Monday, August 27, 2018

Love Does Not Require The Mirror of Hate

The wonderful thing about life is that on every turn it poses a new question and it is in our struggle to find the answers to them that our growth takes place. I shudder at the thought of a life where I wouldn’t struggle with these dilemmas and mysteries. How boring our lives would be.  I never want my life to be a straight highway, I like to travel on curving bending roads clinging to the mountains. The views are great but you never know what the next bend will bring. I simply love it and on that note the latest question I am struggling with is precisely that - Love!

First let me clarify that I don’t mean romantic love, which one falls in and out of. I am talking about the more persistent and permanent kind of love, the kind we feel for our parents, kids, country etc. This is a deep seated emotion in humans and we cannot function without it. The absence of love especially in our formative years can lead to psychological problems which persist throughout our lives and prisons across the globe hold evidence of this.

We are reasonably good at loving people. Our love is not dependent upon contrast. Contrast is nature’s way of making us appreciate something by placing it next to something which is its absolute opposite. For example we appreciate light because of darkness, we crave for justice when we see injustice, we focus on abundance when we come across lack in any area of our life etc. But we don’t love our kids because we find our friend’s children disgusting. Our parents don’t tell us to show our love for them by showing hate for all other parents of this world. Then what happens to us when we apply the same love on concepts,  ideas or the intangible? Why does our love for our country have to be demonstrated by hating another? Why does love for your religion mean that you hate people of other religions? Why must I protect my ideas and paradigms by exhibiting a repulsion for those who have a completely opposite thought process? In short why is love so dependent on hate? I struggle with this especially when it comes to patriotism. I am a proud Pakistani and one who refuses by choice to live in any other country but why must I hate all Indians to prove my love for my country? Frankly I don’t care about my neighbor, they can do what they want in their house and I will do what I want in mine. Obviously if the people in my next door apartment do anything which violates my privacy, freedom or safety I should and I will retaliate. But unless that happens I will not go on telling everyone how much I hate them. Same rule applies to countries and religions etc.

If we want to change the world then we have to teach our children to love. You and I are not world leaders, nor are we revolutionaries, but in our homes running around and making incessant racket is tomorrow. Its these kids who will in a few years inherit this planet from us, if each parent taught their kids how to love without hating the opposite, in the next couple of decades this would be a different planet altogether. We need to let them know the mirror of hate does not reflect love. Alas no school teaches this and no parent thinks of it. In fact at home when we crib and swear about how much we hate the politicians, our boss, our colleague etc. we are teaching our kids that to love one means to hate the other. By the time the child is 3 years old his/her  world map is almost complete, largely drawn by what he/she hears regardless of their language skills.  So if you do nothing else the least you can do is shut up about your negativity when your child is within earshot even though that child is simply a drooling, gurgling baby right now.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Imran’s Third Marriage – a Single Woman’s Perspective

I really don’t follow Pakistani politics anymore simply because I feel that if you watch the news even after a year the news itself doesn’t really change much. My theory is if something earth shattering happens somebody will come and tell you about it.  After all spreading news is the nation’s favorite pastime. Everyday someone or the other asks me “did you hear what happened” my reply is always a negative and then the person proceeds to narrate the entire news. I keep abreast without wasting my own time. I have become immune to dharnas, corruption, power struggles etc. But once in a while I hear something that does affect me and the latest saga of Imran’s new tryst with marriage is one such news.

First of all as a woman I absolutely detest the attitude of the politicians who say ‘ he is allowed 4 wives’ or ‘it is his personal matter’ or ‘it is natural for everyone to need companionship’ . I know most of you will find it politically incorrect and probably shocking when I say ‘bull….’! I’m sorry but I cant respect someone who in their 60’s finds it impossible to remain single and takes impulsive decisions regarding marriage. Remember the 2nd marriage? The rush to get married and the quickness of the divorce? If he cant keep himself in check how can he keep the control the nation? Nothing is personal when you enter politics. It is our right to scrutinize you and base our decisions upon all your actions.

