Rumi on a Winter Morning

I woke up early this morning and took my dog for a walk. It was foggy and only a few people were out. A lonesome yellow bus collected school kids. When I returned to my room with a cup of tea, I felt like reading something inspirational, something other than the John Cheever book that lay on the bedside. So I turned to Rumi.

In one of the quotes, Rumi said,

                            “What you seek is seeking you.”

The words immediately filled my heart with hope, making up for the lack of sunshine on this chilly morning. If I can’t find what I am looking for, it will find me.

Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Rumi was a Persian poet and sufi.

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Two Poems

I bought a poetry collection recently called Best-Loved Poems. It is a thickish book with over two hundred poems from a range of poets on a range of themes.

The cover is sky blue with a waterpaint illustration of a cat and an owl in a boat with a guitar and some money and a jar of honey. You can see the river bank in the background and the sky looks like blue tile work. Inside, the pages are thick and glossy, like in a coffee table book, beautifully illustrated with flowers and butterflies and hens and sparrows. It looks like a children’s book and perhaps that’s its appeal, though the poems talk about love, loss, life and marriage, war and peace, nature and mysteries, and some I found to be deeply spiritual. Here are two poems that tell us to slow down and enjoy all the beautiful things God has put on Earth for us.


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

           William Henry Davies


Symphony in Yellow

An omnibus across the bridge
Crawls like a yellow butterfly,
And, here and there, a passer-by
Shows like a little restless midge.

Big barges full of yellow hay
Are moored against the shadowy wharf,
And, like a yellow silken scarf,
The thick fog hangs along the quay.

The yellow leaves begin to fade
And flutter from the Temple elms,
And at my feet the pale green Thames
Lies like a rod of rippled jade.

                              Oscar Wilde


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The Qawwal of Sikri

A set of steps, steep but long as rafters, lead up to the Buland Darwaza, a massive gateway. Here, slippers and shoes are left in the custody of a man in white skull cap and matching beard. Beyond the gateway is a vast courtyard made of red sandstone. In one far corner, calm and collected, sits the shrine of Hazrat Salim Chisti. Made of white marble, it looks like a pearl in asea of red.

I stood in the courtyard, just a speck in the redness; the day trip to Vrindawan had culminated at the shrine in Fatehpur Sikri, the city built by Emperor Akbar.

Outside the shrine a qawwal sat with his harmonium, singing. The lyrics spoke of a person coming to Hazrat Salim Chisti and requesting him to fulfil his wishes. His voice had the gritty texture of beetle nuts. After I had prayed, I hung around listening to the next qawwali. I felt like offering him some money. On the harmonium already lay a Rs. 100 note, so I took another hundred from my purse and placed it next to the first one. He raised his hand in acknowledgement and nodded.

As I walked away, his voice still in my ears, I started to think of how the original 100 had effortlessly attracted another 100, crisp and starchy.  At any other time I would have thought giving out a 100 excessive. Had there been a 10 or 20 on the harmonium I would have never thought of putting a 100 there. This was, I realised, the Law of Attraction working at its finest! The Law says Like attracts Like. And just like the Law of Gravity, it works every time, without fail. If you are happy, you will attract more things to be happy about. If you give love, that’s what you will receive. If you crib, you’ll attract more things to crib about. In this case a 100 had attracted a perfect 100.

I sat outside tying my shoes. A few feet below the village of Sikri was spread like a mat. I imagined the qawwal leaving his house in the village earlier this evening, chewing on a beetle leaf, the harmonium slung across his chest, making his way through the narrow village lanes. He stops at a kiryana shop to borrow a Re 100 note. His mouth full with beetle chew, he assures the shop keeper, “I’ll return it on my way back. And I’ll also pick a few supplies for home.” The Buland Darwaza looms in the distance. The qawwal spits the red juice in the open drain and walks on.

