Saturday, January 9, 2016
Sometimes I think of you and I feel an overwhelming sadness.
It is not because I am here and you are there.
I have felt it while you sat right across the room from me,
Scribbling in your book by the yellow light of the lampshade that cast shadows on the wall.
I have felt the same sadness on those early winter mornings as you tiptoed across the room to let me sleep a bit more.
For you are you and I am me, and I wish it were not so.
It is like somehow you were forged in my heart or I in yours, perhaps.
And now to see you there - outside, separate, alien –
An admission of the impossibility of this longing.
I have written your name on a thousand pages,
I have remembered your face through countless lives
As lovers on the streets of Lebanon,
As friends lying on the summer grass by the flowing waters of the Thur,
As artistes walking through the moonlit lanes of Venice as boats bobbed up and down gently in the incoming tide.
I remember all that. Sometimes you played my role and sometimes I played yours. It hardly mattered.
And yet, now, you are you and I am me and so it always will be.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Europe is going to struggle under the economic and cultural weight of the dramatic influx of refugees and migrants from middle-eastern countries in recent months. In the short run, it will boost the economy as the capitalistic wheels chug along to cater to the rise in population. In the long run, the social democratic welfare state will not be able to cope. What is true as Angela Merkel has noted, is that Germany and Europe will change; not least in terms of its socio-economic model dating back to the middle of the 20th century.
The cultural paradigm is another factor. There have been calls about protecting the Christian heritage of Europe as if this was the culmination of European thought and contribution. I believe this premise is fundamentally mistaken. The advancement of Europe since the Enlightenment period was not because of Christianity, but despite it. The struggle between the Church and science has been well-documented. Modern Europe owes much to its secularism and blatant irreligiosity. It is this alone which has placed a check and balance on followers who believe that they own the only one true path to reach the divine. Secularism has been a powerful social and political force and a much needed one to take the edge off non-pluralistic religions. Non-pluralism within religions is often built into its thinking system to draw in followers and prevent them from leaving for other faiths. One can see this not only within the Christian religions and Islam, but also certain Hindu sects and within classical Jewish tradition. The notion of the One right way is both an impressive allure and determent. Historically, it has proven remarkably effective in cultivating resolute faith and also a profound us vs them mentality. Without secular forces at play, Europe would not be much different today from the medieval times when religion held an astonishing amount of control on what people should say, wear, think and do.
The worrying aspect of the future is not that the Christian roots of Europe will be threatened by the influx of Muslim immigrants. The more worrying aspect is that the change in demographics will be a setback for the secular project, given the non-pluralistic view of Islam. In many ways, Christanity will receive a shot in the arm in terms of its conservative social views when Islam joins it on the political front, if the numbers that are estimated to arrive at Europe's doors over the next few years are remotely correct. The struggle will not be between Christianity and Islam, but between secularism and the rise of non-pluralistic religious views, a battle, which in the European context, was assumed to be done and dusted a long time ago.
All of this of course does not take away from the legitimacy of the humanitarian crisis that has enveloped Syria. The suffering is real and the needs are real (except when it's 'fake' as when migrants join real refugees, which by all accounts is certainly happening). The talk about borders and nation states and economic zones also masquerade the fact that the history of the human race since we marched out of Africa, has been the history of migration. This current mass movement of people is just one of many in our combined history and within a much, much larger time-frame it will probably be seen through more appropriate lenses than just short or medium-term economics or religious diversity. And importantly, talk about protecting Europe's borders by saying that the problems of the rest of the world are not ours, is extremely dishonest. Europe's modernity and industrialization, was built upon its brutal colonisation of Asia, the Middle-East, Africa and the Americas. The transformation of Europe from a feudal, agrarian society into an industrialised one was heavily reliant on using (and exploiting) raw material, labour and markets in the conquered, third world. Given this history, it is ironic today to hear – in response to the refugee crisis – bleats about the independence of Europe from the rest of the world, after a couple of centuries of slavery, colonisation and exploitation.
