Sunday
Sep152013

What Are You Acting Out?

Based on chapter 2 of The Advaita Life Practice by Jayant Kalawar now available at Amazon

Lets start with an examination of the roles we play in the three fields of activities: in relationships, at work, and with money.

In the relationships space we act out different roles, as we have learned them, in the fields of activity we are engaged in. For examples, at home we play the role of a father or sone, of a mother or daughter, of a husband or wife. I learnt what I have to do as a father from my father, my wife and, from trial and error, through the experience of raising my children. In my role as a parent, my family and my home are my fields of activity. The essence of my own parent role and the model of ow be a father are now embedded in me. These experiences and internalizations give me the knowledge of the field of activity, the family, my role in the play and how to act in it.

Whe we examine the roles we play at work, as subordinates, colleagues to our peers, partnersin a business, service providers to our customers, as bosses to those who report to us, we begin to see that we play multiple roles in this field of activity. In turn, each of these roles has its specific field of play and we learn the knowledge of how to act – as a doctor, nurse, lawyer, clerk, sales engineer, analyst, manager, etc. – in that theater.

In the money space, too, we have roles to play which must be learned and mastered. For example, we play the role of how to earn an income, budget, save and invest our savings – to ensure what is available is used appropriately, now and in the future for every member of the family. Or at least that is the ideal expectation of earnings parents.

By no means is the knowledge that one gains from the play or from our roles in the relationships, work or money spaces final. In fact, the roles and the scripts keep changing. The themes of the plays, the backdrops change along with the scripts. Consequently, we are constantly learning. As a parent, as our children grow, the activity in our role changes and we may find ourselves scrambling to learn that change. Change in our roles, in our play-spaces and in our knowledge about the play is a given. That change is a reflection of the ever-chaging ebb and fl0ow of universal energy.

My next post will address the question: Who is the Actor of the Roles we play?

Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.


Sunday
Aug252013

We cannot Balance Our Lives with Simplistic “Stress Reduction” and “Mall Yoga”

The very process of living a joyful life in relation to relationships, work and money in the beginning of the twenty-first century requires robust physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual health. It is a complex balancing act that takes more than the simple techniques of stress reduction and a weekly yoga class. Rather, it requires continual awareness of our subtle nature. The world we live in, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, calls for maximizing material wellbeing. Across the globe, there is one underlying assumption that seems to be ubiquitous: we need to strive to decrease the apparent uncertainty of material experiences and to extend continuity of preferred experiences. The most common thinking that follows from this central assumption is that the only way we can decrease uncertainty and maintain our preferred experiences is by acquiring and indulging in more material things.

At the back of our minds there is also the looming anxiety of global warming and depletion of natural resources like fossil fuels and, more immediately, how increases in energy prices and lack of economic growth will drive changes in our lives: in how we work, consume, and related to each other. This is the back drop in which we play out our roles on the global stage. A stage on which the economic, political and media leadership daily celebrate the communication revolution unfolding in hyper-drive, as large systems acquire information about every facet of our lives to store, repackage for endless redistribution. And, as we engage with this hyper-connected world, it reflects back to us a myriad of partially changing identities, continually fragments and churning our sense of self.

The Advaita (Non-Dual) perspective regards classical economic views of living life in this globalized world, informed as it is with rational European Enlightenment based paradigms, as valid on their own narrow terms but needing to be embedded in a much more comprehensive, self-aware, and acute understanding of our own nature and the realities around us. Advaita does not ask us to put aside the insights of the economists and theorists of human behavior, with respect to the material world, but to understand them in a new way.

We may think we understand the material world that we experience. It is something we can touch, smell, see, hear or taste. But what is the essential nature of the material experience? Advaita tradition states that the true quality of experience is sukshma, subtle. Our experience of fresh lemonade, which is wet to touch, sweet-and-sour to taste, fragrant to smell, and cloudy to the eye, is subtle. Science tells us that a glass of fresh lemonade is made of molecules that are different configurations of atoms that are made up of charged particles. Quantum physics tells us that our physical tools experience the charged particles of the lemonade as manifestations of energy waves. When we give this experience a name, “lemonade”, we make it into a gross object, an opaque, dense package of experiences, consequently losing our sense of the subtle.

