care for some feedback?
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Feedback. It’s a word we hear a lot these days whether in the context of work, relationships or personal development. But what does it really mean?

As the New Year begins, resolutions are on the rise and determination at its peak. Most of these resolutions take shape in the form of goals to accomplish. And often, to achieve those goals, we require feedback.

Feedback is often associated with a negative connotation as it’s something that the ego rarely wants to hear and resists against greatly. That’s probably why the feedback sandwich has been constructed as it has – speak about a positive quality/accomplishment, “room for improvement” and another positive to remove the sting.

Rarely do people focus on the two positives. Rather, the ego latches on to the “room for improvement” and often justifications arise internally. Any spark of willingness or eagerness to improve gets doused and instead we can feel misunderstood.

It’s these type of situations that we associate feedback with, which I think is part of the challenge. The truth is, we are receiving feedback at all times:

If you are speaking to someone, you can be guaranteed that you are receiving feedback.

The thing is, we don’t call it feedback. We call it communication. But feedback and communication are one and the same. When we interact with someone, we are getting insights into how we feel about us. It may not come in the form of words, but in the form of body language. Being oblivious to it is what hurts us the most.

As a spiritual mentor of mine always says, “The world is constantly giving us feedback.”

And so, as 2016 begins, I encourage us all to change our perspective on feedback. It’s all around us, in the form of communication. It’s up to us to choose what we wish to do with it.

earth day musings
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Verse 4.34: Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.

Today’s verse is one of the most important verses in the Bhagavad-gita.

This morning, I learned that today is Earth Day which I later on realized I had confused with Earth Hour! Deciding I needed to learn more, I found out that Earth Day is an annual event that is dedicated to holding worldwide events to promote support for environmental protection.

It got me thinking. Why do we, as inhabitants of this earth, need to be reminded to care about and encouraged to honour it? Shouldn’t every day be Earth Day? My musings led me to recognizing that there is a great tendency to take things for granted. Despite the fact that the earth gives us everything we need to survive, how conscious are we of that in our day to day lives?

It’s a theme I’ve started to recognize in my own life:

Although difficult at times, it’s important to recognize the actions we perform now, no matter how small, ultimately serve to form the foundation for our future reality

In this instance, the “celebration” of Earth Day should actually serve as an impetus to find ways to effect environmental changes on a daily basis since we are being subjected to the effects of our past actions. Those in North America will be able to commiserate since we just finished experiencing the winter that never wanted to end!

This theme is also a cornerstone for living a life of gratitude, or a life of bhakti. In order to help us foresee how our daily actions will paint our future reality, the Gita recommends that one approach and learn from a qualified teacher – specifically one who not only knows the path but lives the path. One of the reasons why is to help us become consciously grateful.

To act for the long term can be challenging since ultimately it doesn’t require just a change of habits but a change in consciousness. In order to change one’s consciousness or attitude, it requires that one becomes conscious or aware of what’s going on. That’s where guidance from one who lives a life of being conscious of their own actions is key. It’s said that to develop any good qualities, one needs to associate with persons who themselves have it. Becoming conscious of one’s actions is definitely a positive quality!

The natural result of appreciating the guidance of such teachers is gratitude. And when that gratitude starts to grow, one can’t help but become conscious of it all the time. The end result is one becomes consciously grateful. It is that conscious gratitude that propels one to not just feel gratitude but act upon it.

In many ways, the earth itself acts as our teacher. So take a minute to think about her, appreciate all that she offers and think of how you can do something for her not just today, but everyday.

an alternative to "just do it!"
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Verse 4.33: O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice performed in knowledge is better than the mere sacrifice of material possessions. After all, O son of Pṛthā, all sacrifices of work culminate in transcendental knowledge.

I read a beautiful blog post by a teacher today. He was speaking about how important school is, but not for the reasons a student might think. He spoke of how every mundane activity such as going to class, studying for an exam or listening to a teacher’s advice actually has a much deeper meaning. In particular, when it came to discussing the need to study, he emphasized how it isn’t the mark you get that’s the “win”. It’s about taking advantage of of an opportunity to practice a life skill – that of sacrificing time and effort to master something that may seem impossible without succumbing to distractions, or worse yet the feeling of “I can’t do it”.

