My Lifetime’s Spiritual Reading List

I read anything and everything. I just try to stay away from judging any of the reading lists that explored. But then I find my thought somehow gets structured by what I read. Though, it would always be subjected to a huge debate in my head.

I’m a lifelong loner and started my long standing relationship with reading since my 3rd grade. So I kept reading a lot of British classics during those visits to library around the corner of Headmistress room corridor. I would skip my lunch sometime or stuff myself to rush to the library.

My first book on Self-help was The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. It was the first book which was close to spiritual that I read during that time. I was very confused and couldn’t understand the content. But somehow, I kept thinking, that I could change my thoughts to positive as easily as turning the pages of the book.

But nothing happened within me, I still felt bereft. I was also enrolled in the local lending library, that is when, I came to know of T. S. Lobsang Rampa. I was totally taken at the time with occult material such as astral travel and other related topics. I even imagined having such an astral experience, the power of auto-suggestion.

One of my troubles has been that I get taken in by whatever book I am reading. These books are during the time when my personality was getting set into a groove. The confusion pot of thoughts that kept going within me was so difficult to be ordered to behave. The Tibetan phase was during my eleventh standard, and by 12th grade, I got busy with my board exams. After that I kind of lost track with Rampa’s materials.

So when I reached College, then everything opened up. From that point, my reading shifted to Jiddu Krishnamurti and at last I had found something close to my thoughts. The material made sense to me because I loved word confusion. But I was equally not ready to give up my householder position. Even now I am not ready to give up and become a monk. I prefer monk over saint, I don’t qualify really for the other.

So for every spiritual inquiry book that I got interested, then, I will read two Romance novels to balance it. See it takes two romance novels to even out one spiritual query book for me. That was my way of saying that I will not just vanish into thin air of unidentified state of commonality. Even with the advanced thinker such as JK’s work; I used to read a combo sections where he would describe a scene and gave the lesson behind it.

It was such fun period to read all the various spiritual books and self-help books. I was like reading at least one book per week during that phase of my life. Around my post-college years when I was having trouble finding something different. Around then, I took a Pranic Healing class as per my cousin’s advice. That kind of linked me back to Rampa’s astral reading days.

During that time my cousin who is from Kashi and was a great Vedic Pandit shared a book with me and my life took another turn. It was titled “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. Synchronicity in which everything is happens for a reason got so much resonance with me that I was grabbed by my childish inquiry scruff and shaken.

Then, life became so interesting because I began noticing people and thought that they had a message for me. Of course, every interaction is a message for being a better person in real-life. Even these days I do read books by Robin Sharma and others to cheer myself up to find motivation.

Right now I am almost become someone who is very balanced but occasionally I lose it but only to gain it back with self-debate. I have read books by Deepak Chopra, Stephen R Covey, Thich Nhat Hanh, Robin Sharma’s “The Monk who sold his Ferrari” the first among the many series of self-help books.

Super Soul Sunday of Oprah Winfrey, Talk shows on motivation by Solomon Pappaiah on Tirukkural, Suki Sivam’s talks and all those Santana dharma by Velukkudi Krishnan and Harikatha discourses by Vishaka Hari and lot of others happened once I shifted from reading to listening.

Then came the days when I would practice meditation at least for 30 minutes every day which I would religiously follow. These days I can find meditative state by merely being. I still have a long way to go spiritually; but the journey was one of many wrong turns and twists. In all this, I still feel a connection with everything in this world.

I have truly forgiven everyone who hurt me during my growing years and I don’t get hurt that fast these days. Even if I do, there are many ways to find peace from within. There are actually no sadness in my life since peace from within resides inside which is such a pleasant feeling. I live my life in Mindfulness these days and find God at every turn welcoming my life with zest.

Image Source: Pexels.com

 

Larking at Larkin Main Branch Library in SFO

Larkin’s Main Branch Library was my hangout space on days when I felt that I made a wrong choice to study MFA in Writing at CCA. Especially, during the winter my mood swings were really bad, I made sure that I picked my mood dead carcass to the Library. The choice was between Mission Library and Larkin Main Branch. Mission won mostly.

During my stay in San Francisco, I was entirely dependent on Google Maps for directions to any place in US. It was almost close to real address. I am a person who gets lost in my bedroom, so it was quite a challenge to reach places. But it used to be so exciting to take that printout at the Writer’s Studio, kind family members house or even jotting it down on a piece of paper.

This also meant that I had to plan my visit to the place way ahead of the time, since I needed the printout of the directions. I would only take printout of those directions, which are really crucial; but for the rest, I would depend on writing it down.