Whatever the case, the work is cut out for Europe and the social changes and struggles in Europe will be monumental in the years and decades ahead.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
11:26PM - Shopping Malls and Destruction
I find myself very disturbed when I see a bird flying, lost within a shopping mall. It would have somehow flown or walked in and it desperately wants to get out, but it’s well and truly caught. If you try and shoo the bird towards the exit, it just gets more distressed and lost further in that dungeon of confusion. I wonder how many hours or days it will take before the bird gets out. Or will it ever?
I was thinking about this and then it occurred to me that we, humans, are not that different from the bird. If there is one representation of (post)modern living, it is the shopping mall. Here, we buy - to wear, to eat, to watch; here we play, we win, get discounts, and exchange loyalty vouchers; here, we hang out where we see no sun, feel no breeze, hear no rustling leaves. This is the world of brands, from McDonalds to iPhones, it is meant to disorient, it is decadent, it draws you in and it is not letting go. Not now, not ever.
Aren’t we too well and truly caught in this delusion that we have created for ourselves?
We have this misplaced idea that somehow we are separate from nature. Out of this comes two necessary outcomes – first, we build zones of safety, made of rocks, concrete and ‘culture’ that epitomises the human world, which stands distinct from the natural world. Second, it justifies the exploitation of nature in whichever way possible. It is psychotic to cut off one’s own arm because it is a part of ourselves. To destroy something, it has to be first seen as separate. As we remove ourselves away from nature, it further facilitates its destruction. Strange as it sounds, the shopping mall is a directly ally of those who scar the face of the earth with their mines and those who pollute our air.
Our lives have irrevocably changed in the past 200 years. For tens of thousands of years, the natives have lived in harmony with nature, taking only what was absolutely needed and leaving the rest so that the land, the rivers and the seas could revive. They understood that they were only a part of the circle of life. Fast forward two centuries and we have torn down our rainforests, poisoned our rivers, raked up the sea beds, drilled into the earth’s womb, and pumped chemicals into our skies.
Today, we no longer understand or appreciate our intimate connection to the earth, to the seasons, to the magnificent diversity of plants and animals. There is a story about the Buddha that occurs on the night of his enlightenment. Siddhartha Gautama, once prince and heir to a kingdom is now a beggar-saint, sitting under the Bodhi tree. Mara, the Evil One and the lord of desire, having failed to tempt the awakening Gautama seated in equanimity, devises one last method to unseat him – an appeal to the gnawing self-doubt that plagues the heart of men. “What makes you worthy of attaining Enlightenment, who will vouch for you?”, Mara snarls.
Gautama smiles gently and reaches out to touch the ground before him with the tips of his fingers. In silence, he says, “The Earth is my witness”. Mara flees and as the morning star rises, Siddhartha becomes Buddha, the awakened one.
Whether Mara or any other demons really bothered the historical Buddha on that night, this mythological story conveys an important point. For the Buddha to awaken from delusion and into perfect understanding, he had to first call upon the earth – the mother, the giver and the source of all life. He saw clearly that his journey towards enlightenment was not a solitary journey, separate from the interconnected web of life on this earth. His journey was the journey of all living beings, from the lowest forms of life to the highest. To be fully enlightened, is to first see one’s true place in this magnificent world from which we have emerged.
Humanity is a flower of this earth. The atoms which were once rain forests, which were rivers, which were clouds, are now in us. We exist only as a frozen snapshot in time. To think otherwise, to imagine nature as separate from us, something given to us to plunder and exploit, is pure delusion and a recipe for our own destruction.
~ “You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves”. - Chief Seattle
11:25PM - Of isms, ians and ists
How do we make sense of our place within existence? Why do things exist (as opposed to nothing existing)? Why are you here? Surely, we cannot know the answers to these questions. But it hasn’t stopped people from trying.
There are creation legends in the hallowed scriptures of every religion and in the gentle songs of every culture. As beautiful or awe-inspiring as they may be, they are but desperate attempts to inject some sense into something which refuses to yield any answers. The good Lord did not create this in seven days, nor does the universe reside on the shell of a giant, cosmic tortoise. We do not understand what is here, yet we pretend to, because meaninglessness is often scary.
