Attitude of Gratitude

Attitude of Gratitude

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I recently had the experience of being suddenly plunged into darkness for a few hours only to find out later that a broken electricity cable had outed the electricity in the whole area. It was evening time in winter, so it was crucial to have some light and heat. It would also have been nice to have been able to make a cup of tea, cook dinner, and do some work on the internet, but all of that was out of the question! When I returned home to Kuwait expecting all to be ‘normal’ I found that we were out of running water because the pump had broken and the tank had not filled up. It was a double lesson from the ‘drama of life’ to remind me just how little we appreciate something – until it’s not there!

And another interesting thing was… that even though I knew that there was no water or light, I still went, out of habit, to ‘switch on’ the lights and ‘turn on’ the taps! It’s as though the mind was in denial refusing to accept the reality of the situation. It just shows how much we take for granted, and how much we assume that things will always be there at our disposal.

These incidents made me question: Am I appreciative about other things in my life? Having hot running water and electricity are important in our privileged modern day lives, but what about the ability to walk and move freely without pains and strains? Or to be able to see the world with our amazing eyesight? Or to be able to hear the world outside your window.

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All of these things are so natural to us that we do not even think about them until they are not there. Only then do we lament.

When we begin to appreciate the beauty and richness of the treasures in front of and around us, then they take on a new and deeper meaning in our lives. There are so many aspects of nature to appreciate. If you can see some green grass and a few birds fluttering and singing, you are lucky – not everyone has this privilege. Hearing a running stream is also a privilege. Still better, if you are able to put your feet in it!

Changing the way we view the world around us, will change us, and change our world! It all begins with appreciating the little things in life.

There is a person who calls our meditation centre every day from prison. He has been an inmate for two years, and not a day has passed that he has not called for a chat and some positive thoughts. If I happen to answer his call it makes me so appreciative of the freedom of movement that I have. I admire so much that he stays happy and positive. He passes on these positive thoughts to others in the prison and creates motivational discussion forums! He is amazing! He has turned a negative situation into a positive one by just being grateful for what he has.

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We can also be thankful for all the characters in our lives, the good, bad and the ugly. Each one is teaching us something. It’s not a question here of thanking each person or each thing… just to be able to cultivate a consciousness of gratitude is enough. It’s a state of mind, a way of being, a way of thinking. For example, even if you are held up in a queue you can be thankful for the opportunity to enjoy a few moments of tranquility.

Business Guru Steven Covey said, “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are…”

Gratitude5With so much apparently working against us in the world, and so much negativity in the news, we really need to make a list of all the good things that we have in our lives if we want to remain sane and happy. Once we are positive, we start sending positive energy out into the world, which then boomerangs back. The universe responds by saying; give it to this one, he/she will appreciate and value it!

It’s time… to cultivate an attitude of gratitude… and watch what the drama of the universe unfold!

© It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK

Happy New Year – Especially to the Goats!

Happy New Year – Especially to the Goats!

 

Chinese New Year

As we speak, hundreds of millions around the world are celebrating the 15 day Chinese spring festival (新年Xin Nian), saying goodbye to the galloping Horse of last year’s lunar calendar, and ushering in the New Year with the gentle stride of the Goat.

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Are you a Goat? How many of your friends are Goats? Although the Goat may conjure up an image of something weak or feeble, that is not the case in the Chinese calendar. If you were born in the years of 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, that makes you a goat… or as sheep, as sometimes depicted.

The 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac represent the characteristics of humanity. Chinese folklore has it that once upon a time the Jade Emperor invited all the animals to participate in a race and the first 12 winners would earn the honour of having their name designated as one of the 12 zodiac signs. At the end of the race each animal won its place according to its strength and weakness and its wit and wile. They won in this order: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

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People born in the year of the goat are reserved and quiet, serene and calm. Therefore they have fewer health problems. Goats are known to be gentle, kind, mild-mannered, shy, stable, sympathetic, amicable, persevering, hardworking and brimming with a strong sense of kind heartedness and justice. They are creative and acquire professional skills easily. They like to be to be in groups rather than the center of attention.

Although they look gentle on the surface, Goats are tough on the inside, always insisting on their own opinions. They have strong inner resilience.

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On the other hand, Goats may come across as indecisive, timid, vain, pessimistic, moody, weak-willed just like the animal itself!

There are other stories and Chinese New Year customs that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Chinese folklore has it that hundreds of years ago humanity was terrorized by a fearsome beast called ‘Nian’ who would come down from the mountains to prey on the villagers. One day, a wise old man gathered the villagers together and told them that the beast Nian was afraid of loud noises and the color red. Upon hearing this, everyone became courageous and prepared themselves to frighten and kill the beast during his next appearance. They prepared drums and fire-crackers, painted every house red and dressed themselves up in red – especially the children, as they were the favorite meal for the beast! The beast was defeated. Ever since, the spring festival has been celebrated in places with firecrackers, gongs, and everything red.

Chinese New Year nianThe death of the beast Nian signified humanity working together to triumph over the negative forces of the world. Once the dark forces have disappeared, spring arrives and humanity celebrates a new era of peace, happiness and prosperity. The name of the beast, Nian(年)is also the same Chinese character for year, hence the Spring Festival is also known as Guo Nian (without the ‘beast’!) or a ‘new year’.

Before the Chinese New Year, it is customary to spring clean the home and office, to clear away the old and to welcome the new energy of the New Year. Spring cleaning is always a good method to help us reshuffle the energies around us. When the physical place is tidy, our mind and spirit will also feel good and refreshed.

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During the Chinese New Year celebrations, it is customary to think of, and speak auspicious words, wear new clothes of auspicious colors such as red and orange, and eat food that bears auspicious sounding names such as mandarin oranges whose name echoes ‘gold’ and ‘luck’ in Chinese. The fruit pomelo sounds like ‘prosperity and status’ in Chinese while fish sounds like ‘wealth’. Sweet food is symbolic of invoking sweet times in the coming year.

Chinese New Year 5Traditional Chinese homes put up ‘Chun Lian’ which is a couplet of auspicious words written on red paper and pasted on doors or walls. These auspicious words are thought to bring good luck and good fortune for the New Year.

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As we are aware of the power of thoughts and words, whoever reads these words will naturally think of good wishes and good luck and very soon, such luck will surely manifest!

Though the countries and cultures may differ, yet newness in deeds and thoughts, auspicious words and images, customs and celebrations, are all part of celebrating New Year in each and every society. It reflects the human yearning for fresh experiences, hope and optimism, whilst at the same time observing the values and traditions that hold together the very fabric of society. It reassures us, and at the same time leaves us open to new experiences. And, within a diverse and ever changing world, each one of us has our own spirit, specialities and strength – and just like the goat – hold many hidden treasures.

It’s Time… to choose the positive over the negative and usher in the new year with newness, tidiness, optimism and ‘Guo Nian’ (without the beast)!

By Viannie Chua and Aruna Ladva

 

© It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK

 

The Road to Peace

THE ROAD TO PEACE

Peace Within the Self – A Beginning for World Peace

‘When there is light in the soul,
there will be beauty in the person,
when there is beauty in the person,
there will be harmony in the house,
when there is harmony in the house,
there will be order in the nation,
when there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the World’.

Ancient Proverb

 

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The Road to Peace can be as long or as short as we want to make it.  With just one thought, we can make a mountain into a molehill or, with a few more thoughts, we can make a molehill into a mountain.  It’s all in our hands!

Road to Peace sheikhLast week, over 300 delegates gathered in the Kingdom of Bahrain for the third Self Development Conference entitled ‘The Road to Peace’.  The patron of the conference was His Excellency Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the Deputy Prime Minister.  It was organized by the Bahrain Meditation Centre for Self Development.

There were many gems of knowledge shared during the conference.  As well as talks, workshops and discussions, there were tears and laughter, songs and sharings.  People spoke about how their heads were filled and their hearts were touched, and how they would put new ideas into practice and change their lives following the two and a half days of conference.

Of course we all know that peace is not just the absence of war.  For example Canada and Switzerland are countries that rarely engage in conflict yet they would not be defined as totally peaceful countries – there are homeless people, unemployment, and many other social problems. Rather, peace is a state of mind in which we are free and yet fully engaged with our purpose.

Road to Peace michellePeace is both a journey and a destination.  Peace is a state of being where the mind is calm and tranquil.  It is a condition of inner stillness and strength that gives us the ability to remain stable even in the most difficult circumstances.

The state of imbalance within the individual is reflected in the world around us. The deterioration of human values has resulted in human beings becoming strangers to their inner peace, and to the important values of compassion and respect, equality and truth.

It is now time to reconnect with these intrinsic values, and to find a better way to live.  Only when the human mind finds alignment and arrives at peace within itself, can the process of peace begin in the world.

president Ebrahim-292x300Dr Ebrahim Al Dossary (PhD), President of Bahrain Meditation Centre and the inspiration behind the conference, stated that, “We stand at a crossroad in the history of humanity… it is no longer possible to be a bystander or spectator of the drama of life.  It is time for mankind to decide its fate.  Each one of us contributes to the greater whole, and each one of us has the capability to make a difference in the course of history.  It is not only ancient wisdom, but also modern science that is telling us that human consciousness plays an important part in the evolution of the world.  Perhaps it plays the most important part, because we cannot change the world without changing our thinking”.

Road to Peace sheikh 2During the opening ceremony, His Excellency Sheikh Khalid wrote, signed and hung a peace message onto the olive tree – it simply said the word ‘PEACE’.  He then moved over to the painting that was being painted by Michelle Pfeiffer, an artist from Canada, and added, in blue paint, a drop of water, the symbol of life, demonstrating that some things can be very simple and easy to communicate.

JayantiSister Jayanti, Keynote Speaker, Author and Broadcaster, spoke about the need to create a timetable of peace throughout the day. It is when we dedicate time, even small pockets of it, to returning to that stillness within, then we can maintain our inner peace.

 

 

MikeMike George, international Management Tutor and Trainer, Speaker, and Author of several books mentioned that there are currently over 600 conflicts taking place in the world and only about 11 countries that are free from conflict.  He went onto say that young people are addicted to video games such as ‘War Craft’, which not only desensitizes them to conflict, it becomes a means to practice conflict!  Some even go on to join in with conflicts around the world simply because they then want to experience it first-hand!

sarah-face2-202x300Dr Sarah Eagger, Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer, talked about a scientific study which revealed a ‘holiday’ effect.  People’s chromosomes were altered when they felt relaxed and at ease. However when these same people practiced meditaion the effect on the chromosomes was much greater.  A second study was to do with rats.  When a rat pressed a button it was ’rewarded’ by a shot of dopamine – the happy hormone. The rats got so addicted to this hit of happiness, that they would press the button to the exclusion of everything else, including eating, and so they eventually died.  Dr Sarah mentioned that we also get a similar hit of dopamine each time we hear a ping on our phone, meaning we are addicts!  This explains why some of us cannot resist checking our phones every two minutes.

NevilleNeville Hodgkinson, Health and Science Journalist and Author also talked from a medical perspective, explaining a phenomenon whereby some people who had been pronounced medically dead returned to ‘life’ after some minutes or even hours. They could recall what they had been observing during this time.  He was making the point that we are beings of consciousness, much more than just our human bodies.

As well as the many fascinating lectures and workshops, there were also times for peace, meditation and self-reflection throughout the two and a half days.

The radiant, glowing faces at the end of the ‘Road to Peace’, confirmed that the event had been a big success, with many vowing to go out and spread this peace into the world.

It’s time… to walk the road less traveled… the Road to Peace.

© It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK

 

Feb 14th – The Power of Love

Feb 14th – The Power of Love

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‘The power of love can move mountains’ is a well-known expression.  But what is the kind of love that is needed to move a mountain?  How sturdy and strong, and yet at the same time flexible and supple? It seems like a tall order in a world that can sometimes feel lonely and hostile.

Love can be described as any number of emotions from pleasure to pain, which is why it is unusually difficult to define.  But the bottom line is, it’s a ‘good feeling’.  To love, and to be loved is an elevated state of mind, in which there is acceptance (without judgment), in which there is respect (without measure), in which there is care and attention (without seeking a return).

‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’, is also an equally famous statement.  But which neighbor? We might ask.  The one living in the house next door?  Or the one on the train or plane, the queues and pews, and the cubicle next door?

This elusive experience or state of being called love has enchanted, enraptured and tormented many a lover throughout time.  This single four-letter word has the power to conquer hearts and minds.

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Almost every heart is in search of it, and if we do not find it in the ‘significant other’ then our attention goes to our friendships, fads, food, fashion and fragrance, we search high and low to quench the thirst.

‘All You Need Is Love’ was sung by the Beatles in 1974, and countless more songs novels, poetry and movies have extolled this topic than all others put together. If love is the key to happiness, then it is also the engine, the headlights, the wheels and the windscreen!

Everyone profits on February 14th – the Romeos and the retailers!  This day marked as the day of love will witness an array of red love hearts and teddy bears in a variety of fashions and fabrics.

Yet the real depth, richness and colour of our love will be measured by the authenticity and validity of that love. But if the ’love’ that we bestow upon another is deceptive or not reciprocated, it can be the cause of untold anguish. How genuine are we when we give that symbolic fluffy heart?

Ironically very few are able to recognize that the love we are seeking is right here, inside of us.  Much like the story of the princess who turned the whole palace upside down looking for her precious and most beloved necklace.  After much frantic searching she happened to look in the mirror – only to find that in fact it had bejeweled her neck all along!

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Love has as much meaning as we attach to it.  We casually say that we love our food, our pets, our jobs and our family.  Yet when love is tested, at the end of it all, it is the bond of human relationship that conquers all. At its deepest level, love transcends differences and unites us all as one human family.

True love breaks all borders and boundaries.  True love is not ‘what I can get out of’ a relationship, but what I share with another.  True love remains ever-green, it doesn’t have expectations, it never runs out, and in its deepest spiritual sense it is our essence, our very core. To continue the words of the Beatles song: ‘Love Is Everything…’

It’s Time… to love, unconditionally and selflessly.  Love is the question and love is the answer.  Love is here… just look in the mirror!

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© It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London

What if Important Wasn’t So Important?

What if Important Wasn’t So Important?

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A sense of importance and urgency may give us an adrenaline rush and a thrill to life, but on the other hand it can also become a cause for stress, or even a heart attack! What if we began to make ‘big’ things smaller in our minds, and instead of jumping to fulfill them, give them exactly the importance they deserve? Perhaps then we could slow down and begin to live life in the calm lane.

Some people just have the habit of making everything so big and important in their mind that there is no high, average or low activity on their list. It’s ALL important! And because of this high demand, and the toll it takes on them, perhaps little actually gets accomplished. These people live in gloom as they notice at the end of their day that everything, that is, ‘everything important’, has not been completed.

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As we become preoccupied in everything so called ‘important’ and start giving it our undivided attention, we are actually setting ourselves up for defeat, disappointment and sorrow. Why? Because when we say that something is important it means we intend to put our all into it; give it everything we’ve got. Then we put all our ‘eggs in that one basket’ so to speak. But what if that basket drops! What if things do not go the way we planned? We only create pain for ourselves.

In fact, nothing is important and yet everything is important! Isn’t all of life important? Isn’t it important to breathe and to walk and to be able to see? It is only after the advent of life in the fast lane and because of the rise of our desires, goals and ambitions, that we have re-defined the category of ‘importance’ and what important means – and thereby what we should give our time, money and energy to. But are we getting it right?

What is truly important? Not the dramas that go on ‘out there’ in life, but the drama that goes on inside of us, in our minds and hearts. If we give importance to the thoughts in our mind then we shall never have to worry, because we will realise that the external is really not as important as we think it is. In the awareness of the internal being, the ‘real me’, I realize that what goes on out there does not add anything extra to me, to my real importance or to my state of mind. It is what is happening on the inside that is of the utmost importance.

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So, what if nothing ‘out there’ was really as important as we give it credit for? And everything was on a par with each other? Then we would not have biases and preferences, and we would be more relaxed whether something happened or it didn’t happen; all is okay! In this way we can keep ourselves light and easy and are able to flow with the drama of life. Isn’t this a much more stress-free way of living? When I think of something as important, then I become serious, and stop having fun. I switch into left-brain analytical mode instead of keeping myself light hearted.

If we are living in the body-conscious world, in order to boost our self-respect, we may think that ‘I am more important, than this one… than this thing, or this situation.’ But be careful… this is the ego ‘I’ speaking. However the ‘I’ focused in true self-respect, or inner-being awareness, values the self simply because ‘I am’ and not because of what I have. So in this sense, being is more important than doing. Then I will automatically value myself, my time and other resources.

What else is important? This moment. The now. This is the most important place to be. Don’t give importance to the past or the future, otherwise you will find yourself living there! So instead, live the moment.

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Next time you find yourself giving importance to something, step back a little and check. Is this really important? Could there be something more important or meaningful that I could be doing with this precious moment? Will it give me the peace and happiness I seek in life?

We are so often exclaiming to ourselves how things are very important and that we have to rush to complete them. So next time exclaim instead: it’s NOT so important! And more: ‘what really is the most important thing for me to do right now?’

Perhaps the answer will be ‘Just relax and smell the roses’! Then let go of whatever it was, or decide to do it at an appropriate time.

It’s Time… to reassess what is really important and what is not. Let go of the stress and keep yourself light, easy and happy. Now, isn’t that important?

© It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London

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