Self-love is more important now than ever. The pandemic has added a layer of sadness, frustration, and uncertainty, and navigating the new normal is not easy. This has made it extremely difficult to breathe or feel safe to do our everyday tasks. We are social beings and feeling hopeless, angry, and suffocated. This continuous challenge of learning how to live life during this time and staying sane is the new normal. It is more important now more than ever to put ourselves first and love ourselves like our life depends on it. Because it does.
When we love ourselves despite the outer conditions, we give ourselves permission to gain more life force and signal to our body, mind, and heart that we matter. We owe it to ourselves to create small habits that nurture and support us in the near and long term. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to replace a few bad habits with a few good ones and that makes a huge impact on our health and happiness. Sometimes it means getting really creative like booking a hotel and finding some space to breathe with just our own energy.
Here are some self-care strategies for challenging times.
Take some time for yourself
This might sound difficult as you might be living with a family in the same home for eight months. Can you walk outside in nature? Can you sit under a tree? Can you dance outside? Can you laugh or watch something funny? Take proactive action every day to shift your energy to a positive state even if it is a 5-minute walk or calling a good friend.
Feel your emotions
Many of us have internalized our emotions in the last eight months. We have seen a series of uncertain events and haven’t had a healthy way to cope. Take some time to journal your feelings and really tune into what your body is saying. When we feel uncomfortable emotions, we allow healing to begin and start processing what is ready to go. When the body opens up the release of these pent-up emotions through feeling, crying, or other ways, you can then welcome new energy to come into your body and psyche.
Start over every day and forgive yourself
It is important we forgive our actions, reactions, and habits of yesterday and start over every day. With the current situation, we can be normal one day and in despair another. Be kind to yourself and if you made some mistakes in eating too much food or drinking, give yourself permission to start over again. If you skipped your exercise, start again today. Write down somewhere on your fridge or car, I forgive myself every day and start over every day. I acknowledge every little thing I do to take better care of myself.
Find stillness within
Meditation, Yoga, and breathing are an excellent way to alleviate stress. A deep breathing exercise with eyes closed for a minute with one hand on your heart and one on your stomach can relieve anxiety and stress. Youtube has a huge selection of videos of varying lengths to choose from.
During these times it is important to keep doing natural remedies to stay on top of your immune health. Ancient Indian roots like ginger, turmeric, and probiotics like yogurt go a long way to support your immune health.
Praying for yourself and loved ones
Give all your challenges to God. Have faith in a higher power and pray for the same thing for a few months and notice the difference. Talk to God like a best friend and sit and listen after. Miracles are real. If you want to explore this further, pick up my book on finding hope, faith, and trust during Coronavirus.
Remind yourself of what is going right in your life
Make a list of things that are working in your life and place it where you can see it every day. In a world full of struggles, these simple reminders will surely bring a smile on your face and bring your focus on abundance vs. lack.
Let music and dance heal and uplift you
Have you ever started smiling when you hear fun music playing? Do you notice how it just lifts you up? I find music and dance are life-giving and inspiring. If there is a type of dance you have always wanted to learn, now is the time. All you have to do is Instagram or YouTube the type of dance and live zoom classes and you can have access to teachers Internationally.
Make effort to connect with friends and family or new people
Most of us are missing engagement and social connection with the world. Make an effort to call friends and family. If you don’t have any friends, message people whose energy you like and tell them something you like about them and see that turn around in kindness towards you.
Let nature heal you
With a mask on, go for an easy walk or a challenging hike depending on your fitness level and feel the fresh air, sunlight, and wind. These elements of nature show us that we are a part of a greater universe here to support us. The soothing and healing powers of nature give us a new perspective. Try to slow down in nature and listen to what it has to say. Breathe. Adventure into new trails and new cities. Ocean, mountains, and forests are natural healers as are the sun and rain.
If you are struggling with gaining weight or another life challenge, seeking help is a sign of courage and strength. It signals to the Universe that you are ready for something beyond your current struggle. Hire a therapist to talk about your problems or work with someone to get into healthy eating habits. People are working online and here to help you. A little support, accountability, and even google research goes a long way in making changes while finding health and happiness.
Make a list of 5 things you can acknowledge yourself even if it is eating 1 less piece of bread, walking 5 minutes, breathing more, or not shouting at your housemate. A little self-encouragement goes a long way in building healthy and rewarding habits.
With these tips, I acknowledge you for putting yourself first and reading an article on how to love yourself better. That is a sign of self-care too. Remember it is the baby steps in a healthy direction that matter and forgiveness for any mistakes that keep you from moving forward. It is a journey, not a destination. A year from now you might be thanking yourself for how strong you have become during a very challenging time and that can enable you to support others during difficult times in the future.
Be gentle, kind, and compassionate towards yourself and write to me at email@example.com about which one of these tips you ended up using and how it worked out for you. I look forward to hearing from you. Keep dancing, smiling, and rocking. You got this.
