Contact and Connection. And Empathy?

[Note: This story was first published in CLARITY (15 August 2019). It is published here with permission.]

The scene is familiar: It’s Sunday evening and a family of four come into a restaurant for dinner. The waitress shows them to a table and before they even sit down, all four of them – father, mother, son and daughter – place their phones on the table. Orders are placed and while waiting for the food to arrive, they are glued to their phones.

Maybe, there’ll be some respite when the food arrives. Maybe, they’ll put away their phones for a while. Maybe, they’ll even look at each other for a moment.

When the plates of fried rice, fried vegetables and steamed fish are placed in front of them, all four people adjust their positions. Having to use their hands for something other than holding their electronic gadgets, they scramble to prop their phones against glasses. Soon, they’re entertained by watching the programme on their phones uninterrupted as they shove food into their mouths. Once they finish, the father takes a 30-second break to pay the bill and the family leaves the restaurant.

This complete disconnect with life is echoed by Dr. Swagata Roy during a recent panel discussion at 7C Life RealiZation Centre called ‘Cyberworld’s Psychological Impact: The Unknown Reality’. This educator and life observer recounts a story of giving an assignment to her students to write three words about what the internet means to them. Of all the answers, the one that stirkes her as odd is when one young man wrote, ‘Disconnect. Disconnect. Disconnect.’ Worried about him, she guessed that he must have been so bothered by what happened on Facebook. “When I spoke with him,” she elaborates, “he explained, ‘I have contacts, but we’re not connected.’”

CONTACT V CONNECTION
This rather bleak statement falls squarely into a story that HH SwamiGuru told us a few weeks ago. It is a conversation between a journalist and Swami Vivekananda. Here is a paraphrased version of this story.

A journalist asked the monk, “Sir, in your last lecture, you told us about jogajog (contact) and sanjog (connection). It’s really confusing. Can you please elaborate on this?”

The monk smiled and replied with a question: “Are you from New York?”

“Yes,” said the journalist.

“Who is at home?”

Although he felt that the monk was avoiding answering his question, he still said, “Mother has expired. Father is there. Three brothers and one sister. All married.”

“Do you talk to your father?”

Frowning, the journalist stared at the monk.

The persistent monk then asked, “When did you talk to him last?”

Pursing his lips, the journalist said, “Perhaps, a month ago.”

“Do your brothers and sisters meet often? When did you last meet as a family?”

Sighing, the journalist said, “Christmas. Two years ago.”

“How many days did you all stay together? How long did you spend with your father, just sitting beside him? Did you have your meals together? Did you ask how your father was? Did you ask him how he passed his days after his mother’s death?”

Tears began to flow from the journalist’s eyes.

The monk held the hand of the journalist and said, “Don’t be embarrassed, upset or sad. I am sorry if I have hurt you unknowingly. But this is basically the answer to your question about contact and connection. You have contact with your father, but you don’t have a connection with him. You are not connected to him. Connection is between heart and heart. Sitting together, sharing meals and caring for each other, touching, shaking hands, having eye contact, spending some time together.”

The journalist wiped his tears away and said, “Thanks for teaching me a fine and unforgettable lesson.”

SOMETHING MORE?
Certainly, this story shows how important it is to go beyond having someone as a ‘contact’ in your world. You need to have that connection with other human beings. Are these two enough, though, for the entire relationship to be a meaningful one? Should there be something more, especially within the family. What is this ‘something more’? Can there be more? Should there be more? Is it healthy to have more?

“Being connected to one another is not only to understand one another, but to empathise with the other person,” said our second panellist, Professor Dato’ Dr. Andrew Mohanraj. “The cornerstone of being connected is to show empathy to the other human being. And when you do that, it enriches both your life and the life of the person connected to you.” Also, once we appreciate the fact that everyone is somehow interconnected, life is far more meaningful.

