Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Entry #33: Hinduism and "New Age"

Namaskar all, Angel Light here!

So... I'm going to go ahead and share with you all what is perhaps my greatest blasphemy, in the hopes that others can (finally) see some truth in these words. Bear with me here guys, I'll explain this rant of mine as best as I can.

***

Hinduism teaches us much of the same exact concepts that New Age masters are teaching now in the West.

To begin with, Hinduism is neither a monotheistic nor a polytheistic religion. The fact that we have many deities may seem confusing, but in fact they're all simply representations of one Supreme Being (which we call Brahma). If you're still confused, feel free to check out this article.

Second, let's get the facts straight on karma. Karma is NOT exactly the same as punishment, nor is it always a quick "justice". Karma in our culture is seen as a natural law of the universe. It is neutral, and it applies to every single one of us. Add the concept of reincarnation to this, and... well, let me tell you a short story to demonstrate:

Mr. John Doe is a rich and greedy man with a cunning personality. One night he gets in an argument with his friend, and in the heat of the moment he kills him. Now, given his fortune and power, he might be able to get away with it. He might not even feel guilt at all, or justify it in his head. But his actions have consequences - even if he's not found guilty in this life, those consequence will find their way into the next life (or any subsequent life). Mr. John Doe may be reborn as a poor man who's now in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting into trouble with the police for a crime he didn't commit, and without knowing why. In this new life, he is kind and loving but sees misfortune every day.

You might think that such an example justifies treating people harshly when they're facing unfortunate circumstances ("He deserves it, he must have done something wrong!"). But I feel that it's instead all the more reason to be compassionate. Perhaps through this new life, our John Doe learns valuable life lessons that he didn't understand in the previous one. And perhaps he'll use those lessons to help others and make the world a better place.

Third is the idea of reincarnation itself. For thousands of years, Vedic scriptures and books like the Bhagvad Gita explicitly mention the idea that we are not the body, but the soul. And so, even when the body dies, we do not - instead, we simply move out of the old, perished body and into a new one to start life anew. This is known as the cycle of life and death, from which souls seeking enlightenment can escape (this idea of freedom from the cycle of reincarnation is called 'Moksha').

Those are three major ones I can think of, but there may be other concepts and examples of course. I just wanted to speak my mind here, because I'm tired of hearing ignorant comments regarding Hinduism, along with seeing ideas which claim to be "new" yet give no credit to ancient wisdom.

***

I do apologize if some of the things I've said are offensive or don't make a whole lot of sense. If you have any questions, feel free to write them down for me in the comments section below - I'll be sure to respond ASAP. Namaskar!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Entry #32: Bird in a Cage, Idol in a Temple

Namaskar all, Angel Light here!

Spring is now in full bloom - which means, it's gardening season! My family and I have been at work fixing up our backyard garden and adding more color with new blossoms. It's exhausting at times, but definitely rewarding!

And while I haven't been the best I can be lately (physically, mentally and emotionally), I've been taking time out each day to contemplate and, with these moments of contemplation, improve myself one step at a time. One such thought on my mind lately is the idea of self-care...

***

When my siblings and I attended Sunday school at Chinmaya Mission, we learned a lot about the role of Hinduism as a way of life rather than as a religion. (Despite what most people may think, Hinduism actually isn't a religion at all, but a philosophy - for anyone who's confused about this, I can try and elaborate on this subject in a later post.)

One day, one of our teachers narrated the following anecdote to the class:

"Once there was a woman who bought a beautiful bird, and a golden cage to keep the bird enclosed in. She was so fascinated by the cage, that she would take every precaution to maintain its beauty. But one day, she came home to find that the bird inside this cage had died. It turned out that while she was busy taking care of the cage, she neglected to feed and care for the bird inside of it."

The moral of this story, according to our teacher, was that we should focus more on nurturing our soul rather than just our bodily needs.

But what wasn't stated, as I realize now, was that taking care of our body's basic needs and hygiene is just as important as taking care of our spiritual needs. In fact, neither should be ignored over the other.