Simplicity is not simple. It takes a lot of thought and effort to condense complex concepts to a simple, practical, and easy to follow recipe for getting to “contentment” or “happiness”. By distilling the essence of ancient Indian philosophy, practicing it himself, and sharing his experiences as he travels the path of dharma (good life conduct), Rajesh Sengamedu has created a forehead-slapping page-turner of a book.
Happiness Beyond Mindgives us a clear path to rethink, structure, and execute our entire life in “thought, word, and deed” to journey to a state of contentment and happiness. As Gandhi once said “the path is the goal”, Rajesh’s book is the path.
As soon as I flipped through Rajesh’s acknowledgments, I found it thoroughly engrossing as he takes us on a journey of deep thought and introspection on why, with all worldly accomplishments and success we still feel empty and conflicted, with examples from his own life. It is this trait of personal experience that immediately sucks you into his journey into spiritual realization — you can connect with him as you look back on your own life. His language is simple for us to understand and relate to. He does revert to colloquialisms which really help emphasize and drive his points home. You really get it.
The stories and anecdotes deserve special attention. Rajesh beautifully blends quite complex analogies from the ancient Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita with his own experiences with family, friends, and colleagues — and I found myself with a big lump in my throat or nodding or simply going “now I’ve never thought of it that way!” This is not an easy thing to achieve.
Rajesh also makes it clear that Indian thought and philosophy are monotheistic, contrary to lots of misconceptions promulgated by iconoclasts. The key is to follow dharma in thought, word, and deed and ultimately merge with the Absolute Reality, the one Supreme Being.
The ratha kalpana analogy from the Kathopanishad was what I would call mind-blasting (no pun intended). It would take a lot to erase the characters from memory; the passenger (ego), the charioteer (intellect), the reins (emotional mind), and the horses (five sense organs). This analogy and the function of how the entire chariot (human body) functions may appear so obvious AFTER you’ve heard Rajesh describe it. And of course, great examples are the letters to his daughter and son actually at the end of the book in three Appendices, but they’re like The Gita (the core essence) of the book! You could just read those and consider them a synopsis of the entire 185 pages preceding them.
The prescriptive part of the book where Rajesh insists that we follow the path of dharma (right life conduct) dives deep into how to think, how to handle day-to-day life situations with words, and of course action — with yoga and meditation, and finally how to approach the goal of understanding oneself and that we are part of the larger whole. “Do try it!” goes his persuasive, characteristic nudge throughout the book, you can almost picture him smiling benevolently over you. I personally found this portion extremely helpful. This will be a practical takeaway for me for years to come. This is the enduring portion and can only be realized through action. You know the author is already on the path and is speaking from his personal experience and transformation. You also realize the importance and reverence Rajesh gives his Gurus, showing a deep sense of learning, understanding, and gratitude.
I strongly urge all readers, young, old, innocent, not so innocent, brash, arrogant, big-hearted, small-hearted — to read Rajesh’s work. For each one of us reading will walk away with our individual experience and messages, and it automatically becomes The Happiness Beyond the Mind WE know for ourselves.
Raj Gopalaswamy has over 18 years’ leadership in innovation, business strategy, account management, and new product development.
Presently our lives are topsy turvy and we are dealing with the reality that the coronavirus will be with us for a long time. The whole world has paused. The new normal is one of uncertainty as our lives have been disrupted. We are unable to meet our friends, vacation, go to work, or school. We wake up hearing more disturbing news of the stock market, unemployment, rising number of cases, and deaths.
Before the pandemic hit us, we took things for granted. We did not value the simple things of life. Being able to walk and breathe without a mask, meeting friends and family, hugs, eating at restaurants, shopping at stores, have become luxuries.
Many of us felt fear for our lives and our loved ones when we heard of the COVID -19 virus, then came a feeling of frustration and irritability which led to the anger of being locked down. Gradually our communities have started to open and some of us step out cautiously with paying attention to social distancing and wearing a mask. Life has changed!
This has been a difficult time for me too, but as time goes by I have realized that I have to make the most of what I have. I nurture my mental physicaland spiritual health. This lockdown has made me aware of my inner strength, resiliency, and compassion.
We are caught up in our busy schedules and many of us are unaware of who we are. During the pandemic, things have slowed down and we have time to tune in to our thoughts and feelings. Use this as a time of self-discovery, to dive deeper into understanding who you are. This time of self-isolation is to search for answers to get to know your true self.
Many of us are naturally anxious or unhappy at this time and find it difficult to move towards balance and peace, but it is possible. Consider making one or more of these methods an integral part of your life. They may help you with your own self-discovery.
Meditation: The practice of mindfulness, a practice for mental health and clarity. Self-discovery meditation could be done in a simple manner. It is a way to calm the mind and body with relaxation and to get in tune with your inner self. By regularly meditating you will be able to live a more thoughtful and introspective life.
Find a quiet place with no distractions. Do switch off your electronics.
Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
Breathe naturally, in and out.
In your relaxed yet alert state, ask yourself a few questions to stay focused.
