How Life Taught Me to Embrace Change; a Tiny Buddha Guest Post

Change happens.

Change happens.

In small ways and big ones.

A small change is that I’m now back in the States after nearly four months of travel in Central America. I’m glad to be home after my travel adventure. While I loved every minute of my trip, coming home is a welcome change.

Big changes can be life-altering events; unexpected and sometimes traumatic. Some of the changes I talk about in my recent guest post on Tiny Buddha sure felt that way.

As unexpected and traumatic as change can be, change happens. We can’t do anything about stopping change. We either embrace change or get crushed by it.

It took me a few life lessons to embrace change but I think enough life shake-ups helped me come to terms with change and embrace it.

The lessons I learned about change through some of my life experiences were featured on the Tiny Buddha blog recently.

Here are 6 life lessons on embracing change, courtesy of Tiny Buddha. I’m grateful to Lori Deschene for the opportunity to post on Tiny Buddha and share my experiences with change.

What do you think? Have you mastered big life changes in your life? How did you do it? Please share in the comments below.

If you hate change, fight change or have no change to spare, enjoy some of my photos below of Nevada:

flowers from a Nevada garden
the beautiful Eastern Sierras
northern Nevada sunset

What do you think? Have you mastered big life changes in your life? How did you do it? Please share in the comments below.

5 Ways to Personally Deal with Tragedy. (Reflections after Oak Creek, Wisconsin)

A Sikh candlelight vigil, remembering the Wisconsin victims.

Tragedy can strike at any moment.

Even in the most sacred times – while you’re at the temple praying, in the midst of a divine moment. This can happen in the most sacred of places and the most public of places.

Which is exactly what happened in Wisconsin last week at the Oak Creek Sikh Gurdwara (temple). 6 people died tragically, left their families and loved ones behind and are being eulogized in funerals this week.

The tragedy, like the shootings in Colorado earlier this year, are profoundly sad, appear to be senseless and affects each one of us, no matter where we live and what religion we practice.

This is not a Sikh tragedy but a human one.

While I’m not Sikh by religion, I share a country of origin, India, where Sikhs hail from. I’ve found the people who practice the Sikh faith to be extremely devoted to their religion, peaceful, loving and kind.

Sikhs have gotten a bad rap, in America, because they wear turbans and have beards; characteristics of Osama bin Laden.

Why turbans? Not only is it one of the tenets of their religion, but as the Huffington post columnist recently pointed out, Sikh gurus instructed Sikhs to wear turbans to rebel against India’s caste system and to represent equality between poor and rich. The turban was encouraged to be worn by all classes of Sikhs to represent equality in God’s eyes.

It’s unknown why the lone gunman in Wisconsin unleashed this horrific act of violence against this devoted and peaceful community. But the tragedy has once again confronted us as a community, as a society and as individuals.

How do we personally deal with pain and suffering when tragedy strikes?

Here are 5 ways:

1) Reflect. When tragedy strikes, it’s easy to jump to conclusions, feed off stereotypes and hatred and take action we may regret later.

Instead, after a tragedy strikes, reflect. Reflect upon what happened, reflect upon your feelings and how the tragedy impacted you. Try to understand why you’re feeling the way you are.

Observe anger, the sadness and the other emotions the tragedy causes within you.

2) Gather and reach out. When tragedy struck in Wisconsin, Sikhs around the United States had vigils in many gurdwaras around the country. This was a time for communities to gather and meet each; to comfort each other and try to collectively understand what happened.

While you may want to reflect on the tragedy yourself, you may find it helpful to be with others and reflect as a group. You may feel like you’re less alone and feel a stronger support network. By reaching out to others, you’ll be help others more seriously affected by the tragedy to move forward.

Here are a couple photos of the the beautiful candlelight vigil and prayer I attended in San Jose, California where the community gathered and mourned together:

Lighting candles in remembrance.
In reflection
Community gathers for candlelight vigil.

3) Learn and understand. Tragedies present you with an opportunity for better learning and understanding.

Ask yourself what the tragedy means to you and your community?

