Inspirational Spiritual Stories – Led by Thomas

Last year I joined the Meals on Wheels program in San Francisco, CA. I am part of a coalition of people that take a few hours every week or bi-weekly and spend time with the disabled senior community. Our duties can range from picking up groceries, cleaning, running errands or just spending quality time with our seniors.

I wanted to protect the names of the people that I work with so I have used fictitious names to illustrate this segment of Inspirational Spiritual Stories. Enjoy!

Inspirational Spiritual Stories – Led by Thomas

I often think about why I volunteer. Am I really making a difference? What is my purpose for doing what I am? I don’t tell many people about my volunteering duties because it’s not something I do for praise. I do it because I have been blessed with the ability and time to help someone so I do.

I believe Thomas and Alicia represent something bigger than just a few amazing folks that I lend a hand to occasionally. Perhaps it’s preparing me for when my parents get older and can’t fend for themselves? Maybe I am harnessing strength, patience and resilience with these active duties? I try not to worry about it too much, but every time I see Thomas and Alicia I see my parents, and I learn something about myself, and December 23rd 2015th was no different.

Alicia had called me the night prior wanting some groceries. I’ve gotten to know Thomas and Alicia so well that I know exactly what brands of items they need without them mentioning it. Alicia enjoys the 12-pack of mixed berry Lipton iced tea and Sara Lee pound cake, while Thomas must have his Safeway Select apple juice, Diet 7up, and tapioca pudding. I try to push them to eat healthier, and perhaps a home cooked dinner I have planned for us in the future can be a catalyst to better health.

I get to their apartment and punch in *3426 and the door opens. I take all the groceries up a few flight of stairs. Alicia has the door open and anxiously waits. She greets me with a hug and kiss and we proceed to the kitchen. I know exactly where I need to unload all the groceries, but I let her instruct me anyway.

She is eager to know what is new in my life and if I am dating anyone. I give her the usual story. She laughs, and I ask about her new art project which is a blanket she is crocheting for retired soldiers at the Veterans Hospital near my neighborhood. Before she can go into detail about color sequencing, Thomas walks in:

“Anand, how are you son!”

“I’m great Thomas! What’ve got there.”

“It’s a lamp that doesn’t work, I was hoping we can go
to the repair shop and get it fixed, but before we do that,
can you take a look.……”

Alicia interjects, “Thomas leave the boy alone, that lamp
is so old.”

“Leave me alone woman! Anand, let’s try.”

Thomas and Alicia always have these short stints of light bickering. I’ve actually grown accustomed and look forward to it. I don’t have much drama in my life, and at times it is warranted. A little drama is good for the heart..so is tequila they say.

Thomas is clinically blind but he knows his apartment by memory so he can get around effortlessly. He gets me a chair and we sit down to fix his lamp. I looked at it and had no clue what to do. The only repairs I have done are with Ikea furniture and somehow I have managed to screw that up. How I got an A in wood shop, I will never know!

“Thomas are you sure you don’t
want to go to the repair shop?”

“No Anand, let’s try to do it
ourselves first.”

Thomas gave me step by step directions. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. It was actually fun figuring out the ins and out of a lamp. Thomas guided me the entire way. Once I tied the copper wire securely around the metal bolt, he said it should work now.

I put the lamp back together, and we put a fresh bulb on, but no light. Thomas instructed we try something else. I won’t go into the details of fixing the lamp because this isn’t Home Improvment, but I had to unscrew the base of the lamp and split some wires. After we did all this we were ready to try again to see if it worked.

I don’t think Alicia was very optimistic at this point since we failed the first time, but Thomas had more than a glimmer of hope in his demeanor.

“Thomas it worked. we fixed it” I said!

Alicia was surprised.

Thomas looked at me with his big brown eyes and said,
“I knew you would fix it.”

“How’d you know?”

“I believed in you son.”

Moral of the Story

At times it’s difficult for us to believe in our own abilities. When we try something new or different from our normal day to day patterns there is an element of doubt and fear that arises. Sometimes it’s hard to stray away from these feelings but having someone who believes in us can actually push us to find the potential that we did not know exists within ourselves.

I have many friends and family members that have embarked on new business ventures, new love, and generally aim to make dramatic shifts in their lives but are fearful of the outcome. I can offer words of encouragement and advice, which I always do, but I can do something else as well. I can believe in their abilities to make something good happen for themselves. I have done this time and time again and great things have happened to those around me. Life is full of pessimism. We see it in the news, politics, and our social media posts. We actually live in a society where being “optimistic or “positive,” is at times frowned upon.

If we are not trying to make our life or the lives of others better, then what are we exactly doing here? Thomas believed in me when I didn’t and he showed me the light (literally and figuratively). I’ll continue to believe in others, and perhaps one day we can live in world free of broken lamps.

Never get tired of believing in others. A little belief in someone will occupy the most love in their hearts.

*If you want to help out with Meals on Wheels program near you, you can do so by clicking HERE, and if you are not in the US I urge you to find how you can help the senior community in your area.

If you want more stories like this please head to my Spiritual Saturday Stories section.

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Written by Anand Swamy

Inspirational Spiritual Stories – 2 Monks and a Woman

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Inspirational Spiritual Stories – 2 Monks and a Woman

Their are many Inspirational Spiritual Stories that teach great lessons and this is a rendition of one of them. I was inspired to practice descriptive writing due to reading the Namesake again. I want you to see what I see without showing you and instead your eyes can become an extension of my words and you can paint this story in your head however you feel.

2 Monks and a Woman

It was a beautiful late spring day in the green picturesque country side. The plentiful cascading hills each seemingly tried to topple one another; the sun was slowly setting and the subtle hues of red, orange and yellow that her rays gave off immersed themselves with the sky, creating perplexing gradients that drove the blue jays mad in magnificent chaos. The slight breeze moved lentil sized pollen from the cherry blossom and jasmine trees in every which way and so began our walk, a beautiful and fragrant journey back to the monastery. I looked at Ai (pronounced iee) and marveled at his friendly disposition as he admired the scenery in front of us. His eyes were transfixed in the horizon. I glanced at his fists and still see the many prevalent scares that he took upon himself when we had scuffles with other boys growing up in the Monastery; even though all of us took a vow of celibacy and a life of peace, the emotion of anger can riddle the soul to immeasurable levels. Ai was my best friend, and growing up as an only child, he became the closest thing to a brother as I could ever imagine.

We both entered the Monastery in our tender adolescent years in the 1950’s. We had to be nine or ten at the time from what I can recall. Our Monastery was in the Henan Province of China. It was remotely located and far away from the city so the scribes of the time would never venture out to keep records. We lived in the desolate Pagoda Forrest surrounded by pine, oak, and cypress trees. Seeing this majestic interplay of trees every day brings back joyous memories. Ai was stern, philosophical, and well beyond his years in maturity. He would often marvel at the trees and tell me that the world would be naked without them. Now that I think of his sentiment, he was right, but at the time all my young mind could fathom was when he said the word naked.

As we continued our journey to the Monastery we glanced towards the horizon; at a distance we see before us a lush green and encapsulating green landscape. At times I would picture heaven to look like this even though my teachings had advised me of no such thing, so heaven is here for me for the time being and its breathtaking views leaves me in pure bliss. We walk down to the fast moving current of the river that divides two neighboring villages. The crisp and clear river water is teeming with dark green algae and seaweed, and the middle of the river runs wild with flying salmon. We see some of the villagers squatted near the river bed with their beige bamboo hats, smoking cigarettes, and fishing. They are enjoying the fruits of their labor after a long day in the rice fields. We ask for some donations and are given a few small bags of rice which will suffice for a few days’ worth of meals. We say a silent prayer to the villagers and go about our journey. Soon we came upon a beautiful woman standing helplessly. Her deep, penetrating eyes had me transfixed in an utter daze. Ai and I had just turned nineteen and we had very little contact with outsiders, let alone women. Her long black hair swayed harmoniously with the river current and the wind, and in her penetrating light brown almost translucent eyes we both saw desperation, frustration, and a need for help. As I walked over to her, Ai sternly said, “Bao, what are you doing.” At the monastery we were not permitted to have one on one interaction with women, and I understand Ai’s reasoning, but my minds reasoning gave way to my heart as I saw someone in distress. “Ai, come along, let’s see what the woman needs.” We walked over to her and my heart was overcome with compassion. The teachings of compassion have been taught since I was young and becoming a vessel to ease suffering never presented itself in this way, and so I went on.

“Are you okay,” I gently said?”

“No, I have to cross this river to get home, but the current is too strong.” All three of us nodded in agreement. “Can one of you gentlemen help me cross?” She had a bright smile that brought me a sense of reassurance even though there was nothing I needed to be reassured of.

I could see in Ai’s demeanor that he was conflicted. He wanted to help, but our many lessons, and respect for our teachers had him following our principles without fault. He looked down at the thinly bladed mossy green grass as if the answers to life’s question lay before his feet. As he looked up at me I knew he wanted us to leave the matter and go about our business, but it was too late, I was already carrying the beautiful woman on my shoulder and gently placed her on the other side. She looked at me with a smile that could light a thousand lanterns and a slight tilt in her head reminded me of my mother when she was alive. A look that made me feel as if I could do no wrong. My robe was wilted, and wet. I was completely soaked in the cold river water but felt a bright warming sensation; it seems the sunset was delayed today and her life giving rays was shed upon me; cloaking me like a warm wool blanket. She offered me a bag of rice, but I kindly refused. She insisted, and then I replied, “Giving is the best gift anyone can ever receive, so today, while I carried you, you have lifted my heart exponentially, so for that I thank you. If you want to be of service, take that bag of rice and give it to somebody that needs it.” We parted and I made way back to other side. Ai took my hand and hoisted me up back to the river bank and we started our trek back home.

Our whole way back Ai was upset. His subtle grunts and constant silent whispers to himself made it vividly apparent that something was wrong. I found humor is his dismay but paid little mind to it. At this point we were in town and I was admiring all the fresh produce at the market. The ruby red apples gave off the biggest crunches as the little youths munched on them with their bit sized teeth. The rich, intoxicating basil leaves, and the aroma of hot soups infiltrated my nostrils and made my stomach growl with enthusiasm for the meal that awaits when we get back. I saw food proprietors beaming with pride as customers enjoyed their food that they worked hard and labored many hours for.

While lost in my world, I couldn’t hear the plopping sounds of Ai’s sandals anymore and saw that he wasn’t next to me. I looked back and he was standing where the market started. He was looking at the ground again, a characteristic that he has shown me far too many times signaling his upsetting moods. I walked back to him.

“Ai, what’s wrong?”

“Bao, we were taught never to touch a woman, and you did just that!”

“Ai my brother, I dropped the woman on the other side of the river a while ago, but you still seem to be carrying her.”

Meaning

Too many times we hold on to our past. When we do this we take our past baggage and bring it into other facets of our life. We take baggage that has no precedence in our lives anymore and we start to turn the world around us into a figment of our imaginary past. Everyone in our world is subject to the past that you choose to live in. When you stop carrying the past on your shoulder and experience this moment with full awareness, this moment “now,” in its totality, only then can you truly be free of the illusion that some call the past. There is no such thing. When you make peace with this important sentiment, then you can you experience pure bliss, serenity, and an all-encompassing love.

If you like stories like this make sure you subscribe and click Here. I write Inspirational Spiritual Stories every Saturday. I write them because much like my stories, the lessons to many life’s questions, problems, and uncertainties are in art.

Written by Anand Swamy

A Close Encounter

It was a clear black night in the Richmond District in San Francisco. I ventured to Lake street near the beach and hiking trails where parking was plentiful. In a quiet street I found a spot that had breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the cold, gentle, bellowing current of the ocean that night was music to my ears. A slight midnight echo guided by the gentle gusts of tail wind rustled the tall trees. The moon was surprisingly large and bright during this warm night in November and the lack of street lamps made way for a beautiful shower of cosmic light from stars. These days I take meticulous mental note of everything I see. I believe being mortal is the single best gift given to us by the unknown because everything is more beautiful in its impermanence.

I recount a time when I ate an apple only to be overcome with gentle tears that couldn’t quite make there way down my cheek due to my coarse beard. An apple tree…plain and simple to some, gives us nourishment and was once no bigger than a few grains of sand; how it becomes a tree with the aid of earth, water, and sun and how a single apple tree can feed mankind is beyond me. The amazement of life never seems to cease in my heart now. The infinite workings of some esoteric power puts my heart in temporary states of surrender.

I got out of my car and prepared to grab all my belongings which was becoming an arduous task since I routinely park a quarter mile out from my place. I figure this is why many fork over the extra $400 a month for parking, supposedly a bargain in these parts. I grabbed my belongings and proceeded to my long walk down 25th avenue. After walking a few blocks I had the compulsive need to go back to my car and make sure it was locked and that street cleaning was infact happening next week. My paranoia is due to the many parking tickets I have had to incur due to my ignorance and the cities insatiable need to have a fine for every damn thing. My bitterness was short lived as I did infact forget my laptop. I opened my trunk and cleared the empty water bottles that have been waiting to be recycled for the past year and got my computer. I closed my trunk and was suddenly struck with fear, grief, bewilderment, anxiety, and curiosity all in the matter of moments. I looked to my left and had an encounter with a wild coyote.

We stood a few feet from each other. Our eyes locked and the coyote sized me up. I had no idea what to do, so I retreated to a memory from a scene from the 1st Jurassic Park movie. I thought about the tour groups first encounter with the T-Rex and how Dr. Alan Grant advised Lex to be still so as to remain invisible. It seemed like the best idea at the time, but now that I think about it, it was quite ridiculous and funny. We looked at one another as if we knew this moment in time and space was to occur. I quickly glanced at the dark trees as the slow flow of fog began to cover the view of the ocean and I could see that this coyote was not alone. About 7-10 were slowly gaining towards my direction, but were careful not to make any sudden moves because the Alpa was in front of me. The unearthly striking yellow eyes of this majestic animal did not once wither from my gaze. It’s coat of brown and grey fur blended in with the sea-cliffs peninsula. It’s ears were propped up. I felt the creature listening to my heartbeat and looking for cues of fear.  It was almost midnight and the street I was on looked like a deserted town.  A part of me was in fear, but a another part of me made peace with this moment. It took one step towards me and I remained sedentary. It let out a slight growl and then slowly backed off and retreated to the Lands End Trail. The troop of other coyotes ensued; each one looking at me one by one and in their faces it seemed that they were telling me I escaped death.

That night in bed I wondered about death. I thought about what would I say to those that I love if I knew I was going to die? I was at a loss for words. We don’t think about death too often, but I was beginning to wonder why? It’s a destination we all share, but very few discuss travel plans.

The next evening I went to my friends house and we discussed stoicism. We talked about how the ancient greek philosophers practiced this as they observed death. I came out of our conversation with some interesting insights.

Death isn’t some morbid transition from life, but rather “death”brings about the need to be ALIVE! Everything that we see before us will perish one day.

I take death with me wherever I go now because in its glorious doom, we can find that what we know as life is more precious than you and I can ever imagine. Every thought and every action of every second is death reminding us of what is to come, but I have found a way to escape death. It’s to simply live like every thing in this life is a miracle. Our fears and joys, pain and pleasures, life and loss, etc.. are all meant to be enjoyed with vigor, excitement, and extreme love. There is nothing clandestine about the infinite universe. All the answers that we need to seek in one lifetime is here.  It’s more apparent to me now than ever that dying and living are one in the same. I can only live this moment NOW. Everything else is simply pretense.

With Love,

Anand