Don’t worry; be Mindful

All the worries we have, all the thoughts, all the dreams, all the memories, all that has ever and will ever go through our mind is useless. Life happens, happens continuously, at every moment, in front of our eyes and ears and nose and skin. It is in front of us inviting us to dive into it with full abandon, with the eyes that just caught sight of the sea for the first time. Life thrives everywhere around us, it is in the colors, in the light, in the air, in sounds and tastes and smells, in whispers and screams, in buzzing bees and screeching tires, in bustling markets and silent forests. Life happens in a concerted chaos, at precise random, in familiar mysterious ways. And we are part of it, have always been and will ever be. We are part of it and still we are the witness that watches it with unconscious intensity from a vantage point beyond our comprehension. And we can choose to witness this torrent of ecstatic creation or we can use our free will and ride the mental rocket, the train of thoughts, the love boat to the imaginary world of Nowhere.

 

Why do we worry and for what? Does the deer worry because the oak loses its leaves in the autumn? Life happens; that means no rights or wrongs, no problems, no unfair situations. We happen too, but we detach from Life very early by distorting it behind the prism of biased values and questionable traditions, and the ridiculousness of self-importance. We judge and judge and judge and fail to notice that very soon our faces will be tattooed with the scars of time and our hair will be dyed by the silver rays of the moon, and our legs will give in under the weight of a backpack stuffed with yellowish memories and one or two unforgiveable episodes.

 

Life keeps giving us opportunities to rejoice in the observation of the morning dew or the insignificant ant. But we keep preferring the company of the devious mind who over and over allures us with promises of an even more grandiose life before ditching us on a cold morning. And there we stay, confused, depressed and shivering, not understanding how we got there until, suddenly, we happen to tear the veil of ignorance and for an eternal second catch eye of an unfamiliar flower covered in crystal-like dew. We stare at it curiously, it is the first time we see it although it has been there forever. An eternal moment. A moment of release. A moment of silence. A moment of Life before we return to the company of our chattering friend and its endless pack of lies.

 

Can we open our eyes and see the trickery? Do we wanna open our eyes and see the biggest scam ever played in creation? There is no mind, just electrical and chemical games played by fictitious characters. There is no mind in your laptop or Iphone, just designed responses to stimuli. The real “mind” is outside, giving instructions to the Iphone or watching the laptop screen. We are not a Youtube video packed with thoughts, feelings, drives, and desires, we are not a mind that moves incessantly with no defined identity. We have an identity. We are the Witness, the witness of the external and the internal. The witness of all the petty mind games and the grandiose Divine games.  And the player too.

 

Don’t worry. Be Mindful.

On Devotion

In its rawest form, Devotion is nothing but the unobstructed manifestation of the energy of Love. And Love is nothing but the essence of everything that exists, and probably of the One that does and doesn’t exist. Devotion is the foundation of most religions although in most cases it may have not been interpreted in its purest form. Devotion, same as good actions, is totally unselfish; that means that when we exercise devotion, we are not doing it expecting something in return. That would rather be necessity with a lower or higher charge of faith. Neither are we giving thanks, for that would rather be appreciation for something we have received. And neither are we praising a higher being, for that would imply a type of separation that cannot be bridged.

In this world of relentless action and agitation, of continuous effort and goals, Devotion represents a firm belief in the power of the unknown. Regular devotional practice takes us to the gates of impossibility, that uncanny place of realization where we can attest that miracles are actually part of daily life. Used as your main practice, Devotion rushes you into the warm embrace with the Father or the Beloved or carefully places you into the loving lap of the Mother. As the invaluable adjunct to any other practice, Devotion provides the fresh juice of unspeakable bliss, drenching life with sweetness and compassion.

Depictions of fierce gods and abominable fates have prevented humanity to express true Devotion. As a result, Devotion is oftentimes expressed in a diluted form, watered down by fear of terrible eternal consequences. This has moved many to deny a certain figure as the source of creation. And still, Devotion is for everybody as it can be directed to any form you pick out. Let me explain: in expressing Devotion, you can direct pure, untainted love not only to an almighty god or council of gods but also to the union with your higher Self, to those that surround you, to the Earth and Sun that support your living, and, finally, to Life itself in its myriad forms, be it happiness, despair, pain or loneliness. It is in this last one when you totally abandon yourself to the river of Life, with absolute trust in the unknown, with absolute faith in “what is”.