So, what is empathy? The dictionary definition states that it’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. HH SwamiGuru elaborates on this by saying that, “Every single person in this world has the same goal of being appreciated. That’s what they look for, consciously or unconsciously. In everything that we do, we seek an endorsement unknowingly. When we receive it, we feel good. Empathy paves the way for this to happen successfully each time.” He shares some examples of empathy which include sitting with someone and praying with them in their times of trouble, holding someone’s hand when they feel alone or simply being there for someone.

The last word on this subject belongs to HH SwamiGuru who adds, “When you do something for someone with empathy, there is a bond created that results in their appreciation or their acknowledgement of what you do. That closes the loop created in the heart. [You already have contact and contentment.] Empathy leads to appreciation which leads to contentment.” And that, really, is all we need to find our happiness in life.


Aneeta Sundararaj is a freelance writer who contributes stories and articles to many publications, both online and offline. Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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Making Miracles With the Subconscious Mind

[Note: This story was first published in CLARITY (15 July 2019) and is posted here with permission.]

When my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, one thing struck me as odd. Convinced that she’d lived a fulfilled life, she was resigned to her fate and said, “My doctor told me that if you get cancer, you’re just unlucky.” I wanted to tell her about the many people I’d met who’d gone into remission and, miraculously, lived long and healthy lives. However, I stayed silent because I knew better than to challenge her. My aunt died within 24 months of making that statement.

Since then, I’ve wondered about all this. Do we make our own luck? Does our mind have anything to do with it? Or are we victims of our circumstances and environment? It all came back to me about three weeks ago when HH SwamiGuru and I discussed optimising the power of our subconscious mind. The scientific basis of our discussion was based on a book by Dr. Bruce Lipton called ‘The Biology of Belief’. A former professor of medicine at Stanford University, Dr. Lipton explained the results of his research in an interview published in Awareness Magazine. 1

The basic premise is this – we are not victims of our genes. Just because you have a family history of developing cancer does not mean that you’ll develop it. You control your genome rather than being controlled by it. “When we change our perception or beliefs,” said Dr. Lipton in the same interview, “we send totally different messages to our cells, causing a reprogramming of their expression.” This is epigenetics.

AT A CELLULAR LEVEL
In our bodies, information from the environment is transferred to our cells via the cell membrane. We used to think that the nucleus within the cell was its brain. Dr. Lipton discovered something altogether different. He believes that it’s actually the membrane that’s the brain of the cell. The nucleus is the reproductive centre of the cell.

What this means is that the cell membrane monitors the condition of the environment and then sends signals to the genes to engage cellular mechanisms. These, in turn, provide for the cell’s survival and growth.

What interferes with this survival is stress. When the cell membrane receives information that the environment is stressful, the cell adopts a defensive protection posture. The body’s energy resources are diverted to systems that provide protection instead of survival or growth.

Stress information can come to the cell from the two separate minds that create the body’s controlling central voice – the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.

40 V 40 MILLION
The conscious mind is the creative mind that expresses free will. It’s the equivalent of a 40-bit processor which can handle input from about 40 nerves per second. The subconscious mind is a super computer loaded with a database of pre-programmed behaviours. It is a powerful 40-million-bit processor, interpreting and responding to over 40 million nerve impulses every second.

The subconscious mind acts on autopilot mode, as though it’s a record-playback machine. The insidious part of this mechanism is that the subconscious behaviours are programmed to engage without the control of the conscious mind. It cannot discern if a subconscious behavioural programme is good or bad. Consequently, you rarely observe these behaviours or know how they are engaged. The moment your consciousness lapses, such as in the case of being asleep, the subconscious mind will automatically engage and play its previously-recorded, experience-based programmes.

How did our subconscious mind become programmed with all that data in the first place? According to Dr. Lipton, it happens during the first six years of life when our brains operate predominantly in delta and theta EEG frequencies. This, he said, is the hypnagogic state during which a child’s programming happens by observing parents, siblings, peers, teachers and his environment. The child also downloads beliefs relating to its Self. Whatever the child is told – that he is sickly and stupid, or lovely and successful – is downloaded as fact into the child’s subconscious mind. These acquired beliefs constitute the central voice that controls the fate of the body’s cellular community.

