Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bhagavad Gita Discussion: Intro and Chapter 1

Hello again, readers!

I certainly hope the idea of discussing the Bhagavad Gita in this blog will stir some interest in you. I mentioned why I wished to do so in the previous couple of posts, so read those if you want to know why I am doing this. The format of this discussion will be simple: after I read a chapter, I will post my impressions of it in a blog post, and after you read it you can post comments in the Comments section of each post. Blogger has set up a convenient format that way. :-) Perhaps at a later date I will give these posts their own page in this blog, but for now, please enjoy this discussion. Oh, important note: I'm using the Swami Dayananda Saraswati translation for this discussion. I heard it's a great translation.


Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1 Discussion: "Arjuna's Sorrow"

The first thing that comes to mind after I read this chapter is its purpose: to me, at least, this chapter serves as plot exposition more than anything else. I certainly find that handy in this case, not having read the rest of the Mahabharata. However, it certainly provides a great literary context for the purpose of the Bhagavad Gita: what better time to have the meaning of life taught to you than at the moment before partaking in an activity (in this case, battle) that will most likely lead to your death? I know I certainly would need a pep talk of that magnitude before I did anything so dangerous. The Bhagavad Gita is more than a pep talk, of course, but from a literary standpoint, it certainly entices one to read further.

That said, Arjuna's plight is one that I can somewhat sympathize with: I'm no soldier, but I know that feeling of paralysis that can overcome a person when doing the right thing is either unclear, or appearing impossible. It's the classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. Either way, there will be conflict, and consequences. When confronted with such choices, it's hard, at least for someone like me, to not feel some apprehension and hesitation. Again, I'm not one who fights battles like Arjuna, but I still fight battles every day, of a very different sort. For everyday people like myself, it could be said we fight wars every day.

That's about all I can think of to say on this chapter for now...again, at least to me it seems like plot exposition, but maybe you readers can pick up on something I might have missed. Arjuna's dilemma is definitely something I've picked up on, but maybe there's something else? Feel free to comment, readers.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Focus

Okay. In light of my blog being too negative and/or stale as of late - this is not only my own criticism, but the criticism of certain others - I'm going to give this blog a new focus. Prior to now, the Light Club blog has been a write-whatever-I-feel-like blog, and that has been both good and bad, in the sense that both my best and worst writing has wound up here. Somehow I figured maybe that's why it's become so stale and little more than a place for my meltdowns as of late. Regardless of whether or not my blog has become too negative or stale, a little extra focus on a particular topic never hurt anybody...or any blog, in this case.

So, with that in mind, I'm hoping to focus this blog to be more specific on my experiences with yoga, the Hindu faith, and its associated topics. I know I've talked about as much in some of the posts on here already, but what I mean precisely in this case is: if it doesn't have to do with the aforementioned topics, it's not getting posted here. I figure this should make the blog more interesting to my readers than the random thought-dump it has been.

It's often said that writers are their own worst critics. Regardless, though, I've managed to criticize myself constructively in this case, and that's why I'm doing what I'm doing now with this blog. This blog needs less randomness and more actual content.

In that regard, I do have one question I wish to ask my readers, in regards to this new direction, and I hope this will spark some participation: one idea I had in regards to this new focus is to do a discussion of the Bhagavad Gita on this blog, that is, read a chapter and then discuss said chapter in my blog. How would this be received by my readers? I'm no expert on the Bhagavad Gita, or Hinduism in general for that matter...I don't want to come across as an authority figure when I don't have the credentials. Would talking about the Bhagavad Gita on my blog bring participation, indifference, or ire? Please let me know what you think, as it will give me guidance on how to go about this, if at all.

Anyway, I hope you will appreciate this new focus of my blog. I know I certainly will. Namaste.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wanting More

I feel like I'm finally starting to respect myself. I have flaws, this
we all know, but I have good qualities I want to nourish. The point of
that statement is that maybe since I have more self-respect, I can
finally work on effectively helping others...but I don't know what
would be the best way... Oftentimes in my day-to-day interactions my
social anxiety gets in the way. That's the main reason why I've failed
in those jobs I've taken that required mostly customer service. Still,
I know there
has to be a better way for me to help my fellow human being...I know
I've helped promote the Art of Living organization through that one
piece I did for Elephant Journal. So perhaps writing is that answer,
but I've sort of run dry in that area...

I also seem to want more in a spiritual aspect, as in wanting to
advance further. I'm not sure what that entails, or even what that

The bottom line is that I feel a different sort of emptiness than I
have before. This is a more positive emptiness, but it's still a
ravenous spiritual hunger, for lack of a better term. I want more love
from Ganesha! I want more love from God! But what would that be, even?
What would constitute that need I just expressed?

Hah, I was just talking about helping others and already I said I want
more for myself. It's another sort of confusion I face...the struggle
in myself between selfishness and selflessness. I don't know what I
want more of, precisely. But at least I know what I want isn't so
material anymore. And I also figured out that helping others can help
me get what I want as well. I guess that's progress.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Origins of Bliss

For the past couple of days, I've been doing hour-long meditation
sessions. These sessions involve the Art of Living's Sudarshan Kriya
I've been taught, as well as chanting the Ganesha mantra "Om Gam
Ganapataye Namaha" for 216 repetitions (or two malas, one mala being
108 repetitions if I remember correctly). And I think they are
starting to pay off...

Today I felt like a million dollars...I felt, as one of my friends
described when she felt similarly, as a vessel to be filled with love.
I never felt this good for this long before...nothing seemed to be
able to faze me. Although that is perhaps because I am better able to
shut disturbances out of my mind. I know a better thing to do would be
to confront what upsets me (for example, political issues), but in the
meantime, everyday things that would have upset me just seemed
to...fade away. I feel so good right now it's like I'll spontaneously
combust or something!

I'm not entirely sure why I feel this good...perhaps I have gained
Ganesha's attention somehow. Maybe even the other Gods. But whatever
is the cause...I hope I can replicate it. I feel the want for more of
this spiritual energy. I want to progress, evolve, whatever you want
to call it...maybe it's a selfish desire, but I could want far worse
things. I feel so alive, and I want to imbibe in and then share that

My friend told me later that this newfound bliss is here because I've
discovered that I myself can be a source of joy for myself, and that
I've discovered I can tap into this source whenever I want. I'm...not
so sure...I think it'll be a while before I truly can tap into this
internal source on demand. Furthermore, if it truly came from within,
how come I had to call upon Ganesha to bring it out? It's still a bit
confusing to me...

All I know is that meditation has become fun and blissful for me. It
is now something I feel motivated to do for my spiritual wealth.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Keeping it Real...So to Speak

It's been a while, I know. This time, though, I have a valid excuse: I
was in the hospital. Had an infection in a rather sensitive area, and
that's all I want to say about it.

It was quite the ordeal, and it involved a lot of pain, but thankfully
right now I'm on the mend. However, during my hospital stay, I did
notice one thing: spirituality and meditation were the furthest things
from my mind. No, I wasn't cursing God or blaming God or anything like
that, I just...couldn't think of God. It seemed as if I had more
pressing things to worry about, which I guess in a way I did; I had to
get better after all. Still, my inattention to spirituality during
that period may alarm startled me, at least.

I have tried to make up for it by meditation after I got home. Just
today I chanted "Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha" for about 30 minutes, a new
record for me, I think. Still, I'm not sure if my inattention to
spirituality during my hospital stay was good or bad. I didn't turn to
faith to heal me, nor did I curse faith...I'm just not sure what to
make of it. Is this a healthy perspective, or was I wrong to not think
of faith during my ordeal?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spiritual ADD

(ADD from the post title in this case means Attention Deficit Disorder. No offense intended towards those who suffer from ADD, but there's a reason I'm referencing it.)

It appears my life has settled into a comfortable groove...nothing too out of the ordinary has happened recently. I know that is good because nothing bad has happened, and I want to keep that negativity out of my life. But is it too much to ask for a significant positive event?

I know there will be one eventually, but still, my mind is craving new input. New sensory experiences. New positive feelings. At the moment it just feels like my life is at a standstill. Like I'm stuck in second gear or something like that. There doesn't seem to be forward momentum going for me. I just know there's got to be more to life than this.

