Spiritual Practice – How much is enough?

I was reminded this Friday during a Spiritual Discussion about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule in his book Outliers. Gladwell guides that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials. Let’s take a look at what this looks for the casual spiritual aspirant and then for the serious spiritual seeker for them to achieve spiritual mastery. In the end, I will look at what other activities we can do to increase our hours to reach this 10,000 hour rule.

First of all, 10,000 hours is a guide. We may have to put much more hours in or we may have to put less hours. It is not that once you reach 10,000 hours, you will achieve spiritual enlightenment and all the secrets of the universe will be revealed in the most majestic fashion. Our honesty, intention, passion and sincerity will matter when it comes to spiritual attainment. So as I go through these scenarios for the casual spiritual aspirant and the serious spiritual seeker, I believe it is best to understand that these people are honest, compassionate, genuine, sincere and have good intentions. They are not fake in any way. To me, faith, devotion, worship and reverence means nothing if we do not have the basic decency of being honest and genuine.

Casual Spiritual Aspirant – 10,000 hours

The casual spiritual aspirant probably spends a couple hours a week. Let’s say they meditate for 30 minutes every day. They may attend a satsang or a spiritual meetup for 2-4 hours a week. They may do the occasional listening to a spiritual talk on YouTube or reading spiritual content for an hour in the week.

  • Meditation – 3.5 hours
  • Satsang/Spiritual Meetup – 2 hours
  • Watching, listening or reading spiritual content via social – 1 hour
  • Studying Scripture or Spiritual Texts –  30 minutes

The total will be 7 hours in the week. In one year, this will be a total of 364 hours. To reach the 10,000 hour level of mastery, it would take the casual spiritual aspirant around 27.5 years.

Serious Spiritual Seeker – 10,000 hours

The serious spiritual seeker will definitely be putting in more hours. Let’s say they meditate for 1 hour every day. They may attend a satsang or a spiritual meetup for 2-4 hours a week. They will most likely study scripture or read a spiritual text for a good 2 hours a day. Like the casual spiritual aspirant, they may listen to a spiritual talk between 1-2 hours a week.

  • Meditation session – 7 hours
  • Satsang/Spiritual Meetup – 4 hours
  • Watching, listening or reading spiritual content via social media – 2 hours
  • Studying Scripture or Spiritual Texts – 14 hours

This would amount to 27 hours in the week. In one year, this will be a total of 1404 hours. To reach the 10,000 hour level of mastery, it would take the serious spiritual seeker around 7.1 years.

These are basic scenarios and it will differ person to person and the above spiritual activities will be interchangeable for example, someone may meditate more or attend more spiritual meetups per week. Someone may be living in an ashram and that can change things dramatically. The below examples may be something they do instead of the activities I mentioned above.

Examples of Other Spiritual Activities

There may be other spiritual activities that I will now mention and can be added into the above examples too. For example, someone may do yoga but doesn’t do meditation.

  • Walking in Nature or Gardening
  • Being aware of the present moment
  • Jap or Kirtan – singing/listening to devotional songs or reciting mantras
  • Yoga
  • Contemplation
  • Volunteer work
  • Retreats – weekend, 3 days or 5 days
  • Writing in a journal like a gratitude journal

Consideration

As I mentioned earlier and I want to emphasize that one’s sincerity, honesty and humility is important when it comes to attaining anything spiritual. Our behavior is transformed and if we are still harboring hatred, if we lack compassion or empathy, I doubt we have attained much spiritually regardless of the hours we put into spiritual practice.

Some may even claim that they have attained the highest in spirituality because of some sacred knowledge and even if that is the case, I do believe there is still a refining process. Plus this individual would always be interested in spiritual activities so this would still apply to them. Spirituality is interwoven into their life.

Death needs to be considered here and our awareness of it. If I know that I can die at any time, then would my outlook change? Would my spiritual practice be more intense hence an increase in hours each day? Our understanding of death has a correlation with the hours we put in. If we believe we can do it in future lives, then we should consider it could take us an eternity. If we believe in one life alone, then how many years can be guaranteed that we will live to? If there is no guarantee, then all I have this moment now – so what do I want to be in awareness of during this moment?

Comments

Let me know your comments on this post below. What spiritual activities do you do that I may have missed? If you want, you can let me know how long it will take you to reach the 10,000 hours.