Did the tragedy happen because of stereotypes, hatred, ignorance or some other reason?

What caused the tragedy and what can be done to avoid similar happenings in the future? Is it time to improve the cultural dialogue? Time to reach out and get to know our neighbors? Time to deal with mental health issues?

Learning and understanding from a tragedy is not only a healing process but can help make you and those affected even stronger than before and help your community avoid it in the future.

4) Help and give. When others are going through man-made or natural tragedies, we might want to sit home and mourn. It’s easier to watch television and empathize with the affected people than to actually do something.

Instead, see what you can do to help those impacted by the tragedy.

Ask yourself what you can do to help. Although tragedies seem to happen far away from us, they are not that far away. It probably happened in a community similar to yours with the same types of neighbors, same types of issues  and similar people.

What can you do to help others and give back? Can it be as simple as making a donation? Is it putting together a care package? Is it writing notes of support and reaching out to the victims?

Is it championing an issue or cause that the tragedy raised?

Doing something, anything, in the face of tragedy, is also a healing activity that can help you move on. Helping others by rebuilding a community or giving back allows you to take something sad and hopeless and make it positive, as Sikh community leader, Valerie Kaur, noted about the emerging generation of Sikh Americans in her recent Washingtong Post article.

5) Take time to heal. We don’t heal overnight. Healing takes time. Reflect, learn, understand and take time to heal when tragedy strikes – especially when it’s close to you or your community.

Don’t continuously reflect upon the tragedy and take a break from it if you’re able to. Try living as normally as possible, do things you love, meet up with friends and try to partake in your regular daily activities.

Also, let’s not kid ourselves, tragedies can have psychological and emotional impact. Some events can trigger emotional or psychological wounds especially if you’ve experienced something similar before.

If you need the help of a counselor or psychologist; seek it. Just talking to someone else about what happened may help you come to terms with the incident and help you move on.

What do you do when tragedy strikes? How have you dealt with tragedy in the past? How can we heal, reflect and move on with our lives? Please share in the comments below. 

10 Gold-Medal Winning Strategies You Can Use to Win at Life

All it took was Corn Flakes and 17 years of practice! (Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images for Kelloggs)

You’re standing up on that Olympic podium grinning like the champion you are.

Blowing kisses to your family, striking a pose for photographers and even texting the President of the United States.

“You killed it, son” he texts.

“Thanks for the support B. Great to see Michelle in the stands!” you text back.

As the national anthem starts playing, you couldn’t be prouder of your Olympic gold-medal. You worked your entire life for this moment and are now being recognized with 6 grams of gold and an offer to be on the cover of a Corn Flakes box.

10 gold-medal winning strategies for your life

You don’t have to be an gold-medal winning Olympian like Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin to win the game of life. This is especially relevant if you have no idea how to swim the butterfly, get on a pommel horse or have any other skill that will land you in the Olympic games.

Here are 10 observations that I made about these Olympians that we all can start implementing in our own lives today:

1. Have a strategy. Olympians, especially gold-medal winning ones don’t show up for the big day without a plan. They’ve got a strategy to win the day and the gold; almost every move is examined, discussed and planned ahead prior to game day.

You need a strategy as well to win at life. When setting goals or pursuing dreams, have a plan of where you’re going. Get friends, experts and advisors help you plan the journey so you know where you’re going and have the best strategy to get you there. If you don’t have a strategy, you may never get to your destination.

2. Play as a team. Olympians play as a team and credit their supporting cast for their success. And no, it’s not just in the team competitions. Even in individual competitions like swimming or running, there’s a whole cast of teammates, coaches, family members and others who are part of the athlete’s team.

Have a team in your own life – a close network of people who support you. Actively bring together, seek the counsel of and ask your supporting team for ideas, strategies and improvements  to help you live a better life. Those that are negative towards your or don’t support you should be kept at bay.

3. Keep pushing forward. Even after a tough loss in the pool or losing a basketball match in the early rounds, Olympians look ahead.

When Michael Phelps got out of the water after his first competition in the 400 IM, coming in fourth place, he told the irritating NBC reporter that he was off to a bad start with this race but wanted to put the race behind him and focus on the other races coming up.

