The biggest gift

...on Guru Gobind Singh Jis gurpurab for me today was to see that someone who used to cut their beard, keeping it.

While eating langar I saw up. There was a uncleji serving langar. I couldn’t recognise him first. Then I realised it’s the same uncle that always lighten up the atmosphere in every room he enters. I saw the beautiful beard and the new shine on his face. I got so happy. So happy that I felt like saying it to him, but I couldn’t see him after langar. So I approached his dear wife. I told auntyji how smart uncleji was looking with uncut beard. I could see the happiness in her face, and ¬†I can’t describe how happy I was when she said “Maharaj di Kirpa hai, hun bass Amrit chakan di dehr hai”/ “It’s God’s Grace, now the next step is to take Amrit’. Coming home, the first thing I did was to call Papa. “Papa, I have a good news to you. You just have to daily the number of that uncleji now and congratulate him”. Papa asked why. I said: “He is keeping his beard. You have to congratulate him and motivate him!”

Why does this affect me so much? Why do I feel happy and proud? On the day where we are celebrating our tenth master, who sacrificed his whole family and himself, so that we could freely follow our religion. On that day, to see someone not caring about others, deciding to be unique, to become firm in his faith, makes me feel that the sacrifice our tenth master made, didn’t go in vain. This also gives me hope – that some people come back. Those who feel a connection with our faith, come back. It also remind me that we all are students. Students of life. We may walk different paths, but we are all learning. We never know if our path is going to meet some day or depart some day.

I wish everyone a very happy gurpurab! May we get inspired by the strength our tenth master had ūüôā

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New year resolutions 

So 2017 is just around the corner. It’s time for a new year, new opportunities. Actually I think this is an illusion. Every day, every second is a new day, new second with new opportunities. Every day and every second we have the opportunity to change. To change our attitude, perspective, values. I hope that I will welcome 2017 with this attitude. However, I have some general resoultions for this year anyway, as I think it will be good to look back to this whenever I need a reminder of how I wanted this year to be.

1. Forgive and let go of past mistakes. I saw a video by Xandria Ooi later this week and read Tony’s thought of the day on facebook about forgiveness. Sometime it’s difficult to forgive others who hurt you. Why? Maybe the reason is that we think that we are giving the other person a punishment by not forgiving him or her, and this way making the other person feel guilty. However, we can’t control anyone else conscience. In other words, maybe the other person is not feeling guilty, as our intention may be.

Then who will suffer if we don’t forgive? My past scars, only hurts me, not necessarily the people who did it.¬†I am doing a huge service to myself if I forgive them. Maybe it could make me feel better if I make excuses for their behaviour – “he/she had a bad day that day”, “he/she were probably going through a though period”. I should lighten the weight I am carrying on my shoulders.

Forgive and let go doesn’t only apply to what others have done to me. It includes what I have done to others. To forgive myself for the past wrongdoings I may have done, the heartbreaking words that came out of my mouth. Forgive and let go.

This night I will go through every scar I am carrying, visualise that it goes into my heart, accept that it happened, forgive and let it go. This year if these scars come back in any way, I will do the same that day.
2. Forgive and let go. In life we will meet a situation where we get hurt. I will try my best to not let what others do to me, turn into scars. This is going to be a big challenge  in the future.

3. Be honest and true to my feelings.¬†Inspired by my dear English teacher (the best one I ever had), who sent me this quote of Shakespeare: “to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man”. I am not sure I have understood it properly, but this new year resolution came as a result of my understanding of this quote.

If I feel hurt, treated unfairly, sad, happy, angry etc., I will be true to my feelings by accepting them and not being ashamed of it. By accepting my feelings and acknowledging that they exist, I take them seriously. When I take my feelings seriously, I think I will also be more confident in communicating them to others.

4. Reduce the time I spend on facebook. I will stop looking at the news feed on facebook. Why? Let’s take a simple example. If we use 15 minutes on facebook each day (I think I can use more than that). Then every year we use 5475 minutes, which is 91.25 hours. This is 3.8 days in the whole year just on facebook! I could use those days on other things – travel, have more quality-time with my near ones or further develop my talents. This leads me¬†to my next resolution.

5. Nurture the potential in myself. Everyone has some talent or potential in some field. However, not everyone nurtures it or uses time on it to develop it even further. My excuse is often that I don’t have time. I know that if I will use less time on things that’s not necessary to do (like scrolling down the news feed on facebook), I can devote more time to this area.

6. Reduce the amount of time I spend on my mobile. Giving this less time and importance in my life.

7. Nurture and grow compassion and love. Try to use more time to understand why people do what they do. Remember that other people can also go through difficult periods. I want to try to shower as much love and compassion I can – not just to other people, but also to myself.

8. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. This is inspired by a dear uncle who said that he exercises 1 hour each day, no matter what. Exercise doesn’t need to be that I am going to do hardcore muscle training every day – I will listen to my body’s needs. If stretching exercise is what my body needs, I will do that.

9. Listen attentively. Have you experienced that¬†sometimes you are not present and listen attentively when the other person is talking to you? That your mind is just another place? Well, I have, and I want to do something about it. I have felt what it does to me when I speak something, but the other person is so busy with his/her mobile that you don’t feel that they take you seriously. The same applies when you are occupied with other thoughts while someone is trying to share something with you. Then it’s better to say honestly that you are not present at that moment and want to hear more attentively to what he/she has to say later. To give other people attention, to give them importance, is an act of love, which I want to focus on this year.

What are your resolutions? It’s a good time to think about what change you want to bring in yourself. Write them down and go back to it in the morning to remind yourself of them and evaluate them in the evening if you have managed to do it or not. It’s not enough to just say or write what your resolutions are if you don’t follow them up. Wish you all a happy new year!

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The strength and love of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Mata Sundri ji

We went to see the movie Chaar Sahibzaade 2 by Harry Baweja this Friday. When I walked out of the cinema, I had no words to explain how beautiful the movie was and what impact it made. It was specially one scene that remained in my heart, which I wanted to share with you. Don’t read any further than this if you want to see the movie first ūüėČ

Mata Sundri ji came from Delhi to Sabo ki Talwandi where Guruji was staying with a group of Sikhs. She was waiting eagerly to see her four sons, chaar sahibzaade and meet Guruji. ¬†She asked a follower to make churri ¬†(coarsely ground wheat crushed and cooked with ghee¬†and sugar – source: wikipedia)¬†for her sons, as she knew they liked it. This video song shows how eager she was –¬†

When she came to Gurujis darbaar, she saw the sangat and Guruji, but didn’t see her four sons. She asked Guruji about their sons. Guruji pointed at the sangat and told her that her children were right before her. She asked again about chaar sahibzaade. Guruji told her that he could see the chaar sahibzaade in the sangat even if they now were martyred. Mata ji got emotional and started crying when she heard that her sons were no more. Guruji asked why should I cry for four, then I should cry for all the thousands of people that have sacrificed their lives. He continued to say “chaar moe toh kya hoa, jeevat kayi hazaar” ( translated: even if four have died, many thousands are still alive).

Mata ji stopped crying. She said she brought churri only for four sons, but Guruji blessed her with thousands of children. She asked the sewadaars to give the churri to the whole sangat – the ladies and gents in the sangat. She looked at them with eyes full of motherly love, and saw the chaar sahibzaade in the whole sangat.

What kind of love is this? That you love everyone as much as you love your own biological children. That you share equal love to everyone, no matter if they are related to you or not. That you cannot mourn when your biological children give up their lives, because you see the whole world as your children. We humans are so attached to our family – could we do the same? Would we protect our biological kids or biological relatives more than those who are not related to us, when they are facing a difficult time? I think most of us would protect our biological relatives. How great then are Guru Gobind Singh Jis and Mata jis love when they don’t discriminate between biological and nonbiological kids? They could actually see God in everyone. They practiced it.

I cannot express my feelings when mataji saw chaar sahibzaade in the whole sangat and lovingly accepted them as their children. I felt like suddenly she become my mother too and Guru Gobind Singh ji my father. Not just “mata ji” or “pita ji” by words like it sounded when I took amrit. Watching this scene, I could for the very first time really feel that I was their daugther, that I wanted to be their daugther.¬†

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Chaar sahibzaade 2

I have grown up hearing the story about chaar sahibzaade and the sacrifices they made. I have heard the story from my grandmother, probably my parents, at the gurdwara and punjabi school too. Then why did this movie had such impact on me? When I knew their age, how they sacrificed their lives for their faith, that they said no to all the materialistic things the commandor of mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Wazir Khan, offered to give them if they converted to Islam, then why? Yes, here’s some more thoughts this movie and the conversation I had with someone who is like an elder sister, woke in me.

I knew that they were kids. I knew that they aged 6, 9, 14 and 18 year old. I knew they were younger than I am now. However, still, viewing the movie, I was stunned.

