To be an ocean of love

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

This one’s to all the ladies who calmly endure pain and hardship, and to their husbands who lovingly care for their wife’s every single need — I salute you.

We’ve had a bereavement in the family. My wife’s aunt (we’ll call her ‘masi’) passed away at the age of 51. She had been facing an ongoing battle with cancer for many years. Masi leaves behind her husband (we’ll call him ‘masa’) and a 17 year old son.

At the prathna sabha — a prayer meeting where the community come together to take strength from detachment-cultivating songs and pay their condolences to the family — members of the family and community spoke about masi’s life and her virtues.

Samta bhaav: calmly enduring the ups and downs of life

Masi’s cancer was advanced. It had gotten into her bones and affected every part of her body. She was constantly in so much pain and yet her focus was clear. She knew she needed to remain calm, stay strong, persevere and raise her son to become the wonderful young man he is today.

In Jain dharma, there is a term known as “samta bhaav”. It means to have a feeling of calmness and peace in any given situation. It means to have equanimity regardless of the pushes and pulls and ups and downs of life.

Samta bhaav arises from a knowing that everything around us is merely temporary — it will come and go as appropriate, based on the knots we have bound to ourselves through our previous behaviours. Those knots we have bound in the past bring rise to these present situations in our life.

Samta bhaav is a feeling that arises as a result of knowing in the depths of our heart that we are wholly responsible for the situations that are manifesting in our lives right now. Our present behaviours — the way we endure the situations we face — will determine the knots we bind and the subsequent situations that present themselves to us.

Masi, through the day-to-day endurance of physical pain, demonstrated samta bhaav to us.

Despite what she was going through, she would have a smile on her face and not let talk about her medical condition dampen the vitality of her life and her family.

We can take inspiration from that, learn to ease our own suffering and eventually free ourselves from our own self-made traps.

Pyaar ka saagar: being an ocean of love

During the prathna sabha, there was a devotional song performed, titled ‘Tu pyaar ka saagar hain’ (external links: music video; lyrics translation).

The song expresses devotion towards the great souls who have experienced their true limitless inner bliss and freedom from suffering.

These great souls are an ocean of love, overflowing with compassion. We look to them to give us just one drop of love (from that ocean of love) to quench our thirst, our thirst for freedom and ultimately cure our otherwise endless suffering.

Pyaar ka saagar means ‘ocean of love’. By taking a drop from the ocean of love, may we also be free to fly across our own ocean of suffering.

During the words from family members shared at the end of the prathna sabha, masi’s eldest brother spoke briefly about masi’s virtues and then directed our attention towards masa (masi’s husband) — an embodiment of ‘pyaar ka saagar’, an ocean of love.

Masa, in all these years, stood firmly next to masi, taking care of her every single need. From the ups and downs, the holidays and the hospital visits, and everything in between, he was right there, by her side, supporting masi through the journey.

He would work hard at the office all day and then tend to masi in the evenings and throughout the night. He is someone who clearly understood his duty and continued to diligently fulfill it.

Masa personified an ocean of love by consistently being at masi’s side, helping her endure what life presented her with.

Striving to be an ocean of love

As the upcoming years and decades unravel, I hope that my wife never has to suffer any physical pain, emotional turmoil or mental anguish.

But if she has to face any of this, then I hope I have the strength, stamina and diligence to care for her every need and soften her day-to-day suffering.

I look towards masa, my father, grandfather and other great men out there, and seek to become an ocean of love just like them.

One calming word

Written by Suraj Shah, inspired by greatness.

What one word will always fill you with calm?

We live in a busy world, with much to do, many people to see, multiple personalities to deal with and of course money to make.

In itself all that can be the cause of enough stress, but adding on the curve-balls that life throws us (health issues, someone close to us passing away, a fire at home, etc), it can really knock the wind out of us.

We get frazzled, overwhelmed, panicky and desperate.  We struggle to breathe, to think clearly, to talk or perhaps even eat.

During an overwhelmingly turbulent day, just one word is all it may take to bring peace to our minds.

The power of just one word

My friend Sharan (her name means ‘shelter’) recently introduced me to a marvellous word from the Sikh tradition:

“Waheguru” (pronounced waa-hee-gu-ru)

One way to translate it is if we break it down: “Wahe” means wonderful, awe inspiring Divine Force, “Gu” means spiritual darkness and “Ru” is the ray of light, brought to eliminate the darkness.  So “Waheguru” translates to “A Divine Light eliminating spiritual darkness”.

