Living In Between the Answers

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. 

Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given to you, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything. 

Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”   -Ranier Maria Rilke

I first heard this quote read by my yoga instructor at the end of one of our sessions.  It got me thinking about how much we try to make sense of things that happen around us – especially, when they involve pain and suffering. 

We spoke Monday about learning how to ride the wave of our lives.  How do we navigate through the inevitable turmoil, stress, and pain that are part of the natural wave?  What can we do to nurture ourselves as we move through the challenges?  I came up with a few strategies.

1.  Take a moment.  Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling.  If emotions arise, let them come to the surface, instead of pushing them down.  Take time out of your day to be still – even if it’s only for a few minutes.  Too often, we try to fill our days so we don’t have to feel, when in reality, giving our emotions the space they need, will help cleanse the mind. 

2.  Move your Body.  We all know how closely linked our minds and bodies are.  During times of high stress, exercising is a great remedy.  Maybe you take a walk outdoors and breathe in some fresh air.  Perhaps, you sign up for a yoga class.  Maybe you recruit a good friend to be a running buddy.  Make some form of exercise a priority.

3.  Find Support.  Remember, we can’t go through life alone.  Lean on the people in your life that you trust and who have your best interest at heart.  Share your feelings, and allow them to be your safety net.  Often, we will find that those closest to us have gone through similar circumstances and give us solace that we are not alone.  Sometimes, that’s enough.

4.  Focus on Gratitude.  This is such a powerful tool to help us through any tough time.  Remind yourself of the things that are going right in your life (and, I guarantee, there are MANY).  I have a gratitude journal that I keep.  You may want to start by writing 5 things you are grateful for when you first start your day or before you go to bed.  There will soon be a shift in your perception.

5.  Feed your Soul.  There are many different ways to do this.  Give your soul the love it needs.  What are the simple things that give you pleasure?  Maybe it’s taking a warm bath or booking a massage for yourself.  Maybe you relish reading a good book on your couch.  Perhaps, you spend some quality time with your spouse or kids cooking a meal together.  How about that painting class you’ve been meaning to sign up for?  Whatever it is that brings you some small level of joy, provide it to yourself. 

6.  Accept Where You Are.  This is challenging for many of us.  We want so badly to be out of our circumstance.  But when we can fully embrace this time as just part of our journey, we realize that the wave never stands still.  It is always moving forward, as we will, too.    

Can you create some space to live between the answers?  Can you live and love the questions that arise? 

A Lesson from the African Animals

“Jaambo” to all my readers!  I can hardly believe I had the opportunity to visit the amazing land of East Africa last month.  This was an experience like no other I have had in my life.  By far, the best part of the trip was being on safari – being a voyeur into the lives of hundreds of animals in their own habitat.  I remember sitting in a 15-seater plane, flying over the magestic Serengeti, looking down at one of the largest game reserves in Africa, extending from Northern Tanzania to Kenya.   

It is an indescribable feeling to watch animals living within their natural environment.  There is a sense of peace and calm as the wildebeests gather around the water hole, the giraffes stretch their long legs with a dainty gait, a baby elephant nurses, a sleeping leopard rests a paw off a tree branch.  One of the things we know about animals living in a shared enviroment with other animals is that it is all about survival.  In order to survive, or should I say thrive, in their environment they must pay attention.  They have to take heed to all the  signals around them all the time.  They must be present to what is happening in the moment – all the time.  Without being present, they could lose the opportunity to find food/prey or, rather be the one preyed upon.  Without using their natural instincts, they would lose direction during a migration.  Without paying attention, they might never learn to be self-sufficient and, in turn, teach their offspring how to survive.  Animals must be present to what is before them in order to adapt to life.  Humans are no different.

I noticed on my safari that life for the animals is a series of present moments strung together – after all, isn’t that what it should be?  Although as humans we are not forced to always be in flight or fight mode from being preyed upon, many of us live in a constant state of stress which can mimick the same response in our bodies.   We do this when we spend time analyzing and re-analyzing the past, bringing it into our present day.  We do this when we refuse to accept what is.  We do this when we resist that people in our lives are anything other than who they are.  Why do we do this?  Because we don’t have the answers we need.  Because we long for something that is “long gone”.  Because we identify with some form of ourselves that we miss.  Unfortunately, what we really miss are the opportunities that lie before us today.  As cliche as it is, we truly only have the present moment.  Animals know this on a very raw, visceral level.  Their lives depend on it.  In many ways, so do ours.  **More life lessons from Tanzania on Wednesday!