Surprising thing about the Google Maps would be, that you can actually plan to the last minute of your travel plan. Of course, I took longer to walk to the BART and Muni stops, so I would plan a couple of minute earlier departures from my start point.

So the first time that I went to Larkin Library was on a sunny chill morning of October. I needed to find some material which the Mission Library indicated as available in the Main Branch.

It was pretty much easy to go to Larkin Street, if I took the BART from 24th Mission Station to Civi Center Station. I would find a spot to sit down to dream away hugging my backpack.

My backpack was special because it had everything that I needed. There have been times, when I felt, if I started to walk away with just my backpack, then I really didn’t need anything at all.

The interesting thing about going to the Main Branch Library was that I would be confused which exit to take. It happened every single time I get out of the Civi Center Station, even if I have visited the place almost many times, I would get lost and have to figure the place despite my jotted directions. I simply don’t get the left or right directions and get confused very quickly.

I had very few friends and I tried not to disturb them with my pestering company. But I must say my friends in US were really interesting people, who I enjoyed spending time with. The pull of a quiet library is very stronger than talking with people. I still remember the day when I shared silence with a fellow writer Veronica. She didn’t mind my being quiet and talking intermittently.

That’s one thing you can say for the friends from CCA, they provided me space to just shut off and remain silent. I read so many of their works for the workshop and I wished that I could talk to them about it on a one-on-one bases. But my shyness got the better of me and I couldn’t really talk to them all. I always landed not stating what I felt about the piece even in the workshops.

My first semester was such a huge stress for me. I didn’t know the place but it was not strange that I was in a new place. Since I could connect to the place at a higher level, it was the people that I needed my energies to settle down. Once I settle down, then it is so easy to converse.

One fine October Sunday in 2010, my mood swings were really high and I needed the calm space of the library. I got ready and started towards the Larkin branch library and religiously jotted down the details of the directions. It so happened that I had arrived early to the destination. So I had to hang out until the library opened for the day.

Out there at the location, I found a Sunday market and hung around to look at things being sold in temporary stalls. There was this sense of places mixing in my head and I remembered markets of Singapore and Chennai. All my commerce day lessons came rushing to my mind.

The sense of place in my life is very connected and especially when I needed to find my inner balance. After hanging for about an hour the library doors opened and I went in.

My first impression of the library could be summed up in a word, Palace. The architecture of the library was so Roman and I felt like Alice floating in air. For the first visit, I was just hanging out there on polished floor and tall rooms. I felt I might have lost a few inches, since I felt the rest of the people were taller than me.

I remember the grey shades of the library warmed by brown shades of desks, shelves and splatter of colors that were the bound books. The first visit was just spent walking around the place. It was only in my second visit that I even try to take out the book that I had searched in Mission Library.

I relaxed to the moment spent in the library and my peace restored with my confidence in me to go on. There is no amount of talking can get me to calm down, as much as a visit to a library can accomplish. Larkin Main Branch Library was my angel in disguise.

Image Source: https://sfpl.org/

Memorable Personalities

I have a quirky habit of listening to song in a loop. I would listen to any new fancied song in an almost unending loop for days together. When that happens, the lyrics of the song would evoke people from my memory.

I always count my blessing more than my challenges. But then sometimes within the challenges lies the true lessons of life. My recent loop song is from the movie “Noor” titled “Hai Zaroori” sung by Prakriti Kakar and composed by Amaal Mallik.

Yes, it is true that I meet some very interesting people in my life. I must say that I have many a journal entry about various incidents in my life. But among the many I am reminded of a few people who touched my soul. I cannot finish it in one blog entry.

In my school for a short while, I used to eat alone, since I had fallen out with all my friends. I am a person who loves to eat with other people and so would feel so lonely often when eating alone.

Naturally, I would cut short my lunch by stuffing myself and rushing to the library, where I would pick Anne of Green Gables series. I used to be so emotional when reading that series, the story was around a positive heroine who would see the I’m Ok and You’re Ok side in all the events in her life. A forced sense of happiness and well-being appealed to my sensitivity, so that I would also see positive signs even in the most negative incidences.

Around that time my book reading had helped stabilize my emotions and so I was not even looking for a friend. I believe I was in my ninth grade when R sat by my side and I was a little frightened of her.

I was also unwilling to open my heart for another round of disappointment in friendship. But in my hindsight R has been one of the most soft-spoken person with brilliance that left your soul colored with her idealism.

We talked in dribble and nibbles which lead to the gentle drift into a friendship that stayed on. Even though I am not in touch with her, I believe she would have become a strong woman. She loved Chemistry and she even completed her graduation in the subject after all her Polio corrective surgeries.

I remember to this day that assembly experience. She never joined the assembly and I felt that she had to join us. She was no different from us. So one day, I told her that I would be crazy enough to skip the assembly, if she didn’t come with me.

When we eventually made it to the assembly, I was very nervous and didn’t like it being the center of attention when the entire assembly waited for us to join the line.

Even today I don’t like being the center of attention, but then, I know how to fake being brave-faced. I also know if one harsh look from audience, then it would crumble like bread crumbs. But then, R suggested waiting in the ground way before the assembly bell rings fearful clarity. But I was happy that she decided to join the assembly.

When we were in tenth I was made to sit by the side of the class topper so that she would be able to help me. Osmosis effect! But then studies never made any sense to me. But I always kept my contact with R. I remember going to her place in the front and she would keep track of whether I finished my Math worksheet and revised all the other subjects. She would take liberty in scolding me if I tell her that I hadn’t done it.

By then I was more of a once bitten twice shy kind of person, but I liked something about R that build my faith in her. I became very selective of picking friends and even to this day I follow that unwritten rule, even though I am always polite with all.

She took a break after her 10th Exams and did her high school in a different stream. As for me, I was back to being free drifting spirit with I hope no friends or enemies. By this time I was happy with who or what I was and didn’t wish to change myself. Maybe my earlier experiences helped me to grow older fast.

So the next interesting person that I was to meet in college was K. Now I used to walk with her to the disabled students’ hostel run by a charitable institution. She lived there for the duration of completing her graduation. She would absolutely showcase me to her hostel-mates. I enjoyed talking non-stop with them, by then I think I had learned to be sunny happy person. I think I was trying to be Anne of Green Gables, a grabbled version at least.

When I think of K, I remember that I had a hard day at college once and I was major time pissed off with the entire world. I had decided to walk down to my home to contain my anger. But then universe had other plans for me.

Because on that fateful day K decides to stop me and informed me, that she wanted to walk with me to her hostel. Her hostel was just a slight detour on the way to my home. I was fuming and yet didn’t have the heart to refuse her desire, so I reluctantly agreed to walk with her.

So for a while, I was silent and then started talking in anger. I started describing the street that we were walking.  How it looked and felt with such violence that she became silent. Then I used words that K would have trouble understanding but she was still patient with me. But at the point when I had covered everything in the ground, I said, “The sky was blue.”

I think that was her last straw and K must have had enough of me. She stopped walking and I naturally stopped too. She pressed my armed which was linked with hers and asked in a small voice, “How does blue look like?” I believe that evaporated my anger completely. Here was the challenge for me. How do you describe blue to a person who has never seen blue?! I calmed down immediately.

I understood that I had been an angry jackass. From that day forth I would never describe using visual blackhole words. I linked all description to physical or emotional links.

I also remember that I would walk to blind people after politely suggesting to them that they fold their guide so that I could link their arm with mine. It would seem like two friends walking peacefully. This also gave me control over how I guided them by making sure they were safe with me.

So one day during my Freshman year of college, someone close to my age wearing a ray ban and holding a folded guiding stick asked me to help him board a bus. Now the fact that he was a young man and there were a lot of people around was pressurizing for me. Since girls don’t talk to boys an unwritten social rule. But heck, I still wanted to help him since he asked for help.

I threw my social consciousness up in the air and I promised to help him board a bus while I eyed my empty 37D go by. I sighed and the person immediately asked me if something was wrong. I cleared the lump in my throat and said nothing really.

All the while we were waiting for the bus I was worried about guiding him. Actually he did look pretty handsome and quiet heavy. I don’t know where that fact is coming from but then he was healthy and seemed to work-out on a regular basis. In all categories, this person if sighted wouldn’t require my help at all.

I was not thinking of that all at that moment. Because my one fear factor was that will I be able to get him on board the bus as quickly as possible. Since the public transport don’t provide a lot of time for passengers to get in the bus and he had to find the steps and so much other factors for person with impaired sight. I feared for his safety and the huge responsibility on my shoulders.

But the minute I sighted his bus I just touched him on his arm and he moved smoothly in the direction that I was moving my arm. He did not seem so heavy and didn’t resist me either. One of the important things about a blind person would be the confidence with which they would place their faith in your motives for guidance.

My eyes filled with emotional tears that someone had that faith in me. I cleared my throat and yelled the person’s destination to the bus conductor and informed him to help the person to get down at the right stop. Once I got the confirmation from the conductor.

I bide my goodbyes by yelling at the person, since lots of people were getting into the bus and he was already in the bus. I waved my hands while shouting out goodbyes. I did get weird looks from others. In India we don’t give way to disabled people to board the bus first when I saw that in US I think I felt pride in US because they were considerate.