Radical Coaching… learning together in friendship

There have been a number of coincidences which are clarifying for me what is life is inviting me into. Almost seducing me into. 😉 At least 6 to 7 specific signs – all in the space of a month.

The session with the Association of Mumbai Coaches was intriguing. I never cease to be amazed by how and how much silence opens up the unknown, an intimacy with what is-  and our ability to see that which is obvious, yet hidden. It slows us down. One of the participants at the end said it was a meditative experience. And I realised, yes, it was a conversation with loving silence.

Just before this session I met a young, bright and wise being with whom I have been having morning conversations, which are like creative meditations for a few weeks now. A jugalbandi (co-creation), a flow of ideas, a birthing of something simple, beautiful, effortless. Friendship, coaching and learning together in which the line between the coach and the learner is there when it is, and also falls away as we experience a seamlessness.

A few months back, I participated in a beautiful journey of “Being at full potential” led by my beings who are now friends & colleagues, Sujith & Mark. There were many things that were valuable but what stood out was how might we work from Being. And also the journey of “Certification to Success”- the fact that we don’t just do an event and certify but also walk with the people to take them to implementation and success for 3 to 4 months.  With organisations, with leaders, with entrepreneurs and more.  They, we have a beautiful assessment that looks at the leader and the organisation from the Being lens grounded in eastern wisdom of the Panchakoshas and more.

One morning I was inspired to offer a Radical Coaching journey of 9 evening sessions of 90 minutes each on the Zoom web platform. This enables people to access from wherever they are in small doses some taste of my emerging lifework and for me also to learn.

Recently, a CEO friend who is a creative coach himself and a connector of possibilities & people, a bit like me – invited his friends who are CXOs, authors and an expat also to an evening to have a taste of what he felt was my unique approach. I have had the joy of learning and coaching together with him.

There were some beautiful insights I had during the session.

One of the participants who is a friend asked, ‘What is radical coaching as different from normal coaching?’ And I started looking at it closely. And from the experiences I am having I am attempting to share.

1. Honouring and Questioning hard-wired principles :

In the beautiful ODA-CFL (Organisation Development Alternatives – Coach for Life) program, I visited some of the simple and profound perspectives. In one way or another they had been a part of practice and coaching – and yet there were some that got deepened. e.g. Staying with what can be appreciated. Not advising and problem-solving for the client. Coaching is different from Consulting or Therapy. And more.

I realised that the way I coached honoured the essence of each of them but not always the form. The spirit not the letter. For example,

– Making eye contact : Traditional Coaching wisdom says the coach must maintain eye contact with the client. And while that is valid, knowing when not to maintain eye contact to give clients the space to meet themselves in the privacy of their own being is vital. Sometimes eye contact is intrusive, sometimes it brings a much needed connection and sometimes not making eye contact enables a much needed disconnection.

– Evoking, not advising : Certainly rescuing the client by problem solving and advising is not good coaching. And yet, I have found myself hold that ‘should’ lightly and consciously, lest it become a rigid concept. When a coach is in seamless flow with the client, inside that oneness and being space, what seems like an insight may come from the coach’s speaking. The idea is not to be present and sense is there an ‘invitation’ to reveal. Is what is coming not from a need to rescue and fix but a genuine voice of loving truth.

I have found there are four fundamental skills (which are also attitudes and states of being ultimately) that a coach needs to master:

  • Deep Listening
  • Authentic Speaking
  • Questioning from Wonder
  • Spacious Silence

This is the science but the art is how and when to use each of these and the simultaneity of their presence.

  1. Mirrors and Vulnerability :

In the session with the friends of the CEO coach who I have walked with closely, one of the participants volunteered to be coached. My coaching process that is held lightly in the background involves:

  • Diving deep : Using questions and silence
  • Revealing clarity: Harvesting what has emerged in the initial 10-15 minutes
  • Learning Together: Here the coach reveals how the issue which has emerged is somehow alive or has been faced in his/her life. The mirroring with vulnerability opens up a beautiful space for learning together.
  • Helicopter the process: Now we step out of the content and learn from the ‘how’ of the coaching/learning process- what worked and how.

It was quite interesting as I allowed and this friend welcomed deep long silences, he started accessing deeper layers of his issue. We moved from the general to the specific, from a 1000 feet to 10 feet to see the texture of the terrain. And when that was seen, a lot of clarity happened.

What was a revelation for me was that by the end of that half hour of intense reflective process each of the 14 people in the room were touched. Each person saw a connection to what is alive in his life – the answering to an inner calling, the dealing with the question of your money or your life! And a lot else.

Out of this was born the possibility of group coaching and learning together. If there were 3 to 4 people and each was willing to learn, each would somehow also coach. While there would be one person holding the space, inviting inquiry, allowing silence, multiple mirrors would reveal layers of reality. And this synergy would also help the journeying together supporting each other. The coach then is the life, the presence that is palpable in the togetherness.

  1. Listening, Silence and Wonder :

It is interesting that the word LISTEN and the word SILENT are made from the same letters. And the word ENLIST is also hidden in both. Of course this can be dismissed as a coincidence. And yet, the profound connection between the two and also how that enables an enlisting into what is true and valuable happens.

Earlier this week, a friend reached out to me who was grappling with finding deeper meaning in his work. I met him early at my favorite Joshua café walkable from my home. And I was all set to demonstrate and experience together with him the beauty and power of these skills and the process.

Guess what, that day I had to learn to let go of my sacred process. And simply be with where my friend was. He spoke and shared from his depths. I would occasionally ask a simple question and a deeper layer of his pain would emerge. By the time we ended, he had revealed aspects of his life that were intimate and had not been stated initially.

He had felt safe. As I listened, he listened to himself. As we were silent together, something from inside opened up. We were left in a state of wonder, even gratitude.

