations and people, come to our life to teach us deeper lessons about ourselves and the higher laws. They become enablers in our journey to wholeness. Like Kekai helped Ram in his journey from being an obedient prince to becoming a warrior king and realizing his divine inspiration.
When we engage with tough conversations with this belief, we connect with our deeper longing and inspire others to do so. Each moment and each person becomes our aide and cotraveller and we feel liberated from the helplessness we were stuck into.
What are you longing to learn in this moment? What lessons for personal growth is this situation bringing to you?
I Ching further alarms that what you are inside will be experienced by other people. If you are accepting, gentle and understanding within, they will experience that, even if you are quiet. If you are not experiencing it within but just putting up a facade of being gentle or accepting, they will experience your facade leading to further stuckness and powerlessness.
This new way of leading is an inside-out job!
What part of our soul is dying? What is the stand that we are dreading to take? What is the call that we are not responding to?
Dying souls, endangered kingdom…
23 children die due to poisonous oil served in a government school under a government midday meal scheme. Suddenly reports start surfacing all over the country about poor school children falling sick and dying due to contaminated, poisonous food, vitamin tablets, etc… distributed under public health schemes.
Following the news, while media is highlighting the gross governance negligence, our political leaders have been hiding. It took more than 24-48 hrs for key ministers to respond. Chief minister of the state came to public address after 9 days. Instead of taking accountability they got busy in the political blame game. Soon media also shifted its focus to other spicier political news stories.
This news hurts me deeply and fills me with anger and helplessness.
I have indirectly worked for Anganwadis (child care centers where these meals are served). I can relate to the hope and innocence of the children who come to Anganwadis. They are the most vulnerable and powerless part of our society. They are poor and they are innocent children. And they have to bear the burnt of a massive governance, public systems and leadership failure.
I don’t know how is the soul of our country is coping with such a breakdown. At a deeper level its a humanity failure.
When my intense emotions settled, I started seeing a pattern among many similar incidents happening across India and globe. Themes may be different, ranging from corruption, rape, dictatorship etc, but the underlying pattern is same: citizens suffering, governance apathy, systems failure and public outrage.
Historically such moments have been tipping points for revolutions and renaissance. Old forms and power systems die and new ones come to life.
Mythologically, such moments are captured in the hero’s or heroine’s journey (ref Joseph Campbell). There comes a time in life of a kingdom when the king is sick, dying, powerless. His kingdom (being his manifestation) is also suffering, poor, hopeless. In such times, a hero receives a call. A deep soul call to take on a journey. This journey would test his mettle. Take him to unknown places. Make him encounter and slay the dragon within. Enter the crucible and emerge as a new born- a soulful leader now ready to serve the kingdom. He then comes back and heals the king and the kingdom. Reclaims his power and is often enthroned as the new king.
If these recurring systemic failures are representing the suffering kingdoms of our collective psyche, then what is the call that we as heroes, heroines and leaders need to respond to?
The call for soulful leadership…
Children represent the soul of a community. What happens when the patriarchal systems fail to nurture and protect its soul? What are we heading towards? How is all this a massive manifestation of the inner world within all of us? How are we colluding with power and exploiting the child within us? What is the deeper leadership stand that we are not ready to take? What is the call that we are not responding to?
A leader comes to life in his/ her response to the context. It’s this crucible that shapes the leadership. As I look at this incident and other similar incidents around the world, I see a leadership void. A void that is calling for soulful leaders. Leaders who show up and take a stand to respond to their context. Leaders who hold themselves and others accountable for the social-ecological well-being. Leaders who nurture their systems and communities like their own families. Leaders who are both courageous warriors and passionate lovers.
If its your kingdom burning and your king dying, what would you do? What are you being called for?
I feel I am called to fill the leadership void. To call others to connect with their deep calling. To cocreate an ecosystems of soulful leaders who care deeply for their people and planet. This is my response to the failing systems and this is my promise to the dying children.
What is yours?
In hero’s journey, sometime hero fails to respond to the call. Life then is full of a suffering called mediocrity. For they knew but could not step into their brilliance.
Whether small or big, it’s the next soulful step that matters…