Questions you can ask yourself could be, “ I would like to know my strengths; I would like to know my weaknesses; who am I: how do I achieve my goal, etc.
Or you can use one word or mantra such as discovery, belief, knowledge, etc to help you focus.
Focus your attention on the mantra and drop into the depths of your inquiry where the answers arise. if unable to do that then bring yourself back to your breath.
Feel the sensations in your body of each inhalation and exhalation and let it flow.
After 10 to 15 minutes open your eyes and sit still. Try and recall if you felt anything that helped you understand yourself just a little bit more.
This requires daily practice, time, and patience to move towards the path of self-discovery. As you move towards this goal, meditation will help calm your mind.
Journaling:During this unprecedented time, try to pay attention to your mental health. Journaling is a very effective and simple manner of tracking yourself over a period of time. You just need a pen and paper or you can journal on your phone.
Journaling helps you look back and see your progress, patterns, emotional triggers, and what you have overcome. If you see yourself feeling negative often then journaling will help you identify this pattern. You can train yourself to write positive affirmations and think with a more hopeful attitude. It can help you identify your aspirations and overcome your fears.
I have found journaling to be like self-counseling which has put me on the path of self- discovery and getting to know the authentic me.
Walking: An exercise for our physical well-being and also for our mental health. Walking in nature, absorb what is around you through your senses Do not have any distractions with headphones or any electronics. Get more introspective and let your thoughts wander. If your thoughts continuously move to the negative then try and bring it back to the one thing which made you smile.
For example, you are irritated with something happening at work and it keeps expressing itself repeatedly. What do you do? While walking, observe your breath and focus on it, till you are calm. Then start appreciating where you are and enjoy that moment. When your mind goes back to the irritability bring it back to the breath and the beauty around you. It takes practice but soon you will find that you are in the present moment while walking.
Gratitude: As life has changed for us, it is not easy to feel gratitude.
Try and have compassion for yourself at this time and when you are able to do this, you will feel that you are able to express gratitude for yourself and others. Gratitude is a positive emotion and can help let go of the negative emotions which we feel during this time.
I have a gratitude jar in which I write the simplest of things I am grateful for. After a week I look at them and feel that I am fortunate in so many ways and this helps me move forward.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is when you take notice of what is happening right now and when your mind wanders, then you bring it back to the moment. I urge all of you to engage in mindfulness throughout the day. Be in the moment of what you are doing and observe it and your feelings but do this non-judgmentally.
Some of us don’t realize the strong emotions of sadness, fear, and anxiety which the pandemic has brought on. With the practice of mindfulness, we can reduce these triggers slowly and move towards feeling more balanced.
Get in touch with your soul. Keep searching for answers, look within, and find your courage, passions, dreams, and happiness. Keep introspectively exploring till you find your true self. Go on, raise your consciousness, and be a higher version of yourself.
Are you feeling anxious during these troubled and difficult COVID times? Anxiety starts to affect our mental and physical status. We worry about our families, friends, and ourselves. What if something happens, what next? Fear, and anxiety, come from thinking of the future.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs. In the traditional Maslow pyramid, we see that the basic physiological ( food, water, warmth, rest) and safety needs ( security, safety) are not met for many of us. Many have lost their jobs, do not have a roof over their heads, or even food to eat. This causes immense anxiety, frustration, anger, and fear. However, even for those whose primary needs are met, there is still a tremendous amount of anxiety. To help understand and cope with this feeling in these unusual times I have redefined the upper part of the pyramid.
In these uneasy COVID times, it is necessary to ease our minds. What are our emotional needs during a difficult time like this? Here is a simple diagram that helps explain it. During this time it is good to go within us.
Let’s look at this diagram. We need to accept this situation as it is. It may not be what we anticipated or wanted, but with Acceptance, it will be easier to deal with the situation, rather than fight against it.
Routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed. In these times it would be beneficial to create a healthy routine. Pick things that you have control over and make them an integral part of your routine. When new things show up that are not in your control, let them go, and don’t let it affect your routine. In this process of not being able to be always in control of happenings, anger, and frustration arise, which need to be slowly released.
Would you like to connect with others? We have been asked to social distance. The effects of this have brought about sadness and a feeling of loneliness. Even though you are social distancing, you can nurture your relationships with emotional Connections. Go on, pick up the phone, and speak with a friend, text, or use social media. Share your feelings and know that you are still connected even though you are physically apart. This is not forever.
The world has slowed down so that you can discover yourself. Think about taking a pause and figuring out what is the new normal. When you Reset, what you thought meant something important to you may have changed. What seemed normal no longer seems useful to you.
For many of us, it is hard to concentrate on our emotional needs when we are filled with anxiety and fear. Use these next steps to reduce your anxiety first so that you can take care of yourself and the needs within.
Reduce watching and listening to negative news.
Enjoy family time with a feeling of gratitude. I understand it is difficult at times being under the same roof. Cooking, cleaning, teaching kids (homeschooling), video conference meetings, loud music, dogs barking. Once this is over you will realize that this was an opportune time to bond with each other. So make it happen now.