What helped me was the fact that I was Observing myself, him and the whole space and let go of my attachment to follow any process- even my own which had always worked magically. What was happening was too real to be captured by any structure and yet there was an underlying rhythm, a silent grace that was palpable. We were both left nourished.

One of the mantras I have learnt is: Observe, Observe, Observe. Another one is Accept, deeply honour and meet what is arising. Precisely where and how it is.

  1. Real, raw, alive :

One of the aspects of what I call radical coaching is that it is not really ‘Coaching’ in the way it is normally understood. It is a real, raw conversation with life. With truth and love. The life that is here in the relationship. To allow the togetherness to shape what is wanting to happen. To be patient, to be courageous, to not hurry to a clichéd response but wait for that voice to arise that is ever-fresh. To trust, to meet another in places that I may not have met myself but am willing to be naked. Perhaps that is place of real power because it is utterly vulnerable. It cannot be predicted, owned, orchestrated or manufactured.

There is an appreciation here and a willingness of a braveheart to encounter that which has not been seen, heard, felt. That which we want to avoid, resist, deny is now here. The lost child, the wounded adult wanting a shade under the tree of your heart. Without knowing how it may be provided, you walk the first walk every time- familiar in the depths of your soul and yet paradoxically unknown in this blessed moment with another.

  1. Designing to leverage the (friend-)client’s ecosystem :

This morning I was sitting with a friend, a potential client and I after two previous conversations, I had gathered that he wanted to focus on 4 to 5 areas. As the clarity emerged, we saw how everything in interwoven. And its all about our relationship with oneself. There is the inner world and the outer. Though they are one, they appear different.

In as much as the shifts inside him can bring forth a shift in the outer, sometimes small shifts in the ecosystem of the client- his work colleagues, his family, the design of his life, time and physical space can bring forth a shift in him. So we spoke about one of his clients and how he could be more effective there by building a heart connection, having a difficult conversation gently, honestly, sensitively.

We have heard of triple loop learning. The first loop is the content/ problem-solving approach. The second loop looks at the values/ assumptions beneath. The third loop looks at and operates from Being/ Presence. I am seeing that perhaps there is a fourth loop which looks at the larger whole. There is Self-awareness and there is a Collaborative awareness in the relationship between a Coach and Client. I am speaking of Ecosystem Awareness. So we are also working with the ecology of vital relationships in a Coach’s life- his work, his family, friends. Sometimes a small shift in the outer enables a leap in the inner. That requires us to go beyond the inner and outer to the innermost. That which is aware of even Being.

The Barrett 7 levels of Consciousness model enables us to look at the whole. You may like to do a 4 min free and powerful Personal Values Assessment  to get a glimpse of its power.

I use my community & multiple resources to serve him and his ecosystem. As we see how intricately life is speaking and listening to itself, some powerful connections happen. We begin to also see how there are two aspects: Evolution (includes healing, learning, etc- all located in time and space- the manifest world) and then there is awakening to the timeless nature of our being, freedom from suffering and the illusion of separation.

I like to also design my fee in a way that it is truly listening to the reality of my client. And bring in the spirit of gifting which includes a monetary transaction but also goes beyond into many intangible aspects. A penny dropped and he signed up for a month of engagement. And I was left with a lot of learning.

 

Do Actions Speak louder than Words?

Some of us friends are trying to build a community near Bhopal. At a place called Barkheda Bazyafat. And there is this classic conflict of .. Lets not talk, lets take action. Action speaks louder than words. And all that jazz. Any ‘idea’ which is held on to .. becomes stale and is always incomplete.

The truth of any idea can be grasped only by embracing the paradox. eg. Unless we end the separation between words and actions, between thought and intuition, between doing and being.. the conflict will thrive.

This is an interesting conversation that we had around that. The piece by Rajesh Dalal captures the essence and some aspects that Shantanu and I have mentioned also add texture. And flavor to this heady-hearty mix of words that hopefully will take us beyond words.

—–

Shantanu (Bazyafat) :

I cannot agree more that words are not enough to capture the essence of what transpired. Words almost always do not communicate completely and very often mis-communicate. In the note and also in the meeting, both seem to have happened. Aptly stated: ‘Jo bhi main kehna chahoon, barbaad kare alfaaz mere’.

Also, at one instance during the day, it was stated that talking is necessary and that I have also come to the meeting because I have a need to talk. I felt it would be inappropriate to counter this notion at that time, but I feel it is important to clarify that I truly do not have the need to talk when there is no action or decision to be taken. Personally, I prefer to communicate through my actions and decisions. I’ve found them sufficient so far. I would attempt to stick to them as far as possible in future.

The purpose of my attending this meeting or even initiating one outside Barkheda did not get met because too many people decided to give it a pass. The venue was suggested because it was more convenient to attend. A different purpose did get achieved though.

It was a pleasure getting introduced to Rajesh Dalal. Lots to learn.

———

Kiran (Pune) :

Dear Shantanu

One of the things that is clear to me is that the notion or idea that there is no need to talk- unless there is no action and decision required- is very different from the actuality of it. Anything made into a concept comes in the way of building community. We must always connect to the truth which is in the spirit of what is spoken.

And hence it is generally a good idea to see the limitation of an idea. For example, I find communication without too much agenda/decision/action-  has a place in our life and work- to simply relate as human beings. Like we saw.. Life comes alive in Relationship. Simply connecting as friends.. discovering what matters to each other.

And a great example is that like you say, “A different purpose did get achieved though.”  So making space to simply meet and share and explore together has a place in our human life.. And it is intricately interwoven with purposive action.

And certainly relating cannot be reduced merely to action or decision, is it not?

