Getting back on the New Year’s resolution wagon


It’s two weeks since the start of the New Year, and if you’re like me, then you have probably not carried out all your New Year’s resolutions out to the extent which you’d like. Often when we lapse from our original intentions, we feel that we have somehow failed, and basically give up altogether – however there is no reason why we cannot simply pick up where we left off and make a fresh start.

My New Year’s resolution was to introduce more fresh fruit and veg into my life, and to cut down on eating fatty an sugary foots, and also maybe reduce a little those high-carb lunches that made me want to go to sleep for a couple of hours in the middle of the day. Unfortunately (for the resolution) I began the New Year whilst on a visit to Malaysia, and of course couldn’t resist indulging in quite a few of that countries delicacies only a couple of days into the resolution. But I’m home now, with a recently acquired supply of fresh fruit and veg, ready to start again.

Change your attitude to failure

Often when something happens and we don’t keep up our resolutions for a day or so, we often feel that that’s it, and the resolution is now broken. But imagine if we had that attitude as a baby, when we were learning to walk? Think of the countless times a baby tries to stand up, only to fall back down again. Failure is an experience every one of us deals with at some point or another, the important thing is not to be discouraged into giving up altogether.

sDon’t think of success; think of progress

Often we have an all-or-nothing approach to changing our lifestyle for the better. However, the process of making resolutions should not be a cycle of making targets and then feeling bad because you didn’t achieve them, there should be some joy in the process! In other words, we should be happy at any changes we do make, and take them as as positive signs of our own progress, rather than bemoaning our inability to transform ourselves overnight. If we have that attitude, it is much easier to accept ourselves and keep trying to improve, sespite the setbacks.

Adjust your goals if necessary

Sometimes it takes a setback for one to realise that their goals need modifying – you can think of it as a practice run. Something that helps for me is to change the nature of the resolution to give it a finite time frame. The mind tends to respond with negativity when faced with something stretching off into the indefinite future, so by saying you’re going to implement the resolution for the month of January or for the next two weeks, it peresents a much more finite challenge to the mind. Hopefully by the end of that timeframe, the habit will have well and truly stuck, and you’ll be well on the way to making a permanent change.

(Photo: Projjwal Pohland, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries)

ps  I’ve changed my first name from Shane to Nirbhasa, which is a name given to me signifying all the best qualities of my soul. It is a Sanskrit word, and relates to the soul shining forward from within. So you’ll see a different name at the start of all the posts from now on 🙂

So, you think you’re enlightened?

One of the big downfalls that often happens on the path of self-improvement is a bloated sense of pride. Certainly, it helps to look back and gain confidence from what we have achieved so far. However sometimes, after a nice experience or a good spell in life, we can even feel that we have somehow figured everything out on life’s journey, and this kind of complacent feeling can easily lead to our downfall.

Where there’s an up, there’s a down

One of the reasons it is important not to be over elated about any progress you make, is that this idea can be very easily shattered by outer circumstances. One common thing that happens is when someone goes to visit some old friends or relatives, and finds themselves repeating the same negative cycles of behaviour that used to happen before they embarked on their self-improvement journey, despite all the progress they thought they made! A friend told me something humorous she read recently from one of Eckhart Tolle’s books: “If you think you’re enlightened, then go and live with your parents for a week.”

If you attach too much importance to the good times, you’ll attach too much importance to the bad times too, and believe that all your efforts so far were for nought. When it comes to evaluating inner progress, our human mind is a notoriously bad judge. The best thing is just to keep an even keel throughout both good and bad times.

Inner growth and humility go together

Something very interesting happens to people who progress along the road of self-discovery. They may start out by thinking they will obtain these things like ‘inner peace’ or ‘enlightenment’ – however, as they begin to escape from the confines of the limiting mind and live more in the heart, they feel a greater sense of kinship and connection with the world and with their fellow human beings. The focus of everything they so slowly changes from a selfish one to one more geared towards making the world a better place – even their pursuit of enlightenment. Hence when the Buddha sat down at the bodhi tree he vowed to obtain enlightenment not for himself, but for all sentient beings. Real inner growth always goes hand in hand with an increased sense of humility and selflessness. Conversely, an exaggerated sense of pride about one’s achievements tells you quite a lot about the ‘quality’ of those achievements in the first place!

