How to be more and more happy. . .

There seems to be no lie as destructive yet universally accepted than the idea that we control the quantitative amount of happiness in our lives.  The perception of happiness has become an objective tangible thing, which some people have an abundance of, whereas others spend a lifetime seeking it. With such a fallacious viewpoint, we tend to to attempt and hack our appropriation of happiness. Moreover, we sentence ourselves to a masochistic rat-race, mindlessly running the same trodden path to happiness, only because society collectively accepts this path as the way to more happiness. A widespread departure from fundamental teachings of religions, estrangement from our deepest selves and a perpetual obsession with the collective maya (illusion), has geared us fundamentally towards unattainable goals.

“There is only one inborn error, and that is the notion that we exist in order to be happy” – Arthur Schopenhauer

The above written quote has a tendency to be viewed as exceedingly pessimistic. This is because we miss the profound axiom on which this quotation is predicated upon.

The Yin & Yang, the inherent duality, the opposite yet inter-connectedness of all phenomenon, the timeless balance of nature applies immaculately to our emotional states of mind as well. We are intent on labeling every experience in our lives as happy or sad, excitable or dredging, fun or boring. This is an abominable pigeon-holing to the immensity of life-experiences.  Our levels of happiness, our moods always oscillate between good and bad, however the aggregate is always a constant. We unmistakably, yet ironically always pay for our happiness by embracing our unhappiness, yet we somehow believe we can hack the very essence of life by generating no-strings-attached pure happiness.

If we ingress deeply to understand the onerous cycle of happiness, we observe a few explicit truths that need to be address. Firstly, happiness is always short-lived. We bask momentarily in our happy moments, are enamored and thrilled with the objects of our happiness, only to later take everything for granted. This tiresome script never fails to repeat itself. We subject ourselves to a monotonous cycle of happiness followed with sure-short disillusionment. Let’s take an example to illustrate this cycle to which all of us can relate to.

When we graduated from College, our wishes and desires, our thoughts and hopes were all held together by one singular goal, the goal of finding a job or making a career. Our happiness was tied wholly to what job we would land. We made an internal pledge to ourselves and the world that if we landed our dream job, we would be gratified and happy. As time progressed, all of us did sooner or later land reasonable jobs and were well settled in our careers. However to our dismay, there was still something amiss. We weren’t objectively feeling much different, or much happier than how we felt when we graduated as an anxious bunch. The only difference was that the objects of our stress, anxiety and unhappiness were simply swapped with different objects. There were complains of inconsiderate employers, unequal fiscal remunerations,  lack of job satisfaction, worry over family issues etcetera. In short, we were just as miserable as we were at any other point of our lives.

The fallacy exposed by the above example unveils the abject falsehood of our collective thinking; “we will be happy at a certain point in the future”.

This is misleading and absolutely false. 

Happiness is now. Happiness is in the present moment.

To quote Jesus,

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…” Matthew 6:34

The second universal truth we need to understand is, We never become more happy, we just trade in a certain form of happiness with another form of happiness.

Alcohol induced pleasurable feelings we pay with our health and hangovers. Drug induced euphorias come at the price of our dopamine receptors. Moving abroad for better career opportunities come with persistent longing for our families. Getting in fantastic shape we pay with missed social events and efforts at the gym. Marriage for love and solace with the surrender of our personal ambitions. The joy of having children with the pain of childbirth and and life-long self sacrifice. To summarize, happiness always comes with a sacrifice. To find happiness we must be first be prepared to give.

A while back, when I was intensely deliberating, fighting and struggling to decipher the essence of life, there was one question I could never answer. Is life ultimately sad or happy? Is every life different in terms of quantities of happiness? Are some people just dealt better hands than the rest? Hours of involuntary introspective recourse, meditation and prayer lead me one day to a deeply liberating truth. I was lying in bed, on an overcast Seattle afternoon, perturbed, gazing hopelessly at the window trying to can life with whatever words I could. Suddenly, I had a deeply liberating epiphany, a moment in my life which I can never forget. I finally found the perfect description of life, a word which completely described what life was, a word that settled the debate on whether life was a hopeless futile entity, or a happy blessing. It was this. Life is neither sad or happy, life is neither endless struggle or a bed of roses;

Life is simply, Life!

I couldn’t fathom the simplicity yet profundity of this revelation. Life is life, it needs no further explanation, no further analysis, no encapsulation in our powerless thoughts and words. Life just is! All we need to do to understand life is to make absolute peace and unconditional surrender with life. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

So, instead of trying to seek more happiness, avoid sadness, and consistently filter life through a lens of sad and happy times, just make peace with what life is. An emotion much higher than happiness will embrace you. Forgive me for the alluring title of this blog, We do not need to be more happy, we only need to be more peaceful.

