Thoughts

The Power of People

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This could have been a post about how powerful we are as voters and consumers. How we have the power to put pressure on governments, correct injustices and dictate higher ethics. How we must never forget this power and how we should step up our game. Because we are and we do and we really should.

However, it’s about meeting people.

In our very small and very globalized world, we are constantly interacting with all different kinds of people in all different kinds of situations. Sometimes it’s a challenge, often it’s enriching and if we’re lucky, rarely it sucks. No matter what, the potential influence we have on each others lives, is significant.

Some people kind of sneak up on us and it can take years before we realize the effect they have had on our lives. Others almost instantaneously brings huge inspiration and our reality is forever changed.

The way I see it, we can either approach the whole thing as a matter of pure coincidence – or we can acknowledge each person we meet as a valuable teacher. A teacher who have the power to provoke or inspire us and potentially expand our horizon and change our perspective – continuously fine tuning how we meet the world. And most importantly of all, a teacher whom we need to work together with in order to get as much from the situation as we possibly can. If we just sit back and wait for the epiphany to hit us, it really won’t be the same.

When I think of all the people who have passed through my life, some just as a brief visit and others on a more long-term basis, I feel so lucky. Their influence on my life has been enormous and I see each and every one of them as beautiful blessings.

All around the world, these people are shining stars, lighting up the planet with their uniqueness and my heart is full of love for all of them.

… Obviously some more than others but still…

Through the Eyes of Someone Else

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Too often we go through our day, not completely convinced that what we are doing is enough, too aware of our own inadequacy.

Too often we let ourselves – and each other – know, that we are not entirely satisfied, that we are the cause of disappointment, the source of frustration.

We strive to do better and be better and we gradually create a person and a life to be proud of. But every time we listen to that voice of disapproval, something is broken.

And then once in a while we see ourselves through the eyes of someone else. Someone who sees something pure and beautiful and perfect.

And if we are conscious enough to  notice the remarkable effect, maybe we can accept it as the truth.

And maybe we can try to remember the power we have to create something beautiful. Remember that every time we direct our attention towards each others positive qualities, we create happiness and we help rebuild what was torn down.

And maybe we can show ourselves just a little more compassion – because most of the time, we are doing pretty well.

Contemplating Impermanence

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Facing the challenges of letting go of the past while being immersed in Buddhist wisdom naturally inspires some elaborate thinking..

Why are we holding on – and what exactly is it we’re holding on to? To the illusion of belonging somewhere or with someone? To a false sense of identity? To some pseudo security in our own ability to control anything? Well, all of the above probably.

But doesn’t it seem just a bit silly when we know (at least if we really think about it and are honest to ourselves) that it’s pointless, that it brings us only stress and sorrows and that it stands in our way of true freedom? Yes, that was a rhetorical question because the answer is obviously “DUH!”

So why is it so freaking hard?! I mean, everything is changing all the time. And so it should. Imagine a world gone completely stale and moldy and, even worse, predictable. Yuck!

So better learn to embrace change, to be safe in change.

I’m actually not a complete beginner in this area but still the layers keep peeling and the complexity of the challenge increases and I find myself trying harder. To comprehend and integrate. Reassess and proceed.

Okay, so how does it work.. Like, really work… I guess first of all, I need more self observance. And then every time I notice attachment, I let go. Easy, right? Apparently, not really. I’ve come to the realization that I need to dig deeper, to get to the bottom of this letting go business. Not just mentally understand it or grasp the general idea of it. I’m talking about fully embracing the nature of impermanence.

I feel pretty certain that this task is not something I’ll be able to complete rapidly and I also suspect that I would do better with a teacher.. I must admit, right now I have a strong urge to shave my head and join the nunnery, fully commit to the process. I’ll start with the less extreme approach though and see how that goes.

And so I’m contemplating impermanence.

Who Is Your Guru?