Much can be written about Devotion and still we will never be able to grasp the slightest meaning of it. For Devotion is not for the meticulous student but for the impetuous explorer. Devotion is enthusiastic practice, abandonment with no expectations, and joy beyond the senses.

Devotion is not for the student. Explore it. You may become incredulously devoted to it.

No Mindfulness, No Yoga

Many times since we first started practicing yoga, we have heard the now popular adage that we have to take yoga off the mat and into daily life. Many times have we heard about connecting and re-connecting to ourselves, laying out intentions, being present, practicing ahimsa no matter what situation we are facing, etc.

But despite our determination, the gap remains, the void remains. All the wonderful feelings, all the honest intentions, all the presence, all the peacefulness and calmness that abound during our practice, magically volatilize the moment we encounter our first or second or third challenge in the concrete jungle. How it does still happen after years of practice, after so many workshops and books and lectures may become puzzling and frustrating. What are we missing? Where are we failing?

Moreover, we may even get the opposite effect and notice that, not only our lives are not improving as we wished, but our yoga practice is deteriorating as we begin to judge ourselves, compare with other practitioners, criticize teachers, put down other practices, or gossip about other students. Clearly we lose the connection to yoga, the happiness of yoga, and when I say yoga I mean any attempt to human development be it a religious or spiritual movement.

The foundations of human development, the foundations of life itself, are found in the pure and simple observation of the process of living. It is not until we begin to experience life in full awareness that we can tap into the infinite possibilities of our multidimensional being and into the ultimate meaning of life. This is called Mindfulness.

But the question remains: How do we do it? How do we incorporate this mindful approach to daily life? First of all, we need to understand that mindfulness is not a set of techniques; that is just a very tiny, albeit helpful, part of it that can be used to improve attention and reduce stress. Mindfulness is a thorough journey through the different aspects of life and the Self. It is mostly a process of understanding, accepting, and witnessing creation and how it evolves without getting carried away in the process. Mindfulness can be manifested through the gradual development of a mindful body (diet, lifestyle, wholesome routines, etc), a mindful mind (ethical living, life purpose, meditation), mindful energy (understanding, tapping into, saving and protecting energy), mindful healing (disease prevention, listening to your body, managing pain), and mindful communication (from self-empathy to honest expression).

Once we start understanding all these aspects of ourselves, we naturally begin to incorporate them in our daily life. It is not a quick process as we are breaking up with years of mental programs and behavioral patterns but it is a very satisfying one, from the very beginning.

Basically, mindfulness is the foundation, the cornerstone, the essence of any and all spiritual practices. There is simply no way we can understand life, the universe, the Divine until we know ourselves. And there is no way we can understand ourselves until we begin observing and fully experiencing what we are.

Mindfulness: The Foundation of Life

Mindfulness broke into our lives in the early 80s as a cognitive therapy program that Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed based on traditional Buddhist beliefs. Its results on his patients were promptly recognized and the movement began to expand into other groups and contexts including schools, hospitals, prisons, social institutions, private companies, etc.

Since then, the technique is mostly seen and used as a way to improve attention and reduce stress, therefore contributing to healing different conditions, mostly related to the mind. One of the many definitions of mindfulness describes it as “The systematic training and refinement of attention and awareness”. However, mindfulness is much more than that, as its origins clearly point to the core of most spiritual traditions: the high concepts of ethical behavior, discrimination, acceptance of events, and comprehension of the meaning of life.