God Bless!
Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, USA

Is secular meditation possible?

“Bodhi Nature”, the inherent perfection in all things. The God-nature within you.  The answer to life’s meaninglessness, the ever-elusive blissful state of being, the vastness which simply cannot be contained within words. This Buddha nature, our innate answer to all of life’s struggles isn’t easy to find. We need to dig down to our deepest recesses, cut through the infinite layers of ego, train our minds to hyper focus on our breathing, and transcend into the realm of no thought where the enlightened state lies. The eventual “Zen”, is one of ultimate bliss and supreme contentment. The age-old, established method of acquiring Zen as preached by Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism is meditation. Meditation can be the answer to finally breaking through the endless ‘Dukha’, the countless cycles of rebirth. Meditation is aimed at drastically reshaping the way we perceive and sense the world. Meditation is serious business.

Since meditation can seriously alter and bend the way we perceive the world, how can we imagine the path to enlightenment be without it’s share of dangers. How can sitting in quiet and counting your breath be dangerous, you ask? Good question. The unexplored mind can be a dangerous place. Pain, depression, and trauma are more mental states than actual circumstantial events. The psychological circuitry of our intricate brains does not allow us to escape pain and suffering even if we are well enclosed within our familiar comfortable settings . The reason? you still have your mind and your thoughts to cope with, no matter how the outside circumstances are. A quick example to illustrate this concept, any mind altering substance. People feel happier, social and more relaxed, after a couple of drinks. Clearly, it is their mental state which has changed, and nothing has changed in their external life situation. Meditation instills in us an awareness of our thoughts and hence can precipitate unresolved trauma and fears from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind. There is plenty that our minds have simply filed away in dark and dreary corners. We chose to look away every time those thoughts surface. Meditation, makes us deal with it, and consequently work through all those fearful entrapping thoughts.

Well, that’s good, you think. Meditation forces us to face our shunned fears and confront them head on. Easier said than done, however. Let me explain. Imagine you caught on with all the buzz surrounding meditation and mindfulness. You want to practice meditation for all the wonderful benefits everyone claims it has. However, otherwise, you are not the deep thinking type. Existential questions about life and the universe do not mean much to you. But still, you do not want to miss out on the meditation bandwagon. Everyone recommends meditation and mindfulness, it’s safe, it helps you focus, it actually develops your frontal cortex, powers up your concentration etcetera etcetera. With all the buzz and popularity surrounding meditation, you want to try it out too.  But remember, meditation performed in its true spirit, was not meant to be a short term fix to everyday mental health problems, no matter how much the  pop therapists and online bloggers suggest otherwise. Without any core beliefs anchoring your mind and soul, meditation is like going down a deep well of infinite darkness, an unknown abyss that you have to keep sinking into, to ultimately break onto the other side.  The west wants to reap the benefits of meditation, without experiencing the intense questioning of reality that comes with it! Meditation does not give you guarantees or promises! You just have to keep pushing through, deeper and deeper with every breath. Also, you cannot meditate with a goal in mind, meditation is not a means to an end, it is an end within itself.

The dangers of meditation are not something I myself only have experienced. ‘The atlantic’ has an excellent post on how meditation can truly terrify the practitioner, making them question the very fabric of their reality. Personally, I do not blame meditation, It was always meant to destroy your preconceptions of reality and replace them with whatever the ultimate reality of our lives is. The western society like always  latches onto anything that give people temporary respite without understanding its religious context. Meditation is, and has always supposed to be a religious practice.

A brief primer on my flirtations with meditation. I struggled with recurring panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder over the last few years. I often had terrifying episodes where everything I knew and believed in, would fade away and lose its meaning. These disconcerting episodes are formally referred in psychology as derealization; a horrifying feeling that one’s surroundings are not real. For me, my ever helpful brain upped the ante further, and I used to feel that I myself wasn’t real as well. Everything was floaty or dreamy.  Needless to say these episodes would leave me dazed, miserable and irrationally fearful. I would have these episodes in my sleep, at work, at the gym, during conversations, until it came to a time where I could no longer escape these intrusive thoughts.  Like everyone else nowadays, I scourged the internet to find a solution to this. Meditation was recommended by a lot of people as a natural cure. I read a book on Zen Meditation and jumped right in, and soon enough, I had established a rigorous routine of daily meditation. Often times, I would meditate twice or thrice a day. I was determined, focused and had a clear goal in mind. Meditation would cure my anxiety and make me a happier person. I was driven and hopeful, Until the exact opposite happened.

