Let’s make one another happy

We Indians are great analysts. But how many of us continually monitor the quality of our thoughts? Yesterday, in an autorickshaw, the driver was proudly holding forth on the flyovers being constructed in his city. Suddenly, we were in a traffic jam. A motorcyclist, unable to move past us, heaped insults on our hapless, hail-fellow-well-met driver. Then, by manipulating his mobike, he sailed past, leaving our man fuming in hurt.

 The biker could have done the same thing courteously, made those few moments good-humouredly pleasant for himself and everybody. Instead… Our driver steamed. I focused on the back of his head, silently sending him good wishes: “May these blessings soothe and calm…May you have only pleasant encounters.” He calmed down. Peace prevailed in our little travelling world. The traffic eased and he resumed pointing out the new streets that helped de-congest the main arteries of the city.  

 Yes, we do need broad, smooth roads to ease our travel; as importantly, we need great mental highways to ease one another’s life. And as we need fewer vehicles on the road, so we need fewer curses in our hearts. My prayer for us: Please, let not the rush to reach our destination make the blood rush to our head. As the Master reminds softly, “Don’t forget to make a life even as you make a living.”

 There’s a lot of life to be lived, a lot of wonders to be witnessed, miracles to be experienced, loving thoughts to be generated, shared, spread. So, let’s not vent our venom. Let’s just make this simple yet profound decision: to make whoever we encounter happy. And stick to that decision. The road is blocked? Be thankful that you are not alone in the world. Be grateful you have wheels and a road a roll on. You don’t have to reach anywhere to be happy, you can create happiness right where you are. Give your smile to others even as you give them the right of way. Whenever a driver halts to let another car  move on, or for pedestrians to cross peacefully, I feel sweetness warming my heart.

 Indeed, the world is a great circle of love. And wisdom is: seeing everything in relation to the whole. If we understand that everything in this great circle of love belongs equally to all of us, we will be free of all hang-ups, healed of all afflictions.

 Please remain unruffled in all situations. A cool, calm brain staves off depression by keeping the microglia immune cells healthy. The microglia cells protect both brain and spinal cord and clear away all metabolic debris. Sleep well too—it rests the brain and helps foster a healthy perspective. Daily, have a few tulsi (basil) leaves—a clinical study showed that they reduce exhaustion and irritability.  

 Also, in a traffic-jam, practise the ‘Going Nowhere’ meditation: Settle down comfortably with an attitude of ‘there’s nothing I can do and it’s liberating!’ From a nice sense of luxury, focus on one cloud drifting across the sky… Everything is still here, everything is moving up there…Relax.  A still mind is a cool, transparent lake in our being. Moreover, I’ve experienced: going nowhere makes everywhere else seem so so beautifully pleasant. And when we eventually move, we glide forward in synchronized togetherness—it’s not a race with one another, it’s a collective dance of grace.  

 Let’s work pleasantly within life’s parameters. Rather than give undue importance to reaching a destination, let’s reach out to one another. Rather than argue, let’s agree. See how our mind changes, how life changes. If you’re in a boat, mid-ocean, would you rock it? That’s what our world is: a love-boat in the ocean of the universe. Let’s ensure that everybody has the smoothest, safest sweetest passage ever. Let’s enjoy the ride.


Don’t let the sunless past shadow the sunlit present

Oh! how we harbour dull aches, sharp pains, inflammations that have their emotional roots in the past! A grudge against our parents for abandoning us… a teacher’s scathing comment that we would amount to nothing in life…

 Ah, no, let those musty, rusty chains crumble to dust. Choose to be refined in a fresh way, richly happy, overflowing with a wealth of serenity. Let go anger, insecurity, let go all those delusions. Discard past memories – they are useless, inaccurate. Decide: the sunless past should never rule the sunlit present.

 When you let go yesterday, you master today. Without those negative emotions running rife in you, you make life beautiful, easy for yourself and others. People respect your transparency, your simple no-fuss approach. And you learn that pain never clings to one who follows the path of purity.

 When you have no anger, only sweet even-mindedness; no cravings, only selflessness; no insecurity, only stability; no delusions, only shining clarity; no self-pity, only as the Zen master describes, “a strong back yet a soft, sweet front,” you stay healthy and emanate positive, clean vibrations.

