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Archive for June, 2014


Being kind to others is intrinsic to Indian culture. It is a part of our upbringing and the value system that is firmly ingrained in our formative years. Definitely, our connectivity with people makes this a requirement. However, what makes this exercise more meaningful is when kindness comes from the heart and has no personal benefit but a philanthropic one, and then it becomes a joyful experience.

However, when kindness is practiced with strings attached, it loses its meaning and we start becoming unkind to ourselves. Intention is the prime thought and this is what manifests within us as a debit or credit. So, it is not necessary that overt kindness will bring us brownie points, in fact, quite the reverse. As they say, you can hide your true motives from others but not from yourself. So, every time we make use of others for our own gains by making pretence of kindness, our wrong motives block our energy and deprive us of our moral strength.

The other aspect we need to look into very seriously is our negative reactions to events and people. We are unable to accept people as they are and get judgmental constantly. We are angry, resentful, filled with envy or hatred. We hurt people because we are hurt by them or because we want to feel good by hurting them. We choose to misunderstand people we don’t like very much. Sometimes, we retaliate out of an inferiority complex. Often, our ego becomes very fragile and we become very sensitive. At these times, our levels of self confidence and self esteem are low. We tend to blame others for our own shortcomings.

Why do we go through these complexities when we can be simple? The best remedy is knowledge out of which comes wisdom .Our self image can be enhanced by becoming aware of and accepting what we need to change in ourselves. This awareness and acceptance of ourselves will take us forward in empowering ourselves.

These exercises of self analysis and facing our selves are compulsory steps to start being kind to oneself. It also means that we have to be cruel to ourselves to be kind. We have to analyze our psyche, often mercilessly, to start the process of change. It is a hard task but those who have done it have benefited hugely.

Just as we have to have surgery to cure a physical ailment, we have to do a psychological surgery to our mind consistently until we internalize the feeling of peace and joy. This will be the biggest kindness to us.

Surekha Kothari

www.BodyMindSoulCentre.com

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The youth of today is in a very exciting space which is filled with many scientific and technological advantages. A vast vista of opportunities has opened up before them due to the professionalization of services. At the same time, there has been a steady infiltration and influence of other cultures and thought processes through the telecom and Internet revolution. The world has shrunk manifold in that sense.

In such circumstances, the greatest challenge for the youth of India is to process the inputs from other cultures to integrate them harmoniously with our age old, distinctive cultural heritage and traditions. The nurturing of a family, respect for the elders, the value systems we are taught and the spirituality inculcated within us need to be preserved. Change is a constant in everyone’s life. However, is all change to be accepted indiscriminately if it is at the cost of our well being and that of others around us?

From our predecessors, we have inherited virtues like honesty, integrity, love and respect for others, compassion, charity towards the less fortunate, faith and trust in the spoken word, and peace and prosperity within families and societies. Somehow, before it is too late, we have to reinstall these qualities within our hearts and minds.

In the last few years, change has set in so rapidly that there may be a perception of a wider generation gap between the youth and the elders. The influx of western thought and culture while influencing the youth does not particularly enamor the tradition bound parents and other elders. In the larger context, this is inevitable in every generation and should not matter to the younger generation. They should be able to map out their own goals and a plan to achieve them within the current scenario of opportunities and environment. Instead of getting into unnecessary temptations and diversions, those who, single mindedly forge ahead with courage, conviction, focus, determination and perseverance, will definitely achieve their goals. Making the right choices is very important. Giving up on dreams or compromising good values for the bad can never be a choice.

Surekha Kothari

www.BodyMindSoulCentre.com

surekhakothari.wordpress.com

Speakingtree Blog: www.speakingtree.in/public/surekhakothari

 

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I am constantly amazed at myself and the complete metamorphosis within myself. During my growing up years and much after, until a few years ago, I was such a romantic, such a sentimental person! Addicted to watching four movies a day during my holidays, I became an effective story teller to my cousins who would sit with rapt attention at my emotive narrations, with every expression and every nuance of the dialogue delivery by every actor imitated to perfection! After I was done with the romance, laughter, tears and anger of the film characters, my cousins felt they didn’t need to see the film at all! Today, I recognize that time in my life as a phase. It is difficult for me to sit through one movie today.

If I may use a generalization, youngsters go through pangs of love, separation, fulfillment, “stars in the eyes” phase, reading poetry moony- eyed and all of that and more. The rose colored spectacles stay on longer for some than others.

However, as we progress from this phase to the next, we should increase our vision to become more inclusive of other people, their trials and tribulations, their miseries and tragedies, and then, romantic notions will probably seem inadequate in terms of wholesome growth. There is a great sense of satisfaction and joy in reaching out beyond ourselves and an equally great sense of exhaustion and lack of purpose in living just for ourselves.