The days leading to the distressing event, meditation had counter-intuitively started precipitating in me feelings of anxiety and derealization. My palms would become sweaty, and my body would tremble as fear would start welling up in my body. I had intense recollections and deja vu of all my subconscious fears. It was like reliving PTSD, whereby my biggest fears would start surfacing. Obscure fearful memories would flash out of nowhere.  One day at work, while talking to a colleague, I started losing my hold on reality and started to dissociate. I tried to internally talk to myself out of the experience. No avail however since I was caught in the dreaded ‘panic loop’. I was getting fearful from the dissociation experience and the fear would make me dissociate more. This in turn would make me more fearful until the loop culminated in petrifying my soul with full blown terror! My heart rate jumped, breathing became shallow, and I felt pins and needles throughout my body. I had to get out, I excused myself, and went home but the feelings wouldn’t subside. I was back at square one, a month of meditation had only led me deceivingly to the worst panic attack I had in months! And then the despair sunk in! There was no hope! Not only was I suffering again, I was absolutely hopeless now. I was convinced there was no escape from this lifetime of mental hell I was being sentenced to. I was left naked and vulnerable in front of my fears.

After a week, once the uncomfortable feelings started to become status quo,my curious mind needed to make sense of what had happened. I  yet again scourged the internet reading about the dangers of meditation. I discovered the “dark night of the soul” project, where an actual rehab had been created by Dr. Willoughby Britton, for meditators suffering with meditation induced mental breakdowns! It was fascinating reading all these experiences of seasoned meditators ending up in psycho-therapy and rehab. Obviously the Zen Master’s and Yogis had their answers. Meditation needed to be done under the guidance of a teacher.  Meditation needed to be swapped with guided meditation. The meditator needed to loudly recite certain chants and verses whilst meditating to prevent the mind from foraying into darker realms. Meditation cannot be an aimless recourse, it needs to have structure, posture and clear direction. And if you fall on dark times you need to keep pushing through until you find the much needed salvation. After reading through all these responses, a blissful euphoria started evocating in my soul. Instead of starting another futile search for a better form of meditation, I realized that I was already a seasoned practitioner in the the most structured, organized and supreme form of guided meditation there could be! One of the core tenets of the religion of Islam, the five daily prayers referred to as Salah in Arabic and in south asia as “Namaz”! I always had this tool at my disposal, but I never practiced it for the powerful self-help tool it was. I had to learn it as part of a traditional islamic upbringing, but never comprehended the ultimate power it gave to the performer. Let’s look at Namaz and how it excels manifold from any other form of meditation there is. Even if both practices are performed in secular contexts, Namaaz is much more intricate and organized. And where Namaz really knocks the competition out of the park, is that Namaz provides the practitioner with the much needed anchor of an omnipresent and loving God. And He is there willfully asking you to to submit all your anxiety and depression to his endless compassion. No matter how much Namaz you perform you will not wander into the ‘dark nights’. You are centered in the loving embrace of a compassionate and merciful God!

Namaz was an immediate,almost magical relief to my anxiety. Solely from a secular standpoint, this is why I believe Namaz is intrinsically superior:

  1. Namaz is performed five times a day, during fixed time intervals, which are spaced throughout the day relevant to the positions of the sun. Structure and routine.
  2. Namaz is to be preceded by a quick ablution with water. This not only cleans the body, but warms-up the practitioner into a meditative state of mind prior to the actual Namaz itself.
  3. Namaz has fixed number of repetitions which can vary depending on what Namaz. you are performing
  4. Namaz has fixed postures which alternate between sitting and standing unlike meditation which is mostly performed in sitting positions.
  5. Namaz intrinsically involves chanting of profound religious verses, which enable the practitioners mind to focus and not wander towards other thoughts. This acts as a tool to calm down a racing mind. The Verses also act as a built-in timer towards meditation, so the meditator knows when to switch from one position to another and knows when the Namaz eventually ends. For meditation otherwise, people use stopwatches or keep meditating until the desired results are achieved.
  6. Namaz is a form of light exercise. Psychiatrists and doctors have long recommended meditation and exercise hand-in-hand as a drug-free cure for mental ailments. Namaz once again, elegantly, combines the two together into one effective practice.

One can only marvel at the boundless subtle wisdom Namaz innately has. It is a complete, all encompassing tool for cultivating mental strength and mental grounding to fight all sorts of everyday stressful and anxious mindsets.  I always used to consider Namaz an inconvenience which had been thrusted upon me and other believers as a laborious practice for being Muslim. With the spiritual changes in consciousness, I can begin to fathom the innumerable benefits Namaz has for the performer itself. God doesn’t need our Namaaz. We  are the ones who need it for successfully navigating through our tumultuous lives. It’s a gift to us from our creator.

