Love. Open your heart: Joyas Voladoras by Bryan Doyle

I read a beautiful passage recently on living with caution, with a heart sealed from the ravages of time and emotion. We all engage in this self-defence, do we not? We have no fear as children. As we grow older, and we are stung by our friends, scratched by our family, slapped about a bit by time, we curl our hearts up into a tight-fisted little ball. The ball absorbs like a sponge, but is always on the edge of an explosion. It becomes an involuntary battle as age creeps in. The battle between soaking in or exploding out the pain. In the throes of constant battle, our mind forgets that there is such a state as living with an open heart. That we can be vulnerable, and its ok.

If we are to worry about being stung, we should also remember that there must be a profusion of flowers to have attracted the bee.

The passage is from “Joyas Voladoras” by Bryan Doyle and was quoted on a blog called 3quarksdaily about the lessons of life learned.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end — not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words ‘I have something to tell you,’ a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.



Good news of the day: The kindness of strangers

And now for some good news. There is such a thing as a free coffee.

Free Coffee at Corner Perk

It all started two years ago at Corner Perk, a small, locally owned coffee shop, when a customer paid her bill and left $100 extra, saying she wanted to pay for everyone who ordered after her until the money ran out. The staff fulfilled her request, and the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, has returned to leave other large donations every two to three months.

A carrot, an egg, and some coffee

No, this is not a post about morning breakfast tips, although it can be a good mental health indicator for whom you choose as your friends if this is indeed their breakfast.

This is a post of an email I received recently, involving a carrot, an egg, and coffee.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying A word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked he r to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Living in the moment – Animalism or saintliness?

I was recently sent an article written by Mukul Sharma questioning the wisdom of living in the moment. The article says

Economic Times
24 July, 2010

What’s so great about living for the day? Or for that matter, its various high-speed variants that urge us to exist in the here and now, the passing
present, that urgent, ephemeral and apparently most-important ‘moment’ ? Stuff like “For the past is but a shadow and the future an unknown; therefore, voyager revel in the instant you transit through for ’tis the only thing you know” . (Yes, it’s made up, but you get the drift.)

The Bible says give us this day our daily bread — and not, for instance, our week’s supply. Buddhists tell us to take one breath at a time. The Gita’s advice is to concentrate on present action.

Alcoholics Anonymous, whose rules are similar — namely, to lay off the liquor only on a day-to-day basis — is at least understandable . Psychologists know there’s a neat therapeutic trick of reinforcement involved by means of which a person can reward himself with one brownie point on completion of each 24-hour period that passes without downing a drink.

Yet, when that same rule gets applied to everyone across all levels of living, it hardly makes sense. If all of us did that — which naturally would be the goal of such an exhortation — and took it literally, then we’d end up in monasteries, mountain-tops or in our own reclusive and absolute worlds.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong in that, but if taken to its logical extreme, it would be like how most animals live: not for the day, not for the minute, not even for the moment because their lives are a mindless and biotic persistence that keeps traversing through infinitely thin slices of time till that fleeting instant also passes through them and they die.

So, if living one day at a time means don’t think about tomorrow or the next day and just live the now, it’s a no-brainer . Because unlike animals, we have an awareness that allows us to learn from past mistakes and anticipate possible futures and, therefore , why should we unnecessarily and suddenly renounce this added feature of our brains?

Also, what if all the enlightened people in our history had thought they should be living in the moment and not tomorrow, not next year; that they should be enjoying life today? If they had simply allowed their wisdom to lie fallow while wallowing in its bliss by themselves, would we have had some of our greatest religions today? No. It goes without saying they definitely lived for another day.

Mukhul Sharma

I have to disagree with Mr. Sharma.

It’s a matter of how one interprets “live in the moment”. Living in the moment does not mean that one does nothing. I would be curious to know which religion, which philosophy, and which saint ever said that. The Gita clearly says that to act is a must, there is no choice. But act now without getting hung up on the results in the future – that is living in the moment. To plan for the future, but not get overly attached to your plan, that is living in the moment. To think of the future as necessary, but not unduly worry about it, that is living in the moment.

I wonder if Mr. Sharma has truly studied the lives of the saints. All the great saints – Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharishi, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Adi Shankaracharya – all lived ( and acted) in the moment.

I’ll speak from personal experience. In May, the uncertainty in every aspect of my future – be it job, my potential move to India, my property issues, the work pending in India, my relationships, my work here in the US- weighed down heavy on me. I got so overloaded that my immunity came down and I had a relapse of Malaria. During my severe fever and in the days of bed rest later, I realized that I had forgotten to practice that simple lesson- live in the moment, do your best in the moment, leave the future to the divine hand, to the river of life.

Now I am doing so again, and a large part of the stress is gone. I am recovering. And things are working out beautifully, by God’s grace.

How do I live in the moment? Any time i start having negative thoughts about what might look like an insurmountable future, I ask myself if there is anything wrong at this present moment. It’s very hard for me to find something wrong. The past is over. It cannot be changed, so no point dwelling on it.

From my perspective, living in the moment removes worries and troubles. And by doing so, I don’t feel like an animal. Not every quality of an animal is inferior. There are things we can learn from them. Nor do I feel like my progress has stopped.

It is a waste of time and mind to wrestle with such things beyond a point. I just make sure I understand it, try it for myself. If it works, I keep it.

Living in the moment is a keeper.

A disciple once asked Swami Vivekanada
“it would be better for me to come back to this life again and again and help the causes that are of interest tome rather than striving for personal salvation and deep longing to get out of life. ”
Swami Vivekananda replied ” That’s because you cannot ovecome the idea of progress. But things do not get better; they remain as they are. We grow better by the changes we make in them.”

It’s a very useful thing to understand. As in Einstein’s theory of relativity, or as we sometimes think the sun moves in the sky, the outer world does not move. It is we who are moving, constantly, ceaselessly. And when we understand this, we also realize that living in the moment cannot be static. It is impossible.

A story about parents

I recently received this very thoughtful article by Booker Prize winner Juliet Rix from a friend of my parents. The last few paragraphs really stood out.

In one of the paras:

One of the greatest gifts my father gave me — unintentionally — was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity. We had a bit of a rollercoaster life with some really challenging financial periods. He was always unshaken, completely tranquil, the same ebullient, laughing, jovial man. I learned that life will go through changes — up and down and up again. It’s what life does.

I received the same gift of witnessing courage, but from my mother. However, my father too laughed and joked no matter how bad the times, so I witnessed the gift of humour from him. These are the gifts that helped me survive in a foreign country at the age of 18, without a penny, clutching on to a roller coaster called “The Life Express”.

And the last paragraph – perhaps we stood on the same precipice and saw the same fog descend…
Father’s stash of books from London, mother’s storytelling

In Memoriam of my parents

On Nov 14th 2009, my mother passed away in Hyderabad. Suddenly. Unexpectedly.

May 27th, 2010, is my mother’s birthday as per the Indian calendar – Buddha Poornima, or the full moon night that was also the birth night of the Buddha. This is her first birthday for me without her. In her memory, I have created a website that honours both my parents. The website contains the memorial services held for them, some insights into their personalities, and how they touched this world.

I wish the good fortune that I had with my parents on all children of the world. And to all parents, I can share the one thing that I learnt from my parents “Be the values you want your children to have”.

In Memoriam