Manisha Melwani Knowledge, Inspiration & Tools for REAL Life Solutions Wed, 08 Sep 2021 20:40:03 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 The One Solution for All Your Problems Wed, 08 Sep 2021 16:00:05 +0000 Can there be only one solution to all our problems? In spite of how improbable this seems, this is exactly what I learned from some Q&A sessions with Swami Aparajitananda, a wise and pragmatic teacher of Vedanta on YouTube recently. Spiritual seekers posed questions on various Vedantic concepts.

In addition, they posed several questions on everyday life such as how to live a spiritual life, face difficulties with equanimity, accept people for who they are, deal with conflicts in relationships, and make right choices in life.

Swami Aparajitananda from Chinmaya Mission talking about the one solution for all our problemsAs Swami Aparajitananda answered these latter everyday questions, I noticed a common theme to his answers—the importance of living a life centred in God.

Swamiji (“ji” is added to names as a form of respect) repeatedly mentioned that remembering God, having faith in God, and surrendering to God is the way to overcome all our problems and live a peaceful, happy life.

This article is inspired by the answers to the questions that were posed to him. I have paraphrased his answers.

How to live a spiritual life amidst the challenges of daily living?

Living a spiritual life means remembering God while performing all your everyday duties and activities. This is the way to be able to meet your challenges successfully.

Act in such a way that the Lord is pleased with you. And how will you know the Lord is pleased with you? Look within. If your mind is peaceful, you are doing the right thing.

Don’t worry about what others think.

By following the righteous path and living spiritual virtues such as humility, straightforwardness, and practicing honesty without compromises, God will be pleased with you.

Never have hate or ill-will against others. Love and forgive everyone. Your mind will be peaceful, and your meditation will be fruitful.

Hold on to God. The easiest way is to chant God’s name while fulfilling your worldly duties. Whether mechanical or not, keep chanting and remembering God.

You divinise your mind by chanting. God becomes active in you. And when God is active in your mind, selfish desire, anger, greed and other negativities that are associated with the ego will not arise.

Always remain connected to God. Remembering God at all times is the one solution that will solve all problems.

How can I face a difficult situation with equanimity?

Understand that the situation that you find yourself in is from the Lord. He knows that this is the perfect environment for your growth. Whatever God is doing is right and just.

We are limited beings with limited knowledge and ability. But the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient Lord is in charge of everything. So how can He do anything wrong? It is impossible! Nothing can happen without His command. Even a blade of grass cannot move without His will.

And so, accept everything cheerfully. Remember that acceptance must always be cheerful. It is never a pessimistic resignation.

When facing a choice-less situation, accept cheerfully. If there is a choice-ful situation, exercise your choice keeping the Lord in mind and act cheerfully.

The point is, always be cheerful. This is equanimity of mind.

How can I stop myself from seeing faults in others?

Everyone is essentially divine because the supreme Lord exists in the hearts of all. But being ignorant of the Lord within, we all act selfishly. We do and say bad things.

Remember, negativity belongs to the ego and is temporary. Our true nature is permanent.

Pay attention to the divinity in others and not their egoistic actions and words. For example, if you are given a piece of gold covered with mud, will you value it? Definitely! You know there’s gold in it. You value it because you have turned your attention to the gold and not to the mud.

Start with working on yourself and seeing yourself as divine. Tell yourself that you are not the body and mind. You are supreme consciousness.

If you see yourself as the body, you will see others as the body. But when you see yourself as divine, naturally then, you will see divinity in others.

How can I work without getting involved in office politics and conflicts and do the right thing?

Don’t think you are competing with others. Know that your ability to perform your duties comes from the Lord. It is not your ability. It is borrowed from the Lord.

Everyone and everything belong to God. Remember that you are working to please God and not your boss or company. God is your first and only responsibility.

Perform your duties as a worship of God, and to please Him. Have the attitude: “All my talents and abilities are from you, O Lord. I’m only your instrument. You are working through me.”

This attitude will purify your mind and help you evolve spiritually.

When you start working in this way, your personality will naturally become peaceful and others will come to respect you. You will become a role model and a source of strength for others. This is because peace and strength go together.

Always remember, “This is God’s work”. The moment you forget God, you become weak.

