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Newsletter February 2012
This life is too precious to be lived in misery
It was June of 1996 and after ten days of talks and seminars in Argentina I was due to leave for Tampa in Florida where I would be conducting a weekend seminar. This was my first time in America and I was very excited as I boarded the flight to FREEDOM LAND. I felt very inspired to be visiting a country founded on the idea of liberty and freedom for all.
I had to clear immigration and customs at Miami airport before I transferred to a flight for Tampa. I was warmly greeted and welcomed by the immigration officers at Miami. After clearing customs, a young man assisted me with my luggage and walked me to the connecting flights area. I appreciated his help but did not know that I had to tip him. I had never tipped before and it was not a custom we practiced in the region of the country I came from. However, observing others at the airport, I quickly understood that tipping was a common practice here. Right away I ran after the man who had assisted me with the baggage and made sure to tip him handsomely. I explained to him the reasons for not tipping him earlier. He was surprised to see me back. He looked happy and appreciated my sincerity and effort, which made me feel good as well. I made it in time for my connecting flight, an American eagle that took me to Tampa.
A seminar in Tampa
I was happy to be in good weather after a harsh winter experience in Argentina. The Florida weather made me feel at home and I was all ready to conduct the seminar.On the first day everyone in the group actively participated and many found the work fairly intense. I had observed during the session an elderly East Indian lady who had appeared to me to be a little worried. After concluding the sessions for the first day, I approached the Indian lady with the intention of helping heal her pain, if there was any in the first place.
I did not want to assume that what I saw was certain and so I politely enquired with her how she was doing and asked if she needed any help. Without much hesitation she started to share the reasons for her sadness. She confessed to me that her husband had passed away recently and that she was finding no meaning in a life without him. She mentioned how hard it was for her to imagine having a good life without her husband being here. In a sad tone the lady said, " I cannot imagine myself being happy anymore.”While I totally empathized with her pain, I had to however express my disagreement with the view that she could no longer enjoy the happiness that she once experienced.
And so I said to her, "Madam, it is possible for every single person in this world to enjoy inner peace and happiness no matter what their life circumstances are. You can be free of all the suffering you carry inside you. You can be as happy as you were before, even if your husband is not here with you any longer. In fact you can find even greater happiness if you desire and pursue it."I did not see any kind of reaction from her to what I had just mentioned. I thought maybe she did not understand me well and so I repeated it all again emphasizing that she can be free and happy if only she desired it.
I could find no satisfactory answers. I had been kind to her, respectful of her age, with noble intentions and sincere effort. Maybe, since the culture here was new and unfamiliar to me, it was possible that I could have conducted myself in a manner that upset her. In order to understand the situation better I discussed it with the seminar organizer. I narrated to him the entire episode and he appeared as baffled as myself. He clarified to me that there was nothing wrong or inappropriate about the way I had conducted myself. That put me at ease but still I had no clues to the woman's irrational behavior and so I decided to reflect deeper into the situation.
What was the reason?
Why would anyone react the way she reacted? Why would anyone be so deeply disturbed with the idea of happiness? Why would anyone not embrace the thought of freedom? These were some of the questions I pondered over. Every form of human relationship, whether it is a parent, child, spouse, teacher or student relationship, is clearly defined and must fit into a specific framework. What was the definition of a "noble wife" that this East Indian lady would subscribe to? She comes from the same region of the sub continent that I come from myself and so I had a fairly good idea about the socio-cultural conditioning that she would have grown up with. A noble wife is one who deeply grieves the death of her husband, who sees no joy and meaning in a life where the other half is missing. A noble wife is one who has renounced all the joy and pleasures of life in honor of the missing spouse. She is someone who loved her husband dearly.
What happens is that sometimes this self-imposed suffering can be misunderstood as love for the other.It is possible that our very idea of love and nobility can become a block to our freedom and this could have been the case with the East Indian lady. From her reactions, it appeared that the thought of a life filled with joy, challenged her idea of a noble wife. Any ideas of freedom led her to question her love for her husband. Every suggestion I made in regards to finding inner happiness and freedom challenged the image she carried about herself.Accepting a life of peace, happiness, love and freedom meant that she would no longer be a ‘noble wife’ in her eyes. All she could accept was some sympathy for her loss. She had firmly decided to continue her life with that sadness and grief.