So next time you chose ‘secular’ meditation as a cure for your everyday problems, try Namaz instead. Foolproof, highly structured and disciplined, Namaz will bring you results. Even if you are not the religious sorts, religious-based meditation will reap its benefits for you. No wonder, Islam is an ortho-practice religion, where establishing regular practices is an essential steps towards developing an unshakeable faith.  And while you are praying, You might just find Zen and tap into your Bodhi-Nature as well 😉

 

The Illusion of Just Right

It was a long, drawn-out day at work. Your drive home takes an hour. By the time you get home you are physically and mentally beat. Your home is a mess. You are too tired to care at this point. All you wanna do, is slump on that lazy old couch in front of the TV, put some Netflix on, brew some coffee and later warm-up that Mediterranean food leftover from the weekend. “Finally I am going to have some quality ‘me’ time”, “I am going to relax”, “this is going to be good!”

You sit down with your coffee, set your feet up on the table. Put the TV on, have the remote in your hand and put on the next episode of the TV show you’ve been watching. “Hey, Life’s not all that bad” you muse to yourself. You sink in deeper and start enjoying the show. 5 minutes in your special time, there’s a slight nuisance. Ahh your coffee’s gone cold. Better warm it up. I’ll do it later, you brush the thought aside. Try to slip back into the comfort you worked so hard to create, but no, the thought keeps irritating you every time you take a sip. You give in and get up, put your cup in the microwave. After the 5 minutes of annoyance, you come back in your comfy spot and resume unwinding from the long day at work. But now, there’s something else. You forgot your phone on the counter top.  “Do I really need my phone right now?”, you ask yourself. The argument in your brain amplifies. “It would be good to see what all everyone has been up to on Facebook. But I need a break from all this.” You eventually give in again and get your phone. The moment you sit back and enjoy another few minutes of calm, something else starts bugging you. You fix that, and then there’s something else. And on and on and on, you just cannot find the right environment for yourself to relax and enjoy. Eventually, you give up, depressed, you kick your feet up on the couch, waste time stalking people on your phone, and finally doze off exhausted with the TV still running in the background.

“There’s always something..” exclaimed Greg in exasperation. Greg was a colleague and a very good friend of mine, when we used to work on the cell towers, night and day. We would almost never have the ordinary day where everything would go as plan. We would be dealing with something new on a daily basis. The generator would be out of gas, there would be car problems, the weather would be impossible to work in. No matter how much we tried to be prepared and conjure a controlled environment, sooner or later something would go wrong.

Let’s go back to what Greg said in his moment of despair, and analyze the deeper truth underlying it.

“There is always something..”

There is always going to be something you would want to fix, something that keeps pinching you in the back of your mind, a little negative idea gnawing somewhere in your brain.

Our ego’s put us in a state of frenzy trying to find the perfect controlled setting. There is no peace until our ego has all the variables under its control. The few occasions, that it does manage to drive us crazy and succeed in controlling everything, the happiness is ephemeral. “If life was a certain way, I would be happy. If I could make this happen, I would finally be at peace.” And on and on we drone on living unsatisfied lives without cherishing the gift of our precious moments. And it is the same macro concept, which is true on the micro level. Our perpetual thoughts steal the beauty of the present moment from us, and instead keep us agitated and thankless. We need to let go of this mindset. We need to realize that the present moment is all there is, and only welcoming it as it is, will make us realize how blessed we are.

I have been prey to this all my life. Like a crazy person, I have chased dreams and circumstances beyond my control, which even when fulfilled never brought me any contentment. There would always be something missing, not because, something is ACTUALLY missing, it’s just that our mind’s have been conditioned to see what’s lacking, we rarely see what is there!

The key to being happy and content, is to fully register this; You cannot have an environment controlled by you. The world is bigger than you. You are not the center of the world (as the ego likes to think). Perfection, as imagined by our ego’s is an illusion. We do not need to seek perfection all the time. Instead, we need to realize, that perfection comes when we change the way we perceive our environment. There is a lot of perfection in our lives as is, we just chose to be blind to it.

So the next time, when your mind keeps you from enjoying yourself, just tell yourself, that this is how it was supposed to be, and this moment, unadulterated and unchanged IS already perfect. That being said, I do allow a few limited external tweaks as long as you are not driven to madness;)

Please, leave a comment! I would be thrilled to hear your thoughts on the topic!

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Snake River, Idaho!

 

“Whatever you do…”

It’s been ages since I last wrote something! Time to bring some life back to this blog of mine!