It is impossible to be connected to God and be weak. Stress and strain mean you have strayed away from God.

How can I make the right choices in life?

Ask yourself: By doing what will the Lord be pleased? Whatever is righteous, moral, and good for all is what the Lord likes. When you do that, there is a great sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, and no guilt feelings.

So, don’t live your life according to your personal likes and dislikes, but according to the wish of Lord. Stay perfectly in tune with God. This brings peace.

Peace means God, peaceless-ness means absence of God.

When something disturbs your mind, it means that your thinking is wrong. Your trust, your love and your faith are not very strong. Convert your weaknesses into strengths by surrendering to God.

Surrender to God is the highest self-effort.

Living a God-centred life

In these answers, Swami Aparajitananda gave seekers practical and sure solutions to solve their daily problems.

When we act prompted by our apparent nature, the ego personality, we come to suffer the stress and strain of life. But when we shift our focus inwards to our real nature, the Self or God within and act keeping that in mind, we start to live life in greater peace and harmony in the world.

Living a God-centred life is indeed the one solution for all our problems.

You can listen to Swami Aparajitananda’s sessions here:
Q&A – Part 02 with Swami Aparajitananda, Chinmaya Mission Mangaluru.
Q&A – Part 03″ with Swami Aparajitananda, Chinmaya Mission Mangaluru.

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Moments of Inspiration Through Nature Wed, 25 Aug 2021 16:00:09 +0000 Nature is constantly communicating with us, giving us signs of the presence of the divine in our lives. To uplift our mind, we only need to slow down and be aware of the miracles in the everyday things we experience.

In this article are two stories of moments of inspiration through nature. The first comes from my friend, Tanya Freedman, a best-selling author and artist; the second is my own marvelous experience of seeing divine signs every day.

Here’s Tanya’s story…

Direct communication from the divine

Joy is abundant all around us if we only seek it and take off our muddy blinkers. Compassion, kindness and joy are within our grasp when we truly open our hearts to seeing, embracing and living with joy.

Despite the many tribulations we may experience throughout our lives, I believe in miracles. We can make a difference in our own world, our own family and community by first being truly grateful and finding positivity in ourselves and in the world.

The more I’m open to asking questions and seeing miracles from God, the more I see them every day, everywhere; large and small.

I believe that God is compassionate and has a great sense of humour. I enjoy the unexpected little gifts that keep me inspired and being open to any of his messages.

Here is an example of a little inspirational miracle in nature that I once witnessed…

When my husband and I moved out of Toronto to settle in a quiet secluded home surrounded by forests almost two years ago, I was filled with incredible gratitude which overflowed with genuine childlike joy. As a visual artist, vibrant colours, tastes and smells resonate with me. Nature revives me.

As autumn brings the colder winds, covering the deep wood floors with golden and red leaves, the deer — sometimes just a handful, sometimes ten or more at a time — slowly graze on the remaining hidden greenery in complete silence broken only by bird song and cracking of twigs under their hooves.

At the beginning I marvelled at how close they were, only 30-40 feet away from our windows.

Hardly daring to breathe I would pick up my binoculars and feast my eyes on these amazing calm creatures with their furry coats the same shade of brown and mossy grey as the thick tree trunks.

I cannot imagine ever tiring of seeing the gift of them when I look out of the windows.

In the summer, the young creatures spring about full of vigour and confidence and then lay down and relax in the dappled shade. Their coats are a vibrant russet red and their bushy tails pristine white.

Once, I saw a small deer accompanied by another that was a bit bigger. I watched them for almost an hour before they set off to the pond to our right.

But as one facing me grazed unaware it was being watched and admired, I smiled and said softly, “God, I know you’re there and I thank you so much for this yet another amazing gift. Please would you make that deer look up at me.”

I was smiling to myself and just then the deer looked up at me and nodded. It was a very clear nod, and it nodded again. And again.”

I laughed softly with joy, and thanked God again for his great sense of humour. As if he was reminding me that this is the least he can do with all his powers of creating us and the world.

I could imagine him chuckling as if saying, “Enjoy every moment and if you think this is a miracle, then imagine how beautiful your life can be with even more prayer and total believe and faith in me.”

