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Welcome to My World

Hello Friends! My sharing is all about “Smiles”, “Miles” and “ToGo”. In the journey of life, one must endure millions of miles. Theoretically, if we simply add an ‘S’, these miles turn into “SMiles”. How do you achieve this practically? And more importantly, how to hang on to this smile – how to ‘To-Go’ (carry back) this precious smile? Every time a smile comes around, we need to be aware and mindful to pack it in a ‘To Go’ box to be stored within, so that it remains there – always. When the going gets tough, this storehouse of ‘Smilez To Go’ comes handy and the path full of hurdles and speed bumps becomes easier to tread on. Rather, the journey becomes an adventurous smiley one, with lots of more SMilez coming our way!

The universe is always full of surprises around every corner, and, the only permanent thing is impermanence. The surprises appear good when there are no challenges attached to them. So, we tend to forget them easily. But if they are tough lessons, we never forget them. We tend to cling to the toughness of the challenge. We can, however, choose to remember how we dealt with the challenge and how we moved forward. That gives us so much joy. Our entire journey is always going to be of challenges, which we CAN handle. How we handle it is entirely upto us. With Smiles? Yes! That’s how I chose to deal with my set of hurdles. It’s so much easier that way. Try it – it works!

One important thing I have learnt in my life, is that any job done, eases out if accompanied by a smile. It’s up to you to explore where you can gather your smiles and learning from – the potential is unlimited. But always remember to pick your precious smile from your wardrobe and wear it before starting your day, 🙂 since you also look the Best when you have the smile ‘On’. It works wonders too!

The Fall… The Let Go

As I wander in this beautiful and mysterious city of San Francisco, the beauty of the fall colors around amazes me. Whether it’s a long drive on the roads, or in the hills, on the seaside or a walk in the neighborhood, the never ending colorful range of trees are a feast for the eyes. The closer you go, they seem to have this lovely celebrating look of varied colors… yellow, golden, orange rust, red, maroon, pink, magenta and some colors are a combination of many. To me, they appear vibrant, angelic and divine. Even the fallen leaves on the ground look happy as though they are bidding a joyous ‘farewell’.

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Every leaf on the huge tree changes colors from green to brown in different ways, celebrating different colors and shades as they fall. Then it just “Let’s Go” itself. Sitting by these falling leaves give one an immense feeling of serenity, a feeling of calmness and love (Preeti ). I felt the dancing leaves teaching me something joyously ,silently and mysteriously. I don’t know if I can put this experience in words. But I will try to explain how it taught me how to live.

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The different hues of the leaves seem to be in celebration. The entire range of colors on the leaves red, yellow, pink, golden, green and brown all seem to be a part of each other. There was no regret, no hesitation, no worry – just the fall. They seem to be saying “I cannot predict the future, I cannot change the past, I have just the present moment, I must treat it as my last”! So true.

Most of our time we spend either in the past memories or in worrying about the future, even though we have neither of them. What we have is the present moment, and we miss it. Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory. The angelic falling leaves taught me one thing, to simply ‘Let Go’ that which is already the past. It is there only because we tend to cling to it. It’s a monkey mind which runs there. So let go. Let that leaf of memory fall out gracefully from your tree of life. Let it just fly away. Once gone, it feels so light and so much at ease.

Coming to the future, it is unknown, precarious and not promised to any of us. So why worry about that. We only have the present moment. As soon as we honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolves and life begins to flow with joy and ease.
20120120-155638.jpgThis brought me to an interesting conversation I had with a wise young lady , which also ended in the ‘Now’. The date 11.11.11 was being discussed time and again everywhere in the media. People seem to be giving it a lot of importance as it will come again only after hundred years. This date will come after 100 years but every moment that we are living, will it ever come back? Why don’t we understand that every moment that we live, that every breath we take, the now will never ever come back. So shouldn’t the present moment be the most important? It is this very moment which is the truth.