I feel that any kind of separation between action and talk, decision and communication etc.. breeds a ground for conflict. Lets recognise the beauty and the limitation of action and talk.

Healthy action requires healthy talk and vice versa.

This division that we often create is artificial.

And I am willing to listen to see if I have missed something.

Much love, Kiran

———

Rajesh Dalal (Talegaon) :

Dear friends,

This conversation may have value.
I agree – words are limited in their power to communicate. Silent action/behaviour speaks so much more than words. Words can and generally do deceive, unless they come from silence, care, beyond thought. The word is not the thing!

But how deeply, do we see this. Don’t most of our decisions and actions spring from knowledge, thought and it’s categorisations, gross or subtle? Often our speech, even listening is affected by thought. Thought has mostly distorted and limited life and deeper relationships.

However, words that draw attention to this ‘fact’ have great relevance. No? Moreover, talking freely and listening to our/others’ thoughts, haven’t you observed, is one important way humans, esp children, learn about themselves and the world?

So I suggest, we do not dismiss words. Let us explore whether we over or under emphasize words – what their intelligent place is, in our actual living. This exploration essentially is silent, though we may discuss. Also what other instruments of learning are available?

I don’t know if the above is simple and true, for you the reader. If yes, lovely. If not, reread with care, or ask for clarification or just forget it.
Whatever you do, your oral or written feedback will be of value. Rest assured, it will be read with a silent, non judgmental, learning quality.
Thanks,
Rajesh

———

Shantanu:

Dear Rajesh,

You surely have a gift of communication, even with words. I understand and completely agree with the conversation in your mail.

Words surely have a utility and I will, in times to come, try and use them only as much – not more. I have a belief that it is possible to communicate just by being and would like to experiment.

——

Kiran (Pune) :

Dear Shantanu

When you see the wisdom of words in the way that RajeshD has described. And then you also say that

“I have a belief that it is possible to communicate just by being and would like to experiment.”

I see the truth in what you say that often words are cheap and we can keep talking and not take action. I also see the hesitation and caution with words. Possibly you feel that words are different /inferior to being. Or dilute being.

I sense that we are beginning to see something together. And this is also related to a few chats I/we have all had amongst us when we met. In which there has been an understandable ‘allergy’ to the spoken word and a preference for a certain kind of action.

Till such time there is a hesitation to use words or a need to use words, both can come in the way of simply flowing with what is required in the moment.

A shift from ‘believing’ to seeing something as a fact or not -is the invitation. We need to believe something only when we don’t see it totally. Eg. We dont need to ‘believe’ that we have 2 hands and 2 legs.

I find it useful to simply notice both an attraction to words and also any allergy to words that some of us – including I – may have. Talking has a place which we discover when we are simply mindful.

Words And actions which seem to have a separation in our mind –

Both can be born from being/congruence or from a fragmented sense of better/worse. I hope you see that what i am saying is not ‘opposed’ to what you are saying but am attempting to share something that can help us see and learn something together.

Love, Kiran

——

Shantanu:

Dear Kiran,

I don’t feel (and have not felt earlier too) that what you’re saying is opposed to what I am. My communication was specific to my impressions & perceptions, which I thought were relevant to share. I don’t have an allergy to words or talking. I am in completely in agreement with what you’ve said about the place of words. They are not inferior, but overuse can be toxic.

What I sense behind the words in your mail is a deep concern for my learning. I feel grateful and assure you that I will be conscious not to let my beliefs and perceptions cloud my learning. You know that I’m learning a lot through these experiments of mine and interactions, whether I pen them or not. I am yet to fully understand the ‘together’ aspect of learning. I can comprehend the aspect of learning from one another, I can also comprehend that two people realise the same fact/truth at the same time, but I don’t know if there’s anything more to learning together.

——

Rajinder (while visiting from Barkheda) :

I am loving the conversation and I feel as if I am physically there with Kiran and Shantanu……while sipping tea made on my biogas chula in the tower room while it is raining outside…..thank you guys

Rajinder

———

Kiran (Pune)

Rajinder.. thoda cup pass karo yaar.. I am getting the fragrance already.

Shantanu.. there is something about your being which is very endearing..

the simple raw contact with reality perhaps.

And willingness to take deep dives and learn..

Yes, overuse of words can be toxic- agreed.

Even I don’t know what learning together means. Because when that happens it seems that I am not quite there. Nor is the other.. its all part of a flow. Which I sense we have all seen and felt. Now and then.

Love, Kiran

When the power of love meets the love of power…

Yesterday I spent a day with a person who has been seen and labeled as difficult, angry, destructive and insensitive. I was not sure what would happen. I did not go with any fancy expectations. I just entered the day with him with a simplicity and a willingness to just stay with whatever happens.. To learn, to listen. To share from the heart. Just walk together as friends.

At first, I found he had a lot to share. He kept belittling ‘words’ and ‘talk’ as empty and useless. And yet he kept talking a lot. I think he must have spoken maybe 80% of the time.. at least 70%. I did what i could to listen to what was beneath all that talk and the need to talk.

And I discovered some gems. As I stayed with the challenge of simply listening and being .. I saw in him and in our togetherness a certain ‘masti’ (playful madness) – he told me later that the word ‘masti’ comes from ‘mai’ and ‘ast’.. the ending of ‘ I’ (like ‘suryast’- the setting of sun!) and many such depths hidden inside words. What a man of genius he is.

I also wondered how come most people only see the anger and destructiveness. He has a profound intensity of course which can be destructive but only that which is unreal can ever be destroyed. He shared many many interesting episodes from his life and when I went past my mind which said there must be a balance in listening and speaking etc.. I could simply enjoy the flow.. of oneness.
And in that I discovered a vulnerability, a childlike innocence, a harmlessness, a depth that wants to touch the skies, a height that wants to dive into the oceans.