 Yes, sometimes it may appear that the other person is taking advantage of your goodness. A wiser view is: while your inner life of letting go goes on, that person’s inner life of accumulated negativities, problems, disorders are currently colouring his dealings with you. So, please don’t stop your inner work of letting go, of self-purification. Rather, drop more negative baggage from your psyche – drop impatience, distrust, doubt. The more negatives you drop, the lighter, healthier, fresher you feel in body, mind, spirit.

 If you still have doubts about another, sit in a tranquil place, eyes gently closed. Sing a song until your mind stills all thoughts and resonates only with the song. Then remain in the soothing harmony. The answer you seek comes:“Go along,” “See what happens.” Sometimes there are no words, yet you feel peacefully reassured. Something different grows inside you at such times – love.

   Love directs you to shower fragrant flowers outside and inside you whether the other person is doing his part or not. Love is often seen as ‘mushy’ and ‘weak’. But, it’s not. You do not condone wrong-doing, but you lovingly accept the person. Love is an attractive and irresistible energy.

 Dwelling on problems, complaining or blaming wastes time, drains energy. It solves nothing. It’s like running on a treadmill that refuses to stop however tired and frustrated you become. When you step off that tiring emotional treadmill into the peaceful, welcoming, softly lit room called love, you get to view in its glow the various doors of possibilities. It is said every problem has 25 solutions. As you look at each possible solution, your creative juices start flowing. They flow…flow…flow…until you wonder whether that problem was ever a problem after all, or was it only an instrument to get you on the right track, the track best for your growth?

 I know two people who felt they were abandoned as children. But, once they shed their anger, their bitterness, they discovered what was growing all along in their heart: behind those dark emotions was a big, beautiful, bountiful strength – compassion.  

 Recently, I read about a woman struck with a terminal illness. Her life hung in balance after a difficult surgery. Finally, when the crisis passed, she awoke with her face paralyzed. What broke her heart was that she could not smile at her children anymore. Ah, to bring up your children without being able to bestow a warm, loving, caring smile on them, without being able to laugh with them… An illness robbed this woman of her smile. Please don’t allow the past to rob you of your smile. If you feel somebody didn’t give you enough love, let more love pour out of you to make up that shortfall. Maybe that’s what your soul came down for – to bring more healing, loving compassion to this world.

Fly awake with mindfulness!

Mindfulness, as one practitioner puts it, is ‘falling awake.’ Or flying awake. And this wakefulness is awesome. You’re a Rip Van Winkle constantly viewing in amazement a new world . You’re as open as the Grand Canyon for new ideas, quietly alive to different perspectives, deeply attentive to details without being judgmental. And your awareness of every moment is so acute that you feel the whole world has slowed down for you.

 To live mindfully, bring the quality of gentle, nourishing grace and ease to your every action. Examples: ~I carry a bag of jerry cans and set it down oh-so carefully as if it contains fragile fluted glass goblets. ~I don’t jostle and overtake people to board a bus; I move inch by patient inch in the queue, relaxed, touching every moment, enjoying every step. The Masters of mindfulness say, “Live each moment to its fullest as a special moment, as the only moment you really have.” Thus, every moment generates an energy of harmony, of healing, of conviviality.

 But, how do you not get irritated or impatient? Generally, dizziness diagnosed as high blood pressure, heart palpitations, lethargy or burning acidity open a window to pause and reflect! When realization dawns that these emotions stress you by keeping you in a state of perpetual conflict, crisis, struggle, where ease has become dis-ease, you know you have to let go anxieties, anger, these despairing spells. You are willing to surrender all negativities. Where earlier you merely smiled at certain practices you’d read or heard about, now you are open to them. Perhaps they work, you think, throwing yourself a rope of hope.

 The beautiful aspect of practicing mindfulness is: you need neither equipment nor a difficult body posture. Just stop resisting. Relax, imagine you are a drop of water allowing yourself to flow in the river of life, and enjoy being in this wonderful state of trust and positive passivity. I recommend three everyday activities to practice mindfulness in – breathing, walking, eating. Become conscious of your breath and bring health, joy, peace to your body, mind, spirit. Walk with the awareness that every step is a step of well-being. Eat with gratitude knowing that every morsel is offered by nature to nourish and strengthen us. Once you’ve gained the rich experience of mindfulness though such activities, you will transmit it to your work, relationships, hobbies… You will drop your old mechanical, mindless way of thinking and living as you embrace this new radiant state of being.  

