Friday, August 27, 2010

Fitting It Together

Everywhere you look there are people who seem to have it made. Whether it be materially, spiritually, physically or emotionally, you name it and they seem to have it. Those well-put together strangers who walk by you on the street and bewilder you into thinking, "If only I looked like that."

It's the endless comparison game. That game which your mind plays that results in self-doubt and dissatisfaction. It's hard to control this mind-game from recurring especially when we reach certain stages in our life where we feel, "I didn't imagine myself to be here right now."

But if we were to take a survey of all those strangers or friends or friends of friends who our mind compares us to, we would probably find that most of them probably aren't satisfied or as put together as we thought they were.

In those trying times it's easier to get through them by looking at things from a different perspective. Our sojourn through this lifetime is like a jigsaw puzzle. It's exciting to shake all the pieces out of the box originally but putting it together takes patience and determination. As time progresses, we'll notice that some pieces fit together very easily, some we may not find for awhile (not realizing that they were still in the box) and others may be the ones we were sure fit together only to realize later on we forced them to when in reality those pieces belonged elsewhere.

The uncertainty and challenges we face are similar to constructing that jigsaw puzzle. It's only by persevering and changing our perspective can we ultimately finish the puzzle. As important as it is to focus on the big picture, sometimes it's just as important to work on small parts. Building momentum and gathering confidence helps us in sorting the rest of it out.

As well, it's important to note that puzzles come in all shapes and sizes. Comparing how one puzzle fits together with a different one is ludicrous. Yet, that is exactly what we do with ourselves. We are all unique individuals and similarly our situations, personalities and outlooks are different from everyone elses. This idea of comparing myself with others generally doesn't help anyone figure out their own puzzle.

At the end of the day Krsna already knows what our life will look like. We just need to have firm faith in Him and continue trying to fit the pieces together.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breathe In

I was speaking to a dear friend today and we were talking about determination and enthusiasm in practicing bhakti yoga. She was mentioning how sometimes she finds it difficult to be steady and I just looked at her and said, "Only sometimes? Wow, you're doing well!"

Isn't it a fact? It's hard to remain consistent and focused on any discipline, what to speak of a spiritual discipline. Practicing mantra meditation, reading and performing some type of service isn't much. But, throw in school/work, family, friends, Facebook (:P) and of course that crazy, turbulent mind and all of a sudden that "isn't much" turns into a heavy burden.

At the end of the day, it really depends on where our priorities lie. At different stages in life, those priorities may shift and we have to be willing to adjust and re-adjust. However, the number one priority should always remain the same- our spiritual sadhana. Whenever I say I'm too busy it's code for: I know I should make my sadhana my priority but either due to laziness or lack of motivation I'm not going to.

So how can I kick out that laziness or lack of motivation? Because let's face it, as bhakti yogis most of us know that our sadhana is what keeps us connected to Krsna and therefore is our lifeline in this ocean of confusion we live in. So it's not a lack of knowledge that's the problem. When this happens to me, I can chalk it up to a lack of inspiration.

For me, inspiration means to see in action what I want to do or be. It means having a role model. Seeing someone walk the talk. That's truly inspiration. It's important to note that of our three-fold check and balance system (Guru, Sadhu and Sastra) two of them are personalities and the third is filled with exemplary personalities.

Looking up the etymology of the word inspiration, I discovered the root is from the Latin word breathe. In fact, to inspire is to "breathe in". Metaphorically that's what we do when we are inspired. We breathe in another person's mentality, outlook, determination, etc, etc... We get rejuvenated by breathing in fresh air and releasing our old, stale outlook. Just as we cannot subsist on stale air, similarly we cannot subsist on degraded thoughts.

In fact, if our air supply was cut off what would we do? We would do whatever it took to locate another source. This is how important seeking spiritual inspiration should be in our lives. We should constantly be searching for it and if for whatever reason we lose inspiration, we should go to any length to find it.

A nice meditation to reflect on the next time you breathe in.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Be Blessed...

"Get blessings." It's a common phrase we hear among those who frequent bhakti circles. But what does it mean to get blessings? Are they really necessary? And most importantly, can anyone give blessings?

When one genuinely wishes well for another person, that's a blessing. It's something that comes from the heart and cannot be faked or contrived. It means the one who is blessing is praying to the Lord to help guide and send auspiciousness into the life of the one receiving the blessings.

In this age of self-sufficiency and independence, the importance and role of blessings has almost faded away. Speaking for myself, it's imperative that I am constantly reminded on how nothing in my life can happen without blessings. Having grown up in an environment of "be the creator of your own destiny" and "you have the power to make it happen" it's easy to forget that. Definitely we must endeavor, but it has to be within the framework of blessings.

It's that framework that protects us and guides us because in order to receive blessings, we need to open our minds and heart. To do so, we need to genuinely take shelter and accept guidance and advice from those we are seeking blessings from. When we submit in this way, we are unlocking the hearts of those persons' and naturally blessings are a natural reciprocation. Who wouldn't wish the very best to someone who genuinely feels that they need help?

But it's important to note that there are all types of blessings. This idea of simply asking blessings for the sake of blessings has permeated many a person's consciousness, but there's something so much higher. Anyone who has even some saintly qualities will give blessings if asked, because in the simplest sense blessings simply mean to wish well for another. But, to get the genuine, real blessings there's no easier way to receive these than through service. Service not only attracts the heart of the devotee but ultimately the heart of Srimati Radharani herself.

It's Radharani's grace, those blessings, that descend upon us through the devotees that have the power to make anything happen. That's what it means to get blessings- to have the well-wishes of the devotees and the merciful side-long glace of Srimati Radharani protecting you.

So what are you waiting for? Go on and be blessed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taking It All In

This summer has been filled with so many experiences and emotions.

But through it all though, I've been haunted by one thought, "Am I really taking it all in?" At the end of the day it's the in between moments that really have the greatest impact on me. It's that one realization that Krsna suddenly gives to you during a particularly trying circumstance, that smile of infinite contentment you see wash over a dear friend's face for a split second or the loving chastisement of a true well-wisher. That's what really has an impact on my own sojourn in trying to become a devotee of Krsna.

I was reflecting on that today, actually giving myself time to relive the experiences I've had the honour of observing and living. Time which is otherwise consumed by hours on e-mail, Facebook and all kinds of other escapes I willingly embrace.

The first thing that came to my head was my friend Sara. I had the great fortune of meeting Sara in Vancouver this summer where we both participated in the Namamrta program faciliated by HH Bhakti Brhat Bhagavata Swami. This program is dedicated to helping devotees improve their japa in the venue of Srila Prabhupada's temples and following the full temple program.

Sara attended the program in full and was one of my greatest inspirations because her sincerity and realizations were so deep for one who had only started practicing bhakti yoga a mere few months before. I'll never forget her realization which she shared with all of us after our dedicated day of chanting more than 64 rounds. She was explaining how throughout the day she kept moving around trying to find a place where she could chant attentively. Finally, when all else failed, she sought out the Tulasi greenhouse. She said, "It was the only place where I could chant attentively, in the presence of Tulasi Maharani." Later on she sought me out and asked me to take a picture of Srimati Tulasi devi so that she could print it out and have it at home. She explained she wanted to chant in front of that picture everyday.

I was completely awe-struck. Here was this amazing devotee, seemingly new, who had already developed a rare and precious relationship with Srimati Tulasi Maharani. I revisit that moment often, especially when I see Tulasi Maharani.

I reflect on this one incident and then feel overwhelmed when I think of how many more are just waiting to be re-visited, to be truly imbibed in my heart. Although these moments seem to have come and gone, the true journey is just beginning- to take it all in.