The Sankranti Bonfire

The lone
North Star
shimmered even more
brighter;
as it watched
The Mystical One
light a fire
of Consciousness
that devoured
all the thoughts
and minds
of the thousands of ones
who meditated with Him
in the dark, chilly
winter night!

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The best book on Leadership & Spirituality that I have read!

It is very difficult to articulate the effect of a spiritual guru in your life. While on hand one goes through life’s up and down’s like everyone else, there is a unseen connection and bond that permeates all through. Dr APJ Kalam’s latest book “Transcendence” is a brilliant exposition on the impact that his spiritual guru – Shri Pramukh Swamiji of Swaminarayan Sanstha had on him.

Kalam writes:

“How do I summarize Pramukh Swamiji’s effort on me? He has indeed transformed me. He is the ultimate stage of the spiritual ascent in my life, which started with my father, was sustained by Dr Brahma Prakash and Prof Satish Dhawan; now finally, Pramukh Swamiji has put me in synchronous orbit. No maneuvers are required any more, as I am placed in my final position in eternity.”

Those of us who are fortunate to find a living spiritual master can instantly recognize what Kalam writes. My first visit to Swaminarayan temple was in Chicago sometime in 2004 or 5 and then I visited Akshardham in Delhi sometime in 2008 and was blown away watching the movie on “Neelakanth” (Linking to Mystic India movie on YouTube, but I guess the one I watched in Akshardham was a shorter version and more crisp)

Kalam writes about his experience of his chance encounter with the BAPS organization and Pramukh Swamiji and how the spiritual connection and the presence of Swamiji helped him take tough decisions with ease. Kalam talks about politics, his presidential term, his travels, his vision for India, all coupled with stories, anecdotes, and lessons from the lives of scientists and great leaders. But the underlying essence of the book is how the presence of Swamiji in his life helped him. Kalam quotes extensively from The Quran and Thiruvallavur and from other great philosophers and thinkers driving home the point as to how a true spiritual person embraces wisdom of all religions and makes it his own and more importantly, reflecting on the knowledge, acting on it and living can make a huge difference.

The book is divided into four parts and I loved the part where Kalam writes on Creative Leadership.

He drives home the point that Creative Leadership as the foundation of change. He writes:

“Creative Leaders are not born. They are the product of particular circumstances and conditions; they evolve to bring change for the better. I have enumerated eight facets of creative leadership, namely – fearlessness, courage, ethical living, non-violence, forgiveness, compassion, vision and cooperation….” Each of these attributes are explained through stories drawn from the lives of Nachiketa to Verghes Kurien.

I wish I could write more, but suffice to say that this book integrates Science, Spirituality and Leadership in a scintillating way and will remain as one of the best books on leadership and spirituality that I have read.

Don’t look into those eyes

Guruji, Chicago 2014

Guruji, Chicago 2014 ; Waiting to give the photographer the due credit!

If you want to
play safe;
If you want to
maintain
the status-quo;
If you are
afraid of
adventures;

don’t look into those eyes

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Meditation, Leadership & 2014 New Year Resolutions

It is that time of the year when we reflect back on the year gone by and look forward to new beginning’s. Guruji’s (Sri Sri RaviShankar) in his article on “Looking back, looking ahead” writes:

Just like we live in the outer world of events and circumstances, we also live in the inner world of emotions and feelings, which we are not always aware of. Meditation is the best tool to wipe your mind clean off all past impressions that weigh you down. The distance between the outer and the inner worlds is just the blink of an eye.

Yoga is the skill of keeping attention on the inner world while acting in the outer. When you are lost in the outside world, there is disharmony in the inner and life is like a war. When you are established in the inner world, there is clarity in the outer and life becomes a game.

And gives four mantra’s  for making 2014 a happier year:

  1. To make Meditation a part of daily life
  2. To Serve
  3. To Feel Grateful and
  4. To Spend time with Nature.

Changing tracks for a bit. I find the intersection of Leadership and contemplative practices of meditation and mindfulness very interesting. Now, there is tons of literature and books on Leadership and honestly most of them are banal and pedestrian. It took me time to realize that one has to look beyond what the Mainstream media and influential bloggers try to peddle to find authentic stuff. Bill George is one author whom I rate very highly amongst those who write authentically about Leadership and I guess the clarity and authenticity of his writings are due to the intersection of his rich corporate experience as a CEO Medtronix and his years of meditation practices.