Mindful breathing. Sit comfortably in a chair, spine and head straight, eyes and mouth closed gently. Focus your attention at the base of your nostrils. Feel the incoming breath and the outgoing breath… Don’t try to breathe deeper or slower. Breathe naturally. Observe the inflow and outflow as it is…as it is…

 Occasionally, your mind may wander. Concentrate again on your breath at your nostrils. This is not a mechanical exercise, it’s practicing mindful breathing. Keep telephone and doorbell on mute during the practice. Don’t talk, visualize or imagine. Let the mind dwell solely on your breath.

 Enjoy breathing mindfully. Enjoy, don’t question, don’t interfere with it. You are not improving your way of breathing, you are only paying attention. Your attention is like the sun, the sun’s rays pour on the flower and it opens… Similarly, the rays of your attention pour on your breath and you awaken, become aware. Your attentiveness imparts a healing quality through your breathing and the quality of your perspective, temperament, being improves. Muscles relax. Emotions quieten. Thoughts get suspended. Order reigns.

 The body is always in the now. With mindful breathing, the mind too stills. When body and mind are on the same page, a new book of life opens… To be fully present in the now is a novel experience, a unique experience.  For normally, the mind flits endlessly from past to future, from future to past… Ah, so restless, so troubled, so confused. But now, when it joins the body in the present, a magnificent peace prevails. Over four days, anger, fear, rivalry, greed fade and, ultimately, vanish. Peace, joy, gratitude surge to fill the void. You’ve cast off all artificially-learned emotional reactions and stand renewed in the radiant purity of that which you are.

 As the parable goes: The executive and the monk were in a long discussion. The sad-eyed executive concluded with a sigh, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll find peace.” The twinkling-eyed monk shook his head and corrected, “Find your peace and then everything will fall into place.”


Mindful walking. “I took a walk. Suddenly I stood still, filled with the realization that I had no body or mind. All I could see was one great Illuminating Whole,”wrote Han Shan, Zen Master. I had a similar experience. So can you. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and walk. Let your body lead. Gradually, you’ll get into its natural stride, its natural rhythm. Pay attention to your strides and breathing in a relaxed way. The distance is not important. It’s not ‘how much’, it’s the ‘how’. If you feel the competitive urge to overtake another walker, smile at your ego and deliberately slow down your pace. This is how you train your mind into mindfulness. Another walker overtakes you? No problem. Wish him or her well silently!

 Enjoy every step. Be grateful to the earth for unfolding a beautiful path for you to walk upon. Think of every step as a kiss of appreciation, of love. If an occasional pebble makes you skid or a bump stubs your toes, smile at the mischievous way the cosmos brings you back to the present. For the Tao says, “People who surrender all their blocks and conflicts experience a free flow of vital energy. They enjoy a childlike immunity to injury. Bugs won’t bite them. Dogs don’t attack them. Troubles leave them alone.” Also, this is how you consciously build an intimate relationship with the earth, the universe. You relate when you don’t berate. Mind your every thought with every step. Let each step be a love-step, a peace-step, a health-step, a step of strength for all. When every step is suffused with a deep meaning, it becomes a walk of well-being, a padyatra vibrant with play, praise and promise.  


Mindful eating. I’ve been through the “Hahaha-not-watch-TV-while eating? -you’re-kidding-right?” routine. TV and food appeared like a happy marriage until…I actually put them on a trial separation and…discovered the joys of mindful eating! It’s a paradox – we think of food all day but not when we’re actually eating a meal!  

 Without TV, eating becomes a beautiful meditative practice. You know what you place in your mouth, you relish the texture and taste and derive maximum enjoyment. The Masters exhort, “Put only the food into your mouth. Don’t push your preoccupations, projects, anxieties, guilt, frustrations. Why eat your fear, anger or past and future? Be where you are eating – here in the present moment.” When you pay full attention to eating, you feel satisfied, buoyant, energetic. Comforted and hopeful too if you are going through a tough phase.

 Look deep into your food – it has the salt of the seas, the water of rain, the fire of the sun and stars, the freshness of the air, the minerals of the earth… Look at the miraculous matrix you’re taking in! Eat in silent wonder – that’s the secret of great digestion.

 Make your home and workplace ashrams of mindfulness. Pause between tasks, between calls to breathe mindfully. Speak thoughtfully, listen mindfully while in an official meeting or with your loved ones. Mindfulness gives you clear loving insights: that people don’t want to control you, they want to participate in your life; that there are no leakages in life, only abundance overflowing… When you mind your mind every moment, the world becomes a magical place shining and singing with glorious possibilities.  