OM Sacred symbol .jpgSeeing OM in nature

Sometimes nature provides us with unmistakably clear communication from the divine, as in Tanya’s beautiful story above. And sometimes, the divine reassures us of its benevolent presence  through what we see in nature.

Here’s my story…

Many years ago when my son, Arun was about four, we were outside in the springtime, enjoying the sunshine and the freshly-bloomed flowers in the garden.

I held his little hand and Ied him around the garden beds, pointing out the colours of the flowers and how beautiful they looked. I encouraged him to gently touch the flowers and notice their fragrance. He was delighted and showed it in the big smile he had on his face.

I then asked him to look up to the sky and notice the clouds and how cheerful they appeared on the backdrop of a perfect blue sky. He looked up in wonder.

I kneeled down to his eye level and said, “You know Sweetie, when we look at the beautiful clouds and sky, or the colourful flowers, it helps us to remember God. God talks to us through them.” He was listening intently; he stopped blinking and stared into the distance. I could see he was taking it all in.

Soon, it was time to go to his pre-school program. I picked him up and put him in his child seat in the middle of the back seat of the car and started driving.

As I approached a busy traffic intersection, the lights turned red. The cars in front of me slowed down as they approached the stop line. I inched forward slowly, following behind the cars. I kept my eyes and focus on the traffic, waiting for the signals to turn green.

Just then, Arun, who had a clear view of the sky through the windshield, cried out excitedly, “Mom! Look there’s an OM in the sky!”

Stunned at his words, I looked up into the sky and sure enough there was an OM in the sky!

Some clouds had formed into a perfect OM symbol in the sky ahead. (OM is a Sanskrit symbol for the supreme cause of the universe)

Awestruck at what I was seeing, I wanted to keep looking, but unfortunately, the lights turned green and the cars ahead of me started to move. I had to put my attention on the road and so only managed to get a fleeting glimpse of the OM.

“Wow!” I thought. “What an auspicious sign to actually see an OM in the sky.”

Ever since that day, I look into the clouds in the sky and often see OM’s.

OM symbol in EggplantsMost surprising and delightful are the OM’s in everyday things around the house such as kitchen spills, laundry stains, vegetables that I cook and even in dirt that I sweep up,

Take a look at these (divine) eggplants!

Inspiration of the Sacred Om symbol in nature in the form of the branches of a spruce tree

In May 2020, the clearest and longest-lasting OM appeared right in my backyard.

I looked out my bedroom window and noticed that the branches of the spruce tree had formed into a large and magnificent OM.

Amazingly, it’s still visible as I write this, more than a year later.

A Divine Universe

Vedanta, the spiritual science of life explains that there is only one divine presence in all things and beings in the universe.  Not only is it in all, it also expresses as all.

Nature provides us with the clearest demonstration of this truth and also the highest inspiration. A sincere desire and an open mind are all that is needed to gain a personal experience of this.

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Step-by-Step Meditation to Go beyond Your Thoughts Wed, 11 Aug 2021 16:00:12 +0000 The goal of meditation is to gain inner peace. Peace does not come from any object, person or situation from the world outside but exists within us. It underlies all the thoughts of the mind. When the thoughts are quietened, we go beyond them and experience the peace that is always there.

The biggest obstacles in meditation are our own thoughts. To still the mind is like trying to get a playful child to sit down and be quiet when all she cares about is going out to play.

Step-by step method to go beyond your thoughts

Fortunately, there is a step-by step method that helps to silence the thoughts for meditation. Vedanta, the spiritual science of life explains how to do this.

It involves shifting your identification away from your body and mind to get to the peace that lies behind the mind.

Read on to understand the facts, terms and method, and then practice what you have read in the guided meditation below.

Diagram showing the 5 sheaths of the human personality and how to go beyond them in meditationThe human personality is made up of five layers which are called “sheaths”. You can see the five sheaths in this diagram. This term is used because the sheaths appear to cover the Self, our true spiritual essence. The nature of the Self is peace.

The meditation practice involves slowly turning your attention away from the first sheath to the fifth sheath where there are no more thoughts. Then, as you stay in that thoughtless state, you will transcend the sheaths and experience the peace of the Self.

What are the sheaths?

The sheaths are made up of matter or you could consider them to be layers of energy. The layers become progressively subtler from the first to the fifth sheath.