Be in the present. Anxiety, worries, and fear come from thinking of what will happen in the future. Just live for the moment as life is precious and should not be taken for granted.
I find yoga, meditation, and most of all a good night’s sleep valuable to calm my mind. Many apps and sites offer meditation sequences.
Practice gratitude. Gratitude for being you, for having the smallest of things. Gratitude for the frontline workers, researchers and so much more.
Exercise helps release your feel-good chemicals. If you are allowed to and it is safe then, walk, run, cycle with 6-foot social distancing in a non-crowded area while wearing a mask. Come home and wash your hands.
It is time to take on a new hobby, or even learn a new language. All the things you always wanted to do but didn’t have time for.
Charity is giving. Giving makes you have a feeling of purpose and control. Donate to an organization, assist the elderly, support those who need your help.
I keep asking myself what is troubling me. Is it the fear of my fragile life, that my loved ones or I am locked down at home? So many things keep flitting through my mind causing anxiety, but the best approach is to look at what I have and be thankful. Be in the moment.
Breathe, and take a moment to think about how you truly feel in these uncontrollable times.We all feel some level of anxiety, some more than others. How we manage and handle this anxiety will impact both us and those around us.
There is COVID-19 news everywhere we turn and we feel like a pressure cooker at home, lonely, anxious and ready to explode. Some of us feel lost and unable to control things for us and our loved ones. What feels overnight, we have been confined to our homes with or without family members.
As it is said that,” You can’t calm the storm… so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” We need to gather ourselves and stay calm for ourselves but also our elderly, our children and the immune-compromised.
What can I say to help you in this time of need? What if we tried to change your thought process by changing your frame of mind? Can we try to change the story you are telling yourself? At this time, tell yourself that the Universe is giving the world a chance to reset itself by slowing down, for you to look at life from a different perspective and reconsider our ways. Sometimes taking time to do nothing brings everything in perspective.
We realize that we are deeply interconnected with human interaction that we have taken for granted. Becoming aware of what we had and being grateful for the smallest of things we have now, will help us move forward. You are alive and breathing if you are reading this and we need to feel the warmth of gratitude. You may like to place a ‘gratitude jar’ in your home and let everyone put in a slip for expressing what they are grateful for. You will realize that there are chaos and difficulty in the real world, but you are still able to find things that you are thankful for in this present moment. Writing and reading these slips of gratitude will help change your thought process to look for the good! As I mention in my book, ‘You Are the Cake’, “The simple daily act of gratitude can lower our stress levels and ground us for a healthier and happier life… Be in the moment and feel how fortunate you are in so many ways. Count your blessings.” Read these slips of gratitude and over time your mind will automatically look for the good.
Send out your positive vibes to others and those suffering. But in all this do not lose focus that you must practice self-care and compassion. You have time now to spare, so sit down and be steadfast and reduce your anxiety. Don’t give all your attention to the external world. Look for the good within. How do you do this and reduce stress? Meditation, Visualization Tapping are different ways of achieving this (you can find more information in my book, You Are the Cake). At this time of need, I have made the kindle version available at virtually no cost to everyone.
Here is a short Metta or loving-kindness meditation and visualization we can use to reduce our fears and send out positive vibes to the world.
Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes.
Breathe in and out regulating the breath.
Visualize yourself, your family, your loved ones, the community and the people of the world one by one.
Say this in your mind with a feeling of compassion.
May I and the others be happy, safe and well.
May there be peace, wellness, and love.
All is okay
Continue breathing with calmness in every breath.
Close your eyes and picture that you are gathering all your negative stressful thoughts. Visualize yourself taking a broom and sweeping up all the negativity. Picture it being put into a bag and thrown away. Let go of this stress and move forward towards looking for the good.
Visualize yourself calm, well and happy. Breathe, be grateful and open your eyes gently. Let that smile linger on your face and in your heart.
Feel the stillness deep inside and keep some energy and balance within.
Mental and social isolation can get to one. I suggest that you connect with your friends and family via phone, video conferencing, emails or so many more ways. I can video-chat, participate in group calls or multiplayer social games with my friends. This laughter and connection make me feel good and centered.
Listen to the fact that we need to shelter-in-place to provide safety and flatten the curve of this deadly outbreak. To those who can offer help to the elderly via shopping or other errands, please reach out safely. You can donate to the families of the first responders, our heroes or the homeless. Donate blood at the Red Cross. Some people are printing 3D face masks for the responders, others sewing masks. Do whatever you can to help this hurting world. Working on a hobby will keep you focused and fulfilled. I enjoy painting and trying to sing, but when I do then everyone leaves the room!
We can take turns becoming a balm for each other. Let’s not worry about being perfect or getting it all right. Know that you are doing the best you can.
Reduce your stress, be in the moment and be grateful for the smallest of things. Stress makes you believe that everything needs to happen right now while faith assures you that everything will happen at the right and perfect time. Have faith and move towards looking for the good.