In lay terms, mindfulness is the essence of living; moreover it is life itself as any moment not spent in mindfulness is a waste trip to La La Land. And, at this point, let me remind us all that we spent probably 99% of our time traveling to either the future or the past as passengers of a mind which, by default, moves endlessly with no defined purpose. The mind is a vehicle (an amazing vehicle) that we can use to meet our needs and fulfill our purpose in life. But it needs to be controlled with tremendous awareness so it doesn’t bolt and take us for a wild ride. And it needs to be parked and allowed to rest when not being needed, which is much more often than we think. It is at these times that we can step out of the vehicle and clearly observe, notice, understand what we are and what life is. It is at these times that we can have a genuine, conscious experience of what is really happening through a non-judgmental perception of our body, feelings, emotions, thoughts, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness is a simple practice but difficult to master. It takes time to go from being 99% of our time inside the mind vehicle to be able to step out of it and simply be. But it can be done with a little perseverance, determination, and the understanding that this is our natural state and the only path to learning who we are. Living in mindfulness helps us to save energy, clear our intellect, improve attention and memory, accept natural changes, strengthen our immune system, fasten the healing process, reduce stress, and develop compassion.

Mindfulness is the cornerstone of proper living, youthfulness, and happiness. And, as such, it is also the foundation of any higher spiritual practice.

The Game of Life

So how about if I propose you a game. How about if you start thinking about all the different personalities you could be, all the characters you could play if you were to exist eternally on this planet? (Did you just think of Highlander?). But there is more, let’s go a little deeper on this game and say that the reason for all this acting is to get to know ourselves inside out, all that we are capable of, good or bad, right or wrong; get to know ourselves so there is not the slightest part of us that is not fully experienced and properly assimilated.

 

So, let’s get started by playing an honest and kind school teacher who is not fully in accordance with the school system. He may be following his truth at first but how long can he continue until he falls in disgrace with the system or how much will he be ready to lose in order to be faithful to his ideals? Now, let’s play a young woman who rises beyond countless adversities to finally achieve public recognition and fame…and at that point finds herself completely alone in life. Next, let’s play a slave who is being brutally punished just for being a slave, or a raw soldier who deserts on his first battle, or a gambler fretting as his skills fade away. Let’s play the highly educated and brilliant but cold-hearted, the envious, the mischievous, the womanizer, the kindest lady in the neighborhood. Let’s play more complex characters, an explosive combination of the highest and lowest in morals. Let’s face off the antagonists, the old friends, the model couple. Let’s create a rambunctious plot packed with characters from different races, cultures, traditions, social strata and levels of education and play what each one of them would experience in relationship to the others. Are you tired already? Hang on tight, we have just started because the ride is…eternal.

 

Sounds like a fun game to play? Do you wanna know how it ends? Or would it simply come to a point when it would be impossible to make sense anymore? And, if that was the case, what about wiping everything off completely and starting afresh with a new background and new characters that would randomly start spouting out of your mind the moment you put yourself to the task? Wouldn’t you love watching the plot become alive by itself? Situations being created by the momentum of all the intermingled actions and reactions?

 

Now, how about if this was already happening and you were just one of these infinite expressions of the creator’s imagination? Which, by the way, as an expression would make you the creator itself. And what would happen to this one expression (that is YOU) if you were able to find out that the “reality” you are living is just a fun game played by your own imagination to investigate all the possibilities in your being?

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was…

Survival of the Fittest

So, we are living at a time when we cannot drink either milk coming from animals (for obvious reasons at this point) or from nuts, seeds or legumes, because of suspicious emulsifiers; ocean fish is contaminated with mercury; organic crops are suffering diseases coming from manure whose producers were fed with GMOs; companies simply change the name of substances ruled as harmful and therefore banned and put them back in circulation in a new product with a new name; forests are being decimated, rivers poisoned, species annihilated. The list seems endless, the situation hopeless.

As a species, we may have finally decided on the path of suffering in order to learn what the meaning of life is, our one and only purpose for having been treading this planet for some time now. Our other choice has been the path of spiritual evolution (through discrimination, compassion and detachment) but that one seems farther and farther away by the day. So, as a valid and fully available path, we will suffer and suffer and suffer more until one day, probably many generations from now, we will get fed up from so much suffering and decide to retake our option on spiritual evolution. Until then, there is not much we can do but weather the storm and take it all in with poise and patience. Or is there?