Slower, denser energy comprises tangible matter as represented in the diagram by the darkest colour. This is the first sheath called the Food Sheath. The fifth or Bliss Sheath, which is shown as having the lightest colour is the subtlest of all the five sheaths.

The demarcation lines between the sheaths are not to be taken literally; they are there to illustrate the gradations of subtlety.

Let’s now look at the sheaths one at a time.

The Food Sheath: The Food Sheath is the physical body. It is said to be the Food Sheath because the body is made up of and sustained by the food that we eat. And, when the body dies, it becomes food for other living organisms.

The Vital Air Sheath: Next is the Vital Air Sheath. This sheath is made up of the cosmic energy, or prana (Sanskrit) that comes in through the air that we breathe.

Both the air and prana sustain life in the body. Prana controls the physiological functions such as perception, respiration, digestion, circulation and excretion.

Changes in the health of the body and the state of the mind impact the breathing and the physiological functions. Conversely, by regulating the breathing, we can calm down the mind and normalise the body’s functions.

The Vital Air Sheath is subtler than the Food Sheath. We can’t see the air or energy, but we can feel it and experience it.

The Mental Sheath and the Intellectual Sheath: The Mental and the Intellectual Sheaths are even subtler. They are made up of thoughts which are not perceptible by any of the physical sense organs.

The Mental Sheath is made up of feeling thoughts while the Intellectual Sheath is made up of rational, thinking thoughts.

These two sheaths are the hardest to transcend in meditation. This is because we identify very closely with our feelings and thoughts and take them to be who we are. For instance, when we experience emotions such as joy or anger, we say, “I’m happy,” or “I’m angry.” Or, when we identify with our thoughts, we say, “I think…” “I know” or “I should have…”

The Bliss Sheath: The last layer of matter is the Bliss Sheath. It is called so because this layer of matter has no thoughts; and where there are no thoughts, there we experience bliss or peace. Our subconscious impressions lie dormant in the Bliss Sheath waiting for the right time to manifest as our thoughts and actions.

It’s important to note that although we do experience peace when we identify with the Bliss Sheath, it is not a positive state of peace.

The peace of the Bliss Sheath is similar to the silence that you experience when your neighbour turns off his lawnmower. While things are now silent around you, the outer environment doesn’t bring you real inner peace.

The goal is to transcend this last layer of matter and experience your spiritual essence, the very core of your personality whose very nature is peace.

Overview of the procedure

Begin your meditation practice by sitting alone in a quiet place at a quiet time.

To go beyond your identification with the body, the Food Sheath, it must be kept in the correct posture. Keep your back straight and in alignment with your head and neck. Relax your whole body, especially your face, neck and shoulders. Place your hands in your lap palms up, one on top of the other or on your knees with the palms up or down.

Being able to sit still in this way is a crucial very first discipline for meditation.

Gently close your eyes.

Now shift your attention to your breathing, keeping it slow and deep. As you practice, breathing in this way will become automatic and you won’t need to consciously focus on it. By doing so, you will go beyond your identification with the Vital Air Sheath.

Next, as you hold your body still and breath steady, you will find that thoughts not initiated by you will come up. You may feel certain emotions connected to those thoughts (the Mental Sheath) or you may have thoughts about some plans or judgements (the Intellectual Sheath). When this happens, bring your attention to your breathing while holding your body very still. Resist the temptation to move, rub, or scratch any part of your body.

Withdraw your attention to you, the inner witness who is aware of the thoughts. When you do this, you will find that the thoughts die down and the mind becomes quiet. This is because thoughts are sustained by your attention on them. When you take your focus away from them, they fade away from lack of attention.

When you are able to be present and sustain your attention on the silence, you will be identified with the Bliss Sheath.

Hold your attention in this thought-less state for as long as you can. With regular practice, you will slip into a deep state of experience. In this deeper state of meditation, you will no longer be striving to achieve no thoughts, you will simply “be” in meditation.

“Being” in meditation is where you will have gone beyond all the five sheaths and be abiding in the peaceful Self.

This is the goal of meditation. Hold your mind in this state for as long as you can and then slowly come out of your meditation.