Maybe I'm just being greedy, craving more of a bang out of my life...I know I'm one person who freaks out when it comes to change, but can't I have a good change come my way soon? Something to shake up my everyday routine in a positive way?

It's like right now, I'm...spiritually bored.

Maybe there is something I can do to help myself, but I don't know what that is...perhaps that is why I feel stuck, not knowing what to do to lift myself out of this rut.

But what can I do? I don't know where to begin...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Keeping This Up

As I write this right now, I feel incredibly thankful to God(s). Although I am under the weather at present with some kind of mild virus or other, I still feel so much more emotionally uplifted than before. I guess it really is all in the breath as the Art of Living teaches us.

There is a small part of me, though, that is afraid this might not last - I know as far as emotional satisfaction and stability it really is all in the mind. And as for training the mind, that is where the Sudarshan Kriya that I learned from the Art of Living comes in. The point I'm getting at, though, is how to maintain a discipline where I keep doing it.

I know meditation is an art that one has to want to do; I found it to be literally impossible to force oneself to meditate. So how do I keep that want going? I try to keep doing it regularly, but I admit some days it just seems more trouble than it's worth. My mind knows it's important, but yet it just doesn't want to cooperate on certain days.

Maybe one reason for this is that I get bored easily. Perhaps I need to change and vary it some days, but how? I still want to do it right, so how do I keep things interesting while still honoring the traditions I follow?

If the audience has any advice, please share it. :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Beginning of a Metamorphosis?

I'm not sure what is causing this, but I feel a miracle is happening within me...

Ever since I started the new inhaler I was prescribed for my newly-diagnosed asthma, I've been feeling...wonderful. My mood has improved, my anxiety has gone down, even my previously high blood sugars are starting to become more reasonable. This is incredible.

I don't know for sure what is causing this. Maybe it was the Pradosham service I went to last Saturday at the Hindu Temple of Rochester. Maybe it really is all in the breath, as the Art of Living foundation teaches us, and the inhaler is allowing me to actually breathe for the first time. I honestly don't know what to attribute this new found power to.

All I can say right now is I hope it continues. I feel more blessed than ever right now and I feel like I'm transforming. Into who or what, I cannot say, because I don't know. But for once, the future never looked so bright...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Perfection in Imperfection

Add another chronic illness to my repertoire of conditions - asthma. Or at least I'm led to believe I have asthma. Some initial tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary, but then later on my doctor prescribed an inhaler and told me to come back in for a follow-up appointment. This sucks...quite literally.

I expressed to some of my friends my feeling that this was a punishment by the universe for some slight I have done (though I have no idea which one), and although they have reassured me it is not, for some reason the idea still lingers. Perhaps it is because I'm not the best at caring for myself, as I mentioned in my last post. I know no one is perfect in caring for themselves, but...well, what's it take, huh? And why can't I find the strength to do what it takes?

Perhaps it is this frustration with myself that inspired me to do something that was formerly outside of my comfort zone today: I attended an actual service at the Hindu Temple of Rochester today, the Pradosham. I admit I had much anxiety about attending it today, but that anxiety turned into calm during the service. And I think I know why.

If I remember correctly, the purpose of the Pradosham is to cleanse oneself of negative karma. Maybe the reason I felt drawn to this particular service is to remind myself that I don't need to be perfect...that since no one is perfect, everyone can be equal in the eyes of God(s). And that even if I can't take perfect care of myself, I can still be a decent, genuinely human being.

I did enjoy the service, yes, but it took until just now to realize why I wanted to go to this service in particular. It is because I was taught something by it: as long as I am sincere, I do not need to regret anything!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ganesha's Blessing?

According to one of my friends, the Hindu holiday period of Sri Ganesh Chaturthi began yesterday. The Hindu Temple of Rochester held an event in observation of it, and I really wanted to attend...but unfortunately, I was unable to, because of my lack of a car. (I've never owned a car of my own, sadly.) Still, my friend simply said to "meditate on him [Ganesha]." If these days are auspicious to the followers of Ganesha...then maybe the effects are starting to become apparent in my recent life. Both positive and negative happenings have occurred recently, and for some reason I keep thinking it's all connected to this holiday. I can't say for sure, though, but perhaps I could be right. After all, the two major positives I can report can be symbolic of abundance:

  • The freelance writing assignments have been pouring in, especially those related to video game journalism. I've gotten no less than four assignments in recent days about video games, and all have come with free games! (Provided I review them, of course.) I can't say what games, but the fact I've gotten four is impressive - I must be doing something right.
  • I'm helping out with getting another Art of Living course set up here in Rochester. Nothing concrete has come up as of yet, but if all goes well, I might be able to get this course set up practically right next to where I live!
It's all very interesting...ever since I became interested in Hinduism, yoga, and its associated spirituality I've been thinking differently about things. More specifically, the age-old "coincidences" question; whether or not the things that have happened in my life could ever be considered coincidences. I know I've asked to be "hit over the head with something" in my last blog post, and maybe this is a mild bop on the head. Who knows? Still, it's all fascinating.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hit Me Over the Head with Something

I know I said before that I have every reason to believe in the Hindu faith and pantheon. Evidence appeared in the past that has guided me towards this path, and although I wouldn't consider myself a true practitioner of Hinduism yet, I am deeply sympathetic towards Hindu thoughts and beliefs.

However, there is still a part of me that yearns for something more...more evidence of the Gods' influence in my life, or solid proof of their existence. Something that would be so blatantly obvious, that I would know my beliefs to be true, that my path is the right one, and that they have a plan for me. Something that would be so miraculous that it would be...supernatural, and fill me with the Gods' love.

I guess I sort of know why such things don't happen for everyone. After all, if one faith, one path is proven above all others, then freedom of religion and faith becomes irrelevant. I'm of the opinion that people should believe what they want to believe, therefore if a faith was "proven" to be real it would open the road to religious persecution. I know I certainly don't want to push my beliefs on anyone else.

Still, I crave some sort of acknowledgement. Something that will prove to me the Gods are listening. I know it will most likely never happen, but I can dream, can't I? Maybe I ask too much here, but I just want to put out there, in case they are listening, that I want to be wowed. Who knows, maybe it will happen for me. Even if it doesn't, though, I'll keep an eye out for other signs.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Confidence

I'm not sure what's been causing this, but I've grown more...bold in my everyday life recently. I know one significant way I've grown bolder happened recently when I basically had to stand up for myself to one of my best friends. While I won't go into details here, I will say that it took almost all of my willpower to do so. Ever since then, I've been thinking about the concept of confidence, that is how much I should believe in myself and how I should express such esteem.

For some reason I can't seem to figure out how to tread the middle path when it comes to self-esteem. I don't want to have the lows of self-esteem in the past, as during those times it took all my energy just to get up in the morning. At the same time, if I have too much self-esteem I turn into a jerk, or so I believe at any rate...there have been times I have been mean or a jerk, which I understand everyone is at some point in their lives, although as far as I can remember I've never been one intentionally. Still, I can't help but think that those times were the result of my having too much self-esteem.

Maybe that's not the case, but I still have a tendency to split this issue in two. However, as I've mentioned before, either side seems fraught with the delusion of independent existence, that is, believing myself to be that "beautiful and unique snowflake" I've mentioned in one of my early blog posts - whether I believe myself to be ultimate good or ultimate evil it ends up fueling the same type of delusion.

Finding just the right amount of self-confidence seems to be the key. But I can't seem to figure it out...I usually identify myself as a soft-hearted person, so I guess one reason is I'm afraid I'll turn into something I'm not? I don't know. I don't want to become so hardened to the world that I lose my soul. Yet at the same time I can't stay so soft-hearted that everything brings me down.

Why am I so blind to the Middle Path? I keep seeking it yet all I find is a vacillation between one extreme or the other. I need guidance...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Doing it Wrong?

Something tells me I've done something horribly wrong recently, either by accident or ineptitude...I won't share specifics on here, but suffice it to say I'm feeling rather anxious and jumpy at the moment.

