Category: This-That (page 2 of 227)

Flimsy Boundaries

I recall thinking a few years ago… Perhaps our skin, the only tangible boundary between us and the world is highly superficial, or permeable. The “brine” that exists outside our bodies swims within us, too. The air and smoke and microorganisms and invisible beings that permeate the space outside our bodies exist inside them, too. Same goes for the metaphorical space that’s filled with dreams, ideas, fears, disappointments et al. It is all-pervading, meaning it’s also within me, Lakshmi. So, my so-called mental/emotional space isn’t any more mine than it is anyone else’s. I suppose it’s like being in a swimming pool. The water is everywhere—it’s foolish to think you can get away from it.

It then follows that both this physical body and the egoic one (Lakshmi) are flimsy vehicles with nonexistent boundaries because space gets in EVERYWHERE.

Outer Vyavahaar

Several years ago, I was on a teacher training course. As it happens on these programs, you spend a great deal of time engaged in meditative practices, Hatha yoga, contemplation, etc. I can’t speak for others but I often found myself feeling particularly sensitive, emotional. When you begin a practice of meditation (and I am using this term in the broadest sense), you sometimes encounter experiences (mental, emotional, etc.) that can throw you off a bit… You may feel remorseful, angered, bitter, dejected, disappointed, etc. (HA, why should someone carry on with such a practice, right? Anyway, I digress.) So, it may have been that I was particularly miserable one day… I think the teacher noticed something a little off with me. He came over at the end of the session, whispered, “You cannot be like Guruji; you can only be Guruji.”

I had no idea what that meant. I remonstrated, wanting to explain myself, or wanting an explanation. He didn’t say much else, and I wondered: What was that about?It’s 13+ years since that incident, and I think about it sometimes.

Human beings are copycats. We imitate endlessly. And so it happens that you meet someone wise and wonderful, and you want to be like them. What you see is the outer, and you begin copying. And it’s sometimes mystifying because this wise individual behaves in “unwise” ways. And because you can’t see beyond the visible, you wonder: How can such behavior be “enlightened?” Why did he do that? How can she say this? Isn’t she supposed to be kind and generous? I thought he was a wise, enlightened being.

I remember a talk by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar where he speaks about how we scrutinize the behavior of a so-called enlightened being, trying to guess their motivation. “Why did he scold them? How can he say something so hurtful? Perhaps he hasn’t overcome his own cravings and aversions,” and so on. Gurudev explained that you cannot determine what lies inside such an individual. (Perhaps, nothing?) And you certainly cannot figure it out from their vyavahAr, the outward behavior. And yet it happens that the Self sometimes sparkles through the behavior, and if you are keen, you are able to discern it.

Once we let go of our desire to “become enlightened,” (as opposed to simply being), and we drop the plan of behaving LIKE the one we love and admire, we may be able to truly see through their outer behavior and commentary and actions and responses. And then we may be able to see that there is no need to be LIKE anyone else. Indeed, you can be exactly as you are.

Instead, all we see is their outer behavior AND how our own behavior is not desirable, not “enlightened” or “wise.” And yet, we are so attached to our perceived faults! If a wise person told us, “Drop all that shit; you are free and pure today,” we’d still be doubtful, unsure. Because we feel that the ONLY way to be free and pure is to OWN all that shit. Because if we disowned these so-called faults, how would we improve?


Here’s a tip. Don’t go get a new haircut if you are unhappy with the state of your hair. (This IS different from wanting to try a new style.) When you are unhappy with the state of your hair, you show up at the salon hoping for a transformation. And the stylist is now burdened with the lofty task of ridding you of disappointing hair AND making your hair dreams come true. This is a classic case of “front loading.” It’s a little like the Christmas Day post I shared about my morning chai being a disaster, so I made another cup… which also turned out sad, and then I thought lunch could improve things (it didn’t), and so on. A series of disappointing food episodes… AARGH.

You cannot erase the memory of a bad meal by going all out to make the next one superb. It doesn’t quite work that way.

Perhaps, another way to see this is… Every action (experience?) is complete and discrete in of itself, and if we drag it into another (or make it the “source” for another), it makes for all sorts of pending hopes, impending disappointment?

I wonder if this is another way to illustrate that every action (experience?) is essentially “closed-loop,” or perhaps, that is the optimum state.

Love for Objects

There are a bunch of objects I possess that I love dearly.

Many years ago, I bought a light spring/fall jacket from my local TJMaxx. It’s made of cotton, and it weighs a ton. The color is a faded olive green, and the fit is slim, perfect. Needless to say, I adore it. Wearing it is a bit of a workout but I love it too much to mind that. Then, there is a brass mortar and pestle I got from my mother-in-law. It’s a sturdy piece of art that I use daily to crush ginger for morning chai. And then there is a faded olive green linen shirt I bought years ago. And so on…

People who love to to hate Marie Kondo often accuse her of asking them to throw away the objects they love. They couldn’t have got it more wrong, really. In fact, I think Marie Kondo and I may have something in common. I imagine that both of us love our objects dearly!

I love almost everything I have, and the stuff that I don’t love doesn’t stay with me very long. Nothing mystical or mysterious about it; I simply give it away. But I have also lost things that I love. A few years ago, our home was broken into. All my jewelry was taken, even the little fake baubles. Wedding gold jewelry sets given by Pratik’s parents and my paternal aunt, chunky Kundan jewelry I wore for the wedding reception, a delicate pavizham (red coral) earring and necklace set, and then other little bits and bobs that I can’t recall. Oddly enough, I was unaffected by the loss. I was thankful that we weren’t home when the break-in occurred. The jewelry was gone… ahh, that’s what it is. The parting or separation or “breaking away” was painless and complete; no traces were left behind.

I sometimes wonder if loving something deeply and fully is the only way to be free of it… Loving without a sense of ownership, or fear of loss, or notions of duty or obligation or association or affiliation.