REPROGRAMMING FOR SUPER-LEARNING
What happens when you become aware that the facts you were told were untrue? How can you remove all that unnecessary data that’s been downloaded into your subconscious mind? Can it be removed and replaced with ‘good’ data so that you can grow? The answers to these questions lie in a two-step process that leads to ‘super-learning’ and the work we do at 7C Life.

The first is to become fully conscious of what we’re doing, i.e., to practice mindfulness. We do this by regularly meditating to help us achieve the necessary clarity of mind.

The second step is a 7-week voluntary programme that ‘enables a rapid and profound reprogramming of limiting subconscious beliefs.’ It starts with cleansing the body and mind from inside out. With a clean slate, we then rewrite the programme in our subconscious minds and, thereby, release the limiting perceptions, beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviours.

What makes this entire process special is that, with the support of HH SwamiGuru, the super-learning here becomes magical. The possibilities are endless for not only do you achieve realisation of the Self, you become liberated. Living that liberated life brings with it experiences beyond your imagination, joy and happiness. This is the science of making miracles.

References:

  1. Butler, M A. A Romp through the Quantum Field. A dialogue with A dialogue with Gregg Braden and Dr. Bruce Lipton. https://www.brucelipton.com/resource/interview/romp-through-the-quantum-field(Accessed on 1 July 2019)

Aneeta Sundararaj is looking forward to the publication of HH SwamiGuru’s latest book, ‘Making Miracles: Happiness to Life’. It is a guide to right living for your Self and will be in bookstores by December 2019. Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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Time and the Moment of a Smile

Retreat to Nature

[Note from Editor: This story first appeared in CLARITY (15 June 2019). It’s published here with permission.]

In these last few months, many of us at 7C Life RealiZation Centre feel that time has gone by too fast. Just last week, one of my colleagues said, “Oh my God, the second quarter of the year is almost over.” Indeed, many of our projects have gained a stronger foothold and we’re on track.

In moments of quietude, however, I wonder about it all. What do we mean when we say ‘last few months’? How long is this time? For those of us who are ambitious, time is running out. For others, it’s too slow. What, in fact, is this thing called ‘time’? Is it possible to achieve everything we want in this short space of time that is the human life?

More often than not, we measure time in terms of hours, minutes and seconds. Is this accurate? Is there another way to measure it? Does time run differently in different planes of existence? What happens in different dimensions? Indeed, this was something we had to consider during our Mindfulness Masterclass Programme (MMP) last year. Quite simply, is a day restricted to 24 hours?

One of the first theories that challenged this was a story I read as a child. In a faraway kingdom, there was a king called Kakudmi. He had a beautiful daughter, but didn’t think that anyone on earth was worthy of her hand in marriage. He decided to take his daughter to the abode of Lord Brahma to seek his advice. When they arrived, Kakudmi presented his shortlist of suitable potential sons-in-law. Lord Brahma explained that by the time Kakudmi returned to his kingdom, none of these men would be alive. Time runs differently in Brahma’s abode. One day there was equivalent to several centuries on earth. Kakudmi and his daughter returned to an earth that they didn’t recognise. Nonetheless, the story does have a happy ending for they did find a suitable groom for Kakudmi’s daughter.

So, back to this question of how do we measure time?

The normal method is this:
60 seconds = 1 minute.
60 minutes = 1 hour.
24 hours = 1 day.
It is a convention that a new day begins at midnight.

Now, in Indian philosophy, it’s a little different.
60 seconds or vinadi = 1 minute
24 vinadi = 1 naligai
2 naligai = 1 muhurta
30 muhurtas = 1 day
The first muhurta of the day begins at sunrise.