I know we're supposed to live in the present moment and enjoy it, but sometimes, it's hard to do, especially when the topic of karma comes up. I also know we're not perfect, but sometimes in real life that doesn't matter if the accidental transgression was serious enough. It can be hard to stay calm when the prospect of having done a wrong action by accident hangs over your head like the Sword of Damocles.

I might be working myself into a tizzy for nothing, or maybe I'm right to feel this way because I truly did something wrong. Either way, it can be unbearable at times to wait in suspense for the consequences. I've always been afraid of the rules of karma and their hidden math because at times in my past, my ineptitude resulted in some horrible things happening to me. Intent never seems to matter - no matter your disposition, even if one is ignorant of the consequences of one's actions, the action itself makes you feel the full backlash.

That is why I'm always afraid of doing something wrong, even by accident. I always judge and scrutinize my actions when it comes to other people, because I'm so cautious when it comes to karma. It's hard to live in the present when you're constantly monitoring your karmic future, but I'm too sensitive to the pains of life to just let the chips fall where they may.

I guess all I can do right now though is hope for the best...and try to keep the worst happening from dominating my mind. It's easier said than done.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why I'm Into Ganesha

For this post on Light Club, I'm going to go into a rather personal topic. This topic is why the Hindu deity of Ganesha appeals to me and why I've been chanting Ganesha mantras. No one has specifically asked me why, but I figured I'd wrote my thoughts down in case the question ever comes up.

One answer for those who are familiar with Ganesha mythology might be obvious, considering my desire to be a writer: in some myths Ganesha is recognized as the patron of writers. Supposedly, according to one tale, Ganesha was charged with transcribing the Mahabharata (I think; please correct me if I'm wrong), and in order to continue writing after his pen broke he broke off one of his tusks. That sort of dedication to writing is something I strive to emulate, although I don't know if I've reached that point yet. However, I only discovered this fact after I started chanting the mantras.

So what compelled me to do so in the first place, and why Ganesha? There are a few more reasons behind this decision. Since Ganesha is also purported to be the Lord of Beginnings, I thought it would make sense, since I wish to go down the path of Hinduism and yoga, to start with Ganesha.

But I believe the biggest reason I was seeking Ganesha was because, I think, I was still in the process of seeking acceptance of myself. To explain: as I have stated before in this blog, before I started along the path of Hinduism and yoga, I was trying to find a way to validate my existence, get outside evidence that I deserve to exist, because at the time I thought I didn't deserve to. Ganesha appealed to me then because of his popularity and his...exoticism, for lack of a better term. I thought that if I could gain the acceptance of Ganesha, who is worshipped by so many and has an appearance that to me at the time seemed to embody the concept of the "other," the higher power that is higher in authority than my own humanity (or lack thereof), that I would finally have the evidence I sought.

Eventually, though, after the MY2011 conference, I realized that I wasn't really seeking Ganesha's acceptance; rather, I was seeking a way for me to accept myself. There were obstacles in the way of my self-acceptance...and maybe Ganesha removed them for me. Or perhaps he inspired me to remove them myself. Either way, I finally saw that my own self-persecution was at the source of many of the evils I was seeking to control.

I guess it took until just now to realize that it was Ganesha who got me to see myself for who I really am. For that, I am indebted to Ganesha...or maybe I am indebted to myself. I'm not sure. Perhaps the truth is that Ganesha was the vehicle for me to finally start believing in myself?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Universe Has a Good Sense of Humor After All

So last weekend I was having a rough time. However, I appear to have bounced back. As evidence of that I submit the following: today I did 20 minutes of Sun Salutation yoga on my own. No one prompting me, I just up and did it. I know to an experienced yoga practitioner that's not much, but to me this was huge. I wasn't sure why I was so inspired to do this. Maybe it was truly divine inspiration?

After performing the yoga and chanting the Ganesha mantra for 10 minutes, I posted to Twitter what I had just done. I also added that this wasn't exactly normal behavior for me. A few minutes later, someone following me on Twitter who happened to have the exact same real world name as I did (well, I don't know his middle name but you get the idea) replied with the following:

"Hey other [name withheld]. I just spent twenty minutes practicing teaching yoga. Maybe you could hear."

I could not stop laughing when I read that.

I'm not quite sure what else I can say about this. This yoga session was a milestone for me, yes, but I think the real thing I could take away here is that sometimes, the universe can genuinely make you laugh in a good, spirited way. I know I sometimes think the universe is overtly hostile. Well, consider that belief to be altered somewhat: sometimes the universe can be playful and happy, too.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Between Rage and Serenity

I'm guessing that I probably gave a few readers a scare last night. First thing I want to say is that I'm doing better now. Had time to calm down and talk to some people, namely family and friends. After I calmed down I sort of realized something regarding responsibility. It's an important lesson I need to do better in remembering.

That lesson is: there's a difference between being responsible for one's own actions...and expecting oneself to be perfect. Last blog post I think I was expecting myself to be perfect as opposed to responsible.

I have flaws. This I know. Somehow I keep expecting something to miraculously happen to get rid of them. I know that won't happen, even though my heart keeps wanting it. I know there's no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to character flaws.

Still, though, I think I may have set my standards too high when it comes to myself, and in so doing I was priming myself for self-destruction. I know no one else will "cure" me of my character flaws. But you know what? They don't need to be instantly "cured." Just worked on. I know I shouldn't set my standards too low either. However, setting them too high can have the same debilitating effects as too low.

I guess I was too hard on myself. I still have to learn not to be too soft, but again, it doesn't have to be right this moment. To quote the movie X-Men: First Class: "true power lies somewhere between rage and serenity."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Limitless? (And I Don't Mean the Movie, Folks)

Freelance writing work for me has been slowly mounting over the past few weeks. While the piece I submitted for Elephant Journal (as elaborated on in this blog post) isn't live as of the time of writing this entry, I've been getting other assignments as well. Some of these assignments earn me a little cash; other assignments free stuff (as long as I review said free stuff). All in all things are looking up in small ways, and it's all good.

Still, some of my friends keep telling me that this "is just the beginning." And furthermore that I have "immense potential." Maybe I've written about this before, but I still want to emphasize this sort of aura of...mystery, for lack of a better term, that my life has taken on as of late. Just what exactly is this potential I have? What is this the beginning of?

I know I said in the post title I wasn't talking about the movie Limitless, but that movie comes to mind for me nonetheless. But while the protagonist in that movie uncovers his potential through a newly discovered (and very dangerous) drug...I don't know how my potential is getting unearthed. And I guess it is sort of comparing apples to oranges, since the drug in Limitless is to the brain what nitrous oxide is to a car (i.e. pushing it to work but damaging it in the process), but the good things that have happened in my life are the direct result of...I don't know.

Maybe it is God/Ganesha/whatever name you like to call the force of the Universe. In fact I'm almost certain of it. But it brings up the age-old question again - what is it that I'm doing right that's earning God's favor/grace/etc.? And what is it that I'm doing wrong that is holding me back from getting more?

Okay, I realize I'm kind of repeating myself in these blog posts. I said this in as many words before a couple of posts back. But I wouldn't keep asking these questions if they weren't important to me. I promise I'll try to come up with some better material for this blog, folks. Just bear with me as I try to have my brain adjust to these new circumstances.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Anyone See the License Plate of That Karma?

These past few days have been weird. How so? They seem to have the extremes of positivity and negativity in them...and I can't seem to figure out if I am doing something right, wrong, or both, or if it's just stuff happening. There are supposedly no coincidences, as karma is constantly in play, or so I've heard. But right now I can't figure out what I'm doing that's causing what.

First, there is the punishment side...and mainly it's been in the form of being under the weather the past few days. I won't get into the gory details, but my feeling like crud has been the reason I haven't felt like doing any meditation or pranayama (breathing techniques that I learned from that Art of Living course) routines as of late. Thing is, health-wise I haven't done anything out of the ordinary. Sure, my diet hasn't been ideal but it's not like I was binge-eating or doing anything else absurd like that. Maybe I just got sick off of something? Hard to tell.