I was also reminded of what Mother Teresa said.. something like.. ‘When you judge you cannot love. When you love, you cannot judge’ And another line that is coming is:
We live so that we may learn to love.
We love so that we may learn to live. – Mikhail Naimy

Thank you Rajinder for bringing me to this amazing human being.
I also felt that its best not to mention names of such people.. or even talk about what happens amidst people he knows until some shift is seen by the people who saw him as destructive. To stay with reality nourishes. All else is inviting us to be real.

Sexuality and the human condition: Safety & Love through simple conversations

Sexuality and Sensuality, the power of touch and human physical contact is mired in deep conditioning and taboos. Here is a great potential to heal humanity and each of us… should we be willing to simply look at our conditioning and create safe spaces for conversation and exploration as have always been there in ancient and conscious tribes.

I came across a beautiful book, ‘Sex at Dawn’ which looks at this whole domain of human sexuality.
My one-liner about the book is:
How might we live healthier & wiser lives… and create vibrant relationships and access true love… by appreciating the truth about human Sexuality, currently lost in heavy societal conditioning.

I found some beautiful and even fun quotes from the book which will speak to many of us who are willing to look at the whole subject.

Sex was an expression of friendship: in Africa it was like holding hands… It was friendly and fun. There was no coercion. It was offered willingly.
– Paul Theroux

Man has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of his delights, the one ecstasy that stands foremost in the heart of every individual of his race… sex! It is as if a lost and perishing person in a roasting desert should be told by a rescuer he might choose and have all longed-for things but one, and he should elect to leave out water!
– Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

I sometimes try to imagine what would have happened if we’d known the bonobo first and the chimpanzee later or not at all. The discussion about human evolution might not revolve as much around violence, warfare, and male dominance, but rather around empathy, sexuality, caring, and cooperation. What a different intellectual landscape we would occupy!
– Frans de Waal, Our Inner Ape

Understanding is a lot like sex; it’s got a practical purpose, but that’s not why people do it normally.
– Frank Oppenheimer

Love is an ideal thing, marriage is a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The prerequisite for a good marriage, it seems to me, is the license to be unfaithful.
– Carl Jung, in a letter to Freud dated Jan 30, 1910

Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just ‘being in love’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left when being in love is burned away…
– Louis de Berniers, Corelli’s Mandolin

——-
While on the subject of Sexuality, I also came across a beautiful insight from the the Tao about ‘ejaculation’ in this realm which is captured below:

Tsai Nu (one of Huang Ti’s three female advisors) : ‘It is generally supposed that a man derives great pleasure from ejaculation. But when he learns the Tao he will emit less and less, will not his pleasure diminish?’

P’eng Tsu (Huang Ti’s senior Tao advisor) : ‘Far from it. After ejaculation a man is tired, his ears buzzing, his eyes heavy and he longs for sleep. He is thirsty and his limbs are inert and stiff. In ejaculation he experiences a brief second of sensation but long hours of weariness as a result. And that is certainly not a true pleasure.

‘On the other hand, if a man reduces and regulates his ejaculation to an absolute minimum, his body will be strengthened, his mind at ease and his vision and hearing improved. Although the man seems to have denied himself an ejaculatory sensation at times, his love for his woman will greatly increase, It is as if he could never have enough of her. And this is the true lasting pleasure, is it not?’

There was an interesting conversation on facebook around this. I posted this on March 21st on my Timeline. Wish I could have provided a link!

And then there is the whole question of sexual abuse.. as I see it, it has a direct correlation with the fact that this whole conversation has not yet emerged from the bedroom to the living room.

I just saw a courageous Tedx talk by Harrish Iyer (www.hiyer.net)

What if we had a culture of speaking about Sex? (safely and truthfully)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lO9BbFo3Qg

Essentially, the purpose of this particular blog is to share something that touched me and invite us to create healthy and safe spaces for conversations with ourselves and others – those dialogues which are generally taboo. That we learn to be in touch with our urges and surges. That we see that human sexuality and sensuality is not dirty or bad. That it can be healing.

And above all, our understanding of love and truth, of life and beauty can deepen if we make it safe to share things that we are scared to talk about.

Love – Friendship, Marriage, Commitment and beyond

Often I have had conversations in the last year or more with young friends struggling with the whole issue of ‘marriage’ and love. I see many unmarried youngsters grappling with it today (thankfully!). It is a big question. And needs careful attention. A related question which is more fundamental is about relationships. Is that not the central thing that we all grapple with- relationship with each other, and relationship with a lot else – money and sex being the two in which we humans are the most confused.

And then of course the relationship with all that is ‘material’ – food, body, home, career, and more. Above all our relationship with our selves and with life itself! Some call it the divine. And at the heart of it all is the four letter word- love.

The word ‘love’ has become a cliché. And yet, it is a journey which is so completely human and so utterly divine. The society and human beings have classified ‘love’ and defined its appropriateness. And whether we are navigating our relationship with the one who is most precious to us or ‘The One’ (differently labeled as Awareness, The Divine, Universe, Existence, Being, Essence etc), it would help to appreciate what is possible. All our human relationships are an expression of our relationship.

While there is a validity in us humans categorizing love as romantic, parental, platonic, friendship etc., it may be worthwhile to really look and see .. does this defining result in a confining. And can true love ever be confined? I love the Shubha Mudgal song, ‘Pyaar toh musafir hai marzi se aaye jaaye’ (Love is a traveller, it comes and goes by its own will).

A few years back, I had read this piece by Swami Vivekananda in a booklet on ‘Bhakti Yoga’ which touched me deeply. The summary is..