Can Wisdom Be Bite-Sized?

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

We love to have information on the go. We want to be able to understand something as quickly as possible. We prefer to listen to a clip of a podcast or grab a summary of a book. We do all these things so we can somehow remain knowledgeable and aware of current events and most of all, remain relatable.

Who wants to go out with friends or spend time with family and not be able to talk about the latest viral clip out there or the book that transports us to another world? Or discuss that self-help book that taught us one good thing and has dramatically changed our lives. The new diet that has worked when all other diets didn’t work. That new Netflix show that we binged upon. We all want to remain relevant and when technologies and social platforms are taking us in all different directions, there is only so much time, therefore only so much capacity to learn about everything.

The same is with spirituality these days. It desires to be relevant. You can see popular gurus and wannabe gurus (mainly the self-help types) give small clips of 5-10 minutes to capture their new and existing audience and gain new adherents. They also want to gain popularity on social media platforms with reels and TikTok videos, going viral is the next best thing for the Gurus, who wish to put thousands of pages of ancient wisdom in 30 seconds clips. They most likely have a media team that works on this content and who knows how many bots may have been bought to get these gurus featured on Facebook or Instagram. Some disciples share the clips of their gurus and make them viral too.  Some gurus may be completely innocent of the fact that they are now featured on a social media platform. The impossibility of sharing bite-size wisdom somehow becomes possible but with massive disadvantages.

Spirituality requires time. There is nothing instant. The only way to climb up a mountain is to use your hands and feet. If you take a helicopter and go from the bottom of a mountain to the peak, you cannot claim to have climbed the mountain. Sure, it is a shortcut and although the destination is the same, the journey is completely different. The person who climbed up the mountain can talk about the terrain, the view from each side of the mountain, the wildlife, the vegetation and the difficulties faced during different weather conditions. They can talk about the whole journey with confidence and interesting tales. But someone who uses a helicopter misses out on all of these sensory delights. Similarly, the clips we hear of these gurus is never enough. We need to engage with their longer talks or their books to understand their philosophy. We need to know about their experiences and so in turn, we are inspired to apply the teachings.

But like the person who took the helicopter, we listen to the gurus and project their achievements as our own. This is only noticed when we carefully observe our own thoughts, intentions, emotions etc. Better to look within and see what has transformed than sing the glory of a god or someone that we do not know. Just because you caught that Guru featured on Instagram that doesn’t mean you know what it is like to be a disciple of theirs. Bite-size wisdom will not work because it doesn’t provide true clarity. It doesn’t tell us of the whole journey. We get a sneak peak and that is all. But who is satisfied with a movie trailer? We rather watch the whole movie. Same with spirituality, it is better to learn and follow any methods than to just glorify a path that we haven’t taken a step in.

I understand that I may sound ‘traditional’ but I have learned more from the larger books that I have read and the longer talks that I have listened to or watched. I love Swami Sarvapriyananda of Vedanta NY’s talks. His explanation of the Upanishads and other texts probably span over several days and I have deepened my understanding of Reality! I love Yog Vasistha – a thousand page book on Hindu philosophy. Or the 500 page Vigyan Bhairav Tantra by Osho. I remind myself of the thousands of pages of poetic wisdom in the Guru Granth Sahib and the 700 verses of the Bhagavad Gita. I am not saying smaller books and talks haven’t helped, they have. The beauty of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran is both delicate and strong. The high wisdom of Tao Te Ching is on many levels unmatched. I am not saying that the length of a talk or book measures how much wisdom is contained. I am talking about the thinking, the silent pauses you take when you pause a talk, or put down the book and you begin to ponder as you grab new insights, as you infer your own experiences to the words just heard or read. A verse from the Tao Te Ching cannot be read mechanically, it has to be properly understood. It may take less than a minute to read but it may need a good 30 minutes to understand and comprehend. Trust me, 30 minutes isn’t enough but you get my point.

Wisdom may come in bite-size pieces but eventually, we need to understand things deeper. We need to transcend the potentiality of something become superficial. Once something is superficial, it can become rigid as a limiting belief and we open the gate for ego to enter and expand. Therefore, if we must utilize this bite-size wisdom phenomena that has become mainstream today, we must not lose the art of contemplation so that this wisdom can penetrate us and complete us.