Why water is vital

It’s that time of the year when you’ve got to be careful about what you put in your mouth. It’s as if the E-coli bacteria suddenly develops horns and produces a toxin that disallows our intestines from absorbing water. It results in diarrhea but has more colourful names: Delhi Belly, Bangalore Belch, Hong Kong Song, Kathmandu Quickstep… The reason we rush to the loo is because the wise body has learnt over the centuries that the best way to rid itself of E-coli is by completely emptying the intestines. It takes one to five days to purge, sometimes you may have nausea, cramps due to dehydration or fever. Some wise measures keep you from having unproductive days:

*Keep replacing displaced fluids. Drink…drink…and drink as much water as possible. Make sure the water has been boiled. *Each day, have two to three glasses of purified water in which you’ve dissolved Electral powder. This is to replace lost salts, sugar, electrolytes. Your intestines will thank you because these substances help it to absorb water more effectively. *If you prefer home remedies, cook apple peels in water and drink the concoction.  

 Unless you’re on the road or at an out-of-town conference, I don’t advise antidiarrheal drugs or antibiotics for the simple reason: plug and your system houses the bug longer. Better to be mean and clean. What you could do is: let good bacteria battle with the bad bacteria. Your beleaguered intestines need the acidophilus bacteria found in milk or the bulgaricus bacteria found in yoghurt. Asides: Koreans call yoghurt ‘yaogurt’ while the Japanese refer to it as ‘yakult’ – in case you’re traipsing around these parts. As soon as you land on any foreign shores, don’t order coffee or beer or any beverage; start your stay with a bowl of yoghurt. It stems the growth of bad bacteria.  

 Some more measures to take care of your intestines: *Say no to raw vegetable salads, fruits in public places like restaurants. At home, wash them thoroughly – in filtered water. *Dunk leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, fenugreek, cabbage as well as cauliflower in water to which you’ve added a pinch of potassium permanganate powder. It’s available at your local pharmacy. *Avoid eating meat outside. If it’s undercooked, you’re in trouble. Better to bring home the bacon, literally, and cook it to healthy, hygenic standards. *Much as you want to chill out, still, don’t help yourself to ice-cubes beyond home frontiers. Mix your cocktail with soda, not water, not fruit juice. And no, booze does not kill the E-coli bugs – it’s drinkers’ mythology!  *Drink acidic drinks like orange juice (home-squeezed) or colas. They lower the E-coli population.  

 Water is really very important for physical well-being and mental clarity. When tissues reach a certain ‘dry’ point, the cell-surrounding membranes correspondingly thicken to avoid more water loss. This also slows down metabolism and imbalances the system. When the body cells move into a survival mode, so does the mind become a little erratic and slightly irrational. A doctor once told me that we need about four ounces every hour to remain hydrated and healthy.

 Sometimes, our system is a tad slow in absorbing water. That’s because of the relatively higher surface tension of water. If not absorbed, it pulls together to form drops and does not move through the membranes of the intestinal lining as required. In that case, low surface tension carrot juice works wonders.

 Water, say our sages, promotes the element of balance and harmony in our system. So, please pour out a glass of water right now and raise a toast to good health.


Bless the stress out of your system  

                           Do you ever bless yourself? Are you aware that blessing yourself daily heals you, keeps you in the game long after others have quit? For a blessing is a big-hearted enabler transforming a wish into vision. Commitment, confidence, strength rise in the one that’s blessed. Indeed, health and happiness are rich harvests of a string of small resolves to bless – not get stressed in – inconvenient situations.

 So, whenever you feel negative pressures building up, stop all thought… wait… Then tell yourself quietly, “Let three days pass, don’t get stressed now.” Then continue mindfully, “I bless this moment because it’s helping me develop the habit of blessing.” In three days your perspective will be different.

 Blessings make life digestible and literally pull up an ailing, failing digestive system. When we find life disagreeable, annoying, our body tenses, the colon clenches. When it hurts, it’s diagnosed as a spastic colon. There’s no medicine for it save to bless the stress out of your system with such soothing thoughts, foods, exercises, relaxation practices:

*Thought. Daily, dose your pessimism with balming positivity: ‘What I want is moving towards me. It will arrive punctually according to the universe’s time-table, not mine. Everything that’s happening is a blessing. What’s coming towards me is even greater than I’d envisaged. I bless myself, bless everything. I know whatever happens will be for my good.” As goes a Chinese proverb: “When you keep a green bough in your heart, the singing bird will come.”