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A Day To Just Be

 May is passing. Some days the sun shines so furiously that it burns a hole in the sky, while the wind sandpapers you the moment you step out.  Even the evenings are hot and I abstain from going for my walk. The air in the park is stale like the insides of a broken fridge. For three or four days everything hangs in a limbo. The story I am working on these days is set in Delhi in high summer. So at least there is plenty of inspiration, I only need look out of the window or observe the city pass when I go out for a drive.

Then the sun tires itself out. The dust storms set in. The drive-way is coated with grit and so are the spear-shaped Ashoka trees and so are the windows.  By late evening the storm gathers momentum. Last night I could hear the trees swaying in the violent wind.  A cold shower falls sometime close to dawn. And pebbles of hail too, the cook tells me in the morning.  From the kitchen window the sky looks like a grey shamiana.  Outside, the driveway seems smeared with chocolate milk. The lizards have taken cover under the porch.  The flower pots are filled to the brim with rainwater and the leaves of the Ashoka tree look polished with wax.  The air smells of earth. The sweeper carting the garbage trolley down the road looks happy, and so does the line man on the cycle, and the students walking to colleges. The cars glide along peacefully, wheels churning the sludge. I decide to give the Delhi heat story a break today and write something monsoony; or maybe I’ll write something for my blog; it is long overdue after all.  Or maybe l will just sit by the window…and in the lawn…and under the porch and read all day long today.

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The So-Hum

Close your eyes and tune into your breathing.  Enjoy its tranquil rhythm, like gentle waves moving in and away from the shore. The sound of the breath is So-Hum. So on the inhalation and Hum on the exhalation. So. Hum. So. Hum. So. Hum.

The quality of our breathing determines the quality of our life. When we breathe effectively, drawing in optimum oxygen with every breath, we areate every cell of our body. This creates vitality and peace; physical health and spiritual well being. Most of us, however, breathe shallowly, from the chest. Deep breathing involves breathing from the stomach. When we breathe in, our stomach should go out, like a balloon filling up with air. When we breathe out, it should move in towards the spine. Deep breathing, however, doesn’t mean using excessive force. It simply involves breathing gently but fully.

How we breathe also determines how our thoughts manifest. When we exhale, with the breath we also release our thoughts into the Universe. When we breathe deeply and fully, it is with that much more conviction that we propel these thoughts into manifestation.

Take out a few seconds everyday to connect with your breath. When we are in touch with our breath, we are in touch with our inner selves and inner peace. Set anything in your day as a reminder to do this. Like whenever a phone rings in your vicinity, while the other  person takes the call, you can sit back and enjoy the rhythm of your breathing. This will help you connect with the silence within you. Done three-four times a day, it will create a reservoir of peace. Try it. It is a simple yet edifying exercise.

When we are aware of our breathing, we are in the Now. So many times we walk through life not knowing what is happening around us, let alone inside us. The watching your breath routine will help you live in the present. When we watch our breath, we are simultaneously practicing Silence, Stillness and Awareness.

The mind is a noisy animal. It needs to be tamed. In breathing meditation the mind is quietened by following the breath.  Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place. Watch your breath as it slowly goes in and out. Become aware of its sensations as it moves in through the nose, down into your stomach and moves out again. When your attention drifts to the thoughts in your mind or outside sounds, gently bring your focus back, without any judgement or self-criticism. Once again follow your breath; be with it; be one with it; until nothing is left but the So-Hum. So. Hum. So. Hum. So. Hum.

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Chakras: Whirls of Energy

We are not just the physical body: bones, organs and tissues. We also have a subtle energy system. We all have life force energy or prana flowing through us. If it was not so we would be dead. This life force energy emanates from the Divine. It ensures physical vitality, and also gives us access to all intuition and Divine guidance.

 Chakras are energy centres located deep within the body, along the spinal column. The word ‘chakra’ comes from Sanskrit and means both ‘wheel’ and ‘turning’. It is both a noun and verb.