I have been putting off adding a new blogpost since the last 3 months now. I’ve been endlessly procrastinating and even now when I write, there is this continual voice in my head telling me to save this draft and get back it to it at a later time. No, I am not falling for that one again!

In the overall context of this blog, it’s actually ironic why I couldn’t bring myself to write anything new. If you read my first blog post, you would know that my lack of productivity stems from recurring depression and sporadic lack of motivation. But why this lack of motivation?

(on a side note- why should I actually DO something, when I can just pass a judgement in my mind about someone else’s work and feel superior about myself just like that – more about that in a later post 😉 )

To be honest, I was falling prey to the pitfall I mention in my post #1, taken over by my fearful ego again! An example, An old friend of mine came out of obscurity and is doing actual meaningful work out of his regular 9-5 grind. He gives motivational lectures to secondary and high school students. My ego felt so jealous, it was horrifying! It wanted to retaliate. Hey, I want recognition too, I want to have a nice little social media page too, I have to get back to my BLOG! There was so much ‘I’ going on, I was bound to just laze around and do nothing of value. I kept telling myself, “huh he is never going to make a difference, his ideas are not original, his thoughts are so outdated! Honestly, sometimes there is so much ‘me’, ‘me’ and ‘I’ in my stream of consciousness, my ego sounds like like a broken record going meeeee! You guessed it, a melody comprising of just one note, isn’t really a masterpiece.

Skipping through some online product trainings at work, I read a reference out of the new testament, which served as a much needed blow to my ego and to bring myself in line with what I wrote in my first blog. To quote Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord”

And yes now I am back at writing. This BLOG is intended to help you out and not just a personal vent to satiate my own ego. Motivated as being an extension of God’s blessings to mankind is a continual free flowing source of motivation that we should tap into. Using that to get back into writing, I am working on my next blogpost entitled “The illusion of just right” and  hopefully you will get to read it soon. It’s something I have struggled with all my life and I want to help you out of it! I’m sure everyone falls prey to it!

Until next time (shouldn’t be long!)

 

Why I made this Blog?

We all have something to give to the world. Yes, All of Us.

But to understand this, I need to tell you a short story.

As far as I can remember, I always wanted to do something with my life. Being status quo was never good enough for me. I needed to stand out. I could not be average. I could not be a nobody. I had to be remembered, I wanted to be important. I wanted to stand out, carve that special identity for myself.

Needless to say, I struggled with severe depression in my early 20’s and late teens. I felt isolated, and suicidal all the time.

I thought I understood myself and my depression and my suicidal thoughts. I felt I had so much talent, I could play the Guitar, the keyboards, the Drums, sing, but I never got a break. I had read so many philosophical books, so much Russian and German literature, I used to listen to classical symphonies, watch obscure artistic movies, but I was not being realized for what an educated, cultural and “deep” person I was. 

I would endlessly brood, label the world as fake, people as shallow. If someone would try to help me, or talk me out of my internal and external hate, I would immediately consider them to lack the intellect to comprehend my problems. Obviously, I was unhappy. I was frustrated how I could not really do anything befitting my talents. Being all that special I convinced myself to be, I was just any other person, going through the mundane routines of this world. 

Needless to say, besides short, uninspired bursts of success and happiness, I could not really get anything done, or achieve something that I was actually proud of.

Fast forward 10 years, and now I realize, where I was all wrong. 

It’s simple yet so profound.

All that I wanted to achieve back then, was centered around one entity.

Myself. Me. I.

‘I’ wanted to be something. ‘I’ wanted the world to hear me out. ‘I’ wanted something more out of this life. ‘I’ wanted a vent for myself, to express, and to ultimately find some form of recognition for myself.

And then it finally occurred to me over the course of the last few months.

God did not give us all our gifts, talents, and abilities to pursue our own self interests. 

God gave us all these gifts so we can give something back to the world, to people and the rest of us. Whenever we have this as the driving force behind our pursuits, we will not fail. Because, the motivation stems from something deeper, something purer, something more vital, more profound than just the gratification of our egos.

This blog intends to be a means to do exactly that. To give something back to the world. To provide  simple lessons on how to be happier, more fulfilled and more content with this life.

Too many people have started seeing life as a total exercise in futility. I plan to convince you otherwise. Life is precious, it does have a purpose, a meaning.

The world needs you. The world needs everyone. Figure out what you can give.

This blog is a collection of positive thoughts and messages that I plan to give to you.

Hence, it is existential calm. As crazy and oxymoron-ish as it sounds, existential calm does exist. We just need to open our eyes:

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I-70 West, Denver out to Utah