What was her definition of love? Did she equate love with sacrifice and self-imposed misery? Or did she equate love with a renunciation of all joy and pleasure? If only the lady had for a moment become more conscious of her reactions and the beliefs that caused her to react the way she did,then maybe… just maybe... she would have embraced the possibility of happiness instead of fleeing from it. Maybe her life would have changed indefinitely.The lady did not show up the next day or the day after to complete the seminar. Instead she left a small note in the seminars feed back form to say that the seminar was not for her. That she was content living in the memories of her deceased husband.
Examining what is true for us
I had never imagined before that some one could feel so threatened with the idea of happiness. It is understandable that we all experience sadness when we lose someone whom we loved dearly. We will surely miss them, but does that mean that we have to stay in emotional pain for prolonged periods of time or forever even? We have to question for ourselves whether this is really a true symbol of love, to be in everlasting pain or grief over losing someone, for a reluctance to live a life of joy is certainly irrational. Surely suffering cannot be the purpose of human existence?
In such situations we must learn to enquire into our irrational reactions and the beliefs that cause us to act irrationally. An absence of living mindfully can cause these beliefs to drive us into a place of conflict and misery. We at One World Academy believe it is possible for everyone to live free of suffering and that this freedom is possible when you choose to live a life of awareness. It is the right of every individual to find peace and happiness for themselves. In order to do this, one has to make that choice first and then make every effort in that direction. Living unconsciously might make us immune to our suffering but will surely not bring us happiness. Unconscious living serves none, neither you nor your environment. This life is too precious to be lived in misery. One should make every possible effort to live in peace and joy.
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Newsletter, January 2012
on Visionary Business Congress, Munich, Germany
On 15th October 2011, One World Academy Founder, Preetha was invited to speak at the "Visionary Business Congress" in Munich. The underlying theme of this congress was to create
an awareness of the need for businessess that are more conscious, sustainable & inclusive of larger well-being. The current economic climate and other events like the Fukushima Nuclear disaster have
driven national as well as corporate leaders to seriously reconsider our current model of human civilization that is becoming increasingly cancerous in nature. Among the main reasons for this tipping balance humanity and nature are the immense fear, insecurity and competition that largely drive most of today's business world. These emotional disturbances make us more and more pre-occupied with ourselves and unaware of the interconnected nature of all life.
Our decisions and actions arising from such unawareness tend to be exclusive in nature, only addressed at personal gains and unmindulf of the consequences on life as a whole.
What can change this destructive trend is greater levels of awareness; beginning with awareness of one's own emotional disturbances and culminating in the wareness of our interconnectedness with life as a whole. Only such an individual is truly a leader, capable of leading oneself as well as leading change in society...
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There was once a king who had the ability to foresee the future. As a result, he always remained prepared for war and surprised his enemies. He predicted droughts and had food grains and water stored for his subjects. The King grew very proud of himself for his prosperous kingdom now spanned the length and breadth of the country& his subjects were very happy under his rule. However, the King was rarely happy. He discussed this with the scholars in his court and no one could understand what made him unhappy. One of them suggested that he go and meet a very wise sage who lived in the mountains bordering the kingdom. However, it was understood that the sage remained engrossed in deep meditation for most part of his life and rarely opened his eyes or spoke to anyone. In his burning quest for happiness, the King decided to take a chance.
It was an arduous journey over several days before the King finally stood in the presence of the sage. To his utter good fortune, the sage opened his eyes but spoke no more than just one sentence before slipping into deep meditation again. The sage said: ‘Look not ahead, but behind.’ The King found no solution to his unhappiness for nothing made any sense to him. He returned deeply disappointed & pondered over the statement for several days.
One day, The King was enjoying a bowl of soup so much that he couldn’t resist asking who had prepared it. The Chef was immediately brought in his presence. As the King stepped forward to reward him, the Chef just made a mention that he was grateful to the grocerer who supplied such tasty & fresh vegetables. When the grocerer was summoned to court, he thanked the farmer. The farmer went on to thank his loving wife, his horses and his fertile farm-land. In a flash, the King suddenly realized what the sage’s words implied; he saw how much was going on behind a single bowl of soup.