How fitting that it ties in so well with today’s subject where Krsna is telling Arjuna that sacrifice performed in knowledge is a much better way to act! Or in other words:

Doing something with understanding is much better than just doing it

This may seem ridiculously intuitive to some, but I’ll be the first to admit, I struggle with this for a couple of reasons. For one thing, society doesn’t really encourage us to question and look deeper than what meets the eye. Secondly, if one does attempt to look deeper, in some cases that understanding may not come right away and could require an investment of time and effort and who wants to do that! In a world where we want things immediately, it doesn’t satisfy persons such as myself.

That said, in those instances where I’ve sought to understand why I’m doing something before doing it, I’ve noticed that I get a much more holistic picture of life. No longer does that simple action stand separated from everything else, but instead I gain insight into how my actions in one area of my life can be reflective of those in another.

When I started writing, I didn’t just start writing. I sat down and clearly figured out what I wanted to accomplish which was pretty simple – I wanted to share my own love and appreciation for the Gita in a way that made it practical and relevant to everyday life. Now, whatever I write, I filter through that lens and if it doesn’t meet that intention, I don’t publish it. This theme of practical and relevant has now seeped into all other spheres of my life. Whoever I speak to, whether it’s giving a workshop or offering advice to a friend, practical and relevant has become my motto.

All of us do things on a regular, if not daily basis. But have you ever really asked yourself why you do it? If you haven’t, I extend the invitation to you to ask. You might be surprised by what you find if you understand first and then act with that understanding.

(If you’d like to read the article I alluded to in the beginning, please find it here:

custom made
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Verse 4.32: All these different types of sacrifice are approved by the Vedas, and all of them are born of different types of work. Knowing them as such, you will become liberated.

Over the past several verses, the Gita has outlined the various ways in which an individual can perform sacrifice. Whether it be by selectively exposing oneself to certain sound vibrations, not giving into every whim and fancy of the mind’s demands, or practicing breath control, these are just some of the ways one can practice sacrifice.

What is amazing about the different options presented is that fact that:

Different types of sacrifice, as discussed above, are mentioned in the Vedas to suit the different types of worker…these sacrifices are so arranged that one can work either with the body, with the mind or with the intelligence. (Bg. 4.32 purport)

I love this primarily because it means there’s something for everyone. This aspect of personalizing and custom-tailoring any practice is so attractive because it takes into account the fact that every living entity, what to speak of every person, is unique and special.

That’s what bhakti is all about – addressing the fundamentals that unite all of us in a very personal way. In this case, the various options outlined for performing sacrifice speaks to the fundamental truth that we are all individuals. What works for someone else may not necessarily work for us. This is something we’ve all had first hand experience of!

I first discovered this when I was going to school. The way in which the majority of school systems are set up are targeted to a certain type of individual – one that can copy down endless notes and excel when placed in exam environments. But what about those who learn visually? Or those who learn tactically? Or those who cannot handle exam situations? The list can go on and on. Thankfully educators are understanding this more and more and the hope is that in the future there will be programs to address this need.

Bhakti yoga has addressed and continues to address this need to craft a personalized program according to the nature and inclination of a person. It does so not only in the arena of sacrifice but in all the various components that serve to comprise the practice of being able to serve with love and gratitude.

It reminds me of a quote which I’ll end with today. Something that captures this essence and always fills me with a sense of hope and inspiration:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

anniversary special
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Today marks the celebration of the day the Bhagavad-gita was spoken. It’s a day when lovers of the Gita will sing its 700+ verses, reflect on the impact this great bhakti text has had on their lives and even give it as a gift to those who may not have a copy.