From my perspective, this one word takes on multiple additional meanings which all contribute to calmness:

  • One God (i.e. I see God in everything): God is within me and in everything around me – I have nothing to fear or lose.
  • Wonderful Lord: A deep appreciation for the qualities and virtues of God.  It is an affirmation of sorts, like reciting “Amen!”  This genuine appreciation of virtues would help to cultivate these same qualities within me.
  • Surrendering thoughts, words and actions to Guru: The fortunate position that this moment presents me with is all down to the compassion of a great being.  So let me bow to his greatness, let go of my negative emotions, and appropriately respond to the situation I’m in.

“Waheguru” is a word that my friend recites daily, in the morning and the evening, commuting to work and back home, and any other opportunity that she gets.  Her grandma even uses it as a greeting towards other people.  Many others in her community do the same.  You may consider it a relaxing soothing meditation mantra (YouTube link).

This one word “Waheguru” could set you up for the day, give you bouts of strength and equanimity throughout the day, helps you reintegrate with family life after work, and then helps leave all the problems of the day behind as you gently drift off to sleep.  How wonderful indeed!

There are numerous phrases from other faiths, religions and traditions that bring about a similar sense of balance and peace.

What is your one word or phrase that consistently brings an immediate calm to any turbulent day?

On Google+, share your one calming word as well as your own thoughts on the above.

Love overcomes loss

Written by Suraj Shah.

We know that love is extraordinary.

We know love has the power to build bridges and break barriers.

We know that love can bring rise to our greatest qualities while conquering our most stubborn enemies.

We know that love has the power to deliver freedom from pain and bring about eternal happiness.

So how does love do all this, and how can we strengthen it in our lives?

I love you, and I’m thankful for you

In a Zen Habits post, Leo Babauta writes about a powerful algorithm for happiness.

He suggests using the phrase “I love you, and I’m thankful for you” in our day to day relationships.

Leo writes:

Look at each person you pass or encounter today, and think to yourself (as if you’re talking to the person you’re looking at), “I love you, and I’m thankful for you.” Try to say it with feeling. Mean it! Even to those you pass on the street, in the elevator, while you’re driving (you might only see them for a split second, from a distance).

When I applied it, I discovered that love transformed tense situations into calm and generous relationships. I found that I felt better, I felt real, I felt like I could move forward with my day.

This phrase works when we are experiencing the loss of a loved one. When someone we love is no longer around, feelings of sadness, anger and guilt come about in us. Often, great stress is placed on our closest relationships. Through our oscillating emotions, we push away the very people we need during delicate moments in life.

But by thinking “I love you, and I’m thankful for you” and truly meaning it, you will find that it drastically transforms tense relationships into ones of care and support.

Here’s what love does for us…

Love enhances the feeling of friendship

When you love someone, it brings about a feeling of care for their well-being.

You want them to come to no harm.

You want them to grow and discover their true selves. You are supportive of their decisions and you help them up nomatter how many times they may fall.

Love enables appreciation

When you love someone, when you are thankful for them, you discover and magnify their qualities. You feel great joy at observing what is great about them.

These same qualities that you observe in them start to grow in you.

The more you see them from a positive perspective, the more you benefit from the development of these qualities in your own life.

Love grows compassion

When you love someone, you want to protect them from fear and pain. You want to do whatever is in your power to shelter them from the harmful forces of the world.

Of course, you can only give to someone when you have it to give in the first place.

So it reminds you of the gifts you hold within you. It reminds you of the greatness you possess within you that can help someone else through a hard time.

Love tolerates through equanimity

When you love someone, you are willing to embrace them completely. You patiently listen to what they say, nomatter how they say it, and you simply observe their actions.

Free from expectation or frustration, you tolerate their every expression, and realise that they are not all too different from you.

Like you, they want love. Like you, they want to be heard, to be understood, to be cared for.

So looking at them with eyes of love communicates just that – you love them and you care for them, and nothing else matters.

Apply love in every interaction, every day

When you lose someone you are fond of, it can be very difficult for you and the people who want to support you through this loss. But what helps make it smoother is thinking and feeling “I love you, and I’m thankful for you” in your everyday interactions.

In relationships with those who are still around you, realise that the love that you possess at this delicate time can bring about deeper friendships, appreciation for the qualities of others, wider compassion for those who would benefit from your support, and great calmness through tolerance and equanimity.

When you lose someone, do something about it. Love those who are still around you. It will help you lead a calm and purposeful life.