Always have the attitude of a beginner

No matter how far advanced you are along the road of self-discovery, it always pays to have the attitude of a beginner. Every day is a new day, every morning ripe with new possibilities for self-discovery and self-expansion. My own teacher, Sri Chinmoy, meditated for almost seventy years and reached very high levels of meditation, yet he always described himself as ‘the eternal beginner’. No matter what he achieved, every achievement was merely a launchpad for the next step.

“When we start our journey, the first step forward is our goal. As soon as we reach this goal, we achieve perfection. But today’s goal, today’s perfection, is tomorrow’s starting point; and tomorrow’s goal becomes the starting point for the day after tomorrow. Continuous progress is perfection.” – Sri Chinmoy

Having the attitude of a beginner allows you to live in the moment, and get joy from the adventure of self-discovery, instead of anticipating an end result.

Photo: Sopan Tsekov, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

How to Manage Your Day

I must admit I thought long and hard before choosing the above title – I have read many similarly titled articles which promise wonderful tips to revolutionise your life, and which in the long run end up making you feeling worse about yourself because you haven’t managed to put into practice! However, from the five years I have spent full-time on the journey of self-discovery with my teacher Sri Chinmoy, I have managed to put into place some practical lessons which have reaped enormous benefits, and I’d like to share some of them here. As you will see, many of them have more to do with attitude and how we look upon events – once the right attitude is there, the rest falls into place.

A good start is half the battle

It is important every day to keep at least some part of the day solely for yourself, where you can do the things that keep you grounded, centered and focused on the important things in life. In many ways, the morning is by far the best time for this. Firstly, you are much less likely to be distracted by work or friends or unforeseen circumstances. Secondly, when you can have that time in the morning, the sense of peace and balance you get lasts through the day and insulates you against the swirls and storms of life.

Having that time every day for yourself does involve a certain degree of discipline, but when you can keep up that discipline, you feel much more in control of your life, and able to tackle other issues which need improving. For me, my ‘self time’ happens as soon as I get up – half an hour/45 minutes of meditation to center the heart and emotions, some inspirational reading for the mind, followed by running to harmonize the body. Sometimes it is a struggle to complete that discipline, but I know from experience that If I don’t begin my day on that foundation, then I will not be in the right state of mind, and the rest of the days challenges will be much harder to face. Continue reading “How to Manage Your Day”

The many facets of forgiveness

The capacity for forgiveness is certainly one of the most noble traits we posess as human beings. Despite it commonly being lauded as such throughout the ages, there is however comparatively little examination of the effect an attitude of forgiveness can have on your daily life, both inner and outer.

Forgiveness is practical

Forgiveness is often framed as a moral quality, when it first and foremost a practical one. When we are unable to forgive someone who has wronged us, that person retains a kind of power into us, forcing their way into our thoughts. “If we spend our time cherishing negative thoughts about someone—jealousy, doubt or anger—then we are making that person our Guru“, aptly notes meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy. It is only through forgiveness that we can stop the effects of that action from staying with us long after the original hurt was caused. Continue reading “The many facets of forgiveness”

Wisdom From the Great Indian Epics

At Sri Chinmoy Inspiration, we occasionally do posts highlighting the timeless wisdom that has come from all the various world cultures – see for examples Tejvan’s Wisdom from the Zen Haiku Masters. My meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, came from an Indian background and he would often write short retellings of traditional Indian tales. I happen to have been reading a lot of traditional Indian stories recently – many of them come from the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, India’s answer to the Iliad and the Odyssey.

These epics play an important role in the Hindu tradition, but there are a lot of truths in them which are timeless in nature, and I just thought I’d select four or five of them for today’s post.

Focus only on the important things.

This is a very nice story from the Mahabharata:

Drona was a great teacher of the warrior arts, and one day he held a test to find his best archery student. He put a wooden bird on a branch of a distant tree, partly hidden by the foliage, and painted an artificial eye on the wooden bird. The teacher called all his disciples and said, “You have to hit the arrow exactly in its eye. Are you ready?”

Everyone nodded. First the eldest Yudhisthira was invited to try his skill. He stretched his bow-string and was about to release the arrow. Drona asked, “What is visible to you at this point of time?” Yudhisthira replied, “You, the tree, people around me, and the bird.”