Deepali’s Piece of Wellness:  This week, give yourself permission to be aware of your surroundings and utilize all your senses.  Where are your instincts leading you?  Can you trust them?  Challenge yourself to be present and awake this week.

The simple pleasures

The other evening, as I stepped out of my home to take a jog, I noticed a beautiful sunset through the corner of my eye.  It wasn’t just any sunset – there was a radiance of bright, orange hues illuminating the sky, and the sun appeared unbelievably large with a wavey outline over the horizon.  It was as though it was just sitting on the grassy area behind the trees.  I was only able to catch glimpses of the rays from where I stood, so I turned toward it and walked closer.  I had to cross a busy intersection and take a turn around the path to make it through the trees.  When I got there, just a minute or two later, it was gone.  The sun had set, and the sky immediately began to turn shades of pink and purple.  I was still in awe of how beautiful it had looked and was happy I got to experience it for a brief moment. 

How quickly moments pass us by.  When we pause and appreciate the beauty of a moment, we drink the juice of life.  Don’t be in such a rush.  I tell myself this, often.  Remember, to use the six senses we have (I consider “intuition” our sixth sense!).  What can you sense from your ability to see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and feel in the moment?

Being present means showing up….as in NOW.  It’s not about carrying around our heavy baggage from the past.  It’s not about constantly lunging forward to the next best thing.  It means NOW.  Take a moment today to pause……savor the simple pleasures.

Looking in the Rear-View Mirror

Having a rear-view mirror in our cars is crucial to our driving and our safety.  Per DMV guidelines, we should be shifting our gaze slightly upward and toward the right  into our mirrors every 2-4 seconds.  Although, this is an important habit to develop while we’re behind the wheel, is it really the smartest practice in life?  I pondered this the other day as I carefully veered into the next lane, assuring I had given the SUV behind me ample warning by turning on my indicator. 

I thought about how often we live by the visions in our rear-view mirrors.  After all, it is safe there.  What we see is familiar and clear…..we feel complacent, because we can view our surroundings with absolute certainty.  We make decisions by what we see from behind, or what we know of our past.  Just as a tail-gaiter creates some anxiety, so we speed up or slow down in life, accordingly, by the experiences we have had. 

Though many of us use our past as a GPS for navigating through our future, how can a future exist if we are constantly looking backward?  Just because we have been rear-ended before, doesn’t mean we drive through life afraid of pushing down the accelerator.   Maybe it feels easier to forever drive in the right-most lane, letting others pass us by.  Or maybe,  we are so cautious that we park ourselves in our comfort zone, afraid to get hurt again.  Will that really get you from where you are to where you want to be?  Too often, we become jaded by what has already happened in our lives.  It does not define us, nor limit us from going to the places we need to go in order to have a fulfilling life.  Be present.  Have faith in what lies ahead, even if you can’t see it yet.  Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul  series, talks about the headlights of a car allowing us to drive hundreds of miles in the dark.  We can only do that, because we trust the next 200 feet will continually be illuminated for us.  They will guide us to our destination. 

It’s important to look behind from time to time, and it’s even okay to allow what is behind us to shape some of our decisions.  But, also remember this:  Though we can’t see too far ahead, especially during a downpour of rain that may be gushing at our windshield of life, we might catch ourselves turning a corner on the road, barely in time to discover a rainbow.  We just have to be present and shift our gaze to what’s currently in front of us.

Deepali’s Piece of Wellness:  Are  you living in your past?  What can you do to speed up to your present?  Can you challenge yourself to be content with where you are and embrace it?  Think about 3 things you need to do this week to change the gears and live for today.  I guarantee I will be doing the same!

Peace at a Snail’s Pace

***Apologies for no post on Wednesday – technical difficulties*******

photo by Evies54


We spoke Monday on the gift of silence in helping us become more aware of gratitude and peace in the midst of a world that is on speed-dial.  Have you ever wondered how, over the past 50 years, our world has become obsessed with the “bigger and faster” concept?  We now want a 50″ tv, when a 19″ one would have sufficed, we have microwaves to heat our food quicker, we are able to get in touch with friends via phone, text, or email in real time, we are able to perform multiple activities at the same time….or can we??

Even though I love wireless over dial-up so I can “speed” through checking my email, I started thinking about my day-to-day pace.  Although 24 hours in a day may just not seem enough sometimes, does cramming in several tasks at once really work?  Can we really give our full attention to a friend in need if we are thinking about our next appointment?   Can we really taste our food if we’re busy watching tv?  Can we just sit and read a good book without judging ourselves for not being productive?  I remember a quote – “Life is what happens when we’re busy doing other things”.  Isn’t that the truth? 