Chakras look like wheels that are spinning constantly. They are responsible for receiving, processing and circulating life energy through the body. Although there are several chakras within the body, there are seven main ones. Each one is located next to a hormonal gland, starting from base of spine to top of the head. Every chakra spins at a different rate, and its spin-rate determines its colour. The chakras in the lower part spin at a slower rate than the upper ones. The seven main chakras resonate with the seven colours of the spectrum.

Every life issue that we can think about, from money to spirituality, is related to one or the other of these seven chakras. The lower three chakras are related to the issues of the material world, while the upper ones are focussed upon spiritual issues.

Below is a chart for the name, colour, location and function of major chakras:

Base of spine  
Physical security: money, shelter, material needs  
Three-finger-widths below the navel  
Physical desires  
Solar Plexus  
Stomach area  
Personal power and control  
Chest centre  
Love, kindness and realisation of oneness  
Adam’s apple  
Self expression, creative expression  
Third Eye  
Between the eyes  
Clairvoyance, insight and intuition  
Inside the top of the head
Wisdom and Divine guidance

Like our thoughts affect our experiences, they also affect our energy system. When we hold negative thoughts–such as fear, worry–our chakras literally become dirty and choked with negative energy. And dirty chakras cannot circulate sufficient life energy. When this happens we start to feel tired, depressed and out of sync with ourselves.

For example, the root chakra, which is located at the base of the spine and is red in colour, is related to issues concerning physical security, which includes career, money, physical safety, shelter and material needs. Now a person who is constantly worried about, say, his finances will have a shrunken and dirty root chakra. Imagine a muddy, disfigured wheel of red. A clogged root chakra further creates feelings of lack and limitation. And like a vicious circle, this heralds further money challenges. Similarly, a person obsessed with money will have a swollen, over-sized root chakra. Though there is nothing wrong with having a large chakra, in fact it is desirable, all our chakras must be of the same size so that energy flow is smooth and unobstructed.

The chakras also affect our intuitive abilities. Clean and balanced chakras help us be in touch with our inner-selves and our intuition.

At least occasionally, we all fret about life and its myriad issues. Such thoughts affect our chakras. Also, any ailment–physical, emotional or mental–appears first in our energy system. Since it is the health of the chakras that determines the health of the energy system, it is good to cleanse the chakras everyday.

Cleansing is a two-step process: first being, clearing of negative energy from the chakras; second, balancing the chakras, which involves enlarging them so that they are all the same size.

In her book Chakra Clearing Doreen virtue offers some simple chakra cleansing methods. The first one is white light visualization. In your mind’s eye, see a large beam of bright crystal white light coming into the top of your head. Make the light as bright as you can imagine, like dozens of halogen light bulbs. Now see the light penetrating the inside of the top of your head, clearing away any darkness or dimness as it flows down through the chakras: the crown (violet coloured) at the top of your head;  your third eye (indigo) between your two physical eyes;  your throat chakra (blue);  heart chakra (green);  solar plexus (yellow);  sacral chakra (orange) three fingers below the navel; and root chakra (red) at the base of spine. With your mind’s eye, watch as all of the chakras become illuminated and perfectly balanced in size. Personally, I have found this exercise very effective.  

Daily exercise also affects the chakras. When we breathe deeply, the increased oxygen flow aerates our chakras. Aerobic workouts aid in this direction, while regular walks and yoga also increase the flow of energy.

Another technique is chanting of Aum. Aum is the sound of the Universe. When you chant Aum slowly and loudly, Doreen Virtue says, you will feel a strong vibration between your physical eyes. These pulsations reawaken the third eye’s natural ability to see clairvoyantly. Through my own experience though, I have come to believe that Aum quietens the mind and cleanses the whole set of seven chakras with its resonanting vibration.

Chakra cleansing is a part of most healing modalities, like Reiki, Gaiadon Heart, etc. Such is its importance.

Clean and balanced chakras are essential to good health and a harmonious life. They are the channel to our connection with the inner-self and God.

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An Inspiring Flight

The first time I read Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I was eighteen, the book lent to me by a friend, then again at twenty-two as part of an MBA project during my post graduate days, and now again nine years later. Each time the book has revealed to me a different aspect, a deeper meaning.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a seagull but no ordinary one. For most gulls flying is a mere means to an end–the prosaic flight from shore to food (fish) and back again. But Jonathan loves to fly just for the joy of it. He spends whole days alone experimenting, pressing boundaries of speed and altitude. Through determined practice he learns to overcome the limitations of his large gulls’ wings and, finally, fly like a falcon. Soon, however, he is cast out by the flock for his non-confirming ways and ideas. It saddens him. Yet in exile he continues to spend his days honing his skills.

The story reads like a spiritual adventure.  It talks about growth, perseverance, love, kindness and above all the joy of following your dreams, and all this within the space of 100-odd pages. Over the course of the story we come across evolved gulls, with glowing silver wings, who talk telepathically, and have learned to transcend the boundaries of space and time. After having learned all there is to learn on Earth, these birds move to higher planes of existence, where new learnings begin, and where Jonathan too finds himself one day.

Gradually Jonathan realises that flying is not about flying, it is about understanding and discovering your true nature, your true self—which is Perfect and Limitless. I stopped when I read this: ‘Could this be why it is said we should pursue what we love and enjoy?’ I wondered. ‘Could this be the reason?’

Towards the end of the story, Jonathan, says to a young bird, Fletcher Seagull, “You need to keep finding yourself, a little more each day, that real, unlimited Fletcher Seagull. He’s your instructor. You need to understand him and practice him.”

At eighteen, I thought the book was a flying adventure of sorts. Second time, it seemed to be about a bird who dared to be different. Now I think it is about life and Understanding the Self. I wonder what I would discover the next time I read it.

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Timing It Right


29th December 2010

I was supposed to meet a friend at Khan Market at noon, but for some odd reason I thought we were meeting at the India International Centre down the road. The sun was soft, the lawn at India International lush. I stood in the porch waiting and, for lack of anything better to do, started to read the notice board, a patchwork of pamphlets announcing various cultural events across the city. A turmeric coloured flyer attracted my attention.

Ever since I read A Way To Freedom by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, followed by his autobiography Freedom In Exile, I have wanted to see him in person. It is said, he is the reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Of course he is no ordinary human being, you can tell that from the compassion and goodness he exudes even in photographs. Yet there is something very humble and everyday in the way he’s written about himself in his autobiography. I was especially tickled by his account of his boyhood days in the Potala Palace. Now and then I told my hairstylist, who is a second generation Tibetan refugee, to let me know if she ever hears about His Holiness coming to the city. But years passed without any such opportunity coming my way.

At 12:30 my cell phone rang. It was the friend calling to know where on earth I was. “I am going to see the Dalai Lama, finally,” I gushed into the phone.

His Holiness would be giving a talk on The Different Levels of Happiness in the capital on the 9th of January, 2011, at Modern School Barakhamba. Entry Free. The turmeric coloured pamphlet said.

“Did I say India International by mistake?” my friend wondered aloud when we met.

I am struck by the Power We Have of Calling Things Into Our Experience, and the convoluted ways the Universe takes to make sure we are in the Right place at the Right Time.

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Connect With Your Angels

Over a year ago the word ‘angels’ started to come up recurrently in things I read and conversations I had.  At that time all I knew about angels was the story our fourth grade teacher Miss Cross used to tell, about scores of angels coming down from heaven bearing gifts for the newborn baby Jesus. And, yes, somewhere I knew that angels have been referred to in Quran as well. Intrigued and wanting to learn more, I picked up some books.

We all come into this world with two or more guardian angels by our side, who stand by us throughout life. Angels are gentle but powerful beings, and they are here to help us heal in many ways. Their love for us is unconditional. Nothing that we could ever do or say or think could make them leave us or love us less!

The word ‘angels’ comes from the Greek word ‘angelos’, which means ‘God’s messenger’.