*Food. Avoid fats – they cause colonic contractions. Reduce acidic foods like organs, lemons, tomatoes. Soak pulses overnight to remove their gas-content. Never eat raw cabbage and onion. Dry-roast them.  Increase fibre-intake with oats, green grapes, carrots, okra. Drink water, skimmed milk, buttermilk. Eat small frequent meals.

*Exercise. Walk/jog/cycle/swim daily. “Good body tone, good colon tone,” say gastroenterologists. Good mental tone too. For regular exercise regularly de-stresses, regularly releases pain-controlling endorphins and lifts your spirit.

*Relaxation. Play soothing instrumental music – its vibrations calm chaotic body-mind energies and loosen tight spots. Visualize. It’s a great way to dissolve abdominal pain. Eyes closed, image yourself atop the snow-peaked, silence-clad Mount Everest, breathing the invigorating frosty air. Feel the fresh coolness fill your body. See each mountain range turn transparently golden as if revealing a sacred secret. Allow its pure beauty to enter and heal with soft sublime fingers… On the mountain-top, vow to give up thinking negatively, vow to be positive in your relationships. Resolve on these hallowed heights to encourage people, not constantly disparage and discourage them. Remember, it’s our own ego that sickens our gut. Think, “May my ego learn to bless.”

 Carry this meditative attitude into everyday doings to teach the ego that your very existence is gloriously blessed. Like the sage who lived in a cave and radiated robust health and peaceful happiness. He told the curious seeker, “Look through this hole in the wall and you’ll glimpse my happiness.” The seeker said, “All I see are some branches and a bit of sky.” The sage nodded, “That’s my little bit of heaven.”

 From our own little blessings can we create a whole new heavenly world of well-being…


Run with your spontaneity

 Sometimes you may feel like running away from your home, office, a party… I suggest you give in to this impulse as often as you reasonably can without reneging on your responsibilities. Why? This way you nourish the beautiful flow from intent to action within you. It keeps you alert, interested, awake to the possibilities and wonders of life. I think not giving in to your impulse to get up and run causes frustration – it kills your will slowly, darkens the mind’s light, the heart’s hopes and causes blockages in the body.

 In fact, if you stop reading this piece right now and run out, I’ll be the first to applaud. “Go!” I shout encouragingly at your receding figure. “More power to you!” There’s something wild and wonderful about running. At first, everything may appear a blur. Then you become aware of your breathing, you feel the warmth of the sun, the velvet touch of the wind, you notice the blueness of the sky. And boom! you’re completely in the present moment, not thinking of what you’ve left behind. As you continue to run, it becomes a movement of joy, you taste the freedom from life’s little burdens.

 You will get a little winded if it’s your first time. Slow down to a walk. It’s good to keep moving. Affirm, “I breathe in all the beauty into my deepest recesses.” Head for the hills,  a park or grassy field. These are inspirational spots. Let your mind glory in the peace, in the harmony here; your feet luxuriate in the softness of the grassy carpet; your spirit rejoice in the grandeur of creation.  

 As you walk, if the urge to run surges again, run! Or jog. Keep your eyes half open to allow your intuitive sense to come through. Often, in our excessive precoccupation with being logical, rational, scientific, we severely limit our intuitive sense’s capacity. This causes energy-imbalance mid-eyebrows, the centre of intuition. And we suffer from sinusitis, insomnia, migraines, visual problems.

 When you’ve run or jogged to your heart’s content, walk to cool down, then get in touch with your intuitive centre: Sit on the grass, shut your eyes gently, raise face slightly to the sun – this automatically focuses your eyes mid-eyebrows. As you breathe normally, imagine that your breath is moving to the point between the brows. Imagine a tiny flame at that point. By and by, you will feel calm as also elevated, whole…

 There’s a very good chance that if you give in to your spontaneity to run out and then keep running and walking and breathing and meditating, you’ll always be in wellness because you are re-directing your life guided by your deeper and more authentic impulses. We need the personal autonomy to follow the flow of life our way. It is about meeting our personal needs; expressing our feelings through simple acts like moving out of a not-so-appealing scenario to a more appealing space that beckons; and learning not to feel guilty about it. It is healing and elevating being in your own space – the immune system senses the sweetness, the beauty, the joy you experience in following your intent with action, and strengthens. Essentially, you are sending a wonderful message to all your ‘live’ mechanisms – the endorphins, the white blood cells,  the immune globulins – you are saying, “Come on! Support me! Start working! Start living with me!”