“Step aside”, said Drona.

Similar questions were put to his other students and Drona got the similar answers as those given by Yudhisthira. Lastly, it was the turn of Arjuna, who readied himself to shoot. Drona asked him, “What is being observed by you?”

And Arjuna replied, “Sir, at this point of time only the eye of the bird is visible to me.”

“Anything else?”, Drona asked

“No, only the bird”, replied Arjuna.

Drona smiled and said “You may shoot.” Arjuna shot and hit the bird perfectly in the eye.

This story has a particular resonance for me, because one of my weaknesses is letting myself get sidetracked from the things that really matter. However I have found over the years that by cutting out the superflous things in my life and focusing on the things that really matter, then I can make enormous strides towards fulfilling my dreams. Continue reading “Wisdom From the Great Indian Epics”

How To Keep Your Inner Wealth In Times Of Recession

Often the news of an impending economic recession is accompanied by an equally heavy mental recession – our minds shrink to thoughts of fear and uncertainty, and the days ahead seem filled with gloom. It need not be like this, and in fact we are only making the situation worse for ourselves by becoming more depressed. Here are a few pointers for facing financial hard times with poise and calmness:

Focus on the here and now

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

– The Buddha

It is very easy to imagine worst case scenarios and let them distract you from the things that need to be done. We may not have control over all the factors that dictate our economic well-being, but at least if we can do the things we have control over, we can look into the future knowing that we have done our best. Taking practical here-and-now steps gives us a sense of empowerment and generates a sense of momentum in our lives, whereas worrying has quite the opposite effect – making us feel more and more helpless!

Learn the art of detachment

Circumstances cannot change man’s life.
His attitude can and does.

– Sri Chinmoy

Too often we let our well being lie in thrall to “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as Shakespeare would put it. We are elated when circumstances are good, deflated when things are not so good. And yet our outer circumstances will always be in a state of flux, like the waves in the ocean: rising, falling and rising again. The chances are that in our lifetime we will probably live through quite a few periods of economic growth and recession, just as we go through good and bad in our personal lives. We have to make a choice: whether we wish to remain a small boat in the middle of the ocean, emotionally tossed around with every rise and fall of the waves, or we can be a huge ocean liner, remaining steadfast on course regardless of the ups and downs. Continue reading “How To Keep Your Inner Wealth In Times Of Recession”

A Five-Point Detox Program for the Mind

We’ve all heard about detox programs for the body, which aim to clear away all the toxins which block our system. Well, considering the amount of mental ‘toxins’ we indulge in everyday in the form of negative and destructive thoughts, I thought why not have a mental detox program too? By this, I mean a series of practives you could do for a couple of weeks, or a month, at the end of which your thoughts would be purged of negativity and a new clarity and peace of mind could emerge in your life.

As any army general will tell you, an adversary is best attacked on multiple fronts at once, and so it is with our thoughts. These five steps outlined below – meditation, simplification, inspiration, exercise and positivity – work hand in hand to keep you in a good frame of mind throught the day. I would recommend you start with a timeframe like two weeks and see how you get on, and then maybe the next time try it for a month or even longer.

Step 1: Meditation

Meditation, is quite simply, the art of stilling the mind and going beyond your thoughts to a space of peace and beauty inside yourself. If you are serious about trying to rid the mind of negative thoughts, then I would recommend you make time for a meditation practice at least once a day. It is best if you do it at the same time every day (so as to build up a habit) – for many reasons, the ideal time is early in the morning, directly after you wake up and have a shower and before you eat breakfast.However if you can’t do this, at least pick some time of the day where you can sit down for five or ten minutes undisturbed. We have written quite a few articles on meditation and concentration exercises (see resource list below); try these different techniques and see which one best suits you. Continue reading “A Five-Point Detox Program for the Mind”

The Inestimable Importance of Inspiration

For anything great and good that you want to do in your life, there is one crucial prerequisite – inspiration. A good inspiration brings with it a wave of energy that by itself can propel you over the finish line. Conversely when we are devoid of inspiration, everything can seem difficult, tedious and boring, and we get no joy out of what we are doing.

Inspiration and the mind

Inspiration is so important because it keeps the mind positive and focused on the bigger picture. We often think we are in control of our minds and what we think, but even a brief analysis of our thoughts reveals a different story: that our negative thoughts act as a huge barrier to our self growth.

The mind is very prone to vacillation and doubt, switching from one way to the other at a moment’s notice. Often when you feel a deep inner yearning to accomplish something, the mind will at first go along with it, enticed by the novelty factor. However, when the going gets rough and you begin to encounter obstacles in reaching your goal, the mind will often be the first one to jump ship! By introducing outer sources of inspiration to your life, you help your mind “see the forest for the trees” and work with you to achieve your goals.

Feeling that you are not alone

Sometimes the process of bringing purpose and meaning into your life means you have to boldly step into territory uncharted by most of the people around you. You begin to explore options beyond the nine-to-five cycle of eating, working and sleeping, and begin to move away towards a deeper sense of being. Because many of those around you aren’t as interested as you are in living out your full potential, it is very easy to feel that you are ploughing a lonely furrow, and this can make you wonder if indeed you are doing the right thing in the first place. That’s why keeping in touch with inspiring people and reading inspiring stories is no important, because it lets you see that others have been in same place as you. If they have gone on to achieve their goals, then why can’t you?

Keeping inspired

Because the mind gets bored of new things very quickly, you constantly need to replenish your sourse of inspiration:

  • Having like minded people around you can be great in that regard – you can guarantee that if one person in the group isnt feeling particularly inspired, someone else will be, and their inspiration will act as a lift-me-up tonic. Also, together you serve as a valuable source of new ideas – when one person finds out something that works for them, then he or she can easily spread that with everyone else.
  • Always keeping a sense of newness in what you do is always essential – for example, to stop my meditation practice from becoming dull and uninspired, I often add a new meditation exercise to my morning routine, or redecorate my meditation space.
  • Reading can be a powerful source of inspiration, as it directly affects the mind. Reading personal inspiration stories can be particularly powerful, because you can put yourself in the shoes of that person and imagine yourself overcoming those obstacles.

After inspiration, then what?

You can use the inspiration you have as a launchpad to increase your aspiration – your inner yearning for fulfilment. Many people who give seminars on success in different fields all say the same thing – that the difference between attaining a goal and not attaining it is simply whether you wanted it badly enough. The very act of increasing your aspiration helps to inwardly move you away from the situation you are dissatisfied with, and you feel that inside your heart you are actually beginning to effect the changes that you want to see in your life.

As the old saying goes: “when you really want something, the entire universe conspires to help you achieve it.

(I am dedicating this article to my main source of inspiration, my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, who passed away one year ago on October 11.)

A Meditation Exercise For Self-Discovery

I occasionally give meditation classes in my home city of Dublin. The great thing about giving classes is that they attract amazing people from all different corners of the globe and walks of life. Many of them are there looking for techniques to relieve the increasing amount of stress and anxiety that they face in their lives. Others, though, come looking for something that goes beyond just stress relief; they feel that meditation can somehow give them a deeper sense of themselves, and expand their awareness of who they are. And they are right. It can.

Many of the exercises we teach in our classes stem from one very simple secret I learned from my meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy – to meditate on the heart instead of the mind. Seeing as our overactive mind is the source of many of our worries, meditating in the mind can often lead to tension and stress. On the other hand, the heart is that space in the middle of the chest we point to when we refer to ourselves, so naturally it is a very good place to begin any journey of self-discovery.

This meditation exercise works on two levels – it helps to purify the mind of all the superfluous chatter that gets in the way of our self discovery, and (more importantly) it makes us identify with a much deeper part of our nature that goes beyond the body or the mind. When we are in the heart, we see that it is always aspiring and reaching towards a greater sense of happiness. And according to all the great meditation teachers, that sense of perfection and true happiness lies within us, in the highest part of our being – for example, Zen Buddhism talks about how we are already enlightened, we just need to uncover it, and of course there is the famous utterance of the Christ “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”. We call this highest part of our being the soul, although many people have their own language to describe it.


1. It doesn’t matter if you use a cushion or a chair to sit; the important thing is that you keep your back straight. For this exercise, you can keep your eyes closed and your hands turned upwards on your lap.

2. For the first couple of minutes, just slowly scan through your body from to bottom, making sure that everything is relaxed. Make any little adjustment you need to make to ensure your body is relaxed and free of tension. Pay particular attention to your neck and shoulders as this is where a lot of tension builds up.