Time is of the Essence

Over the years, I perfected the art of listening and recently, I have watched it decline. Watching all my efforts go down the drain was extremely painful and this can be applied to my ability to focus and concentrate too. Although, we look to grow and evolve but this does come at a cost and this is what I like to discuss with you today.

Conversations

If you had put me in a room and my only thing was to listen, I used to interrupt someone until they had finished what they had to day. In recent years, I have seen this slowly diminish and now I interrupt when it is convenient for me.

Whenever I would be conversing, you would always find me mindfully listening and I found great joy in it. Listening is an easy way to feel the sense of the observer within you. So it was always a way to continue my meditation throughout the day and it provided fulfillment in my life.

I noticed that whenever I would interrupt or share my views straight away without thinking, I would leave a place feeling more tired and exhausted. Also, I would feel that the person I was talking to will probably feel that this wasn’t a worthwhile conversation.

I am always open to answering a question. So if asked anything, I would take the time to respond. However, in recent times, it was like I must share something otherwise, I would be irrelevant or people will go further into misinformation and maintain misguided views. Letting people be as they are has been a challenge.

A true conversation lies in the listening. It is empowered with the attention of listening. It is the silent observer that catches the nuances of what somebody says. If I am thinking about what to say in the next second, how can I be truly listening? So the art of a real conversation is when we take turns to converse our views and opinions. We take in what each person is saying and truly analyze it, not just from our perspective but mainly for the perspective of the speaker.

Books, Talks or Podcasts – the duration or pages matter

I listen to spiritual talks or podcasts regularly and I am an avid reader. Before, if you put a one hour or three hour talk for me, I could sit and listen and give my attention to it. Yes, my mind would drift now and then but I was able to concentrate for the most part. If you gave me a 1000 page book, I would be able to consume that. I love the longer talks and larger books because they give the necessary background that enhances the topic or concept discussed. The context that is added because time isn’t an issue allows the ideas/concepts to be clear and elucidated.

However, with the advent of social media, our concentration spans seem to be lessening day by day. We watch 10-30 second videos and call ourselves educated and informed. Before, it took us a decent 250-500 page book to be informed or a series of 2 hour talks but today, we don’t consider that necessary. When I listen to a 5 minute talk, I do not feel fulfilled at all or feel I have gained anything special. As easy as it was for my mind to concentrate on those 5 minutes, it was just as easy to let go of whatever I have learned in those 5 minutes. Without full context, we probably will not allow anything to become experiential.

I have recently felt that we must be very clear with our language, we should minimize our words only to maximize the understanding. But it doesn’t matter how long we talk for, or how much we write, it is about the clarity of the message. For anything to be clear, we need to explain it fully. For anyone to understand our views, we need to literally spell out how we got there.

Research – What is that again?

Today, our research is ‘Google it’ instead of let’s read or learn about it from experts in that field. For me, research is about getting a few or more books to understand any topic completely.

Nowadays, we read a few articles and suddenly, we find people on social media pretending to be experts on the matter. You will probably find a few social media influencers who will talk about mental health but have minimal understanding about what it is or have not gone through any mental health issues. Those people that have studied it, got degrees and are well-versed on the whole topic, they are not even consulted when these influencers share their ‘tidbits of wisdom’. This can be applied to any subject today. It is just a matter of reading a few articles and now we are completely enlightened on that subject. Who has time today to read a few books? Unfortunately, we think that these articles alone are enough to feel informed but this is not enhancing humanity at all, in fact, it is to the detriment to the community around us. I noticed this within myself and that is when I realized something is not right. We should be informed through a variety of mediums, like books, articles, research studies, and talk. Information overload is better than information minimization. Ignorance is certainly not bliss.

What to do next?

I have now started to read more books and listen to longer talks. I am constantly looking at how to increase my concentration, not just the longevity but also the intensity too. This requires work and effort. When someone is speaking, I need to learn to keep quiet and listen without interruption from my side. When I am reading a book, I must read a few pages without looking at my phone to increase my concentration and focus. Listening to a long talk on any subject, and reflecting on what is being said completely. Listen to panel discussions and the variety of opinions and thoughts.

A lot must be done to reclaim our focus and concentration, to become informed of a subject and most of all to have real conversations. Frankly, I must take the time to efficiently know something. In fact, efficiency is not about lessening the time to know something, efficiency is about increasing the quality of information and discussing valuable insights with others when necessary.