It’s time to practice

Now that you know the theory, terms and procedure of the step-by-step meditation to go beyond your thoughts, you can begin your practice by listening to the guided meditation below.

Wishing you all success!

Guided Meditation to Go beyond Your Thoughts


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Extraordinary Stories of Healing from Addiction Wed, 21 Jul 2021 15:59:40 +0000 After reading my article on divine grace, some people contacted me with their own extraordinary stories of healing and transformation.

Here are stories about the power of prayer that helped two people heal from addiction. The first is the story of Vasiliy, a former alcoholic and drug addict and the second is of Laura, whose prayers healed her mother’s addiction to alcohol.

Vasiliy’s story

The seeds for Vasiliy’s problems with addiction were planted when he first tried smoking pot and drinking alcohol in high school. His occasional forays into these substances led to a serious addiction in the future.

His addiction began in his early twenties. He only indulged on the weekends just to have a good time.

In the beginning, he didn’t think his addiction was a problem. He felt healthy as he exercised regularly, had a job and a girlfriend. And it was still something he did only on the weekends.

But gradually, he became addicted to harder and harder liquor and drugs. The situation dramatically turned for the worse when he started taking cocaine. His money started to disappear, he began to miss his workdays, and he ruined his relationship with his girlfriend of three years.

Eventually, his addiction began to control his life and it took him down a dark tunnel from which there seemed to be no escape. He felt helpless. He never thought that it would come to this. He had always thought he would be able to overcome his habit.

Burnt out matches to symbolic of the consequences of addictionFinally, burnt out by his struggle with his addiction, he admitted that he needed help. It had taken him twelve long years.

He enrolled in the 12-step program of Cocaine Anonymous. There, he was paired with a sponsor who was instrumental in helping him out of his addiction.

Vasiliy told me that once he started on the 12-steps, he realised that this was actually a spiritual program. In the first step, he had to honestly admit that he felt powerless over his addiction and that his life had become unmanageable.

In the second step, his sponsor asked him, “Do you believe that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity?”

Before he answered it, his mind went back to his teenage years when he used to question the meaning of life and its purpose. When he couldn’t find the answers, he escaped into drugs and alcohol. They transported him to another world where everything seemed rich and meaningful.

He also recalled how, in the last year of his addiction, he would often find himself awake in the middle of the night, soaked with his own sweat. He had felt that he couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to die. He would call out to God to help him find peace of mind and control his addiction.

Since he had always felt that there was a God, he answered, “yes” to the second question.

spirit of man in the sky asking fro healingThen, his sponsor asked him the third question. “Are you ready to surrender your will and your life to God as you understand him?” Vasiliy didn’t hesitate. His answer was an immediate, “yes”.

At that time, he didn’t fully understand the implications. It just felt right, and he was desperate to recover. When he surrendered himself to God and sincerely asked for help, the transformation began.

He felt an inner connection that dissolved his many long years of obsession with cocaine. Life suddenly took on new meaning. He felt that up until this point, he had been swimming in the murky depths of a polluted lake and now, he finally surfaced and gulped his first breath of life-giving fresh air.

When the following weekend came, he was surprised that he didn’t feel the usual craving to use drugs. The compulsive obsession for drugs was suddenly absent. This was the first weekend he was sober in over ten years.

The transformation

As he continued to work with his sponsor, more weekends came, and he still remained sober. Such is the power of surrender and divine grace. This was the start of his spiritual journey.

Later, someone directed him to the Self-Realization Fellowship Centre in Toronto. There he found his guru in Paramahansa Yogananda. Very soon, Vasiliy cleaned up his life and started a regular meditation practice.

Although he was on his way to recovery, the road there wasn’t always smooth or easy. There were several times when he became weak and thought he would give in.

But he learned that he didn’t have to struggle to control his cravings; what he had to do was to pray and surrender to God. That gave him the strength to stay sober. He also continued to work with his sponsor, attended the weekly meetings, and meditated everyday.

Today, Vasiliy is a fully recovered drug addict and alcoholic and a certified meditation instructor. You can watch him describe his journey on his YouTube video and connect with him on Facebook.

Laura’s story

Here’s another story of how the earnest prayers helped to heal and transform someone’s life. This is the story of Laura and her mother Brenda*.

