Inspirational Ideas

Some inspirational ideas and quotes from the great Seer Poets can become like mantras. They invoke and explain powerful ideas with a poetic flow that touches the soul. These are a few quotes and ideas that have frequently inspired me. If you have any to share, kindly leave in comments.


This famous monologue from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like it’ eludes to the importance of humility. We may be proud of our current situation, but we can never take our fate for granted. It also infers the underlying oneness of experience. ‘We play many parts’ reminds us that we can experience life from any perspective. It is a reminder of the golden rule to love thy neighbour as thyself. As a part we play today, maybe very different tomorrow. It also makes me think of Mother Teresa’s quote:

‘In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.’

– Whatever our current ‘part’ maybe, the important thing is we do our part with love.

Love vs Power

(Photo: Unmesh)

The nature of the mind is to wish to exercise power. But, when we strive for power, peace disappears. If we replace the love of power, with the power of love, the world will be changed. It is our heart power that can bring peace and not the battle for supremacy.

 The Nature of Love

let me not admit

In human love there is often attachment and desire. We love, but there is a partial desire to benefit ourselves. The real divine love is unconditional. We love for love’s sake and are not influenced by outer circumstances. In real love, forgiveness comes spontaneously. There is no sense of sacrifice, only love.

The Nature of Self

i celebrate

Walt Whitman’s classic opening from ‘Song of Myself’ is a joyful reminder of our highest self – our real self. It is a reminder of the underlying oneness we have with creation. The Vedic Seers wrote many centuries ago that  our inner nature is delight. This is an inspiration for us to grow from the little ‘I’ (ego) to the bigger I


It feel superfluous to add to this momentous line from John Keats. An invocation of beauty and joy.


Heaven on Earth

to see world

Another epic of English poetry. A reminder heaven is in the eye of the beholder. If we can be aware and grateful of nature, we can see miracles everyday.

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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”

Changing yourself by accepting yourself

The very notion of ‘self-improvement’ can often imply a deep dissatisfaction with ourselves and with life. This is rather unfortunate, because such an attitude can be pretty counterproductive if we want to change ourselves! Let’s first explain how accepting ourselves does not mean giving up on improving ourselves; in fact it makes the whole process of self improvement much more joyful:

  • We get to set our own standards for self-improvement: Often we are unhappy because we judge ourselves by some unrealistic standard, which has often to do the expectations set by other people and society. By accepting some external guideline for what constitutes self-improvement, you are in effect comparing yourself to others.  Accepting ourselves allows us to judge our self improvement not by criteria set by others, but by our own previous marks.
  • We get to focus on the positive: Often we spend so much time poring over our faults and failings that they occupy our entire mental space, leaving no room for us to appreciate our good qualities. By constantly ruminating on our weaknesses we give them a kind of power and we feel more and more helpless to overcome them. However by accepting yourself as you are, warts and all, you can then focus on increasing and expanding your good qualities – you will notice that your weaknesses will decrease in strength as well. Indeed, the most effective way of reducing your weaknesses is not by focusing on them, but by invoking its opposite positive quality instead.
  • We live in the moment: Self acceptance means accepting whatever you did in the past, no matter how deplorable, is done and there is nothing you can do to change it now. Any time and energy spent wondering what might have been is therefore pointless. You have to start from where you are, here and now, at your current state of development, with what you have at your disposal.
  • We change our attitude to the world: A poor self image leads to problems relating to other people, and excessive time wondering how others perceive us. However if we are happy in our own skin, then we begin caring less about what people think about us, and more time caring about people.

So how do we go about cultivating a philosophy of self acceptance? Here are a few tips:

  • Create space to acknowledge your good qualities. Our mind often seems automatically geared to think of only the bad about ourselves, you have to consciously shift the focus to the good.  Even a simple five minute daily exercise of writing down the good things you did (no matter how small), or positive thoughts and inspirations you have had helps enormously.
  • Don’t identify with the mind. We often see our minds as the final arbiter over our behaviour, and take anything it tells us very seriously, especially when it tells us something bad about ourselves. However a practice of meditation can help you access a deeper part of your nature, and take your thoughts much less seriously.
  • Compete with yourself rather than others. Whether it be work, sports or any other field of endeavour, try to set your challenges not so much as achieving a fixed goal or competing with others, but more about transcending your own personal best. This relieves the pressure of outside expectation, and you will get tremendous joy from knowing that you have gone beyond anything you have previously done.

Photo: Jowan Guthier, Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries

The Wisdom of the Zen Haiku Masters


Haiku is a particular type of poem. A traditional Haiku is 3 phrases with 17 syllables; Haiku became popular in Japan, during the seventeenth century, and has recently caught the imagination of the Western World. Haiku gives the poet a unique challenge to express themselves with the minimum of language. There are different aspects of the Haiku which can be particularly instructive.


The Haiku masters delight in the paradox, mixing the mundane with the ethereal; the beautiful with the ugly. In part this reflects the quirky sense of humour the poet’s enjoyed.

“This Rooster
Struts along  as though
he had something to do.”

– Anonymous

But, there is also the deliberate effect of mixing sublime truths in the most ordinary of everyday objects. If a Zen master was to gain enlightenment, it was just as likely to be sweeping the floor as it was meditating in a Himalayan cave. The paradox is a reminder to see the extraordinary in the ordinary – the infinite in a grain of sand.

“Where there are people
there are flies, and also
there are Buddhas”

– Issa

Read Between The Lines.

A Haiku is not a university lecture or list of 10 commandments; it is a riddle to be deciphered by the reader. The poet invites the reader to take the 17 words and create his own imagery and own understanding. The process of seeking beyond the literal words is in itself a spiritual exercise. There is a similarity to the zen koan ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping’ A Haiku has the similar effect; we need to work on understanding the meaning and inspiration of the poem. It is a different experience.

