Thursday
Jan102013

Generosity, The Second Impulse

Generosity is a natural impulse that we have, second only to the one for survival. Insecurity in surviving leads to greed. The fear and anxiety of failure to survive leads to voracious appetites, grasping, consuming and digesting. To genuinely unleash the generosity impulse, the survival impulse has to be successfully managed. How do we go about doing this?

First let’s set the stage: most readers of this post are managing their well-being, the other side of the survival coin. There are two levels of well-being we manage on a daily basis: one is physical and the other is mental. The environment we find ourselves dictates to a large extent our physical and mental well-being and longevity. But there are still considerable choices within that constraint that we can make in terms of our daily activities and the directional goals we decide to head in.

How do we manage our physical well-being? As we know, the goal of physical well-being is to make sure we eat well, exercise and sleep in a way that keeps us healthy and energized. We try various methods to move towards that goal, including diets and exercise regimes. Sleep probably gets a lower priority as it competes with our getting to an apparent state of mental well-being.

Mental well-being is a state of mind free of anxiety and fears about the future and sense of joy about the present. In our current social environment we assume we can achieve this by accumulating goodies for the future consumption to ensure future physical well-being. This is another way of saying we are engaged in the pursuit of happiness. Which ends up being just that: a pursuit. Always. One which does not end up in a place where you are enjoying happiness at the moment, without fear and anxiety about the future. We call this the treadmill of life: we are busy racing with the carrot hanging just ahead of us. In this state, when fear and anxiety drive many of our actions, we sleep less soundly. This in turn impacts our physical well-being. In such a state, we are not sure of our survival at a physical and social (status) level we have come to expect. And when that persists our impulse for generosity, that powerful compassionate aspect of ourselves, lies deeply hidden. Lack of play for the powerful compassionate aspect, which is an integral part of ourselves, makes us into caricatures acting out our pain.

How can we act in a way in the present that leads us to being happy now and in the future, a state of mind free of anxiety and fears? Is that even practically possible for humans?

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

Thursday
Jan032013

Bhakti in Balancing The Pursuit of Material Happiness

In my previous post I opened up the topic of Bhakti in Advaita Life Coaching, as one of the three paths described in the Bhagavad Gita. Kirtan chanting as a Bhakti practice has taken root among a fair number of people as popularized by Krishna Das and others.

In the ALC framework of physical, mental and subtle functioning, the tools provided by the Bhakti path play a role to align the mental to the subtle. Our mental functions give rise to our material experiences of space and of past, present and future. Certain types of material experiences we consume give rise to a sense of satisfaction. The pursuit of continuance of such satisfaction is our pursuit of material happiness. If we get a taste of enormous sense of wellbeing from playing very well in a competitive arena whether it be in academics, sports or as a technology geek, we want to try and continually sustain that sense of wellbeing. Our energies then are channeled towards making that experience repeat itself.

The reality of our universe of material experience is that it is ever changing. The discontinuity of our material experiences is all that is guaranteed. And when that happens, we say our dreams are shattered. It is indeed a telling comment we make. Intuitively we see our pursuit of material happiness as being dreams, not a reality, but we act as if they were the only thing that matters. That is the "leela" that Advaita Life Coaching focuses on - as roles we play in the myriad theaters of life that we find oursevles in.

Balancing our pursuit of material happiness is Bhakti, a path of pursuing the subtle aspect in ourselves. If we chant during a Kirtan, we do it with the same passion and commitment as when we pursue our material dream then we are practicing Bhakti. The use of the tool of Bhakti requires as much, if not more, dedication and practice as what you have to put into becoming a champion swimmer for example. A specific Kirtan chant has an underlying vibration combined with a breathing pattern that helps your physical and mental functioning connect with the subtle aspect of yourself.

And as I say in the first chapter titled A Provocation, of The Advaita Life Practice, you can be sure that practicing the Bhakti path will help you find a balance. In that balance your probability of making the next high watermark of material goals (the next million(s) of dollars, the next promotion, the next award) is likely to go down. It is a tradeoff you have to think of making. The Bhakti path is not for everyone. It requires a quiet courage, a sustained reaching out for the subtle which by its very nature cannot be touched by the material even as it encompasses it. And be sure that it is an integral part of your functioning, in every breath.

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

Thursday
Dec272012

Advaita Life Coaching and Bhakti

I get asked from time to time what Advaita Life Coaching has to say about Bhakti as a practice from within the Indian traditions. This is a timely question, given the almost rock star prominence given to Krishna Das, an exponent of Kirtan, a vehicle for Bhakti expression.

The Bhagavad Gita speaks of three methods that may be used to begin to understand our nature: Karma, Bhakti and Jnana. In the ALC approach, we propose an eclectic mix, to be personally customized by the individual depending on where they find themselves at a particular time in their life cycle. And our life cycles have their ups and downs. What may fit us as a practice in a particular year in our lives, may change as our experiences change a few years down the road. Some may discover that a particular mix of methods suits them and it may become integrated into their daily practice for rest of their lives.

I am writing this short note for those who already know something about Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. A blog post is not a place to expound or even begin to define each of these three methods, let alone speak to mixing them into customized blends. Given the ubiquitous nature of the www search engines, those of you who have not yet heard of these methods, and are curious, will doubtless launch into your own cyber search. It is not the search outside that will give you the answers that will help you. For that, as most of you already know, you would need to introspect.

Introspect on what? Begin with introspection of the roles you are playing currently in your daily, weekly, monthly lives. Productive contemplation will begin to lead you to understanding what methods of practice will help you best.

How to begin this very first step of productive contemplation is something that ALC approach helps you do in a practical way. It is the first step by which you begin to empower yourself.

I will write more about Bhakti in future posts.

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

Wednesday
Dec192012

What Are Friends For?

In this day and age when friending and unfriending someone is just a click away, friendships have been devalued to an extent that the word friendship has lost the vibration of playing a role in your life that is at once supportive of what you do in your comfort zone and also challenges you to step out of your box once in a while.

But for that to happen we need to be in a mode of self-reflection. To become aware of one's comfort zone and what role a friend plays in supporting you in flourishing in that zone. Today we are in and out of sound-bites and skimming on the surface. We may share profound 140 character sentences on Twitter. But they have no depth of context from the posters life experience. It comes across as inane repetitive imitation. And yes, it does enable free association within one's own experiences and comfort zone. But there is no sharing of experiences and learnings from those experiences that would then lead to change in the way friends interact with each other.

So ask yourself: how many friends do you have that you share experiences with and in the process learn how to be a more effective, compassionate person. What social processes are out there today that provide you platforms to do just that?

Then ask yourself: were Nancy Lanza and Adam Lanza emblematic of this lonely place called USA in 2012 that sees so much frenzied talking past each other, digitally or otherwise? Did either of them have friends to reach out to, even as their own lives seemed to be imploding, rather than flourishing, from living a life of material abundance punctuated apparently by fear and anxiety of losing it?

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

 

Friday
Dec142012

Can Advaita Life Practice Help You Manage Relationship with Your Boss?

There is this common perception that anything to do with Advaita, Non Dual, is out of this world and  cannot help us to manage our experiences in the world we find ourselves in. I beg to  differ and that is something I have laid out in quite some detail in my book Advaita Life Practice.

Let me take specific practical example which most of us may have been concerned about some time in our lives: how to manage a relationship with a boss to move it to being mutually supportive. I will walk you through how Advaita practices can empower you to be actually proactive and take control of your experiential life.

As I said in my previous post here, there are two things you need to figure out about a relationship: one whether it is mutually supportive and resonating and second whether the roles need fine tuning to make it consistent.

The figuring out starts with becoming aware of the roles you and the other person are playing. So for example when you talk with your boss on one on one basis, what is the typical conversation that happens? Does your boss ask you about what you have done well and what problems you are having and what help you need. Or does the conversation mostly start with pointing out what you have not done right? And then you become defensive and get into a conversation which leaves you feeling unwell by the end of the meeting? But this observation has to be done methodically and is the first  
step. As you start observing and contemplating on your interactions with your boss, you may then be surprised to observe how the same boss talks to different people differently. You can react to that defensively or there is a way to learn from it to your advantage.

To become aware of what is going on in your interaction with your boss you have to become a better observer. Observe in minute detail what you do when you think of the other person, when you are with the other person and when you talk about the other person with third parties. You have to observe even while you are playing out your role.

And observation is the first step. Then the natural question is what to do with what you are observing, what we call the contemplative step, helps you understand the bigger picture of what is going on in your relationships. There is a way of writing it down, diarizing it. Then to bring the different strands of observation together to weave the bigger picture of your relationship.

So the first step is to begin with just step back and observe every little thing that is happening in the relationship with your boss.

That is the first step. But the process of observation itself creates a momentum for change for better resonance in the relationship. And if I were you, I would jump at that and ask: "But wont the stepping back and observing put a damper in what I am saying and doing? Won’t it make me passive?"

On the contrary. As you begin to observe and become aware, you start taking charge of your relationship, rather than just repeating a script that you and your boss have developed over time, without putting a conscious thought to it.

How to step back and observe and at the same time not bring all your actions to a stand still is a powerful skill you will learn from practices taught at Advaita Life Coaching group sessions and courses, through specific breath work, visualization, meditations and contemplative exercises.

So to go back to the example of a making the relationship with your boss more productive, you will learn to make non-judgmental observations about certain specific things through the ALC process. Each of these observations will be like puzzle pieces initially. But writing them down in a structured was helps bring the pieces together for you. You are then in a position to see what changes to the script may be required to shift  the relationship to being a healthy one.

And while we are at it, let’s keep in mind that for many of us taking control and changing the script of the roles we play with our boss will likely make the relationship more productive. But there will be many others who may want to move on. And what is required to come to the decision and make it a positive one is to understand one's own strengths, our capabilities and where and how we shine at work. Advaita Life Coaching specifically helps with your own understanding of your own capabilities, your strengths and also to become aware of where you are not so hot. That way when you get to know
what will make you flourish.

Also, moving on means you will be interviewing a lot. And each interview may be the first step in forming a relationship with a future boss. Because one of those interviews will end up being where you will be working. So when you go through the Advaita Life Coaching relationships and work life coaching process, you will be empowered to work through these interviews - both to bring your capabilities and strengths to the table and also to have better control of your relationships with your new boss and colleagues and therefore the trajectory of your career at your new workplace.

The chain of observation, contemplation and action in awareness is the chain of practices from Advaita that empower you in your daily life, and therefore preparing ground for you to begin to perceive what is it that you want to continue to experience and what you want drop off to simplify your life and move one more step towards sustained happiness and thence to equanimity.

Every field of activity presented to us in our everyday life is an opportunity for Advaita, Non Dual, practices. One need not withdraw and become an ascetic to begin to move towards happiness and equanimity. Start today with where you are: start becoming an observer, with appropriate coaching, and become an empowered actor.

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