Are we all fatally condemned to this situation no matter our disposition? What about if we have already chosen the path of spiritual evolution but the power of the critical mass is sweeping us along? Do we still have to suffer all the diseases coming from our diseased food, all the stress coming from our stressful way of life, all the emotional upheavals coming from our emotion-ridden society? The answer is yes and no. The answer is yes we will suffer to some extent, although we can become rather unscathed if we know how to play our cards. Remember that for every apparent problem, there is surely a solution waiting to be unearthed.

Food will continue to degrade as well as water, environment, quality of life and the like. So the solution is not to place all our efforts to try to preserve these slowly decaying resources (although we do need to continue making our best choices) but to resort to more subtle and therefore more effective ways of keeping our life force at its best.

So, what are these subtle ways?, you may wonder. None other than Mindfulness and Mastery of the Life Force, two techniques regularly practiced in many spiritual traditions in the form of meditation and breath control.  Regular practice of these techniques does initially make up for most deficiencies in our immune and nervous systems, helping them to avoid any sort of breakdown. Their ultimate power remains a mystery but there are several reported (and studied) cases of individuals living out of pure Prana, with no food or water at all. We can take these cases as hints of what these techniques can do for us.  Needless to say, these should be learned from a seasoned practitioner and then practiced regularly to receive their total benefits.

We still need to strive for wholesome, organic foods, clean water, fresh, unpolluted air, etc., but understanding all them not as the one solution to our survival but as adjuncts to the two real tools nature has put to our disposition. If you think carefully, it is a genius setup: they are available to all, applicable everywhere, free from the decay of the material realm, and ready anytime we wish to use them. They infuse us with strength, will power, clarity, harmony, discrimination, and dispassion.  They are probably the only thing that can trigger that major shift in consciousness needed to change the dilapidating course life is taking on the planet.

And they are and have always been here, waiting for us to start using them.

Seek a teacher and start Happening with Life!

 

Rules for the Modern Leader

  1. Be compassionate: The head should move last, following the heart. The head receives its inspiration, advice and direction from the heart center.
  2. Be true to your principles: You are your company’s highest form of advertisement.
  3. Be aware: A company’s health is measured by the state of health of its components, that is, its employees.
  4. Be fair: Treat your providers as you would like to be treated by your clients.
  5. Be ethical: If your win is somebody else’s loss, then it is only a loss for everybody.
  6. Be true to your philosophy, no matter what, no matter who, no matter when.
  7. Be patient: Haste is the enemy of perfection.
  8. Be creative: Avoid clichés, avoid clichés, avoid clichés.
  9. Be confident: Forget the market, the market is as volatile as gas. Be ethical, believe in your product, and the market will come to you.
  10. Be composed: Act, don’t react.
  11. Be careful with your words: Words are the most powerful thing we have, they can destroy the strongest relationship in one second.
  12. Be humble: Your success is the success of your company.
  13. Be factual: Don’t assume anything. You know what “ass-u-me” does.
  14. Be a component: There is no “I” in team. Don’t ever forget it.
  15. Be happy: It is contagious.
  16. Be faithful: In times of chaos, surrender to your higher expression and let it take care of things.
  17. Be detached: Sometimes our greatest victory comes disguised as a terrible loss.
  18. Be consistent: Make a plan and stick to it. When you have succeeded, you may start new ventures.
  19. Be connected: Listen to your inner voice: You won’t find a better counselor.
  20. Be yourself: You are much more than a corporate unit.
  21. Be a team player: Learn the art of delegating and enjoy it.
  22. Be a leader: Lead with the example.
  23. Be a gentleman: Accept your losses with poise and don’t forget to congratulate others on their victories.
  24. Be focused: Focus all your time and energy on your company and not on your competitors.
  25. Be respectful: We all have different opinions. Respect them all even when you don’t agree with them. You can be in disagreement and still be respectful.
  26. Be invisible: Don’t take things personal; build on constructive criticism and let the rest pass through you.
  27. Be responsible: Take responsibility for your own mistakes. It is alright to make mistakes; it is not alright to blame others for them.
  28. Be caring: With your body and mind. Winning horses need rest in between races so they can always perform at their peak.
  29. Be supportive: Support humanitarian causes or, even better, develop a line of products or services that bring happiness to other beings.
  30. Be balanced: As with everything in life, balance has to be achieved for things to excel. Reflect about the cycle of life and death for a few minutes everyday and soon enough you will find the equilibrium between your personal and professional lives.

To Milk or not to Milk: The Dairy Question

So much has been and continuous to be written about this topic that the best is to cut the chase and go straight to the point: The milk issue has become a matter of extremisms. On one side, the supporters who see in milk a wholesome food that has been part of our diet for milennia, and, on the opposite side, the detractors, who consider consuming milk some sort of aberration with pernicious side effects for our health.
So, let’s take a look at a summary of the main arguments on both sides:
1-
SUPPORTERS:
– Highly nutritious
– Important source of calcium, choline, potassium, vitamins A and B, and protein
– Nourishes all tissues and is a mild laxative
– Balances emotions
– Promotes Ojas, the essence of life energy which is directly connected to the immune system
– Good quality milk, mixed with the appropriate spices, can be an excellent remedy for sore throats and pharyngitis
(turmeric), insomnia (nutmeg), bronchial congestion (pippali), lymphatic congestion (peppercorn), sexual weakness (ashwaganda), or indigestion (ginger)
2-
DETRACTORS:
– Humans are the only mammals who consume other mammal’s milk or their own as adults
– Dairy protein seems to increase IGF-1 which has been implicated in several cancers
– D-Galactose, a component in milk, has been found to be pro-inflammatory
– Milk has been linked to acne, high cholesterol, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and atherosclerosis
– The dairy industry has made cow’s conditions inhumane
– Large part of the population is lactose intolerant
– Milk is one of the world’s most common food allergens

Ayurveda categorizes milk as sweet in taste, with a cooling energy and a sweet post-digestive effect. This makes milk a great food for air types (Vata) for its nutritional value and calming and grounding properties, and for fire types (Pitta) for its cooling and sweet properties. It is not advisable for earth-water types (Kapha) as milk is the archetypal kapha food and therefore creates imbalance in Kapha individuals.

However, there are a number of factors that need to be met in order for milk to be beneficial to our system:

1- Because of its heaviness and cold energy, milk should never be drank cold. In order to digest it properly, it needs to be gently boiled along with warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, black pepper, or cardamom. Otherwise,milk will cause digestive problems and accumulation of toxins and mucus in the body.
2- When pasteurized, homogenized or under any other treatment (lactose-free, fat-free), milk becomes much more difficult to digest and creates stagnation in the body. Milk should be organic and raw as it used to be before the dairy revolution.
3- Milk should never be mixed with fruits, yogurt, nuts, fish, meat, spicy or salty food, or bitter vegetables as it produces toxins due to poor digestibility. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends us not to drink milk with meals but to use it as a snack (mixed with spices) or mixed with sweet grains to make rice or tapioca pudding, oatmeal, or pancakes.
4- Certain ethnic groups and individuals cannot digest milk properly, which may result in complications for their health (Latin America and Far East Asia are two examples) and therefore should avoid it altogether.

Detractors do have a point when mentioning the horrendous conditions cows have to live in these days and which should not be tolerated. And I think this has a lot to do with intolerance, allergies, and links to various diseases that may be intimately related to the way we process milk and our poor education on how to prepare and combine it with other foods. It is these factors that have made milk an easy to demonize food when it has been a great supporter in human development throughout history.

So, should we drink milk or not? Unfortunately, the milk we are made to consume nowadays does not resemble the model proposed by Ayurveda. So, despite all that has been said and unless you can find wholesome, raw,
organic milk, it is better to avoid it or reduce its consumption drastically. Other types of dairy such as fresh goat cheese, fresh curd, and lassi (not yogurt) can still be taken in moderation if they are coming from an organic source.

Finally, it is important to point out that alternative milks (soy, almond, rice, hemp, etc) may contain a number of
suspicious ingredients (carrageenan, guar gum, xanthan gum, etc) normally used as thickeners that create digestive discomfort in some individuals and are currently being investigated as potential precursors of some cancers. So, is
there any solution whatsoever to making a creamy oatmeal or wetting your morning granola? One answer is to make your own alternative milk, either the traditional way or by purchasing a simple milk maker. Not only will you notice the unique flavor but you will have to drink it fast as they normally go off after only three days in the fridge…the beauties of freshness.