He realized how he had spent his life believing he was responsible for the well-being of his kingdom. This led him to magnify his own greatness to such an extent that he virtually had no space for anyone else in his heart. Now, he could see how many people were responsible for his well-being and also that of the kingdom. He saw how innumerable factors in the universe were coming together to make life possible for him and was awestruck at the vastness of life.As he reminisced the contributions of his own family, of every member of the royal court, every citizen, every soldier in the army, nature and God, he felt deeply connected to every one of them. For the first time in his life, he experienced a deep sense of fulfillment and happiness in his heart.
Human life in many ways could be compared to that of the King & particularly so in today’s busy and fast-moving world. We remain ever more engaged in securing a better future and ensuring we stay clear of trouble. Wouldn’t it be good to sometimes pause and reflect on how much goes behind each of our aspirations and achievements? Is life merely a never-ending conquest of success.
Every one of us is gifted in some way but the question is, are our gifts in life going to make us more and more individualistic and disconnected or grateful and connected? It is very easy to assume that our life runs entirely on ‘our’ strengths and abilities but doesn’t really take much to see how the entire universe is constantly coming together to forge the reality we so easily claim as ‘our achievements’.
Gratitude isn’t about denying our efforts or disowning our achievements; it is about seeing our efforts as a continuum of the love and efforts of many more people. It is about seeing ourselves in a larger perspective, that ‘we’ are inseparable from the web of life and never really alone in this Universe.
We at One World Academy take this opportunity to thank all our staff, wonderful friends and team members world over for their love, support and kindness that are so inseparably intertwined with our growth and success. On our second anniversary, our hearts go out to each of you with friendship & love.
A special note to our loving organizers and hosts: You have opened not only your hearts but your homes as well and we are deeply grateful for the love and kindness. We look forward to reciprocating all of it & much more at our new Spiritual Campus in India. We send our heartfelt prayers that you and your families remain ever blessed with every form of well-being, growth and prosperity and continue to share your love, kindness & understanding with the world.
In deep Gratitude,
Krishna-Preetha& One World Academy faculty.
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Here are a few important pillars that hold a relationship and one of them is commitment. The moment you read this probably you already feel a resistance to it or you feel challenged if you had taken a stand against “commitment”. I request you to bear with me and make this journey right through to the end, because what you mean by commitment and what I mean by commitment need not necessarily be the same.
How do relationships begin? Why is it that we like some and we don’t like some? Relationships begin when you strike a chord with the other. You could say a bell rings or a light glows if you want to romanticize it but in terms of psychology, we could say that the other person fits your frameworks. Your values, ideas or priorities match and that’s when you derive joy out of relating to a person. Once a relationship is formed there after you need to pursue it. It needs to be watered or nurtured otherwise; it would wither and fall away. A relationship begins with a choice you make or a decision you take. To have the other person in your life is a choice you make and with choice is born commitment. Thereafter it is your commitment in that relationship that would determine to which level you take that relationship.
Even after many years of relating, few relationships are still a bonsai because people have not given a part of themselves to nourish and nurture that relationship. Human being is not merely gross and physical but sentient and responsive. Hence we not only have physical needs but also have emotional needs. A relationship becomes enduring, long standing and enriching only if we meet the needs of each other on a consistent basis. This is the very foundation for any relationship. So the question is where do you want this relationship to be? If you are very clear and you have made a conscious choice that you need this person in your life, and then you need to reach out to the emotional needs of the other person. His/her happiness must become your priority. If you see that this relationship would not be emotionally healthy for the two of you then you need to make a decision from this place of clarity. All of us have a need for love and significance. We want to know that we are loved and needed by the other. We wish to have meaningful relationships. Commitment is to reach out to the other and make the ther’s happiness a priority in your life. It is letting the person know, you care.
Many a time people equate commitment to bondage or sacrifice. The meaning you give determines your attitude towards it. When you look upon it as a burden, there is a tendency to evade it or avoid it; there is aversion or repulsion to it. You nurture grouse and anger on the person. You try to fulfill their demands because you do not want any problems from them. On the other hand if you understand relationships are capable of giving you tremendous fulfillment your attitude shifts. You start seeing what is it that you would feel if that person would be happy or proud of you. When you think that you are doing something solely for the other person’s sake and there is no choice for you, then it appears burdensome. Let us ponder; do we really perform something solely for the sake of the other? Is such a selfless action possible? When we fulfill somebody’s need and light up a smile on somebody’s face, it brings tremendous joy and fulfillment to our heart. Don’t we fall in love with that feeling and try to get back there again and again in life? It is our need to feel joy and fulfillment that propels us to reach out to someone else. Probably it is also one of nature’s designs of symbiosis.
