The problem with 24 hour news

News and the internet has become all pervasive. There is no shortage of information and opinion in the modern world, and whilst keeping up to date can have certain benefits – there is also a danger of being overwhelmed with news and articles which act as a permanent distraction.

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Thomas Jefferson wrote

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

Jefferson also illumines us:

“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”

How we would like the happiness of Thomas Jefferson!

Why I wanted to try take a break from the news

1. Negativity

The problem with the news is that it is mostly depressing, and accentuates the most negative image of the world and people. It can create a disconnect between perception and the reality of people’s good hearts.

The nature of the news is that it tends to focus on bad events. You can have 10,000 people leading good lives; but by nature this is not newsworthy.

2. I spend too long

The truth is I spend too long watching news, reading news online. It is too easy to fill a few minutes here and there. I can find myself checking news sites throughout the day. But, it’s not a profitable or useful experience. It’s bugged me for a long time, so I thought I would try something different over the Christmas holidays.

3. It affects me

The problem with being absorbed in a 24 news stream, is that you can end up thinking about it all day. Your mind cultivates opinions, and you can end up frustrated with the injustice of the world. Yet, at the same time, you are not doing anything to create a better world. You can’t help it, but the more time you spend on the news, the more your mind is jumping around with opinions of its own. It is an energy that is self-perpetuating. There is no peace, no connection with the heart, only opinions and endless un-winnable arguments.

Continue reading “The problem with 24 hour news”

Religious unity

Sri Chinmoy teaches that all religions and spiritual paths can lead to the same goal. Although they may differ in outer forms, they share the same underlying essence.

“Each individual seeker views the Creator and the creation according to his own aspiration and level of development. What we need is light to illumine our inner and outer differences. It is through our oneness-life that we will walk, march and run to the Supreme. We must have appreciation for and sympathetic oneness with all religions in order to create a harmony that will spread throughout the length and breadth of the world.”

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

Religious tolerance and religious oneness

Mill Hill Unitarian church Leeds

Tolerance for other religious paths is a good starting point. But, from a spiritual point of view, tolerance is only a first step, because grudging tolerance may still leave a sense of superiority. If a seeker feels his religion is superior to others, there is a sense of pride and separation. The best attitude is to feel that if the source of religious traditions is the same, there is no superiority and question of judgement. Let each go in his own way.

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Suspicion and truth

A suspicious mind can see problems where the truth is very different. If we always suspect the worst, there is a danger we will start to see a world which reflects our pre-conceived fears and beliefs.

A doubtful and suspicious mind
Must carry a very heavy load
On a very long journey.

Sri Chinmoy, No unreachable goal

When our default mode is suspicion and cynicism, we can never cultivate real happiness, because of the cloud of negative which hangs over us.

If we are suspicious, we will also alienate other people and, in turn, make people suspicious of our own motives.

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The alternative to a suspicious mind

If we live in the heart, we will try and see the good in other people. We will see others’ failings as only part of their being and not what they are striving to be.

Be kind, be all sympathy,
For each and every human being
Is forced to fight against himself.

– Sri Chinmoy, AP 12871

Continue reading “Suspicion and truth”

Imagining a better world

There was a great inventor, Nikola Tesla. He played a key role in inventing AC electricity; this electric system genuinely revolutionised the material world and is now used across the world. It is said that when Tesla wanted to invent something, he would visualise with his mind’s eye the working model of what he wanted to invent. He did not test by trial and error, he just tried to visualise the working model. For Tesla this capacity for visualisation was very strong and very real. At the turn of the century many thought an AC motor couldn’t be created or AC electricity would be too dangerous. But, Tesla had the faith he could make it work. It is as if he willed the invention into this world.

In the completely different world of poetry, some poets have described an experience of seeing a poem already written down. It is like the poem already exists in another world, there is just a thin veil between this world of matter and a higher world of poetry. The Seer Poet merely brings the poem into our world by his will and poetic invocation.

