The Shine

You shine behind 'India Shining,'
unnoticed by many, but not by all.
The boats cruising the backwaters
leave your unread signature,
unclogging the arteries of Kerala.
                                                           By Rajkumar Reghunathan


This week, our dear friend Babu Varghese floated into God's magical canals of the afterlife. Loyal, thoughtful, resourceful, he knew something about everything—he was an extraordinary thinker. Babu wasn't perfect, but he had a specific task in this life. He was a visionary, a father and husband, a tour operator, and one of the founding fathers of Kerala's eco-tourism. As the popularity of boat transport in the intricate waterways of Kerala's backwaters decreased and put people out of work, Babu Varghese had an idea. He found a way to employ the rice boat operators with a new task: he designed and built the first houseboat fleets that transported tourists through these waters. He helped pump resources into Kerala's economy. As the bullock carts stopped being used for transport, he organized bullock cart tours for tourists; Babu created tree houses in the Wayanand district of Kerala, with eco-friendly and natural lifts (elevators.) He is mentioned in Alexander Mater's wonderfully descriptive book, “Chasing the Monsoon,” which is a wonderful read. A job well done, dear friend. Until we see you again. This blog is dedicated to you, dear Babu.

In spirituality, and in the active practice of it, cutting corners to “get ahead” is not the right order. It's the same as cutting in line to get ahead of your peers, or going behind someone's back to gain information. This is to say that those who are using competition as a means to gain spiritual strength may have to one day take a long look in the mirror to see how life is presenting itself. Are one's words and actions both congruent? What are the recurring messages? Why do the same situations come back?

In the material physical world, we are taught competition from the earliest age. We enter beauty contests, spelling contests, singing contests, drawing contests, cooking contests, pet competitions, food-eating contests, car racing, car rebuilding contests, and physical fitness competitions of every kind. Competition is an out-dated metaphor for society: Competition is considered normal when it's called “healthy.” But what is healthy about it?

Competition divides people into sections. It differentiates people into categories. Do you have “it?” Are you beautiful enough? Brilliant enough? Cool enough? Strong enough? Sly enough? Fast enough? Famous enough? What do these things mean after we go home to the spiritual world, after we leave our physical bodies? What did each of us come here to do, anyway?

Were we “born to make money and build a big house?” I know someone whose family members touted that the astrologer told them that this was so about their child. Do you think that he's very happy working the long hours that he does? Do you think that he is enjoying his “success” the way those of us on the outside looking in imagine that he is? It's hard to say, really. What is the drive behind making so much money? Only he will know when he goes to the other side and meets with his mentors there.

Yes, people are appreciated for their special talents, like their ability to organize a helpful non-profit organization. Yes. Appreciating someone for her chosen life priority is different. When people are idolized for singing popular songs, or envied for their participation with a famous football team, or admired for their special beauty (as if it were talent,) or adored for their fat bank accounts, for me, at the most, feels like a misinformed belief about these people on a soul level. There's nothing special about these people. They all have their own spiritual challenges, just like you and me.

Envy or adoration of someone's physical attributes or accomplishments does not set up a healthy form of interaction with people—especially for the person being idolized. I have a British singer in mind, who was idolized since her childhood. Imagine what kind of life she must have had since she was small: people wanting to know her, touch her, listen to her, buy her albums, tee-shirts, dolls, what-ever her “management” could produce to keep her name in the limelight. And what happened? She's accused of being a mean girl with the “voice of an angel.” She may have the voice of an angel, but there is a part of her that allowed the negative thoughts in, over and over again. And then it happens: life gets nasty-mean for a while, until she is able to heal or recover.

I can affirm the same happened with me, but in a very different way. At the age of 12, I knew that I was spiritually in trouble in many ways. I sought self-help books from my mother's book shelf. Later on, I became aware of my own competitive prowess by reading all of the “right” spiritual books. I didn't pay attention to my thoughts. I had evil thoughts when I was 12—one of which I dearly regretted—and prayed to God for forgiveness until I was 16. But because I didn't get the spiritual guidance (or needed intervention) during this time, I became a real pretender, a phony. My life purpose was service to others, but because I was in so much emotional pain, I mistook that for “service to self.” A missed spiritual lesson of the most foundational kind: comparing myself with others and making judgments about their “spiritual progress,” as if I knew. And I knew everything. There wasn't room for new information input because my brain was “topped off” with blah blah blah, who knows what? Ego was huge. Pain in body was huge. Self-pity was enormous.

While training for cross-country running in high school, I used to “cut the corners” on a rigorous off-road course in Northern California. Annette, a fellow team mate and friend once told me, “You are just hurting yourself and your own training program by cutting corners.” And it was true. What was happening inside my head while I was running was a constant battle zone. I couldn't quiet my mind, and I couldn't stand being alone with myself while running. I just wanted to finish sooner by cutting corners to get ahead—of what, I ask—since cross country running is based on an individual's own physical endurance and training.

Fortunately, almost thirty years later, I receive the right spiritual guidance, and have made amends with a lot of people and with myself. But what happens when we are not in the right mental alignment with our Creator? We cut corners, we take the “easy way out” by not watching the “spiritual road signs.” We might compete with each other, or think secretly that we're “better than them.” Substitute the word “better” for richer, nicer, cuter, stronger, more brilliant, and on and on.

When we ask for the Divine connection and direct our questions to God about situations or conditions, we will begin to receive good thoughts and ideas. Remember that we are sent thoughts from both sources of information, the good and the “other camp,” the negative. It is our task to separate from the negative, and allow only the good to come in. This will shed some light on our matters, and bring about a good sense of resolve within ourselves.

What does this mean, anyway? It means that any kind of self-aggrandizing thoughts that you allow into your heart may give you something to contemplate about at a later date. It means that (I know I write about this most of the time...) when you choose better thoughts, better living skills, all the our past words, thoughts, actions or inactions may “come up for review.” This is a good opportunity to use this holy time to clear out the old so that the good can come in.

Reflection will make you a better person when you take the time for God and to contemplate your old belief system. But notice how you feel in your body when you are doing this. You may ask yourself “what do I need to give away?” When you do this, dear friend, do this with deep contemplation. See if you feel something inside of your body—maybe a tingle of Joy or maybe a tingle of pain. Just consider this a cleanse of sorts. These are rhetorical questions intended for God through your own inner reflection. The answers will come to you in a nice fashion, especially if you ask quietly with your heart wide open to God's answers. You'll definitely build up more spiritual strength once you do this without the need to cut on the corners. And I'm sure that you'll feel more peaceful. All the best!

This blog is published simultaneously at www.divinerite.com