3. When we are fully relaxed, we will begin the meditation proper. When you breathe in, slowly repeat to yourself “I have no mind, I have no mind. What I have is the heart.” As you say this, try to feel that at this moment the mind does not exist, that the only part of you that is truly real is the heart. As you feel more and more that the heart is the only real part of you there, your attention will be focused there more and more. If the mind interrupts with its thoughts, don’t worry, just bring your attention back to the exercise.

4. After 3 or 4 minutes, we can take a step further, from the heart into the soul. This time repeat to yourself “I don’t have a heart. What I have is the soul.” Feel that deep inside the heart lies the soul, the highest part of your being, which is all beauty and all light. Again, feel that the soul is the only real part of you – this will naturally bring your attention more and more to it.

5. After another few minutes, you can take a further step, saying this time “I am the soul”. This beauty, joy and peace is not just something lying dormant inside you, it is what you truly are. As you say this, you are far beyond the limitations of your mind and body, and you can feel as tremendous feeling of purity and inner freedom enter your being. Try and stay in this beautiful space for as long as you can.

A lot of people who come to meditation classes have very beautiful experiences from doing exercises like this one – the experiences tend to vary from person to person, as the exercise serves to bring our the unique qualities of your soul. If anyone is inspired to try and let us know if they had any nice experiences, we’d be more than happy to hear about it!

Photo: Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

How to face up to your weaknesses – and overcome them

Often we have a rather fixed concept of ourselves and how we would like others to percieve us. Hence, it’s a pretty painful experience when you are suddenly confronted with some unsavoury aspect of your nature, and it’s doubly painful when it’s exposed for all to see. Some of us become resigned to saying ‘that’s just the way I am’ and claiming their weakness almost as a badge of identity, whereas others go to the opposite extreme, mentally flagellating themselves for every misstep they make in life.

Is there a middle path between these two extremes? Can you really overcome your weaknesses? From the changes I have seen in my life, and also from watching the lives of many of my friends who in one form or another have committed themselves to truly living at their fullest potential, I can definitely say yes to that one. And like many other things, it’s a question of how you do it. Here are a few observations:

Thinking about your weakness only gives it strength

When we hate other people, what happens? The thought of them pervades our mental space, and end up unconsciously guiding our emotions and actions. Similarly, forever thinking of how bad your weakesses are give them power over you, and make you feel helpless in the face of them. It is better to always keep an attitude of pragmatism – the bad thing you did in the past cannot be changed now, but you can always work on avoiding a repeat in the future.


We often set unrealistic ideas of the person we should be, and a newly-discovered weaknesses often causes us pain because it jarringly conflicts with this idea. The first step in overcoming weakesses is to lose these unrealistic ideas and accept yourself for who you are. By accepting yourself, warts and all, you are not giving up. No, it is in fact a realistic assessment of where you stand now in your life. Once you have learned to accept and love yourself for who you truly are, you can then work on the journey of self-improvement. My meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, once used the analogy of a potter working with clay: “You have to be a divine potter. If the potter is afraid to touch the clay, he will not be able to offer anything to the world. So the potter touches the clay and shapes it into something beautiful and useful.”

You are not your problems

When we are confronted with a particular weakness, it tends to crowd our mind that we feel that they are the sum total of what we are! This is absolutely not true. If a cloud temporarily covers the sun, it does not mean that the sun does not exist. Your problems are not ‘you’, they are merely temporary limitations and bad habits obstructing your true nature, and as such, can always be unlearned and transformed.

Focus on increasing the opposite quality

It is always a much more rewarding task to increase positive qualities than reduce negative ones. If you lose your temper easily, you can focus on increasing your inner calmness. If you are prone to criticise others, try and increase the number of good things you see in everyone you meet. Working on positive goals turns the situation around from a struggle with ‘the enemy within’ to a process of inner growth and blossoming.

Never give up

The process of human improvement is not like instant coffee, or a miracle pill. There are ups, there are downs, there are times you wonder if you are any better than when you started. Yet bear in mind that anything we did that ever brought us a feeling of joy and satisfaction, only came because we commited to it and saw it through to the end.

Photo: Pranlobha Kalagian, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries