Embracing…
… my experiences in India

Sep
27

… awareness… breathing… concentration… connectedness…

I believe in mindfulness because it is universal and can be omniscient.

… mindfulness, precisely because it is not formulaic, and because it has to do with the quality of our experience as human beings and the degree to which we can pay attention to our lives, is truly universal in scope, and therefore relevant in virtually all circumstances. Everybody has a mind; everybody has a body; everybody can pay attention intentionally; and everybodys life unfolds only in moments. Mindfulness doesn’t tell us what to do, but it does give us a way to listen.

Jon & Myla Kabat-Zinn ~ Everyday Blessings. Page 35.

So if it is so powerful and available, why aren’t we all doing it?

Because it’s hard bloody work!!! Who wants to be fully present to the feelings of anger, hurt, jealousy? It’s much easier to turn on the TV, PC or mobile phone than to lean into these difficult feelings. In fact it’s actually cool to be distracted from self. Look at the adverts, they consist of people enjoying themselves by distracting themselves with all the latest mod-cons. It’s not cool to sit, be quite, be aware and present to whatever is… it doesn’t sell.

So with the rapid development of software companies in Chennai, I am assuming locals are becoming less and less mindful as they get sucked into the consumerist lifestyle, am I right?

Quick mindfulness test for you:

  • Do you remeber brushing your teeth this morning?
  • Before you read this sentence, did you know what the weather was doing outside?
  • Can you remember what colour underwear you are wearing today?
  • Can you remember the last person you smiled at today?

How mindful are you?

Sep
24

I am very proud to be covering this event as a blogger, it’s really good news for the environmentalists; the project is simply blooming with positive action.

Project Green Hands is an ecological initiative of Isha Foundation with the aim of creating 10% additional green cover in Tamil Nadu (the heartland state of southern India). This means they are planting MILLIONS of tree saplings across the state with the help of thousands of volunteers.

On Sunday September 23rd 2007, there was a planting celebration to raise money, raise awareness and celebrate the amazing work done thus far.

I spoke to one of the volunteers who explained to me that the tree saplings not only need to be planted but also watered and protected. So to give these wondeful little tree saplings the best chance of survival they are planted in villages, schools and colleges where they will be fed and nurtured to adulthood.

This community project is great in so many ways:

  • It makes tree planting and cultivation part of the local community’s culture
  • It supports sustainable living
  • It enhances the quality of life for the local population
  • It reduces global warming
  • It promotes rainwater retention in the soil
  • It provides a habitat for plants animals
  • It brings people together

I was certainly motivated to make a donation to this amazing project. When I did so I was given two green ribbons. One for my wrist and one for a tree which stood behind me. Tying the ribbon on the tree represented greening the tree, greening Tamil Nadu and greening the earth. Feel good factor 110%!

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As I wondered around the festival site, I found people working together, happily and with a common goal. It was a pleasure to witness. I often feel totally overwhelmed by the destruction the planet that I see going on everyday, visiting the Planting Celebration gave me hope and motivation to be involved in taking some positive action. Turn my despair into joy!

My only heart-sinking moment was seeing the corporate sponsorship:

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That’s pure bullshit and we all know it.

Do you call the depletion of ground water in Kerala by Coca-Cola “adding a few drops of joy”? More like “adding a few drops of toxicity”.

Anyway, KEEP IT POSITIVE Stottpot!

There are many ways to help with Project Green Hands and their incredible efforts, so check out the website to find out how YOU can contribute.

I’m motivated, how about you?

Sep
18

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Any ideas?

Sep
14

I was invited to attend a talk given by Dr Prasad Kaipa at the Hotel Le Royal Meridien, organised by Madras Management Association on Thursday 13th Sept. The title of the talk was “Unleashing Personal Leadership: Managing Core Incompetence.”

My first impression was that it was going to be a talk on how the competent managers need to manage their incompetent staff, which didn’t inspire, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. So I arrived in plenty of time for High Tea at the very exclusive venue.

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The event began with a series of people introducing each other which created some anticipation in the audience. Was Dr Kaipa going to live up to the expectations created by the introductions?

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In my opinion, I think he did. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the talk developed into a journey of self exploration for the audience. Dr Kaipa presented a series of PowerPoint slides to illustrate the present context of business as we know it. He used concepts such as outsourcing, the service driven economy and the need to compete innovatively.

He believes the way in which we can bring our greatness and uniqueness as managers to our work is by getting to know ourselves more. Coming from a Person-Centred counselling and Buddhist meditation background, this was music to my ears!

