The Mountains of the Mind

DSC_0174_edited

We were sitting in balcony of a hotel room that faces wide stretch of wilderness and shaded green grass that only seemed to end where the mountains start. The morning air was crisp. Slight chill in the air hinted at the gradual onslaught of winter. Chirping birds of wilderness celebrated the hope that each morning sunshine brings along.

In that moment, gazing at the illuminated mountain peaks, there was no thought of the past, no anxiety over the future, just the beautiful present moment. I believe that only when we completely lose ourselves in the joy of the present moment that Divine manifests itself. In this case, we were watching the dawn breaking from other side of the bluish mountains and moments later, the first rays of Sun illuminating Himalayan mountain peaks. That moment felt like eternity.

Life has a way to entangle us in the very stuff that enables it. Work, health, relationships and our own heart and mind. Untangling ourselves from these threads takes conscious effort to walk away from the chores of life, minimize, disconnect and pursue experiences that feed our soul. Nature always has a way to lift us.

It is only when we overcome the mountains of our mind, that we can truly experience the beauty and abundance that lies on the other side.

Life’s Good

trail

Everyday is a journey and the journey itself is home.

At Sukhna Lake, Bird Watching Trail.

Wilderness, thin-layered clouds overseeing the mountains, water bodies with deep jungle in the background and birds chirping around – life is good!

The Season Within!

Varala_Statue

Finland experiences a very harsh winter. Many years back when I visited Finland in the peak of winter season, I asked one of my Finnish colleagues, “It must be very hard for you to endure the harsh winter and snow all around just like we in India endure harsh summer season.”

He replied, “In fact, my kids wait for winter and snow so that they can go skiing and do ice fishing on the frozen lakes.”

I quickly realized that I underestimated human ability to choose an attitude. I understood that

the season outside does not matter as long you carry your own spring within.

Don’t we all see people who are grumpy even when weather is pleasant and ones who are pleasant even when weather is grumpy?

The nights and days may be gray but if there is joy inside, if there is hope that snow whirling from sky will eventually give way to sunshine and blossom, any season is a good season.

From that day onwards, I gave up cribbing about the weather, for I know that I and we carry our seasons along.

I am reminded of a 100 word story that I wrote in 2013.

A retired weatherman was once questioned by a friend, “What kind of weather is it going to be tomorrow?”

“The kind of weather I am going to love,” was the instant response with a gentle smile on his wrinkled face. “How do you know that it will be the weather you will love?” the friend was curious.

The weatherman went on to explain, “35 years in weather department has taught me just one thing: there is no bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. To make the most of everything that doesn’t go as planned is an attitude thing!”

– – – – –

And here are some more pictures from that amazing trip to the land of frozen lakes.

Nasijaarvi_snow

Snow capped trees on the banks of a frozen Nasijaarvi lake, Varala Resort, Tampere, Finland.

Pispala_Shore

Frozen Pyhajaarvi lake from the ridge of Pispala, Tampere, Finland.

Pispala_Bench

I am.

DSC_0552

My son loves being a cop and always ends up making a thief of me. The other day, during this role play, I asked him, “Who are you?” and he almost instantly replied, “I am no one.” I instructed him to say, “I am a policeman” and we resumed our play.

Later that day, it occurred to me that kids don’t really have an identity outside the confines of home and school. As we grow and learn from things around us, we pursue learning and endeavors for years to build an identity. The quest for an identity, of being “someone” often feeds our false beliefs and egos – so much so that we become immune to new experiences in this process of becoming someone.

DSC_1460

What if we chose to just “be” – perfectly in harmony with our real selves, going where our energy takes us, being in the moment and doing stuff that we truly love? What if we just enjoy every step along the journey as a celebration of our being? What if we just do the work without worrying about what it will make of us? What if we are driven by love rather than anxiety?

Life is never a race, but a glorious opportunity to uniquely express ourselves through our endeavors. And when we are immersed in the joy of expressing ourselves through our work, every thing around us melts. We become no one – just like my son who doesn’t have time to care for who he is while playing with his toys!

The path to “being someone” is to first “be no one”. Only when we keep these self-delusionary external labels aside that we can focus on our true expression. Only then an we become truly human with others. Only then we rise!

We think we are in this world and therefore try to find our place in it. But the reality is that our world is within us and that space within can only be tapped when we break through the chains of external identities.

I am not this or that.

I just am. 

– – – – –

Pictures from my December 2016 explorations – Amsterdam and Chail (Himachal Pradesh)

The Fog of Life

Our train to Chandigarh encountered heavy fog on that winter morning. At one point when visibility was less than 100 meters, I thought the train will not move forward. We had little choice but to stay put and trust that things will start moving. And it did, although quite slowly.

It was an interesting setting. When I got down of the train at a quaint station to click some pictures (and also stretch a leg after hours of non-stop journey), my mind went on a train of thoughts as it usually does during travel.