However, there have been blessings as well. My writing seems to be going places! With any luck, hopefully one of my blog posts will show up on yoga/lifestyle website Elephant Journal sometime soon. (Which is kind of amazing in light of the fact of my chanting a Ganesha mantra during meditation! Surely it's a blessing from Ganesha? Elephant Journal doesn't seem like a coincidence there...) I've been getting more freelance newspaper work as well. And I even felt inspired enough to dip my big toe into the world of independent video game development. (More on that in a future post.)

It's all very strange to me - strange in the sense that there would be these pleasures fused with this pain. I'm aware of the concept of karma, but oftentimes karma doesn't line up with my expectations. Sure, I know how to learn, but when it's not spelled out for me how am I supposed to learn it? How am I supposed to figure out what I'm doing right or wrong if I'm not hit over the head with the result (figuratively speaking)? That is, how can I learn if I can't figure out which action led to which result?

If the universe is supposed to make sense...I need that sense knocked into me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It Is What It Is

Tonight I'm going to discuss a rather serious topic, albeit one that's been tread down before: the topic of why bad things happen to good people. Not only that, but why some people seem to be born with a predilection to do bad things...or are assumed to be that way, at any rate.

If you're wondering what brought this on, I read a blog post recently titled Schrodinger's Rapist, which basically deals with the threat of sexual assault women have to deal with every day. Beyond that I will not summarize further; please read the link so you can have a grasp of what I'm talking about.

Read the article? Good. Now I will proceed.

It's dealing with facts like that, that make me question the motives of God; the article does bring up a valid point, that even if men like myself don't ever picture ourselves sexually assaulting any woman, due to the very nature of the Y chromosome we carry we are still capable of doing it, whether we like that fact or not. The mere fact that because of my gender that I'm instantly associated with the ones of my gender who do carry out such evil (and there are sadly too many of them) is at times more than I can bear.

It's not just mere association that brings me down - it's the physiological differences between men and women, right down to how their brains function, that really drives it all home for me. Because of such documented differences, it really drives home the point that even if I can't associate myself with the evil members of my gender, it's because of the fact that the Y chromosome is what it is that makes it possible for me to commit such acts of cruelty. Believe me, I wish I could think like a woman all the time. I wish I could be a woman sometimes...if only to get rid of this stigma.

This brings me to the motives of God: why would God put me in a male body? If God didn't want me to commit such evil, why put me in a body that's capable of it? If God is supposedly omniscient, then God surely would've known of my tendencies to so easily deprecate myself for being who I why put me in a body that would facilitate such feelings? Since I can be so easily ashamed of being male, due to the evil other males do, why put me in a male body?

After reading the article in question, I express such feelings over Twitter, and one of the people I followed said I should relax, and that I don't need to take it all on. It was that statement that at least brought me some peace on the matter; indeed, the questions I asked before are not ones that I need to answer myself, or have answered right now. The universe is what it is, and God designed it that much as I want to question its design, I realize that it's not my place to do so, since it's not within my power to change the fundamental nature of the human male. (I suppose if I was a geneticist with mad scientist-like plans of world-shaking, I could do something about it, but I'm not, so...) It's God's responsibility for how the universe is, not mine.

I'm not saying one should be complacent in light of such evil as the threats women face every day. It's important to fight evil, of course. This brings us to what I've learned about the fundamental nature of happiness: one is not happy in the absence of suffering. One can only be truly happy by overcoming suffering. So in my case, I suppose what I can do is to not only be different from the males who do commit evil acts against women (which I already am different from them, as far as I'm concerned), but try to fight against it whenever and however I can. As I am not a superhero I can't fly around the city beating up every rapist that exists, but I can speak out against it and try to stop it if I do see it.

I suppose that's why the universe is what it is...because if it were perfect already, there would be no incentive for dynamism, for change, for movement. And what good is a universe in a perpetual steady-state? Maybe the reason I'm a male who feels the way I do is because if I do manage to encounter my soulmate out there, that my shame would go away and the rewards would be that much sweeter.

Besides, I feel God and the universe are starting to become kinder to me Ganesha mantra-chanting and meditation seem to be paying off in unforeseen ways. I feel Ganesha has started to bless me. More on that in another post, though.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Little Things

They say it's the little things that make you happy. This I've come to know to be true. The opposite can be true as well - it can be the little things that bring you down as well, especially if they pile up.

However, for me recently, little things have been piling up in a good way. That is, lots of good little things have been happening in my life: things like getting a surprise discount at a Chipotle restaurant I went to. Winning a contest for a free video game over Twitter. Getting a couple of extra Timbits when I order a small box at Tim Hortons (hey, the secret to any diet is controlled cheating ;) ). Getting some surprise food and money from my parents...and in one case a friend of my mother's.

Lots of these little things have happened recently. I guess I shouldn't question it. But still, curiosity demands to know why this may be happening. I figure if I don't know the answer it wouldn't matter too much, but still, I want to figure out what I'm doing right, or what wrong things I'm not doing.

Is it the mantra chanting? Is it the meditation? Is it the things I've done at large recently (like the article I wrote)? Am I getting a karma boost of some sort? Is the universe just plain throwing me a bone? Or is this all completely random? I don't know...but I guess it would be nice to know.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Dharma

One of the things that has attracted me to Hinduism is the concept of dharma. To my knowledge dharma means that everything has a role, a part to play in the universe. (If I'm wrong, please correct me.) Over the past few days, I may have gotten a glimpse as to what my dharma is...and while it may be a path others like me have taken, it still feels to me as if I'm blazing my own trail.

To elaborate, let me first shamelessly plug an article I've written for a local paper recently...this is relevant, trust me:

This is the article I wrote as a result of the...non-coincidence I mentioned in the blog post "Am I Being Adjusted?". This article has resulted in many small, but far from insignificant related happenings. For one, it has been published by three newspapers owned by this company. It has also gotten some pretty big compliments from some friends of mine. And the piece de resistance - I found out one of the dancers from that event is in the local Art of Living group.

So many things have lined up recently that I wonder just what is in store for me? Is this all leading up to some big, life altering climax? One thing is for sure, I definitely feel as if at least learning more about Hindu spirituality is my destiny...I keep learning about more and more sources where I can learn. And apparently I'm not the only white male American citizen who's dived in...okay, that should be obvious, but again, I'm saying this feels both like I'm treading a worn trail AND blazing a new one. That fact reinforces that this is possible for me.

I don't know where this future will lead me, but for once I'm excited to see what the future holds.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gurus, and More Experiences From the Meditation File

The purpose of this post is twofold: one, to share another experience I've had recently from meditation, and two, to ask (yet another) question of my audience. Again, I know my odds of getting an answer through the comments system is low, but I figured it doesn't hurt to try.

First, the recent meditation experience...and this one is interesting.

As usual I followed the routine set forth by the Art of Living class I took, and afterwards chanted the Ganesha mantra for my meditation. As I was chanting, though, what happened was my voice was...altered somehow. I don't know if it was something in my throat or dryness or what, but my voice changed pitch and grew quieter. It climbed in pitch and lowered in volume.

I'm not sure what that means...I don't know if it was just a coincidence or if something supernatural happened. It still felt like my voice, but as I chanted this phenomenon happened automatically and gradually. Maybe supernatural is too strong a word for what happened, but my voice...I just know something happened to it. I'm not sure what.

Anyway, onto the other question: I know to properly learn Hinduism I have to find a guru, or at least that's what some sources tell me. But I'm not too familiar with what makes a guru; I know Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living organization is recognized as one, but that's all I know about it. What makes a guru? For that matter, what gurus are around today?

This is an innocent question I have on my mind, as I don't know and genuinely want to know. If any readers care to comment on it, feel free.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Am I Being Adjusted?

I know I previously mentioned the film "The Adjustment Bureau" in passing on this blog, and I promised to write more about it here. Well...sadly, that promise will not be fulfilled tonight (maybe it will be after the film comes out on DVD), but there have been a couple of events in my life recently that make me believe that my life is being...adjusted somehow. Yeah, it sounds weird. However, I've said that before...maybe I just need to redefine what I consider "weird." But I digress.

Both of these "adjustments" seem to have to do with my interest in India's culture and spirituality. The first adjustment happened a week or so ago, when a local teacher of Indian dance and music, whom I met at the Memorial Art Gallery a year or so ago, contacted me to see if I can publicize and/or cover her upcoming cultural event. As it so happened, I was in talks with a local newspaper company to become a freelancer for them. So naturally, I pitched the idea for a feature on this upcoming cultural event to this company, and they gladly accepted it.