“The lowest form in which this (divine) love is apprehended is.. peaceful – the Shanta. The next higher type is that of Dasya i.e servant ship; The next type of love is Sakhya, friendship. (Then) Vatsalya, loving god not as our Father but as our child… to detach all ideas of power from the concept of God… (The next) is known as Madhura, sweet, and is the highest of all such representations… where God is our husband… The true spiritual lover does not rest even there…” – Swami Vivekananda

What is the path of the true spiritual lover of the divine and its manifestation in human form- read on to discover

———–

HUMAN REPRESENTATIONS OF THE DIVINE IDEAL OF LOVE
– Swami Vivekananda

It is impossible to express the nature of this supreme and absolute ideal of love in human language. Even the highest flight of human imagination is incapable of comprehending it in all its infinite perfection and beauty. The whole universe is to us a writing of the infinite in the language of the common terms associated with the common love of humanity in relation to God and His worship through love.

Some of the great writers on Para – Bhakti have tried to understand and experience this divine love in so many different ways. The lowest form in which this love is apprehended is what they call the peaceful – the Shanta– When a man worships God without the fire of love in him without its madness in his brain, when his love is just the calm commonplace love. The Shanta- Bhakta is calm, peaceful, gentle.

The next higher type is that of Dasya i.e servant ship; it comes when a man thinks he is the servant of the Lord. The attachment of the faithful servant unto the master is his ideal.

The next type of love is Sakhya, friendship – “Thou, art our beloved friend.” Just as a friend will never chide him for his faults but will always try to help him, just as there is the idea of equality between him and his friend, so equal love flows in and out between the worshipper and his friendly God. Thus God become our friend, the friend who is near, the friend to whom we may freely tell all the tales of our lives. The innermost secrets of our hearts we may place before Him with the great assurance of safety and support. God is viewed here as our playmate. We may well say that we are all playing in this universe. Just as children play their games … so is the Beloved Lord himself in sport with this universe.

It is all really in sport; the universe is His play going on. The whole universe must after all be a big piece of pleasing fun to Him. If you are poor, enjoy that as fun; if you are rich, enjoy the fun of being rich; if dangers come, it is also good fun; if happiness comes, there is more good fun. How beautifully He is playing! The play is finished when the cycle comes to an end. There is rest for a shorter or longer time; again all come out and play. It is only when you forget that it is all play and that you are also helping in the play, it is only then that misery and sorrows come.

Then the heart becomes heavy, then the world weighs upon you with tremendous power. But as soon as you give up the serious idea of reality as the characteristic of the changing incidents of the three minutes of life and know it to be but a stage on which we are playing, helping Him to play, at once misery ceases for you. He plays in every atom; He is playing when He is building up earths, and suns, and moons; he is playing with the human heart, with animals with plants.

The next is what is known as Vatsalya, loving god not as our Father but as our child. This may look peculiar, but it is a discipline to enable us to detach all ideas of power from the concept of God. The idea of power brings with it awe. There should be no awe in love. The ideas of reverence and obedience are necessary for the formation of character, but when character is formed, when the lover has tasted the calm, peaceful love, and tasted also a little of its intense madness, then he need talk no more of ethics and discipline. To conceive God as mighty, majestic, and glorious as the Lord of the universe, or as the God of gods, the lover says he does not care. It is to avoid this association with god of the fear –creating sense of power that he worships God as his own child. The mother and the father are not moved by any reverence to the child; they cannot think of asking any favor from the child.

The child’s position is always that of the receiver, and out of love for the child the parents will give up their bodies a hundred times over. The Christian and the Hindu can realize it easily, because they have the baby Jesus and the baby Krishna. The superstitions of awe and reverence in relation to God are deeply rooted in the heart of our hearts, and it takes long years to sink entirely in love.

There is one more human representation of the divine ideal of love. It is known as Madhura, sweet, and is the highest of all such representations. It is indeed based on the highest manifestation of love in this world, and this love is also the strongest known to man. What love shakes the whole nature of man, what love runs through every atom of his being- makes him mad, makes him forget his own nature, transforms him, makes him either a God or a demon – as the love between man and woman? In this sweet representation of divine love God is our husband. We are all women; there are no men in this world; there is but one man, that is He, our Beloved.

All the different kinds of love which we see in the world, and with which we are more or less playing merely, have God as the one goal; but unfortunately, man does not know the infinite ocean into which this mighty river of love, is constantly flowing, and so, foolishly, he often tries to direct it to little dolls of human beings. The tremendous love for the child that is in human nature is not for the little doll of child; if you bestow it blindly and exclusively on the child, you will suffer in consequence. But through such suffering will come the awakening by which you are sure to find out that the love which is in you, if it is given to any human being, will sooner or later bring pain and sorrow as the result; our love must, therefore, be given to the Highest One who never dies and never changes, to Him in the ocean of whose love there is neither ebb nor flow. Love must get to its right destination; it must go unto Him who is really the infinite ocean of love. All rivers flow into the ocean. Even the drop of water coming down from the mountainside cannot stop its course after reaching a brook or a river, however big it may be; at last even that drop somehow does find its way to the ocean.

God is the one goal of all our passions and emotions. If you want to be angry, be angry with him. Chide your Beloved, Chide you Friend. Whom else can you safely chide? Mortal man will not patiently put up with your anger; there will be a reaction. If you are angry with me I am sure quickly to react, because I cannot patiently put up with your anger. Say unto the Beloved, “Why do you not come to me; why do You leave me thus alone?” Where is there any enjoyment but in him? What enjoyment can there be in little clods of earth? It is the crystallized essence of infinite enjoyment that we have to seek, and that it is in God. Let all our passions and emotions go up unto him. They are meant for Him, for if they miss their mark and go lower, they become vile; and when they go straight to the mark. to the Lord, even the lowest of them becomes transfigured. All the energies of the human body and mind, howsoever they may express themselves, have the Lord as their one goal, as their Ekayana. All loves and all passions of the human heart must go to God. He is the Beloved, Whom else can this heart must go to God. He is the Beloved. Whom else can this heart love? He is the most beautiful, the most sublime; He is beauty itself, sublimity itself. Who in this universe is more beautiful than he? Who in this universe is more beautiful that He? Who in this universe is fit to become the husband than He? Who in this universe is fitter to be loved than He? So let Him be the husband, let Him be the Beloved.