And what is this business of needing someone? Its not as if he doesn’t have children, or he lives all alone in a big house with no one around. Mr. Khan I am a single woman who is completely alone in the world and I am living just fine. If I can do it you definitely can. I want to vote for someone who is strong not just honest. Yes I agree the others are corrupt so we should give him a chance and most do believe that he is the honest leader we need. But am I wrong if I want strength along with honesty?

I am not against marriage at all on the contrary I think it is the building block of any society. What I’m against is the ridiculous manner in which IK seems to be approaching this for the past few years. If you find the right woman, take your time, understand the person then if you are sure go ahead by all means. But you seem to be still going through school boy crushes. Let me share a secret of growing up … we all fantasize but growing up is learning to keep our fantasies to ourselves.

What on earth is the matter with everyone? People are either criticizing his choice or condoning his decision as a ‘personal matter’. Why isn’t anyone asking ‘why’? Let me ask you if a female politician who was divorced or widowed decided to get married at the age of 66 what would your reaction be? Such complete hypocrisy. The entire nation would have assassinated her character and termed her unfit for politics. None of these politicians would have said ‘its her personal choice’. I don’t think I will see this society change in my lifetime but I would like us to at least start accepting openly that we are in drastic need of changing our attitudes.  At the moment I feel as an independant woman I am not represented by anyone and this time again I will simply waste my vote.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bouncing Back From Failure

Failures are a normal event in most people’s lives, however there are some who seem to get more than their fair share. Each time they ask themselves “why me”? Each time their self confidence takes a battering. Each time the sense of helplessness becomes stronger, and each time it becomes more and more difficult to bounce back. But there are ways to recover even if you have had a series of failures and think you have no energy left to fight back.
Step 1 - Get it out of your system
Keeping it bottled up inside does not help. You end up feeling miserable and making everyone around you miserable as well. Many people especially men are conditioned to maintain a ‘stiff upper lip’ no matter what, but not only does it affect your emotional state your health also takes a big hit. You are of no use to anyone including yourself if your are sick or worse – dead! Do whatever you have to in order to get it out of your system. If you want to cry - do it, if you want to scream – then scream, if you want to put your feelings down on paper – then start writing. Most people secretly blame others for their failures, their friends or family, their colleagues, their stock broker etc. Blame everyone you think is even remotely associated with your failure. But this should be a completely private exercise, it does not mean that you actually seek out everyone and tell them how you think they have contributed to your misery. This may seem a very negative thing to do but believe me it works as it helps you to bring to surface any residual resentment, so that nothing is left festering inside you anymore. One may say that this exercise will make them feel worse, yes it will but you have to hit rock bottom before you can bounce back.
Step 2 – Acceptance
Once you have everything out of your system, then you can take the next step. Realize that you are powerless to travel back in time and change your life. What has happened is in the past, dwelling on it will not change the present outcome. Whoever or whatever was responsible cannot change your present. Your “what if” thinking is not going to have any bearing on a past event – What if you had not listened to x,y,z and invested your money? What if you had taken the other job offer? What if … what if…. Pointless and a total waste of time, you past is permanently part of your history. But your future starts in this moment right now. The choice is yours whether you want to keep thinking of all that happened and ensure that it happens in your future as well or do you say ‘enough’ and put it behind you once and for all.
Step 3 – Get over it
There are millions who are in the same situation as you and there are several millions in worse situations. Big deal! Nobody can make the right choice each time. Everyone ends up at the wrong time at the wrong place at some point in their lives, success depends upon what you do after a choice that didn’t go according to plan. The world is not conspiring against you. None of us is that important! Be thankful that you survived a really bad patch in your life. The act of being thankful is important and extremely powerful. We have grown up hearing that ‘Allah always knows what is best for us’. In fact many religions subscribe to this theory, and when a statement is echoed over millennia by completely opposing religions, then it can be considered as a “universal truth’. So understand the wisdom of this truth and internalize it. Our problem seems to be that we become fanatical about the rituals of the religions we follow and use its wisdom only as quotations which we spout in public. If God does know what’s best for us then He must have purposely put us through this situation to teach us something. What were your most important take-aways from this period of your life.? Did you find out who your true friends were and who were not?
Step 4 – Take responsibility
If you have realized that this failure was no more than a life lesson, then its time to understand what it was trying to teach you. You put the blame on everyone else but what about yourself? What did you do to attract this situation? This is not about beating yourself up and telling yourself that you are a loser. This is about taking stock of your own areas of improvement. Are there any attitudes or beliefs you are holding on to which seem to be at play here e.g. a refusal means that they don’t like you? Do you feel that you were lacking in some key skills which led to this failure e.g planning, budgeting or getting work done from people? Are there certain habits which contributed to this problem e.g. procrastination? By doing this you will be taking a positive step for your future as well as realize that putting the blame on others was somewhat unfair.
Step 5 – Take action
Make a list of lessons learnt and identify what you need to do differently next time. By taking action in the present you change your future. Start working on your areas of improvement. Get ready for the next opportunity and have belief that it will come. The outcome of your future opportunity will change because you yourself have changed, if not history will keep repeating itself.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Courage - the basic ingredient