The basis for our material experience is sukshma or subtle. It is the awareness of that subtlety to which Advaita points us. It is not that we leave the material behind. Rather, the understanding of the dynamic between the material and the subtle becomes the basis for the practices that bring us to detachment and efficiency in the leela of our lives. We cannot achieve the balance that we seek in our lives with simplistic stress reduction techniques integral to today’s mall yoga. A contemplative practice of observation is a first step that is more likely to get you there.

This article is an edited extract of chapter 1 of The Advaita Life Practice by Jayant Kalawar, now available at Amazon.

Wednesday
Jul312013

Nature and Nurture: How to use Astrology as a tool for change and success

You or someone you know has consulted an astrologer in the recent past. Or you have at least read your monthly forecast on the web. And another of your dear friends, the modern rationalist, chides you about being superstitious and giving up on your free will and your innate capabilities to bring change. So you (or your friend) go do your astrology surreptitiously. This article is for you. It tells you how astrology can be a constructive tool in your tool kit for making yourself successful in the twenty first century.

The framework within which to use Astrology, broadly, is nature and nurture. In other words, you are born with a certain set of cards, given by nature - whether it is your genes or how well and stable your birth family is. In Jyotish, the Indian Astrology, which I learned directly from my grandfather and father over the last 50 years, the set of cards you are born with is known as Prarabdha (pronounced Praa-rub-dhaa). But that is not all. You are also given a set of capabilities to be autonomous in this world, to make your independent mark on it: instinct to survive physically, be creative, be courageous and ambitious, be compassionate, articulate, communicate, introspect / contemplate, plan ahead and to withdraw from the world to rejuvenate. This is called Purushartha (Puur-oosh-aarthaa).

Your birth chart represents your Prarabdha, the cards you have been dealt with. An adept Astrologer reads your birth chart and begins a conversation with you to help you understand the cards you have been dealt at birth. Such a conversation with your astrologer can be most valuable for most people. Understanding one's own nature takes a life time of experience - and the right kind of birth chart reading can substantially and rapidly increase your control over your own life.

Such an approach to astrology does not focus on predictions -though it does tell you how the cards will play out if you don't do anything about it. And that is the key. Once you get to know how your cards are likely to play out if you don't do anything about it, you know what you want to change. Then you can start planning for how you are going to change. Which of your many capabilities, your Purushartha, you are going to bring into play. Astrovision coaching helps you identify which capabilities you want to bring into play, how to strengthen them and how to bring about the change you want and make yourself successful.

 Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.

Wednesday
Jul032013

What is Mercury Retrograde Doing To You: June-July 2013

Mercury is seen to move retrograde in the skies three (sometimes four) times a year, for about three weeks each time. Mercury will be seen to be in retrograde motion between June 26th and July 20th this year in Gemini (by the Sidereal (as compared to Tropical) method of charting the skies, which is used by NASA as well in their sky mapping).

Folks who have used my Astrovision coaching services have been calling back to ask me how they will be impacted by this particular retrograde. So here is a quick Astrovision guide to the current Mercury retrograde (get your Ascendant signs out! If you want to know your ascendant sign contact AdvaitalifecoachATgmailDOTcom ):

Aries ascendant: This Mercury retrograde will primarily impact communication with your siblings and friends and may create misunderstandings about daily routines. The secondary impact will likely be on being a little less lucky than usual – that is chances of things not coming together at first try are higher.

Taurus ascendant: This Mercury retrograde will impact your expected income levels due to communication issues. Misunderstandings within immediate family will also likely rise. Secondary impact will be on an increased sense of foreboding about an uncertain future.

Gemini ascendant: During this Mercury retrograde period you will sense that while you have well thought out your message for the moment, when you open your mouth something confusing and garbled comes out – which is surprising for someone like you who is seen to be an above average communicator. Secondary impact will be our closest personal and business relationship issues.

Cancer ascendant: Mercury retrograde during June-July 2013 will see increased sense of uncertainty in general, in business and personal matters. A secondary set of confusions will arise in the workplace through miscommunications and misunderstandings.

Leo ascendant: This Mercury retrograde will cause a few confusions in some expectations that you may have from your network of people in authority and older siblings. Any new contacts you may establish at this time will have to be revisited again next month to clear any misunderstandings. Secondary impact on romance and some tensions with your children.

Virgo ascendant: During this Mercury retrograde you will feel the impact mostly on issues relating your career and social status. Secondary impact on things related to home and misunderstandings with the mother figure in your life.

Libra ascendant: Mercury retrograde during June-July 2013 will see things not coming together at the first try and for no apparent reason. Secondary impact will be on communication with your siblings and friends.

Scorpio ascendant: This Mercury retrograde will cause a free floating anxiety about things unknown with a general sense of uncertainty. Secondary impact will be felt on communication about income.

Sagittarius ascendant: Confusions and misunderstanding with personal and business partners will be felt during this Mercury retrograde. A secondary experience of confusion in your own mind about which direction to go in will also be present.

Capricorn ascendant: Workplace confusions and misunderstandings will be the hallmark of this Mercury retrograde for you. Secondary impact will be a vague free floating anxiety about the unknowns in your life.

Aquarius ascendant: Misunderstandings in your romantic life or with your children are likely to be the main theme of this Mercury retrograde for you. You will also feel some confusions arise with those in authority and older siblings as well relatively new friends during these few weeks.

Pisces ascendant: Home and mother figure related confusions will disturb your peace of mind during this Mercury retrograde. A secondary effect will be felt through minor irritations arising regarding your career status and social standing.

Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.

Wednesday
Apr172013

After the Tragedy: Revisiting Flourishing through Contemplation and Sharing

Each time crisis occurs, we stop in our tracks. We look around to share, and to help.

 Monday’s tragedy in Boston. Yesterday in Bagdhad. Today in Bangalore. Somalia and Sandy Hook. In our streets and backyards.

The disturbed and broken human system erupts just when we thought we had solved the puzzle of being normal.

How do we work to heal it?

Do we need a crisis in our accessible consciousness to stop us from running?

Or can we take breaks every now and then to stop and share in what we have achieved?

Are humans more likely to flourish by sharing?

I offer these as contemplative questions for each one of us to answer for ourselves at a given moment in our lives, beginning right now. You may find the answer keeps changing for you, day to day, week to week, month to month, and as years go by.

Sharing is also relative to who or what the person is on the other end of the sharing. And how we validate and accept what another person shares with us.

Here is one way to go about such contemplation:

 What do you have that you can share? Once you begin to get a handle on this, you will be able to begin to discern what the other person has to share as well.

 Here are some clues to what you may have that you can share:

 You can do something tangible and share it: make a breakfast, a cup of coffee or tea, do all the laundry, give flowers to a friend. Something that you do not ordinarily do but is mundane and every day, not heroic.

You can be creative: draw a sketch, write a small poem, sing a song, write a couple of paragraphs describing something that gives you joy. Share it with someone.

You can show confidence and courage in a difficult situation: this one you have to do spontaneously as an occasion arises, where you can reach out to help with confidence and courage. Whether you see an attack on a colleague at work or a person harassed by someone in authority or by bullies. There will be many such examples that you will come across almost daily in your life.

You can show compassion: Put yourself in the other person's shoes, see what the other person is going through and what would you do to meet those challenges. How can you motivate the other person to do it for themselves rather than doing it for them? This is not easy. The first three are easier to do - you are acting as a way of sharing.Now you have to connect at an emotional and intellectual level of sharing to truly support someone else's action.

 You can share by expressing compassion: Minimize expressing hurtful thoughts. Observe and contemplate on each hurtful thought that arises in you. It will find an expression in your voice or some action if do not work with it, accept it and to gently let it go, to breathe it out. First you have to begin flagging all the hurtful thoughts that arise in your mind. Once you have mastered letting go of each hurtful thought that comes to mind, expressing compassion comes naturally. You will have noticed each contemplation step is steadily more difficult.

You can begin to see the bigger picture in which all your sharing actions are happening: Just seeing the bigger picture makes your sharing more effective. Observing the greater context in which we operate requires stepping back and observing not only yourself but those around you and what all of us are doing to help us flourish or to hurt each other or be indifferent and ignore each other.

Make sure you are established in each level of contemplation before moving to the next level. How to go about establishing yourself in contemplation at each of these levels? Ensuring a level of physical wellbeing, breath-work, chanting and meditation provides a foundation to sustain yourself in each of these contemplative levels.

 Best not to belabor these points. I leave them to you to take them forward through your own contemplation, if you think there is a chance that it will make your life a little more joyful.


Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.

Anuva Kalawar contributed to this article.