On a personal note, this day marks a year since I started this blog. 🙂 I’ll be honest – when I first began, I was writing primarily for myself. It was a therapeutic medium by which I could chronicle my thoughts and feelings and view it through the lens of the Gita. Never did I expect that this blog would create opportunities to meet people and develop friendships with individuals from all over the world whose curiosity, comments and encouragement have inspired me so much. To all those who have followed the journey so far (and will hopefully continue to do so!) – you have my deepest gratitude.

Writing on the Gita has brought it to life for me. It’s taught that me that it’s not just enough to read it as an observer but to experience it. And know what? It’s amazing how easy it is to do so. After all, haven’t we all felt some degree of despair and hopelessness, what to speak of struggled with discriminating between right and wrong, at some point in our lives? That’s exactly what Arjuna goes through at the beginning of the Gita.

Arjuna’s internal crisis reveals to us to that happiness and peace of mind is not attained through the externals. It can only be attained when we actually realize that we are spiritual beings having a material experience. Knowledge is not enough, as Arjuna finds out. To theoretically accept “I am the soul” is one thing, but to live our lives in that space is very different.

That is where the practicality of the Gita’s guidance becomes strikingly apparent. It not only provides insightful knowledge but explains how to live our lives as spiritual beings at every moment.

On this special anniversary, I’d like to close by leaving you with one of my favorite verses of the Gita which serves to always put things in perspective for me and would like to invite you to leave yours in the comments below!

“O son of Kuntī, the non-permanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” Bhagavad-gita 2.14

home again
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Verse 4.25: Some yogīs perfectly worship the demigods by offering different sacrifices to them, and some of them offer sacrifices in the fire of the Supreme Brahman.

It has been ages since I’ve written. Although numerous legitimate reasons can be given as to why I haven’t been able to dedicate the time, it doesn’t matter. The effects of not writing are resoundingly clear – I feel totally empty.

Yet coming back to the Gita today doesn’t feel awkward or foreign. Instead, I feel welcomed back home! Just like a soft-hearted friend who finds a sweet way to tell us what we need to hear, today’s verse is doing the same for me.

The word sacrifice has taken on a new relevance after having stepped away from writing this past month. I realize now that writing was a sacrifice I was performing on a daily basis – one of time and thought. And by taking that sacrifice for granted, I minimized its value.

As we’ve heard before:

Bhakti is all about attitude and intention.

The moment something becomes routine or automatic, it’s time to take a step back and really check in to see where we stand. Have we become complacent? Where and how have our priorities changed? Is there something that is preventing us from experiencing the resolve and determination that we had when our enthusiasm was high?

It’s often said that it’s much easier to begin something than to maintain it. This phrase takes on a new meaning for me as I can see now how directly connected it is with sacrifice.

In order to maintain and sustain anything, it is impossible to do so without some sacrifice.

Whether it is a sacrifice of energy, time, money or mental resolve, it requires us to do a little bit more, push a little bit harder and give more than we may be willing to in that moment. But for anyone who has put in that sacrifice, they know how sweet the results can be.

In this instance, I’m not speaking about external results that can be measured visibly (although those too may come), but rather I speak to the internal growth one makes. That growth which helps us in our journey of discovering who we really are and becoming spiritual warriors.

dig deep
→ everyday gita

Verse 4.24: A person who is fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.

When reading this verse today, my attention was captured by the word “offer”.

In one sense, the whole world revolves around offerings. Whether working or in school, we are constantly “putting forth something for consideration or acceptance”. When we are applying for a job, we are offering our services and intelligence to work. When we enter into and maintain relationships, we offer our heart and emotions.

In fact, one could say that every minute of every day is filled with offerings.

After all, it is one of the main functions of the mind. The mind is constantly putting forth ideas and thoughts as to how we can increase our happiness and minimize distress.

But the mind’s offerings are often limited. Unless exposed to the culture of gratitude and selflessness, it can be difficult to comprehend the concept of “offering one’s life in service.” And that, ultimately, is what yoga is all about.

For some, including myself, contemplation of this “career path” can bring up a lot of insecurities and revelations as to where we place our faith and trust. Offering one’s life in service, from the yoga perspective, is not just dedicating oneself to a job. It’s about utilizing this life to realize who we really are and why we are here. That is – realizing that we are spiritual beings having a material experience.