Of late, I have been reflecting on the meaning of life and trying to come to grips with the loss of my soulmate, Tavinder. Over Christmas, I went on a four-day silence and meditation retreat in Southern India and then visited the ancient holy city of Varanasi. Silence and meditation are amazing — and cleansing — and I recommend that you try it sometime. There are retreats all over the world, offered by modern-day gurus who have repackaged ancient wisdom, and the messages and techniques are more or less the same.
I couldn’t, however, find the answers to my deepest questions, even after spending hours in the company of the Dalai Lama, visiting the holiest of religious sites, and reading several sacred texts. All I could conclude was that there is more to life than we understand and that the best way to live it is by helping others and giving back to the world. Life is unpredictable, and everything changes before you know it. Money may be necessary for survival, but too much of it becomes a burden and leads to greed and unhappiness. What you will be remembered for is not what you accumulated while you were alive, but what you gave to others.
This is why I made the decision to donate to India the most valuable intellectual asset I have, something I spent a decade creating: the curriculum that I teach to students at Carnegie Mellon University and the workshops that I charge leading companies six-figure sums for. It is the most advanced course on exponential technologies, industry disruptions, innovation methods, and technology ethics in the world. At CMU’s engineering school, which is the best in the U.S., the class is amongst the highest ranked. And what I am proudest of is that my son Tarun, who teaches with me, is rated higher than most of the entire university’s tenured faculty — and me! We have long waiting lists of students wanting to be admitted and get frequent emails from former students thanking us for changing their lives by teaching them to think bigger and focus on the opportunities to better humankind.
When I met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last October and presented him with a grand plan for curing cancer and building a $200-billion medical industry, he was very supportive and asked his Principal Scientific Adviser, K. Vijay Raghavan, to make it happen. What he wanted from me were more ideas on boosting the Indian economy to meet his target of an annual GDP of $5 trillion. I shared some possibilities with him, but began to realize that it will take more than technology. The key is for India to improve its education system and unleash the ability of its entrepreneurs to solve the grand challenges of humanity. This is exactly what I teach, how to build trillion-dollar industries; and it’s what I am offering India — because of Modi’s request.
While I was in Varanasi, I was delighted to receive a message over Twitter from India’s greatest mover and shaker, Amitabh Kant, CEO of the powerful think tank and government planning commission NITI Aayog. He asked me to meet him and address a who’s who of Indian policy, which I did. I was amazed at how open-minded and grounded Amitabh and his team were. I have advised several heads of state and government innovation initiatives, including in the U.S., Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Hong Kong, and Mexico, and none is even close to matching this group’s vision and impact.
I offered Amitabh the curriculum, and he was very excited about accepting it. But I felt like the dog chasing the bus: I had caught it, but now what did I do with it? How do you convert a graduate engineering class and executive education program into something that can be taught to hundreds of thousands of students every year in a country in which the basic education system is weak?
This is going to be my next challenge. I am not going to be teaching at CMU beyond this semester. I plan to work instead with a who’s who of Indian education, including the chairman of its engineering education regulatory body, Anil Sahasrabudhe, to create a curriculum that helps India leap ahead of the rest of the world. Instead of Indian students’ having to travel abroad for advanced education, my goal is to create something that students from all over the world, including the U.S. and Europe, flock to India for. India’s engineering education may be stuck in the past, but it is not that much behind the West: all universities have dated curricula and ancient teaching methods. And none are communicating adequately on the convergences of technologies and their disruptive capabilities.
Is my goal possible? Frankly, I don’t know, because everything is hard in India, and there are always unnecessary obstacles. But I will give it my best.
I wrote my first article after many months, at the prodding of Malini Goyal of The Economic Times. She kept asking me to comment about the risks of A.I. and superintelligence. I told her that it was complete nonsense, to think more deeply and look at her own spiritual values. The premise that you can upload or recreate human consciousness assumes that there is no such thing as a soul. Yes, A.I. may seem intelligent, but it is in no way “intelligent” as humans are and will never have human values or emotion…. And yes, my views are evolving as I think more deeply about life, the sprit, and humanity.
This was published with permission from the author.
Diabetes Mellitus is the leading cause of death and disability all over the globe. It is also the leading cause of chronic kidney disease, heart disease, blindness and other complications.
The role of stress is underestimated in diabetes. Most of the chronic conditions including diabetes occur when one goes through persistent stress for long periods. Stress is not the external circumstance alone, but more importantly about how we react to the situations that trigger stress. In spite of the stressful conditions around us, we can learn to live peacefully. Our expectations, desires, attachments, and aversions result in stress because life is not always presented to us, the way we want. With the regular practice of yoga, we develop mental awareness and strength to handle stress. The concept of happiness is beautifully explained in the philosophy of yoga. Happiness is simply our own inner state; we move away from health and happiness when we stress ourselves with undue expectations.
