Looking beyond

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Look beyond the fence. You will meet the scared little kid who longs for a playmate. Go play with him.
Look beyond the border. Make friends with equally beautiful humans who live a different life.
Look beyond countries. They all contain humans who need understanding, compassion and love.
Look beyond religion. Everyone has the right to have their own beliefs. We can still be good and kind to one another.
Look beyond the colour of skin. Every human being is beautiful.
Look beyond the barriers of States. Don’t we belong to the same country?
Look beyond gender. We are all equally capable individuals.
Look beyond language. We don’t need words to communicate most of our thoughts.
Look beyond age. Sometimes the best wisdom comes from little children.
Again look beyond age. Do not underestimate the power of experiences from the old man.
Look beyond money. The best things in life are priceless.
Look beyond the false compliments. Beware of fake individuals.
Look beyond criticism. Your well wishers do that for a purpose.
Look beyond profession. Dedication and hard work is what matters.
Look beyond makeup. The beauty of the soul makes all the difference.
Look beyond gadgets and wifi. The look in the eyes of your loved ones will speak volumes more.
Look beyond Instagram and Snapchat filters. The original picture is the more real one.
Look beyond Facebook. Noone lives a life as secure as the one that they post.
Look beyond the quirkiness. The woman’s past will explain her idiosyncrasies.
Look beyond the shyness. An introvert often has the most elaborate stories to share.
Look beyond the words. The poet’s mind will open up an avenue to you like none other.
Look beyond the words. Get a glimpse into the author’s life.
Look beyond failures. Learn and rise high from them.
Look beyond your own past. What you do and are today is what matters.
Look beyond. Open a new world. Do not be scared of updating your concepts.


In the end, look beyond looking beyond. Interpret, think and then perceive 


We are all forming opinions too strong and too fast these days. We could do with some more openness of mind what say? 

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Udaipur city as seen from the city palace (Rajasthan, India)

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The Buddhist Prayer Flags

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Buddhist worship places (monasteries) as also homes are characterized by the presence of Prayer flags found tied to rooftops. They bear the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ written on them, and are considered to bring good luck, peace, health and harmony. These appear extensively in photographs and movies. The sight of these colourful flags fluttering against a clear blue sky, always makes for a very soothing and positivism inducing photograph. I have had a fascination for these since a long period of time.

I always wanted to hang these at home for all the positive vibes and good luck that they bring; and of course for the beautiful colour filled sight they create. There are several Buddhist regions in and around India and many of my friends who have visited these places have gifted me these prayer flags as souvenirs from their trips. However, something always stopped me from putting these up at home. I always felt that I needed to experience the sight of these flags in person to really bring back a part of it home. And so, despite having many sets of these flags, I decided that I ll hang them up at home only when I get an opportunity to truly experience the sight of these and have a memory to go back to, upon looking at these at home.

I was fortunate enough to visit the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh earlier this year. Spiti Valley is a cold desert area in the Himalayas, composed of small Buddhist villages. The place is home to some of the highest villages in the world and has very old monasteries that have tremendous historical significance in the Buddhist culture. And thus I finally got to witness many pretty sights of the prayer flags at the Buddhist villages in Spiti! Through discussions with the local people, I learnt a lot more about these flags and the Buddhist prayers on this visit, making it one of the memorable aspects of this trip.

To briefly update on the prayer flags and the mantra written on them, these flags are in groups of 5 flags; with either the format Om Ma Ni Padme Hum or Om Mani Pae Me Hum. Each alphabet is written on one flag and bears one of the fixed colours blue, white, red, green, yellow (symbolizing the five elements of Nature). Some flags may have more elaborate descriptions written as well. These sets of 5 flags appear in repeats along the string which is used for hanging/tying these to doors or roof tops. Sometimes these are also present in a vertical way, arranged one below the other along a rod/stick. These vertical kind of prayer flags are often found at monasteries, stupas and places of worship.

The mantra written on these flags symbolizes a way of transformation of one’s impure self to the pure self of Buddha. I love this underlying philosophy of the Buddhist way which acknowledges that no person is born without any flaws. Every person has his or her own impurities and flaws. All good qualities are also contained within us itself; which can be emphasized upon and built up to attain the pure self of Buddha. Chanting these prayers is a way of invoking our inner compassionate self, overcoming our impurities and connecting to Buddha.

The literal meanings of the mantra is as follows:

Om        :Body, speech, mind of self and of Buddha

Mani     : Literal meaning ‘jewel’. Represent a method of connection, of enlightenment

Padme  : Literal meaning ‘Lotus’. Represents wisdom required to rise above self

Hum    : Representation of invisibility. Signifies union of methods and wisdom for self enlightenment.

With this amazing philosophical message attached, the Buddhist prayer flags attain a special significance in these villages.  In my visit to the Spitian villages, I noticed that these prayer flags were a prominent feature. You see them adorning the rooftops of almost all houses, shops, and commercial buildings in this area. The composition of the village and settlement in general, has a very soothing and positive look due to these flags. It’s as if the prayer flags are caretakers of that region. With their positive vibes, good luck, and a command over the forces of nature, they make for a security force of the village. For me personally, this was the first experience of looking at so many prayer flags, full and rich with colour, all around me. And I experienced a serenity and peace like never before.  As these flags flutter with the wind, they seem to spread a beautiful sort of positivism towards you. They represent good luck, optimism and above all a path of enlightenment that you may have been searching for or were stuck at.

There are times during travel when all you want to do is pause, look around and soak in the place, close your eyes and make a memory. I call it the creation of a mind photograph. Generally, I end up getting this feeling primarily while being amidst nature. But with the prayer flags, it probably is the first man-made thing that made me stare at it for hours and build up a memory so quiet, so peaceful, almost meditative.

Needless to say, I was completely in love with these flags on this trip. I ended up clicking lots of pictures of these as they sat on every home, every stupa, every monastery, every construction site, every bridge. What will follow here is a photo series of these flags as I captured them at different locations in the villages. I hope through these pictures, I can manage to convey to you at least a fraction of the peace and excitement that I witnessed by looking at these.  I wish you all an opportunity to witness the fluttering of these flags in a native land!!

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En route to Spiti Valley, Kinnaur Kailash range, Kalpa

 

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Spitian home, Tabo

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A stupa at the Dhankar Lake, Dhankar

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Spitian home, Kaza, Spiti

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The Old Monastery, Dhankar

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A random click while driving through Spitian villages

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A bridge near Pin Valley

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A bridge near a contruction site

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Prayer flags at the Stupa at Langza

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Fluttering high above our heads! Komik, Spiti

 

 

 

Doodling to elevate my spirits!

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via Daily Prompt: Elevate

The need to elevate a lowered spirit in life is universal. Across ages, gender, countries, professions, ethnicity – we all face dejection and failures and disappointments and end up losing our positive moods at times. As we go through more of such experiences, we end up making our own formulas for mood elevation when needed. I have several different mood elevation mechanisms – watching a good animation movie, a cup of fresh strong coffee, a walk up the hill and doodle art. I have already written a post about one of these viz; My love for animation movies (https://thecuriouscrackle.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/my-love-for-animation-movies/). Today I will talk in brief about one more spirit elevation method which is doodling out patterns on a blank piece of paper. A blank sheet of paper is very soothing to look at. It’s clutter and mess free. So if I am feeling negative in my mind, looking at it gives me an ‘erasing’ effect on my lowered moods. Further on, it hands over to me a power to create and put up something on the blank sheet. I love to scribble on such pages with different doodling patterns. My favourite ones are the zentangle patterns which I use to either fill up or create new shapes. Most of the times I do this activity in an almost sub conscious way and allow the art to emerge on it’s own. Putting in concentration and focused energy on the zentangle structures acts like a natural and healthy mood elevator. And then after a while as the patterns emerge, it gives me a very satisfying feeling. It also somehow helps me feel ‘sorted’ and helps me gain a better control over my thoughts. Definitely one of the best spirit elevation activities ever.

Zentangle doodle examples

Some Zentangle pattern doodles drawn by me in the process of spirit elevation

The Parijaat Tree

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I try and go for morning walks as often as possible. And when I do so, I notice some elements are common everyday and some highly variable. There are some fellow walkers who are regulars and I see them around the same time that I go. And likewise there are some regular landmarks and places that show a similar state of activity at the fixed time. What I routinely see are the opening of a breakfast joint and a grocery store, a grandfather with his granddaughter at the bus stop waiting for her school bus, street cleaners beginning the sweeping of roads among other things. The route that I take has tall old trees at every landmark turn and I say hi to all of them as I pass by. It’s as if the day is starting out for them as well. Among my everyday regular events these days, is one superbly beautiful thing that I witness every day – a dense carpet of small white flowers below a tree at the turn. These belong to the Parijaat tree, and make for one of the prettiest sights you can ever witness.