There is profound truth in the line from Urdu poetry, “aur bhi gham hain zamane mein mohabbat ke siva”, meaning that there are more tragedies in this world than romantic love”. It indicates that focusing on just this one aspect is being spiritually myopic and by inference, there are other forms of love that need activation, such as compassion and empathy.

Changes, both in thoughts and perspectives are inevitable and can be very meaningful if we can change our priorities and adapt to these changes successfully. It is called “moving with the times”. It is incredible then, that while some can see others changing, others are unable to see the change within themselves. Any shift in equation is upsetting for such people because either they haven’t learnt to move on or they are unable to handle their comfort levels being disturbed by the changes around them.

Moving forward also means “letting go” of past events while learning the lessons from it. So, logically speaking, those who “let go” are able to move forward faster and respond and adapt to change better.

None of us is today what we were yesterday and will not be tomorrow what we are today. Change is a subtle process that creeps up on us unless we see it happening with a microscopic sense of self awareness. The whole process of personal growth relies on a gradual build up of this very awareness which enables us to watch the process of change and make intelligent choices about the kind of change to accept or deny. The pre condition is that we need the wisdom of discernment to encounter change with a strainer in one hand and a balance in the other: to accept growth – oriented change and balance it with the existent principles, traditions and values we cherish.

Surekha Kothari

www.BodyMindSoulCentre.com

Blog: surekhakothari.wordpress.com

Speakingtree Blog: http://www.speakingtree.in/public/surekhakothari

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When we were studying Political Science, the Executive, the Legislature and an independent Judiciary had well established roles as per the Constitution of India which is one of the most comprehensive and democratic of its kind. But what can even the best document do when the humans who are its custodians are gradually stripped of their personal value systems and principles?

A country is as good as its people. So, a country is all about what its people are and what the people are or become depends on the quality of people who govern the country. Discipline and setting trends is definitely the responsibility of those who govern.

Democracy stands on the pillars of responsibility and accountability. We have seen massive erosion in both over the last few years. The media is crying foul on real life rape cases happening in some states. They are heinous and unpardonable crimes tantamount to violent abuse and therefore, intolerable. The callous and casual statements from those in power positions are not only deplorable but evidence of their attitudes towards women in general.

But, is this the only rape happening in our society? Aren’t we also guilty of the most terrible mental and emotional rape? In fact, the whole humanity needs major reforms for any other reforms, whether electoral, labor or any other kind, to succeed in the wider spectrum of the word “success” which should incorporate , above all, success based on human and spiritual principles. We tend to ignore this most important foundation for all action.

It has been the degeneration of the moral fiber of the few at the top that has forced the common man to be dishonest to survive in a corrupt system. I am not condoning this for a moment, but survival issues have rendered honesty very helpless. We know that for any nation to find its place in the sun, first, the ethical and moral benchmark of each individual is imperative. Where custodians of law become perpetrators of crime, there has to be an initiation of human reforms through a strict code of discipline.

It is pathetic that people from all professions have been indicted for rape, corruption, scams, obscenity in speech and criminal activities and an obvious conclusion, therefore, is that they cannot be role models by any stretch of imagination. Of more crucial importance is the fact that indictment and reforms need to go hand in hand to create a cleaner environment for rapid development. The impression of an attractive window dressing is short lived if not backed by a credible and superior product line. Similarly, we cannot sweep these issues under an expensive carpet anymore.

I return to the subject of the mental, emotional and physical rape of the woman. So many women are still living under these conditions due to a lack of empowerment, as second and third class members and often, without being given a class even. The cases of rape that find a place in media reporting don’t even constitute the icing on the cake. There are husbands raping wives, family members molesting their own younger family members. There is a rape of the very core of each person who resorts to these inhuman crimes. Are these depraved minds or minds deprived of spirituality and distorted out of recognition? Are these people who have either not been taught to love and respect or have lost faith in the human touch, a heart connection?

Whatever the case, the bottom line is, this cannot carry on and change through reforms and stringent measures against defaulters are imperative. Every woman needs to be given back her right to be respected and cared for as much as she is expected to care for her family and colleagues at the workplace. She needs to be given her right to information, education, equality and equality of opportunity. And if this is violated, she should have an effective recourse to justice.

Surekha Kothari

www.BodyMindSoulCentre.com                                                                 

Blog: surekhakothari.wordpress.com

Speakingtree Blog: www.speakingtree.in/public/surekhakothari

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The word “opposition” does not arouse any warm feelings in anyone I know. And yet, it is the one important requirement at every stage of life. Of course, there is great comfort in being liked, being popular and being supported all the way in whatever we do. No one would voluntarily come up and say, “Please oppose me. Please criticize me. It is good for me”. It is hard to look into the mirror held by others and clinically examine what they see in us, especially if it goes against our self image. Worse still, many a time, we ourselves are in complete denial and do not see ourselves that way at all.