When you let go, you let it happen

Human beings differ from other living creatures in the fact that we take more to learn than any other species, much, much longer. Like the cat that runs away from hot water after being burned, animals only need one
taste of any situation to understand its profound implications. I am not talking about showing your dog a few tricks that evidently come with repetition, I am talking about how to live according to the tacit laws of nature.

Maybe the answer to everything is how much you stick to your personal agenda. As far as I know, we are the only creatures with a personal agenda on this planet. Everything else conforms to the natural flow of nature,
and it shows.

It is customary, as part of his nature, for a human being to set his mind on a certain project or idea and devote his time and resources to make it blossom. So far, so good. However, it is rather painful to watch this
human being trying over and over to always end up getting the same, frustrating result. Intellect wanes while bling determination waxes disproportionately. We lose control, patience, higher vision and engage all our resources towards the consecration of the agenda. And still nothing moves, nothing happens. So, we feverishly continue with our insanity, burning mental health and decimating physical vitality until one day, when exhausted and frustrated we decide to let go.

And then it happens.

It happens because it was time for it to happen, because all in this universe needs a time to grow and mature, because there are lessons to learn in the process, because nature is constantly trying to show us that each moment
is precious and not just those that we appoint as special culminations of some delusional project of grandeur. It happens because in surrendering we accept; we accept what other creatures already know: that there is a higher order, in which we have been appointed as witnesses and not actors as we normally claim. We learn humility, which in turn, shows us that our grandiose ideas are not that important, that they are just another ripple in the endless ocean of consciousness.

And other times it doesn’t happen.

It doesn’t happen because in the great vision, happening would equal to chaos. It doesn’t happen because nature is constantly trying to make us veer into the right path while we insist on driving against traffic. We shut eyes and ears (unfortunately not the mouth) and we tread on towards our own misery.  We don’t even consider an
alternative, fears arise, doubts arise, insecurities arise, and we continue wasting our lives in an impossible project, job, practice, relationship, career, just because we feel comfortable in the known and too afraid to jump into the unknown.

Life is the unknown. Letting go is the unknown. And when you let go, you let it happen. 

Solutions

We are addicted to solutions, we starve for solutions, we live a life that is perennially looking for a solution to some kind of problem that only we seem to care for.

Solutions are invoked as a response to problems. But, what is a problem? Is it our neighbor, relative, client, boss, the weather, life, the Universe trying to make us miserable or is it just a matter of acceptance? Acceptance doesn’t mean surrendering to a state of misery but acknowledging a fact or series of facts that are happening. Period. They don’t really have anything to do with you unless you decide to experience them as if you were the one and only target around.

Acceptance is intimately connected to your true nature, to whom you really are. If you think you are the body, then you will be miserable; if you think you are the mind, then you will be miserable; if you think you are the soul, then you will be miserable. If you patiently and carefully observe, you will find out you are none of them; then, and only then, you will be able to start drawing a line of separation between problems and YOU. And you won’t be so desperate to find solutions.

The solution to any problem is inherent in the problem itself. This means the solution will come even if we don’t do anything (although that might take a long time sometimes). So, next time you have a problem, instead of trying to find a solution as soon as possible, observe the problem carefully for a while. You will notice that it will begin to “blossom” until finally it ripens up allowing you to see your next move. Why does this happen? Because life is an endless play of situations succeeding each other at vertiginous speed, which, as every other thing in the universe, are born, develop and die (or get recycled to be more precise). If we can wait a little bit, we’ll see their fuller form and anticipate their end. Needless to say, patience is your greatest ally and oftentimes the key element we fail to consider in these situations.

All problems are created only by us, when we allow our emotions, feelings, drives, or desires to drive our chariot. If we observe from the vantage point of silence, then it is not a problem but a situation. And the moment we think, feel, ponder, want or wish, then it becomes a problem again. Let’s try this again: if you think you are your emotions, feelings, drives or desires, you will be miserable. If you patiently and carefully observe, you will find out you are none of them.

So, who are you then? Only you can give an accurate answer to that. I guess this could be a good time to start observing…