Often it so happens that divine lovers who sing of this divine love accept the language of human love in all its aspects as adequate to describe it. Fools do not understand this; they never will. They look at it only with the physical eye. They do not understand the mad throes of this spiritual love. How can they? “For one kiss of thy lips, o Beloved! One who has been kissed by Thee, has his thirst of Thee increasing for ever, all his sorrows vanish and he forgets all things except Thee alone.” Aspire after that kiss of the beloved, that touch of His lips which makes the Bhakta mad, which makes of man a god. To him, who has been blessed with such a kiss, the whole of nature changes, world s vanish, suns and moons die out, and the universe itself melts away into that one infinite ocean of love. That is the perfection of the madness of love.

Ay, the true spiritual lover does not rest even there; even the love of husband and wife is not mad enough for him. The Bhaktas take up also the idea of illegitimate love, because it is so strong; the impropriety of it is not at all the thing they have in view. The nature of this love is such that the more obstructions there are for its free play, the more passionate it becomes, the love between husband and wife is smooth; there are no obstructions there. So the Bhaktas take up the idea of a girl who is in love with her own beloved, and her mother or father or husband objects to such love; and the more anybody obstructs the course of her love, so much the more is her love tending to grow in strength. Human language cannot describe how Krishna in the groves of Vrinda was madly loved, how at the sound of his voice the ever-blessed Gopis rushed out to meet him, forgetting everything, forgetting this world and its ties, its duties, its joys and its sorrows. Man, O man, you speak of divine love and at the same time are able to attend to all the vanities of this world – are you sincere? “Where desire is, there is no room for Rama; these never coexist- like light and darkness they are never together.

CONCLUSION

When the highest ideal of love is reached, philosophy is thrown away, who will then care for it? Freedom, Salvation, Nirvana- all are thrown away; who cares to become free while in the enjoyment of divine love? “Lord, I do not want wealth, nor friends, nor beauty, nor learning, nor even freedom; let me be born again and again, and be Thou ever my Love. Be Thou ever and ever my Love.” “Who cares to become sugar? Says the Bhakta. “I want to taste sugar.” Who will then desire to become free and one with God? “ I may know that I am He, yet will I. Take myself away form Him and become different, so that I may enjoy the Beloved.” That is what the Bhakta says.

Love for love’s sake is his highest enjoyment. Who will not be bound hand and foot a thousand times over to enjoy the Beloved? No Bhakta cares for anything except love, except to love and to be loved. His unworldly love is like the tide rushing up the river; this lover goes up the river against the current. The world calls him mad. I know one whom the world used to call mad, and this was his answer; “My friends, the whole world is a lunatic asylum. Some are mad after worldly love, some after name, some after fame, some after money, some after salvation and going to heaven. In this big lunatic asylum I am also mad, I am mad after God. If you are mad after money, I am mad after God. You are mad; so am I. I think my madness is after all the best.” The true Bhakta’s love is this burning madness, before which everything else vanishes for him. The whole universe is to him full of love and the love alone; that is how it seems to the lover. So when a man has his love in him, he becomes eternally blessed, eternally happy. This blessed madness of divine love alone can cure forever the disease of the world that is in us. With desire, selfishness has vanished. He has drawn near to God, he has thrown off all those vain desires of which he was full before.

We all have to begin as dualists in the religion of love. God is to us a separate Being, and we feel over selves to be separate beings also. Love then comes in the middle, and man begins to approach God, and God also comes nearer and nearer to man. Man takes up all the various relationships of life, as father, as mother, as son, as friend, as mater, as lover and projects them on his ideal of love, on his God. To him God exists as all these, and the last point of his progress is reached when he feels that he has become absolutely merged in the object of his worship. We all begin with love for ourselves, and the unfair claims of the little self make even love selfish. At last, however, comes the full blaze of light, in which this little self is seen to have become one with the Infinite. Man himself is transfigured in the presence of this Light of Love, and he realizes at last the beautiful and inspiring truth that love, the Lover, and the Beloved are One.

—————–

Lets not misunderstand the word ‘illegitimate love’ … the true spiritual seeker.. the seeker of truth- (which like J. Krishnamurti says, is a pathless land) must necessarily question all that society calls right and wrong. Only then might we transcend polarity, duality and reside in oneness with what is.

There are no easy answers to the question of marriage. Or love, for that matter. What matters is are we asking the right questions.

Recently I put a status message in facebook a quote that touched me:

Love is an ideal thing, marriage is a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It seemed it touched a chord in people also as is revealed from this conversation on Facebook:

The only question is:
Are we engaging with an honesty and an openness the questions that really matter.. .. as the world is profoundly shifting in consciousness. In this engagement, it would be useful to discover love, to negate what it is not..

Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just ‘being in love’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left when being in love is burned away…
– Louis de Berniers, Corelli’s Mandolin

The whole challenge and opportunity of Commitment requires a deep understanding of how Deep Commitment and Real Freedom are two sides of the same coin. Human beings may have required a legal ritual to ‘ensure’ commitment. But as we evolve to higher levels of consciousness, we may discover that true commitment is free of any bindings and yet there is an honoring of truth. Moment to moment. Just like love, beauty, truth, even commitment and freedom can be understood by being willing to ‘not know’ what it truly is. It may be discovered by constantly seeing what it is not. And hence making it a living, pulsating reality rather than a dried, stale idea, ideal, concept or a ‘should’.

What Is Love?

I do my best to be a learner, a facilitator, a friend, a father, and until some time back, a husband, a son and more.

I have experienced the high and low of emotions- lots of sadness, fear, sometimes anger, sexual feelings, happiness and more. And continue to, maybe in subtler ways and sometimes quite gross also.

I meet many young people who are contemplating marriage and grappling with relationships- which many of us “relatively grown up” folks also do! As the whole institution is getting shaken up, life is inviting us to examine this vital question:

What is love?

And on the heels of this question are many others:

What is commitment? What is freedom?

Since these questions are not easy to engage with, we often run away from them in the form of a simplistic conclusion, agreeing or disagreeing with some friend, guru, book etc.

I am learning to keep the inquiry alive till there is so much blazing clarity that I can playfully engage with different views. The more I have a need to defend or promote my view, it is certain that I am standing on weak ground.

One question that often comes up about love in my mind and heart is.. How come we divide and define and confine love? Is romantic love, parental love, love in friendship, love of God (or truth!), loving a book, a movie etc. hugely different? To what extent this is a function of the conditioning by society?

A dear friend with whom I have been existentially grappling about this question sent me a beautiful quote recently

“ Therefore, when I say that I love, it is not I who love, but in reality Love who acts through me. Love is not so much something I do as something that I am. Love is not a doing but a state of being – a relatedness, a connectedness to another mortal, an identification with her or him that simply flows within me and through me, independent of my intentions or my efforts. “ — Robert A. Johnson

I came across this piece by JK which speaks to me very deeply and I have shared it with many friends.

—————-

What is Love – J. Krishnamurti (from ‘Freedom from the Known’)

THE DEMAND TO be safe in relationship inevitably breeds sorrow and fear. This seeking for is inviting insecurity. Have you ever found security in any of your relationships? Have you? Most of us want the security of loving and being loved, but is there love when each one of us is seeking his own security, his own particular path? We are not loved because we don’t know how to love. What is love? The word is so loaded and corrupted that I hardly like to use it. Everybody talks of love — every magazine and newspaper and every missionary talks everlastingly of love. I love my country, I love my king, I love some book, I love that mountain, I love pleasure, I love my wife, I love God.

Is love an idea? If it is, it can be cultivated, nourished, cherished, pushed around, twisted in any way you like. When you say you love God what does it mean? It means that you love a projection of your own imagination, a projection of yourself clothed in certain forms of respectability according to what you think is noble and holy; so to say, ‘I love God’, is absolute nonsense. When you worship God you are worshipping yourself – and that is not love. Because we cannot solve this human thing called love we run away into abstractions.

Love may be the ultimate solution to all man’s difficulties, problems and travails, so how are we going to find out what love is? By merely defining it? The church has defined it one way, society another and there are all sorts of deviations and perversions. Adoring someone, sleeping with someone, the emotional exchange, the companionship – is that what we mean by love? That has been the norm, the pattern, and it has become so tremendously personal, sensuous, and limited that religions have declared that love is something much more than this.

In what they call human love they see there is pleasure, competition, jealousy, the desire to possess, to hold, to control and to interfere with another’s thinking, and knowing the complexity of all this they say there must be another kind of love, divine, beautiful, untouched, uncorrupted. Throughout the world, so-called holy men have maintained that to look at a woman is something totally wrong: they say you cannot come near to God if you indulge in sex, therefore they push it aside although they are eaten up with it. But by denying sexuality they put out their eyes and cut out their tongues for they deny the whole beauty of the earth.They have starved their hearts and minds; they are dehydrated human beings; they have banished beauty because beauty is associated with woman.

Can love be divided into the sacred and the profane, the human and the divine, or is there only love? Is love of the one and not of the many? If I say, ‘I love you’, does that exclude the love of the other? Is love personal or impersonal? Moral or immoral? Family or non-family? If you love mankind can you love the particular? Is love sentiment? Is love emotion? Is love pleasure and desire? All these questions indicate, don’t they, that we have ideas about love, ideas about what it should or should not be, a pattern or a code developed by the culture in which we live. So to go into the question of what love is we must first free it from the encrustation of centuries, put away all ideals and ideologies of what it should or should not be.

To divide anything into ‘what should be’ and ‘what is’ is the most deceptive way of dealing with life. Now how am I going to find out what this flame is which we call love –not how to express it to another but what it means in itself? I will first reject what the church, what society, what my parents and friends, what every person and every book has said about it because I want to find out for myself what it is. Here is an enormous problem that involves the whole of mankind, there have been a thousand ways of defining it and I myself am caught in some pattern or other according to what I, in order to understand it, first free myself from my own inclinations and prejudices? I am confused, torn by my own desires, so I say to myself, ‘First clear up your own confusion. Perhaps you may be able to discover what love is through what it is not.

————————

My understanding is that it is not about making our human neediness wrong or bad. It is not about suppressing or denying our humanity. But indeed, in being human and through being human, discovering a ground that is unshakeable. To find a love that is not a function of circumstances, of people or emotional ups and downs. How might we see that and be that. A dear friend who also brings clarity and beauty in my life put it beautifully. When we need love we cannot see that we are love. Is it possible to watch how much we beg for love? And precisely that makes it go away! And when we are at ease, like a butterfly comes and perches itself on our shoulder. Keeping the inquiry alive is helping me to see and be that love. Willingness to fail and feel, to be vulnerable and myself, to encounter pain and all that life brings is somehow, bringing me closer to that.

A friend, Deborah Anapol who has written a few books and writes a newsletter, ‘Love Without Limits’ also wrote a beautiful article with the same title. I discovered it this morning (24 feb 2014) in a fb chat with her! Its very well written and appeared in Psychology Today and has had nearly half a million hits! Its extracted from her book, ‘The Seven Natural Laws of Love’ Do have a look: What is Love?  (click this link to go to the post)

And then there is this favorite song which in some way captures in some way, the spirit of Love. Its sung by Shubha Mudgal: Hai Pyar toh musafir marzi se aaye jaaye (click link if you want to hear it) (Love is a traveler, comes and goes as it wills..) Enjoy!

The gentle Power of ‘The Work’ … to evoke play ;-) – Inspired by Byron Katie

– Is it possible to move from Conflict to Collaboration, conflict that inevitably happens between two or more people in a close relationship (personal or professional, family, business or community)? – Can a community that is grappling with purpose and being conscious, benefit from turning around the projections of ‘problems’ from outside to inside? – Is there a gentle, even playful way to embrace our shadows without making it painful and arduous task to build a conscious collective? Someone said that truth must be delivered with laughter for it to be palatable. All truth must make us lighter.. In Hebrew, the word Simcha is used for a happiness that generates laughter when we contact deeper layers of reality. I have been using ‘the Work’of Byron Katie – on myself, with friends and clients- now for the last 6 years or so (since 2006 or earlier!). It has perhaps been the most liberating and freeing experience which takes us from pain and separation to peace and connection. It has often resulted in tears of love and joy rekindled shifting people’s lives relationships. Some of the many benefits and shifts I have seen people experience are:

  • Dissolves Conflict : Instead of trying hard to ‘resolve’,  the work naturally dissolves deep conflicts with others and with parts of ourselves enabling us to make peace with our ‘shadow’
  • ‘I am just another you’– Gets us to see how whatever we judge/criticise or like in the other person is so present inside us. And we become kinder with ourselves and others.
  • Spontaneous Laughter – Enables us to effortlessly laugh at what seemed to trouble us deeply as we come palpably in touch with the cosmic comic 😉
  • Positive Intention – Gets us to see the positive intention of the person whose action/ behaviour is “negative” and thus just breathe easier.
  • Enables ease and flow–  As we make friends with Reality, we can relax into our natural essence.
  • Love and Compassion – For ourselves and others involved in the situation, love naturally erupts from a place deep inside as we contact our essence and the struggle with Reality drops.
  • We begin to see very practically how,:

a)      ‘Everything happens for us, not to us’ b)      ‘Reality is kind, unlike stories of the mind’ c)       ‘Life is wise, especially when it seems otherwise’ d)      ‘What is adverse, adds a verse, many verses to the song of our life’

  • Ownership and Responsibility – There is a clear shift from ‘blaming’ to ‘claiming’ the situation. And the responsibility doesn’t seem like a burden but a creative freedom to respond.
  • Unleashes Consciousness and a Creative freedom – As we begin to see and experience several of the above, we naturally experience a certain lightness and an inner freedom to be. The inner critic relaxes and allows life to blossom.

And there are many more. For me, the Work has been like an ocean- each time I discover a new pearl, a precious stone, a new life form, a vastness. Some of the experiences that people have shared are: “…Not only did I find the ‘cognitive’ Questioning process itself opening much subconscious material for me, Kiran’s personal empathy and wisdom allowed for the exploration and resolution of many related themes, during the Work itself. The process was deeply therapeutic as I noticed a significant change in my consciousness; I was somehow unblocked and that released a huge amount of energy, compassion and love towards myself as well as the person/s I was having the issues with. I can now carry these ‘things’ much more lightly. I feel liberated. – Nilima Bhat, Co-founder ‘Sampurnah’, ‘Roots and Wings’ and ‘Cancer Awakens’ “Just a thought can turn us so sad and depressed and feel so bad about ourselves that we become suicidal. And just by questioning the thought, in a gentle way, in a loving way, with someone who is himself centred and is able to hold your space without getting too attached to you, u can experience wat I now call – ” A Free Moment”. Thoughts still come, emotions still arise, I still have feelings but thanks to you I now have a look at myself in TOTALITY and not just one side of me by shooing away the other side. It was like a glass of chilled watermelon juice after walking barefeet under the scorching sunlight for miles and miles together.” – Shikha Kundra, a facilitator, musician and friend It is a gentle and clever way of letting u create the ‘other’ possibility – to see the other view and then shift the negativity completely by examining how the other could, in fact, be beneficial. It helps create an acceptance of the here and now, of what is happening and the doer. –          Vinit Taneja, CEO, Prerna Learning Centre The first time I saw the Work I witnessed someone heal a life-long childhood trauma in a few brief minutes of realisation. The simplicity of the process struck me as genius, and since then I have used the Work for myself and for people I have worked with. Once I used it a few times, it seamlessly became part of my thought process, helping me identify and reconstruct untrue belief patterns instantly. The Work has helped me to have better self-belief and allowed me to review my ‘mistakes’ with enthusiasm. It has taught me to be more responsible for my experiences in all aspects of my life. –       Dr. Santhan Reddy, founder, Deep Red Ink I was able to clearly see that my long-held grouse about my dad’s strict upbringing was a fixed viewpoint and there were several other points I could view it from. The realisation that the problem is really not the situation but the thought in the head, opened up the possibility of choice in the way I see situations. For the first time, through this exercise, I experienced what I knew- ‘we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are’ –       Neelam Mehta, writer, trainer-on-sabattical, cancer warrior (from an article in Life Positive) I am now able to see that all of life is a reflection of who I am and in many ways, a consequence of what I have attracted towards myself. – Rohit Sasve, Vital Gardener, CoEvolve

%d bloggers like this: