The cops pulled me over. I knew it was bad, although I didn’t know exactly what I did. It was dusk and the air was restless. The mood of that evening reminded me of the first episode of the Wonder Years when Kevin went for a walk, only to find Winnie in the forrest after her brother had just died in Vietnam. Except with this story there is no comforting end and no Percy Sledge to ease my woes. Continue reading “I Went to Prison”
“The more you make your thoughts (beliefs) into your identity, the more cut off you are from the spiritual dimension with yourself.” Eckhart Tolle
As I sit under a tree amongst many in Golden Gate Park, I venture into my backpack and grab a few fruits I packed. I took out an apple and started eating it. As I got to the core I was graced by many seeds. I picked out a single seed and attempted to break it to see what’s inside. I found nothing.
This led me to think about myself and all of creation. We are created biologically from a man and a woman. Amidst the millions of spermatozoa from my father accompanied with an ovum from my mother, I was conceived and started the progressional journey to life, but before that I was a mere concept, a dream and nothing but an imagined body that my parents hoped for. My grandparents had this same revelation as they produced my parents, but before any of this I was just an idea in the wind. I came out of nothing.
We can keep going back with this pattern with all of humanity and creation, but eventually the answers have to lead somewhere, don’t they? I used to drive myself crazy trying to figure out why I or anything exists, but I’ve come to a peaceful understanding that we are actually nothing. I have come to this frame of thinking simply based on my experience. I cannot validate what all of creation is, so I will not venture to guess anymore.
This nothing I talk about is not to say that we are not meaningful, because I believe every piece of life on this planet is, why else are we here? For me it’s more of a realization that I don’t have the need to attach myself to any form of identity because when I condense our earthly life to its simplest forms I see that we are created from nothing and will soon go back to that nothingness.
Self-Awareness brings about the cessation of Identity
After immersing myself in the world of spirituality I’m gradually becoming more self-aware. There is no end to how much I can learn about myself.
“The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end. You don’t come to an achievement. You don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
We come into this world pure and unencumbered without the dogma that will eventually lead to our living demise. Race, sex, politics, and at times even religion can separate us and marginalize groups of people against each other. The wars that our world has been subject to since the dawn of human understanding has always been one set of beliefs/thoughts against another. For me to understand humanity and the world at large, I divorced myself from Identity and an awakening transpired.
Identification with Race and Ethnicity – Race refers to one’s physical characteristics and is often unitary (Indian, black, white, asian, latin, etc) while ethnicity refers to cultural factors that make you (language, food, tradition, etc). When it comes to race and ethnicity I don’t hold any of these identities as sacred anymore nor do they define me. I was born an Indian male. Today I can’t see myself having pride for my race and culture. Pride is a feeling you exhibit when you have achieved something. How can I be prideful for being Indian? I was simply born into it as a product of chance. This is not to say that I don’t value my culture and the cultures of others, but rather I’m not attached to any of it. I feel as humans we are much more than specific races and ethnicities. These are all just mere twinkles in what is the greater light we all contain.
Identification with Sex – Perhaps the need for the feminist movement would never come into existence if all men understood that they were one chromosome away from being a woman. I was born a man, but I could have been born a woman. Not identifying myself with my sex has led me to see women differently. We live in a society where the rights of our mothers, sisters, daughters, cousin-sisters, aunts and grandmothers are not equal. As a man I know if I want things to change I need to reform myself, and the only way this is possible is to divorce myself from the idea of what “Man” has become.
Identification with Religion – When I identified myself as a Hindu, I felt like I was creating separation between myself and those that are not Hindu. I wanted to better understand all of humanity and the only way I could do this was to lose my identity with religion. Rituals were a big part of my upbringing but I never understood why certain things were done and no one could tell me either.
“Doing anything blindly without regard for purpose is unfathomable to my spirit and logical mind.” –
Religion emanates from belief, belief emanates from thought, thought emanates from ego and the ego is a false sense of attachment to who we really are. The divinity we carry as humans is far greater than any religion can teach us. Conversely, I do think there is some good with religion when used as a tool to understand yourself and humanity better. If religion is a cause to marginalize others then I believe it should be re-evaluated. If religion is used as a tool to connect to your higher self and ultimately with all of creation, then it’s good. We are all branches originating from the same tree.
Even though I’ve divorced myself from religion I enjoy reading books like the Vedas (Upanishads), Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Course of Miracles, Sufism and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius to name a few . These ancient texts help me understand myself and humanity because they speak to the central theme of the oneness in life. This also includes the dissolution of attachment, the understanding of time and impermanence, and what it is to be a divine being who transcends material needs and uncovers divine love for oneself and all of the cosmic universe.
Politics and Nationalism – It used to be quite easy for me to become upset over politics. When others didn’t share in my beliefs, I used to become disheartened. Politics divides us. The world has no borders. If you create separation in your mind between other humans (race, sex, gender, religion), then you will create this separation with your political affiliation. You will not be able to understand humanity better, instead you will wallow within the confines of the imaginary borders you have created for yourself. Some of those you love may have views that are not in conjunction with divine love and that’s okay. In this life you control nothing but your mind and even in this relationship you have to let go. Once you have made peace with not being able to control anything, you will invite acceptance without expectation. This is liberation my friend. I don’t consider myself a democrat, republican, conservative or liberal. I don’t know what I am, but I know having an empathic ear to all of humanity helps me understand this crazy world we live in.
We love our families, and then we love our communities, then our state, then our nation, and then the love stops because large bodies of salt water separate us, not only geographically, but also in our mind. Why is this? It’s hard to have too much pride for a specific nation these days, rather I have pride for the entire world. We are born into a country by chance, and we are forced to love it more than other countries even though we are a part of the same world. The older I grow, the less I understand this rhetoric. Our nationalism creates attachment, fear and separation with our brothers and sisters from other countries. War need never be, but our ego which emanates from thought has us believing that we are separate from others even though we all came from nothing. Awareness for all humanity can be realized only when all identification from the material is dissolved. It might seem a bit chaotic, but being unattached to nothing creates a type of connection with all of the world. This type of awareness takes patience and focused attention.
“When you call yourself an Indian, or a Muslim, or anything else or a Christian or a European you are being violent. Do you see why this is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system. He is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
I feel the way I do about identity because I’m living and dying at the same time now. Everything that is set before my eyes and everything I experience is fleeting. I now understand that I only have this moment. I will spend this life seeing others as I see myself and in all this I hope to be a vehicle for truth and love.
The suit that cloaks my spirit, the loving relationships I share with everyone, the house, car, etc. will be gone too soon. It’s hard to be attached to much these days because I clearly understand that it will all be gone one day.
I leave you with a short poem
I will be like the apple tree
To give shade, sustenance and loving nourishment until I flee
For I understand that all of creation is destined for a beautiful doom
Gone will be those that I love too soon
I have no control over death, so now I shall do my due diligence in loving
Similar to the apple seed, when broken I will contain nothing.
Written with Love by Anand Swamy
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The word zen has been thrown around in spiritual circles for some time now. Have you ever wondered what zen actually means? I have, so I did some research. Zen is essentially the pathway to deeper understanding of oneself. Philosophy means knowledge, so Zen Philosophy is the knowledge of deeper understanding. I could go more in detail about this, but this article is on my spirit brother Bruce Lee, so If you want to learn more about the origins of Zen check out, AlwaysWellWithin . It’s a great blog on mindfulness and spirituality that has over 300 amazing articles.
Through my ongoing journey of self-awareness I have had many teachers. Bruce Lee is one of these individuals. Like many of us, I grew up watching him even though he passed away 10 years prior to my birth. Many people remember him as the elusive martial artist and movie star, but what some may not know is that he was a philosophy major at the University of Washington. I started immersing myself in whatever teachings he has left behind and I often think about the potential impact he could have had if it wasn’t for his untimely death at 32 years of age. I don’t put much emphasis on this sentiment because it’s been commonplace to see the influential and timeless masters of the human idea pass on too soon, all the while leaving their legacy embedded in our hearts.
His philosophies, interviews, and books have had profound influences on me, and today I wanted to share some of his wise words that have helped me through my journey. Although we are loners with different paths, we are also illuminated lanterns for each other so we can travel consciously, and my hope is that I can spark something in you.
Zen Philosophy – 7 Mindful Lessons from Bruce Lee
1.“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
Why does Bruce Lee’s legacy still live on? It’s because we have never seen anything like him. He never tried to be anyone else because that would entail diluting who he really was. If you think about anyone in history that has done something noteworthy, they are remembered because they embraced their individuality. I believe one should look at others as a means of inspiration, but believing and creating your own mark is essential. We all have the tools/gifts that are specific to us. Spend this lifetime (because who knows if there is another) cultivating and harnessing what is timeless in you and share that with the world.
2.“To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.”
Whether it’s politics, our superiors,family, friends, diet, current situation in life, etc..we can create excuses about why we are not getting what we desire in life. I do believe in manifestation because we do it everyday. If it is pizza you seek today you are manifesting it, and then it becomes a reality when you actually taste it. Is chasing your dreams really as easy as ordering a pizza? I have two answers for you. It is, if you think it is, and it isn’t if you think it isn’t. Perspective is huge, and those that see the world as a hallway of open doors tend to be rewarded. Bruce Lee came to stardom at a sensitive time in our human history. The civil rights era was in full effect, we were at war with Vietnam, and the few asian actors and actresses that did grace hollywood often played stereotypical roles. Mr. Lee saw this as an opportunity to change the way we think about the East, and decided he was going to leave his own mark, but he had to create it as it wasn’t going to be given to him. If you want something in life, go get it. PERIOD. Every moment you make an excuse you are negating the potential that could be.
3.“If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. there are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
Have you ever started something that you loved and simply stopped? I’m sure many of us have and I am no different. At 21 I started a website on motivation, then another on finance, then another on beagles. During college I started an ebay business selling macbook adapters that was generating a thousand dollars a month, and I was also selling protein powders to students that I got from a connection at a wholesaler from the trunk of my car. Any one of these ventures could have paid off in dividends if I stuck with it. Instead, what I did, and what many do is we quit and simply stop because we feel we reached a limit. External situations will always come up, but think about this. When you run and are out of breath, do you stop running? No, because that would be irrational. Instead we run slower or walk until we can run again. I have stopped time and time again, but with wisdom, age, and people like Bruce Lee guiding me, I understand that I will never see how high I can fly if I don’t attempt to jump. We have to jump!
4.“It’s not the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
Since I was young I was always getting rid of things my parents bought and no longer used, which was quite often. Today I can pretty much wash all my clothes in one load of laundry. However, I do believe life is short, and if it’s a nice car, beautiful house, yacht, nice clothes, etc. you seek, you should get it, but I have no such desires at all. There is absolutely nothing humbling, or admirable about living a kind of minimalistic life. The material world just doesn’t hold much precedence in my life anymore. I will say it does feel liberating to not want much. Take a look at your life, and see what is needed, and if your happiness is incumbent upon material items. If it is, realize that these are just temporary glimpses of true joy. Eternal joy resides in the simple fact of being alive. Gratitude is essential. Check out a past article I wrote, 5 Mindful Practices to get your day Started. I go more into detail on gratitude here.
5.“One can function freely and totally if he is “beyond system.” The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what truth is, has no style at all. He lives only in what is.”
When you are conditioned to think as though nothing can change, you might as well be in jail because you have enslaved the mind to dogmatic thinking. Bruce Lee suffered a lot of slack, criticism, and hate from his own people because he taught a specific type of martial arts to anyone who wanted to learn. He understood that he’s human and so is his neighbor (irrespective of race, age, and sex) and if his neighbor wants to learn from him, he will teach. He didn’t believe in specific styles of martial arts and wanted to share the beauty of his culture with others because he saw no seperation. You can take this lesson further, deeper and understand its subtleties. Being free from religion, political affiliation, race, and sex can be bliss. I am simply an observer of the world and my time will be gone too soon so why be attached to thinking that perpetuates form? Just as a tree must change it’s trajectory of growth when confronted with an unmoving giant rock, so must we, or else we can grow no longer.
6.“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
If a bee stung you when you tried to take it’s honey, would you still try again? Expectations almost always cause heartache yet it is behavior that we don’t stop and we know we should because it hurts!! With politics we expect one side to win, and when they don’t we are upset. When our children grow up not becoming what we wanted them to, we become upset. When the love we give is not reciprocated, we get upset. Do you see a pattern here? I’ve learned to expect the best out of myself because that is the only thing I can count on, and if I am not true to myself than I have no one to blame. Let people be the way they want to be. Help when you can, be a shoulder to cry on, and love without expecting anything in return. A mother loves her child without expectation. Why? It’s because she understands that this living individual that she created is a part of her. What if we took note of this simple relationship and extrapolated it to all humanity, what then? A persian poet by the name of Hafez once said, “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth you owe me. Imagine what a love like that can do. It can light up the whole sky.” Be like the sun, always shining, always bright, and forever giving without expectation.
7.“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside all fixed patterns. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water. If you put water into a cup it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
For the longest time I had a rigid workout schedule. Now I can care less about a uniform way of getting exercise as long as I am using my body to its optimum level of exertion. I have introduced Yoga into my life and aside from the mental benefits which is reason enough to take on this practice, I never thought I could sweat as much as I did while standing in one place for an hour and half. Truth is, we are not robots, we are all artists painting the canvas that is our life. Have goals in mind but be elusive, adaptable, and open to different ideas that are in line with what you want to accomplish. You are the river, and the ocean is where you want to be, and all rivers don’t yield or stop at the sight of a giant mountain, instead they find a way to maneuver and create new pathways and eventually merge with the ocean.
A lot of the lessons of Bruce Lee can be boiled down to presence. He lived in the moment, and it’s these moments that still take our breath away. The agony of seeing a day go, and the rejoice that is encompassed with the birth of a new one and everything in between is all the reason to enjoy the here and now. How can you enjoy the sun of today, if you are still getting soaked from the rain from yesterday?
I am currently reading Tao of Jeet Kune Do which serves as guide to all that he knows in martial arts with principles on zen philosophy. It’s worth the read if you are into some of things mentioned in this article and Martial Arts. I don’t plan on getting into fights, but it’s nice to imagine. WATAAAAWWWWW!!
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I leave you with a short clip from an interview with Bruce Lee. I loved when he said, “Running water never grows stale, so you gotta keep on flowing.”