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It seems there’s a rule for one’s journey to India; you need a guru.
As mentioned before, Rishikesh is a little too touristy for my likings and it leaves me a little annoyed when people are constantly referring to something their guru said. There seems to be an unreflected, uncritical and, in my honest opinion an unsettling tendency and willingness to blindly accept anything the guru says.

I see a lot of people walking around with this very characteristic smile of being in a happy bubble. But the bubble seems to be just that, a bubble. Not really grounded in anything and very easy to burst. When I talk to people, I see eyes full of insecurity and I hear words lacking the substance they gain when spoken from the heart.

A few days ago I’m sitting in a café. I had brought my computer and was in that lovely flow of reflecting and writing while enjoying my chai as well as the beautiful surroundings. Very content being in my little bubble of just me and the universe.

A guy asks if he can sit down at the table where I’m sitting and I say sure and return to my bubble. He then starts talking to me, asking me questions. I answer and once again turn my attention to what I was doing. There could have been no doubt that I was concentrated on something other than interacting with people around me. Again he speaks and a little frustrated but trying to be open and patient I focus on him, trying to figure out what it is that he wants. He asks me about my spiritual practice, what I know of the religions and when I answer he starts a lengthy monologue that seems to be directed towards some inner audience of his. After that he decides to explain Buddhism to me. He then throws himself into something about the eight limbs but is struggling after only two of them. And those two took a long time explaining. By then my patience is less impressive and so when he asks if I practice pranayama I almost give him a snooty answer that yes, I try to breathe regularly. I don’t, instead I tell him that I really want to get back to what I was doing. Me and my computer and my chai and the beautiful surroundings. He is clearly not happy with my decision but really has no choice but to accept. Since then, I’ve met him several times, we say hello but that’s it. I was then told that apparently he considers himself a guru and so he is trying to gather followers. He also keeps a blog for that purpose.
There’s another guru here who have already managed to get himself a heard. His name is Prem Baba and he’s not even Indian, he’s from Brazil. I would say he’s the gurustar of the village and several times I’ve been asked if I’m here for him, am I going there now, did I just come from there as if he is the obvious main reason for anyones visit to this area. So today I decided to go see this wonder of a Being, this messenger of the great universal truth. To say I went there with an open mind wouldn’t be completely accurate but I was determined to experience this as non-judgemental as I possibly could.

I leave my shoes outside and come into a big rectangular and bright room with huge windows facing the river. In the middle of the room there’s about 10 people sitting with different instruments on the floor and around them a couple of hundred people are sitting on pillows, all in different stages of devotional contemplation. They start playing and singing and it’s a sort of chanting, repeating the same theme over and over, building up the energy of the room as more and more people join in. I join in as well and the music is definitely nice and has an opening effect. A guy works his way around the room with a little tray holding a cup with some orange paste that he smears on everybody’s third eye and little sugar crystals that we get to suck on. Only I didn’t know what they were and so I kept them in my hands for the next hour an a half, making me very sticky.

After the chanting, the guru speaks. Or so does the recorded message because he’s not there himself. Instead there’s the chair (throne) where he would have been and on the chair is his picture which is the first in the room to get the orange smear from the guy with the tray. People around me are very affected by the whole thing, a girl sitting close to me is sobbing pretty much through the next hour and suddenly the guy with the tray breaks down and is loudly wailing for several minutes before he composes himself and continues the task at hand. The guru speaks very generally about uncovering the layers to ones true being – I didn’t disagree with anything he said but I must admit that I had expected something a little more substantial.

Afterwards more chanting and this time people let lose. Some plunges into ecstatic worship, raising their hands to the sky, swaying along with the music – and of course crying. I shift between closing my eyes and focusing on the essence of it all and looking around amazed by this weird phenomenon.

I’m glad that I went and experienced it and I liked the music – but I still don’t get why it gives people the kick it does and I don’t get the need to follow someone like this, even if that someone claims to be an enlightened guru.