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Flowers of the Parijaat tree that have fallen on the ground below the tree

The Parijaat is a shrub like tree found in South and Southeast Asia and in many parts of India. In the Hindu mythology, this has a special importance since it was one of the valuables churned out during the Samudra Manthan. It is a tree that was initially planted in heaven by Lord Indra as per legend. There are several mythological stories associated with it.
This tree bears one of the prettiest flowers ever seen. These are small, white in colour and possess 5-8 petals. The flowers have a bright orange tip at the center and an orange coloured stalk. This combination of milky white petals with an orange stalk is very beautiful and I find the colours in general to be soothing to the eye. Indeed there is nothing more relaxing than looking at the mat of white and orange in various orientations on the ground beneath the Parijaat tree. These flowers are quite fragrant. The fragrance is not very strong; but is extremely sweet and soothing. It’s a reasonably long lasting fragrance and just like the colours and composition of the flower, has a calming effect on my mind.

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The Parijaat tree in my neighbourhood

The most interesting part of this tree however comes from a different aspect of its flowering. The peculiarity of this tree is that its flowers bloom at night (dusk) and begin to fall at dawn. They are short-lived. The fragrance of these flowers also peaks at night and continues up to the wee hours of the morning. This tree is rightly called the Night flowering jasmine. And hence when you look at the tree during the morning, you will see a dense carpet of the flowers that had opened at the previous dusk and have now fallen off at dawn. If you look at it in the very early hours of the morning, you might be able to see the falling of the flowers. It generally falls one at a time, in a prompt way, in the most noiseless way possible. I have looked at this fall several times and have always been so mesmerized by it that despite deciding several times, I forget to record one as an example. If I manage it someday, I will share it here.

A few months back I read that this tree is actually called the Tree of Sorrow by some. Its scientific name is Nytcanthes arbor-tristis which literally translates to night flowering tree of sorrow. I found this somewhat weird. Turns out, there are a couple of stories which describe curses that were bestowed upon this poor tree because of which its flowers will not live long. Another story links it to an anger and sadness associated with the sun because of which its flowers fall off at dawn. Overall, there is a fair degree of sadness associated with this beautiful, rather mysterious tree. Somehow I have always struggled to accept this sadness. I often ask this tree, “Oh dear Parijaat, are you indeed so sad? Is it your sadness that is reflected through these short lived beautiful flowers that fall down at dawn? ” And the Parijaat, like a calm composed warrior; just smiled back.

 

The way I see it, the noiseless shedding of flowers by the Parijaat is more a reflection of its selflessness than sadness. It’s as if the tree can very effortlessly let go of the beautiful things that it possesses (the flowers) once their fragrance is beginning to fade off. It takes over the task of spreading fragrant joy at night; which is not shown by many trees. It’s like the night-duty guard who takes up the task which many will often not take up due to its lack of comfort. The tree has tremendous beauty. To call it one of the most pretty divine creations on this earth will certainly not be an understatement. Yet, the tree is not possessive of these beautiful flowers and lets go of them with ease. The flowers also fall so noiselessly. And tell us how to remain calm and endure your destined falls peacefully.

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Holding the little beauties!

Indeed, dear Parijaat, you represent to me a steady calm mind, true selflessness and a gritty endurance in your own ways. You have a unique class of beauty and some of the loveliest colours in your flowers. The simplicity of structure of the flowers and leaves makes it even more appealing to me. I don’t know if I am right or wrong on this, but I cannot call you the Tree of Sorrow ever 🙂

 

Intricate window structure

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via Photo Challenge: Structure

The intricate window structure at the Udaipur Palace, Rajasthan, India

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This picture shows a window in the famous palace at Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan in India. Intricate patterns on windows are a common feature in palatial heritage buildings in Rajasthan. This one happened to be even more interesting – with several different structural patterns in different sections of one big window overlooking the big city.

The teens, 20s and 30s – changing ambitions and the pursuit of happiness

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What is the earliest time that you remember having given a thought towards your career choice in life? At the end of high school? While choosing a college to join? Or earlier than that? Most of us start thinking about careers in our teens. Lately I have been thinking about how career choices and ambitions progress and change in our lives from teens to, now the 30s and I have plotted a trajectory for the same.

Disclaimer : I don’t think this happens to everyone. However I do know a lot of individuals who identify themselves with this trajectory so far! Do let me know your thoughts 🙂

“What do you want to do when you grow up? Do you want to be a doctor like your daddy or a teacher like your mom?”

These kinds of questions begin early in our lives, at least here in India. As early as age 5 maybe? They begin at a time when we as kids are absolutely incapable of understanding what growing up and doing something professionally actually means. Yet, these answers are important. We as kids were all forced to make up our mind and give an answer to this question. Not all little children take these questions very seriously at age 5 probably; but as they enter primary and secondary school, this question is asked too often. That is probably the age where most of us began to think about what to do in life. Ambitions about careers are very easy and straightforward when we are little – we want to be the superhero that we see in our lives. A doctor who stitched back your torn skin when you fell while playing, a teacher who teaches you the essentials in life, a brave soldier who fights for your country, a talented scientist who discovers the cure to a disease, an astronaut who roams about the universe as if it were his or her backyard are some examples. Till sometime around primary school, most school children dream of becoming some such superhero that they have taken a liking to.

Of course this fascination is temporary and as we progress into higher grades in school; we start having some realizations. That there are some things that we like more over the others. And somewhere in this process, we learn to create dreams that are specific to our interests. An active teenager bubbling with newly found (and often screwed up!) perspectives of the world feels the sky is the limit and is often impulsively drawn to careers. Most of us, knowingly or unknowingly base our initial decisions of higher studies on the subjects that we like the most in school. In teenage, various other facets of careers are also considered which include – the popularity of the career, time required to complete higher studies, the money associated with the job, the glamour and fame quotient of the job, history of the job in the family (some are intensely drawn to their family jobs while others show a complete repulsion) and the overall satisfaction quotient of that career for yourself. We enter colleges as teenagers with dreams of excelling in the courses that we picked. This is essentially the first construction of a rudimentary career dream that we start chasing.

Come the 20s and we have moved out of college and entered the real professional world. The difference between these two starts to hit you. We begin to evaluate various aspects of the career choice that we have been thinking about. This includes the feasibility of the job based on the skills that you possess, ease of settling down in this career, the growth of monetary gains in this career and of course the importance of work culture and co-workers. This is often reality check no. 1 for us in our career lives. Some of us realize early on in this stage itself; that a career change is needed and that this field may not work out for us! For the others, we realize that there is a whole spectrum of different things that you can potentially do in the same kind of career, and we become conscious about choosing our comfort niche. The depths and variations of different kinds of work become clear and we define goals towards a particular aspect of our career. The 20s are probably the time where you feel most energetic and ambitious about navigating through your career path. A new dream emerges which has some more professional definition as compared to what you dreamt during college. Meanwhile life on the non professional side of life also begins to get somewhat more responsible now as we progress through the 20s. Most of us make important decisions such as whether to spend your life by yourself or with a partner; which country to live in for life and so on. We often try to align these personal life decisions with our professional goals in this quest for dream fulfillment. And for most of the fortunate ones, this alignment happens quite smoothly. Career paths are quite set and happiness is on the way.

Then the 20s come to an end and we have spent a substantial amount of time in a particular kind of work. Now is the time to scale up on your career. We start a different kind of evaluation now. This new evaluation is comprised of measuring all that you need to re-prioritize as you plan to go up on your career ladder. E.g. a promotion in your late twenties has resulted in you becoming a manager from a technician post. Way back in your early 20s, this seemed like the dream progress card of your life. Something that you were longing to achieve since you started this job; and which felt like your ultimate key to happiness. But by the time you reach there you are close to touching 30s and reality check no. 2 in life strikes you. Taking this position might mean a lot more work pressure, staying away from family, not being able to see your parents for long and for some unfortunate ones, not even seeing your country for very long. It also probably means less time for weekend footballs. It also means postponing getting married or having babies because you probably won’t have much time now. It also means having to reschedule your vacations quite often. It also means putting up with the senior nooks more often now! Although these are technically very small issues to live with; if they all accumulate they lead to a collapse of your internal peace. Now it comes to you in a different perspective. Are you willing to give up what it takes to reach there? Or would you rather take a different trajectory? Or do you need to settle out other fronts in life and then take steps up your career path? Probably yes. You need to re prioritize and attempt really hard to strike a balance.  Basically this is the time when you realize that no professional success comes without a price. And you need an evaluation of yourself to understand if you are willing to pay these prices. Sometimes I feel entering the 30s makes you aware of different facets of your planned career path that you were unable to notice in your 20s. And that’s why this cross road of life necessitates some looking back and doing the necessary upgrades to your dreams or to your current life. Sometimes you need to make changes to your career paths itself, or sometimes you need to make changes to your everyday life. Either ways, we become aware that some kind of change or up-gradation is essential to maintain the balance in life. Do that kind of upgrade to your attitude, personality and decisions and you will probably get back on your happiness track in life.