As Mom always says, the body is the temple that houses our soul. While it's good to connect with the soul, it's also important to keep the 'temple' clean around it so that everything (including the soul) shines through. She believes - and has shown me many times through example - that when a person has both good character and cleanliness, it's easy for others to see that person's inner and outer beauty together.

Now, by outer beauty I'm not talking about "looks" - we don't have control over the way we look through our genes (and plastic surgery doesn't count here). What I'm talking about is self-care: showering, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, shaving, nail-cutting, applying makeup when needed, etc. Even "non-physical" needs count as self-care, like listening to your favorite music, hanging out with friends, or taking time out to follow a hobby.

The reason it's called "self-care", I now realize, is that it's simply that: taking care of yourself. Not for anyone else, but your self. And there's nothing self-ish about it. Putting yourself first in meeting physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs gives you energy to meet the needs of others.

I have a long way to go myself. But by writing down these thoughts, I hope to help others (along with myself) take the first step in a positive direction.

***

What are your thoughts on self-care? Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts from the heart. Remember, this is a place of love and kindness, and we're all here to look out for one another. Namaskar!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Entry #31: Weeping Willows

Namaskar all, Angel Light here...

For this post, I want to just dive into it right away. I'm not doing okay, and I want to let it all flow out. So, here goes...

***

I'm 26 years old now. I know, it may not seem like much, but - I'm starting to realize that I'm not getting any younger.

Most of my friends are married now (and/or raising kids - to my single-parent friends out there, hats off!). It seems everyone my age is settling into their lives at this point, with good solid careers and a decent home life. Everyone except me.

It's not that I'm useless or anything - far from it. I know (and have proven more than a few times) that I'm capable of performing well at whatever I'm aiming for. But given my short-term job experiences and all, who would be willing to hire me? Heck, I don't think I'd hire me based on my resume alone.

Maybe I'm just feeling this way because I've given up inside. Completely. As much as I don't like to admit it, I've lost the will to compete. I've lost the will to keep trying. And I've lost whatever will I had left in taking care of myself. I've become bitter and angry, mostly at myself. And I've been constantly thinking that I'm never going to be good enough...

In my neighborhood, spring has been fighting off a stubborn winter for the past few weeks. Today it seemed to have won, so I took Lucy (our Pomeranian) out for a long walk. We have a bike trail that (if you were to walk on all the way till the main road) leads straight towards our old middle school; and to the right of the trail stand a row of willow trees, among shrubs and other trees. People normally call them weeping willows, because of how the thin branches droop down towards the ground.

When I was younger, I used to think that the willows were actually depressed, for never being able to touch the sky. But while passing by them today, I had another thought:

"Maybe these willows aren't weeping after all. Maybe the branches wanted to bow down and touch the ground, to thank the earth for nurturing the roots and the roots for supporting them."

I know I'm not in a good situation right now, career-wise and all... but that doesn't mean it's all bad. I have my parents, my roots, supporting me. As long as I have that, I'll keep on growing and learning. And when this branch grows stronger, I'll bow down and touch the ground too, because I would never have made it so far without the roots.

This is what gives me the strength to carry on, each and every day.

***

Thank you for reading through this patiently, my dear readers. <3 Namaskar!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Entry #30: Love of the Most Precious Kind

Namaskar all, Angel Light here!

Happy Valentine's Day! To all the lovebirds out there, I hope you're all spending a wonderful day full of quality time. :) And to all those flying solo (like me :P), I wish you all a happy day full of self-love and self-care!

I want to dedicate today's short post to love. Not the romantic kind, but one that holds a deeper meaning to me...

***

I've reached the point where I don't need someone special in my life to feel loved. In fact, I know I'm already loved - by my mom and dad, by my siblings, by my friends. And for now, it's all the love I need.

Some people feel like it's not enough, that life isn't worth living without romance.

I get it. I've been there more times than I can count. But after a hundred minor and major heartbreaks over the years, I've finally begun to understand this: I don't need a guy in my life to feel happy and complete. If I don't feel happy and complete on my own, how am I going to find all that in another person?

Plus I'll be honest here, I've been in a slump for the past few months now... but through it all, I've had the support of my family. Without them, I don't think I would've been able to make it until now. I don't often admit it enough, but my parents and siblings are the world to me; and if I ever do get married in the distant future, I'd want to make sure that the guy I marry regards my family with respect, just as I'd respect his.

That is a love I know I can stand by for eternity. To me, it's a love of the most precious kind.

***

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Entry #29: Stage Fright

Namaskar all, Angel Light here!

To start with - happy 2018 to all my readers! :) The holidays are now over, and my family and I are all ready to settle into this year with new hopes and resolutions.

But there's one childhood memory of mine which has been nagging at me lately... so I've decided to spill out my thoughts on it here, before moving forward with this brand new year at full speed.

***

Spelling bees - we've all been there at some point or another, right?

When we were in elementary school, my brother, sister and I often qualified for our school's spelling bee. No matter which one of us qualified or not, if at least one of us made it to the school level, all three of us would prepare for the big day together.

One year, I remember my brother and I sitting in our designated seats at the far end of the gymnasium, in front of the entire school. Out of all those 20 seats, I was in #11 - second row, first girl on the left from the audience's perspective. A few rounds went by - then I was disqualified for incorrectly spelling an intermediate-level word. So I sat back down, dejected but praying for my brother to make it further than I did.

The next round began... then, after student #10 sat down, the girl to my left (#12) started nudging me to go up on the stage. I kept whispering, "No, it's not my turn! I was disqualified!" But she kept pushing me, while the crowd of students started whispering to each other wondering what was going on. Finally, I had enough of the pushing and nudging. I wanted nothing more than to get up and tell the principal (who was seated to the right of me with all the judges) what was going on...

So I, disqualified girl #11, stood up and went to the mike. And as soon as I did that, I immediately realized I had made one of the dumbest mistakes of my entire life.

Everyone in the audience gasped. Every single one of them. I felt the blood rushing to my face, my little heart pounding in fear, every one of my limbs trembling... and I couldn't speak. I just stood there, paralyzed, while I heard a wave of hushed voices among the crowd. I knew exactly what everyone in the school was thinking - and in that moment I also realized, that the girl next to me had pushed me on purpose. She wanted me to go up there and humiliate myself. And I had done exactly what she wanted.

But I couldn't speak. I couldn't defend myself, not with all those eyes staring back at me in complete shock and disbelief.

And the principal was livid. She called me out. "You know you were disqualified, right?"

"...Yes."

After that, she told me to sit down. Like that, I was able to move again, and I sat down... wanting more than ever to bolt out of the gym and run back home. I don't remember if I broke down crying or not. All I remember is the fear in those moments that stopped me from speaking up for myself.

That memory haunted me for years. It still haunts me right now as I'm writing this. The pain of it hasn't gone away just yet, because I still have one lesson to learn from it. I want to talk to that little girl that was me, and comfort her with the words I wish I had heard back then, so that I can begin my journey of self-healing once and for all.

So, here are my words for her:

"My sweet little Angel, it's okay. You're a very brave girl, it takes guts to stand up like you did back there - even if the outcome and the situation weren't in your favor. No one else could have done it. Do you realize how remarkable that is? To stand up in front of everyone, leaving yourself in such a vulnerable spot... and you did so with the intention of speaking the truth. Always be brave like this, dear child, no matter what people say - and when you grow up, you will have the voice to speak up for yourself. When the world points its finger at you, you will be able to stand up and speak without fear. You will be able to defend yourself. And when that happens, no one will ever dare to push you around anymore. That's my promise to you."

***

For anyone who has ever been in a situation like this, my heart goes out to you as well. It really does take guts to stand in a vulnerable position like that - especially when it's caused by a bully, and especially when it's in front of your peers. Find the courage within yourself, and speak up. Defend yourself without fear. And when that happens, no one will ever dare to push you around anymore... that's my promise to you.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Entry #28: A Rain-less Rainbow

Namaskar all, Angel Light here!

So it's been a long while - for the past couple of months, I just felt like I hit rock bottom and all. Due to certain things happening in my personal life, I had lost all hope and motivation for the longest time. Every day, I've thought of coming back here to write a post, to express the inner turmoil... then I would stop before writing down the first few words, because I didn't want my comeback post to become yet another rant. I wanted it to be a post with a positive note, to make my readers smile - and yesterday, I finally began to find the inspiration I was looking for.

***

"Who says there can't be a rainbow

Without a trace of rain?"

This is how I ended my comeback FPL post 'Epiphany'. What you're about to read below is how I came to write those last two lines in the first place:

I'm not a perfect human being, nor have I ever claimed to be. I've made a ton of mistakes in the past, and I see certain behavioral patterns in myself that I'm ashamed of. Combine those patterns with inherent self-loathing, and here I was - punishing myself internally every day, bashing myself up with an endless stream of negative thoughts feeding into a state of deep depression that spiraled almost out of control...

Then Mom had her knee surgery on Friday.

My thoughts started turning towards the day as it approached, distracting me from my own depression with concern for Mom's health in the aftermath of the surgery. (Whenever she would be in the hospital, we would always be worried about her recovery knowing what illnesses she's been going through for many years.) While I knew that the actual operation would go well, I was more worried about how she would heal afterwards.

Yesterday, my brother and I got to see her in the hospital. The first thing I noticed was that she looked a little pale, and her voice sounded weaker. After talking to her and settling down in the room, I felt a little more reassured but still concerned, especially while listening to what the nurses were saying during their alternating check-ins. In order not to add my own worry to Mom and Dad's, I decided to distract my mind a bit by doing things as normal. I had checked out a library book on writing in Urdu, so I started working on that while talking to my family in between.

After a while, everything felt much more calm. My brother and I left after a couple of hours, since we needed to look after Lucy (we had already made sure to keep her food and water bowls filled up before leaving, but we also know how sad she gets about being left behind - our poor puppy :( ).

On the way back home, we saw a rainbow in the sky. There had been no rain prior to that, which made it an uncommon but welcome sight. Technically, it also couldn't be called a 'rainbow' since it wasn't even an arc - rather, it looked like a large multi-color patch that had weaved its way seamlessly into the fabric of wispy white clouds that stretched themselves across the blue expanse of the sky.

It was a beautiful moment, seeing all those colors... in a way, it reminded me that not all good things in life come with a price. Sometimes good things happen or are given unconditionally - regardless of whether someone is 'good' or 'bad' at heart, regardless of whether someone deserves it or not. From there, I eventually came to this conclusion: life doesn't stop working for someone who has done something wrong... it simply happens, it's simply there.

Here is one final thought that carries me through, and hopefully may help you as well. Every day we have the opportunity to make things better, for ourselves as well as for everyone and everything around us. So regardless of whatever mistakes we've done in the past, we still have a choice to forgive ourselves, and to move forward with love instead of guilt or fear. And that's exactly what I'm going to do now.

***

Thank you for all taking the time to read this. I'm glad to be back. :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Entry #27: I Can't Have Love

Namaskar all, Angel Light here!

I've got this mess deep within my heart that I just want to let out tonight... I want to get it off my chest. Perhaps it's selfish of me, perhaps it's self-centered, and for that I apologize in advance - but right now, I just want to reach out to you, to help me unburden myself of this pain.

***

One night, I had a dream. I was talking to a stranger who was reading my fortune. I picked out the cards as best as I could, which she then laid out in a simple spread. She studied them carefully, then looked up at me and said, "Are you prepared for what you're about to hear?"

"Sure, why not."

"All right - I've got some good news for you, and some bad news. The good news is, you've already met your soulmate by now. The bad news is, neither of you are going to realize this for the next 4 years. He may or may not find someone else during that time, while you will remain waiting for this guy to turn around and look back. Is this the kind of sacrifice you would be willing to put yourself through?"

I woke up in a cold sweat. "Hell no, that's too painful!" I cried out in my raspy morning whisper, seconds before I realized I was no longer dreaming.

Obviously, I know that's not real now - but what would I do if it were?

---

My love life sucks... in fact, it's practically non-existent. Because for a girl like me, even as part of a progressive-thinking family, dating is still considered taboo. Once during my first year of college, I had casually - almost jokingly - asked my mom, "What would you say if I said I had a boyfriend?" She immediately looked alarmed and asked, "Who?!", to which I had to assure her that there was no one of the sort.

["But Mom, I thought you said that I couldn't date until I reached college age! Am I the only one who remembers that?" - I never said that, by the way. Not out loud, at least.]

If I asked that same question now, I would probably get the same response... until I reach 30, at which point I'll probably start getting the "Why aren't you married yet?" look from the, ahem, well-meaning older generation in my community.

[I'm still only 25 now, and I'm already dreading it.]

It's not easy. It never was.

I've seen couples walking hand-in-hand, grinning from ear-to-ear like little Cheshire cats. They don't care if the whole world is watching, they're so immersed in their lively chatter and sweet kisses. And the way they look into each other's eyes, like they're already drowning in the sea of love they've created all around them...

I want that too. So badly. But I can't have it.

As much as I love my family - and I do, I'd rather die than live without them - I feel trapped. I want to go out and meet other people, explore new places and have a grand adventure filled with romance (as long as I don't lose my virginity prior to marriage, of course - that's my own free choice, I swear!).

On top of that - 

For the past 10 years of my life, I've been hearing the same thing, in some shape or form: "Your time will come. You just need to grow up. Then you'll be ready."

Well, guess what? I'll never be ready. If that's what I'm going to keep hearing every time I talk about wanting love, then I'll never be ready. Because when I'm done making all of the above excuses, I'll eventually turn back to the truth waiting inside of me. And the truth is this: I just don't see myself as being good enough for anyone...

If growing up means seeing myself as good enough, I'll never be ready.

Then it doesn't matter if I'll get my soulmate in 4 years, or 4 decades, or 4 lifetimes. I'll never be ready for him. He'll never see me as good enough, because I don't see myself as good enough...

***

Thank you for reading through all of this patiently. It may be a long while before I learn to love myself - but I can say, right here and right now, that I love and appreciate you all. Thank you.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Entry #26: Yet Another Open Letter

Namaskar all, Angel Light here!

Guys, I believe I've made a mess all over again... and the only way I know how to take responsibility and correct things, is by expressing it in writing. I don't expect to be fully understood, but I hope to at least get my point across to the intended reader without making things any worse...

***

Dear Car Enthusiast,

I'm sorry for my irrational behavior in what I said (and the way in which I said it). As you may have gotten a glimpse of by now, I'm not exactly what others consider 'normal'. I don't know how to behave as such in social situations, anyway...

This was what I meant when I said that people tend to be turned off, by the things I say or do. I have no excuse to give, nor will I give any. Maybe it's not as much a huge deal as I think it is, but I still feel I should apologize to you. I'd hate to push you away because of my own stupidity, because you're really cool to talk to. I'd hate to lose that friendship so soon already.

Sometimes, the thoughts that come into my head spill out in a chaotic mess. And then once I realize what I've done and scramble to pick up the pieces, I may drop a few more words while apologizing that make the situation even more awkward. That's the only way I can describe what happened here.

Because of this, I was once again thinking of avoiding you altogether for a little while, so that you wouldn't feel bothered by me... but maybe that's not the best solution either, because I don't want to run away from my problems anymore. That's why I've tried mustering the courage to admit my fault here, through this open diary blog of mine.

I'm sorry. What can I do to make things better for you? Can I start over and learn from you on how to behave socially?

Sincerely,

Angel Light

***

What are your thoughts on this? I'd love to learn from all of you, so that I can become a better person in the process.

As always, feel free to comment below with your stories and thoughts from the heart. Remember, this is a place of love and kindness, and we're all here to look out for one another. Namaskar!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Entry #25: Sometimes, It's the Little Things

Namaskar all, Angel Light here...

...All right, we need to have a talk. Yes, me and you.

***

Sometimes, it's the little things that make all the difference in the world.

My brother and I went out together to get the groceries today. And despite the crowd of shoppers blocking the aisles here and there, everything seemed to go smoothly... until we got to the checkout.

Most of the checkout lines were filled with people - and of course, being the kind of person who likes to get this part of the shopping done as quickly as possible, I started looking for the line with the least number of people waiting. And here's what I found disturbing: besides an elderly woman whose items were being processed, no one was waiting in the checkout line where a girl cashier stood. Why?

...Because this girl was wearing a hijab.

I started thinking, "You know what? Screw these other lines. I'm going here, because that girl is doing her job, and we have places to be."

And that girl was so sweet, making sure that everything was processed with the correct prices and bagging them carefully. I complimented her head scarf because I liked how beautiful it looked on her, and she beamed in return. It made me feel good to see her smile, and I hope she's having a good day too.

But I'm also a little angry... angry at the people who avoided her. I don't care if you didn't say anything to her, but actions speak louder than words. In this case, a LOT louder.

I'm a Hindu by birth, but I have friends who are Muslim. And I don't care what anyone says, I'll defend them to my last breath. I'd feel just as angry if I see people isolating them in this manner, or showing any other signs of discrimination.

Yes, that's right - even if it's subtle, even if it's silent, IT'S STILL DISCRIMINATION. And I will not tolerate it against anyone.

Sometimes, it's the little things that make all the difference in the world.

***

I'll choose love over hate any day. What will you choose?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Entry #24: A Subtle Shift in Thinking

Namaskar all, Angel Light here!

First off, I know it's been over a month since I last posted - my sincere apologies! Last month has been a busy one at the office, and on top of that I've been dealing with writer's block once again... walking in nature during lunch hour almost every day has helped a bit, but I still struggled to find my creativity once more.

Then two weeks ago, my family and I went on a road trip to Festus, MO to see the full solar eclipse. It was an incredible experience, one that I don't think I'll ever forget...

***

"Oh my God, it's a diamond ring in the sky!"

That's what my brother and I have since called the 'Great American Eclipse' - a beautiful diamond ring in the sky, surrounded by a twilight zone... [Cue 'The Twilight Zone' theme here.]

Okay, jokes aside - I had never seen anything like this in my entire life. It might not seem like much for most people ("Seriously? You cried tears of joy over a stupid circle?"), but to me that moment alone was worth every hour my family and I had spent traveling together.

And ever since that day, I feel like there are certain things within me that are changing. For one, I'm starting to get a better intuition about people when I'm talking to them; I can't exactly explain it well, except that I can sense things like if someone wants me around or not, or whether their intentions are good or bad. And considering me with my shaky social skills, that's really saying something.

Another thing is that I've been turning inward these days, trying to find my happiness from within instead of from my external environment. I find myself questioning rituals (and religion in general) more and more, while diving further into holistic healing for the answers I'm seeking. I'm also starting to wonder if maybe what I see as 'good' or 'evil' doesn't really exist, except in the way we see things in the world...

In these small, subtle ways, it feels like I'm changing into a completely different person. Can I say it's a direct result of the solar eclipse I've experienced? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing I do know for sure - I'm in the middle of a new transformation, and I'm curious to see how far it goes in the coming months.

***

What are your thoughts about natural phenomena and/or spiritual transformation? Feel free to comment below with your stories and thoughts from the heart. Remember, this is a place of love and kindness, and we're all here to look out for one another. Namaskar!