The more I thought about this coincidence, the more I kept coming to the conclusion that maybe it wasn't.

The second adjustment: since I previously mentioned on this blog about my chanting of Ganesha mantras during meditation, and how deep such chanting took me recently...I got inspired over the weekend to order a statue of Ganesha online to possibly help me with such meditation. When I ordered it, the arrival of the shipment was originally scheduled to be June 21 at the earliest. However, I checked it today, and now it's scheduled to arrive at my apartment this Wednesday, June 15.

I understand a lot of mail-order and online shopping companies like to say things will arrive later than they usually do to cover their butts and make sure people don't get over-excited. But considering everything else that has happened recently...I'm starting to think this particular occurrence isn't a coincidence either.

Perhaps both of these instances are coincidences, and I'm reading too much into them, but...I'm not sure if they can be called that anymore. Am I being steered by the Powers-That-Be into delving deeper into India's culture and spirituality? Is this a message that I'm on the right path and that I should speed up from a leisurely walk to a slow jog or beyond? Just what is going on?

This is definitely something I'll be keeping my eye out for...if the Gods of India indeed do exist, they have my attention. Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the right thing, but then I realize when it comes to things like this...there is no concrete right or wrong thing. It's what's right for me. This feels right. And I like it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Going Deeper

So what has happened while I was internet-less? The biggest thing I can mention is that I took a course offered here in Rochester by the Art of Living organization mentioned in one of my first posts (the one titled "On (Not) Being a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake" to be precise). (And I provided a link just now so you can learn more of them yourself if you wish.) While I can't discuss the particulars of the course due to the fact that I signed an agreement not to disclose what transpired in it, the course did teach me some meditation and breathing techniques that I have attempted to adopt into my everyday routine. I haven't been entirely successful doing them every single day yet, but I have been doing them often. And what I wish to write about right now is an experience I had today after doing these techniques and then going into meditation. This experience was quite profound.

Again, I can't discuss the particulars of the practices I have been doing that were taught to me by this course, but I was doing them around midday today after a couple of rounds of the yoga sequence Sun Salutation. However, while I was doing them today, I got inspired to change up my meditation routine slightly today (my meditation routine being to meditate to this particular Ganesha mantra I found on YouTube) - instead of just listening to the mantra chant, I would chant along with it. Turns out when I chant the mantra itself, it has...profound effects. I went deeper into meditation than I thought I could ever go.

What happened was this: after doing the techniques the Art of Living course taught me and starting the meditation, I chanted along, and as I chanted along, I started feeling rather curious and powerful sensations. My voice started to tremble, I started having tremors in my body, and I could feel tears coming out of my eyes, not in sadness, but...ecstasy, I guess. It's hard to put words to it. Visually, as my eyes were closed I could perceive shifts in colors - waves of color seemed to cascade down my eyes like a waterfall. The most profound thing I could see, though, was that I saw a single eye looking back at me...this eye seemed to express various states of emotion, from anger to curiosity to compassion. I admit when I saw it angry I became afraid, but only for a moment, as the eye's emotion shifted to another state soon after. However, the one emotion I didn't see in this eye, not that I could perceive, anyway, was sadness. I thought maybe this eye belonged to Ganesha, since it was a Ganesha mantra I was chanting to. But there was no way to know for sure.

For some of you reading this blog, this post must sound like the ramblings of a crazy person by now. But I know for those who really are my friends, the ones I trust, this won't sound crazy at all. I know my real friends will look upon this blog post with compassion and know that I'm not crazy. Because right now, I don't feel crazy at all. Maybe it's true that only the truly crazy think they're sane, but at this moment...I feel saner than I have ever felt.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm Back From Outer Space

I do apologize for not updating the last couple of weeks. My life was very busy, what with moving to East Rochester and all. For a time at my new apartment I was without internet, since I had to pick a provider and go through the wait associated with that, etc. Not having internet can be a disheartening experience, let me tell you. It seems in this day and age one can't go more than a few hours without it, like a drug, and I was going through withdrawal.

There can be all sorts of things one can say about the internet and its addictive qualities. However, I won't repeat them here, as I pretty much can't contribute anything new to the discussion. Besides, that's not the point of this post; the point is to say I'm back, and to expect regular updates sometime soon. After all, what would the Light Club be without me? ;)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Meditation Concentration

I know as mentioned by one of my commentators here on this blog, only 5% of those who regularly read blogs or just pass through actually leave comments. So I know it's doubtful I'll actually get a comment with this post, but I am hopeful nonetheless, as this particular blog post contains an important question.

That question is: how do I achieve total concentration while meditating? I'm not sure I've been able to before now. Maybe I've managed to do it once or twice before but since then I've been unable to effectively concentrate. I'm not sure how to achieve effective meditation anymore since it seems when I try to empty my mind, just as it gets empty, some errant thought or random idea always pops into my head. I'm not sure if this is supposed to happen or what, but it just seems I can't completely clear my mind. I've tried one particular soundtrack, a Ganesha mantra on YouTube that's repeated 98 times (as 108 wouldn't fit in 10 minutes). Maybe I need to switch up the soundtrack? I'm not sure.

Perhaps it's all the stress I've been through lately. New location for my job, new apartment I have to move into soon, trying to get into a new faith (Hinduism for those that just stumbled on this blog), trying to make new friends, trying to keep old ones, trying to maintain good relationships with family, and others I probably am forgetting to list here. Perhaps all this stress in my life is preventing my concentration. But isn't meditation supposed to reduce this stress? It would seem like a vicious cycle if that was the case - more stress leads to less concentration when meditating, leading to more stress, etc.

I honestly don't know what I'm doing wrong. If anyone out there has any advice I would greatly appreciate it. This is a tumultuous time in my life. I need the guidance and the inspiration of God(s) now more than ever.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anxiety and the Present

I made another brief visit to the Hindu Temple of Rochester today, as there was a bus that took me close by. Since I could access it by bus route, this time I went by myself. It was during this visit that I both learned one important thing about myself, as well as discovered how far I have yet to go to achieve personal transformation, but with hope that it can be done.

The overall theme of the trip seemed to be anxiety; anxiety about several things at once, it seemed. Not just immediate concerns such as how to get there and back on the bus and the like, but anxiety about my own sense of self. As I was making the trip, and even after I arrived I was asking myself: "do I really belong here?" "Am I doing the right thing?" "Will my presence here be seen as good, bad, or somewhere in between?" "How will people react to me?"

I know one of these days I have got to learn to be comfortable in my own skin, so to speak. That I have to be comfortable with my sense of self and the decisions I make. And while the anxiety I experienced during my visit is indicative that I haven't achieved this goal yet, my short visit overall has left me with a sense of hope that I can conquer these particular demons.

The reason for this is because while I was feeling anxiety during my visit, I noticed it was anxiety of a different sort than I usually experience. Sure, it was still anxiety, but I usually feel anxiety about things more global than just a temple visit. Things like world and local news, my usual interpersonal relationships, trying not to accidentally offend people, etc. When I was in the Hindu temple, the anxiety felt much more...localized, I guess, in the sense that I was not worrying about things outside of my control. I was worrying about my own thoughts and how to interact with the people in front of me, but I wasn't worrying about what they thought of me so much as what they actually did in reaction to me. I hope that makes sense. In short, it seemed like an anxiety about things on a more realistic level.

I did a short meditation session there of about 10 minutes. I couldn't concentrate during that session because the anxiety still lingered somewhat, but I guess that is to be expected. Still, it was good to have a different kind of anxiety for once, and by good I mean a kind that is more manageable. It was an anxiety based on the present.