I have seen that we feel the need to upgrade our ambitions in life based on three main kinds of reasons – 1) your self evaluation in your 20s itself was rudimentary and biased resulting in you choosing a career without complete thought into how it would be in the future 2) the current job you are doing is not enough to give you a full satisfaction feeling about life. You want to do more. E.g. You may want to do theater professionally along with your job as a finance manager. Some of us develop a desire to excel in more than one forms of work and feel like pursuing more than one passion with equal intensity 3) your priorities in life may have undergone changes due to family, unexpected financial crisis, natural calamities and your current job structure is not able to cater to the needs of your new priorities.

The ambition upgrades may come from any of reasons 1-3 or even a combination of these. In such a case, how wise is it to update your ambitions in your pursuit of happiness? I think it’s perfectly okay.

I don’t know if it’s just me or do these kinds of reality checks hit everyone? Or is it just my over analytical mind that gets myself into these conundrums? Today when I think back upon all the career related decisions taken over the last decade and half of my life, I realize that they were based on very pertinent dreams that I had seen at that particular time. However what is coming out glaringly now is that some of the dreams that I saw in my 20s are not that exciting anymore. I don’t wish to belittle any of my own ambitions, past or present. But there definitely is no denying to the fact that my dreams need an upgrade depending on what stage of life I am in. It would be a futile exercise to latch on to old dreams and adamantly chase them simply because at one stage in life this dream seemed like the ultimate thing to achieve in this world. What matters more is how relevant is everything now? Does your current pursuit of happiness include this dream?

I wish to point out a fine distinction between a revision of ambitions and compromises. Whenever I have discussed this aspect with a variety of people, the very first response is often ‘Yes as you grow into your 30s and have other issues in life, compromising on career is necessary’. No it’s not compromise or the more noble word – “sacrifice” that I am talking about here. I am talking about an active redoing and revamping of one’s career path that is a consequence of conscious prioritization and self evaluation. The larger picture in life is always a pursuit of happiness. A pursuit of your career dreams is one part of it. For a large number of people, these two completely overlap. But for most of us, after about a decade of being in the pursuit of career dreams; we begin to see facets which are also a contributory factor to our bigger pursuit of happiness. And, as I complete three decades of existence on the Earth in this month, it is these realizations that are coming too often to me. Will spending another decade again lead to a necessity of upgrades when we stand at the entry to the 40s? Maybe yes. Because this decade of 30s is going to be one big churn up of new beginnings, new issues, financial concerns and what not!

So will I continue to have this introspective feeling about my ambitions every few years? I guess yes. Because life around is going to change. A lot of un anticipated changes are going to creep in. We are going to lose stuff, and also gain stuff. In such an ever changing world, isn’t it wise to also allow ourselves to update our ambitions if the need be? I am not forcing anyone here to keep changing things every 10 years. No, definitely not. In fact I have a lot of super focused friends who have picked and planned their career trajectories with such diligent thoughts, that these issues will never bother them. All I am saying is if the need be, give yourself the allowance to do so. Don’t kill yourself over dreams that, due to whatever reasons, don’t give you as much happiness anymore. Allow yourself to acknowledge the context and build up dreams that are more pertinent to your present state!

So what is my bottom line here? It is simple – If you necessitate a change in your career paths or lifestyle to achieve happiness in your life, allow yourself to do it. Because the realizations that we get through age and experience are important. And ignoring them might get our out-dated desires fulfilled but will leave happiness way behind. Because all said and done, the pursuit of happiness is the greater interest for us in life. Wouldn’t it be more peaceful for us to keep our ambitions negotiable with our age and accumulated wisdom rather than being adamant and keeping the happiness itself negotiable?