Thoughts on the new year

I’ve been thinking about a new way to view life as 2011 comes to life. Life is about constant growth and learning. Without an expansion of thought, there can be no real progress – even on a very personal, individual level. It’s not just about reaching certain goals, but understanding what my core values are. Because goals are only achievable if they fit into the framework of our values.

I have realised over the past few years that the power of collective thought is not just a ‘concept’, but a living truth. People think it’s silly to talk about ideas without objective, scientific examples. There are plenty of examples for lots of things, but personal experience is the greatest revealer. Most things taking place on a physical level are the results of thoughts. When the thoughts are aligned to a higher plane of consciousness, they lead to actions of growth. Growth does not mean easy experiences; the greatest growth occurs through difficult experiences.

So, I’ve made a list of the things that give me greatest fulfilment:
1. Creativity
2. Inspiring human interactions
3. Letting go of old experiences

And then thought of activities I could do to practise more of these things. There are no set resolutions, and no guarantee that everything that happens will be ‘easy’, but my intention is to move towards the things that matter most.

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This life divine

Everyone has their own reason for coming onto this earth, but humankind is collectively facing a need and desire for self-awareness right now, as oppositions of experience (pain/pleasure, wealth/poverty, love/hate) are becoming more intense – and not just in society in general, but also within the day-to-day reality of individuals. Everything is intensifying, and some are boldly facing the chaos while others are running off to the mountains to find some peace (and finding that the chaos is still there in their minds, inviting the same kind of situations in the remotest of places). This is the classic ‘fight or flight’ reaction of the prehistoric human, and it is based around the belief in FEAR. There is A LOT of fear in the world today. The fight or flight response was useful when we needed to run or contend with threatening animals, but to the modern human, this response is useless and harmful. The fear we are dealing with different from that of our ancestors – ours is a fear of the unknown.

This fear is a necessary part of the journey that brings a person into contact with his or her divine purpose. The fear makes us question: what are we afraid of? Through a series of questions, contemplation and insights, we are able to make certain changes that can lead us to experience the MOST FULFILLING LIFE IMAGINABLE.

We are truly involved in the way our karma plays out. Actions have consequences, but there is a place for grace and revelation in all this. We are deeply responsible for every layer of our experience, and we can change everything in our lives if we want to. It IS possible to lead a life of total love, beauty and joy, but it requires a great deal of self-awareness, patience, will-power and love.

Being vegetarian

Vegetables
As a young child, I used to eat all kinds of meat and fish. In fact, I don’t even like to mention some of the kinds of meat that I happily ate. But as the years wore on, I began questioning meat on every level. Now I’ve been 100% vegetarian for about eleven years.

I honestly don’t know why meat began bothering me in the first place. I used to love the taste, but at around age seven, I began disliking the flavour. After that, I began associating meat with the act of killing and bloodshed. A lot of people argue that it’s natural for humans to be omnivores, but I feel we’ve reached a state of consciousness in which what we eat is a choice, not just an instinct. It may feel ‘natural’ to start a fight with someone or to be promiscuous, but we make conscious decisions which instincts we should follow through with – that’s what makes us responsible individuals and allows societies to progress. Even primitive societies display such traits of consciousness – it’s the hallmark of human evolution. I think being vegetarian is an important choice, both for the individual and for the ecological systems we contribute to. Animals live on instinct, but in a way which is in sync with nature. The way in which we consume meat these days is definitely not in sync with nature.

The meat industry keeps and produces livestock in a very ecologically-unfriendly way just in order to make money. The natural balances of the food chain are disrupted and the proliferation of diseases becomes much higher. I realise that vegetables are grown in artificial ways too, and that there are now options to buy organic meat, but despite all this, the risks of producing meat are always less natural and more detrimental in terms of self-sufficiency, the environment and individual health. A lot of people think that vegetarians miss out on vital food elements, specially protein. But this is simply not true if someone follows a balanced diet. For all these reasons, I think it’s worth being vegetarian.

Where to live – east or west?

My husband and I have been living in India for over two years now. After being settled in the UK, we relocated to the east for work reasons. Now we’re about to have a baby, I’ve been thinking a lot about which society is best to settle in – the east or the west?

Our background is that we’re both British Indian (Indian origin but were brought up in the UK when our parents emigrated there for their careers). Now our parents are retired and resettled in India, which is an unusual trend even today (migrating back to the homeland after 30 years working and living abroad). My husband was born in the UK and I was born in India; his family is originally South Indian and mine North Indian – but apart from those differences, we have a very similar cultural identity. We were raised in a British society, with British friends and pastimes, but our family life was Indian. As a result, we’ve become very mixed in our cultural outlook, and open to living in different societies.

There are so many considerations when it comes to deciding where to live. One is work and finances, then there’s the environment, social values, education, family life and, the all-important, everyday lifestyle. In almost every category, the west has a more established infrastructure which we find easier to live with, but then again in every category, the east offers more variety and unpredictability which makes life more exciting. In terms of health and safety, environmental awareness, education, I prefer the west’s sense of order. But our family is now mainly in the east, so social values and everyday lifestyle are better for us in India right now. I also like the fact that the sun comes out everyday, as it does have an uplifting effect. It’s a very difficult decision between logic and emotion (west=logic, east=emotion).

To some extent, as the recession looms, the decision is not entirely up to us. We’ll have to consider the work situation at the end of the year and that will be one of the priorities for where to settle. I think raising a child in a safe and secure environment is important, but a bit of unpredictability and a richer family life are important too.

The view from my window

When I first moved into this apartment, I immediately noticed the view from the living room. Up on the third floor, the apartment overlooks a busy Indian road, bustling with people, cars and auto rickshaws. Looking past the road, one notices a truly lustrous row of trees: coconut trees, neem trees, banana trees. The delightful mixture of colour is a feast for the eyes.

Everyday, I sit facing this view, either having my dinner, talking to my partner, writing, reading, watching TV or listening to music. Sometimes I just sit here, staring into space and daydreaming.

Just today, I was staring out at the trees thinking about things I need to do for work, when it hit me: I have been taking this spectacular view totally for granted. Seeing the same lovely image everyday, its beauty has become something regular. I closed my eyes and reopened them. That same initial wonder I felt when I first saw the trees entered my perception once again.

Now, this is only with a view from my window, but how many other things could I be taking for granted right now? There are so many amazing visions, moments, people, things… We really have to renew our vision every once in a while to appreciate what we have.

Abstinence

Yogis do not practise abstinence in order to punish themselves for no reason (sounds obvious but some people do believe this). For some, it seems ridiculous to deprive the body of something it enjoys, like food or sex. So, why is fasting or celibacy important to a dedicated yogi? Only because of the self-discipline and transcendental vision they facilitate.

Before going any further into this, I’d like to make clear that I am not a strict yogi. I practise yoga as and when necessary because it has health benefits for the mind, body and soul. I lead a relativity ‘normal’ life, although try to practise moderation, balance and purity (selflessness) of mind.

However, I can see the power that abstinence can give IF it is practised with TRUE belief and choice. To leave all the hankerings of the flesh and go deep within one’s self, overpower the small mind which chases after temporary pleasures and give one’s self the space and time to be one with the greater mind. If this is something that can happen naturally in a person’s life, then surely it represents a level of contentment within that person.