Surprisingly, I came across the perfect devotion this morning in my DAILY OM mailbox.  For many of you who have followed my posts, you know how much I love this site.  It is titled “Enjoying a Snail’s Pace”.  I am certain if you read it (at a snail’s pace!) and really take it in, it will remind you of the importance of being present – to each moment in your life and feeling at peace in the process!

Enjoy your weekend!

Attitude of Gratitude

Each night before I go to bed, I silence my mind and give thanks for the events of my day and also for the good that is yet to come.  For a long time, it was harder for me to give thanks for the moments that had been particular challenging on a given day or for the situations in which I had struggled.  Going down the “why me” path was always so much easier and required little to no attention.  Just as the pathway to a knee-jerk reflex does not involve looping through the brain, so is the incessant, negative self-talk we give ourselves.  The only way to break the cycle is to be present (as we discussed last week) and be grateful

Feeling gratitude is one of the kriyas that can truly send your wellness quotient flying, not to mention change your life in the process.  There has been a lot of research showing that those who practice an attitude of gratitude have a more positive outlook on life, improved social connections, and better sleep patterns.  Dr. Robert Emmons from the University of California, Davis (my alma mater!) is currently developing a tool to measure the level of gratitude people show in their lives. 

So, why should we adopt an attitude of gratitude?  I came up with 5 of my own reasons:

1.  What we focus on, multiplies.  When we focus on what is going right in our lives, we find that our lives actually begin to feel quite abundant.  We find so many things to be thankful for, just by taking a few minutes to re-focus. 

2.  We feel happier.  Who wouldn’t be happy when they focus on what they have, not what they lack. 

3.  It reminds us of what’s important in life.  It’s harder to complain about your work, when you are grateful for having a job.  It’s harder to feel sorry for yourself, when you are grateful for having a family that loves you.  It’s harder to be upset about home renovations, when you are grateful to have a home not affected by a tsunami. 

4.  It allows us to appreciate those around us.  It’s so important to acknowledge the people in your lives.   Thank that stranger for letting you have the parking spot.  Compliment your best friend if you like her outfit.  Tell someone why you’re grateful to have them in your life.  It will make their day….and yours!

5.  We are able to exude a positive vibe.  When we display gratitude, it makes others want to jump on the bandwagon and think about what they are thankful for also.  It is infectious, like laughter.  People are attracted to it and are more apt to pay it forward. 

To sum up, let me just say this:  Be grateful for what you have, be grateful for what you don’t have, be grateful for what is coming your way, but most importantly, be ever so grateful for where you are in your life today.  If you can rise up to that space, you will literally shift the vibration of your life.  ***Check back Wednesday for techniques to help you exercise your gratitude muscle!

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  This week, start and end each day with at least 5 things that fuel you with gratitude!

Each New Moment…..

“Every morning is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new. Today is a new day. Today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment–this day–is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day–each moment of this day–a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity”.
— Dan Custer

What if we could really live every day like that?  The truth is, we can.  It is a choice we make each day, each moment.  No matter what has happened in our past, no matter what fears we hold for the future, we get to choose whether to accept the gift that is offered to us every minute of the day – and not a moment sooner or a moment later!

Have a wonderful weekend!

photo by Wendy Ku

A Balance between Past and Future

It is impossible not to reflect upon our past or envision our future.  In fact, I don’t even think it is entirely unhealthy to do so. 

Our past has taught us valuable lessons and shaped who we have become.  We can look back at mistakes we made and have the knowledge to take a different route.  We can recall vivid memories of happy times when we learned to ride a bike or when we fell in love. 

There are also times when we have to think ahead and decide how to save money for college or book a family vacation. Many of us make plans for the future by setting an intention, writing down goals, and envisioning an outcome. 

Both the past and future do deserve some recognition, however problems arise when we live in either space.  We choose to live in the past if we hold onto regrets, anger, disappointments, or even constant nostalgia of happy times gone.  These things have already happened.  We choose to live in the future if we worry, build anxiety, or create a variety of scenarios and outcomes in our head.  The future has not yet arrived. 

Eckhart Tolle states that the remedy to get over your past is forgiveness.  “Forgiveness happens naturally as soon as you realize that the past cannot prevail against the power of Presence”.  And, as far as the future goes, “You create a good future by creating a good present”.  It always comes back to the Now.  Do you think you are feeding all your energy to your past, forsaking the present?  Are you obsessing about the future and hoping that your life will catch up to it?  Maybe you don’t like your present circumstances and are re-living times that were better or creating fantasies about escaping into the future.  How do you deal with a heartbreak, a job loss, an illness when it truly feels like your current reality? 