It requires deep introspection and a willingness to confront our frailties. It takes courage, proper guidance and support to realize that we are not in this world just to enjoy it but to learn from it. By being able to see the lessons that are ever present in all opportunities and experiences that we undergo, we start to learn that there is more to life than just satisfying the senses. It is then that the desire to go deeper burns stronger and we in turn can really start tuning into who we really are through the wisdom of great texts such as the Bhagavad gita. That knowledge, when realized, allows us to become empowered instruments to help others and affect positive change in this world.

But that first step requires a leap of faith to dig deep. Are you ready?

it’s all about reciprocation
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Verse 4.11: As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pṛthā.

This verse can be summed up in one word: reciprocation.

If you boil down the word reciprocate, it means to return or requite. That’s why I love this verse because there really isn’t a topic that’s more important to all of us than this one. Reciprocation is what we are searching for in our interactions with one another.

That’s because living beings long to love and be loved.

It’s not just about loving. It’s also not just about being loved. It’s both. That give and take is what makes a relationship sweet and interesting. Conversely, one of the greatest causes of anxiety, frustration and hurt results when relationships are not reciprocal. One person gives more emotionally or does more to show their care and when that is not acknowledged and returned, pain can arise in the heart.

Sometimes when persons start to practice yoga or other spiritual paths, they bring along with them the memories of those disappointing experiences. This is often why conceptions of the Divine may be a little but fuzzy because we view everything through the lens of our own experiences. Here, however, the Gita unequivocally states that the Divine also has feelings and reciprocates according to the desires and attitudes of those who not only reach out to Him, but also those who choose to ignore Him. Personally, I’ve always found that to be so fascinating. In observing others, often if someone is ignored by another, the person who has been ignored will reciprocate the sentiment. The Divine, however, doesn’t do that.

That’s where the subtlety of yoga really shines through.

In a world where everything is judged by actions, it is a paradigm shift to realize that attitude is actually more important. That’s because attitude drives our actions.

The Divine reciprocates not necessarily with what we say or do but what we feel inside. That’s why yoga requires introspection and deep thought. It may be easy to fool ourselves, but it’s impossible to fool the Divine who is sitting in our hearts observing everything.

Furthermore, when we start expressing our gratitude to the Divine and try to cultivate the sincerity to live a life of compassion and love, we immediately start to experience reciprocation. That reciprocation may come in many different forms such as seemingly serendipitous opportunities, bringing role models into our lives and increased determination and perseverance. For those who are not interested in pursuing such a yogic lifestyle and would prefer to taste the numerous offerings the world has to offer, even then the Divine reciprocates by giving them facility. For those who would negate the existence of a Supreme Person, the Divine allows such souls to exercise their free will to pursue what they choose.

But, for those who genuinely seek to become instruments of compassion and grace, the Divine goes above and beyond by reciprocating in ways we can’t even imagine. Facility, intelligence, courage, support and determination are given by the truckloads. So much so that the bhakti yogi becomes even more grateful and genuinely feels that they can never reciprocate adequately.

This is when the possibility of truly becoming selfless can actually become a reality. Such persons have the capacity to be truly selfless and expect nothing in return because they are already in a relationship with someone who is not only reciprocating with them but going above and beyond – the Divine. In this way, such a bhakti yogi just “pays it forward” and helps others.

Such is the power of the reciprocation loop. By offering our heart and attitude to the Divine we can become strong and empowered individuals who are empowered to help others. All we have to do, is try…

the mighty trio
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Verse 4.10: Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me — and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.

Attachment, fear and anger – or as I call them – the mighty trio. These three emotions and characteristics have the capacity to steal away all reason and intelligence. In fact, as readers might remember, two of these three characteristics (attachment and anger) are also members of “the attachment trap“.

It’s not so much that these qualities or emotions are good or bad in and of themselves. It’s the fact that one emotion leads to another which can ultimately lead to stress and complete frustration.