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We may be neither poets nor inventors, but there is a lesson that the power of imagination, thought and will can bring things into our reality. All humans have this creative power. At the simplest level, it is often said by the great spiritual Teachers, that our thoughts will create our own reality. As the Buddha said very succinctly.

“All that we are is the result of our thoughts”

If our mind is constantly negative, then our experience of the world will be difficult, confusing and painful. If we harbour and cherish good thoughts, we will experience a much more positive and joyful life. Continue reading “Imagining a better world”

Benefits of japa

Japa is the repetition of a sacred mantra many times. On some paths of meditation, japa plays a most significant role and can help a seeker still the mind, and invoke the divine qualities of the mantra.

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I follow Sri Chinmoy’s path of meditation, and japa is not the most prominent aspect. However, I do find that japa has many benefits, in addition to regular silent meditation.

1. Easy to do

In one sense, japa is easy to do. Even if the mind is busy or you feel a little stressed, you can get into a good rhythm with japa and push the irritating thoughts to the back of your mind. However, in another sense to do japa very soulfully – is not so easy. It requires patience and daily discipline. However, even if I don’t feel like meditation, I can take up japa – and it feels like a stepping stone to the next stage – which is a deeper more silent meditation. Continue reading “Benefits of japa”

Jewels of happiness blog

I haven’t blogged for a while. But, in the meantime, I can recommend the Jewels of Happiness  a blog – by Abhinabha. His most recent post is

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“An inner hero is someone who struggles with his or her own imperfections and strives to become the best possible version of him- or herself. This is the path of true nobility and character building. Not everyone can become an outer hero. But all of us can become true inner heroes.”

How to become an inner hero

The Jewels of Happiness includes books by Sri Chinmoy and an articles on how to bring happiness into your daily life.

Seven Steps to Inner Peace

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Inner peace is the most valuable thing that we can cultivate. Nobody can give us inner peace, at the same time it is only our own thoughts that can rob us of our inner peace. To experience inner peace we don’t have to retreat to a Himalayan cave; we can experience inner peace right now, exactly where we are. The most important criteria is to value the importance of inner peace. If we really value inner peace, we will work hard to make it a reality.

These are some suggestions for bringing more peace into your mind.

1. Choose carefully where we spend time.

If you are a news addict and spend an hour reading newspapers everyday, our mind will be agitated by the relentless negativity we see in the world. It is true, that we can try to detach from this negativity. But, in practise ,we will make our progress easier if we don’t spend several hours ruminating over the problems of the world. If you have a spare 15 minutes, don’t just automatically switch on the TV or surf the internet. Take the opportunity to be still or at least do something positive. The problem is the mind feels insecure unless it has something to occupy it. However, when we really can attain a clear mind we discover it creates a genuine sense of happiness and inner peace.

2. Control of Thoughts.

It is our thoughts that determine our state of mind. If we constantly cherish negative and destructive thoughts, inner peace will always remain a far cry. At all costs, we need to avoid pursuing trains of negative thoughts. This requires practise. – We cannot attain mastery of our thoughts over night. But, at the same time we always have to remember that we are able to decide which thoughts to follow and which to reject. Never feel you are a helpless victim to your thoughts.

“If you have inner peace,
nobody can force you to be a slave to the outer reality.”
– Sri Chinmoy [2]

3. Simplify Your Life

Modern life, places great demands on our time. We can feel that we never have enough time to fulfill all our tasks. However, we should seek to minimise these outer demands. Take time to simplify your life; there are many things that we can do without, quite often we add unnecessary responsibilities to our schedule. Do the most significant tasks, one at a time, and enjoy doing them. To experience inner peace, it is essential to avoid cluttering our life with unnecessary activities and worries.

