Judgement Risks and Paybacks

co+nut+ink-esplanade4

Picture Source: http://aroimakmak.com/

The other evening, when we were walking near the Esplanade Theaters by the Bay here in Singapore, Akank and I stopped for something to eat. I wanted her to try the Thai coconut ice cream, a scoop of coconut flavored sorbet served in one half of a tender coconut shell, to be eaten along with the young coconut jelly. I had tried it once before and had loved it. They also offer a chilled glass of tender coconut water to go. It was a humid evening and anything cold and thirst quenching seemed like a great snack idea.

As we sat by the Bay enjoying the crystals in the sorbet, I noticed a man looking in the general direction of where we sat. In the twilight, it seemed like he was looking directly at us. He sat there surrounded by two huge plastic bags filled with cans and plastic bottles.  It was obvious that he was a trash collector. He looked about 75 years old not a day younger.  He had no footwear on, wore a shirt that was a few sizes bigger for his frame and he was absentmindedly munching on something. My gaze kept going back to the man. I felt unsettled as I looked at him, savoring the cold sorbet with the plastic spoon in my mouth.  I wondered if he longed for a taste of the cold ice- cream.  Instinctively, I walked back to the kiosk to buy another shell of ice cream.

I offered the ice cream topped with crushed peanuts to the old man and said, “Uncle,this is for you”. With a toothless grin that reached his ears, without speaking a word, he waved both his hands and refused the offer.  I deemed it important to clarify that it was a fresh cup and not the one I was eating. I even showed him the half eaten sorbet in my other hand, but he was absolutely sure that he wanted nothing to do with it, fresh or otherwise.  I imagined that maybe the ice cream was way too cold for him and for some strange old man reason he was refusing it.  I gingerly balanced both the fresh shell and what was left of my melting sorbet and offered him the chilled coconut water to drink.  He waved me away with renewed vigor and pulled out a brown liquid from inside an enormous plastic bag and indicated that he had something to drink.  I was flabbergasted.

What a great lesson

I gave up when I realized that I expected him to accept the ice cream just because I felt charitable, but it had back fired. The fresh sorbet began to melt too.

Before I made the decision to buy the ice cream, I had my daughter’s buy-in and support. Otherwise you can imagine what else I would have had to deal with! She however refused the second helping of ice-cream. At 16, she has better control over her needs and wants related to food than I do. I pondered for a minute if I should eat the refused ice cream and then realized that it will end up being a costly mistake to my weight maintenance goals. I visualized my coach’s disapproving looks and decided that I was going to march ahead to look for someone more deserving. I had to pass by the old man, who flashed me another toothless grin and waved to me as though wishing me luck.

I shortly found a 20 year old Bangladeshi construction worker who was dragging his feet after work towards the pickup truck that would take him home. Unlike the old man, the young man gladly took the ice- cream from me and sat down to finish it. I made small talk with him as he ate and found out that he had been here less than two months. I hoped that he believed that he is in a good place, hard construction work notwithstanding, that sometimes strangers you come across in a new country, can be nice.

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It’s a man thing.

Maybe I expect a lot from people who work in the hospitality industry. I once worked in it too and a lot was expected of me. So you can understand why I think what happened to me is worth blogging about.

It all began with my need for a sanitary pad. Now before you blame me for lacking clairvoyance in matters related to this, I was sure we had brought a big bag of them when we left home. We were traveling in Australia and I was due for the inevitable cycle to begin that week. We were stepping out to sight see the whole day and just to be safe than sorry, I dug into our over spilling suitcase for the ‘accessory’ I needed and to my dismay didn’t find the pack.

We were right in the middle of civilization and there was no need to panic except that it was seven in the morning and none of the stores would open for another 2 hours. We had checked into a hotel of repute and surely the house keeping department was prepared for such exigencies. So I called the Front Office and a male voice answered.  I asked for the required assistance and he politely said he will have to call me back after he had made some inquiries.

Ten minutes later, he apologetically called to explain that the hotel couldn’t help me and that I may have to procure what I needed from a store outside. Up until then what I suspected may happen, seemed incredibly likely to! I tried to stay calm. I decided to cross the bridge when I came to it. To cut a long story short, the inevitable did not happen. I also managed to pick the needed accessory at a store before the day was done.

We were checking out the next morning and I happened to use the rest room at the hotel lobby before we left for the airport. To my chagrin and utter disbelief, I spotted a sanitary pad dispenser in the confines of the washroom. I reprimanded the world traveler in me. Why hadn’t it occurred to me to check here instead of asking the FOA? Then the humiliation turned to anger. Why was the employee not informed about this option? When I brought it up with my husband, he stood up for the FOA. According to him, the FOA was a male and he wouldn’t have known!

The dispenser

The dispenser that I spotted in the rest room seemed to wink at me.

 

I was ready to make a protest. I wanted to educate the entire Front Office staff at Novotel Sydney about the situation knowing that such requests may come up frequently. The male FOA who ‘helped’ with my request was nowhere in the scene that morning.  Two women FOAs were busy checking in cheerful travelers and also our airport pick up was waiting at the curb.

I decided then to write them a feedback once I was back home and once I was done blogging about it. Have you had a similar experience during your travel?

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : Brahmarpanam

Krisnabrahmarpanam brahma havir, brahmagnau brahmana hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyam, brahma-karma-samadhina

1) Every time I am tempted to indulge in mindless activity, this verse will help me stem my indulgence. The verse will remind me that brahman is the be all and the end all of all actions.

2) I have learnt that being spiritually awakened is not about paying a once a week visit to the temple, listening to or chanting shlokas mindlessly or waiting for occasions to pray. It is about being aware of brahman at every step of the day, before, during and after every action.