Specifically Dr Kaipa was encouraging the managers in the room to become intimate with their ‘signature strength’ (i.e. what got you where you are today, what you lean on in times of need). He claims that our signature strength is also our biggest weakness (core incompetence) and it can become our downfall. He used Zinedine Zidane’s behaviour in the World Cup 2006 as an example where passion became rage. Two sides of the same coin.

The presentation itself was professional, assured and illuminating. However, I got a clearer sense of Dr Kaipa and his ‘being’ from his responses to the questions asked at the end. He had described in the presentation how organisations lack humanness, innovation and creativity and that who you really are needs to be brought into your work. I feel the talk itself was a micro representation of this concept. Take away the computers, slides and script and meet the real person.

Dr Kaipa’s spontaneous responses to questions deepened the concepts he had introduced in the presentation. He referred to the need for us to have the courage to find silence in our lives where we can examine our ‘being’ and thus know it and use it appropriately.

He described how we can apply this learning in the moment by using AAAR (Awareness, Attention, Action and Reflection). He clarified that we are not attempting to remove our signature strength/core incompetence, but to disassemble and reassemble so that our foundation of who we are is stronger and not simply taken for granted.

He transformed the following classic phrase from:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

into something much more profound:

If it isn’t broken, break it once in a while.

These concepts of self examination, disassembling ones self and staying with the process are very familiar to me because it was routine throughout my three years of training as a counsellor in UK. The only thing that I think Dr Kaipa did not fully emphasise was the excruciating pain, fear and groundlessness that accompanies this process. During my training I experienced my feelings so fully at times that I felt I was being consumed by them, I couldn’t see the woods for the trees, I didn’t know who I was or what I stood for, I questioned everything. It is hard bloody work and worth the effort.

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What did I most get from the talk? The confirmation that the work is never done, it is an ongoing process… life long learning.

Sep
13

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The Observer printed an article on Sunday that revealed “all expectant mothers are to be given a one-off payment of around £120 that they will be encouraged to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables as a way of protecting their children from diseases and incurable conditions later in life”.

Fantastic! As long as the mothers spend it on fruit and vegetables…

I guess there’s always a risk that they could spend it on booze and fags, but nevermind…

What about offering a range of free seminars for mothers-to-be covering topics such as healthy shopping, mindful consumption and low fat, nutritious cooking as part of the deal?

Here’s I think the £120 could be most effectively used:

  • £25 towards running 2 seminars per mother.
  • £5 towards providing a slap up healthy lunch for the mothers-to-be as a way of enticing them along (AKA bribery).
  • £90 paid to newly educated mothers upon completion of two seminars.

Financial assistance and a wee bit of education could go along way. And while we’re at it, how about some yoga classes too… and a meditation workshop…

Sep
10

I went on a two week Yoga Vacation at the Sivanada Yoga Vedanta Meekanashi Ashram in August 2007. I was looking to deepen my yoga practice and allow myself some time to ‘arrive’ in India. I got more than I bargained for.

It was the longest retreat I had ever signed up for and I was anxious before I went about how I would cope with being on retreat for so long, there really was no where to run to for 2 weeks! I knew I was expected to participate in the programme which consisted of satsang (meditation and chanting) twice a day, 2 hour asana class twice a day, two meals, a lecture and spare time in between.

I arrived late on the night before the yoga vacation began. I was told I was the only participant, I was shown my room, given bed sheets for the night and I went to bed. The roof leaked and I hardly slept.

On the first day I was totally groundless as I participated in a completely different routine with unfamiliar rituals and reference points. My sense of being alone was amplified by the fact that I was the only participant, the only Westerner, the only female and I was not with my partner who I had been travelling with for the previous two months.

What was I doing here? All I could think was that I had signed up for two weeks of isolation in a culture I knew very little about and I didn’t know how I was going to survive. I was seriously considering running away. Then I recalled some useful concepts that guided me:

  • I’m going though a pain barrier, it feels excruciating now, but once I’m through it, I’ll be better for it.
  • “The best way out is always through” (Helen Keller).
  • I’m experiencing Groundlessness (Pema Chodron) from which I can grow.
  • Stay with it, steadfastness with self.
  • Present moment, only moment.
  • I’m coming home to myself, returning to my kingdom (Thich Nhat Hanh)

When I realised that staying with the process was all I had to do, I felt some relief. Once the first day was over and I got a good nights sleep, I began to resurface and enjoy some aspects of the ashram. The butterflies were plentiful and busy fluttering their colourful wings between flowers. I wrote in my journal, I read books and I sat.

Having experienced groundlessness I began to build new ground underneath me. I was able to enjoy the physical, emotional and psychological space I had been craving. Participating in the programme helped me to keep mindful of my mind and body. The asana classes were excellent and were a real comfort as they provided something familiar within which I could dwell.