 Most of us are trained to say “Fine” when asked “How are you doing?” I think it’s time we learnt to say frankly, “I’m doing lousy!” so that we can start dealing with our true needs and get on with living in our own sun-spots of spontaneity and sanity. The longest journey is between the head and heart. Follow your heart now. Eventually, your head nods in assent.


Of nourishing behavior

Recently, a teenaged kid was suddenly being inexplicably rude to his parents, flatly refusing to do what he was told, demanding (not asking) money for expenses… Several tantrums later, the parents sat and explained a few simple truths about courtesy, respect, harmony to the son. He apologized and spoke about what was worrying him. The common conclusion was : *Peace and harmony must prevail in the home. *Family health is important and must be take care of.

 It couldn’t have been more timely. The mom was suffering from laryngitis and bronchitis which wouldn’t respond fully to the prescribed antibiotics. And the 18-year-old son’s blood pressure was constantly high -150/96. The doctor was even considering putting him on medication if it didn’t improve. Fortunately, the family talk helped. The blood pressure decreased to 130/84 and is hopefully improving further even as I write…

 It happens in many families. As time goes by, we slip into a mechanized routine; our responses become automatic. Our sensitivity numbs, we sleepwake, sleepwalk, sleepwork, sleeprelate… Each family member exists like an island – concerned only about his or her stuff. Nobody listens. We must understand that it needs a great inner stability and maturity to live as an island. Otherwise, we gradually lose the sense of being in control of our life. Small changes feel like huge disruptions. Confusion clouds the mind. Emotions fly off the handle – and you don’t have to be a teenager to experience these mental and physical upheavels!

 One of my favourites is this beautiful self-awakening line: “Yet more is to be found in me.” It never fails to strike like a lightning flash that briefly and brightly illuminates hidden spaces of potential and resources within me. How much we have and how little we use! In the light of what the teenaged boy and his parents went through, I’d say: first, choose to be courteous to your family, friends and colleagues. Each of us is born to express and experience – why not do it courteously, gently, gracefully? A pleasant look, a supportive word is sweet manna against the bitterness of fear, guilt, failure. Who doesn’t want to be at ease?

 Further, an overburdened liver makes you cranky. Transfats in packaged, processed, fast foods force the liver to use maximum energy leaving us drained, truculent, surly. More. These transfats upset the smooth metabolizing of omega 3. Omega 3 are ‘good fats’ that help neurons to function optimally and maintain our natural positive, happy outlook. When the omega 3 levels are suppressed by transfats, we become angry, aggressive. Sugar, the other mood-killer, forces the body to produce loads of insulin. Insulin ruling in the bloodstream means no glucose for energy. This drain makes you lethargic, demotivated; situations appear overwhelming, setting the scene for a tantrum…

 Eat natural for best results. Fresh seasonal fruits, carrots, potatoes, greens, millets, a few nuts, sprouts, curd are all we need to be pleasingly nourished and pleasantly disposed towards life. And whenever you feel irritation rise, sip cool water until you feel the mental blur disperse and clarity and calmness return.

 Masters exhort, “Learn to control your mind, otherwise you are just like pieces of matter in action.” Courtesy has a beautiful self-renewing quality – to discover your grace when you’re under stress is definitely a ‘wow’ feeling. It enriches you and uplifts your life by opening inner ears and eyes and painting fresh, new perspectives. You tune into a greater harmony and each day feels like it’s proceeding exactly how you want it to. Ultimately, courtesy is rolling out a soft carpet for weary feet to tread upon…


Re-learn to be fit

It doesn’t matter if you’ve started exercising in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s… it shows you are willing to be an outsider. An outsider is an innocent untarnished by the cynicism and defeatism of experience and, hence, willing to embrace new ideas, even radical ones. An outsider refuses to be staid and bow down to imbalances and weakness that have crept in due to a sedentary lifestyle. An outsider allows neither his joints nor mind to turn stiff and rigid.