Studies have shown that diet, exercise, and stress-free lifestyle help regulate blood glucose levels. Yoga offers several techniques to help change stress response, improve sleep patterns, and promote positive thinking. Yoga as a system of healing includes physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), relaxation techniques (shavasana), meditation (dharana and dhyana) and injunctions for healthy lifestyle such as moderation in diet. Yoga also promotes positive thinking; yogic edicts such as yama and niyama prescribe non-violence, truthfulness, moderation in sensual pleasures, acceptance of situations and of life as they come. Positive thinking and a healthy lifestyle bring inner peace and harmony, thus reducing stress and contributing to regulated blood glucose levels. Numerous scientific investigations have found a significant role of yoga in the prevention and management of several chronic health conditions, including diabetes.
Yoga Bharati brings classical and authentic yoga with research-based understanding. Yoga Bharati conducts yoga classes, yoga therapy, and yoga courses in holistic Ashtanga Yoga. Our upcoming workshop on diabetes aims to educate people on diabetes management through yoga. We have an expert Yoga Therapist and Chief Medical Doctor from SVYASA University Bangalore giving the workshop on Diabetes on Sunday, June 2nd at 10 am in N. San Jose. For details, please visit:
Growing up, I had an ambivalent relationship to Judaism. The religious services I attended never inspired me, and when I started my search for a spiritual path, I turned to the teachings of Yoga. Later, when I discovered Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, my interest in my own religion was rekindled.
The Kabbalistic teachings immediately spoke to my soul and felt familiar. They awoke in me a hidden love, the desire to explore the nature of God, reality, suffering, and spiritual awakening.
I was astonished to find everything within my own tradition that I had looked for in Yoga: meditation, spiritual philosophy, chanting, and self-inquiry.
After many years of studying Kabbalah and working as a Kabbalistic healer, teacher, I found myself feeling burned out, physically exhausted, and spiritually uninspired. I had all the outer trappings of success: a steady stream of clients, a new house and a great community. However, I knew something wasn’t right – I had hit a plateau, and I wasn’t finding the help I sought from my teacher. The thought of leaving my spiritual community terrified me, yet I yearned for spiritual guidance more than the comfort of my current position.
One night I prayed for help, asking for a teacher who could lead me to self-realization. My prayers were answered just a few weeks later, when I serendipitously met a realized Swami from Rishikesh, India. His name was Swami Chandrasekharanand Saraswati, and he was a lineage holder in Kundalini Science, the knowledge of the divine feminine force of awakening, called Kundalini.
According to this lineage, Kundalini is not energy, or sexual energy. Kundalini is “supreme grace and love, the life of the life force, self-illuminating, the principle of sound, pure joy and bliss.” It is the Divine presence within every human being, the force behind all spiritual paths, that when awakened, leads to self-realization. Contrary to popular belief, it is not dangerous when awakened in a safe manner, under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
Imagine my surprise when my teacher told me that I had a challenging Kundalini rising due to a Jewish past life in which I had had a tragic fall from grace. He attributed my fatigue and burnout to a weakened energy system, and under his spiritual direction, I received yogic practices combined with Hebrew names of God, which healed and repaired my subtle body. As I did my practices, I had profound inner experiences that connected me back to my Jewish lineage. I discovered that every spiritual tradition has its inner and often hidden methods of preparing the seeker to be a fit vehicle for self-realization. This is how we are all Wired for God.
During a twelve-year period, I experienced a wild and intense renovation of my whole being through my dedication to my spiritual practice. I healed my fatigue, as well as my ambivalent relationship to Judaism, and experienced the Tree of Life within me as a roadmap to higher consciousness. My practices culminated in an opening to the great Vastness, the primordial ground of being that underlies all spiritual paths.
I wrote Wired for God, Adventures of a Jewish Yogi, because I hope my story will serve as a gentle guide for both Jewish and non-Jewish spiritual seekers. Like many seekers, I have encountered many challenges on the spiritual path: a healing crisis, misplaced trust, loss, and divorce – which fueled my search for aspiritual path. My message: Don’t give up on the spiritual path, until you find what you are truly seeking!
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One of India’s foremost classical musicians, Rajeev Taranath is a master of the sarod. His career spanning over four decades, has drawn accolades from critics and audiences throughout the world.
A distinguished disciple of the late legendary maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, he also received guidance from the great sitarists Ravi Shankar and Shrimati Annapurna Devi . Rajeev Taranath is the recipient of many honors including India’s highest government award in the arts, the esteemed Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2000. He has received critical acclaim for his deep introspective style that melds imagination and emotional range combined with technical skill, and a highly disciplined approach to the development of a raga. “Rajeev Taranath’s sarod improvisations mixed the spiritual and the spirited…the raga began with introspective meditation and proceeded into an exuberant rhythmic celebration.” said critic Edward Rothstein of The New York Times A noted linguist, he speaks eight languages fluently. From 1995 to 2005, Taranath served on the music faculty of the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. Currently living in Mysore, India, Rajeev Taranath travels worldwide teaching and performing. Given below is an interview with this esteemed musician.
Did you grow up in a musical family?
