Tuesday, January 20, 2015

of mindfulness, and also of other less savory matters

Suddenly that word is everywhere - "mindfulness". There have been debates about its actual meaning. The word has its roots in Pali, and also in Sanskrit. It originates from Buddhist principles. This is how I understood it, after reading a little about it. Mindfulness is "to be aware". To be aware of the moment. Free from judgment. Just to be. It is a presence of mind where one accepts without confusion, what each moment brings - the emotions, the thoughts, the plans for future, the whole experience.

I think that in this age of self-conscious living, 'mindfulness", which is another level of consciousness, can be of great benefit. For instance it can aid in creating an empathetic society, not unlike the Buddhist ideal. Or that of other religions. Where it could differ is that it could in practice go beyond mere religious to- the- letter morality, where  great power is wielded by leaders who soon forget how to be compassionate or humane. Where we covertly do whatever we like without thinking of another's pain or humiliation, while we judge others openly.

( I just had to touch on that "kiss-revolution" going on in my state, Kerala. The older generation and some of the "holier-than-thou" younger generation reproach and condemn that as immoral and against tradition and altogether sleazy. But then that is their way of controlling the progressive youth, especially girls, of any generation. These judging hypocrites (who have done this and much more against true morality in their lives behind closed doors - including rape and murder of women and little boys and girls), conveniently forget that this whole drama started as an act of protest. They want to erase that true spirit behind it and instead focus everyone's attention on the supposed debauchery of these young people, destroy the morale of the activists.What better way to suppress it than to instill fear in the girls' minds by branding them as loose women who were asking for it? And unleash  anti-social elements, like rabid animals into their midst, as punishment? The so-called 'traditionalists" and "culture-ists" should hang their heads in shame.

I remember an incident from long ago during my university days. In our university auditorium, it was segregated seating - boys on one side, girls on the other. There was this program there once which was held by the students. The usual songs, dances, skits etc on the stage. Every time something like this took place, the girls' side would be full and the boys' section half-empty. What more, the girls sitting at the very back had to endure the catcalls and other stuff from the crowd immediately behind them - all men, not necessarily university students. Well, this time, when my friends and I got there, the girls' side was almost totally full. And I could see the hooligans at the back just waiting for us to get there, with unconcealed glee. If we were to stick to our designated sphere, we would have to go to this problem area. And the boys' side was totally empty. So according to my suggestion, my friends and I went and sat in the second row of the boys' side. Well, it was a statement on my part. It was not because I wanted to sit near boys. In fact we were 5 or 6 girls sitting together. and the chairs around us were vacant. And there was no boy there that I wanted to sit near to. Or may be the one that  I would've liked to sit next to, was not there! (not that even if he were there, I would have! )Anyway, before the program started, a Student leader came to us, and called us outside. He told me in a sleazy manner that they all would love to "interact" with girls "closely". He did some insinuating innuendo-filled gesture with his hands when he said that. Then he went on to say that we will not be allowed to sit there for our own protection. Protection from whom? From him? Yes, we would need it. But he should not have assumed that all the rest of the men there were like him. It was a University after all. But then he had a small group of similar-thinking sheepish looking guys with him, who seemed to agree with him. I will never forget the sarcastic tone and the salacious expression on his face when he gave his speech. And he was supposed to be an enlightened student. A leftist revolutionary. I felt humiliated, angry, powerless, and incredibly sad thinking of our society, of our girls.  We walked out of that place that day. So I know  how people can distort the truth, erase the spirit and the ideal behind situations, by degrading and maligning the act of protest, and focusing on incredibly spurious ideas that maintain the status quo. Women are not allowed to step out of the slots handed down to them by the males. They pretend not to understand that women do not want to step out into the world just to sleep with all men. Now if they had practised true mindfulness, they would think differently, with compassion, knowing the plight of women in my country, understanding  the need for change.)

On the other hand, this mindfulness  holds higher and evolving standards.  The advantage of this way of living -- as a mindful subject -- is that even if one does not believe in a God, you can still be a fully evolved human being.Or at least on our way to being one. Because when we  practice mindfulness we begin with our own minds.  We focus on what goes on in there. Each one of us is our own authority. Not some religious leader. We become responsible for our thought and thereby for our actions. We owe it to ourselves to be good and kind. When each person is good and kind to his or her own self, (because it makes him or her feel better on the whole) , then that could extend outward and spread and reach the whole society.