The way the movie portrayed the chaar sahibzaade, by showing us their innocence – playing and joking with each other like normal kids do, I realized how big their sacrifice actually was and that they were like the normal kids we see around us today.

I think the reason why it made that big impact on me is¬†that we have a tendency to think that chaar sahibzaade were something special – they were not like us normal humanbeings. It’s like we idealize them – like they had some special powers. Don’t get me wrong – by saying this, I am not trying to deevalute their sacrifices. I think that by idealizing them and unconsciously giving them “supernatural powers”, we are indirectly saying to ourselves that they were something different. They were different and that’s why they could do those sacrifices – we, however, are normal humans, we cannot do this. We don’t have this strength. We are making the¬†gap between us and the chaar sahibzaade too big. This gap causes the belief that they and their strength were something superior – that we cannot find this strength in our own kids and in ourselves.

However, let me ask you a question. When we don’t believe that we or our kids have this potential, how can we develop it? I believe that we cannot develop this strength and confidence in ourselves if we don’t believe that we have the potential of it. We don’t believe that everyone have one of the chaar sahibzaade in the heart – that we have the potential to grow the same strength the chaar sahibzaade had.

By distancing ourselves from them, saying that they were extraordinary, we cannot become as extraordinary ourselves. Guru Gobind Singh Ji said that all Sikhs are his children. He treated us equally. There were also a lot of other Sikhs than the chaar sahibzaade who sacrificed themselves. Doesn’t¬†that mean that we too can develop this strength in us?

If chaar sahibzaade Рinnocent kids Рplaying and joking with each other, like the kids we are surrounded by, had this potential, this potential lies in us too Рto be courageous, loving, stand against injustice and put our own values and humanity above all materialistic things. We just need to hear the voices of chaar sahibzaade in our hearts and train ourselves to become like them. The key is inside us Рwe just need to grab a hold on it and open the door to welcome new, extraordinary qualities in ourselves.

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The power of thoughts

Have you ever thought about your thoughts? Do you have a tendency to take your thoughts as reality? Lately I have thought a lot about my thoughts. I have actually experienced (something that sounds obvious) that thoughts are mere thoughts and don’t need to be the reality.

We make a lot of assumptions in our mind why people do what they do, what intention they have behind their actions, what they are thinking or how their internal state is right now. Lately I have experienced that many of the assumptions I tend to make, or assumptions that other people make of what I am thinking or why I am doing a particular thing, may be wrong or completely opposite.

Let me give you an example. I am leading a group of students – teaching them how to write good essays for their coming-up exams. Sometimes I criticize¬†myself ¬†and think that I am not leading the group well – the students are not going home with more insight or knowledge. However, whenever I have asked for feedback (anonymous feedback), most people in the group report that they are very satisified with the group. So in this example I had an assumption “The group doesn’t benefit the students. I am not doing a good job”, and the response I got was completely opposite of what I assumed they were feeling.

Why am I writing this? Well, my intention of writing this is to tell you that many assumptions we make, don’t need to be the reality. Sometimes I think it’s good for us to realize or say loud out to ourselves: “My thought is just a thought. It’s not reality”.

Let’s take an example the other way around. I am feeling that someone is not responding to me and thinking that the reason is that this person isn’t interested in responding. However, when I ask this person, I understand that he/she is going through an emotionally difficult phase. My assumption was “He/she is not interested”, but the reality was “He/she is in an emotionally difficult phase”.

Do you see the impact our thoughts have? Now if I assume that he/she is not interested, different feelings will arise in me than when I assume “he/she is in an emotionally difficult phase”. Again, those feelings will give rise to different actions. The first one can for example result in avoidance – that I decide to avoid him/her, while the second one can result in approach – that I decide to talk with this person and show concern.

One thing is to see what impacts our thoughts have, another lesson is to see how self-obsessed we can be with our thoughts – that we are unable to see the other person’s perspective. We assume that the other person is avoiding us, and that thought occupies our mind, so we interpret everything in favor of that assumption (confirmation bias in psychology). The result is not just a negative feeling and action, but also that we are unable to show the other person the emotional support he/she needs.

Okay, yes, I am good at talking. Our assumptions lead to misunderstandings. Right, okay. But how to avoid this? Like you saw in the examples above, we cannot read what’s in the other person mind. We cannot know what the other person is thinking. Yes, we can¬†assume what they are thinking, but we don’t know if it’s the reality. I think the solution is communication. You should ask the other person – why did you do that? What was your intention of saying that? How are you right now? You should not ask by attacking the other person – but ask with an open, curious and not-knowing way.

