Day 960

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Q: I don’t see how I can be free now. As it happens, I am extremely unhappy with my life at the moment. This is a fact and I would be deluding myself if I tried to convince myself that all is well when it definitely isn’t. To me, the present moment is very unhappy – it is not liberating at all. What keeps me going is the hope or possibility of some improvement in the future.

A: You think that your attention is in the present moment when it’s actually taken up completely by time. You cannot be both unhappy and fully present in the Now.

What you refer to as your ‘life’ should more accurately be called your ‘life situation’. It is psychological time : past and future. Certain things in the past didn’t go the way you wanted them to go. You are still resisting what happened in the past and now you are resisting what is. Hope is what keeps you going, but hope keeps you focussed on the future. This continued focus perpetuates your denial of the Now and therefore your unhappiness.

Q: It is true that my present life situation is the result of things that happened in the past, but it is still my present situation, and being stuck in it what makes me unhappy.

A: Forget about your life situation for a while and pay attention to your life.

Q: What is the difference?

A: Your life situation exists in time.
Your life exists now.
Your life situation is mind-stuff.
Your life is real.

Find the “narrow gate that leads to life.” It is called Now.
Narrow your life down to this moment. Your life situation may be full of problems – most life situations are – but find out if you have any problem at this moment. Not tomorrow or in 10 minutes, but now. Do you have a problem now?
When you are full of problems there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So, whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation.

Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look, don’t interpret. See the light, shapes, colours, textures. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be. Listen to the sounds: don’t judge them. Listen to the silence underneath the sounds. Touch something – anything – feel and acknowledge its Being. Observe the rhythm of your breathing : feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy in your body. Allow everything to be – within and without. Allow the ‘isness’ of all things. Move deeply into the Now.

-An excerpt from “The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle

Day 730

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Historically, I love autumn. It seems that nature has been saving up all its grandeur all through the year for the month of October. The stunning, warm, earthy colours, the cushion of leaves under the feet, the crisp morning sun and the hypnotising evening light. A time for change.

Big change from the energetic lightness of summer to a calm and reflective time.
A time to be centered.
A time to be quiet.

Last 2 autumns have been cruel. They have thrown not just seasons, but Time out of synch. Things seem to be happening in the wrong order. Time has taken on a strange nebulous quality. Starting and stopping at will. Meandering and then barging ahead with full force.

This is a new autumn. It’s a new opportunity to heal. To learn to let go, like the trees let go of their leaves one by one, completely denuding themselves and bravely exposing themselves to the harsh winter, only to come alive again, fresh and new. To know that ‘acceptance’ and ‘forgiveness’ are processes that take their own time. They cannot be rushed. All we can do is allow time and space for them. Pain is a constant companion, sometime more visible than others. Again, it cannot be shooed away. All I can do is to acknowledge it and honour it and allow space for it to sit with me. Settle down.

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
― Ernest HemingwayA Moveable Feast

Day 724

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First law of Thermodynamics : Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

Within my basic understanding of physics, I think of it as: when breaks are applied to a moving car, the kinetic energy from the movement is converted to thermal energy causing the break-pads to heat up. Similarly the turning blades of a wind turbine transform wind (kinetic) energy into electrical energy.

May be each one of us is a field of energy. May be that is why the interaction between two people changes when a third person brings their energy into the equation. May be that is why we like someone for no reason at all and dislike someone for no reason at all. May be our energy can neither be destroyed nor created. So even after someone’s physical form disappears, their energetic form continues to exist. May be it just changes its expression. May be it flows through the people they knew.

Being with Saagar’s friends is comforting for me as I feel his energy in them. It’s the same for them, being with me.

I see our compassion grow. I see us being creative. I see us going out of our way to deepen our understanding of the human condition. I see us wanting to make the world a better place. I see us taking small steps. I see us all constantly loving Saagar and carrying his beautiful energy within us.

 

Day 716

Today I was a tourist in Lagos, Portugal.

This is our second visit here. Aside from having friends here, what brought us back is its pace and ease of life. It is an ancient seaside town, loaded with natural beauty and a few tourists.

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The Saturday Market, a short bike ride away from home was the highlight of this morning. With baskets hanging off the handles of our bikes, pretending to be two of the locals, we feigned annoyance at the ‘tourists’ getting in our way. Once in the market, the truth about us came spilling out. Out came our cameras and a huge appreciation for the ability to buy produce from the farmers directly. Friendly, relaxed faces manning tiny stalls sold locally grown seasonal produce – figs, chillies, grapes, olives, almonds, rosemary honey, tomatos, greens, homemade breads, sweetmeats, fresh and dried herbs, flowers, plants and other everyday little things. Saagar would have loved the real peri-peri.

The market reminded me of my childhood in India, buying real food from real people, sharing with them the value of their land and labour. It reminded me of sweeter, simpler times. Times when we had a feel for the land and a connection with each other through the food that it produced.

Simplicity is indeed a virtue, be it a town or a person.
The simple joy of breathing clean air, priceless.
So many simple things are now lost in many parts of the world!

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Day 713

“Thank you Gas-lady” said the surgeon at the end of our working day as he picked up his bag to leave the operating theatre. I acknowledged it with a smile and a nod. That’s sweet. At that moment it didn’t register but later I realised that he does not know my name. We have worked in the same theatre complex one day per week for the past 4 years and he does not know my name. That’s interesting. I wondered how many people I see on a regular basis and don’t know the names of.

How did that make me feel? Not exactly insulted but definitely unimportant. I found myself making excuses for him – may be he finds my name difficult to remember. It is a foreign name after all. But this is London and many people here have foreign names. May be it is a reflection of a basic power imbalance – every one knows his name but he doesn’t have to know everyone’s name.

Knowing a name is a small thing, but it makes the difference between making someone feel that they matter or they don’t. When our name is known, we are more likely to have a sense of belonging to a person or a group. It also means that who we are is central to the interactions we have.

“Could someone get the defibrillator please?”
“James, could you please bring in the defibrillator?”

Which one of these two statements is likely to produce a quick and effective result? Knowing names can make it easier to get a job done.

Patients are not diabetics, schizophrenics, bed 10, ‘last on the list’, so on and so forth. They have their names and unique identities. Of course, it is not always easy to remember names. It does take some effort. It is easier to put in that effort if we know how much of a difference it can make not only to others but also to us. I find myself paying more attention to names now. Even if I get it wrong, I like to think I tried.
It is definitely worth the effort.

( Saagar was really good at remembering names. In fact, the more unusual the name, the more fun he had with it. Well, there’s a name I’ll never forget – Saagar.)

Day 712

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I long suspected that doing nothing was under-rated. I could do ‘doing nothing’ for hours, given a chance. Psychologists now believe that ‘doing nothing’ is in fact a positively restful activity. Day-dreaming is good for us and letting one’s mind wander is healthy.

Rest and doing nothing –same thing?
Rest and relaxation – same thing?
Rest and laziness – same thing?
Rest and ‘not at work’ – same thing?
Rest and lying in bed –same thing?

The Rest Test is a survey taken by the ‘old people’s ‘ radio – BBC Radio 4 to look into various aspects of rest. In the fast paced lives of today where each one of our free moments can potentially be invaded and claimed by phone calls, e-mails, face-book, texts and tweets, this survey is well timed.

It is the largest of its kind with 18,000 people from 134 countries participating in it.

What did it find?

More than 70% believe they need more rest than they get.
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5GF8npkXxpp4z0KBqGx2pl7/the-ten-most-restful-activities)

The most restful activities are: reading, being with nature, being on your own, listening to music, doing nothing, having a bath or shower, walking or exercising, day-dreaming, watching TV and meditating or practicing mindfulness.

All of the above are true for me but breathing consciously tops the list. Being with my breath keeps me connected to ‘right here right now’, to my ‘self’ and my sanity. The breath is a free resource. About 10 years ago I learnt to use it as a source of energy and calm at the same time. (http://www.artofliving.org/us-en/research-sudarshan-kriya) I experience deep rest through breathing exercises and meditation. 

Rest is often the unwritten part of a doctor’s prescription for various stress-related disorders. It is vital for our well-being.

Here’s a poem from the programme:

I expect you might at some point tonight
Beneath the sheets before sleep
Still reeling from the flaming lights
Want or more likely seek

Rest.

There’s no manifesto in this
No snake like lists of things to do
There’s no tomorrow either
There’s poetry as ever and YOU.

Day 711

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“This study is ok for the bed-room” said my teacher scrutinizing my floral arrangement, “not for the living room.”

Resuming Ikebana lessons has reminded me how much pleasure I derive from touching, feeling, smelling and putting different types of flowers and foliage together. After a long day of practicing anaesthesia, it is a refreshing change to be in a position where the big decisions to be made are – which colour do I want the flowers to be, how long should this stem be, which leaves should I keep and which ones should be trimmed away and other such important considerations.

I belong to the Ikenobo school of Ikebana, an ancient art of Japanese flower arranging. It endeavours to bring nature indoors and establish a perfect balance between the beauty outside and inside homes. It is a classical art form based on deeply philosophical principles.

The study I am presently working on is called Shoka Shofutai. In this composition 3 types of materials are used and arranged in 3 groups named Shin, Soe and Tai.

Looking over my notes I found that the Tai group has 3 stems right in the front of the arrangement, representing the present, the past and the future. The one representing the present should stand tall and should have some buds. The one representing the future should be bending forward and should have buds. The one representing the past should be in between the two and should be the smallest in size.

I wonder if there is a message in that.