3) I realize that my attitude is driven by the philosophy I believe in. If I want to live the rest of my life in the spirit of yajna or being conscious of  brahman, then I cannot continue the way I have been operating so far, accumulating karmaphal and living in the glory of doer-ship. I have to hook on to a higher ideal which will drive all my actions going forward.

4) I have to look beyond my perspective as a single entity in the world. I must remember that I am only a minuscule part of a larger truth, a wave in the ocean, to use an analogy. To be part of the larger truth, I must learn to look beyond my  personal ‘wave world’, where I am the hero achieving all that I have achieved without acknowledging brahman.

5) When I live as though I am an independent entity capable of acting without the grace of brahman and do not acknowledge that a power beyond me exists, then I find it difficult to accept that I am a part of a larger truth. I am encapsulated in a bloated sense of self worth, in my egocentric world.

6) I realize that  my perspectives are limited to a narrow, restricted world that I have created for myself.  I have lived in the ‘take everything and give back nothing’ mode. I take credit (the karmaphal) for all the actions and this makes my sense of self worth grow and prevents me from acknowledging the brahman. I am deluded that I am the doer, I enjoy the karmaphal and continue to live in delusion.

7) My goal in life is to break free from this encapsulated cocoon that I have built around me and be a part of the bigger truth. It is possible to be engaged in actions driven by the spirit of yajna. I know that when I cease to be a wave, I become a part of the ocean. When I am the most mindless may I remember that the truth is out there.

 

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : Exhausting Vasanas

Gita04

nirashir yata-cittatma, tyakta-sarva-parigrahah
shariram kevalam karma,kurvan napnoti kilbisham

 

  1. Only when I don’t possess about emotions, thoughts and objects, I can exhaust my vasanas or the karmic imprints of previous actions and not add on more.
  2. I have to train my mind my mind and intellect to be fixed on a higher goal and not be busy with ideas and schemes to manipulate the world around me. That is when I do not accumulate new vasanas. When my mind is not fixed on a higher goal, it is operating from the vasanas.
  3. “Not possessing” is possible when I keep the intellect free of ideas, the mind free of expectations and the body free of any sensual demands. When I allow these to possess me, consume me, there is no respite from vasanas
  4. It is possible to renunciate without having to give up pleasures of the body, mind and intellect by disallowing my possessiveness.
  5. By exhausting my existing vasanas and not allowing the accumulation of new vasanas, my mind will then be able to focus on a higher goal.

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : Fruits of Action

Gita01

tyaktva karma-phalasangam, nitya-trpto nirasrayah
karmany abhipravrtto ‘pi, naiva kincit karoti sah

If I am able to work without expectations or the need to fulfill my desires, then the actions I am involved in do not create more vasanas and therefore become selfless actions or ‘unactions’.

  1. When I am preoccupied with the end result or the product of my actions, then I often make compromises in the action or process itself.
  2. Today, I am influenced by how my actions affect me and the people who live with me. I am peripheral in my outlook of life. I always seek to make the people around me happy with the choices I make.  I am possessed about I, Me and Mine.
  3. Today, I am bothered by the perceptions others in the society have about me instead of being concerned of the perception that I have of myself.
  4. To walk the path of a seeker, I have to stop being influenced by people and situations in my life. To be spiritual, I have to learn to ‘negligibilize’ (tuchCham) the effect others have on me.
  5. To be a true seeker, I have to change the way I have been performing actions and re-calibrate the reasons why I perform actions.
  6. I will consider myself to be truly spiritually evolved only when my vasanas have stopped influencing my actions. I know that finally what matters is not how much or what I did but how I did it.

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : Desireless Actions

Gita03

yasya sarve samarambhah, kama-sankalpa-varjitah
jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam, tam ahuh panditam budhah

1.  If  I perform an action with the aim to fulfill a personal purpose, then I am adding vasanas. But if the purpose is for the larger good, without expectation or desire for a specific result, then I am exhausting my vasanas.

2. When I micromanage realities, control and manipulate results that is favourable to me, then I am helping create more vasanas.  When I am mindful and sincere in every action and not worried about how the results will affect me, then I am exhausting my vasanas.

4. If I want to walk the path of a seeker, I am only allowed to plan how the action can be done and not plan how the results of the action will help or affect me.

5. In the event I fall back to the old ways of planning, plotting or scheming my actions to benefit me, I have the option of doing something about it. Instead of wallowing in self loathe or pity, I have the choice to pick myself up and begin using the higher realm of the mind and live my life responsibly.

Lessons from The Bhagawad Gita : Mindful Action

Gita02karmany akarma yah pasyed, akarmani ca karma yah
sa buddhiman manusyesu,sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt

  1. I accept that even when I am not actively doing something, I have hordes of thoughts in my mind that keep me busy. I understand that it is possible for someone to be busy even when at rest and at ‘rest’ (in one’s mind) even when one is physically active. That is action in inaction.
  2. I have experienced being calm (at rest) when I am involved in actions that I love and enjoy. Cooking, walking my dog, writing blogs are a few activities like that. I understand that when I am involved in an action that I feel devoted to, it is possible to work in a meditative state of mind.
  3. As a seeker, I have to learn to be aware and mindful in every action I am involved in. How do I operate? What is my modus operandi? Do I work on my everyday routines mindlessly?
  4. Is it possible to be busy and involved in any kind of activity yet train the mind to be calm (detached from the action)? Can I be an observer of the action I am doing?
  5. I am aware that my body, mind and intellect (BMI) are the ones that perceive, feel and think (PFT) about the objects, emotions and thoughts (OET) that surround me.

The challenge is to transcend to a higher state of mind.