The cycle tends to go as such:

As was previous explained, attachment arises due to the contemplation of objects which we believe will satisfy and make us happy. Once attachment takes root, that’s when the chaos can start to manifest. Take for example a small child. They might be perfectly happy playing in their corner when they see a ball across the room. Looking at the ball, they start to make their way towards it when another child picks it up. At this point in time, some children, may start to cry and get upset.

This is actually very illustrative of what we all go through if we just seek to look a little deeper and analyze what is motivating the child’s behaviour. Many might think the child is crying because they didn’t get to play with the ball, but one could suggest that it’s even more than that. It’s the fact that the other child got to play with it.

That’s where fear and anger step in because…

Attachment often instills a sense of possessiveness in an individual.

In other words, it’s the mentality of “I’ve contemplated the object and therefore it is mine.” What the bhakti texts teach us is that the moment we identify ourselves with something then fear is often a side dish that comes along, even though we haven’t asked for it. We fear losing whatever we’ve become attached to and if anything appears to impede our enjoyment of that object then anger rears its ugly head.

The path of bhakti yoga reminds us that nothing in this world is ours to keep. This body and the world we live in is all on loan. Trying to exert ownership and control doesn’t really help us.

For those who truly want to practice yoga, this is such an integral point. Yoga is about connection but almost more important than understanding that fundamental truth is understanding what it is that we should be trying to connect to.

Attachment is just one facet of connection but it’s not the whole thing.

An attachment can be broken, but a connection, as per the definition of yoga, is rooted in permanency. That permanent connection that all souls are longing for is eternal love and the only person who can give it to us is the Divine. All of these other objects that we form attachments to can get in the way of our search for that love if we aren’t careful.

So the next time you catch yourself falling into this trap of this mighty trio, take a step back and observe. Is this attachment helping you to become a selfless, compassionate and positive individual or is it serving to bring out the opposite in you?

watering the root
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Verse 4.7: Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion — at that time I descend Myself.

Today I’d like to highlight the Sanskrit of this verse as it contains an extremely important word: dharma

yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya
tadātmānaḿ sṛjāmy aham

The word dharma is often translated as “religion” in English which is often synonymous with the word faith. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the true meaning of the word gets lost in translation. That’s because religion or faith can be accepted, rejected or converted, whereas one’s dharma cannot be changed.

Dharma, as described by the great bhakti teacher, Swami Prabhupada, is the inherent characteristic of an object or living thing. Just as the innate nature of sugar is to be sweet and that of fire is to be hot, the dharma of the soul is to serve.

In fact, if only one word can be used to describe the quality of the soul, it would be service.

Whether knowingly or unknowingly, we are always serving something or someone all the time. For those who have been frustrated or disappointed in trying to serve others, that experience may impel one to repress their natural propensity of service, especially if that effort is not reciprocated.

So instead of being true to ourselves, we may become selfish due to negative experiences.

The bhakti texts describe that this frustration and pain arises when we are unaware of where to repose this natural inclination to serve.

So who should we serve then? Just as the leaves, branches and stem of a plant is nourished by watering the root, similarly all the other souls we interact with can be served by serving that person who connects us altogether – the Divine.

It’s a subtle but important point to note. It’s not that we give up trying to serve one another, which is what can sometimes be misinterpreted by the bhakti texts. Rather, it’s placing the majority of our efforts and time in what will give us the greatest return by effecting the greatest number of people positively.

By serving the Divine by working in a spirit of detachment to the results and gratitude flooding our hearts, we serve all living beings simultaneously. It’s kind of mystical actually!

It works because that positive attitude that we cultivate can effect other people unconsciously.

I’m sure everyone has had an experience where they have spent time with an amazingly inspirational, positive and/or spiritual person and afterwards they are left feeling happy and enlivened. If you ever wondered why, it’s because you imbibed the other person’s consciousness.

It’s actually the greatest good we can do the planet today; that is, to work on ourselves and re-awaken (if it’s sleeping or has been crushed) our propensity to serve. Just by doing that, you can become an instrument of powerful change and positivity.