 Stationary cycling is a great way to get the synovial fluid to circulate freely and unkink joints. Simultaneously, you can improve your powers of concentration by counting the rotations. Aim for a minimum 80 rpm. In 20 minutes, you’d have concentrated on 1600 rotations. It’s an achievement. For 20 minutes, you’ve disconnected the mind from its niggling worries and tensions. In that time, you’ve also raise endorphins of elation, burnt fat, boosted stamina, made arteries more elastic, balanced blood pressure, reduced bloodfats and bloodsugar levels. And in raising the calming serotonin brain-chemical, you’ve banished irritability and depressive tendencies to achieve better stress-control. Ah yes, that one choice of regular cycling makes you a stranger to sickness. An outsider who says, I’d rather be prescribed fitness than medicine.  

 The outsider is willing to experiment with ignorance, willing to forget what he knows. Once a dietician joined my exercise class. Her first words were: “Forget my qualifications. I want to learn from you. Tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat.” She was willing to accept the concept of an oil-free diet. Insiders are unwilling to let go old lifestyle-patterns even if it’s precisely those patterns that have made them obese or ill.

 A uterine-cancer survivor, fortunately, did jerk awake after a protracted tussle with the disease. Her words: “If there is one thing I learned from my ordeal , it’s that I’d never go back to being the way I was before I fell sick. I was crazy about cleanliness. If my house wasn’t perfect, I couldn’t enjoy its beauty. If I’d see one dandelion in my yard, I couldn’t appreciate all the other flowers. When I got so sick, I didn’t have the energy to do that. I realized I was driving my family crazy. Now we have three new kittens and a lot of dirty, happy kids. There are more important things in life than keeping a kitchen floor clean.”

 There are more important things in life. Health. Mental peace. Loving relationships. There’s no pleasure in having a kingsized bed if your uneasy mind does not let you sleep. No pleasure in driving a top-of-the-line car if your back aches. No pleasure in a hefty salary hike if you’ve uttered vicious words to your beloved. A serious illness puts the brakes on abruptly on our insider doings. In bed, as outsiders, we suddenly let go a load of trivial heavy baggage and re-focus on loving, thankfulness, the beauty of a sunrise, on  values we need never have sidelined…

 I say, do it now, urgently. Use your wellness to catapult you in the right direction – mentally, physically, emotionally. *Lose weight on the stomach – it’s what makes hormones shift. *Think positive, optimistic thoughts – they control hormone secretions and keep you eternally young or old forever. *Prevent fat folds on your neck – it makes breathing difficult. *Cut back sugar – it creates hunger. *Smile and declare, I’m healthier and stronger than I was yesterday. *Drink more water and fewer sweet beverages. *Stare unthinkingly into the endlessness of the sky.

 In sum, don’t let old expertise get in the way of new vistas of living. The great poet Coleridge attended chemistry lectures. Why? To re-stock on metaphors and bring new fire to his verse. Ah yes, when we move outside our pond, the ocean beckons in all its panoramic splendor…


Erase that distress

Did you know that mental distress could make your system pile up fat around your waist? In the past one year, if you’ve suddenly started padding up on that region, find out what’s bothering you. It could be that somebody less deserving than you got that promotion or admission into a prestigious college. Could be somebody promised something and let you down. Whether the issue is big or small, those extra inches around your waist are saying, “Make peace, make peace.”

 While you are factoring that in, get busy with some instant measures as well: 1. Cut out fries and sweets – these are friends of the flab on your middle. 2. Eat simple, hot food like plain dal and rice. This is real comfort food. It warms heart and stomach. 3. Walk, run or cycle 45 minutes daily to keep the fat burning and your spirits climbing. 4. Get a terra band and do the stretching exercises shown in the booklet.  Note: you are doing the exercises right when you actually feel your stomach and waist being sucked in as you stretch. 5. Replace white rice with brown rice. White rice contributes to flab, brown rice – due to its high fibre content – does not. 6. Eat healthy vegetables – white gourd, fenugreek/ coriander/spinach/cabbage leaves, tinda, French beans, sweet potatoes. Note: Avoid raw cabbage. Roast it with chaat masala. 7. Drink water, buttermilk. Brew tea with cinnamon. 8. Get at least eight hours sleep. It is wonderfully fortifying and calms mind and body.

 Within three days, you’ll find the puffed-up look…poof! gone and your waistline tighter.