You can’t simmer on your losses. When things go wrong, horribly wrong sometimes, you have regroup, reflect a bit on what went wrong and then forge ahead. On your path to a dream or goal, momentary defeats and losses are bound to happen. You have to keep your eye on the prize and move forward despite setbacks that may get in your way.

4. Go for the gold. Winning Olympians come into the games to win gold.

Several times, we’ve seen Olympic athletes disappointed, even unfairly devastated, for snagging a silver medal. This only means one thing – they came in looking for the top prize.

It’s good to have your eyes set on winning “the” prize. Don’t settle for second best – go for the gold. Having said that, do keep the next strategy in mind too.

5. Do your best. You can’t be the best every time. Sometimes, you’re going to lose. Ryan Lochte loses. Michael Phelps loses. Missy Franklin loses. Gabby Douglas…well, ok fine.

But many world-class athletes lose even when they are pursuing gold. You can go in desiring to win the game or top the competition but all you can be expected to do at the end of the day is to do your best.

If you do your best and live up to your potential, most of the times you win.

But not always. Be prepared to accept that your best may not always win the day and that’s ok!

6. Go hard until the end. Have you seen how many games, races or matches have gone down to the wire? I mean, even the U.S. men’s basketball team recently just won a game by a mere 5 points against Lithuania!  Which means they could have lost if they didn’t play their heart’s out for the last few minutes of the game.

You have to be persistent and determined and not just sporadically. Sometimes when the going gets tough, you must buckle down and push through even harder to accomplish your goals. It’s usually when you push through the most difficult part of the journey that you’ll break through.

When you feel like giving up, don’t! Go strong until the end.

7. Be prepared. Not only do those Boy Scouts love to be prepared but Olympians and world-class performers in any sport or venture arrive with copious preparation.

Olympians put in thousands of hours for a one minute or one hour activity, depending on their sport. Imagine spending thousands upon thousands of hours to win the hundred meter dash which is less than a 10 second race.

If you’re pursuing a goal or dream in life, or trying to become better in your profession or passion, you must be prepared. Preparation means practice, perfecting your craft and  dedication when you might want to give up.

Many times, the difference in winning is the person who showed up most prepared.

8. Don’t listen to the chatter. Many Olympians have an ability to tune out the chatter from analysts, sportscaster and the tabloids. While the news media and gossip-mongers are dissecting the lives and capabilities of the athletes, the athletes themselves have tuned out from all the chatter out there.

If you’re going to succeed, you have to be open to valid criticism and ideas for improvement from your inner circle. But you absolutely cannot listen to the haters, doubters and detractors in your life. You may not have paparazzi and the news media but your rumor-spreading, gossip-mongering friends and relatives need to stay out of your life.

Even if you can’t keep them out of your life, do your best to keep their inappropriate comments and criticisms at a distance.

9. Focus on your game. Olympians are 100% focused on their own game. In the individual events especially, they don’t appear to be competing against the competition. They go in focusing on what they need to do to win. They understand their strengths and weaknesses and have a strategy to do their best.

You cannot be bothered what the competition is doing. Sure, you can occasionally glance at the progress of your competitors in life but more often than not, it’s not going to be helpful. It might make you feel worse, dis-empowered or like you’re falling behind. No need to keep up with your peers; focus on your game.

10. Enjoy and be grateful. Why do Olympians look like they are having the time of their lives?

More than once, I’ve heard an Olympian say they’re going to go out there and have fun.

Have fun during one of the most high-pressure, gut-wrenching circumstances in their lives??

Apparently so. You need to enjoy the experience or the journey on your way to the destination. Only when you appreciate and enjoy the struggle to get through a crocodile-filled river can you truly enjoy the safety of having made it across.

When you’re enjoying yourself, you’re more relaxed and focused on achieving your goals. Remind yourself why you started on the journey in the first place and to slow down and enjoy the process.

Athletes are also always grateful for their accomplishments and thank their coach, their Mom, God and everyone in between. They know their efforts were their own but it took a village to make them into the gold-medal winning Olympian they are today.