Angels communicate with us through whispering in our ears, or messages on billboards, or number sequences.  Hmm, I thought when I read this. I closed my eyes then and said to my angels, “I don’t know whether you exist or not.  If you do, please give me a sign. And please don’t whisper in my ears, because I may not be able to rely on that. I want a large, billboard kind of a message.”

Later that evening, I was standing at the window looking out, and suddenly there it was, written in large red letters across a white banner, the word ‘angel’. I was shocked. I washed my eyes over the banner. It was an advertisement for some Angel Beauty Parlour.  No doubt the banner had hung there for weeks, maybe even months, but I knew for sure this was a sign. The large, loud sign.

Angels can help us heal our relationships, money affairs, career concerns, physical ailments, stress or even help get a good parking spot, if that’s what we want in that moment. All we need to do is ask. Because of the Law of Free Will, they cannot intervene in our life until we expressly ask for assistance—except if we are in a life threatening situation and it is not yet our time to die.

But how do we ask? Just request in plain and simple words, that’s it, then surrender the problem unto them and God. And say ‘Thank you’ after you’ve received the guidance.

Their guidance may come to you either as a voice, a dream, a vision, a knowingness or an intuitive feeling, says renowned therapist and angel expert Doreen Virtue in her book, ‘Healing with the Angels’. Sometimes you may feel nudged to take specific action.

Angels often give us messages through number sequences, on digital clocks or a number on a billboard, explains Doreen. They’ll make you look up at the right time, hoping that you’ll become aware that you are seeing the same number repeatedly.  For example, someone may frequently come across the sequence 111, so that every time they look at a clock the time reads 1:11 or 11:11. This particular sequence is a sign that a gate of opportunity is opening up and your thoughts are manifesting at record speed. Your angels are alerting you to think ‘correct thoughts’.

In addition to praying to guardian angels we can also call on archangels, who are angels of a higher rank. I do that all the time and, in most cases, help comes forth almost instantly—working with angels is knowing that you are never alone or unprotected. If you lose something you can ask archangel Chamuel to help you locate it. If you are unwell pray to archangel Raphael or if you are going on a journey request him to come with you and protect you as he is also the ‘Patron of Travellers’. People who work in creative fields can call on archangel Gabriel.

Only never shy from asking. Our no request is too small or trivial for them. It gives them immense joy to see us happy. Some months ago, a construction labourer in the house nicked my mother’s cell phone. My father put it down as a lost case. But my mother knew better. She immediately prayed to archangel Chamuel. Two days later–via our old watchman, the construction overseer, and the company manager–the cell phone was back in my mother’s palm! So have faith. That’s the key.

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Sending Up A Prayer

I was having morning tea today when my cell phone beeped. ‘I hope it’s the Delhiwalla replying,’ I said to myself, though it was still quite early in the day; outside my window the city lay snuggled under the duvet of fog. The Delhiwalla is Mayank Austen Soofi, the author of the idiosyncratic and immensely popular website on Delhi. Yesterday I had mailed him my essay, The Beloved Saint: Hazrat Nizamuddin, for publishing consideration.

Writing is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Even after four years of practice, when I sit to compose a new piece I am very nervous. The essay on Hazrat Nizamuddin was the first semi-historical piece I was writing. And I had no clue how I was going to interlace my experience of visiting the shrine with what I wanted to say about the love and philosophy of this great saint. I took in a deep breath and on the top of the blank page wrote a small prayer. ‘Dear Hazrat Nizamuddin, please help me write this essay. I surrender to you all my worries. Please take care of me on this journey.’

By the end of the sixth draft, the essay had achieved its form.

‘Beautiful piece. Put it up on the Delhiwalla–the article is uploaded,’ Mayank’s mail read. I flustered about the room looking for my glasses. I have been following the Delhiwalla’s website for a long time. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my work would feature there one day.

Finally the glasses found. The laptop hooked.  Ah, the  rush of seeing your name prefixed by ‘Writer’.

I closed my eyes and thanked Hazrat Nizamuddin for this unexpected blessing.

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