I have always wondered what is that single most important thing that parents need to teach their children? Seems like a pointless question for someone like me to ponder over considering that I don’t have any myself, but that’s me, always pointlessly pondering over the pointless. One does that when one has all the time in the world and nothing really important to think about.

Like most people I started with a list of attributes that any parent should inculcate in their child. The ability to differentiate between right and wrong was at the top of this list. Obviously if parents don’t teach this to their children, who else will? And where will civilization be without this basic human quality? Confidence was the next item on my list. When parents encourage and appreciate their children even after a failure, children learn to believe in their abilities - such an important trait during their educational years and later and their adult life. Curiosity and asking questions was also very important. If parents try and answer their children rather than shutting them up, the children grow up with a learning mind-set. As they grow-up their curiosity leads them to ever expanding horizons and growth. Of course there were other characteristics as well such as, compassion, faith, responsibility etc.

 But something was missing. I could not put my finger at it but felt that some underlying value was missing, something which was so important that it acted as the foundation on which all other values stood firm. You see experience has taught me that most parents do ensure that their children learn to differentiate between right and wrong but most adults seem to forget that basic lesson. It is not that as adults we become evil or all tread the wrong path, but most of us learn to ignore the wrong around us, hence encouraging it to grow. In our own lives we zig zag between right and wrong telling ourselves that this is being practical in today’s world.

Our confidence also seems to waver depending upon who we are with. With equals and people less powerful than us we are like strutting peacocks ready to display our colours to the max, but when we are with those who are more privileged or powerful we tend to fold into ourselves.

Curiosity and willingness to ask questions also seems to diminish with age.  Let me correct myself, the willingness to ask stimulating questions goes down, our need to know the intimate details of other people’s lives on the other hand goes up exponentially.   

So what is the magic ingredient that acts as a long term stabilizer which preserves all the other values? I came up with courage. The etymology of the word courage is the old French word corage meaning the heart or innermost feelings. Don’t confuse courage with heroism. While heroism requires courage, courage need not always be translated into heroic deeds. 

Knowing right from wrong is one thing, but it requires courage to stand up for what is right and an even greater amount of courage to be on the right side ourselves and listen to that inner voice which constantly guides us. 

Confidence too requires courage – the courage to brace ourselves, steel our nerves and hold our ground in the presence of others. We know our abilities but it requires courage to keep believing in them when others don’t, that is what confidence really is. One does not have to be cocky to be confident, one can be very unassuming and yet confident. One of the definitions of confidence is ‘assured expectation’ and that assurance requires courage to first know your capabilities, admit what you cannot do and have belief in your abilities to deliver what you can do.

To ask questions is to invite exploration and the trepid do not make good explorers. When you start asking difficult questions you usually end up with unsettling answers. The truth is not always what is familiar and accepting that is not easy. Even more difficult is to adopt your newly discovered truths into your life and change your hitherto familiar life map. So most people give up this quest the moment they hit the boundaries of uncharted territories. Such a shame, because at that moment they stop living and start merely to exist, inside they die early on although physically they may inhabit this planet for another half a century.