I left the temple today feeling relieved, because while I felt anxiety about it, I did it anyway. It was a time when I could think about the present, instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future. And that is an experience I'm glad I could take away. I definitely want to come back again so I can work on conquering this anxiety even further.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Christianity Wasn't For Me, Part 2

Truth be told, I didn't know if I was ever going to pen another blog post explaining why Christianity wasn't for me, if there ever was going to be a "part 2." However, there has been one event I've been seeing in various forms (most notably Twitter and its trending topics) that has caused me some anxiety and thus inspired this post. This event I'm referring to is the so-called Rapture - apparently certain Christian churches have been proclaiming that the Rapture is supposed to happen very soon, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

Let me be blunt here, and I do apologize if this causes offense to some people - I don't believe the Rapture, as described in the Bible and/or by evangelicals, is ever going to happen. But the dichotomy, the psychology behind it is part of the reason I've been turned off by Christianity and migrating towards Hinduism. The short explanation I will say for this is that the version of the "end of the world" espoused by Hinduism (I'm not too familiar with it, but I have a general idea) seems to be much more forgiving than the Christian version.

Now, as for the long explanation...this may take a little bit to explain. I hope you like walls of text.

I've always been afraid of the end of the world, and not just in religious form. Sure, the end as described in the Bible is pretty terrifying enough, but the more reality-based versions are ones I don't know if I can ever see without completely losing my mind. Hopefully you know what I'm talking about: Global warming/climate change. The next World War. An upheaval of the current world order caused by racism, classism, and other ism's and problems of the world. These are all versions of reality that I could never bear to see happen around me. Visions of absolute horror I can tolerate in movies, sure, but if it ever happened to me in real life...I don't know how I'd be able to ever cope.

So what does this have to do with the Christian Rapture? Well, as far as I know, the Rapture is generally supposed to be the following: the good people of the Earth, the pure devoted followers of Christ, are all supposed to ascend to Heaven on a specific day, and just disappear...leaving the rest of us to suffer and rot on an abandoned world. It presents a very black-and-white view of the end of the world - if you're a good Christian, you'll be saved, rescued, etc. when the time comes. If you're not, well, you're screwed.

That seems to be how the rest of these reality-based end of the world prophecies appear to be discussed in our present political climate. You're either good and deserve to be saved from them, or you're pure evil and deserve to burn in the living Hell these scenarios say will exist. Climate change and global warming? Either you're producing near-to-zero carbon emissions and consuming next to nothing, or you're evil and deserve to burn. War? Either you're sacrificing everything in your life to oppose it and purify yourself from a warlike state, or you're evil. Racism? Sexism? Poverty? The same thing. Either you're doing everything to stop them, or you're good for nothing. Us or them. Sink or swim.

To me, these polarized views of the issues of the world seem to get their psychology from the basic idea behind the Rapture - either you'll be saved because you're good, or left behind to suffer because you're evil. No in-between. No shades of gray.

There will be more on why Hinduism presented a good alternative for me to this bipolar world view later, but hopefully this is a good start as to an insight as to how I think spiritually. I hope you enjoy reading this in the meantime before the next post.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Brief Visit to the Hindu Temple of Rochester

Today, in case you couldn't tell from the title of this blog post, I made a brief visit to the Hindu Temple of Rochester. It wasn't a long visit, as the one who brought me there couldn't stay very long, but even in my short time there my experience was profound.

I didn't do much when I was there; when I arrived the one who brought me there showed me the various deities and their relationships to each other. (She started with Ganesha as I told her I was meditating to Ganesha mantras.) I then sat down, as I didn't quite know what else to do. I attempted to do a little meditation, but I couldn't concentrate well enough to do so for very long. There weren't many people around, but still I was focused on what everyone else was doing. As I didn't want to be the odd one out, I wanted to make sure I wasn't doing anything improper.

Overall, though, I felt this palpable energy throughout the place. Maybe it was my anxiety in being in a new situation, but still there was energy I could genuinely feel. I guess this is what some people describe as the "fear of God?" That being in the presence of divinity (or the energy thereof) and just plain not knowing what to do? It was an energy I felt that I just didn't know what to do with. But regardless, I could feel it.

Even though I only spent a short time in there before leaving, upon my exit I felt glad that at the very least I did something as radical (for me, anyway) as this. It was like a step in the right direction for me, I believe. I definitely want to come back, and apparently in June there will be an event going on there that only occurs once every twelve years. Perhaps I can attend that? I hope so. Regardless, just being there, just showing up was a good thing for me to do, as I know now that at the very least I can do it; that even though I felt anxious, I did it anyway. I hope to return sometime (though I don't know when or how since I have no car of my own).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coincidence, Miracle, or I'm Thinking Too Much

Something interesting happened today after I got out of work. Tonight I was going to do more editing for a writing project I'm working on with a friend, but one thing that had the potential to put a wrench in my plans was the weather. The weather report was predicting nothing but doom for this evening - severe thunderstorms, hail, even a tornado watch for my area. I was not looking forward to it...especially since the wiring in this apartment I'm living in is connected to the rest of a very old house that probably wouldn't stand up to a lightning strike. The odds were grim that I was going to be able to work on that project tonight.

Sure enough, in the early part of the evening there was dangerous weather, as one moment it was relatively sunny, and the next it seemed like the giant fire hose in the sky was pointed at my area. I was indoors at the time, but I was resigned to not doing much of anything tonight. However, I was still inspired to do my daily Ganesha meditation routine, at least in this case in an effort to calm me down during the adverse weather.

This is the part where the post title question becomes apparent: soon after I finished my meditation, the adverse weather started to slowly disperse, and later on there was no lightning to speak of, so I could turn my computer on and plug away at the project.

I didn't think much of it at the time, but eventually I realized it might not have been a coincidence...and that inspired me to write this blog post. It might be a coincidence and I'm probably just having some delusions of grandeur. And who knows, the weather might get worse tonight or tomorrow.

But part of me is thinking this may have not been a coincidence after all...that's the part of me that wants to believe. I honestly don't know what to think...

I highly encourage those reading this to post a comment in the comments section with their opinion on what might have happened. Maybe I'm being rewarded for my belief, or maybe it's just wishful thinking, or something. But input would be appreciated here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why Christianity Wasn't For Me, Part 1

This next blog post may be a thorny topic for some. It is not my intention to offend anyone of the Christian faith with this post, but I feel I probably owe some readers of this blog an explanation. Some readers may be wondering why someone like me, when confronted with the question of faith, doesn't automatically turn towards Christianity, and instead turn towards Hinduism. This post should hopefully explain that, at least in some detail.

The requisite disclaimer: what works for me spiritually will not work for everyone. Everyone has their own spiritual path, and I'm not implying anyone should walk mine, unless they feel it is right for them. Nor am I saying my path is better than that of anyone else. This is just my experience and my thoughts.

Anyway...why Christianity isn't for me...

I believe the reason why Christianity doesn't work for someone of my psychological profile can come down to many reasons, but I think one primary reason, for me anyway, is that I have a tendency to do what my therapist terms "splitting." In a nutshell, that basically means I tended to see things in a black-and-white manner. I had this awful habit of applying this tendency to just about anything, including myself...and as a result, I often compared myself to others and either see myself as wholly good, or wholly evil. (More often towards the wholly evil part, as you may have surmised from the rest of my blog.)

This naturally lent itself to the "Heaven or Hell" argument of Christianity that I often debated with myself on. The rules for whether one goes to Heaven or Hell I thought of many times over, and it seemed like no matter how I sliced it, it always seemed like I would be going to Hell, with no alternatives.

On one end of the spectrum, there's the theory espoused by the ultra-conservative Christian right-wing - that merely accepting Jesus Christ as one's lord, savior, and mediator between oneself and God, and following all the rules expected of such a follower, guarantees one a spot in Heaven. Putting aside the hypocrisy committed by many mainstream Christian institutions regarding this rule to justify racism, sexism, etc., for a moment, let's say I did just that. From the sound of it all it would put me in this exclusive "club" of being saved from annihilation when the Apocalypse comes on such-and-such a date.

Here's the thing about that exclusivity that turns me away: I don't want to be accepted by just a few people into a clique. If I did that, how would other people outside this "club" view me? It sets up a prejudice that I would rather not experience. When I meet someone else, I don't want prejudice to cloud their judgment of me...that is a fate I cannot bear to experience. So joining an exclusive club of "saved" people would subject me to this prejudice, by nature of its exclusivity. I know I can't get along with everyone, but is it too much to ask to not have who I can or cannot get along with predetermined? Prejudice, to me, is Hell in and of itself, and I'd rather not experience that Hell while I'm alive. Otherwise what's the point of getting into Heaven?