And I survived, the whole two weeks. And whatismore, I’m even glad I went! I feel stronger for it. I am soothed knowing that when all else falls away, I can still be.

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Sep
06

… “to be boggled by blogs”.

This portmanteau of (boggled blog) was introduced in a comment under my post “Here I am” and it describes how I am feeling.

The boom in social media with websites such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Flickr has got the Sociologist in me questioning what impact this virtual world is having on us humans.

There seem to be definate advantages:

  • Empowerment of disenfranchised groups from Wispa lovers to Lefty Aussies
  • More power to the people! Less power to the corporations! More people are questioning services/products/organisations instead of blind sheep mentality.
  • Blog material can be read without being judged on the basis of the authors race, appearance, weight, gender, (dis)ability etc. Equal Opps in action.
  • People are instantly connected with others across the world who have got similar interests, ideas and opinions regardless of those old fashioned barriers of time and space.
  • We’re spending more time indoors! This increases our safety as we’re not exposing ourselves to the risk of being run-over, mugged or becoming hearing impaired by the constant flow of horn-loving traffic on the streets (of India).
  • We don’t need to live in inner city chaos and spend huge amounts of money on rent, food or transport to enjoy connecting and working with people worldwide.
  • It’s a winner for the environment! Less paper, less travel and more time to sort out your recycling!

… and the disadvantages:

  • As we spend more time indoors, it makes it more difficult to go outdoors. We may get detached, removed and fearful of what is it really like out there in the ‘real’ world. Agoraphobia on the increase?
  • Internet usage remains an exclusive activity, only 17.8% of worlds the population use the Internet. So the most disenfranchised groups remain so.
  • Will we lose the knack of speaking to one another face-to-face? Will we be unable to relate without having a few seconds/minutes/days to diffuse any uncomfortable feelings before composing an ‘appropriate’ response?

Looks like there’s more advantages than disadvantages which (in my world of decision making) means I’m in!

… unless anyone has got any other ideas?!?!?!?!

Sep
04

According to confused of calcutta, a Facebook group in UK has gained the power to make Cadbury reinstate it’s apparently much missed chocolate bar, Wispa, albeit temporarily.

As people realise their consumer power on-line, I am boggled by what people actually consider important.

I do not miss Wispa chocolate bar and I am bemused that people would be so bothered about it’s absence – after all there are still 65 other chocolate bars to choose from!

Perhaps it’s about keeping the past alive, reminiscing about what one used to do back in the days of Wispa chocolate bars. Or as quoted in the discussion, it could just be “a trendy joke that snowballed”.

The consumer choice that we now demand and expect seems absurd in the face of what I see on a daily basis. I see people with barely enough to live on, children begging in the street, families living in rubbish dumps and a city that is choking itself with fumes.

This Facebook Phenomena is another demonstration how the gap between rich and poor, the East and West is further widened. In the West we are up in arms if one of our chocolate bars is withdrawn from sale, whereas I see most people on a low income in Chennai buy whatever is in season, affordable and local.

Paradoxically, there is a growing movement in UK to buy organic, local, seasonal produce, so looks like some of us are coming full circle. The main difference being that those in the UK have made a choice about where their food has come from, they can write about it on the Internet should they choose to and stuff their faces with chocolate bars should they choose to.

Choice. The more choice we get, the more choice we want.

From another angle, I expect people without access to the web or packaged consumer goods are much more in touch with what it means to be alive and living in the present moment. They are also less likely to suffer from obesity or eating disorders.

So who’s better off?

Sep
03

“Wherever You Go, There You Are.”

Thanks Jon Kabat-Zinn, the title of your book is Profound.

… And Here I Am…

Chennai, India. Creating a blog to acknowledge my existence in this colourful, wonderful, littered land.

‘Accompanying husband’ is my apparent reason for existence here in India, according to my visa. But what is my reason?

  • To discover what it means to sacrifice my dreams and desires to fulfil that of another.
  • To broaden and deepen my spiritual practice.
  • To discover my ‘edge’ (as Pema Chodron would describe it) AKA groundlessness/despair and grow from the meeting.
  • To let go of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ of a 30-year-old white female living in Britain today.

And what have I got from being here so far?

  • An intense confrontation with my ‘edge’ at a yoga retreat which ultimately had a soothing effect upon me.
  • The realisation that the therapeutic work I used to engage in was fuelled by my own need for self exploration.
  • An understanding that I am attached to my spiritual practice of mindfulness (which incidentally promotes impermanence and non-attachment).
  • An understanding of the social impact of no welfare state.
  • An understanding of the environmental impact of no comprehensive recycling or refuse collection in a country drowning in plastic.

So, here I am and there you are.