Or maybe I do get it but I judge it. Maybe it irritates me that people in many cases are sheep who will gladly follow whoever will lead them. Or maybe it makes me sad to witness all the suffering that leaves people confused and so easy to control.
So who am I to judge other people’s journey, the choices they make and the gurus they follow? I guess when we are still searching, there is a period when we try on the insights of other people, we feel out the words of the masters to find something that resonates with our soul and we try to make sense out of the life we have known until now. And hopefully we succeed.
The day I got here I was having a conversation with a guy. We’re talking about spiritual beliefs and practice (it seems to be the favorite topic around here) and when he asks me if I have a guru, without really thinking about it I say “my heart is my guru”. I guess I’m at a point right now, where I don’t need all the words, I really don’t feel like sitting around being philosophical or discussing the mystery of life. It is what it is.

At least for now, my heart is my guru and I’m happy with that simplicity.

Monkeys and Cows and Tourists..

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– and mountains and sunshine…

Rishikesh is beautiful. The Ganges river has an amazing turquoise color and on each side the mountains are rising all lush and inviting. I have accepted the invitation and so tomorrow I’m going to go explore.

When I got here yesterday, the rickshaw dropped me off at a hotel. It was a nice place and my room had the most amazing view. But I wasn’t really feeling it so I went around the area and found another place – I don’t really have a view but the location is great and I only pay 300 INR as opposed to the other place where I had to pay 800 INR.

I didn’t realize how touristy this place would be. It is. On one hand that’s nice because I don’t stand out as much but at the same time it really turns me off. White western people walking around in their hippie outfits saying namaste to everyone they meet. I mean, come on now.. Yesterday when I was sitting at this cafe with my chai and wonderful view and sun in my face and watching and listening and feeling and being – and this hippie guy comes and sits right in front of me, his hippie legs dangling over the edge of the wall. And then he pulls out a freakin’ guitar and starts to play and sing some improvised ‘hare rama’ song. Could it be more cliché? After 15 minutes I couldn’t take it anymore – “seriously, hippie dude – could you do me a favor and kill the worship, I’m trying to enjoy my life here”. Nah I didn’t, I just went and sat further away – letting him be whatever it is he’s trying to be..

I guess I need to embrace my inner hippie in a whole new way..

The monkeys are cute.. If you leave fruit or cookies out on your table, they will come and snatch it away. The bigger ones will pull it out of your hands – that’s less cute.

Cows are all over of course. Nothing much to say about them, they mind their own business. I have little chats with them about life and love – out of the three, the cows are the easiest to deal with :)

Updating Your Direction

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A few years back I watched the movie The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Although very Hollywood’y it’s a beautiful movie – and if you let it, very inspiring.
A couple of weeks ago I watched it again and afterwards I decided “hey, I should do my bucket list!”. Making that decision, an inner clarification process was started. Desires and ambitions all rose to the surface and went through a selection; I realised that not everything I wish to do in life belongs on the actual bucket list. There’s a lot of things I would love to do, places to go, goals to achieve – but somehow, what goes on the list should be more important. Initially I would just scribble down everything that came to mind but taking each thing, looking at it, feeling it, I would end up erasing most again. It’s not enough to want it. I need to feel it in my heart.

Gradually the list became longer and as I’m writing there’s 11 items on it. 2 of them are very specific wishes; to attend the New Year Concert in Vienna and to tango in Buenos Aires. The rest is a mix of places, skills and events.

The clarity and satisfaction of going through this process then spread; discussing the whole thing with my roommate made her realise that what would be on the top of her list is to run a marathon. She has been considering it for years but never committed to it. Now realising exactly how important it is, she made the decision to go for it. Just 20 minutes later she comes out of her room, clearly very emotional and with an expression somewhere between joy and fear and tells me “I just signed up for the marathon!”

Updating your direction is such a life affirming gift for yourself. It will give you fresh motivation and reconnect you with your deeper values. And it doesn’t really matter if you do the bucket list or the vision board or something else (I say do all of it!) but it matters that you make time to listen to your soul.

Enjoy your journey!