My father was deeply interested in music. He used to sing and play the tabla. Although he was not a professional musician, I grew up with a lot of music around me. He started teaching me very easy songs. When I was around 3 years old, he made me listen to a lot of classical and vocal records and performances. I soon started singing and gave my first public performance at 10.
So, how did you leave singing for the sarod?
The most vivid moment in music I remember is the first experience of hearing Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, it was electrifying. I was and am a great admirer of Ravi Shankar’s music, so I used to attend every performance of his when he came to Bangalore, the city in which I lived. That particular time, he came with Ali Akbar Khan, who said that he would play the sarod along with him. Before that, I had heard very little of the sarod being played and definitely I had not heard Ali Akbar Khan play. It was a life-changing experience when he played his first movement on the sarod. That was my moment of epiphany, a moment of total grace. As I was listening, my life changed. Music moved to the centre of the universe. I was hooked and never looked back.
Can you explain why it spoke to you so much?
Well, you know, it’s like falling in love. How can you explain it?
So, one performance changed your life?
My life changed direction after that point. After I heard Ustad Ali Akbar Khan for the first time, it was a year and a half or more before I got introduced to him. I was just past 20 when I went to him and he soon accepted me as a disciple.
Please describe the training.
It was daily, sometimes twice a day, but then there would be periods with no lessons for a month or more, because he would be away, performing. By the time I went to him, the demand for his public performances was very high. I started practicing one hour, two hours. Then, for some time, it went on for up to 12 hours a day.
How do you work when you’re practicing music for 12 hours a day?
At that point, I was a beggar. I couldn’t find a job, but there was a benefactor Mr. P.K. Das of Kolkata. This man had nothing to do with music, but he gave me a room, and not very much later, he and his wife insisted I should have my meals with them. I had some sort of job afterward to keep me going, but they took care of me for six more years. That gave me an opportunity for which I am profoundly grateful, to practice many, many hours a day.
You had a very successful career as a vocalist when you were young. You were even described as a child prodigy. I have heard that you were and are profoundly moved when listening to the great vocalist Abdul Karim Khan.Why did you decide to switch to sarod? Many people say that the voice is the ultimate instrument for Indian music.
There is no doubt that vocals are at the center of our music. But Ali Akbar Khan is for me the paradigmatic example of excellence. I would say that in his sarod playing there is a kind of vocalism. He has a flexibility and versatility to his imagination, all of which have vocal sources. It’s not that he actually plays vocal bandishes. There are sarod players that do that, but he is not one of them. Vocalism is for him an abstract, silent, but immediate storehouse for the movements of the raga. It’s the thing that makes a raga more than a scale. I can almost say that given two very good instrumentalists, the person who is the better vocalist—in this special metaphorical sense—is the one whose music will have more “juice.” He might not be the fastest, but that’s because he would have no need to be the fastest.
Has Hindustani music changed over the years? To answer that question, I think it’s helpful to compare music to both language and physics. If you compare the English of Shakespeare’s time to modern English, you can see that it’s essentially the same. There are noticeable differences, but we can still understand Shakespeare. The physics of Shakespeare’s time, however, has been completely replaced by modern science. Throughout the history of Hindustani music, there’s been the same kind of growth and change that you can see in a language. But you don’t have the new completely replacing the old, as is the norm with scientific progress. For example, Ali Akbar Khan made profound changes in the sarod. Before him, the instrument sounded quick and staccato, with lots of trills. Khansahib still uses those trills, but his innovative playing gives the instrument a new profundity and depth. What do you think is the biggest challenge in playing Hindustani music? First, of course, you must practice and study diligently. If you do that, you will become either a competent or an incompetent player, and you will get to know which very soon. But once you have crossed the bar of competence, in about three or four years, what do you do then? You know how to play the raga correctly, but then what? At that point, playing the raga is rather like spreading butter on bread. You’ve got to see how well you can spread it, and how widely you can spread it. You must push at the frontiers of the raga, and yet see that it doesn’t break. If the raga breaks, you are in a kind of melodic anonymity, which ultimately breaks you as a musician. Have you managed to stretch the borders of any of the ragas you play? I try. When I play Patdeep, it’s difficult to make it long. You can feel very comfortable playing Yaman long, because
it’s quite spacious and flexible. So is Bhairavi. But Patdeep is very brittle, and can’t be stretched easily. The rules for Patdeep are very strict, which is why it makes such an immediate effect. Once you’ve heard the identifying phrases, you know exactly what it is. But that’s a double-edged sword, because the audience is immediately “Patdeeped,” and it seems to be near closing time right away. Then you’re left with the challenge of where to go from there. For Patdeep, I try to unfold the scale of the raga a little bit at a time, so you can hear every nuance. You have to hold the raga back, stop it from exploding through you. That enables me to stay inside the raga, and not let the raga go, even when I’m playing for a long period of time. Last month I did a concert in which I played Patdeep for the alap-jor-jhala, and then switched to Madhuvanti for the gat. Madhuvanti has almost the same notes as Patdeep, and many of the same note arrangements. But Madhuvanti has tivra ma (raised fourth) and Patdeep doesn’t. Even though the notes are similar, the mood is very different, and these differences have to be kept. I wanted to create a natural change in mood, while still maintaining a sense of unity in the performance. When you play two ragas together, how do you decide which ragas to combine? There’s a kind of dialectic involved between a technical closeness, and yet the need and challenge to keep the moods different while playing in very similar scales. There are also other factors not as capable of tidy articulation. You might combine a raga that has a certain kind of gravitas with something that is not quite so serious—moods that are contrasting, yet still very close. Can you speak about your approach to developing a raga throughout the many years of riyaz?