The 4 Ways of a Spiritual Seeker

For the casual spiritual aspirant, where a few hours a week is dedicated to the Spiritual Path, then a spiritual organization is very necessary. It helps them with a framework that they can use to have a sense of purpose, to have the benefits (and pitfalls) of belief or faith, to remain dependent on an outside agency (like a deity, God, or Gurus) to help guide when errors or mistakes are made.

For the more serious spiritual seeker, that actively practices and settles at nothing but the highest attainment of moksha (liberation) then the path of the Mystics is important. The function of an organization, centered on an individual or a group becomes a massive hindrance along the way. Therefore, this seeker must carve their own path.

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Non-Dependency

A casual aspirant will not benefit from non-dependency, but the serious seeker will benefit the most. The seeker doesn’t depend on their own experience nor the experience of others. All experiences are fleeting and this whole world is transient. They understand that nobody can guarantee anything without one’s own effort. The spiritual aspirant, with their few hours will depend on the good graces of the philosophy, ideology, group or figurehead and will always dance according to that tune. It is even alluring that you do nothing but grace is given. Now, the spiritual seeker cannot understand why we should depend on that grace alone. When we have to get rid of duality, then why add more to that duality with the other? It is better to focus on the One alone and upon our own effort. No need for anything else. Yes, right now for the seeker, duality feels real but they understand that what feels real is actually transient. I don’t like to use the word ‘false’ because this world is beautiful and isn’t wrong or a mistake. In every quark, there is the essence of the most beautiful yet, Formless Ultimate Reality.

The seeker instead goes up the levels of reality, where they see their life and everything connected to it as a transactional reality and they are not to depend on any transaction. They are to work through these levels of reality until they reach that Reality where there is no difference, no separateness and is a complete, perfect Oneness. In fact, if the serious seeker does depend on anything then it is the Formless Ultimate Reality or the Self alone.

Philosophy or Ideology

For the sake of this discussion, when I mention philosophy, I am containing both philosophy and ideology in this. For the serious spiritual seeker, they cannot do with a fixed philosophy that someone else has developed. They always seek to deepen any existing philosophy or look to develop their own. Their efforts and their experiences leads to a higher state of being where they start noticing the ‘devils in the details’ and cannot adhere to such conventional thinking. They then choose to transcend those details and conventions much to the disappointment of the group that they belong to. The group of casual spiritual aspirants or the figurehead may look at the philosophy as a great template from afar. But even the genuine figurehead knows the conventional wisdom template needs to be erased and written with the seeker’s own wisdom, therefore, they truly give that seeker the freedom to develop. This has always been done and the reason why we have Mystics like Rumi and Kabir.

As much as a philosophy is a great starting point, it is not the means and it is not the end. The seeker recognizes this and moves forward. They spend time analyzing every philosophy, their own thoughts and continue to evolve. This is why I admire Hinduism as a religion for its amazing diversity of philosophy – you can be a theist, an atheist, an agnostic and still be called a Hindu. You can even reject Hinduism and that is still a very Hindu thing to do! The Buddha rejected the Vedas and is still considered an avatar! For the Hindu sees evolution and celebrates it. For this reason, Hinduism has created a strong philosophy called Advaita Vedanta, which is now being considered as aligning with Science on the basis that reality is non-duality or a unified field. What the mystics found within, scientists are finding with their equations and formulas. Hindus accept that philosophy is not meant to stick around but it is meant to be molded and created into something new. In fact, each individual is a religion in their own self. For this reason, there is neither dependency nor one single philosophy. The seeker must find their own.

Universal Mindset

Even though, a group may claim that they have a universal approach to spirituality, you will find a nuance in their thinking. Only their approach is universal, anything else is not universal. What is really funny is that most spiritual organizations claim the monopoly of having the only way. They are the chosen ones with the Chosen One to lead. They have been picked out of the billions for this sacred journey that they dip their toes in once in a while.

Even though, they may claim to be open-minded, but anything that is different to the Group’s philosophy is rejected and considered to be false unanimously by everyone. Like I mentioned, whenever we start to think that we have a better path than everyone else, we automatically close our minds to the universality of wisdom. The wisdom that we start to associate with becomes incredibly narrow and is never the focal point anymore. Hence, we start worshipping one god, guru or group only and cannot go beyond that scope.