 Meanwhile, deal with your tendency to become distressed. This is important because your body deserves a peaceful environment as much as your mind does. Otherwise, the risk of high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes increase. Erase that distress… erase that distress. Recognize in a mature way what you can control and deal with and what you cannot. You can always choose not to eat a jalebi, but you can’t always choose not to attend office where you’ve been overlooked for a promotion. While you may need to vent your feelings for a day or two, you can’t afford to allow that grouse to linger and embitter you. You need to move on, higher. Not with an angry defiant “I’ll-show-them” attitude, but an assertively sensible, “There’s a better way for me.” Yes, the only way is up. For I’ve seen depression and divinity. And I’d opt for divinity anytime.  

 Masters say sadness carves hollows of hunger in our psyche so that we may fill more joy in them. And that a feeling of injustice done to us burns holes in our ego to humble and allow heaven’s healing light to pour in. Ah yes, sometimes we need to lose a lot to know we haven’t lost anything except our false pride.

 Become simple. Shed the superfluous. Avoid meeting negative people and avoid being negative. To be simple is not to be a simpleton but to have a clear mind without complexes – inferior or superior. Say no to ego-massaging putting-down-others thoughts. Andre Comte-Sponville says with inspiring accuracy: “The simple person lives the way he breathes, with no effort or glory, no affectation…Simplicity is freedom, buoyancy, transparency. As simple, as free as the air…”  

 This simple person has realized this over time – life is a funny thing; half of it is a joke, half a dream. And I don’t know, yet, which half is which. To be safe and sure, I laugh anyway. When you laugh, you put something special in the world – your music.


De-coding premature ageing

Why is it that increasingly young people are getting heart problems? Perhaps their telomeres have shortened prematurely. Like thimbles protect our finger-tips while we stitch, telomeres protect our DNA-ends while we live. If these telomeric thimbles wear out and shorten, we could get cardio conditions, brittle bones, recurring infections…

What erodes our telomeres?  Excessive stress,. Normally, the DNA is amazingly self-corrective – it repairs injuries, keeps hereditary malfunctioning at bay, maintains the precise coordination and balance of our system’s varied workings. And if you consider that it handles 50 trillion cells each comprising three billion genetic bytes, you will appreciate how stress can throw a spanner into this multi-miraculous mega enterprise and creates chaos in its delicately-run order. This chaos is experienced by us as dis-ease.

So, how do we stop our telomeres from ageing? One, by exercising regularly. How much? Starting at a minimum 15 minutes a day itself shows dramatic improvements. After that, just half hour daily should do. What kind of exercises? Two kinds: Any cardio-booster: stationary cycling for the thinker, walking outdoors for the nature-lover, spot-jogging on the trampoline for the restless, swimming for the high-strung. A mini-session of weight-training (two-and-half to five pounds dumbbells) makes muscles more efficient. Also, weights force the bones to absorb sufficient calcium from foods or supplements.

 Two, eating fibre-rich whole grains. Ragi, nachni, other millets, brown rice prevent inner inflammations and protect the DNA . Vitamin C and D supplements fortify.

 Let’s deeply understand that being well in body and mind are the most natural way to live. And while physical measures help greatly, we must take care of our mind too because wellness or illness comes to us via the mind-body link. If the mind can make the body grow hair, it can certain make it grow telomeres.

 The secret is to live without pressure. For that we need to see the world as a friendly place. When we take every chip of experience positively and build our mind-set with them, our outlook and reactions become balanced and fearless.

 Our body isn’t a dense mass, it’s a continual process-in-motion. Physicists describe it as tiny specks of electrons whirling round their nuclei – much like a loved, wise teacher surrounded by a huge group of students. So, is each of us a huge group of milling molecules surrounding a nuclei, our invisible centre. If our centre, like the teacher, contains love, trust, belief, hope, it gives us a focus of faith to live from. Thus, we aren’t easily shaken. Our ego does not feel threatened so easily.  

 To ease the pressures of the day from crowding in, daily do this beautiful pure-seeing meditation: Gaze at a tree… Ignore any opinion that arises… Suspend all thought so that the mind enters a new-born’s world where all is new… See the tree as is –without words… Keep gazing…gazing…gazing…until you are lost in its isness.

 Here is what happens: the world as you know it recedes, you experience a fresh, rejuvenated world in the peaceful break in the stream of thoughts. All pressures vanish, you relax. The leaves of the tree vibrate with a golden light. You know everything is in its place as it should be. Your perception of the perfection of the tree, of the moment, reflects the inner perfection that has manifested – a telomere restored, a life re-created.