In every human being, the feeling of appearing and feeling good and being accepted is very intense. People are often willing to sacrifice their intrinsic personalities to live within this bubble. Many cults are thriving exactly on this attitude of people. There is a huge psychology behind “toeing the line”. The price to pay is through externally imposed regulations which may well limit growth. The psychological benefits in such cases far outnumber the need for growth. There is anonymity in a group. Everyone seems leveled out at a similar benchmark. There is little fear of challenges and hence, failures. Everyone is polite, friendly and accepting of each other, surrendering to the body of dictates and finding comfort, “shelter” and a sense of belonging. Why would anyone want to bear the scorching heat of the sun when they can be in the shade provided by others?

But those who choose to deviate from these patterns will have to be introduced to opposition. The first opposition comes from within as an awakening call at the disturbance of the perpetual “slumber” state, Kabir, the famous Indian poet said, “Nindak Niyare rakhiye, aangan kuti chhavay. Bin sabun pani bina, nirmal karat subhaye”. To translate from Hindi, Kabir suggests that each one of us needs to keep critics around us. This will purify us without cleaning ourselves with either soap or water. How beautiful and how difficult to implement! “Frankness” is a shunned word today as much as detractors are kept away. The “healthiness” of arguments no longer exists. “It is my way or the highway” has become the norm. If we were not so myopic, we would realize that criticism itself, even if malicious, can be a cause for genuine introspection.

A strong and constructive opposition facilitates sustained development if heeded with an open mind. It is very important to take decisions only after examining all the perspectives. Take the example of the parliament. A weak opposition can be detrimental to the growth of a nation, whereas, a strong opposition can elevate a country to unimaginable heights. The pre condition is that the intentions be honorable. Maturity lies in opposing for the right cause and action, not for petty short term gains or impairing the vision and process of a bright future for an individual, family, community or a nation. In a democracy, a strong opposition acts as a system of checks and balances to prevent anarchy or a tendency towards despotism.

If we really think about it, a constructive opposition encourages a system of studying existing situations, shows the other perspectives to enable and ensure the best action under the circumstances. Personalizing criticism demonstrates a lack of maturity. In reality, opposition should trigger a need for soul searching and flexibility to incorporate corrections directed towards growth irrespective of where the suggestions come from.

The problem is that very often, personal criticism or opposition can be perceived as unpalatable because there is already an emotional charge attached to the subject. We don’t want someone else to tell us what we already know about ourselves and are not happy with.

Actually, opposition is a kind of fresh perspective. The positive side is that people actually think you are important enough to oppose. Conversely, they might oppose because they may gain some satisfaction from this. In either case, to keep an open mind helps in analyzing the new perspectives and understanding whether they apply to us, and if so, whether they help or hinder us. Intelligence is all about clear thinking and discernment.

A “no opposition” scenario can lead to inflated egos and may stunt development and growth which needs a sustained environment of challenges. Children who have excelled have done so by showing motivation and determination to stare challenges straight in the face and emerging successful. There are enough success stories of people whose life has been a huge struggle and who have achieved greatness despite severe opposition from people, circumstances and life itself, the latest being our very own Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi.

To face opposition requires courage and the ability to move ahead on the strength of the courage of convictions tempered with clarity of thinking and perception of reality , a deep maturity and intentions aimed towards the larger good. I hope we all learn to encourage opposition and change our negative attitude towards it. Let us turn every opposition into a new opportunity.

Surekha Kothari

http://www.BodyMindSoulCentre.com

Blog: surekhakothari.wordpress.com

Speakingtree Blog: http://www.speakingtree.in/public/surekhakothari

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This title of the famous book by Thomas A. Harris has always impressed me in the implications inherent in the title. It has a wealth of meaning. Really, if we can be “ok”, everything around us will be “ok”. I have noticed that whenever I am disturbed, I am restless and this restlessness communicates itself to those around me through my expressions, my altered behavior and the slipping mask I put on for the world. Since negativity attracts negativity, not only do I attract inquiring stares but also wariness and even a distancing from people. That, in turn, makes me more miserable. And so it goes on until I break the cycle with introspection and correction of my negative mindset and the reasons the mindset was formed. This requires a huge amount of digging of skeletons within and is not easy.

The “awareness” stage does dawn a shade more easily than the “acceptance” stage. I definitely may have a problem but am I willing to accept that I have one? After all, it is so much more comfortable to live in denial and pretend everything is normal. How, then, would it be possible to even look for a solution?

See how we become our own enemies? All our lives, we search for the wisdom that is in our backyard, as it were. We just don’t want to visit it because it is an effort to clean it up. Window dressing is much easier than cleaning up the mess behind the window, a detrimental attitude.

