Mindfulness

Mindfulness. 

A new mantra in the West, but a concept ingrained in all Eastern traditions, mindfulness is the new yoga. There are books been written on mindfulness, seminars and convocations conducted, and larger corporates are warming up to the fact that mindfulness does make a difference to employee happiness and more importantly(in their eyes), productivity. 

So what is mindfulness?

Here is a small exercise that you can try out. For today, observe yourself while you go about your day – from when you are in the shower, to when you eat, to even when you read this blog. Observe what you are thinking about as you perform these tasks. if you drive, then be conscious of what you are thinking when you drive, when you see a program on TV – observe again…

Most of us live on auto-mode. We wake up, check our phones, freshen up, have breakfast, work, eat, phone, exercise (hopefully), and sleep. But did you notice how you go about it? When in the shower – we end up thinking about some task at work that needs to be completed, when having breakfast, our eyes are on our phone – checking the news, twitter (and these days, the death count) and social media. When we drive to work, our minds are on that important meeting that is going to happen in a few hours. Oddly enough, if that meeting goes on for long, your mind has already reached home and made plans for the evening..and at that movie – its back to the phone checking news and email, and WhatsApp. 

Why are we living in fast forward??

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You have an hour more…everyday

A lot of people seem lost right now. Being confined to their homes is not something that they had factored into their schedules, and so it is quite uncharted territory. From sending in instagram videos of them performing daily chores like sweeping and cleaning, to ‘workout-from-home’ videos, people seem to be struggling to prove that they are filling up their time, and not wasting it. It’s ok to take a step back, and relax for a while. By relax, I don’t mean wasting time. At home, for three weeks, with the power to be in control of your time, your routine, and also the savings in travel time (at least an hour for most people), this does not seem to be as bad as it looks, does it?

Here is something that you can try to do with that one extra hour. 30 minutes of exercise, and 30 minutes of learning.

Nature

Why is it that we think of a retreat, of going away from it all, we always tend to go closer to nature?

I am fortunate enough to live in a community that is very close to nature. We have low-rise buildings, larger terraces, trees all over and abundant green spaces. I wake up with the chirping of the birds, and this continues all through the day, until they retire at sunset. A couple of bowls of fresh water, a few pieces of tomato and a smile in the heart is all it takes to connect with these birds. They have nested many times, and I’ve been privileged to see more than a dozen eggs hatch, and young ones being fed by their parents…

We are all extensions of nature – hence the term ‘Mother Nature’. We are born from nature, we live by nature, and when we are gone, we become part of nature again.

This cosmic bonding with nature is why we feel so calm and composed when we are surrounded by nature in it’s abundance. Take a walk in the morning sun, feel the green grass under your bare feet, run your fingers through the flowing water of a stream, hear the sounds of birds and crickets – being in nature, and with nature, is the antidote to any level of stress that you may experience. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.

I just heard about the art of Shinrin-Yoku, or the Japanese art of forest bathing. Shinrin means forest, and yoku means bath.

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New Beginnings?

And so it has been announced. a 21-day lockdown. Unprecedented in India, and anywhere else in the world. Reactions have varied, from support for the move, to criticism, to despair. After all, we are a generation that has largely seen growth and prosperity for most of our lives. 

We have’t met a challenge of such enormous proportions yet. It is natural to fear the unknown…

Today is Ugādi — the first day of Chaitrā māsā, or the beginning of the new year. Largely celebrated in South India (where I am from), Maharashtra (as Gudi Padwa), Sindh (as Cheti Chand), and Manipur (as Sajibu Nongma Pānba). It is also the start of Navaratri. 

Unlike New Year’s day as per the Gregorian calendar, the start of a new year in Indian calendars is largely marked by ritualistic celebration — early morning bath, followed by prayers and visit to the nearby temple. Celebration is characterised by new clothes, sweets and social gathering.

Ugādi is a derivative of yuga-ādi, which means the dawn of a new age. So, in a way, the festival celebrates new beginnings. 

And today is the first day of a 21-day lockdown. Do we despair…or is there an opportunity lurking in the shadows?

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Love in the times of a curfew

I witnessed something amazing today – a billion people came together to celebrate humanity. 

Janta Curfew – how does that work?

A clarion call by the Prime Minister – rather, a request to all Indians to observe a self-imposed curfew today, and another request as well – to stand at balconies, terraces, doors and windows at 5 pm – and celebrate our healthcare and sanitation professionals for 5 minutes. Celebrate them, since they are at the forefront of the fight against Corona. 

And boy, did we observe the curfew. Roads in India were deserted the whole day, shops were closed, people were indoors. And what happened at 5 pm?

Do see for yourself.

7-day Sādhanā challenge – Day 1

Photo by Moodywalk on Unsplash

Being at home for an extended period of time usually gets us into vacation mode. This time, it’s different. Circumstances are not pleasant, and the immediate future doesn’t look very bright. Being self-quarantined means less or no access to some of the basics that form our routine – the neighbourhood gym, your favourite coffee hangout, and the biggest of all – your workplace. 

While we may have experimented with working from home before, this time around, it isn’t business as usual. We feel that our lives have been disrupted, we may be struggling to get our short-term routines right. 

Is this a crisis? Yes. Is this an opportunity – yes too. Depends on how you adapt to it.

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A prayer for humanity

Group Sadhana for 11 days – Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, 108 times – for the country, for humanity. 

From home, but not alone. We all can – collectively, harmoniously, pray to nature, recognising our true place in the scheme of things. We are just a fleeting glimpse in the unending vista of images – let us be part of nature and not against it. 

ॐ द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः 
पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः ।
वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः 
सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