It is said that one of the most auspicious times in any day is Brahma Muhurta. It starts 2 muhurtas before sunrise. In other words, it starts approximately 96 minutes before sunrise. So, if the sun rises at 7.00am, then Brahma Muhurta starts at 5.24am and ends at 7.00am. During this time of Brahma Muhurta, the Universal Energy, which is described as ‘the energy that sustains life, providing vital energy to all living systems’ 1 is said to be at its peak. It follows, therefore, that any spiritual activity carried out during this time has a greater effect than any other part of the day.

Now that we’ve established that in Hindu philosophy, a day is not necessarily restricted to 24 hours, it becomes interesting when we consider larger numbers. While we’re now in the year 2019 and, technically, in the second millennium, in Indian philosophy, we have already endured grander cycles and more millennia than one can count.

Referred to as ‘yuga’, an epoch or era lasts four cycles namely, Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvarpa Yuga and Kali Yuga. There are books upon books written about how long each of these yugas last, the characteristics of people who live during these eras and how they relate to one another.

In very simple terms, during Satay Yuga, a human being is 100 per cent virtuous and only dies when he reaches 100,000 years. During Treta Yuga, our life span is all of 10,000 human years. It lessens to 1,000 years during Dvapara Yuga and, in Kali Yuga, we live for no more than 100 years. Without doubt, during Kali Yuga, the human being consists of being 25 per cent virtuous and 75 per cent sinful.

All this and more were explained to us by HH SwamiGuru in a discourse during the last Maha Shivaratri. He explained that one day in Brahma’s abode would mean that eons of time would have passed on earth, to be precise, about 8 billion years. Taken further, Brahma needs to go through 20 million lifetimes for one day in Vishnu’s abode. And Vishnu needs to go through 10 million lifetimes to amount to a moment when Lord Shiva smiles. This effectively means that as a human, you will need to live through all these uncountable number of lifetimes to see Shiva smile and receive His grace. He is light years away from us.

Here comes the twist.

Lord Shiva is beyond time; He has transcended it. All you need to do is go within and look for His smile there. To receive His blessings, even if it is for a moment, is to understand that His power is immense. In that moment of Shiva’s smile upon you, whatever you are limiting to the boundaries of your thought disappears. What happens then is beyond your imagination.

As HH SwamiGuru said, “Evolution of mankind and the self is only through happiness. We may think that it is difficult to find happiness, but it begins with a simple smile. When you smile, you are already a moment closer to the Lord of Ultimate Happiness (Satchitananda), Lord Shiva. When you make every moment of your life just about the smile and bring inner joy to yourself, you will become the embodiment of happiness. That’s the only moment in time to live. No other time can be more valuable and meaningful. You will be in the ananda state.”

Taken as a whole, this reinforces one of our lessons from MMP – as humans, our understanding of time is that it is cyclical. When you accept that such physicality can dissolve, there is no time. Everything happens in a timeless dimension. You become free from the cyclical movement of life and experience liberation. It will be possible to achieve everything you desire, and so much more, in this space with no time, but a smile.

References:

  1. 8 Signs You Are an Empath Sensitive to Universal Energy https://www.learning-mind.com/universal-energy-empath/ (Accessed June 2019)

Even though she understands what timelessness means, Aneeta Sundararaj still worries that life is going too fast. Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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5 Elements in Bandung

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This gallery contains 11 photos.

Here are some photos from ‘Retreat to Nature – a ‘5-elements’ experience’ in Bandung, Indonesia (3-5 May 2019).


Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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The Journey of a Flower

The Journey of a Flower

[Note from Editor: This story first appeared in CLARITY (15 May 2019). It’s published here with permission.]

You wait with anticipation for your date to arrive. On tenterhooks, you pace up and down in your flat. You rush to a nearby mirror. Is your hair in place? Is the outfit the right colour? Maybe, the outfit is not right. Perhaps, you should change.

The doorbell rings.

Oh no! There’s no time. He’s here.

