My musings on the labyrinth called mind.. food.. life in general.. anything that I want to, and can be, expressed in words!

Song unsung

What can I write about

That no one has written before

Every topic seems so staid

Love, dejection, nature, objects

Every rhyme, every reason

Appears to be stale

Recycled and repeated

But there is a song in my heart

Which no one has heard before

Perhaps not even me

A song heard in silence

Only in nothingness

When everything else drops off

Into oblivion

I am seeking that song

And once I find it

It will be a song that no one will hear

Ever again

That song which cannot be put in words

Or notes

A song that cannot be sung

Or hummed

A song that cannot be recorded

It can only be captured

By another heart

Beating.. in the same frequency

A heart that is also waiting

To hear its song

That is unsung, unwritten

Hidden in the depth of the being

And once the song resonates

It will liberate us

Forever and ever

Never to return to this world again

This world of illusions

Where we wonder every moment

“is this for real”

Where sometimes we go too fast

And sometimes we want to slow down

When I find that song

I may not want to share it

For I do not wish to be judged

By my song

For I am

Beyond my song too

One and only

Eternal being..

© Debjani Mitra at debjanimitra.wordpress.com 3 July 2011

Offerings..

I found my first grey hair yesterday.

Nothing significant I guess… millions of people on this earth have grey hair and live with it. Many get it an age earlier than I did.

But my heart stopped at the sight of that hair.

I have lived half my life already.. it just struck me..

And like everyone else’s – my life is going to end one day too..

If my life ends right now, will I have any regrets, is there anything that will make me want to come back to this earth in another name and form ?

I want to live in a way that the answer to that question is a “No”

Or may be even THIS wanting can bring me back ! quite a thought, isn’t it ?

This thought of coming back has haunted me for a long long time – from the time I was a little kid.. I read the children’s version of the story of Gautama Buddha, and how Siddhartha became Gautama Buddha.. and the same questions haunted me about illness, old age and death.. (incidentally, I was born on the night of Buddha Purnima, the full moon night in May when Buddha was enlightened under the Bodhi tree) .. the cycle of life and death.. and the thought of coming back to repeat the cycle seemed so onerous to me always.. even as a kid..

I grew up in a devout Hindu family, and was also introduced to the Bhagavad Gita at a tender age.. I read pages from it.. and asked my parents these questions.. why do good people suffer.. and I remember my mom telling me – God creates situations for the devotee to remember Him – because we humans tend to forget the Divine in our good times.. and God is selfish that way.. like a little child, He seeks the devotee’s, the beloved’s attention..

That explanation intrigued me as a kid.. I found it illogical and unfair at that time. But as life passed by, I found more and more solace in that thought. Every time in life I found myself caught in those situations where the question popped – “why me” – or “what did I do to deserve this” – this though also popped up to pacify me “god needs my attention”. And of course, why would I remember God in my otherwise perfect life, unless I needed help!

And I took almost a strange kind of pleasure, in my darkest moments, to know that I am His beloved.. so much so that every time I get stuck in all those things that are going to bring me back to this world, again and again, He gives me a wakeup call, rings that calling bell on the front door of my consciousness, brings me my morning newspaper that has the headlines “wake up and see ! I am the only way !”

So right at this moment – all those seeds of “this is not alright” that are burning in me – I offer them to that pyre of love.. I open the door to infinity.. and let the light shine through, knowing that with the light might come some dust that might sting my eyes.. but at the end of it all (or is it the beginning ?) I would have lived a life of love, offering every moment of my existence – however joyful, hurtful, unfair, exhilarating, amazing or unacceptable, and accepting it as “Prasad” (Prasad means literally, a gracious gift. Anything, usually an edible food, that is first offered to the divine and then distributed to the devotee. The Prasad is then considered to have the divine’s blessings within it)

And so, do I offer – my first grey hair, my first wrinkle, my first painful joint – to the Divine, just as I did my first heartbreak, first bereavement, every moment of weakness… and success too

Like an incense stick, whose entire existence is about burning to ashes to spread the fragrance..