Laura remembers being a young child of six when her mother started drinking. Over the years, the habit gradually declined into an uncontrollable addiction. From a glass or two of wine per night, it slowly became a bottle or two.

Brenda’s drinking had always been the cause for much upset in their household. Laura’s father, who was a kind soul, tried to convince her to stop but without success. He suffered from a poor heart and did not have the strength or ability to stop her when she became loud and violent.

By the time Laura was twenty, daily arguments within the family became the norm. One night, Brenda started shouting abuses at her husband and complaining about his family after a long bout of drinking. At that time, he was recovering from a stroke and feeling too weak to respond.

His unresponsiveness and inability to defend himself infuriated her and she started yelling even more. Laura and her older brother, Michael tried to calm their mother down with no success.

Brenda then lifted her glass and was about to throw it at the TV but Michael intervened and firmly gripped her arm.  At that point, Brenda completely lost it. How dare he stop her! “I’m going to call the police!” she growled.  She strode over to the wall where the panic button on the house security alarm was and pressed it continuously until her son pulled her away.

The signal from the panic button summoned the police who arrived within a few minutes. As soon as they entered and saw Brenda and the family, they quickly understood the situation.

Somehow, their presence diffused the tension in the room. They left as they realised this was not an emergency.

Things then became suddenly quiet and the whole family dispersed to their rooms.

Totally shaken up by what had just happened, Laura went to her room where she had set up a small altar for prayer. She kneeled in front of her altar and started sobbing.

“Enough!” she cried. She had had enough of her mother’s drinking. She just wanted it to stop so everyone could live in peace.

“Please, please dear Lord, please do something to help her stop drinking!” she begged. “Please change my mother!” She prayed over and over again.

She spent the next several hours crying, praying and pleading to God to make her mother stop drinking.

Finally, at about four a.m. Laura fell asleep at her altar with a blanket around her.

The miraculous healing from addiction

Later the next morning when Laura, Michael and their father were in the kitchen, Brenda slowly walked in with her head hanging low.

She said she was ashamed of her behaviour and was deeply remorseful. She promised to never drink again. She repeatedly asked her family to forgive her.

They were surprised at her transformation. Their hearts melted on hearing her words. They all hugged and cried together.

It was years before Brenda ever drank again, and when she did, it was always only a small drink. Never did she go back to her old excessive habits.

What had happened?

Nothing had changed since the previous night except for Laura’s heartfelt prayers. Laura firmly believes that God heard her fervent prayers and enacted a miraculous change in Brenda’s mind.

Divine grace

Divine grace is always present, ever ready to flood into our lives. But we have to be ready to ask for it. It doesn’t come unsolicited. Just as we have to draw the curtains to let in the sunlight, we have to pray and ask for help.

man on his knees in surrenderThe beauty of sincere prayer and surrender is that it always invokes divine intervention and help. Vasiliy and Laura both turned to God at a time when there was no other hope.

This is when true surrender happens.

All genuine prayers for healing and transformation are heard and answered. Miracles then happen. This is an unfailing truth.

*not their real names

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A Miraculous Story of Divine Grace Wed, 23 Jun 2021 16:01:05 +0000 When we invoke the divine, which is the source of all power, benevolence and love through earnest prayer, grace flows into our lives.

open empty hands with palms up asking for divine graceDivine grace brings many blessings such as peace of mind, inner strength, protection from harm, and freedom from fear and sorrow.

But divine grace does not come unsolicited. It has to be earned through humility and sincerity in our efforts to improve and grow.

For example, a teacher may be more likely to give a couple of extra marks to allow a student to pass a test if she knows that he is sincerely putting in efforts to improve and has come a long way in a particular subject. It will encourage him to keep up his efforts.

A story of divine grace

Here’s a story of divine grace that a dear friend of my mother once told me. Her name was Padma, and I used to address her respectfully as “Aunty”.

Aunty was a kind and gentle soul who had tremendous faith in her guru. She loved and revered him as divinity itself. She once told me a story about how her prayers and faith offered her great protection and solace.

One day, Aunty decided to clean the crystal glasses in her china cupboard. As she was unable to use a stool to reach the top shelf, she asked her granddaughter to climb up and hand her the glasses one at a time. She sat on a chair and wiped them down with a clean cloth and then handed them back.

As they were working together in this way, her granddaughter accidently dropped one of the large, heavy-bottomed crystal glasses. It fell on the tiled floor with a loud crash and smashed into smithereens. In a freak accident, one of the larger glass pieces bounced off the floor and flew directly into Aunty’s left eye, leaving her bleeding profusely and in excruciating pain.

She was rushed to the hospital where the doctors told her that her cornea was badly damaged, and she would likely lose sight in her left eye. She was rushed into surgery to remove the glass fragment.

Silhouette of hands invoking divine grace.After the surgery, as she lay on her hospital bed in tremendous pain, she prayed to her guru. She implored him to relieve her of the pain. With great anguish she asked, “What did I do to deserve this? Am I not sincerely trying to live in your service and faith?”

With such thoughts in her mind, she fell asleep. She had a dream in which her guru came to her, took her hand and together they travelled back in time to when she was a little girl of four in India.

She and her six-year-old brother were playing in the shed when they found an old light fixture lying on the floor. It was filled with twigs and straw and as they peeked in, they saw two newborn baby birds in a nest. Their eyes were still closed, and they had no feathers on their body.

Out of curiosity and childhood innocence, her brother picked up a twig and nudged the babies which then started to rasp and wheeze. He giggled and then poked at the large, bulging eyes of one of the birds which made it cry out loudly. He laughed and poked even more.

Seeing her brother laugh and thinking that this was fun, she too, picked up a twig and started poking the eyes of the other bird. Something inside told her to stop and not hurt the birds, but she didn’t listen.

As Aunty witnessed this scene in her dream, she was horrified at what she had done. She sobbed in pain and remorse. Her guru gently told her, “You blinded both eyes of that bird, I only allowed one of your eyes to get hurt.”

On hearing these words, Aunty immediately woke up. She realised that the accident with the glass was not an accident but something that happened as a result of her past actions. She thanked her guru for his love and compassion. She begged for forgiveness and prayed that she would never hurt another soul ever again.

Later, Aunty told me that even though the surgeon had warned her she would likely be blind in her left eye, she actually did recover an astonishing seventy percent of her vision in that eye. She attributed it all to the grace of the divine, her guru.

When we call upon the divine and surrender in faith, we invoke its grace and protection. Read, 4 Reasons for developing divine devotions on your spiritual path

Staying close to the divine invokes grace

When we keep a constant remembrance of the divine, we are saved from the sorrows that come from our worldly attachments and past karma.

fisherman casting a net while standing inwatern To illustrate this, my guru, Swami Tejomayananda once described a fisherman casting a net in the sea while standing in shallow water. He said that the net would catch the fish that are further away from the fisherman. But those that swim around close to him will not get caught.

Through faith, prayer and righteous living in alignment with the divine, we invoke its grace and benevolence into our lives.

Related articles:
9 ways to develop divine love
How to cultivate faith in the higher power

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Giving—the Greatest Gift Wed, 09 Jun 2021 16:00:01 +0000 Life is a gift. Giving back out of a sense of gratitude fulfills the purpose of the gifts we have.

Giving from gratitude not only helps others, but also brings blessings in the form of joy and peace within ourselves.

It is because of this that giving is a great gift.

Aside from money and objects, we can share our talents and skills. Small things such as a friendly smile, kind words, a gentle touch, hugs and a listening ear can be great gifts. Even our thoughts expressed as prayers and blessings can help to uplift others.

When it comes to giving, it’s important to remember that how we give matters more than what we give. In other words, our intentions and attitude behind giving are more significant than the gift itself.

The highest form of giving comes out of love and gratitude. When giving is motivated by these noble emotions, it expresses in the following ways:

Signs of the highest form of giving

Giving a sunflower.

1. The giving is unconditional

When the giving is unconditional, you have no desire to gain anything in return. Giving itself is its own reward. You give simply because you want to give. You gain joy and satisfaction from the act of giving and ask for nothing else.

You can help in small but important ways. You may use your computer skills to help someone learn how to use the programs on her device. You may help an elderly neighbour take out his trash every week or babysit for a friend.

And when you give something tangible, you don’t insist that the recipient use it in any particular way. She is free to keep it or not, use it or not, and basically do whatever she likes with it.