The crux of the problem lies in the externalization of the mind and its involvement in the daily actions and reactions which occupy much of the space in the mind and time during the day. So, if at all, we have a fixed time in minutes and occasionally, a few hours to perform rituals and even less to seek spiritual knowledge through reading, imbibing and practicing spiritual laws.

Is it necessary to be everywhere socially when your own house may be “on fire”, so to speak? Is it so important to be recognized and be in the Newspapers and on the Television Screen at the cost of the self being gradually demolished? Is endorsement from people more important than self endorsement? All these questions are vital to the happiness quotient which is sorely missing today in the rat race for more name, more fame and more money.

I say this with conviction that if the responsibility of the soul plan is taken on by each individual, it has the power to transform the individual and the surrounding environment. The one factor that needs to be maneuvered with wisdom and understanding is our ego, the root of all attachments , prejudices, wrong thinking patterns , colored behavior and all the outcomes thereof. Coupled with these is the ignorance of who we are and with what purpose we have come into this world.

Spiritual texts have averred that enlightenment is a constant removal of the many layers of ignorance that we live with. There is much unlearning, learning and re learning to be done. Above all the belief systems propagated by different religions, there is common fiber running through all Creation that connects or should connect all Creation. That common link is the Divine Energy which we must recognize and which should then be able to result in celebrating the unity in diversity. Just this thought that we are all connected should work as a good starting point for tolerance and wise action.

As I tell all my clients, if we can actually muster up our humility and introspective abilities, and hone our behavioral patterns based on the new learning, the change will be felt within and through the response of people around. But to become “gold”, one will have to go through the “fire” of life with increasing self knowledge and its implementation.

 

Surekha Kothari

www.BodyMindSoulCentre.com

 

 

 

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Whenever I visualize “silence”, I see a sage perched up on a high mountain, sitting in meditation. Just “to be” in deep silence, turning inwards and discovering the core within! But that is the ultimate. In worldly situations, silence has many meanings.

In a world as transient as ours, many of us have not understood the importance of silence. Silence is, often, the most potent language. It speaks volumes without saying anything. It is more profound than words and definitely more effective in many cases. It is a powerful tool for the self because it makes you conserve the energy to introspect. Meditative silence is nothing but being in touch with the self, emptying meaningless thoughts and filling ourselves with the silence and stillness of the Divine within us. This realization of who we are prevents us from hasty judgment and hence, hasty words and action. There are times when we tend to react impulsively instead of thinking of what the consequences might be. The popular saying “count ten before you act” says it all. The mind works better when it is silent.

While functioning within our day to day routine, silence can have many interpretations. In a relationship, it can mean subjugation, surrender, strength of compassion and tolerance or just giving up on someone who is incapable of “seeing sense”. Where justice is required to be administered, keeping silence can mean lack of courage and moral strength, even fear.

When hurt deeply, many swallow the pain silently and bottle up emotions. In anger, silence can be deafening. It is said, if you really want to kill someone, kill them with silence. Resisting baits by keeping quiet can completely confuse and shake someone who expects a reaction.

One day, during Buddha’s discourse, a man came up angrily and spat at his face. Buddha calmly wiped his face and kept talking. The man spat again. Buddha did the same thing again. On seeing that he was having no effect, the man broke down on his knees and wept. Buddha picked him up, sat him down beside him and asked him gently what the matter was. When the man asked him why he had not reacted to the repeated insults, Buddha said, “Son, if I had reacted to you, I would have been your slave. But I am the master of myself”. The man was transformed with these words from Buddha. So, silence can mean total self control. This quality of silence is therapeutic and transformational.

There are situations in which silence does need to be broken. One should not keep silent while administering justice or when praise is required to encourage someone, be it in family or workplace. When generosity is an intrinsic quality, it automatically uses silence and speech judiciously to sustain the self esteem or self confidence of another. This is an important feature of successful leadership.

Have you noticed that thinkers, writers and creative people seek solitude and often, retreat into their private space? Space has a deep connection with silence. Just as a painter paints best on an empty canvas, so also, creativity works within an empty space because the individual’s thoughts emerge while being within this intrinsic core which is a part of the all pervasive and all knowledgeable Divine energy.

In our chaotic, complicated worlds, the maintenance of silence is a difficult feat to achieve at the best of times. Ego driven reactionary attitudes to people and situations, the negative body language and emotions demonstrated by people can test our power of self control and the ability to be non reactive or retaliatory.

The awareness of the acute need to silence the mind and self control which brings silence into our lives can change our world from a discordant one into a harmonious one. Using silence indicates self mastery of a wonderful kind.

Surekha Kothari

www.BodyMindSoulCentre.com

 

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