A shift in attitude happens when we become conscious of our choices and pay attention to our needs and frameworks that drive us to choose a particular person in our life in exclusion to the others. You have made this decision that this person is important for your joy and fulfillment. Hence you are happy to reach out to their needs and fulfill them. Commitment is a harbinger of joy and fulfillment.
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Newsletter September 2011
There are various perceptions on human life. One of the views compartmentalizes life into 4 segments, namely pursuit of wealth, enjoyment of pleasure, service and contribution, spiritual awakening. Life moves on in a linear progression where one is required to complete one activity and then move on to the other. Probably the intention behind such precise demarcation could be to give an opportunity to experience and enjoy every aspect of life and that everything has its accorded place. While it could help bring greater order into life, it has also brought in huge conflict in terms of people trying to quickly overcome the first three stages and rushing towards spiritual awakening.
Is it possible to divide life and cut it into pieces as you would cut a melon? Life has to be taken in its totality. How could spirituality be excluded from everyday experiences of life? Is spirituality a different way of life? No. It is like a pinch of salt that dissolves into the entirety of your food and makes it taste good. It enhances, nourishes and rejuvenates your experience of life.
Many a time people equate spirituality to a particular life style or a way of life, like simplicity, austerity, being environment friendly,eating a particular kind of food (may be organic vegetarian food), living in a community amidst nature etc. At One World Academy, we believe the kind of life style you have adopted is a matter of choice determined by many factors. What is important however, is your state of mind while living in a metropolis, driving your Mercedes, on a business conference or living in a modest setting amidst nature, going green, being vegan.Are you happy or unhappy? Do you feel connected with the people you work or live with? Are you experiencing life every moment or are you waiting for a joyous moment to be born? Spirituality to us is to make every moment a better moment. It is to live life in awareness.
Society and civilization has progressed to an extent where we could gratify the needs of our body and our mind in outrageously lavish ways. But that does not necessarily mean we have become happier people. What joy could a Ferrari possibly give a man who is caught in a psychological conflict or an emotional disturbance? What fulfillment could living amidst nature give someone who is not at peace with himself or herself? Happiness comes with an ability to live and perceive life from a different state of mind. Spirituality to us is not a different way of life but to live a life of awareness. As we wake up to ourselves and take responsibility for the way we feel and experience, wealth and pleasure acquire a greater meaning and purpose in life.
The sharp divide between material and spiritual life also arises owing to the belief that pursuit of wealth is strictly a self-centered activity and there is no care or consideration for a greater well being. If we can bring in greater integrity, compassion, care, sharing and contribution into it then this very pursuit of wealth becomes a spiritual activity.
1. Redefine spirituality for yourself
2. Understand spirituality is not an alternative way of living life. It is to live life in awareness
3. Spiritualize your pursuit of wealth by giving a greater meaning to wealth itself.
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Newsletter August 2011
If you’ve ever watched an artist painting a portrait, you would’ve definitely noticed that while the artist stands close to the canvas and applies those delicate strokes carefully, once in a while he/she also steps further away and observes the painting from a larger perspective. The broader perspective of the painting offers him/her greater clarity as to how to proceed with the subtler details when he/she steps closer the next time.
Our journey of life is quite similar to this process; there are times when we need to dwell upon details and ‘zoom-in’ while there are times when seeing the larger picture or ‘zooming-out’ may offer us the solution we are seeking. What exactly are we discussing here? If we observe ourselves on a day-to-day basis, so much of time and energy is being invested in building up our ‘personal’ lives & the sense of ‘me’ in terms of our achievements, status, wealth or attractiveness. It is this process we are referring to as ‘zooming-in’ or a microscopic perception. Too much of dwelling upon minute details could end up making us myopic and incapable of perceiving that there exists a larger meaning or purpose to life than what meets our eyes. Further, while achievement or success in life may result from this microscopic perspective, fulfillment or joy is always the outcome of a macroscopic awareness of the interconnectedness of life.