Now let's examine the other end of the spectrum of Christianity - the left-leaning kind. For that end, let's assume all one needs to be to get into Heaven is to be a good person. That is, lead a simple lifestyle, be the best human being one can possibly be towards your fellows, etc. Well, for that end, already several things are stacked against me. To start with, I'm white - in our current system, racism is still present, and thus I'm assigned unfair privileges solely based on the fact that I'm white. Ditto with being male. And the American citizen part means I'm already born into a materialistic lifestyle, richer than most other people on the planet (despite my very meager wages by American standards). Right off the bat, I'm at a disadvantage in the "being good" department. It may sound an awful like the Scott Calvin theory of predestination, but in today's world, it seems like fates are predestined for a lot of people already.

Now, enter the Hindu theory of life after death - reincarnation. I don't feel like explaining it again here, so Google it if you don't know it. But despite the holes in the theory of reincarnation that some other people see, there's one particular reason why it appealed to me.

It doesn't present a black-and-white view of morality in terms of life after death. To me, it allows for shades of gray.

Shades of gray is the type of world view I need to cultivate for myself, not this black-and-white viewpoint that has driven me to the brink of insanity thus far. I need to be less judgmental of myself and the world, not more so. And that is one reason why Hinduism is starting to appeal to me.

There are other reasons why Christianity doesn't work for me, but I'll get into those in future posts. For now, though, if you feel so inclined, please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On (Not) Being a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake

Those readers who are still interested as to why I am veering towards the path of Hinduism will have the question more fully answered in this post. This covers the meditation and yoga conference that I went to that inspired me.

The title of this post comes from a movie that came out in the 1990's, titled "Fight Club." The overall plot of the movie can be summarized as follows: a working class man feeling oppressed by the monotony of everyday society transforms himself into an organizer of pit-fights that draw men from all over the country to his cause. He then turns them into his own personal army to violently oppose society...and in the process becomes the very sort of authority figure he once despised.

What does that have to do with my own trip to the Meditation and Yoga 2011 conference held by the Art of Living organization in New Jersey?

Well, the title of this article comes from a line from that movie - "you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake." The main character utters that line to his followers to "educate" them on why they must give themselves to his cause. However, while the followers of the main character of Fight Club take that line and then become his violent soldiers, during the MY2011 conference I thought of that line during the speech by the Art of Living's spiritual leader H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar...and discovered its true, positive meaning.

To establish a proper context, I'll start from the beginning. Throughout much of my young adult life I've been dealing with feelings of depression, anxiety, and other associated mental disorders, mainly arising from my diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome when I was in middle school. Add to that my diagnosis of Type II Diabetes during a long, painful night in the hospital in the midst of my college years and, well, I feel I have a lot on my plate. I've had trouble dealing with these issues...a lot of trouble. They seemed to define my life, as they have impaired my ability to function in everyday society.

One thing that did not help these issues at all for me, at least at first, was my becoming aware of the political, social, and environmental issues facing this world as I grew older. It seemed, to me at least, that my being a white male American citizen, and thereby having the lifestyle that goes with it - a lifestyle that seemed to depend on the suffering of others and the planet - was proof that my existence was a sin, and my mental and physical health ailments my punishment. Thereby I was constantly looking for some way to validate my existence, to somehow find evidence opposite my conclusion and prove that my life was worth living.

One day, as I was walking down the corridors of Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY on my way to take the bus home from an appointment I had there, a flyer caught my eye, a flyer for the Art of Living course being offered in Rochester. The flyer was out of date, as the course had already happened, but still I noticed a phone number for one of the organizers, Chitvan Sharma. That evening, out of curiosity (and perhaps desperation), I called the number and found out more about the Art of Living course and the organization, and she encouraged me to do more exploring on my own. I did so by visiting the Art of Living website and reading some of the materials there. The course sounded like it could help me deal with my everyday troubles, but I could not afford it at first. An idea popped into my head, though, that perhaps if I did a little bartering - volunteering my time and energy to help the local Art of Living chapter, that is - I could take the next course offered at a discount. Chitvan and the other organizers liked that idea, and so I did some volunteering for them, getting to know them better in the process. Still, though, there were some lingering doubts in my mind as to whether or not the course would help me.

Then came time for the Meditation and Yoga 2011 conference in New Jersey...a conference I did not know about until the very last minute. The way the conference was advertised to me was through the instructor for the Rochester Art of Living course - Arati Hunsemara - suggesting I attend the conference to meet H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and thus remove my doubts as to the course's benefits. I wanted to go not only for that reason, but also as an opportunity to take a break from my ordinary routine. The problem was that since I didn't know about it until the last minute, it was very difficult to include me in the group's trip to the conference, from finding an available ticket (that I could afford), to acquiring a place for me to stay for an evening, to clearing a little time off from my day job so I could prepare before the trip.

Somehow things fell into place, and I soon found myself on the journey to the conference. On the journey there, I bonded with Chitvan and the others in the Rochester Art of Living group, and upon arrival in New Jersey, I got to enjoy the gracious hospitality of our host, named Lakshmi (I sadly cannot recall her last name). I could tell things were going to be good, but anxiety still gripped me, as it naturally would having gone so far from home.

The morning of the conference came, and I was still nervous. I arrived late to the morning yoga session, and had trouble finding the spots reserved for us. Still, I eagerly joined in, and performed the yoga to the best of my ability. Some poses were difficult for me, but I got through to the end of the morning yoga session feeling physically exhausted, but mentally satisfied, as if I accomplished something. It took a while for the afternoon talks to get into full swing, but the audience was rapt with attention, as was I, when Sri Sri entered the stage. I admit it - when Sri Sri entered the stage, I was at first expecting some pre-planned speech full of obvious platitudes and general affirmations, that most likely wouldn't help me much.

However, after he entered the stage, he was silent. Silent for what seemed like an awkwardly long time. I didn't know what to make of it.

Then the words he spoke floored me, as they were not what I was expecting from a guru: "If I just stood on this stage and said nothing for the next few hours, would you still want to be here?"

Most of the audience responded with an enthusiastic "yes," although I did manage to hear one "no" from the opposite end of the audience area. And that's when I knew I was in for a truly inspiring experience, as it proved to me this guru was here to truly educate, and not merely bask in the adulation of his fans. Soon after, he asked a question which was something to the effect of: "what will you all do when I am gone?" In effect he was asking his followers to try to think for themselves. I liked Sri Sri right then and there.

The rest of his speech was affirming, encouraging, and enthusiastic, but not nearly as profound to me as those opening moments. I listened intently, but the true message was yet to come. After his speech, he got up to depart the stage, and almost immediately members of the audience flocked to his side for reasons I could not ascertain. The other speakers frantically shouted "please remain seated" into the microphone in a vain attempt to get the audience to cooperate and leave Sri Sri to peacefully depart the venue. I did my part and remained seated, but I knew I was in the minority. I have to admit, at first my thoughts were along the lines of: "why are all these people intent on forming a huge, almost mob-like crowd around him?" I honestly didn't get the reason. Sure, Sri Sri is a great person, but what would crowding around him just to be near him accomplish? This turned out to be an important thought in my later reflection on the event, but there was more to come.

After the main event came to a close, I caught up with the other members of my group, and they soon departed, me in tow, with a clear agenda on their minds I couldn't grasp at first. They eventually filled me in: they were attempting to "chase" Sri Sri in an attempt to get a more personal encounter with him. I asked how they intended to do that, and they said they had "resources" with which to track him. Suddenly I grew excited at the prospect of being able to meet Sri Sri in person, in a much calmer setting. Chitvan even mentioned I could possibly get a blessing from Sri Sri. Unfortunately, we got sidetracked. Somehow we ended up near the apartment of our host, in effect where we started the day, no closer to Sri Sri. After we learned that Sri Sri was hosting an after-party of sorts for the volunteers for the event at the venue, we were hungry, so we went back in the apartment and practically shoveled dinner in our faces, and went back to the venue in what seemed like a wild goose chase.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived back at the venue, Sri Sri was just closing the after-gathering, and we missed our window to see him. Was I bummed out? Yes, at first. But then I realized it was okay.