There’s a kind of patience that you learn to take with you to the raga. If you’re patient, the raga will speak to you eventually.
Can you discuss the ideas you have regarding teaching Indian classical music?
When it comes to teaching of music, there is a trio – a teacher, a learner and an instrument. The teacher demonstrates how he has put the instrument to use and what he has been able to achieve. The attempt here is a give and take of such experience. This exploration of possibilities, initially in the form of bits and pieces, as alankaras or tabla bols or whatever, later on turns into an exercise in bringing together these little experiences to construct a creative whole. Further on, it is a kind of invitation to the learner to live with the teacher in the common world of music and in this journey together, the learner may even reach beyond. Each one’s style of playing is guided by one’s own possibilities, difficulties and impossibilities.
What is special about your gharana?
Unlike other gharanas which for many years remained closed-door, teaching freely with openness is a major preoccupation with the Maihar. Allauddin Khan, the Paramahamsa-like saint-musician took to vigorous teaching. This can perhaps be traced to the difficulty he encountered in learning and the fact that Allauddin was compelled to choose the sarod in a veena-dominated tradition which confined its veena–teaching to its kin alone. But his ingenuity incorporated the possibilities of veena into the sarod, remodelling it for the purpose. Several nuances of the veena came into sarod-baaj and later years saw the promotion of sitar, sur-bahar and sur-singar.
The Maihar-Senia gharana, which traces its lineage to Tansen in the 16th century, was one of the few schools that taught women music and we find historically the presence of many distinguished women instrumental performers within it from Saraswati, Tansen’s daughter, to Annapurna Devi, the daughter of the legendary Allauddin Khan.
In the context of our guru-sishya parampara and the oral/aural tradition, you once mentioned the ‘mediation of the eye’ in western classical music. Don’t you think a guru’s role is equally vital there in guiding….?
Mediation of the eye is important in Western classical music because of the reliance on the system of notation. The journey is from note to note but nothing as much may happens between the gaps. It is in the movement between notes that one’s culture operates. Mimesis is the basis of our music-teaching. Our music fills up with meends, gamaks, bols and these cannot be written down. We clutch the guru’s imagination, his mind that is so private. A guru gives good active seeds… but can one teach creativity?’ The artist or maestro, as T.S. Eliot says, lives at a conscious point where past and future are gathered. He has all the richness of the past, waiting to pass it on to the future, for his students to gather it all. So I try to teach, but a problem which I have repeatedly faced is this: I can transfer musical information but I don’t know yet, how to transfer the sense of relish. This is important in the kind of music we play and teach because the given is so tenuous.
Can you explain the artist’s process or desire for mastery?
To make better music– there is a desire, which is a life-long process- to create a match – to bring the thought and performance nearer and nearer. Actually it is the desire to translate what is happening in your mind into your fingers – even without that gap. The finger itself becomes imagination. But curiously the more you master, the more your imagination becomes active. Because what strikes you or me is seriously limited by what we can execute in singing or playing. And as that capacity improves, your imagination improves. The more you go toward mastery the more you see, the more you climb, the more you see. So there is no end to that – they feed on each other. Because you see, you want to climb more. Because you climb more you see much more. And so it goes on. And that act itself is a matter of very profound satisfaction – a fullness, which I suppose is why you are really after this exploration of mastery. In music it is more obvious perhaps, but it is there in everything.
In the education of a performing art, there is the finding of greater and greater satisfaction in the possession of the knowledge you are seeking. The same art can be treated as a discipline or can be treated more casually, mechanically as a subject. When music becomes a discipline, that’s your life, when music is a minor subject, it’s very different. If anything becomes a discipline, you seek a fuller kind of satisfaction. Simply being well- trained in something is not enough. Often many are well-trained for a purpose which quite often lies outside the central subject. Their own interests are elsewhere. When something becomes a discipline, that becomes a center of interest. If it isn’t, it shows. And in some artists it becomes obsessive. And when it isn’t obsessive or the central interest you can make out at some stage.
How would you describe mastery in this art form?
If given more time, I will go more and more toward radiant simplicities. Those simplicities are the product of a lifetime. Any durable experience has to arrive into a state of simplicity. Courtship is complex, a durable marriage is simple.
This article was compiled from several interviews by Leslie Schneider and is reprinted with permission from the Canadian South Asian magazine, “AAJ” (Oct 2016).