 Life has ups and downs and problems are the norm rather than the exception. We each have our share of challenges but to overcome these tribulations requires courage. Living life on your own terms requires courage. To love requires courage. To grow requires courage. To fully explore that adventure that is life requires courage. Courage then is the one thing that parents must teach their children, because this the basic ingredient which makes everything else possible.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

It's Complicated

If God intended our lives to be simple He would have made us earthworms. But instead He chose to make us his supreme creatures. We are by design complex so how can we expect our lives to be uncomplicated? It would be like buying a brand new refrigerator and using it as cupboard! The utility of everything is hidden in its design. There is no waste in God’s design, nothing surplus is added simply because He had the choice to do so. It upsets me so much when people around me pray and expect their lives to be simple and uncomplicated – we are asking God to ‘waste’ His resource, which of course He doesn’t. And that is the source of our unhappiness.

First I think we need to differentiate between lifestyle and life. Lifestyle is the paraphernalia we gather around ourselves to make life materially comfortable and life is the experiences we have as we move on our path from birth to death. Lifestyles should be simple, that is what religions have been telling us all along, but don’t confuse lifestyle with life itself. Our trials, tribulations, gains and losses are all part of the educational syllabus set for us so that we can grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is only by going through our worst phases that our best emerges.

There is an inherent thirst in all of us to search for the meaning of life and most do so by searching it externally and through religious texts. But the meaning of each individual’s life is different and it can only be found in analyzing our own life and trying to understand the twists and turns of our own particular path. Nobody else can do that for us because only we know what we went through.

I never write about anything unless I have experienced it myself, only then do I feel I have the right to try and influence someone else – to do otherwise would be hypocrisy, which I abhor. My life was a true fairy tale. An only child of an only child, I was the centre of the universe for not only my parents but the entire extended family. The magic continued as I grew up, I travelled the world and had experiences most people just dream about. And then it all changed. My mother was diagnosed with dementia and I had to curb all my travels and move my office to my house. The bills kept piling up and my energy kept sapping – care giving for a dementia patient drains us emotionally and physically. Like most people I started thinking that life as I knew it was over. The fairy tale was over and the harsh reality was the nightmare I had woken into. My self-defeating thinking kept growing and I started looking outwards to find the answer to ‘why’? Like most people I started thinking this was the result of something I did wrong. This was retribution for my sins. But I was wrong.

This dark period was not a punishment at all, but  proof that God was really taking a bit of extra interest in my growth. I realized in this phase that I had nerves of steel, even when the mountain of problems grew to a seemingly insurmountable height, I treaded on always knowing that this had to end sometime. I realized that my joy centre was inside me, I did not need people to make me happy instead I could always find reasons to smile within myself.  Many of my friends thought I had become a recluse, but I had found my company in the form of books and writing became my chief form of expression. If I was sailing through life I wouldn’t have discovered the cathartic joy of writing. This alone time gave me plenty of time to reflect and get ‘intuition’ i.e. going inwards for tuition, and I am thankful for this period of my life. Hopping from one flight to another as was my lifestyle a few years ago, I wouldn’t have found myself.

I realized that my life was ready for a leap.  At the moment I have made my mother the only priority of my life, but this phase sadly will end soon, what then? Does my work really give me so much joy that it can fill the void that will be created? The answer was No. During this phase one sentence kept popping up in my mind “connect the dots…” and I began to see connections between seemingly unrelated philosophies, mythologies and events from ancient history. I began to understand that my purpose, my particular meaning of life lay in this phrase. This was what life was training me for, this is why I was forced to go through this period. What I did not really know at that time was the wherewithal  of translating this intangible concept into my physical reality. One day out- of- the- blue that idea came to me that I can’t really go further in my ‘connecting the dots’ till I have authentic knowledge.  And for that I need to get a formal education in history and work to get my PhD in ancient history. The very idea lifted my mood, it made me excited and I knew this was the course I was meant to take. I knew that when it’s time for my mother to make her transition from the physical world this pursuit will fill the void. What the universe requires from me ultimately I don’t know yet, but I am sure that the next stage will also become clear when the time comes.

Each one of us has a destiny but it is up to us to uncover it. If we can’t read the clues and pray for life to be simple we fail to uncover it and go unfulfilled from this world. Not all of us are born to be great philanthropists or highly successful business tycoons, but we are all certainly all born for a reason, a unique destiny which only we can manifest. There is no honour in living like earth worms! The past must be reflected upon to understand the future but wanting the past to return is our biggest source of unhappiness. The job of our past is to shape our future not be our future!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Allah Om - The Keys Of A Vibrational Universe

I am excited. The kind of excitement one feels when a key piece of life’s jigsaw puzzle falls in place. The process of discovery is strange and never really linear, one unrelated concept can lead you to discover an answer to the most pressing question on your mind. There is but one condition for learning and discovery - keeping an open mind.

The other day someone was describing the meaning or rather the philosophy behind the Hindu chant ‘OM’. Now before I go any further, OM is a word made popular as a meditative chant in the western world, but actually it is the foundation stone for the religion we know as Hinduism. What is interesting is that OM precedes all prayers, all mantras. Whether someone is paying homage to Shiva, Vishnu or any other deity, it always starts with OM. Hindus believe that OM encompasses the entire universe. Not many know why, but as is the case with all religions on this planet they have been told so they believe, the process of discovery in most religions has been stunted a long time ago by dogma. OM is above and beyond the gods and goddesses they worship.

Anyways, coming back to the original track of this article, what caught my attention was when they started describing the vibrations emanating from this word. OM as it is written in Sanskrit comprises of 3 parts aa, oo and mmm. Now let’s conduct a little experiment – say aaaa a few times and identify where you feel the vibrations, you will feel a resonance in your belly. Now say ooo, now the vibrations can be felt in the chest. And last, say mmmmm and you will feel the resonance in your throat.

This got me thinking. As a Muslim, Allah is the name by which God prefers to be addressed. Surely the name of the Almighty cannot be simply a word derived from Hebrew and Aramic languages. It has to have a far greater significance than that.  So I started experimenting with the vibrations of the name. The vibrations for aaaa were the same, obviously in both OM and Allah, centered in the belly. Then comes LLLLLAAAA, strangely, I felt the resonance in my chest, just like oooo in OM. In anticipation I tried AHHHHHH and guess what? The throat was the centre of resonance this time.

I was floored that the vibrations of both words were identical. But this was not the end of the discovery, but the start. Over the years I have spent many hours reading about Law of Attraction and one of the basic tenets is that our thought vibrations attract our physical reality. If our thought vibrations are at a low scale i.e. fear, anger, helplessness etc. we attract those realities. If on the other hand, we are able to raise our vibrations to happiness, faith, love, compassion, then we start attracting realities which give us more of such experiences. 

It is a vibrational universe, and the String Theory of Quantum Physics confirms this. In a lay man’s words, the universe is comprised of one-dimensional objects called ‘strings’. The variations of oscillation or vibrations of these strings give rise to various particles. Simply put if strings vibrate a certain way they become electrons, if their vibration is different, they could be neutrons etc.

So thoughts are vibrations and it is a vibrational universe. The Master and Creator of the universe is God.  This means the name of God must encompass within it the key to accessing the higher vibrations. If His name does not bring you peace, joy, love and compassion, then it can only mean two things; one, it is not the real name; or two, you are chanting it wrong without feeling the vibrations. I believe that Allah and OM are not just words, they are the key to unlocking the universe. They are designed to help you reach the highest vibrations possible, hence enabling you to manifest in your reality all that is positive, be it health, wealth or happiness.  In other words your prayers are answered.

I have not really experimented with any other names by which God is known in other religions simply because I really don’t know much about them.  If you practice other religions please do feel free to experiment with the title by which you address God. In the meantime, if you are working on the Law of Attraction and working on raising your vibrations try chanting OM or Allah. Obviously it is easy for Muslims and Hindus. We don’t have to select, Muslims will chant Allah and Hindus will chant OM. But the rest of the world will need to select one which appeals most to them.  Don’t keep chanting without feeling the vibrations, it won’t have any affect at all. But if you do it right, you will feel a kind of inner cleansing that is hard to describe. The negativity seems to fade and it is hard to feel hopeless and stressed.