To be truly open minded is to transcend all associations to an organization. Yes, we can belong to a group but we should never feel alpha about our group compared to others. We should have the humility to see the similarities and bond over that. Where there are differences, we should accept them as someone else’s journey and findings that are just as valid. Then again, I expect only a serious seeker to understand this and be able to differentiate on whether a difference in philosophy is based on experience or mere tradition. The more casual aspirant will want to stick to their way because it is the best way and the only way. It is comforting but not ego transcending.

Convenience

We can get too comfortable and start becoming lazy with our spiritual journey. Whenever dependency arises, the sense of comfort sweeps in and imprisons us. The spiritual seeker is not spiritual for their own convenience or comfort. They seek to disturb the current worldview that they hold. They look to dissect their ego to what it really is and to check if the ego actually exists! Spirituality in the truest sense is an inconvenient Truth. It doesn’t care about your feelings, your thoughts, your intentions, or what you want reality to be. It shows you reality and then you have to learn to deal with it and work accordingly to It.

When the spiritual aspirant get comfortable and lazy, we prefer to do the easy things that gives us the cloak of doing something spiritual. It helps our ego to think we are doing something towards seeking a Higher Reality. It fools us. It puts us in shackles and gives us the illusion that we are reaching great progress. Therefore, it is important to check if we are settling in the Ultimate Reality or are we settling in our ego that we have fashioned into some God or Higher Being.

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The Possible Dissonance

There are some serious spiritual seekers that function within an organization/group and may also follow a figurehead. There may even be a deep reverence for the group and the figurehead and will share the collective teachings according to their understanding or findings. However, there will be a marked difference and that is they follow what is right according to their own being. They will not simply accept any idea, thought or action and they may even challenge anything that they disagree with. It is then dependent on the group or the figurehead if they want such a person. They may find that such dissonance is not welcome and it is with that understanding that I go back to the central idea that within each one of us is a religion waiting to be born.

Be a Spiritual Seeker

What you want to be is truly up to you. But if you want to enter spirituality, then there has to be a seriousness to it. I do believe that being a serious spiritual seeker is super fun and is a thrilling journey like no other but I can see how it isn’t for everyone. For some, the minimal effort is all they can do and they have other priorities which is fine. For them, a framework set by another, whether an organization or figurehead, does suit them and their lifestyle so why go further? It does help them at least live a good and moral life.

For the more serious spiritual seekers that understand that Liberation or Moksha is the ‘end’, they need to put some serious work. This spiritual work has to be done all on their own, after they have exhausted the help of others and all philosophy. This path is less traveled and no compass, no GPS can help because the GPS will always re-route you back to where you are and the compass will always point back to you.

Readiness for the Truth

There are times when I feel I am going round and round in circles for the Truth. Despite knowing how near It is, how close It is, I still feel like I haven’t got there. It is like the nervousness one feels in the stomach before you arrive at some destination that you were travelling to. Even if it is a place you go regularly, there is always a nervous feeling.

I often wonder on days when I feel that I am going round in circles about what more do I need? Do I even need to do anything more? Why can’t I just get it? What makes others so convinced but yet their arguments or their findings don’t resonate with mine? Am I just not ready for the Truth? How can I get ready for it? How can I be best prepared for it?

I don’t know if there is an answer. If you have one then please do share it with me. All I know is that the Truth feels so close, yet so far at the same time. Sometimes I feel I have grasped it and sometimes it sifts through like sand in my clenched hand.

I wonder whether it is the feeling that I am eternal that has become the hindrance. You know, nothing ever dies and that energy simply transfers. Or I would get another opportunity in my next life. At times, knowing all that isn’t enough for me and I begin searching again.

Is it that I think too much or am I not focussing on this Truth enough? Am I not enquiring into who I am enough? Do I need to make it a do or die type of event? I simply don’t know but somehow I feel I have to do this all alone. Nobody can take me there, they can get me to do the door and they can even open it. It is I that has got to walk through and the Truth is such that nobody can push you through to It either, it requires your own admission.

Distractions

Life is an incredible experience when one is grounded in the present moment. When each moment is lived fully, when we approach the moment with absolute vitality, life becomes extraordinary. Even what would be considered an ordinary experience like taking a walk, brushing your teeth, taking a shower can be seen as extraordinary, it just depends on how present we are, how invested we are into that one moment.

It feels like the whole point of spirituality rests on a single moment. Everything leads to that single moment, and that moment becomes eternity.

However, the biggest problem today is distractions from actually living. It seems like if we have a day doing nothing, then it has gone to waste. In the drive to create experiences, sometimes we forget that we are alive in this moment. As we bend our necks to stare at our phones, swiping all over the screen and we sometimes forget that our world can be right in front of us, our family members, our friends and colleagues. We distract ourselves from life so easily . I wonder if we were on our deathbed, I question whether we would place value on the time we spent mindlessly on our phones than spending another moment with our loved ones.

For me, my main purpose in life is to live in the Truth. I am not there yet, and have quite a journey to travel! However, anything that I do that is not in pursuit of this is a distraction. Anything linked to this pursuit is not a distraction. For example, my day job is necessary for me to pay my bills, to live comfortably therefore, it is helping my pursuit towards that. This means that instead of thinking of how I will get my next meal, I can focus on living moment to moment in awareness of the Truth or to seek knowledge about the Truth.

Therefore, it is best to keep our minds away from distractions if we want to live a spiritual life or live a life based on the Eternal Truth. If we want to live mindfully, if we want to live moment to moment then distractions must be kept at a minimum. Otherwise, who are we fooling other than ourselves when we claim we want to live a more spiritual-based life.

Toxic Positivity

Can positivity ever be considered negative? Simple answer is YES! I know, wait a second, let’s understand what I have just answered. Am I saying that it can be negative to be positive? Yes, I am exactly saying that. What are my reasons? Well, let’s dwell on this.

Have you ever faced a time in your life where you feel sad? Or you are going through a traumatic time with an illness? Or you feel trapped in a relationship? Just had a break up? Lost your job and been out of work for months? Got bad grades? You decide to tell somebody about it because you want to be listened to, you want to be heard. What is the response? You may have had the following responses:

  • There must be something good in your life?
  • Don’t worry, you will get better, be positive.
  • Be positive, at least you are in a relationship.
  • Look, there are more guys/girls out there.
  • Don’t worry, you will find a new job, stay positive and keep applying.
  • You can ace the next exam, be positive and keep working hard.

I know that I have said the above to people in the past and it is only recently, that I realized that maybe I am not being helpful to people when I say such things. Okay, I may not be in the ‘stay positive’ or ‘positive vibes only’ crowd but I am guilty for sometimes saying something uplifting when someone only wants to talk. They just want me to listen to them deeply, without judging, without thinking about what to say, just being absolutely present with them.

The most powerful responses I have ever received have come from people who stay quiet for a good, few minutes and then they offer some advice or sometimes they just give me a hug. Sometimes, that is all we need or someone else needs. We don’t have to coat our every advice with positive statements or affirmations, we can sometimes just state things as they are and deal with it as it is. We can advice according to the situation and work out together how best to deal with the situation.

The toxic positivity crowd has grown with social media. We now have social media personalities who spew out how positivity is everything and if you aren’t having a good life, it is because you are not positive enough. They talk big but life shows that it delivers flatly. Trust me, I have read my fair share of self-help books, followed self-help gurus on social media, followed their advice somewhat and realized I haven’t been helped at all. Everything I am doing is based on my circumstances and my analysis of my circumstances. I take time to look at what I am going through and meditate on what the best response is. Yes, it may not be the approach of anyone that wants fast results but sometimes, being slow and steady helps us to address the problem or issue fully. It is best if you allow that feeling of positivity to arise within you naturally.

Sometimes, we are told that we aren’t grateful enough and that gratitude is the best attitude. But if I am feeling stressed, I am not going to be grateful for anything else. Am I to be grateful for my stress? How does that make any sense? So this is what it goes back to, we have to face what we are dealing with and really look into it. See the root of it and observe the root of it. We need to spend time on what disturbs us, and then we can direct our minds to find ways out of it. We need to allow each thought, positive or negative, to flower completely, to travel with the thought so it can express itself completely. If we end up cutting that thought short, we may be repressing emotions or thoughts that may lead to a greater sadness or depression later on.

Tomorrow, you may listen to some positive thought and it helps you tremendously. And a few days later, you face a situation and to overcome it, you use that same positive thought and it doesn’t help anymore. Don’t ever put yourself down if that positive thought isn’t working. Whatever you are going through has become bigger than that positive thought. Life gives us situations so that we evolve, so we see the deeper truths of life and if we mask it with positivity, it is still a veil. Therefore, find new ways of dealing with issues or problems, most of all, try to understand the problem.

What I want to emphasize is that if you feel sad, I am here to look at the sadness with you. If you are happy, I am here to look at the happiness with you. Whatever you are feeling, whatever you are going through, I am here to go through it with you.

I believe we should look at our thoughts and our emotions as they are and deal with them as they are. Yes, some thoughts will be painful to look into but sometimes it is that looking, that observing that helps us to drop that thought. This is what has helped me in my life.

Motivational quotes and sayings may be nice to look at and nice to hear but do they transform us? Do they really make you get up to conquer the world? How about we aim more locally and look to conquer our minds. This can only be done, if we spend time and go through the process with our undivided attention.

Whirling into Stillness

When we are looking for stability in our spiritual journey, the example of a sufi whirling comes to mind. I used to do the sufi whirling meditation and I remember the times when I would be whirling and feel an incredible sense of stillness, of absolute stability within my mind.

Those few moments of an empty mind was enough to convince me that meditation is the way forward if we want to have stability. In the midst of movement, of the daily hustle and bustle, I was to function from that stillness. However, to stabilize in this practice, you need to do it diligently everyday, otherwise it is was very easy to lose such progress.

Nourishing an element of inner awareness is the simplest thing to do but the most difficult to maintain. Hence, true spiritual attainment is available only for the few that are willing to give their all to the practice.

A Traveling Thought

The presence of a thought appeared this morning, 
Fresh and crisp as if it was ironed out completely, 
I wonder how this thought came into my psyche, 
When the thought went away, I was in mourning. 

This thought appeared initially dusty and worn, 
As if lying somewhere completely old and withdrawn, 
It was from the dark mind of insidious scorn, 
Today the mind decided it was to be re-born. 

So back to the same old thought I travelled again,  
On this trip I went on the journey with the thought, 
And then I came to clarity in a flash of zazen, 
Stillness and stability of mind that I finally caught. 

Elevate your Self

Following from yesterday’s post, I wanted to continue with discussing Allama Iqbal’s poetry, specifically from the poem ‘Dayar-e-Ishq’.

Khudhi Ko Ker Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle
Khuda Bande Se Khud Pochay Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai
Elevate your Self to such great heights that before issuing every decree of destiny, 
That God should ask you, 'Tell me, what is your wish?' 

Here Iqbal is really instructing his son on what to do. The best thing to do in life is to elevate your Self. What is this Self? Who is it? Where does this Self reside? In the some of the Upanishads, they didn’t see the soul and God as two different things but called it the Self, obviously with the capital ‘S’. This was to make us, the listener/reader understand that the true Self is not our ego but the limitless, indivisible, formless existence that witnesses through our senses. Here Iqbal is referring to this true Self. Before I go on, I want to make sure that I clarify what I term as the ego in a quick sentence. The ego is the accumulation of everything that I think is ‘me’ like ‘I am my body’, ‘I am my mind’ or anything subject to change, decay or death. As I have established what the ego is and what the true Self is, the poem further expresses to reach great heights. There is nothing higher than living an awakened life that is in awareness of our true Self.

In fact, here Iqbal really sets an interesting tone that by reaching such great heights that whenever destiny has to be written, or shall we say the results of our karma is to be issued, that God has to ask us what our wish is, what our desire is, what will satisfy us. It’s such delicate poetry that it can be interpreted in many ways. From the point of view that I look at it from, is that once there is oneness with the Formless, then you are literally writing your destiny. This isn’t some new-agey nonsense that whatever you wish for will be manifested. As you are the Self, the Formless, you will be honest in the result of your own karma. Also, anyone who reaches such great heights, most likely will not make mistakes. But sometimes, we do make subtle mistakes and an elevated Self will notice this and will be fair in its outcome.

This line just stood out to me because it contains oneness with one Self – which is the same as oneness with God. How many of us can attain to such heights? Who knows? But one sure thing is that we need to practice. Simply saying nice words, thinking nice thoughts will never be enough but sincere concentration and meditation on the Formless will elevate us. We can do it and it all depends on how important it is for us to reach that life-transforming moment.