I offer my life to Thee, my Lord..Image

Shades of Illusions

ImageStanding on pristine white sands.. with waves gently washing my feet, a clear sky in front with a few stray clouds – just enough to catch the hues of the setting sun.. a brilliant sunset painting the sky in molten gold, crimson and indigo as it gets dark.. Sharing a sunset on the Gulf of Mexico with my loved ones. everything tangible. everything perfect. Yet, I blink my eyes a few times, hold my breath, and ask myself. “Is this real.. am I this lucky to be part of this beauty” ? It is such a surreal feeling that I do not even feel my existence. As if I have merged into the moment.

Expectations, desires unfulfilled… feeling of inadequacy… a sense of helplessness and not having things under control.. everything intangible. Everything in the head. Yet it feels so concrete. I can feel every cell of my body cringing. The air is so dark and heavy. I can feel every breath going in. I do not for once question the event, the person, the feeling. It is almost as if fate has been stamped and sealed at that moment.

Have you ever noticed how good times seem like illusions, whereas bad times seem so real. It is the tendency of the mind to doubt the positive. When we are happy, we question our happiness. “Am I really happy ?”. But when we are sad, dare anyone question it ! “Of course I am sad? Do you have any doubt about it?”. In fact, the doubt does not even arise. We know for sure, that we are, truly, and deeply sad.

The truth however is, everything is an illusion. Here today, gone tomorrow. People, places, events, feelings. Nothing lasts forever. We just carry impressions in our being, “oh how I liked that experience” “oh how I hated that experience”

Cravings, and aversions.

When people forget the bad parts, they long for the good experiences again and again.

When people cannot forget the bad parts, they wish that it never happens to them again.

Both of these cause us to come back to the circle of life, again and again… either the desire to be free, or the desire to be born again. In either case, we are going to come back..

Tricky… what is the escape route then ? Wait – the desire to escape is the biggest trap !

I guess the trick is just to realize, that it is all an illusion in any case. So what if we come back. So what if we are here now. So what if it feels great. So what if it does not. This too shall pass. The movie will end. The lights will come on. The credits will be over. We will get up from our seats, and get going. Between one movie show and the next, there will be a period of rest, of nothingness, of void. We will throw our 3D glasses into the recycle bin, and come out. No matter how enticing the movie is, it has to end. And another one will start. Our job is to sit back, relax and just be a witness. To the varying shades of illusions..

I am the SKY

Sky after sunset at St. Pete Beach

10 years back – on a rainy morning in Kolkata (one of India’s metros), a very tired and confused soul dragged herself out of the house – in search of something. She had everything in life – yet something was missing. There was a gap that she could not place a finger on. And it was sucking out the life blood from her. She was desperately looking for a direction… not sure what the goal was. She sent out an SOS to the universe.

And then – from the universe – came a reply.

She did not have much clue – what the reply meant. “Go for the Art of Living course” – it said. What was this “Art of Living” ? But she just followed that message – and stepped out of the house that day.

She had no idea, that one step was the start of a journey – into the infinite. Where there was no turning back. Yet it was a step to come back home.

From 7-12 August 2001, I did my Art of Living Part 1 course in Kolkata. I had gone there primarily to find a way out for my “stress induced” breathing disorder and irregular heart beats. Which the doctor said – had no physiological cause. And no sustainable remedy – for someone in her 20s. Saddled by the burden of countless pills that left a bitter taste in the mouth, sleepless nights and the fear of a debilitating and unexpected panic attack at any time and place – I walked into that room full of people – not knowing whether I would find an answer. After the first day’s session – I went up to the teacher – a charming personality with an angelic smile (Sarita Jaiswal, an Art of Living teacher in Kolkata), clad in pristine white – and explained my situation. She gave me the most genuine smile, held my hand and said “you have come to the right place”.

10 years down the line – I could not have agreed with her more.

Those 6 days were so deeply transformational that at the end of it – I had the distinct feeling that till 6th of August 2001 I had lived someone else’s life. Was that really me ? I remember asking myself. Where was all this enthusiasm, all this clarity, and centeredness – all these years ? How did I even survive without it ? How could I have carried so much garbage all these years ? Stuck to what someone else said or did – letting others rule my life.. catching on to all the negative emotions people hurled at me.. not really knowing the bliss and lightness that was the REAL me..

That lightness of being – which I had never experienced before. Before I did my first Sudarshan Kriya (SKY) – I never knew what it is to be free – from within. To live in the moment. To immerse into the moment. To just BE.