20120120-155717.jpgI always remember what a very wise young man once told me. “As you live, is how you will die”. And the falling leaves practically communicated that in silence. I think the whole mystery of letting go the past, living joyously in the now… this very moment , was silently conveyed to me by these colorful, light and joyous falling leaves. When there is no baggage of the past to carry, and nothing to worry about future, only then the joy of experiencing the present follows. Only in this present moment can we find our true connection to the universe… the source of our very being! 🙂

I thank all those who did not help me

I thank all those who did not help me, because of them I did it all by myself!

Often, life brings you at crossroads where you feel stranded, and you don’t know which road to take. This is the time when you are faced with a situation – a challenge, a task or a job and you have no clue how to deal with it. The assistance or support you expect seems to have disappeared. You have never done anything like that before, so a feeling of helplessness creeps in. The task looks impossible. You start feeling betrayed, when the ones you depend on are not available. You feel like you’re at a dead end even before getting started. Being all alone at such times may even give you a sinking feeling. Everything seems to go blank. Looking back, I see things optimistically and see that such times are in fact opportunities for a new venture.

I faced these kind of challenges one too many times as a child and even as an adult. Surely, all of us have gone through this ordeal at some stage or the other. What I realize is that these situations are adventurous if taken in the right spirit, and teach us a lot of new things as well as reveal some skill or talent lying dormant within us. Needless to say the achievement of dealing with it energizes us with a lot of confidence.

I still remember very clearly – it was the month of April 1996. I had just moved into my brand new apartment. The whole new place smelled of fresh paint, the rooms were filled with empty space, waiting to get some shape & identity. As I walked in, feeling every wall, every corner of every room, I had no idea what form and shape the rooms would be taking. I only knew that the place was mine and I had to give it a cozy, loving & adorable look. I had no idea how I would make that happen.
My search began with finding some skillful carpenters. This was not too hard, as I found a good team of craftsmen through some friends, who were ready to do the job. So I explained to them all the requirements and the basic need to furnish the place . It was the 1st of May, the day the carpenters walked in. The raw material for the basic wardrobes of one room were ordered, to start with. Dozens of massive sheets of plywood poured in and the smell of the house changed from paint-like to woody.

Now came the big challenge! The carpenters could only follow whatever was explained to them as a design. And I had nothing designed, no designer, and the person who was to coordinate this work bailed on me just a day before the workers arrived. I had no experience in this field at all and did not know anything about furniture or designing. At that point I felt stupid and helpless. This was to be my home, I couldn’t afford to make mistakes, since it involved time, work, money and energy. I was sleepless for 4-5 nights, just trying to come up with a solution. I looked through bookshops, the local library, dozens of TV shows… anywhere I could learn something about how to plan the furniture. I narrowed it down to certain materials, certain styles and sizes that would be apt for the apartment and my taste. I created a whole concept to match the requirements – a cozy, loving and adorable abode that had to be economical, spacious and durable at the same time.

In short, I took ownership of the whole project, and began to enjoy this adventure. There was no looking back now. It was just a matter of making the decision. I chose my designs, sketched them out, worked with the carpenters on the measurements, and the team also responded well. They taught me a lot about different kinds of wood, how they are treated, varnished, the wall paint, the pest control measures, the types of edge finishes, the curves, the kind of glass, the etching, beveling and all that I needed to know. I got totally involved. By now I could identify the type of wood when it was being sawed and identify each type by it’s scent. Very soon the wood planks started taking forms. The design I visualized began to take shape. More ideas started flowing as work progressed, and as the result, the work done was amazing.

Next, I went from one hardware store to another, choosing accessories. To see my apartment take the shape of a cozy home was an exhilarating experience. I would touch, feel and smell the wooden panels – sometimes doors, sometimes tables, sometimes cabinets, and so forth at the end of each day. The concept began to flow from one room to another as we covered the bedrooms, the kitchen, the dining, the utility area, and finally the living room. The carpenters had worked in rhythm day and night, from the 1st of may to the end of August. The final painting and polishing began, and at last after a patient wait of four and a half months the place was all set and complete.

I rated my project with a A++++++! The most unbelievable task had turned into a ‘dream come true’. I felt satisfied that I had done full justice to my home. This wonderful achievement was yet another feather in my cap. As I gazed adoringly on the completed mission, I felt happy and proud of myself. I gave myself a pat on the back every time I was complimented on the beautiful look of my cozy nest. Whenever people asked me ‘who was my designer’ I felt elevated saying, ‘Its Me!’. Now that I look back, I realize how the whole adventure had shown me a confident creative myself, whom I was unaware of. I had overpowered the impossible into something truly amazing . Thanks to all those who did not help me , I did it myself.

Gliding up a Rainbow

Whenever I have seen the awesome rainbow in the sky, I have felt “Would’nt it be fun to glide on that rainbow from one end to the other?”. I didn’t know this would happen one day. This is exactly how I felt when I had this ‘breathtaking experience of a lifetime’. I woke up early in the morning at 3AM to leave for the Napa Valley, about 100 miles from my place in the Bay area. The reporting time was 5:45AM and I wasn’t sure what I am going to see so early in the day, in darkness. We reached in time, to see a sizable group gathered in the lobby , where coffee and breakfast were being served. By 6AM, we left in three vans for the venue about 2-3 miles into the valley. It was pretty dark, on that early September morning.

We reached an open spacious ground where I saw five gigantic balloons lying flat, ready to be pumped with hot air. They were attached to big baskets enough for accommodating 10 to 15 people. Very soon, the balloons started filling up with hot air, and they rose high up into huge colorful hot-air balloons. The five balloons were all set and ready to take off, the cute baskets at the base looked warm and welcoming.

Lots of pictures were being taken as everyone wanted to capture the different combinations of bright rainbow colors of the adorable balloons. Oh! What beauties! I hopped into one of them – the name of our balloon was ‘Tequila’. So true, my spirit definitely soared high up as the balloon started rising. The best part of the rising of this colorful beauty was that there was absolutely no discomfort at all as it took off and soared up gently. It had reached almost 800 meters above sea level. As I looked around, the sun, a bright golden ball of fire dawned from behind the mountains. Watching a sunrise from a floating balloon was again the most picturesque mental picture I’ve taken. Within minutes the sun had lighted up the entire valley into daylight.

Now, we were floating higher up, above the lush green vineyards, exploring the majestic Napa Valley with an incredible bird’s eye view. Valleys, lakes, hills, mountains, little houses, schools, churches – they all looked wonderful from far ,as the balloon glided by, like an angel in the sky. The enthusiastic and friendly pilot talked to us, giving us information about places below, about our altitude, about our distance and the landmarks around. By now, at 2000 meters above, we were the highest and had floated across 25 to 30 miles away from the take-off point. I practically understood the term “Bird’s eye view” from here.

This experience was simply amazing, adventurous, and breathtaking. This trip in the balloon seemed ideal for so many celebrations. Like a special birthday treat, a place to propose to your love, to celebrate an anniversary, or even to get married. I was blessed to celebrate the birthday of the most adorable and loving one in my life that day. We had been floating for almost an hour, and hadn’t realized how time flew by. Enlightening!

Now the balloon was gradually descending and the green vineyards appeared nearer. The houses looked bigger, we could see cars on the road. We finally made a smooth and silky landing on the grassy lands of a huge playground. It was time to celebrate our amazing ride and the successful landing. The ecstatic moment was celebrated with champagne and brunch. Apparently, this ritual was followed in olden days too. Cheers to the rainbow ride!

Nature Around Has Answers – Just Look!

Why is it so hot? Will I reach my work on time? Why do I have to face the demanding boss? The job seems never-ending… why? When will my work get recognized? When will my studies finish? Why do I have to compete? When will I be happy? Countless question keep us perturbed all day long and the answers are all around us, we just have to look – with awareness.

Wherever I have lived, I have always woken up to the different sounds of different birds in that area. A few common birds are the Sparrows, Bulbuls, Mynahs, Babblers, Pigeons, Hummingbirds, and Roosters. and lesser knows ones, that are native to specific countries, like Cuckoos, Kingfishers, Seagulls, Bluejays, Parrots, Peacocks and so on. I am sure everybody, no matter which part of the earth you belong to, has experienced birds and butterflies around. If given thirty seconds of your observation every morning, you will surely notice the beauty of the birds – chirping, singing, and the enthusiasm and liveliness of the flight it takes. In fact, if you stop for a moment and listen, you will actually feel energetic. It’s like getting a dose of energy boost with your breakfast, simply observing them, admiring how they wake up happily everyday, singing and chirping. They don’t need alarms, but are our alarms if we listen carefully. Their enthusiasm of survival is always at a high. No matter what season – summer, monsoon, winter, fall or spring they always have something to do. They never complain and are right here in front of us, showing us how to deal with our life in a simple, easy and smiley way.

The flowers – every flower has their own charm, whether it’s a wild jungle flower, or one growing in the hills, or one in a beautiful garden or even one in your very own flower pot – no matter what color or size or shape, just like the trees – I am yet to see a flower who doesn’t smile. There have been moments, when I have felt the birds, the trees,the flowers, the butterflies, even the dragonflies sharing my joy or sorrow or aloneness.

Once as I was having lunch, I felt sad and thought to myself “Oh God! Why? Why can’t I have someone to make me smile today? As I was thinking so, I looked out into my little garden in the patio across the dining table. Suddenly, out of nowhere I saw this gorgeous unusual butterfly with big black and blue shades swoop into the balcony, sniffing flowers and simply showing off! For the next few minutes, it was as if I had company – as it flew in from the window and flew out from the door. It kept hovering until my lunch was over.

It was miraculously beautiful – I had forgotten that I was alone. When I was done with my lunch ,it had left. But, what an experience!

Once I visited Dharamshala, an absolutely divine place very near the Himalayan range. Immaculately perfect landscapes wherever you look – streams flowing, snow capped mountains as far as you can see, colorful birds that I had never seen, cool breeze, exotic flowers, lush trees, butterflies – everything in abundance. I sat meditating near my cottage, beside the cold water stream, one with nature – and every time I sat there all by myself, a little red colored bird came sat near me. It made me feel as though I had a soulmate beside me. It certainly taught me to connect with nature more closely. I can still feel that one bird very close to my heart.

If you have watched a spider spinning a web, there is so much to learn on ‘try and try until you succeed’. If you have seen a weaver bird building a nest, we realize that anything is possible – don’t underestimate yourself! I have seen a kingfisher perched up waiting to dive to get a fish! It’s definitely not easy – you need all the patience, but it works!Watching birds push their little ones out of the nest to teach them how to fly teaches us to trust nature and let children take their flight into their journey in life as they grow. Learning is everywhere, and so is the joy in it.

There are no Coincidences in life!

The Universe will always bring you to the right place at the right time!

I had just shifted from a smaller town to a bigger metropolitan city. I had left my old job as a teacher, and by the time we had settled down in our new house, it was August. The academic year for schools begins in summer – between May and June, so even if I applied somewhere, the chances of getting a job were dim. At the same time I didn’t know anyone who would guide me in the city. I was lost in the new place.

One monsoon morning after breakfast,  I decided to explore the neighborhood. About two miles away I had read about a famous exhibition hall that hosts exhibitions from time to time. So I went in there, looked around, and left. As I walked out and went little further it started raining all of a sudden. I had no umbrella, so my immediate reaction was to look for some shelter. A few steps away, I saw a big gate with a nice building inside. I rushed in with short, hurried, but careful steps. I could barely see where I was stepping, let aside seeing where I was entering. Once inside, I grew aware that I was in the lobby of some institution, and the campus looked massive and posh. I entered the lobby and stood there.

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As I looked around, I realized that it was a beautiful high school. I explored further, since the rain didn’t seem to stop. I strolled along a lavish corridor which brought me near the main offices of the school. I heard someone’s footsteps approaching from behind the classy door, the plaque on which read “Vice Principal”. As I was about to turn back, a lady walked out from the office. She looked at me, and I smiled. She politely asked me if I was looking for someone? I had no answer, but couldn’t look dumb, so I greeted her and told her that I had come to enquire if there is a vacancy for a Science teacher at their school. She asked me about my background, and also if I had an appointment. Nor did I have an appointment, neither did I look like I had come to apply. Nonetheless, she asked me to wait, and went into the Principal’s office.To add to my nervousness, I was now tense & embarrassed. I was casually dressed, somewhat wet from the rain, I had no application with me, no papers, and here I was, trying to come to terms with the fact that I might meet the Principal of the school. I felt like disappearing from that very place. I didn’t know what I was getting into and didn’t know what I would say. This was happening so fast that I went totally blank.

I quivered, slightly with nervousness, slightly with the chill in the air when the door creaked, and the lady emerged from the Principal’s office. She walked up to me and said that the principal would like to meet you. I stood speechless for what seemed like an eternity. I gathered all my courage, took a long deep breath, brought out the best smiles from my storehouse, and walked in gracefully.

It was a big posh aristocratic office and an elderly British lady sat at the desk authoritatively. I smiled at her and greeted her. She smiled back very gracefully, and somehow made me feel relaxed and focused.  As she listened intently, over the next few minutes, I narrated the story of how I landed there, my background as a Science teacher, and how I would be interested if there was an opening in that school. Almost immediately after hearing me out, she offered me a job in place of a senior Science teacher who had to leave suddenly because of some health issues. This was completely unbelievable! I was told to bring in my application on the following Monday and start working. This was so unexpected, that it seemed like a fairy tale. I thanked her for that offer, assured her that I would love to start working on Monday.
What a blessing! As I went back & spoke of it to my friends, I was told that this school was among the top rated and most prestigious ones in the city. So, here I was taking a walk on the streets, when the universe got me in the right place, at the right time. Personally, I think the smile also worked wonders! 🙂

Unexpected Rediscovery of The ‘Vanda’ Orchid

This recent story added a Million dollar smile in my “To Go” box. Two hours South-West of Pune, India, lies the huge Sahyadhri range of mountains, wherein sit the hill stations of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar – natural paradises in abundance, as good as Hawaii – as my friend put it.
My friends from the US were on a short vacation to Pune. This monsoon morning, we left early in the morning, headed to Mahabaleshwar and as I drove I was hoping that this outing would make them feel good. It was peak rainy season, the entire place  was wet, rainy, cloudy and misty. Nevertheless, I was determined to show them some of my favorite spots around.

I chose to take the forest path that was less frequented by people. The deep forest is full of huge trees, lots of unusual flora, fauna, and birds. This time of the rainy season all roads, trees rocks, were covered with a thick layer of moss. We were almost rolling on moss while driving through the thick growth, in awe of the trees, shrubs, ferns and foliage. I pointed out to some of the wild orchids on the trees growing naturally. Having been here many times , it was just beautiful nature to me.

Just then, my friend exclaimed “Stop the car!”, with an urgency that demanded attention. I screeched to a halt and turned around to see him in sheer shock. Once he gathered himself, his happiness knew no bounds – he realized that the orchids we saw were a very rare variety of Orchids, named ‘Vanda’, growing wild in the forest. He couldn’t believe his luck. He was so excited that he climbed the tall trees, despite the moss, wetness and possibility that he might slip and fall. We joined in right behind him, climbing the trees in getting to take a few of the exotic plants home. As he saw and felt the plants, the joy on his face touched the sky. He was like a cute, wild, puppy – full of joy, running helter-skelter, touching every tree where he could see the Vanda orchid. All of us were as excited and joyful as he was!

Kate's Point

 

For him this trip to India was worth more then anything else in the world, for being able to see the rare orchid growing in the wild so effortlessly and in such abundance. He knew a lot about orchids, and done deep research on orchid’s varieties all over the world. To him it was the most fascinating trail that he had unexpectedly discovered. He was the happiest man in the world. To him it was a “Eureka” moment. For me it was one of the happiest moments. I thanked the universe for being there with my friends, to experience the ecstasy of discovering the ‘Vanda Orchid’, celebrating the find, laughing, jumping and climbing trees. We collected a bounty of a few orchid plants, some carpets of moss, and some driftwood to adorn it with.

Vanda Orchids in the wild in MahabaleshwarHe even managed to find some jute twine to use later to tie the orchids together to the driftwood and the moss. He was totally in love with those beautiful plants – his expression said it all. To me, this one day of complete joy which the Vanda orchid and my friends had given me is treasured. Even though the antics of the day will always remain a cherished memory, the celebration and joy amongst us will always be priceless.