The old religions have failed us. We have seen what it has brought us. We are waiting for a salvation which will not come. We are waiting for a new age which will not arrive. Every generation believes that the end is imminent because somehow the fact that we are born in these times, makes us the chosen ones to welcome the promised renewal! It is not coming. Not now, not tomorrow. Call off the search!
Yes, call off the search, bury your stories, and open your eyes and look around. You are not a Muslim or Christian or Hindu or Jew. These are things that have been added on to what is you. If we cannot examine ourselves critically, to peel off every accumulated layer, to abandon all beliefs, stories and traditions, we are not ready to perceive life as it is. If it is not religion, we have eagerly grasped for other identities. Socialist, Capitalist, Feminist, Atheist, Vegetarian, Vegan, Nationalist, Activist, Democrat, Libertarian, Australian, American, Indian.
Our belief systems, our religions, our –isms, -ians and –ists have called on us to understand the world through a prism. If every encounter that you have with the world and its people is filtered through the prism of your belief and identity, what you experience is a monochromatic world, devoid of the colour, the depth, the beauty and the horror of what is here. If you are always in righteous indignation or smug belief or eager hope, we are not encountering life, you are encountering a shadow of it, shaped by those who came before you.
We are on a rock flying through cosmic space, on a spiralling arm of the Milky Way, composed of 200 billion other stars like ours. This is what we know.
I remember my first encounter with the Milky Way far away from the city lights. A million stars illuminating the night sky into a luminescent band of light, dotted with stars as far and as deep as the eyes could see. This is what is true. Our rock is not special. It is what it is.
Our beliefs, philosophies, identities, allegiances, indignations – our isms, ians, and ists – were born on this rock and will die on this rock. For now, we have this earth. What will we make of it?
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Rapid Planning Method – 31 August 2013.
Step 1 – Capture and Organise
Step 2 Create an R (Results) (Purpose) M (Massive action) Plan (RPM Plan)
What do I really want? Results
Why do I want it ? Purpose
What do I need to do? Massive action plan
- Resolve your musts -20% which makes 80% of difference – leave out others.
- Minimum/Maximum times -
- Leverage – share the outcome with people we are working with and get them to do
Step 3 – Commit and Schedule – Plan weekly and plan the night before
Step 4 – Complete (the MUSTS for the outcomes) and Achieve
Step 5 – Celebrate the success of the day and week
Monday, August 19, 2013
11:46PM - Dying every minute
Therefore, it is important to die every minute and to be reborn again - not as you were yesterday. This is really very important, if you would go into it seriously. Because, in this there is a possibility of creation, of transformation. And most of our lives are so unhappy because we don't know how to renew; we are worn out, we are destroyed by yesterday, by yesterday's memories, misfortunes, unhappiness, incidents, failures.
Yesterday burdens our minds and hearts, and with that burden we want to understand something which cannot be understood within the limits of time. And that is why it is essential, if one would be creative in the deep sense of that word, that there be death to all the accumulations of every minute. This is not fantastic, this is not some mystical experience. One can experience this directly, simply, when one understands the whole significance of how time as continuity prevents creativeness.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
12:41AM - Tenderness
In the innermost part of our selves, there is a place of tenderness that we hardly touch.
It is that place where poems are heard; no, where poems are felt. It is that place where your heart fluttered when stealing a glance at your first love. Do you still remember that moment? It is that place where you have felt the deepest longing and the most gut-wrenching heartbreak. It is that place which causes your boundaries to melt as you soak in a crimson sunset over the mountain cliffs.
The place of tenderness that I speak of is not a mysterious place, whose secret is open only to the mystics and the poets. It is as natural as the first breath taken by a baby as it arrives screaming into this world. It is spontaneous, it is ever-inviting, it is always present.
Yet, we have covered that which is natural by always seeking to be on the run. We have hardened our shells, justifying it in the name of maturity, dogma, and the endless busyness of daily life.
It is indeed queer that the deepest joy and the most devastating sorrow are felt in that very same spot; for though they may seem entirely different, they are of same essence – that of tenderness. By learning to ‘live’ in this world, we often forget that inner spot which helps us to love, to relate, to care and to be moved.
To be truly present is to touch tenderness so that we can love oneself and others, so that we can grieve and yet heal, so that we can accept blessings and yet have compassion for the miseries of others.
The doors to that place of tenderness are always open, always inviting, except that it is guarded by silence; silence with whom we have to make friends to enter deep within.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
7:38PM - Learning to stay
Learning to stay and make friends with oneself is probably the best lesson I have been getting in recent days. We all have this background hum of uneasiness that lurks beneath, always threatening to erupt. Whether it is the urge to switch channels, check Facebook for the umpteenth time or an uncontrollable reaction to particularly nasty personal email, they are differing degrees of the same underlying substance. Sometimes it’s just like the vague buzz of humming bee and other times it is a raging river that leaves us searching for ground beneath and gasping for air. And we have all learnt to push it away in our own peculiar ways. I am coming to realise that our difficult emotions that we experience are not the problem which lies at the root of things. These difficult emotions – of anger, of anxiety, of craving and countless others - are strategies that we have adopted. Yes, these emotions are our own unconscious strategies that we are using to cover-up a more basic sense of being “not-ok”.
Learning to stay with the uneasiness, to accept it, to be willing to fully experience it, with kindness and without judgement is the first step towards being whole. Are we willing to become our own best friend?
Monday, July 15, 2013
There seems to be so much of ourselves that we cut off because of labels we have given ourselves. I saw an article by a woman about women's issues and then I realised that every article that I've ever read from her was about women's issues. She was a feminist writer, which is great. However, what about those parts of her which has nothing to do with a feminist? That got me thinking.
Aren't we doing ourselves a disservice by only aligning ourselves with our self-labels? I am so fragmented (not in a neurotic way though..i think!)that I wonder sometimes whether there is even a proper entity called 'me' that supposedly lurks within.
The body reacts in particular ways, based on its tendencies. I flinch automatically if I feel something is going to hit me, my heart pumps, my eyes blink, stress makes me sweat. Even the emotional reactions that I have to things seem to be but tendencies of the mind-body. I have patterns of behaviour which plays itself out. It then seems that much of everyday life is on autopilot. We think we are so involved in what is happening, that we are directing this ship, but the truth it seems, is far from it.
The instruction in the non-dualist path is to recognise that what is going on, is going on, on its own. There is a sense of liberation in this, a feeling of liberating-emptiness. There is also a feeling of vastness. Every process, mental and physical, seems like the act of breathing - inhalation and exhalation - without a breather. Like a swinging door without rooms on either side.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Winter has almost passed,
The air no longer bitter cold,
A thrush sings in joyous relief,
The early flowers are abloom.
Yet why do you stay, little leaf?
The tree is bare, but for you.
A new garment awaits within,
Soon her branches will dazzle green,
Her young ones restless for their first spring,
Yet why do you persist, old little leaf?
What joy in this wrinkled life?
What happiness do you seek,
The previous spring has not brought?
Spring then came, in all its glory,
Winter coats hung at home,
And parks were filled with shrieks of joy.
Yet when I trudged home every night,
He was still there; browner than ever,
Fragile, and trembling in every gust,
But he was still there.
Oh yes, he was there.
Then summer’s harsh sun beat down strong,
The heat so intense,
That my breath seemed to cool the air around.
Dreams were dreamt,
Drenched in summer sweat.
Yet when the sun rose on another day,
He was still there, right outside.
Not even this angry summer,
Could break his stubborn will.
Autumn then arrived, and how!
Like a startling beauty entering a room,
Every eye watching her,
Every word frozen in awe.
Scarlet leaves, fiery and fierce,
Like flames, they danced on every tree.
Yet, he watched with a knowing air,
As if to say:
‘The star doth burn bright before it dies’
Soon even autumn slunk away, now old and forgotten,
Rustling leaves covered the streets,
And every tree was bare again,
As far as one could see.
All, but one.
He still stood; withered, old and shrunken,
Yet, he still stood.
Winter’s first snowfall brought me out,
As soft, white flakes covered the land.
Below that tree, in the dead of night,
I gazed up in wondrous thought.
What were you in a life before,
That you should have a will so great?
What’s your purpose, little, old leaf?
Why do you stay and stay and stay?
Then in the stillness of the dark,
He left his home on his own,
No wind could tear him away,
No rain could beat him down.
Yet as I watched, standing right below,
With untold grace, he drifted into my palm.
As I held him in tender grief,
I realised right then, why he’d stayed.
I know not if it was my saddened mind;
In a voice so clear and yet so quiet,
He spoke in silence to my heart:
I am not a leaf.
I am your will that bows to none.
I am your Self that knows no defeat.
I am your strength and joy within,
That ebbs not, even at the hour of death.
Monday, November 8, 2010
5:30PM - The Lotus Within
Don't teach me philosophy now brother,
Oh, not tonight dear friend.
Don't tell me to think even more.
I have thought before aplenty,
And it never led to anything,
But, yes, more thoughts.
Tonight, let me sing from my heart,
Let me hear His haunting tune again.
Or let me dance, just let me dance!
Let me go where no words will ever go,
There, my Beloved has promised an eternal spring.
I don't need to knock,
Just enter, He said.
I saw someone spell a word wrong and thought, “Ah why can’t they stop butchering the English language”. Upon further reflection it occurred to me that I was being inordinately snobbish because of a certain assumed mastery over a system of man-made communication. A tool to make ourselves understood, that’s all it is. Any language. By nature of being man-made, language can never be perfect.
Anyone who has encountered a few words in English would be quick to spot how ridiculous the choice of spelling for certain words are – queue. Say what? You would think they would pronounce ‘cough’ like ‘dough’, but surely they could at least spell it ‘coff’. But then no one might fancy visiting Coffs Harbour with a name that sounds as contagious as that.
So what am I being so nose-in-the-air-ish about, in making sure English is spelt the right way? I saw a sunset the other day. The kind of sunset which blows you away and makes you wonder just how many shades of colour there must be on God’s palette. And I pondered, how do I describe what I am seeing? How do I describe as colours melt into each other, changing shades with every passing second? How do I describe the brilliance of light as it sets the clouds on fire and contrasts with the long shadows it casts on the grass at the end of day? How, just how, do I describe this ‘sunogasm’ unfolding before my eyes? I suppose the answer is, you don’t .
Words could never become a sunset just as singing about food is never going to make you less hungry. Reminder: It’s just a tool, silly! What good is mastery over a man-made language when you watch the cloudy Milky Way stretch for millions and millions of miles over your head on a perfectly dark night far away from the city lights? What do you say, when you realise you are but just a dot on the earth, in a solar system which is just a dot among 200,000,000,000,000 stars in the Milky Way that is in a universe that has billions of galaxies? Just shut up and LOOK. And you thought TV was entertainment?
Through words we try to encapsulate the world, 'understand' the universe, break it up into ideas and concepts and seal the boxes with neat little nametags. But all it does is take away the experience of things. Can we open up our awareness to allow the universe to flow into us, without trying to break it up into ideas and words? Can we let go of our fetish for words and concepts and sometimes just 'be'? There is a beauty in things, a beauty about the universe, which you can only feel completely once you have let go of these crutches
Monday, October 25, 2010
6:54PM - Hours
Hours have this ephemeral quality, or it seems so, at least of late. They are not the perfect units of Time that we take them to be. They hide, they duck, they skip a beat and they melt into each other. An hour becomes two..or was that three!? Who knows? We blink our eyes and we are elsewhere, as if caught in an unending, terrifying ride through a dark tunnel only to emerge in flashes of daylight in between the speeding, blind obscurity.
March? Seriously? 2010? Wasn't that one of those weird years in the distant future in which science fiction tales take place? My clock ticks away without a care, a distant derivate of the incessant tick-tock in some observatory in Greenwich.
Is that the chirping of birds outside my window? 5am. Seriously?
6:50PM - Loss
I still reach out to hug you at nights.
It’s not out of hope, I just forget.
Why are my dreams so clueless?
As if the mail with news hasn’t reached there yet.
If only my dreams knew too,
That Sunday mornings in bed are no longer lazy,
Waking up wouldn’t be so hard.
Grief administered in gentle doses 24-7,
Is better than being punched in the guts every morning.
There are two pillows still.
And your bolster, although I hated it on some nights.
I haven’t changed the sheets yet,
I don’t know when I will.
Maybe I won’t.
6:49PM - Listening to the Harp
Today I tried to write,
But my ink had dried and hardened.
Invisible words make no poem.
Maybe I have forgotten how to listen,
To listen to the words which become ink.
Maybe I’ve just become a little deaf.
Why don’t I hear the harp,
That plays in Guthema’s heart.
It is always there, you say.
Like the music in an elevator.
Empty or full,
It’s always there, you say.
Maybe I just need to understand,
That there are no two harps,
That there are no two hearts,
Thursday, February 18, 2010
It's amazing to see people who have found what they REALLY want to do in their lives. They bring a sort of passion and excitement to their lives that is missing in those who meander direction-less. I was watching a documentary about this explorer, extreme adventurer called Mike Horn and it is fascinating how his mind works. He surfed the amazon river from the mountains across the continent to the sea on a board, went around the equator on foot, bike, boat etc without any engine power and did the same around the north pole, the last of which took two years.
He said every day that goes by without having learnt something new is a waste of a day in your life. Are we really making something of our lives or are we letting is slip by? I learnt something new today from him and that is passion and complete focus. He was so one-tracked in his mind that he would do WHATEVER it took, to complete his goal. Giant will-power. Brute will-power. He injured his knee and yet set across the length of the amazon river which took about 6 months of living off the land and water, although he rebroke his knee cap early on in the journey. Why is it hard to sit down for 3 hours and read and write something in contrast?
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Since when did words begin to scare me?
Evoking dread, seeds blooming into mute inadequacy.
I was once a poet, a magician.
Words flew off these fingers like an endless bubbling spring.
Why does it seem all barren now, a dry parched desert?
Or maybe it's just been night, a lazy good night's sleep.
Lanka is under siege, the battle almost over.
And yet Kumbakarna sleeps, no tossing and turning for him.
What will awaken the giant, shred his content slumber?
Where is the cacophony of marching elephants and drums?
Where is that dreaded alarm clock?
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
from MAN OF LA MANCHA (1972)
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star
Thursday, April 16, 2009
5:24PM - Prajapati Awakens
No sound, no wind, no moon, no stars.
There was only One.
He breathed in silence, “I am”
Who knows whence He came?
No thought, no desire, no creation. Yet.
“Yeah, I am”
If time had existed, many a million years would have passed.
But there was neither a past nor a future, not even a now.
In silence arose the first question, “Who is?”
The emptiness trembled in anticipation.
And then began Time,
A silvery thread of light speeding towards the endless edges,
Backward and forward,
And instantly there was eternity in the past and in the future,
Time wiping out the possibility of its own genesis.
He asked only the one question ‘Who am I?’
The question was Tapas
The questioner was Tapas,
The answer too, was Tapas.
In Tapas, He burned.
Out of that austerity, arose sacrifice.
With joy, He gave himself up.
The Father gives himself in sacrifice,
Like His son wouldst one day give his flesh and blood.
From Him sprang forth the worlds many.
Galaxies and gravity, mind and music,
All made from His own marrow.
In sacrifice, He became the many.
Cleaving His own heart, He breathed life into existence.
And today, we search for Him, the first-born.
“Where is He? Where is He?
When will He come, the King of Kings?
Do I find Him in the church, mosque or temple?”
The way back is the same.
Out of sacrifice is born austerity,
Out of austerity, the question – “Who am I?”
Dwell upon the primordial question for this indeed unlocks the door.
Behold the answer oh Prajapati,
Behold thine own face.
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