A flash of lightning
where there were faces
plumes of pampas grass.

– Basho


A characteristic of the Haiku Master is that they never take themselves too seriously. Life is something to be observed and enjoyed; but, there is nothing we need to take too seriously, even this business of enlightenment.

“From the nostril
of the Great Buddha
comes a swallow”

– Issa

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Keeping Things in Perspective

sunset Hawaii

A sense of perspective is vital to keeping sane and avoid small problems that can unnecessarily overwhelm us. If we lose perspective we can end up worrying for hours about things that may never even happen. To keep things in perspective it is particularly important to live in the present moment and avoid being overwhelmed by fears and concerns about the future.

Here are some tips to keep things in a sense of perspective.

See Things from other people’s point of view.

This is something that can be quite difficult to do. When we feel aggrieved at a situation or person, try to place yourselves in their shoes and try to understand their motivations and actions. We don’t necessarily have to agree and sympathise with them. But, if we can really look at an issue from other people’s perspective we can sincerely understand a very different perspective on the issue. This will help us be more sympathetic in our judgement and response.

Does it matter what other people think?

If someone makes a critical judgement, don’t let it be the end of your world. Just because we have received some negative feedback, it doesn’t mean it is entirely true or that we should take it to heart. Criticism invariably results from some small mistake; and doesn’t reflect on our overall character.

Are You misjudging other people?

Sometimes problems occur because we wrongly assume other people are acting from a certain motivation. The mind suspects and assumes the worst, yet, often we are incorrect in our assumptions. If someone fails to acknowledge our presence or contribution; we should avoid making the jump to assuming that they therefore no longer like us. The mind can be very tricky – it can take a small incident and magnify it out of all proportion. It is important to be very careful in judging people’s motives, especially when we assume them to be negative. If we suspect the worst we lose something precious within us.

Does this cause any major problems?

Sometimes we can get worked up about problems that are very insignificant. Perhaps we like to keep things in a certain order, but our house companions fail to clean up. It’s a bit inconvenient if people leave dirty washing in the sink; but, at the same time it’s not the end of the world. Think about the things that have concerned you in the past few days; and be honest in questioning how important they really are.

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How to Know the Right Thing to Do.


How often do we find ourselves struggling to know the right course of action, the right thing to say? There is no magic solution to knowing the right thing to do. But, these are a few suggestions for working out the best course of action.

1. Listen to Your Inner voice

Deep within, we all have an inner voice, – our own conscience. It is sometimes hard to put our finger on this part of us, which knows the right thing. To be able to listen to our own conscience we have to silence the mind and put aside the perceptions of the ego. Conscience is like a muscle, the more we listen to it – the stronger it becomes. If we value our inner pilot, it will be easier to listen to it.

2. Does your decision bring inner peace?

The best way to tell whether we are doing the right thing is to feel whether we are inwardly happy with the choice. As William Shakespeare suggested it is:

“A peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.” [1]

Sometimes we want to do something, but feel tremendous discord and inner turmoil. With these kind of decisions we cannot get any peace of mind, but, we spend time vainly trying to justify our decisions. Sometimes we can succeed in overriding the voice of our conscience – but, this inevitably leads to regrets later on. Note the ‘right decision’ may not lead to outer peace. Sometimes doing the ‘right thing’ will bring complications in our outer life. But, in working out the best thing to do, we need to place importance on our inner state of mind. If we know we are doing the ‘right thing’ we can more easily tolerate outer sufferings.

3. Give Time for Reflection

Quite often our initial reaction is clouded with emotion. When we react in haste, it is more difficult to know the right thing to do. When writing an important letter, always give time to revise your initial draft. Sometimes we write things in the heat of the moment, but, on quiet reflection we realise there are much better ways of saying things. If a difficult situation arises try to give yourself time before pronouncing your verdict. This is particularly true if we are consumed with anger. When we are angry we lose our equanimity and our judgement is often impaired.

Continue reading “How to Know the Right Thing to Do.”

Finding Inspiration to Write on Self Improvement


I am fortunate to have sufficient time to write several articles a week on the theme of self improvement. I think the main criteria for finding inspiration is that you have an interest / passion for writing on these topics. Sometimes, it is difficult to find new topics, but these are some of the strategies I use for gaining inspiration and creativity.


Many of my articles have been inspired by reading a quote from profound thinkers and spiritual teachers. For example, a very short quote by Sri Chinmoy,

Not self-contempt
But self-improvement
Has to be our continuous choice.

gave an idea for an article – the art of effective self criticism. I also enjoy the delightful paradoxes found in the Tao Te Ching. For example this quote.

“The Master doesn’t try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.

helped inspire an article “What makes an effective leader” The funny thing is that quite often I write a very long 1,000 word essay and find that it says little more than the initial short quote 🙂 But, that is fine, sometimes we like the simplicity and power of poetry and quotes; sometimes our mind likes lengthy explanation and reason – both have their value.

Reader’s Comments

Articles can often produce intriguing comments from the readers. I like to try and respond; but, sometimes when I am responding to a comment I realise I could actually expand it into a whole article itself. I like this method of finding inspiration because it makes your articles like a conversation. I think every writer has certain limitations – I have a certain world perspective, so it is often through comments that I gain new ideas and directions.

Answering Questions

Sometimes I receive questions through comments, or emails. This often gives ideas that are quite obvious, yet are something I had often never thought about. For example, this particular article came about a readers comment about, how do you find time to write? I like receiving questions, because it provides a focus for an article. You also feel the article has a sense of purpose.

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