You open the door and there’s this man standing on your doorstep. All suited and booted, he looks debonair. But what’s this he’s holding?

It’s not a rose. Or even your favourite, orchids. Surely, he’d have made more of an effort than this – a single sunflower with a pretty red ribbon.

All manner of thoughts run through your head.

This man doesn’t care for me.
We’ve known each other for so long and he brought me this?
A sunflower for God’s sake.
Surely a rose wouldn’t have cost that much.
Oh my God! This man is poor.

You look at the gentleman’s face. He’s grinning.

Idiot!

You move to shut the door, but he puts his hand up to stop you. He tells you a story and your heart skips a beat. Then he says something and you practically fall into his arms.

What did this gentleman say?

Well, this was the cliff-hanger moment that Brenda James presented us with at the start of our Speaker Series (‘Making Your Money Work for You’) on 11 May 2019. She told us, instead, her history. Born and brought up in Ipoh, Perak, Brenda completed reading Law before she began her career in the corporate world. Although she became financially secure, she felt miserable. By 2008, she made the decision to start Nook Flowers in Bangsar South. With the realities of running her own business were also painful and humiliating lessons. Throughout, the one quality she retained was her optimism.

One of the most wonderful stories that Brenda shared echoes our focus on being happy, spreading such happiness through the work we do and the people we’ve become. Straightening her shoulders, Brenda gives a bright smile and explains that when she’s done with an arrangement, she’ll holds it in her hands and whispers, “Go, make someone happy.” Saying these words, she believes, results in the transmission of happy thoughts and feelings to those flowers. In turn, the final recipient receives not only the flowers, but the sentiments too.

As expected, generating such happiness always has a spill-over effect on other aspects of one’s life. Even though Brenda was barely making ends meet, she remained determined to look at the brighter side of life and joined the Philharmonic Society of Selangor. Having derived much contentment from this activity, Brenda smiles even brighter when she reveals that it’s through the choir that she met her husband.

Perhaps, the most synchronous moment of this Speaker Series session came about during the Q & A session. The questions ranged from ‘Is it OK to use white flowers for Mother’s Day?’ and ‘Why do we like lilies when they are flowers used during funerals in the West?’ to a point about chrysanthemums having a bad reputation because they were regarded as ‘prayer flowers’.

It is when Brenda said something along the lines of, “How amazing is it that a flower can be used to glorify the Divine,” that many of us who’d gone on the recent retreat to Bandung, Indonesia felt a shiver run down our spine. This was precisely what HH SwamiGuru had alluded to on 5 May 2019, during the last discourse of the retreat. In His words:

“The journey of the flower is meant to enhance the understanding of learning to live as naturally as possible without having to compare your life with that of others. It is only then that you’ll understand the greatness of creation, the creator and creativity. With that understanding, you will realise that life is all about being yourself and not someone else. You have been endorsed by the Divine to be ‘you’. Don’t be someone else and don’t seek some else’s endorsement for who you are. This journey can only be successful if you first make an effort to find your true non-contaminated self. In so doing, you will also realise the power of gratitude and the blessings of life.”

Incidentally, the flower of choice during our retreat was a genus of sunflower. Now that we’re back to talking about this giant yellow palmful of sunshine, let’s return to the tale of the gentleman who brought his lady love a sunflower.

The story he tells her before she falls into his arms is that in Greek mythology, Apollo was the Sun God who rode his golden and ivory chariot from east to west every day. A water nymph called Clytie was in love with Apollo, but it was unrequited. For nine days, unblinking, she watched him move across the sky. Eventually, she was turned into a flower which came to be known as the Sunflower.

The gentleman then looked into his lady love’s eyes and said, “The sunflower is the only one that follows the movement of the sun. Even if there is the slightest glimmer of light in the sky, the sunflower will turn its head to find it. And that’s how I feel about you.”

Sigh!


Quite simply, Aneeta Sundararaj loves flowers. Read more stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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