In stark contrast with many orthodox spiritual traditions, One World Academy does not dismiss this attitude as being detrimental to higher awakening. We maintain that while one cannot do away with this nature, one could always complement it by expanding one’s awareness to become inclusive of their connectedness with the universe. As we learn to see our achievements& growth in life as a confluence of innumerable situations and the kindness and efforts of many people, there surges a growing sense of gratitude in our hearts. Such a macroscopic perspective would help us realize how our achievements and growth in life fit into a larger picture, thus resulting in consequences for many others.This is the birth of responsibility; one that is born from compassion and connectedness.
Moving into such a place of awareness from time to time would obviously refresh our brain and hearts and break the monotony of repetitive thought, thus boosting our intelligence & enabling us to dwell on details in life better. This compassion and connectedness would also serve to deepen our awareness of the Presence or the ‘One’; the sacred thread of life that underlies the entire universe.
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Newsletter July 2011
When it comes to handling challenges in life, we resort either to our physical or intellectual resources. ‘Physical’ includes not only the bodily strength but also our finances and other material resources in the physical realm. Those that may be weak on one or more of these may tend to have a leaning towards their intellectual abilities in terms of their creative ideas, knowledge, convincing speech, literary skills or their ability to process information. But what does one do when one feels he/she has reached the ebb of these resources and has still not found a solution? The natural reaction is one of distress, blame and feeling like a ‘victim of circumstances’. One feels there is nothing more one could possibly do except feel hapless and wait for the tide to turn.
While some perceive it as a trap or a forced victimization and subject themselves to an endless loop of suffering, others experience it as a calling into something deeper; something that has long remained debated, incomprehensible and hence, unexplored in modern civilization- the experience of the Higher Self, Divine Presence or the Sacred. Most people’s first reaction to the very mention of these concepts is that it sounds like some mumbo-jumbo, far removed from ‘scientific’ understanding and rationale. While there may not be grand theories and equations that outline the mysterious ways in which this phenomenon of the Divine presence unfolds, there are innumerable empirical instances across millennia that highlight the immensely benevolent and healing nature of this experience. It is only wise that we do not discard these experiences as mere hearsay or unscientific, for that would prevent us from exploring further and arriving at a better understanding.
So, what exactly are we referring to when we speak of the Presence or the Higher Self? At One World Academy, we are referring to a deeper place in oneself, wherein one awakens to the infinite, all-pervasive and non-divisive nature of consciousness. This is an experience of the one life force that manifests as the many and ultimately arises as this ‘universe’ we experience around us. While it may seem effortless to merely coin an intellectual understanding of the fact that all life is ultimately interlinked and one, it is an entirely different experience to feel, see and awaken to it- Just as the love or kindness that is merely being discussed versus that which is being directly experienced or felt in one’s heart. Merely propounding a grand concept of the presence isn’t very helpful but to discover or awaken to this great inner strength, immanent in us could be life changing.
So, what does it take to awaken to the presence? It begins first of all with realizing that we do not end where our physical or intellectual resources end; our existence extends much deeper than merely these, in terms of deeper realms of consciousness. Moving into these deeper realms of consciousness may often be the solution to problems that cannot be solely addressed by the other two resources in life, for it is here we unmask infinite possibilities and potentials to life. Secondly, as we meditate on the all-pervasive nature of the presence on a consistent basis, we awaken to it. This becomes possible as we nurture gratitude. In becoming aware of the interconnectedness of life, we grow in gratitude. If we could spend just 10 minutes each day meditating on how many factors, situations, people are continuously coming together to define our experience of life every moment, we would realize how inseparable we are from all life. Our hearts would surge in gratitude, which opens the doors to the sacred realm of the Presence in us.
While this presence could be experienced as a formless, deep inner sense of sweetness, joy, love, a powerful field of awareness or an immense sense of sacredness in the heart, it could also be experienced as a very friendly, benevolent and loving ‘presence’ that is guiding us along every step of life. Holding a clear intent or sending a prayer from such a place of connectedness would set into motion a chain of transformational events that would ultimately culminate in not only a solution to challenges, but also a much more compassionate, joyous and intelligent individual, capable of greater love and care.
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