Mindfulness can be practiced, as in meditation. It is being used in many areas of our lives these days. Many government agencies, hospitals, schools, businesses and such have started using it as stress-reducing /healing method. Nothing wrong in that, as far as I can see. There is that fear in many scholars that commercialization of mindfulness will make us forget the real spirit of the whole process. Which is "social harmony" and compassion. They fear that it may just teach people to adapt to stress, for instance, rather than deal with the cause of that stress or strife in a compassionate, wise, and humane manner -- in other words, in the manner of that evolved being. Which is what the underlying ideals of many religions are, but everyone conveniently or ignorantly forgets that part. (And those who are really clever and successful in this world know how to use those ideals without themselves following them, to their advantage. But that is another story).

For me, the immediate step in mindfulness is that I would start with breathing mindfully. anything easy, I can do! Stop. Stand up straight. Shoulders back. Tummy in.  and take that deep slow breath, and exhale. That is centering. And cleansing. And then, I can use mindfulness when I eat.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

astrology matters

Or rather matters of astrology. I am no astrologer. But I think I am a natural researcher. You may be doubtful, but let me explain. I like knowing stuff, and I am rather good at connecting the dots. Now, there have been times when I am way off the mark, and that has landed me in hot water a few times. yikes!
 However, there have also been many times when I've got it uncannily right. I may have that sixth sense! :)

Anyway -- what I am trying to say here is that down the years I have found and settled on a few astrologers online. At first I just used to read the horoscopes and promptly forget them. Soon I wanted to know more about it, and I started going behind the scene so to speak. Now I can cast a basic chart, more or less use an Ephemeris, and am more knowledgeable about the characteristics of the planets and the zodiac signs, and the houses.  I am not a fanatic believer, as moderation in anything is the ideal that I always try to follow (again, I fail miserably at times in that too). I would like to believe that there are more things out there that we do not know about completely - just so that we can entertain some hope in our day to day living. I do not think I am going to make a career out of this, but then we never know, do we? - mostly because my interests are too varied and I am more like a Jill of all trades and master of none.  Someone like that can never amount to much, materially, but still can be happy. :)

So I have  read what astrologers have to say, (Somewhere along the line, I decided not to spend time looking at the positions of the stars when it is already being done by these wonderful experts - I use that knowledge and build on that - always the easy way ) and do the observation bit on myself and others, and have kind of got an understanding as to how it all works. Still no expert, but like I said, I can connect the dots, bridge the gap, as my ultimate goal is very simple -  to make people, including myself,  believe in themselves, and just be happy in their own skin, as much as possible for each of us. To just use my commonsense and try to maintain my faith in human nature, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Walk a mile in their shoes... hopefully. Or just be.

 And so, I am not focused on predictions and prophesies - but more of a self-help kind of thing.  I believe that there are always things that are beyond our control, and others that are within our control. If we stopped and thought about it, we ourselves can realize that - sooner or later. The choices we make are influenced by the genes that were handed down, the upbringing we had, the society we lived in, the times we lived in, and the family we lived with - to sum up, our heredity, and our environment. And then the collective unconscious of a whole tribe, a region, a nation. Add to that our own free will. Our not inconsiderable ability to rise above the occasion at times, and to shoot ourselves in the foot, at other times. They tell us to learn from our mistakes, from our past, from other famous people, but there is one thing that sometimes defeat us - the march of time, that inevitable process of ageing. That inability to turn back the clock, go back in time, and fix everything. And with great age, comes great wisdom, and great foolishness and great helplessness. :) In the midst of all these, if the stars can give us a little insight, a little respite, I will take it. When they can help us prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Or vice versa. Because I do not think of them as all-powerful beings that are supposed to care about what happens to me.

Nevertheless, there is this germ of an idea that has taken root in my mind. It is about  the planet Jupiter. Every time that planet transits a sun sign, I read about the wonderful benefits that he bestows on the person. He is the great Benefic, they say. Looking back when Jupiter was in my sign ,over the years, that is in my First House of Self, I find that it may be true. I did enjoy some great blessings, including the birth of my son, when Jupiter was in Aquarius. But then the last time Jupiter entered my sign, I lost my father. Another coincidence - both my father and my son are Leos! During one Jupiter transit, a Leo came into my life, and in another, a Leo was taken away! By the way, Leo and Aquarius are opposite signs. Suddenly I remembered that one of my friends who had Jupiter in her sign the previous year, lost her father that same year. Soon I started looking at the charts of a few people I know, and there was a pattern. Of course it depends on the position of other planets in their signs  , like Saturn for instance, but there is some connection between Jupiter and death, which I am sure the real astrologers know. Astrologers say that we lose people and things that we do not need anymore. And that only when there is an empty space, that the universe can fill that space with something new, and better. May be true in a way. But it still hurts, when you lose something or someone precious, then I remember that pain is part of our human existence. Sometimes with great blessings, great hurts happen, and at other times, with great hurts, other great hurts happen. And to some, it looks like it's always sunshine. But then again, it all depends on our perspectives, and on how we choose to take it, doesn't it ? :)