In contrast, when giving is conditional, it comes with many expectations—said and unsaid. “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” is the attitude.

The giver offers gifts, services and even flattery so as to gain some monetary rewards, special favors or privileges in return. When the giving is not reciprocated, the giving stops abruptly and the relationship is broken. This is often the case in the business world.

In conditional giving, the giver may insist that the gift be used in a certain way, place or time. For example, if she gives you a vase as a house-warming gift, she expects that you like it and will use it. She may hint that her vase would look perfect on the table beside your sofa, or that it would be more suitable for the flowers you have in another vase.

In unconditional giving, you make no demands whatsoever about how your gift should be used.

2. Once given, the gift is quickly forgotten

When your giving is without strings, your gift is a sincere expression of gratitude, friendship, or love. There is no pride or self-congratulation. You quickly forget what, how much and when you gave.

Young woman giving her attention to an older woman while sitting on a sofaVery often, the recipient or others will have to remind you of your gift. This may happen when you give your time and attention to listen to someone in need of a listening ear and encouragement. You may not think much of it at the time, but the one with whom you shared your time with will cherish your gift and not easily forget it.

On the other hand, when someone gives to get something in return, the giving is never forgotten. She often reminds you and others of her gift, implying that she is waiting for you to reciprocate the favour.

Even if she may not want any tangible reward, expecting praise from others also counts as conditional giving and spoils the joy of giving.

3. Giving is done readily with sincerity and enthusiasm

Another expression of the highest form of giving is that you are eager to give and share. When you find someone to help or a genuine cause to support, you waste no time in giving. You give readily, sincerely and with enthusiasm. You never need to be reminded to give.

However, someone who is not genuine in their desire to help will not readily part with her time, money or expertise.

She will have to be asked many times to give or donate. Even when she agrees, she will keep postponing, making up some excuse or the other. Finally, when she does give, she gives reluctantly, resentfully and with a lack of concern.

4. Giving is done with humility and respect

A humble, modern day saint, Rev. J.P. Vaswani once said that when we get a chance to help others, we should thank them for giving us the opportunity to help. Without someone to receive our gift, we would not gain the benefit of being of service. What’s more, the recipient of our generosity is allowing us to earn karmic merits for our actions.

Young woman hands holding elderly person's hands.When you have such an attitude, you will feel that you are actually giving to yourself when you give to others. Naturally, your giving will be done with humility and respect. This promotes your inner growth and helps to break down the ego. Read, The REAL reward of giving.

By comparison, someone who only gives to get something in return will feel she is doing you a favour. Inwardly, she expects something back for her “generous” gesture. So, she may feign humility and respect, while inwardly feeling disdain and impatience.

5. Only the best is given

When you feel a strong sense of gratitude for the blessings in your life, you want to give back to serve and uplift others.

And so, you give the best of what you have and don’t hold back on the quantity or quality of your gift. The items you donate are what you would want for yourself and more. They may be food, clothes, household and personal care items, gift cards—practically anything that is useful and needed.

You give generous monetary donations remaining anonymous when you can. You may volunteer in the community, or you may mentor and help others in need of your unique skills and talents. You enjoy giving your best to others.

In contrast, a person who does not feel any gratitude or obligation to give back to others will not give. When she does give, she will only give what she doesn’t like or want. Her donations may be in bad shape, poor quality or in need of repair.

6. There is a feeling that one could be doing more even when much is given.

A generous giver never feels satisfied that she has given enough. With love and gratitude in her heart, she feels she could be doing more. She goes out of her way to give and serve others.

By comparison, if a miser is made to feel obligated to give her time, energy and skills for others, she does so grudgingly and only the barest minimum required of her. She will certainly not go out on a limb to help others. She guards her time, energy and resources with a fierce tenacity.

The gifts of giving

Pink rose blossoms in love shapeGiving that is motivated by love and gratitude cultivates humility and an inner sensitivity to the needs of others. It helps to break down selfishness and attachment to material goods. All these things advance our spiritual growth. Read Give, serve and grow.

The joy of a selfless act lies in the act itself and not on any outer rewards.

Such selfless giving is indeed noble and a great gift.

*Read more about the highest, mediocre and lowest types of giving:

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