A spiritual life reduces neediness for wealth, material possessions and external validation. As inner contentment grows, we move towards a simpler way of living. We discover fulfilment has nothing to do with what we have – it’s all about who we are.
Consuming less, we waste less. It becomes a virtuous circle: As we begin to live more sustainably, cherishing the earth and respecting all forms of life, we harmonize with the world around us and stop hankering after external props.
A sort of personal environmental impact assessment reveals that, with thoughtfulness and planning, we can choose a new way of living and start “walking the talk”. Be assured that, cumulatively, lots of small steps add up to a major contribution to shifting the current prevalence of overconsumption and waste of resources: If many of us join in the effort, we reach critical mass.
Some practical steps:
Adopt a vegetarian – or, even better, a vegan, diet. Enjoy the flavours, variety and richness of what the plant world has to offer, and be creative – it’s a journey of discovery. If going vegan, beware the pitfalls; for example, soya may have been produced unsustainably.
Buy locally produced, seasonal foods to reduce your carbon footprint. Look for organic to avoid the damaging impact of industrial agriculture. Choose fresh and unprocessed to limit the chemical additives in your diet, boost your health and get that glow!
Avoid waste as much as you can. Globally, up to a third of food is wasted through poor transport or storage, overzealous application of “best before” rules, and consumer carelessness.
Conserve water. The UN Environment Programme estimates that, by 2025, two out of three people in the world will live in water-stressed areas. Among our most precious resources, fresh water is under immense pressure from over-exploitation and pollution.
Buy sustainable clothing. The production of textiles and clothing has become increasingly unsustainable with the growth of “fast fashion.” By informing yourself, buying mindfully, and re-/up-cycling the clothes you already have, you can make a difference.
Give “disposable” a wide berth. One estimate is that, by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the seas. Plastic particles have reached the deepest oceans, and they are inside our bodies. Take your own cloth or net bags to the shops and refuse plastic; buy a reusable cup for takeout drinks; use your purchasing power to push for change in product packaging. Glass can be recycled endlessly; many plastics are harder to recycle.
Feed the soul. The capacity to be true to our principles comes from regular meditation. Withdrawing to our inner space of silence and peace, we reconnect with God, gaining the wisdom and strength to face challenges and effect change.
And pass the message on: Educate children and encourage them to join in; reach out to family and friends; join local campaigns to make a difference. It all adds up.
Sylvia Ismail is a writer and editor with a background in public affairs, radio broadcasting and journalism.
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Kashmiri ASHA worker serves as inspiration by donating blood 28 times
A 32-year-old woman named Bilqees Ara, an ASHA worker, has donated blood 28 times since 2012. She has served as an inspiration to others across the nation.
Bilqees, who is from the Handwara Tehsil in the Kupwara area of North Kashmir, stated that she understands the “importance of blood”.
She said that by donating a pint of blood, she not only saves a precious life but an entire family.
She began donating blood in 2012 and has since given 28 pints.
She expressed her gratitude and pride at being the saviour of so many patients in the Kashmir valley.
I’ve seen people cry helplessly as they try to get blood to save their loved ones, but I’m proud of myself because I’ve arranged blood for them as well. “I felt an inner joy after that,” she said.
In Kashmir, she is known as the “Blood Woman of Kashmir”.
She is a registered blood donor. Whenever a need arises, the officials at the Blood Bank at Handwara hospital call her and, within the shortest span of time, she makes herself available to donate blood.
Women should come forward and do this as there is nothing to be afraid of. This is to be done for society, she said. She also said that she wondered who else would do it if she refused.
If a person has blood and courage, why can’t he give it to someone else in a time of need? She asked.
Balance is key to harmonious relationships
Two intelligent people always fight. There will always be conflict between them because each thinks he is better than the other. However, if there is one wise person and one intelligent person, there will be no conflict because a wise person understands the importance of humility and is prepared to bow before others, honouring the other person’s virtues.
This is why we are told in Rajyoga that if there are two masters in a home, there will always be quarrelling. What is the solution? If one person becomes the master, the other has to become a child. If there is a master and a child in a home, one will give the orders and the other will obey them. If both people are giving orders, who is there to obey them? That leads to problems. Two heads will quarrel with each other because both want their opinion to be accepted. Wisdom means surrendering for the sake of creating unity. This is not surrendering out of weakness but out of honour.
Sometimes family members want to discuss something. Each member gives an opinion, and each one seems to be strong in opinion. So how do you decide which opinion to adopt? While giving an opinion, you are a master. Fine – you do not need to suppress your opinions. We should never suppress our thinking. If you have an opinion or suggestion, speak out. Suppressing our intellect is a kind of spiritual suicide.
If I suppress thoughts that come to my mind, I will not grow spiritually. So, I do not need to suppress my thinking, but I also do not need to emphasise what I think should happen. When we offer our opinions, what do we do? We do not only give our opinions; we also want our opinions to be acted on. This is because we express them using the ego of the intellect, which thinks, “I am the best.”
If I am a wise person, I give my opinion when asked, and then when the majority decides, cooperate for the sake of the majority. This is common sense. If there are ten people involved, each person’s opinion cannot be acted upon. When we are wise, we find the balance between being a master and a child. When this balance is maintained, you will not have any problems because then you will get along with anyone without creating conflict. The wise person is able to interact with everyone without losing her own identity.
Having wisdom means to have both humility and also the authority of truth, ‘naram’ and ‘garam’. Only when I have both, can I be flexible. If I am only ‘garam’ I become too stiff, if I am only ‘naram’, then I become too fragile. I have both of these qualities within myself. God has given me this beautiful balance, to use in all my relations with others.
The late Dadi Janki was Administrative Head of the Brahma Kumaris.
Living in the now
Time, it is said, is money. Unlike money, however, lost time cannot be recovered, and in this respect, it is more valuable than money. However, a lot of people forget this and waste their time dwelling on the past or dreaming of the future.
While they are doing this, they are disconnected from the present, unaware of the passage of time and even of the things that are happening around them. This experience can leave us tired, depressed or angry if we have been thinking about something that caused a lot of hurt or was otherwise emotionally intense.
We suffer the same loss of time and energy when we worry or dream about the future. It is one thing to make plans, whereby we think of the steps we need to take to accomplish a task or cope with likely developments. But worrying, which usually involves thinking about how things might go wrong, does not help. Fear and doubt cause worry, and the result is anxiety and a feeling of helplessness, both created by imaginary situations we have dreamed up.
At the other end of the spectrum, we might fly high, riding dreams of imagined successes, until sobering reality brings us back to the present.
In all these cases precious time is lost in the present.
The past cannot be changed, and we cannot undo our misfortunes by repeatedly thinking about them. The best we can do is to identify any mistakes that were made and learn from them so that they are not repeated.
Similarly, planning is worthwhile only if the plans are acted upon. If I plan to have enough savings to buy a house, and work out all the details about how it will be painted, furnished and decorated, but never start saving money, then owning a house will remain a dream for me.
The present is the vantage point from where I can see the past and visualise the future. But my life will not move forward if I just stand there watching. I need to start acting while keeping in mind both, lessons from the past and my future goals.
There are several ways in which we can loosen the hold of the past on the mind. Whatever past event we focus on, we may need to express the feelings associated with the event, whether good or bad, before we can move on. Releasing pent up emotions can help us let go of the past and focus on the present. For this we can talk to a friend, family member or counsellor. Alternatively, we can try writing down our feelings about the past.
Even if we are dwelling on good memories, it can cause us to lose connection with the present. We may be romanticizing the past or longing for things to be the way they were, instead of focusing on how to improve our present life.
If expressing our feelings about the past does not help, we can focus on happy things. Since we cannot change the past, and it is pointless to worry about the future, it is better not to dwell on them. Instead, we can think about happy things happening in the present.
Another useful approach is to forgive and forget. Blaming others for past hurts can spoil the present. Instead of dwelling on who has caused us pain, we need to forgive them, focus on present events and leave behind any blame or hurt we feel. Festering in the pain does not change the person who hurt us and it will cause us to stay in the past.
One of the most powerful tools for remaining focused on the positive and the present is meditation. Spending time in quiet reflection and silence, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, enables us to come back to a centred place of being. With the pace of modern life growing ever faster, we are losing touch with our true inner peace and power. When we no longer feel grounded, we can experience ourselves pushed and pulled in different directions.
Meditation is a state of being in that place just beyond everyday consciousness, which is where spiritual empowerment begins. Spiritual awareness gives us the power to choose good and positive thoughts over those that are negative and wasteful. We start to recognise harmful patterns of thinking and behaviour and begin to avoid them, and develop the ability to steer our mind and focus it where we want. All of this gradually frees us from bondage to the past and fear of what lies ahead, enabling us to make the best use of the present to create a happy future.
B.K. Usha is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.
When we begin to answer the call for spiritual growth, we may search for a long time, looking for the path that resonates with us. Once we have found what we are looking for, the real journey begins.
It is like climbing a mountain. Not daunted in any way, but with delight, enthusiasm, excitement and courage. We often take along a lot more than we really need for the journey. Backpacks filled with attachments, old memories and ideas, and too much equipment that we think we might need. We start at the gentle slopes of the mountain, exhilarated, but carrying too much from the past. However, the spring in our step sends us onwards.
As we move slowly upwards, we appreciate how little we really need, and many of the items in the backpack are happily discarded and we begin to move more freely and with confidence. There is even time to look around and notice the other mountaineers. One mistake at this point is to start comparing our ascent with that of others. Spiritual mountaineers are not climbing the same mountain. Each one is climbing their own mountain. Each mountain is part of an immense and beautiful mountain range. Some mountains are higher than others, but to each mountaineer – the summit is the summit. The beauty of that is that climbers on other mountains can look over to us and wave encouragement, or signal something up ahead. This is because they have a different viewpoint, and if they have moved further upwards on their own mountain, they can see what lies ahead on ours. We can also do the same for others, but only I can climb my mountain.
Climbing mountains is not for the fainthearted. As we get higher, the atmosphere changes, weather conditions are often unstable, and sometimes there are storms that may turn out to be too strong for us. If that should happen, and we hurt ourselves, then we need to rest, find some kind of shelter to deal with any injuries, and regain our strength. We cannot fall off the mountain – it is ours, but we may delay the rise to the summit. However, once rested and with our goal in mind, we can set off again with even more zeal and enthusiasm, yet now with much more wisdom. The most important thing then is to never look back or look down. That part of the ascent is gone, so now, onwards and upwards!
We will know when we are getting close to the summit. The air is so pure and the breeze so refreshing. The storms are way below, and the view is spectacular. There is still need for wisdom and caution because we are not there yet, but only close to the top of the mountain will we find a deep sustaining silence and power, which brings lightness and a kind of bliss.
There is only one guide on this expedition. The ascent is spiritual, so the Guide must also be spiritual. The Guide is full of love and understanding and all I need to do is keep Him in mind at each step. He is always with me, but He has no need to climb. If I consult Him daily and listen to his advice and most importantly, follow it, I will reach the summit safely. I will need to spend time in silence and contemplation during each day’s climb to understand the advice and call upon Him at times of challenge. What a wonderful way to spend a lifetime; reaching the height of all I can be with the companionship of the One Divine Being. Once I reach those heights, I will feel like, and be, the king of my mountain.
Jane Kay is a university teaching fellow in the UK, and a Rajyoga teacher.
Meditation is the most relevant time-management tool: Kamlesh
Kamlesh Patel, lovingly known as Daaji, is the fourth global teacher of ‘Heartfulness’, a simple set of heart-focused meditation practices to suit the busy lifestyle of today. Born in Gujarat, India, Kamlesh D. Patel showed an early interest in meditation and spiritual growth.
In an exclusive conversation with The Daily Guardian, Kamlesh explains why meditation is necessary for everyone leading a stressful life today and how to do it.
Q: What is Heartfulness Meditation and how did it originate? Is it affiliated with any religion or spiritual practice?
A: When we manage to tune into our feelings and capture the inspirations that come from our heart, making them the guiding source of our decisions, it is called “listening to the voice of the heart”. This kind of shifting from analytical thinking to deeper levels of feeling, intuition, and consciousness is possible through meditation on the heart, known as Heartfulness Meditation.
Q: How does one start Heartfulness Meditation?
A: One can begin meditation with a Heartfulness trainer one-on-one.
Q: With a basket of wellness programmes already available, why should one choose Heartfulness Meditation?
A: The process of Heartfulness Meditation has its foundation in the heart, where feelings and emotions reside. The unique aspect of Heartfulness is to meditate with the aid of yogic transmission, or Pranahuti, and such training is imparted by the Heartfulness Guide or trainers. Meditating on the heart improves emotional intelligence, sensitivity, and intuition.
Another distinguishing aspect of Heartfulness is the rejuvenation technique called cleaning, which removes emotional baggage of the past. Heartfulness Cleaning addresses emotions such as discontentment, restlessness, anxiety, anger, fear, confusion, and negativity, helping you feel light and rejuvenated.
Q: How long does one need to practice Heartfulness Meditation to feel the effect?
A: For some people, the first meditation session is a game changer; they feel the effect and are able to tell the difference immediately. But, of course, like any other practice, one has to try it regularly and sincerely for a period of 6 to 12 weeks to observe specific visible changes in their inner and outer environment. For example, only when you work out regularly for a couple of months in the gym can you see changes in your body. A mind or heart gym is no different.
Q: In today’s hectic lifestyle, how can we find the time to meditate?
A: Especially when we believe we don’t have time to meditate, we need to meditate more and more.
Meditation is the most important and relevant time-management tool in our lives. It helps us regulate our emotions. After all, what is time management if not emotional management? We need physical energy to do things, but, more importantly, we need mental and emotional resilience to manage multiple things in life. Meditating for an hour every morning helps us stay focused, align our priorities, and become emotionally resilient. That is the secret to time management. So, ‘hectic’ does not exist in our lifestyle; meditation does.
Q: Is there any fee or donation required to learn or practice Heartfulness?
A: All good things are available bountifully in nature and are free of cost. Do we pay for clean air, water, and love? Meditation is one of the noblest way to create peace. It is free of cost—a tradition that Heartfulness will always continue. Today, Heartfulness has spread to 160 countries.
Q: Does practicing Heartfulness require us to change our lifestyle? Is it compatible with normal family and work life?
A: Heartfulness changes our life for the better. We do not have to change anything. It helps us mold our lives to become the best version of ourselves that we can be. It helps us balance and regulate our lifestyle.
Q: Does Heartfulness work on medical ailments? If yes, which ones?
A: Recent research and work done by the Heartfulness Institute have proven that Heartfulness Meditation alleviates burnout and is extremely effective in increasing productivity, emotional wellness, and even telomere length, as published in a recent study.
Interviewed by Communication Professional Madhuri Shukla
Our fears are our crutches
Whenever great teachers have appeared in the world, they have been ridiculed, mocked, often punished, tortured, excommunicated, or even killed. They have shocked people, broken tradition and had their voices repeatedly silenced by rigid believers not ready to accept their words. It is ironic that since humans have learned to think, those in powerful positions have suppressed the voice of reason. Often, people are not ready to take the shock of being told that what they believe is not the truth. There is a beautiful story that illustrates this.
Hidden in the mountains, there was a strange village that had had no contact with the outside world for centuries. In the village, everybody used to walk with crutches. They all had beautiful crutches. They danced and farmed using their crutches. The carpenters there were the richest. They had made an industry of building crutches of all designs, shapes, and sizes. People even gave names to their crutches and worshipped those left behind by the departed ones. As soon as children turned one year old, they would be put on crutches and trained to walk with them.
One day, it so happened that a young man hobbled up to the village square in his crutches and proclaimed excitedly that crutches were not required, and that people could walk without them. He was instantly ridiculed and humiliated. He was scoffed at and laughed at. People started avoiding him and thought that he was a nutcase. They ordered him to get out of the village and not disturb their peaceful existence.
Desperate to prove his case, he asked for a week to prove his case and announced that the next Sunday he would walk without his crutches in the main village square. Everyone was curious and wanted to see this man do what he had preposterously claimed. So, the next Sunday, the whole village came out to the square to watch what would happen as they leaned on their trusty crutches.
The young man came and stood in the centre of the square. There was a pin-drop silence. A curious child craned her neck to watch as the young man nervously dropped one crutch-and a horrified whisper went around the whole square. And then, with great difficulty, the man raised his second crutch and stood swaying. The stunned crowd stood mesmerised, as time stopped for a moment, before they saw the man totter and fall.
The roar of scornful laughter was deafening. No one came up to help the youth, as the laughing and jeering crowd dispersed in a clatter of their ornate crutches. They said to each other, “See, we were right. We knew that he was a mad fellow. It is impossible to move without crutches.”
But, for a brief moment, the quiet girl frowned, and quickly, without being seen, lifted both crutches an inch off the ground.
Most people are walking around on invisible crutches.
Great teachers come to assure us that we can walk without crutches. Often, they too falter, but they remain unafraid. They may fall after they have dropped their crutches, but they persevere so that someday, someone, whose mind has been opened up, will try to walk without crutches.
All our fears are our crutches. How many crutches do we carry? Fear of being rejected, of being left alone, of being abandoned, of dying in pain.
It is we who have to get rid of our crutches. How will we get rid of them? By becoming aware of them.
As soon as we become aware of them, they will drop away. We are usually afraid of what we don’t know.
Often, we aren’t afraid of falling but of getting hurt when we hit the ground. To save ourselves from pain and distress, we take all kinds of safety precautions.
To prevent getting hurt, we want to avoid a fall, so we grab and hold on to crutches.
All that we believe in makes us who we are.
Captain Deepam Chatterjee (Retired) has recently written The Millennial Yogi published by Penguin Random House India.
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