And before I knew – I was walking the PATH. The path of sadhana, seva, satsang, and swadhyay..

Sadhana : Practices. I held on to my practices – S.K.Y. – for life. It became a part of my daily routine. Come rain, shine or thunder. I never gave up. It just felt natural to do it – just as brushing my teeth first thing in the morning. This ablution of the mind and soul. And whenever I got a chance – I went back to refresh it – with the group. My friend Probal – who was my friend, philosopher and guide on this path – told me – “Invest in yourself” – so I invested in Art of Living courses.. And being a finance professional myself – I was quick to realize that the return on investment was more than I ever expected, each Art of Living course that I went back for – the Part 1 course, the part 2 course, the Art of meditation course, the blessing course, and the Teachers’ Training Course – each of those courses shifted something in me. Removed some block in my life. Oh – did I mention that I came off my medicines for the breathing and heart problems within 3 months of my practices ? It just seemed like a by-product. The real treasure was what I uncovered within myself..

Swadhyay : Introspection – Observing the mind body complex.. With each passing day I found myself effortlessly letting go of guilt, fear, anger, jealousy.. so much so that after a particular situation happened I would wonder – Oh ! I did not react in a way I would have till 6th August 2001 (you know now why I felt more convinced that I was living someone else’s life before S.K.Y).. Is this REALLY ME ? Now – not that I will not be angry, or guilty, or scared, or jealous anymore. All those would happen. But how I translated that to my response to the situation at hand – changed. And how long those emotions lasted, also changed. I was able to drop those and move on – unlike before, when I would hold on to these feelings, have a volcanic eruption one day – and let wounds fester. I FOUND MYSELF SEPARATING ME FROM MY FEELINGS. I was no longer swept away by them. I could say “now now – I am getting angry !! hey – there comes jealousy again.. and that is guilt – watch out”

And at times – even when that did not happen – and the emotions would take over – I found MYSELF HEALING SOONER. I found myself dropping judgments, dropping labels, for either myself – or other “oh he is an angry person. Oh – she is always jealous of me .Oh – I always mess things up. I always lose it”

In a nutshell – I realized – nothing is for always. Everything is changing.

And that has been – the single most – all pervading – liberating and transforming, realization for me.

Satsang : The company of the truth.. Apparently – it was more like “sat and sang” with a group of people. The very first satsang I attended was on the last day of my Part 1 course – on 12th August 2001. The chants and the songs were simply so intoxicating… Even though I was hearing them for the first time, I don’t know what chord they struck in me.. I found myself getting up and dancing uninhibited in a room full of people. I never knew that music could be so liberating, that it could make me connect to the silence within.. and make me sink into a space that was so beautiful and serene. It was almost as if I had walked into a secret garden of fragrant flowers. No wonder I started longing for that space and took every opportunity to attend a satsang…

It took me a while to understand the other meaning of satsang – to be in the company of “satsangees” – fellow seekers who have also tasted the nectar of S.K.Y.. who were also on the path. To whom the journey was more exciting than the goal itself. People with whom I could be myself completely – without the fear of being judged. With whom I could connect without any explanations. Who would always uplift me and remind me of my true nature of peace, joy and love, any time I would be down. People who would support me unconditionally – even though for some of them – I would not even know the names, or would have met only for a short span of time. I discovered what really a one world family meant – when I changed cities or countries and found a satsang group everywhere, welcoming me with the warmth of a family.

And slowly and gradually – the connection started getting extended to people in every walk of life. I felt at home everywhere. And connected with people effortlessly. At work, in supermarkets, in airports, at banks, in public functions, and in interviews! Whether as an interviewer or interviewee – I could connect to the other person beyond what was apparent – and that was very interesting !

Seva – Service : Being useful. Being unconditionally available for whatever is the need of the moment. Soon when all these wondrous realizations about how I was changing happened, I found myself asking – now what ? What do I do with this extra energy and enthusiasm ? How much more can I do with my life ? it brought me back to a very old question I had – “what is the purpose of my life”. I found the answer – it was in being useful to others. To make others smile. Not only at home or work or in my immediate environment – but to others from whom I have no expectations. I soon found myself volunteering for Art of Living seva projects – teaching health and hygiene in slums, cleaning up local parks, campaigning for tree plantations.. but the most important service – I realized – was to share this beautiful and life transforming knowledge – that the S.K.Y. brings. Hence I went on to pursue the teachers training course of Art of Living and became a teacher in 2009. Life has become even more exciting ever since – as every time I sit on the teacher’s chair and repeat the knowledge for the participants, I become more strongly established in it too. And to see the participants open up and smile from within – is the most fulfilling gift that I have in my life.

Grace and Gratitude : I feel grateful for everything – the good the bad and the ugly in my life. For every situation gives me an opportunity to grow. I feel grateful for whatever situations had led me to the point of despair till 6th August 2001 – and which had prompted me to go for this course – without any knowledge whatsoever of how it could change my life. I still wonder how it all happened. Just as much as I wonder how this “connection” works.. the connection which answers my questions every day – when I open any random page of the book “Celebrating Silence”  and a page opens that is so crazily, scarily, apt to the situation and state of mind I am in at that point – and immediately gives me a clue on how to get a handle on myself. The connection that if not the “Celebrating Silence” – some friend would come up and give me the knowledge that would be immediately uplifting – the first message in my inbox would be talking to me about what I am going through. This “connection” has never failed me – I have always been in its coverage the last 10 years..

Something that makes me realize – that it is really the grace, that brought me to this path – and grace – that takes me through every situation, good or bad, every day of my life.

And I am grateful for all those wonderful friends I have made on this path – and the amazing people I have met who have become my role models and have been there for me when I needed them. Those who have dedicated their lives to service. Those who have amazing wit and amazing knowledge, amazing talents… and amazing connection – knowing what is the need of the moment.

And saving the best for the last – I am grateful to have met in this life a living Master – His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – beloved Guruji. Who is a world figure, yet, has always been available for me whenever I needed HIM. How – is another story. That cannot be explained in words.

I had no idea what having a master, a Guru, a guide – meant. I never knew a Master could say “I am a garbage collector. Give me all your garbage, and be free” All I can say is – that with HIS presence in my life – joy has welled up without any reason, sorrow has diminished, talents have flourished, and abundance has increased. That – is the sign of a True Master – a “satguru”

In a nutshell – Guruji and S.K.Y. have made me realize that I am as infinite, as limitless – as the sky…

© Copyright Debjani Mitra at debjanimitra.blogspot.com and debjanimitra.wordpress.com

The circle of life

A few days back – I had visited my cousin to see her new-born baby. What a wonderful feeling to hold a new life in your arms, to feel the warmth of the little body, to see the wonder in its eyes. And to catch that unconditional smile. A baby brings so much joy into a family. Because it is the celebration of life in its newness.

Two weeks down the line, while I write this, my 83 year old grandmother (Dimma - as I call her, or Dimmu - affectionately.. or Dimmu shona) is in no-man’s land.. between life and death.. her vital faculties have stopped functioning. Everything is supported by machines. The smile that once warmed the heart is missing. The eyes that once had so much love and kindness, are now shut.. opening occasionally with a nudge to the body, giving an illusion of life. Her disease worn body is still warm.. blood is still flowing in her veins by the pacemaker.. oxygen still feeding her cells, by that pump and ventilator. But doctors say that her brain is dead. She is in a state of consciousness from where there is no turning back.. the machines can keep her body machine running.. but her being is no more..

What a sinking feeling – to let go of a life – especially of someone you love dearly..

The family has been asked to take a tough decision.. do we want to go the next step and keep the body machine running ? More holes poked into her already swollen limbs, and now the throat.. more pipes going through her skin.. and what for ? To trap that vital life force, which no longer has any expression ? Will she ever again smile at me ? Or call me, or sing for me.. The life which had so much vitality, which was born as a baby – 83 years ago, has now wilted.. It has got bored with being in this body. It seeks a new abode.

Guruji (Sri Sri) once said that everything is made of atoms, and the organization of an atom in a certain way makes it an apple, or a human being, or a tree..  death, decay or transformation happens when the atoms are bored – bored of being an apple ? Then rotting starts..

The atoms in my grandmother’s body have become bored.. of all the suffering they have undergone in the last few years. Multiple fractures (as she had osteoporosis) – multiple steel rods embedded beneath her skin.. The mind that once wanted to do gardening and cooking and cleaning – and considered that eating on the bed was sacrilege, or that one had to change clothes every time one used the restroom.. was now bound to the bed. Eating, diapers, all on the bed.. The mind was still sharp, solving crosswords with the same aplomb that she used to always. And wanting to write letters to her grand daughters in the USA. She wrote me and my cousin letters a few months back.. and breaking into that occasional song.. she still knew all those rabindra sangeet by heart.

But she had become bored of this life. She wanted change. Lately when she would be alone, she used to talk to the air “take me away.. can’t take this anymore”.. If any of us overheard her, we would scold her, and she would be embarrassed.. “oh i did not know you were still awake”..

I want to tell you the same thing now Dimma.. I don’t know if you are still awake.. But I want God to grant you whatever wish you have now, to have a new life, with or without a body. I know you are bored of this shell of 83 years.

For – whatever journey you have undertaken the last 83 years, I know that you are still that fresh life, that came into this body on 18th December 1928. Beneath that dilapidated shell is the spirit that is undying, fresh as the dew on a blade of grass. And when it is set free from this shell – it will sing dance and smile again..

So why do we lament.. Why not celebrate your new life.. out of the mundane, limited existence, into the limitless infinity..

It makes me wonder. When a life blooms into newness, as a new-born baby, we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that the spirit has now the capability to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh, of the matter. We celebrate every step in life, every birthday, every event.. We seem to ignore the bondage that it brings along with it. The sufferings, the miseries.. Sometimes so much so that the spirit longs for freedom from the bondage. Like my Dimma’s. We seem to ignore the fact that each one of us is inching towards that end. Which we dread.

But why ? When the spirit is to be set free, to go on a journey where there is only light, no “body” and its miseries to care for.. then we lament. What an irony. Why ? Is it because it makes us aware of a vacuum that the “body” occupied all these years.. and it makes us aware of our own transient nature.. Because we identify ourselves with all that is transient, and forget the self, that is unchanging.

I remember once a little boy asked Guruji at a public satsang - “what is death” – and all of us cringed – thinking what reply He could possibly give to a child on this topic, but to everyone’s amazement, Guruji said “death is like sleep. Between two lifetimes. It is nothing to be scared of. When you are tired, you sleep and next morning you wake up refreshed, similarly, the body dies and the spirit wakes up in a new body – all fresh and rejuvenated”

And then starts the circle of life.. once again.. again and again…

I have a feeling – Dimma will never be back in this circle of life. She was just too bored of this world of matter. She was a spiritual being all her life.. beng lost in the depth of meditation even when she was very young.. going into samadhi. And when she was 73, she experienced the Sudarshan Kriya, which in any case gives a glimpse of the self. She always gave to the needy, from whatever little she herself had. She never turned away any canvasser – whether they sold utensils, incense sticks, useless gadgets or fake encyclopedias.. she used to say “at least they are making an honest living”.. I feel all her backlog of karma from all the past lives was burnt in this life.. with all the penances.. and all the sufferings that she had..

I just hope Dimma, that you do not have short-lived memory. Don’t get enticed into the pleasures of this world again. Your place is with the Divine now.. Don’t you let another body, growing somewhere in the world in a womb, beckon you. That race is for other souls, who still have unfulfilled desires. You have lived a full life dimma – many full lives in fact. I bless you now – like you blessed me, with a life..

.. or – a state of being – that no fire can destroy, no wind can blow away, no waves can sweep across..

Mano budhyahankara chithaa ninaham,
Na cha srothra jihwe na cha graana nethrer,
Na cha vyoma bhoomir na thejo na vayu,
Chidananada Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.

Neither am I mind, nor intelligence ,
Nor ego, nor thought,
Nor am I ears or the tongue or the nose or the eyes,
Nor am I earth or sky or air or the light,
I am Shiva, I am Shiva, of nature knowledge

Na cha praana sangno na vai pancha vaayuh,
Na vaa saptha dhathur na va pancha kosa,
Na vak pani padam na chopastha payu,
Chidananada Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.

Neither am I the movement due to life,
Nor am I the five airs, nor am I the seven elements,
Nor am I the five internal organs,
Nor am I voice or hands or feet or other organs,
I am Shiva, I am Shiva, of nature knowledge”

(chant and translation courtesy http://www.sankaracharya.org/nirvana_shatkam.php)

© Debjani Mitra at debjanimitra.wordpress.com

(Picture taken at Sunset - St. Pete Beach) The sun sets every day to rise the next morning.. the circle of life..

Infinity at Key West, Florida

Like the river without the ocean

Like the flower without the bee

Like the day without the sun

I would be lost without thee, my lord

Like dusk without the sunset

Like waves without the sea

Like a rainbow without the sky

Without you, my life would have no beauty

Like a song unsung

A voice unheard

My life would have no meaning

If you had not touched me

Like clouds without rain

Storm without the winds

Grass without the earth

Where would I be

I would be lost

In words

In deeds

In images.. and in time

In parts I would seek the whole

In steps I would seek the goal

But with your love my lord

I have found my way

In the darkness

I have felt complete

In the void

To see that I am you

And you are me

And now I know

How I wasted those years

Without me

And for the rest of my life

My love may be put to test

And my life may be at stake

But I shall protect your abode my lord

Like a candle light from the storm

Savour your presence

In the depth of my being

For I am nothing at all

Without thee

And what would I be – without me ?

© Debjani Mitra at debjanimitra.wordpress.com

The genie – of words

When I was with my beloved Master, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, this summer, doing the hollow and empty meditations in the Art of Living Part II program in the Bangalore Ashram, I put in a little wish silently – let my creativity blossom… Little did I know how that will manifest in the days to come.. and with what intensity… so much so that every object, every thought, every person and every emotion, every experience and even non-experience – just plain and simple void – will trigger an avalanche of words and images in me..

I want to write about things which I have never written before… for the simple reason that they never occurred to me! But now images in words and words about images are bombarding me effortlessly and incessantly, somewhat like the lazy waves on the shores of the numerous gulfs in the Tampabay area… that have no purpose other than just being.. Unconditionally..

I have done more than 10 silence programs in the last 10 yrs that I have been meditating.. But never has it happened this way.. I did not know that two and a half days of silence could bring forth such an explosion of words.. words which perhaps had been lying covered in dusty corners of my mind for lifetimes together, all wanting to spring forth and jump into the written form at once.. in all possible written forms.. poetry, prose, quips, quotes, dialogues, monologues, pictures, and sometimes as dreams..

All of a sudden I wish I existed in multiple realms, in multiple clouds, writing multiple journals and blogs at the same time. My head feels like an overcrowded train in the Indian city ofMumbai, where each compartment is bursting with ideas, and all waiting to detrain in their respective stations.. Only that my lifestyle at this point is not allowing adequate time in each station for the words to step out.. but more and more ideas are getting into the train instead.. oh what a mess ! all of a sudden life seems too short to express everything that I want to express.. the fingers are going numb typing, the ink is running out and the all the forests in the world are going to be in the threat of depletion if I choose to print out all that I am thinking !

And perhaps this was dormant in my genes. My mother is an avid writer of journals. She has been writing for years together, every day, burning the midnight oil, everything about the day that went by. perhaps if one digs into her journals, which I hope to do some day – apart from getting a glimpse into her heart and mind, one would get a glimpse into the politics, history and culture of her times, of countless recipes, or menus that she stirred up when people visited, of details on our report cards, details of expired passports and visas, travelogues of the places she visited, of the names of countless generations of cats in our house and dogs in the neighborhood, and of all things significant and insignificant..

And not only my mom, but also my grandmom and great grandmom, used to write.

And they encouraged me to write since I was in school. in fact I remember that in one of our trips I had written an illustrated travelogue. I sketched and painted landscapes and wrote about them.. many a times lying awake at night after hectic tours the day through. The train journeys we took, courtesy my father being in the railways, also gave both me and my mom ample time and opportunity to do that.

So it is indeed, a great passion that was there in my genes. it was lying dormant, and has now been sparked off again by a little genie.. of words.. to whom I am eternally thankful. And that, is one thing, at this point, that I am unable to express in words ! For gratitude is something that goes, beyond words… like love..

Love you Gurudev – for sending me the genie !

© Debjani Mitra at debjanimitra.wordpress.com 24 June 2011
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