See: Benefits of simplicity
Continue reading “Seven Steps to Inner Peace”

Basic Steps for Learning Meditation

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In many of my articles on self improvement, I often suggest meditation can be an invaluable aid to alleviating many of our daily problems. I don’t look upon meditation just as a problem solver, I meditate because I enjoy the consciousness of meditation. But, if we can gain real peace of mind through meditation, there is no problem that cannot be helped in some way. These a few preliminary steps for learning how to meditate.

1. Location.

Firstly, find a suitable quiet place for meditation. If it is very hard to find somewhere quiet, use some meditative music to drown out background sounds. If possible keep a corner of your room reserved just for meditation; this will help build up a meditative vibration in that particular part.

2. The Basics.

  • It is important to meditate with a straight back. (If you try meditating whilst lying down, you are more likely to fall asleep, than entering into a high state of meditation.)
  • Don’t meditate after eating a heavy meal – you will feel lethargic and sleepy.
  • If possible shower and wear clean clothes before meditating.
  • Try to switch off. If you try to meditate straight after work, you may be still thinking about the day. Try reading some books on meditation to help make the transition from work to meditation.
  • If you have difficulty creating time see: Finding Time for Relaxation / Meditation

3. Relaxation.

To meditate it is important to relax and switch off. Tell yourself that for the next 10-15 minutes, you don’t have to think about the past or future – just concentrate on the present moment and your meditation. Let go of any tension in your body and try to be fully aware of the present moment. This stage of relaxation is a preliminary stage to meditation; but, it is worth emphasizing that meditation is more than just relaxation.

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Winning, losing and happiness

Over the past decade, I’ve been competing in cycle races across the UK. In those 10 years, I’ve finished in just about every position from first to last. As an athlete there is always part of you which is striving to win; but at the same time as trying to win, I’ve tried to learn the art of being happy and cheerful whatever the outcome (harder in practise than theory.)

Sri Chinmoy offers the supreme philosophy.

He is the great winner
Who wins.
He is the greater winner
Who is the cheerful loser.
He is the greatest winner
Who gives equal value
To victory and defeat.
He alone is the real loser
Who separates
Defeat from victory.

– Sri Chinmoy (1)

This is a lofty philosophy, and I wouldn’t say I have been able to manage such a sense of oneness with the winner of races; I still prefer to win! But, it is a potent reminder that there is more to a race than winning. The hardest test for a human is to remain cheerful whatever the outer circumstances. If we can remain happy, despite outer disappointment, that is a great achievement.

Some things I have learnt from 10 years of competing

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Cheerfulness helps performance. I remember once hearing Sri Chinmoy tell runners in the 3100 Self-Transcendence mile race that if they smile more, they would run faster. I took this lesson to mean that if we can be cheerful and remember to smile, it can help us to be in a better frame of mind, and when we are in a better consciousness we can do better. Cheerfulness helps many aspects of performance. When we get angry and disappointed with ourselves, the opposite happens, we can lose our determination, confidence and enthusiasm. Maintaining cheerfulness helps us to be positive and determined. More subtly, a cheerful attitude helps us to get into that elusive ‘flow’ of good energy.

Dealing with disappointment. There isn’t any athlete who hasn’t been disappointed with their performance at some time of their career, if not every year. We are striving to do better and make improvements, but the body doesn’t respond in the way that we hope and expect. From a practical point of view it is important to be realistic and remember, this is an inevitability of life and physical performance. It may be a bit of cliché, but we never make progress in a straight line, it is more like a corkscrew, sometimes we have to go down as well as up. Remembering this inevitability, helps to prevent needless introspection and loss of motivation. Another cliché, often rolled out – is the fact that defeats are just as important as the victories. It maybe clichéd, but it is also true. With disappointing results, firstly we have to keep things in perspective; this creates a sense of detachment and balance which helps us to move on.

