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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Blue Sky, Blue Mountains

As a child, I was always fascinated by the bright, blue sky. 

I still love to look up to the sky. Watch the clouds pass by.  It calms me. [ READ: How we think about the choices we make ]

Some nights, I take a walk around outside just to see the inky dark sky. 

The night sky is lit up with stars that glitter like jewels. The luminous sky makes me feel that I am sparkling too - that when the stars shine down on you, some of their sparkle rubs off into you too. 

Like Ishmael Beah writes in A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,

"In the sky, there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy and confusion." [ DO READ: Strong is the NEW Beautiful ]



This snapshot just took my breath away after I clicked it. Even in my wildest dreams, I never expected to visit the Blue Mountains, in Australia. 

The name "Blue Mountains" comes to these  mountains aptly because of the oil exuded by the eucalyptus trees surrounding it across the deep valleys around.

It's a view that will take your breath away. I LOVED it.

Now it's your turn: Are you fascinated by your natural surroundings - it could be the stars, the trees, the ground that you walk on, the birds that wake you up with their morning song?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Independence Day, Tri Color Lunch and Rice Cakes Rolling

Independence Day packs in an exciting, festive feel. You feel ready to look back at history with gratitude and look to the present with hope.

Life’s always on a great roll and here’s my yummy tri color lunch - which I absolutely enjoyed in the office canteen.



Ah, and that reminds me of a sweet Japanese story called ‘The Rolling Rice Cakes.’ It is about an old man and his wife. She packs delicious rice cakes in his lunchbox when he goes to cut firewood in the forest.

One day, one of the rice cake rolls down into a hole in the ground!

From the beneath the ground, he hears tiny voices sing:

"Rice cakes, rice cakes,
Nice, fat rice cakes,
Rolling, rolling, rolling – down!”

He loves the beautiful song and rolls down all the rice cakes to the tiny voices. Unexpectedly, he tumbles into the hole too, where he is greeted by hundreds of field mice. They had eaten all his rice cakes and thanked him. As a return gift, they give him a small bag of rice.

The Old Man goes home with the small bag of his wife. When he tells his wife about what happened, you can guess the earful she gave him for giving away all her rice cakes! She said, “Hmmph, this bag of rice wont even make more than than one or two rice cakes!”

But guess what happened?

No matter how much they used, the bag remained fully stocked with rice, more than they could possibly eat!  Now the old man and old woman had plenty of rice cakes to make as much as they wanted!

Lovely story and a beautiful message, don’t you think? I have always believed that goodness brings its own reward. And if you liked this Rolling Rice cakes story, do get a copy of Japanese Children’s Stories, edited by Florence Sakade and translated by Meredith Weatherby, a well known translator of Japanese literature. This is a book for children, but I loved reading every story in it. 

Now, it’s your turn. How did you spend Independence Day? What were the moments or thoughts that made it special for you?

Waiting to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How do you let go of attachment to people and things?

How many happy faces do you see around you every day? Think about it.

Now, look to yourself. What makes you happy? What makes you sad?

If you look at the things that make you happy, are they possessions, objects, people, milestones? Figure out what makes you happy and unhappy. For me, books, music and traveling make me feel on top of the world.

Do you become easily attached to people and to things? 

Do you feel crushed or hurt when all your sincere effort in relationships does not bring you an iota of happiness? 

You feel like you are the one who is always trying but no one's there when you really need some one?

If any of this makes sense to you, trust me: I know how you feel. 

Eating that tub of chocolate ice cream won't help. I've tried that:)) 




Okay, lets get to business, shall we? What works?

Here are some practical actions that work for me:

1. Pray your heart out.
2.  Listen to soothing music. Make it peppy, not tragedy!
3.  Read a book. Make sure you don't hold it upside down!
4. Bake something for your loved ones - this completely takes your mind off whatever is worrying you. Because no one, I mean that, wants to clean a burnt oven!
5. Talk to some one you really trust. 

And now, let me share what works, really works for me:

Meditate. Visualize whatever or whoever has hurt you. Step back from it. More importantly, step back from the emotion driving your hurt.

Hold that up to a blazing flame of God's love in your heart. Be detached - that is the key! Offer that hurt to the flame - let it go, simply let go of it.

You are free. You don't have a reason to feel angry anymore. If that feeling persists, remind yourself that you aren't emotionally connected to that moment anymore. 
If you are able to continue this practice daily, you will find a positive difference in your happiness quotient. [Do read: Strong is the New Beautiful]

Best of all, you will feel that your heart is sparkly-squeaky clean and cleansed from within. And nothing beats that feeling, I tell you, when it comes from within!

DO READ: ASK MORE, FEAR LESS.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The ability to heal your heart begins with one simple step

When you go through a break up, you ask tough questions to yourself. [READ: Being Strong is the New Beautiful]
British writer Barbara Pym asks in a note to herself after a breakup:
"What is the heart?
A damp cave with things growing in it, mysterious secret plants of love or whatever you like. Or a dusty lumber room full of junk. Or a neat orderly place like a desk with a place for everything and everything in its place.
Something might be starting now that would linger on through many years — dying sometimes and then coming back again, like a twinge of rheumatism in the winter, so that you suddenly felt it in your knee when you were nearing the top of a long flight of stairs.
A Great Love that was unrequited might well be like that."


In today's world where picture perfect family pics are uploaded every few minutes on Facebook, it's hard not to feel the "social pressure" to feel that you fit your life, almost picture perfect, like that of your friends.
I have seen some of my closest friends go through break-ups sand supported them through their emotional upheavals. Most of them have come out  reflecting within, by stepping aside from the viewpoint of being a  "wounded" person and seeing themselves as witnesses of everything that has happened. [Do read: Can we stop being judgmental and How to Find the Peace Within You]
The ability to heal one's own heart begins with one simple but powerful step: Concentrate on your heart. Embrace self-awareness.
When you step into your own self and become aware of who you are, you will learn to let go of every thing that hurt you. 
When you reflect on hurtful moments and hold it up to the light that is within you, all that remains is this blazing light of truth: 
"I am the highest Loving Awareness there is. I am Consciousness."

Friday, August 7, 2015

How The Hangwoman Swept Me off My Feet

A three day trip to Kerala is all it took for me to come back with ten Malayalam books!

My mother stared at the stack of books and asked, “You will read all these books?”

“Of course, but these aren’t enough, I need to read more....” was my reply.

I understood her worry. She didn’t want me to pay for excess baggage.

Bold and Beautiful: Reading books from regional languages

Women’s writing in regional languages is clearer than a mirror that reflects nudity. These writings bring us glimpses of a place and a person – be it the way words are said, the daily life and customs pan out, the nuances of a place and its inhabitants. 


                                               [Image: Unsplash]
                                
For example, Madhavikutty (or Kamala Das, author of My story, as you probably know) is a writer whose writings in Malayalam are a must-read. When I read the English translations of her books, I feel the gaps acutely and the helplessness that comes with the understanding that my mother tongue is so rich and intricate that English cannot possibly hold justice to it.

Recently, I also read The Hangwoman, which is an English translation of a bestselling Malayalam novel by K.R. Meera. After Kamala Das, I have not read any woman writer as bold as K.R. Meera. The Hangwoman will shock you out of your wits in its depiction of Chetna’s thoughts, an ordinary girl who finds herself in an unenviable position of becoming India’s first hangwoman.

Now as a reader, if I got so swept off my feet and senses by the English translation, imagine how much more powerful the Malayalam novel is.

So, here’s what I want to tell you – let's read more writings from Indian regional languages.

For reference, get a copy of the book, “Growing up as a Woman Writer” (edited by Jasbir Jain, published by the Sahitya Akademi).  It’s a treasury of women’s writings all the way from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. And as you probably know, unlike many Indian English writers, a majority of these writers don’t “market” their books aggressively. 

They really deserve our attention and contemplation.

And if you have any regional book reccos for me, do drop me a line with the name of the book and writer. I would love to read and revert!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Don't worry about teaching the Gita; Krishna will do it in spite of you

There are many, many paths to God. 

All paths have their advantages and disadvantages, difficult moments to navigate and pitfalls to avoid. It's your attitude and openness on that path which makes all the difference to your spiritual growth.

Ram Dass, an American spiritual teacher, had doubts  whether he would be able to do justice to the great task he had undertaken - of sharing his reflections on The Bhagawad Gita - for students at a spiritual camp.  

When Ram Dass shared his concern with Swami Muktananda, this was the reply He received: The Gita isn't a book about Krishna. The Gita is Krishna. You don't have to worry about teaching the Gita - that's none of your business. The Gita will teach itself. Krishna will do it in spite of you."



This message is not just for Ram Dass but for all of us. Have unflinching faith about your path and develop a heart full of openness and love - that's enough. [ DO READ: Strong is the NEW Beautiful ]

Everything else will fall into place, perfectly, at the right time. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Four delicious posts that can lift your spirits

What's your fun way of enjoying the beautiful monsoons? I love to curl up with piping hot tea, some samosas that have green peas-potato filling that tastes yummy! To match the monsoon mood, I've put together four delicious, heart warming posts that I enjoyed and thought you may like it too! 

When I read about Wicksdom, I remembered my grandmother. She loved getting wicks ready every evening. Wicksdom is truly a beautiful initiative to spread the light in the lives of the elderly women in Kerala and beyond.  With most temples in Kerala requiring up to ten thousand lamps to be lit daily, Wicksdom will address that need. READ more about it here. 


And in case you want some thing to give you a boost, simply curl up and read through Vishnu's heart-warming list of quotes that will lift your spirit up instantly! 



                                                                         [Image: Snapwire]

Travel is something close to my heart. There are many places that I want to visit. Whatever I have read about Grannies Homestay made me long to head to Varanasi. Their rates are reasonable, their facilities are cozy and I yearn to taste their much talked about home food. READ more information here.

Coming back to food, caramel pudding is one of those delectable things I find irresistible! And I can tell you, with absolute confidence, that no one makes it as yummy as the Parsis do. So, here's a post to get you really hungry!  


Now it's your turn! What are the delicious, heartwarming things you've read or done this monsoon season? Do drop a line - I'd LOVE to hear from you!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to overcome anger before it conquers you

There is anger everywhere - in relationships, in newspapers, in TV serials and channels, in business and so on. It is taking over our lives rapidly and growing faster and more dangerously than inflation!

So, why are we turning  into such an angry, intolerant society?

In Pandit Rajmani Tigunait's autobiography My Spiritual Quest and Life with Swami Rama (a candid account of a village boy's spiritual struggles in today's world), he shares an experience related to anger. You can read more Pandit Rajmani Tigunait here.

While studying in a Sanskrit school, there was a temple of the Goddess nearby and  he lived in one of its small chambers. He was very hungry and the domestic help at the temple purposely left rice uncooked over wet wood. A couple of other factors also contributed to worsen the situation.  In a fit of anger and hunger, he threw the rice at the face of the Goddess in the temple!



Ashamed and afraid about the consequences of what he had done, he tells everything to his Guru. His Guru said, "If you don't learn to control yourself, you will have to clean up the messes you make.

And then his Guru gave him priceless advice:
1. Find the cause of this inner unrest that created this emotional turmoil.
2. When you reflect on the subtle forces that caused you to lose your temper, you will find that unfulfilled desires are the cause of your anger.
3. The cause of anger was already there in you. The servant's behavior simply served as a spark. 
This experience conveys one important truth: Unfulfilled desires are the cause of anger. Find the cause if you want to control and master your anger.

Once you find the cause, you can  Take Charge of Your Anger!

Tell me how you deal with anger and angry people - what approach do you choose?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Why not write as you think?

If you love writing as a craft, David Morrell's book Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks At His Craft is bound to excite you! The book packs in many useful, practical writing tips. 

For instance, he says, "Instead of waiting to write until you've thought through an idea, why not write as you think? The format is a conversation with yourself..." [READ: What makes your writing shine? and Home is Where the Heart is]

I've often had this inner argument with myself while writing. 

Hmmm, that's a thought, isn't it? Here is a blog post in which I wrote just like I normally speak: How I Made My First Kerala Fish Molee.


And this forms the crux of that inner argument: the time-taking birth of beautiful sentences.

                                     Source: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/115664474886


How do you like to write - freely, naturally or painstakingly?

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India is my Country & my Pride