The train. Dense fog around. People moving here and there on the platform. The hazy trees at a distance. It all seemed very familiar. I felt as if I had seen this before. We all have probably seen it before.

A lot of our life is like this. If you can clearly see the path before you, you may be amongst the lucky few. For the rest of us, it is mostly difficult to see past the haze and uncertainty of the very next moment. But we move on, even if slowly, with a hope to get to clearer views. We trust something within ourselves and something beyond us and that keeps things moving. We persevere and keep the faith and suddenly, the vistas clear up offering magnificent views. The struggle through the fog makes it even more special.

The next time I am surrounded by fog in life, I will remember this – that the tracks are still in place, the green hazy trees at a distance will get clearer, hope will guide me there. That I need to trust the process.

That I need to just keep walking.

 

Open Hand, Open Mind!

A hand that helps, they say, is holier than lips that pray.

The drivers of all human progress, our hands have been our most important tool right from the time someone rubbed two stones to create fire to this date when we use our hands on the keyboard and everything in between.

Hands, they also say, are the visible part of a person’s mind. Could that be a reason why you often get to know a lot about the other person by simply shaking hands? And could that be the reason why people shook hands as early as 5th Century BC when language was not so sophisticated?

A mother’s touch is instantly soothing. A friends touch quickly affirms. A beloved’s touch conveys warmth and love. Different expressions using the same tools – our hands.

“When the hand is at rest, the face is at rest; but a lively hand is the product of a lively mind.” – John Napier

These thoughts and more came to me when I visited the Open Hand Monument – a 26 meters tall structure with an open hand designed by French architect Le Corbusier who also designed the city of Chandigarh. It is believed that the open hand monument represents and open exchange of peace and reconciliation. Mountains in the backdrop, large open green space and surrounding wilderness made this a wonderful visit.

Located in the Capitol Complex, Open hand monument is an architectural wonder with beautiful landscaping and a very organic expression of one of the most powerful tools we possess – our hands. Talk about integrating the nature with architecture!

God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with. – Billy Graham

It was a gorgeous setting. Good design is powerful because it makes you think and I believe that the sole purpose of any art is to move us to a better place. My visit to this place left me mesmerized. Peacocks in the surrounding wilderness, bluish mountains at a distant, large green spaces and sun setting on the West. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I was trying to take a silhouette shot when the setting Sun said a hello from the open square in the structure. I quickly changed the camera settings to acknowledge and reciprocate.

I then proceeded to take the silhouette shot anyway.

“Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in your pocket.” – Anon

It is with our hands that we weave our lives, relationships and possibly fill meaning in our lives. The meaning we weave depends on how much we use our hands to lift others up, offer help and graciously receive the help when we need it. Just like this open hand, we need to open our minds, be receptive of opportunities to make a difference and then, use our hands to make that difference.

“Only an open heart can catch a dream.”

To me, that is the message of the Open Hand Monument.

From Kalka to Shimla: A Train To The Mountains

For me, journey to the mountains has never been about the height I physically climb, but the depth of experience I receive while traveling. It is said that nature is within us and what we see outside (and the depth of our experiences) is just a manifestation of what lies within us.

On our recent trip to Shimla (in the Himalayan mountain range), we decided to take the toy train journey from Kalka.

It is one of the most sought after train journeys in the country covering about 96 kilometers and offering exotic views along the way. It passes through 20 quaint stations, some 800 bridges and about 120 tunnels. The narrow gauge train line was built in 1903 by Britishers to access Shimla which was then, the Summer capital of the country. This train line is now on UNESCO’s world heritage rail sites.

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” – Corrie Ten Bloom

As the train ascended to the mountains, crossing dark and long tunnels followed by gorgeous views at every turn, lovely terrains and majestic mountains at a distance shadowed by the clouds, I could not stop thinking about how this trip resembles our own lives. Just like this ride, the journey of our life starts happily, goes through dark phases of struggles followed by good times and this cycle goes on till we reach our destination. When in dark tunnels, we surely could see the light at the end of every tunnel!

Old and colorful small stations along the way offered a refreshing break, although very brief. The air at these stations was crisp, fresh and filled with fragrances of food being served at the stations.

The play of clouds and the mountains was mesmerizing at best with every turn along the way offering spectacular views.

Seeing the distant villages on the mountain slopes and colorful houses made for quite a sight.

Every man has a train of thought on which he rides when he is alone.The dignity and nobility of his life, as well as his happiness, depends upon the direction in which that train is going, the baggage it carries, and the scenery through which it travels. — Joseph Fort Newton

My 9 years old daughter was so fascinated by the scenery that she could not help pulling out her drawing book and start sketching her own version of what she saw from glass window of the train. For me, it was easy to (try and) capture the beauty using my camera but for my daughter, the only tool she had was her own imagination – a gift we are all born with but lose eventually as education takes over.

When we finally reached our destination, seeing so many people at the station, we felt that the journey itself was much more interesting than the destination. And so it is with our lives too.

So, now that you have got onto the train, don’t forget to enjoy the ride!