Enjoy the experience. The joy of winning is fleeting at best. You get to lift a trophy and a moment’s fame, but this joy is transient. A much better approach to sport is to try and enjoy every aspect of training, and racing. In one sense, racing on the limit is physically painful, but it gives a sense of satisfaction that you can’t get from sitting on a comfortable sofa. If we can remember to enjoy the exhilaration of performance and competing, we will get a much more lasting sense of fulfilment, that isn’t reliant on winning. Sri Chinmoy once said something like a marathon is torture for the body, mind and vital, but joy for the heart (unofficial quote from my memory)  I think all athletes can relate to the paradox of physical and mental pain, but at the same time getting some kind of joy from the whole experience.

Self-transcendence. Self-transcendence is simply our effort to better ourselves. This can be on any level – physical, mental and spiritual. We may not have the greatest natural talent, but we can always try to beat our previous bests or the best for our age category. Self transcendence means we are not comparing ourselves with others, but competing with ourself. From a practical point of view, it is very beneficial to only concentrate on your own performance and not think about other athletes. When you start wondering what your competitors are doing, you will lose focus. We cannot always transcend our physical capacities, but even if our time is disappointing, we can still try and transcend our approach to victory.

Detachment. Related to self-transcendence and the goal of competing with ourselves, we need to cultivate the capacity to have detachment from the result. Detachment doesn’t mean not caring. It just means we try to maintain equanimity whatever the outcome. Rather than seeing ourselves as a failure or success, we can just focus on what we achieved. As long as we have given everything, then we should seek satisfaction from that, and not the outer result.

The past is dust. Another great mantra, is ‘The Past is Dust’ Perhaps one performance or one season was disappointing. If we dwell on this, we bring a lot of negativity into our mind and this will only adversely affect our future performance. It is always better to concentrate on doing what we can at this present time, and just let go of any unfortunate experience. Just take a very practical approach, whatever position we are in, what is the best thing we can do from this situation? Continue reading “Winning, losing and happiness”

Overcoming negativity

It can feel the world is awash with negativity. If we are not careful we can allow this negativity into us and it will cloud our view of life. Never underestimate the power of negativity and positive thoughts.

Each positive thought
Has the atom-bomb-capacity
To destroy the negative in us.

Each negative thought
Has the atom-bomb-capacity
To destroy our whole world.

– Sri Chinmoy [1]

To overcome negativity in ourself, in other people, there are many things we can do.

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Don’t cherish negativity

Often we unconsciously cherish negativity. We get a subtle temptation to enjoy gossip and complain. This may start off as an innocent joke, but it can grow and we become more and more negative because we focus on it. Sometimes, we need to be aware that negativity is a trait we can consciously hold onto. If we first become aware, we can change.

The mind is like blotting paper

Sri Ramakrishna once observed that the human mind is like blotting paper – it absorbs whatever it is dipped into. If we surround ourselves with a negative environment, then this will seep into us. For example, if you find yourself reading newspaper comments section, internet forums, you expose yourself to vast quantities of negativity. This seeps into your mind, and you start subconsciously picking up on all the negativity yourself. It’s impossible not to be affected to some extent. However,  if you spend time in a very different environment, where there is a positive energy, you will definitely feel the difference – enabling you to feel positive about yourself and the world.

Get out of ruts

Negativity is often the result of getting stuck in a rut – getting stuck in a bad habit. If we have the same routine, the mind gets into a rhythm of complaining. Sometimes, we need to work hard to get out of a rut. Do something out of the ordinary, and break your old habits. This breaks the cycle of negativity and gives a sense of newness. In this newness, you can much more easily get out of your negativity.

But, the problem is other people….

If you feel that the problem is always other people, you can be assured it isn’t. It is true, we need to avoid unnecessarily negative situations. But, ultimately, we have to be aware it is only ourself who can choose to be negative or positive. Other people will always have failings, limitations and degrees of negativity. But, that is not an excuse for us to accept their negativity. Just because other people are enjoying negativity, doesn’t mean we have to. Continue reading “Overcoming negativity”