It may seem strange that I am taking examples of two seemingly opposite religions. One worships multiple gods and the other is the absolute bastion of monotheism.  Perhaps because the fundamental texts of both these religions have not undergone editing and transliterations like the others have, which is why it is easier to identify the core concepts of these religions and arrive at the truth behind them.  The truth cannot be changed. The truth is absolute. So if one finds the truth in one religion it is then easy to try and find parallels in others.  Religion is enduring and that which endures cannot be just an amalgamation of rituals and stories. For something to endure it has to be based not only on universal principles but also mysteries which can only be understood as mankind evolves its understanding of science and the nature of the universe we inhabit. 

Never in the history of mankind have we been so knowledgeable or have made such strides in science. We are perfectly poised to seek the hidden codes of our religions. It is now time to seek out the truth. We may not understand everything, because our knowledge is still limited and as it expands so will our understanding of religion.  Unfortunately, we have become so obsessed with our rituals and trying to prove to each other why they are wrong and we are right. We have defied the very reason why religions were sent our way – peace, harmony and love for all.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Book Waiting To Be Written

I have always wanted to write a book, but books are written by people who have answers or who have something original to contribute to the world. Books share knowledge and wisdom. A reader's world view expands with every book. Unfortunately I have no such thing to share. All I have are questions. I have an incredible desire to understand my life but every time I introspect I come up with more questions. 

Everything happens for a reason is a mantra I have lived by all my life. Nothing is really random. All experiences, good or bad, are building blocks for future events. I am blessed to have really unusual childhood experiences. I grew up in a house where 5 languages were spoken and where religious tolerance was not just something my parents talked about but a living reality. My mom is Muslim and her best friend for now nearly 55 years is a Hindu. Although it has been 30 years since my aunt moved away to India, the bond between these two women is just as strong. Even my mom's dementia cannot dim her love for her best friend. 

The friendship of these two incredible ladies is so strong that our families grew up as one. They are sisters and their friendship is embraced by the entire family. My aunt's siblings consider my mom as another sister. The entire extended family on both sides takes it for granted that they are sisters. I have yet to come across another example of such strong and pure friendship. When one was worried or had a problem the other automatically knew it even before they spoke to each other. It was a unique telepathy.

The beauty of their relationship lies in their religious tolerance. Growing up, I saw that both ladies were strong in their own religious practices and yet never once have I come across an incident where one tried to convert the other. Nor did I ever see an occasion where one offended the other due to insensitivity. My aunt though not a vegetarian, does not eat beef obviously, so it was never cooked in our house. Simple. No beef, no issue of contamination. They kept life simple. Perhaps that is why they enjoyed their relationship.

All festivals were celebrated together, be it Eid or Diwali, we had a blast. My dad used to bring the fireworks for all the kids on Diwali and it never occurred to us that it was unusual. They taught me and my other cousins that you can remain true to your own beliefs while respecting the customs and rituals of others. We worshiped Allah and never bowed to any idols, but then we never showed any disrespect either. Few people are so lucky as to go through their formation years in such an environment.

The biggest issue I had as a child was that I was jealous of my cousin that my mom considered her perfect and wanted me to be like her and my cousin was jealous because her mom doted on me a bit too much. Sibling rivalry of an only child. It was a weird but wonderful childhood. Which is perhaps why I have so many questions now. At the back of my mind is the feeling that there is a higher purpose I have to fulfill and these childhood experiences were meant to build the foundation for it. But what? I don't think that merely an open mind is the purpose. That is my world view, but to do something concrete with this world view is the purpose. And I struggle each day to discover it.

Also I find it very strange that have experienced such friendship firsthand, why am I so aloof and disconnected with people? Surely with such an example in my life I should have long lasting and deep connection with people, or at least one friend. But strangely I find it very hard to hold and maintain friendships. I have friends yes, some I've known for nearly 30 years, but for some reason I can't seem to make the effort to keep in touch and invest in those relationships. Strange! How can a positive experience lead to such an opposite outcome?

Each chapter in my early life leads to more questions. I should be able to make sense of them but I can't. And till the day comes when I have clarity of understanding I cannot really write a book. After all, no reader in the world wants to end up more confused at the end of the book than when they started reading it.