In his article on Your #1 2014 New Year’s Resolution? He states it out in the title itself – “Resolve to live more mindfully” – and then proceeds to list eight exceptional books on mindful living that will help you become a better leader and a more fulfilled human being. One of the books “Finding the space to lead” by Janice Marturano is definitely on my to-read list.  Bill in another article titled “Five Resolutions for Aspiring Leaders“, asks them to think seriously about their development as a leader and lists out 5 to do’s for the year ahead.

But what has meditation, got to do with Leadership?

All contemplative practices start by focusing the light of awareness on within ourselves. Without looking at our own selves deeply, without getting in touch with our Self, we cannot approach authentic leadership and that is where the practices of meditation come into play and helps us in developing as authentic and effective leaders 

And for me it is a delight to see the convergence of thought from the areas of spirituality and business.

The two converging thoughts from Sri Sri and Bill (Meditation and Service) are my two top goals for the year. Or in other words Sadhana, Seva and Satsang! What are yours?

Dear Readers, Have a great 2014 !!

Meditating with eyes open

Did you folks have a chance to experience the open eye meditations with Guruji? Meditation and Open eye seems like an oxymoron, but it isn’t. For the last several months, most of the meditations that Guruji has taken in Satsangs have been open eye meditation sessions and it was inevitable that someone had to question Guruji about the open eye meditation and this is what he had to say:

Gurudev, until now, we kept our eyes closed while meditating, so we could go inwards. What is the reason for keeping our eyes partly open during meditations?
Sri Sri: Many times, when you close your eyes, you have the tendency to go into your mental fantasies, or drift off into a dream, or sometimes fall asleep. This is called Mano Rajaya in yogic terminology. Mano Rajaya is a state where the mind starts creating its own kingdom and reels in it, either in conflict or in pleasure. You sit in your own mind, thinking, fantasizing or recreating something that makes you feel happy or upset. Either you think everybody is against you, the whole world is against you; your mother in-law, father in-law, husband or boyfriend; everybody is out to get you. Or your mind thinks about how you should convince or impress somebody. These sorts of things go on in the mind. When your mind is stuck in Mano Rajaya, it transpires all the more during (close-eyed) meditations.  In this meditation, where you keep the eyes partly open, you have very little chance to drift into Mano Rajaya; a different quality of meditation starts happening.
To begin with I had difficulty in keeping in my eyes open while meditating, but then after a few sessions it has become easier to meditate with eyes open and as Guruji explains the mind stays focussed on the scenery rather than drifting away.

The 4A’s to career success – A review of “What the CEO really wants from you”

The last time I wrote about Gopalkrishnan, I mentioned that if there is one author I would like to meet, it has to be him. And look at it, the desires do get fulfilled as they come, I did happen to bump into him at the NHRD Conference in Bangalore when I had gone along with Guruji. Unfortunately, apart from a few words introducing myself and saying how much I enjoyed reading his two books, I did not get adequate time to spend with him, maybe the universe in its generosity will fulfill this wish too at some point in the near future.

Meanwhile, Gopal’ new book : What the CEO really wants from you: is definitely a must read. Written in the same style as his previous book, “When the Penny drops“, it begins with an introductory story that Gopal uses to build the concept for his 4-A framework that he expands in the rest of the book. Interspersed with anecdotes from his corporate life, relevant case studies and the sidebar boxes that help reinforce the concepts, make this book a compelling read for all in corporate life.

The underlying theme running through Gopal’s three books is about deep awareness of the our own Self. Our performance in the corporate world is but a reflection of how well we are connected with ourselves. I believe that these books are really about becoming aware of your latent spiritual side and bringing it to workplace.He could have as well named this one as “Implementing your spirituality in the workplace”. If it was digging into the repository of Avvaiyar’s to talk about self-awareness in his last book, Gopal starts this one by drawing an analogy of Buddha’s middle path and the dangers and pitfalls one faces in one’ corporate life and how one can get derailed by not being on the middle path.

As I read through the book, I created a visual map of the same and instead of writing a review of the book, I will embed the visual map of the book. Hope you will love this.

4A-24A-3