You stay in the Now.  In the most literal sense, you take each individual moment and become aware of it.  For in that space, the present space, there is stillness in the midst of chaos.  You can breathe here.  And if you can string together many of these peaceful moments, you can free yourself from the bars of your past and the angst of the future.  That is your balance point.

In the Here and Now

photo by GoodShot

How many of you have a list of things in your head right now that need to get done?  Mid-morning meeting. Check.  Quick lunch at desk. Check.  4pm pilates class. Check.  Pick up kids. Check.  Grocery shop. Check.  Our days (and minds) are full of countless check marks.  With all the items on our to-do list, how many of us really pay attention to the tasks we’re actually performing?  Can you even remember being at that work meeting?  Were you tasting the food you ate for lunch?  Were you listening to your kids when they told you about their day at school?  In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be mindful and present to what we are doing.  Are you feeling overwhelmed or overworked? You may appreciate reading a great article by Leo Babauta, creater of the website Zen Habits, to offer you some tips. 

I think being mindful of the things on your to-do list, whatever they may be, will allow you to be more productive.  No task is too mundane to discount your full presence into it.  There are three meanings to the word present: here, now, and gift.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence.  Being in the here and now allows us to appreciate the gift of the moment.  

This week, let’s try to be mindful of our days.  Use ALL your senses.  Take in the light of the sun shining through your window, feel the soft fur of your puppy against your skin, listen to the sound of a train in the distance, smell the aroma of flowers on your walk outside, taste the savory flavors in the meal you’ve cooked for dinner.  Note to self:  remember that using our senses and being present brings color into our day-to-day lives.  Check.   ***Stay tuned for more discussion on how to be present.

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  Take one full minute each hour of your day to reconnect with your breath, your self, and your surroundings.

The Deeper Seed of Happiness

When it comes to spirituality, there are few teachers that compare to Eckhart Tolle.  I have read the book below and I highly recommend it to all.  There are many spiritual life lessons packed inside.  This is an excerpt from the January ’09 issue of O magazine. 

Oneness with All Life by Eckhart Tolle
  1. Don’t seek happiness. If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness. Happiness is ever elusive, but freedom from unhappiness is attainable now, by facing what is rather than making up stories about it.
  2. The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is. There is the situation or the fact, and here are my thoughts about it. Instead of making up stories, stay with the facts. For example, “I am ruined” is a story. It limits you and prevents you from taking effective action. “I have 50 cents left in my bank account” is a fact. Facing facts is always empowering.
  3. See if you can catch the voice in your head, perhaps in the very moment it complains about something, and recognize it for what it is: the voice of the ego, no more than a thought. Whenever you notice that voice, you will also realize that you are not the voice, but the one who is aware of it. In fact, you are the awareness that is aware of the voice. In the background, there is the awareness. In the foreground, there is the voice, the thinker. In this way you are becoming free of the ego, free of the unobserved mind.
  4. Wherever you look, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence for the reality of time—a rotting apple, your face in the bathroom mirror compared with your face in a photo taken 30 years ago—yet you never find any direct evidence, you never experience time itself. You only ever experience the present moment.
  5. Why do anxiety, stress, or negativity arise? Because you turned away from the present moment. And why did you do that? You thought something else was more important. One small error, one misperception, creates a world of suffering.
  6. People believe themselves to be dependent on what happens for their happiness. They don’t realize that what happens is the most unstable thing in the universe. It changes constantly. They look upon the present moment as either marred by something that has happened and shouldn’t have or as deficient because of something that has not happened but should have. And so they miss the deeper perfection that is inherent in life itself, a perfection that lies beyond what is happening or not happening. Accept the present moment and find the perfection that is untouched by time.
  7. The more shared past there is in a relationship, the more present you need to be; otherwise, you will be forced to relive the past again and again.
  8. Equating the physical body with “I,” the body that is destined to grow old, wither, and die, always leads to suffering. To refrain from identifying with the body doesn’t mean that you no longer care for it. If it is strong, beautiful, or vigorous, you can appreciate those attributes—while they last. You can also improve the body’s condition through nutrition and exercise. If you don’t equate the body with who you are, when beauty fades, vigor diminishes, or the body becomes incapacitated, this will not affect your sense of worth or identity in any way. In fact, as the body begins to weaken, the light of consciousness can shine more easily.
  9. You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you and allowing that goodness to emerge.
  10. If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace.

Exerpted from Oneness with All Life by Eckhart Tolle. Published by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copywright © 2008 by Eckhart Tolle