Okay in what way? Would I have loved to receive a blessing from His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar? Oh yes, definitely, in an "awesome things I want to accomplish before I die" sort of way. But did I absolutely need it? No. I was content with the whole experience as it happened, as I made new friends, did things I've never done before, and enjoyed the company of some sincere companions. I didn't need a personal meeting and/or blessing for this experience to have been a good one. It would've been awesome, yes, but I really got what I needed already.

After coming back home, I reflected on the experience, and of course crashed like a stone upon my bed for some solid sleep. But the morning afterward, I felt truly energized and ready to face the day anew. And during that day, I extrapolated upon my feelings of the experience and came to this conclusion: what I learned from H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was learned indirectly, but was profound nonetheless - I didn't need the blessing of anyone. I didn't need an outside authority to validate my existence. The mere fact that I do exist is evidence enough that I deserve to exist.

What exactly does this have to do with being, or not being, a beautiful and unique snowflake, though?

During Sri Sri's speech, he led a meditation session, and he prefaced it with some instructions. The instructions were as follows (and I'm paraphrasing here): do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. And it was that last instruction that he elaborated upon in detail. He said, "if you believe yourself to be a rich person, this meditation will not help you. If you believe yourself to be poor, it will not help you. If you believe yourself to be the holiest person alive, this will not help you. And if you believe yourself to be the worst sinner ever, this will not help you either." As the meditation session began in earnest, I kept that instruction in mind...and as I was meditating, that line from Fight Club popped into my head.

Before this point, all this time I was thinking I was, as Sri Sri described, the "worst sinner ever," in the sense that my existence was parasitic of the world, that I was merely a blight on our planet's surface, that the universe as a whole would benefit if I was gone. As I kept Sri Sri's instruction in mind, I realized how much of a folly this line of thinking was. In attempting to not think too highly of myself, I ended up going on the opposite end of the same curve...that even though I thought myself worthless, I was still committing the same mistake of those believing themselves holier than thou.

I was believing myself to be a beautiful and unique snowflake. And in letting go of that belief...I set myself free.

Don't get me wrong, I still have a very strong sense of individuality. But what I realized, in letting go of the "unique snowflake" belief, was that even though I have a sense of self, that self, that ego, doesn't have to be unique. In other words, I don't have to try to be unique, in the sense of redeeming myself in a foolish manner (that wouldn't redeem me at all) or of condemning myself. I don't have to try to be unique because I already am. I have flaws, yes, but I also have strengths. I have bad qualities, but I also have good ones. To be unique in this world, one doesn't have to be someone like Martin Luther King Jr., or Mohandas Gandhi, or any other famous leader.

One has to just be.

Sure, the main character in Fight Club, when he utters that famous line, is using that statement for malicious intent, in an attempt to get his followers to blindly follow his crusade against society. However, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Today, as I write this, I've felt happier and better than I have been in ages. My mind feels like it is firing on all eight cylinders, and I'd even say my brain feels like it's on fire, but in the sense that it's finally working. It might sound like I think all my problems are over, but I know that to be false - I know my problems are just beginning. However, I now stand ready to face them as someone with a healthier mind, and lighter soul.

I now face the world with the knowledge that I can just live in it...and even if I accomplish nothing else, I now know that I've accomplished something just by living.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Where I Stand Spiritually

This post, the second post of mine to this blog, is intended to show where on the spiritual spectrum I stand. And depending on if you know me or not, this may surprise you.

I'll flat out tell you where I stand - while I'm not officially part of any religion (yet), I am leaning towards the faith of Hinduism.

Depending on how well you know me, or how judgmental those who don't know me are, this may come as especially shocking since I'm a born-and-raised Westerner, a white male American citizen at that (as evidenced by my origin of Rochester, NY and other things I list on my Blogger profile). I'll get more into why I'm leaning this way in a future post, but I'll give you a brief summary here: it is because I was exposed to the faith during a road trip I had with some dear friends to a meditation and yoga conference held by the worldwide NGO known as the Art of Living. The friends I traveled with are (to my knowledge) adherents of this faith, as well as the faith of the owners of the apartment I stayed overnight in to attend the conference. They were all kind, generous, gracious, and warm towards me, and as a result of their kindness I was inspired to explore this faith a bit further.

I started simple enough: the day after I arrived home from my road trip, I did a meditation session based on what I learned at the conference, and was inspired to pick a Hindu mantra as background music, a mantra to Ganesha I found on YouTube to be precise. (You can find what I chose here:

My meditation was ten minutes long to match the length of the video. During the meditation, however, something interesting happened...I saw an outline of Ganesha's head while my eyes were closed. Not quite sure how to describe seemed like...lines of lighter color against the dark background of my eyelids...I hope that makes sense.

This was approximately a week ago. Ever since then I've done a daily regimen of meditation using Hindu mantras to Ganesha as my background. But today...something more interesting happened that I think might be more of a sign to explore this faith for myself even further.

This afternoon as I was searching for a mantra to use for today's meditation, I came across a link to a book. This book was an e-Book published by the Himalayan Academy called Loving Ganesha. I glimpsed through the various chapters of this book, skimming through a lot and not actually reading much of it in-depth, until I came to the prayers section. There was a prayer to Ganesha that is meant to show appreciation, and I was inspired to recite it aloud, despite it being in English (I don't know a lick of Hindi or any other language of India), since it was mantras to Ganesha that were guiding my meditation. The prayer went like this:

"Aum, Shri Ganeshaya namah! Peerless One, industrious indweller in all, we see You in the full warmth of the Sun, in the full life of Earth and the orderliness of all the turning planets. O Lord and lover of intellect, You are the intricate knowledge blossoming in the mind of the people. O Lord who rules the mind of each and all who worship You, because of You, chaos never was nor will it ever be.
Ganesha sharanam, sharanam Ganesha."

Nothing happened immediately, but it seemed like 15 minutes or a half-hour later, I felt this energy welling inside my heart. It was so intense, so warming and life-filling that I felt a little light-headed and dizzy. I laid down and let the energy course through my body. I have to say, it felt like pure bliss. Like love.

Not quite sure what else to say other than that. I'm sure it means something, but I can't think of anything specific...only that there is some higher power out there that listened to me, if only for a brief moment. Maybe it was meant to prove to me that Ganesha exists...and is listening.

However, I am open to any other interpretations. Please comment below what you think. And my next post will be a more in-depth report of my experience on the meditation and yoga conference that inspired me to seek this path in the first place.

I Feel Like Saying "Hello World" For the First Time

Hello World. It is probably the most cliche phrase that has ever come out of the Information Age.

Yet it is something that I feel like saying now more than ever.

As far as how I got to this point, well, that is a topic for another post...this being an introductory post, it won't say much other than my intentions for this blog.

Light Club is a blog that I started on the suggestion of a friend, one who has grown dear to me in a short time. The title is a modification of a line from the 1990's movie Fight Club. The line from the movie in question that I'm modifying is:

"The first rule about Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club."

I'm no pit-fighter. The closest I'll ever get to being in an actual fight, barring someone mugging me, is if I buy tickets for a seat at a WWE or UFC event. And the extent of my martial arts training is a little Aikido I took during my college years that I've probably forgotten by now. But with my newfound spirituality, I feel like I'm ready to take on the world, metaphorically that is. Doing the best I can in this world is my new fight, and it's one I intend on winning.

Unlike the characters of the movie of Fight Club, though, this fight of mine is not something I am going to keep to myself. I intend to broadcast it to the world, and you're more than welcome to read along as I document my journeys.

This blog is going to be of a spiritual nature. It is going to document the progress I've made along my spiritual path. As such, the reflections that I post here, while they are certainly public and can be commented on, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else, nor am I saying what works for me spiritually will work for you. This isn't a blog to proselytize, or preach. Rather, I am sharing my experiences, and through the comments section, am more than willing to receive advice.

So that is Light Club in a nutshell. Welcome to Light Club. If this is your first time, you have to read. ;)