Learn to test your negative assumptions of things happening around you. Don’t just accept your assumptions that lead to negative feelings to be the reality. Learn to be curious of what’s in the other person’s mind – not only in your thoughts, but in your communication.

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To breathe

Do you breathe? You know that deep, long breath, that moves your stomach and breast?¬†I realized some time ago that I don’t breathe properly. Now that I am aware of it – the times I remember to breathe, I can see an effect on me and I want to share it with you. However before that I want to thank the person who liked my page yesterday (you know who you are), because you draw my attention to my blog again, and I probably wouldn’t have written this post if it wasn’t for you.

What is breathing properly doing to me?

  1. Today at those times I remembered to breathe properly, I noticed that it made me smile more. That smile didn’t come from any reason, I just felt good. Try it – trust me, it’s a beautiful feeling – to smile for no reason.
  2. Breathing also made me listen more to what my heart said and follow it. For example when I was boarding the boat today, I wanted to stand outside at the deck instead of sitting inside and reading a book. I wanted this even though it was a bit chilly weather and it just had stopped raining. I didn’t give it a second thought, I just took a long, deep breath and followed my heart. You know what? It was a fantastic experience. Taking long, deep breaths, smiling for no reason and watching the sea and islands we passed by.
  3. I have also noticed that taking deep, long breaths while for example walking, makes the muscles in my body relax and I don’t overload my muscles in any way.
  4. Today I felt more fresh when I came home compared to other days. I don’t know if this has something to do with my long, deep breaths, but I suspect it to be the reason as I don’t know of other factors that I have changed today compared to other days.
  5. Whenever I took a long, deep breath, I saw that I noticed more details in my environment. In fact, I didn’t just notice, but I¬†appreciated¬†them too. The autumn colours. ¬†The father and son doing something with their car. Baby playing with her mother. Babies crying. You may be thinking – how can someone appreciate babies crying? Well, I don’t know the answer to that, maybe I appreciated it as it’s normal for babies to cry, nothing to make a big issue of.
  6. I felt more living in the present. It’s like your breath always takes you back to the present when your mind jumps around between thoughts. I have always looked for an asset that can help me be more in the present, and I think I have found it.

I challenge you. Try it. Just one day. Feel the difference. See the difference. Please feel free to post comments here about your experiences – even if you didn’t feel any change. I want to hear about your experiences, so I have more to reflect upon.

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Bye-bye instagram

I deleted my instagram-account today. First I thought of just deleting all my followers and everyone I was following, and creating a new secretive account where I could follow the few who inspired me by their posts in some way. I created that new account too, but now I am considering if I should keep this new account or let instagram leave my world.

It’s just that my mind is saying stop. I have a lot to do and a lot of thoughts racing through my mind. How can I get peace of mind when in the little free time I get, I spend that on getting updates on what other people are eating or doing. That only adds more thoughts in my mind, and I get no break. When I know I have a lot to do, and see other people posting pictures of time spent with friends – how can I avoid my mind to be distracted? How can I avoid that I will compare my situation with theirs and unhealthy thoughts like “I would love to be in their place” will raise? I will end up with negative feelings and the work I was going to do will be affected.

Now that I have deleted it (which felt very liberating), I have started to think of the use of it. Does it add something important in my life?

As my professor said today – research has shown that computer games are taking over children – children are spending less time playing in favor of the computer games. The same way I feel that the social media are taking over our lives – so we are spending less time doing what people valued more when social media didn’t exist – like talking face to face with our family and friends, playing with children, appreciating our environments. These are things we value today too – we just experience these moments less than people did before. Isn’t odd that one time ago looking at your mobile while being in a “conversation” with your friend was looked upon as disrespectful, and today it’s becoming more and more acceptable?

I can make an instagram account and say to myself – it’s because then I can read the wise things people share. But does it help me to read a post a few seconds, move on to the other post, without reflecting on it, understanding what meaning it has for my life and implementing it practically in my life? My mind just gets fed with a lot of wise words, but some seconds later I have completely forgotten it. Maybe it’s better to hear a friend talk about a lesson they have learned in life and discuss it together. I think the chances for remembering that conversation is much higher than remembering the posts on Instagram.

The comparison I do sometimes other people post a picture of their life, can make me complain about my situation and my life instead of solving the tasks I have in hand. Maybe not consciously, but I think seeing all those posts do have an affect of how grateful I can be to my life.

I have decided to delete the new account. Good-bye instagram.

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