Don’t forget to regularly show gratitude to those who are helping you achieve your goals and supporting your endeavors. Without them, you wouldn’t be as far along on your path as you are.

Do you agree with these life lessons I’ve picked up from the Olympians? Which ones resonate with you? What have I forgotten? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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How to manifest your heart’s desires without shaking down the universe like a mob boss.

Is the universe going to manifest me a pizza?

Are you a results-oriented person who is persistent about achieving your life’s goals and desires?

If you are, then do you demand the same kind of results from the universe around you?

It’s good to have personal desires and goals, and pursue them with a laser-like focus. That’s how many of us have been able to achieve success and results in our lives. But at the same time, we tend to be pushy or be overly-demanding of the universe around us.

I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve wanted a particular job in my life or some circumstance to work out the way I’ve wanted it to, the universe has met me with barriers and challenges.

When I pressure the universe into delivering the type of professional job I’ve wanted or the location where I’d like to do the job, the universe shrugs its shoulders and seems to hardly care. When I’ve expected my partner in a relationship to be a certain way or do something I had expected, the universe again has gleefully delivered the opposite or ignored me all together.

What is the universe? The universe around you is the all-pervading intelligent design that some call nature, God or simply the field of energy that surrounds everyday life. Similar to the laws of nature, the universe operates on its own set of rules and guidelines. Work against these rules and you’ll continually run into obstacles and challenges. If you embrace the universe, however, and live in sync with it, you’ll start manifesting all of your life’s desires.

I’ve found these 6 powerful ways to work with the universe which has allowed for favorable life events and positive manifestations in my life.

Here are 6 ways to allow life to unfold on the universe’s terms:

1) Let go. It’s perfectly acceptable to have reasonable expectations and goals for yourself, and make requests of the universe, but you CANNOT control how the universe manifests those expectations and goals in your life. You cannot micro-manage the universe or control the universe like an over-bearing boss or lover.

When you desire something, let the universe decide how it’s going to do its part and deliver it for you. If you want a particular job, for example, do your part and apply for it but contacting the office manager 12 times a day, becoming a stalker of the H.R. department and sending them flowers daily will usually not be appreciated and could invite the local cops to pay you a visit.

2) Stop demanding. You cannot shake down the universe like a mob boss demanding protection money. The universe doesn’t like to be threatened, cajoled or shaken down. Accept the fact that the universe will not do what you want, in exactly the way you want it to.

Don’t tell the universe that you ‘MUST’ have that particular job, or this particular boss, or that the office must be located on 24th street for you to take a job.

You can have desires and personal preferences of what you’d like from the universe but trying to demand results from the universe like a mob boss will likely result in your disappointment (and potentially a long solitary drive into the desert).

3) Be open to all possibilities. While you may have an expectation of something working out a particular way and personal goals of when that should happen, permit the universe to work its wonders.

You may want the job of your dreams and a safe and practical car to get you to work. Imagine if the universe delighted you with a safe and practical job which fits your career goals instead and delivered the car of your dreams into your life!

4) Allow the universe to lead. Like the waltz or Argentine tango, you must allow one person to lead the way when dancing. I’ve found that the universe prefers being the lead.Allow the universe to point you in the right direction, bring opportunities forward and guide you.

If you try to take the lead, the universe can break your leg or refuse to dance in the direction that you’d like to go. The universe is all-knowing, intelligent and knows what you want. It may not be how you’re used to dancing but why not allow it to lead you a better place?

5) Align with the universe. Your ability and power in all of this is your ability to align yourself with the universe. What do I mean by that?

Aligning with the universe means working in concert with the universe. Many spiritual and mindfulness practices can help you better connect and work in unison with the universe. In addition to the many benefits of mindfulness, awareness allows you to be in sync with the universe.

Being present and connected with yourself allows you to tap into the universal intelligence and see more favorable results in your life.

6) Trust. The universe is wise, loving and intelligent. Trusting the universe is as challenging as difficult as trusting ourselves. Trust in yourself to follow the intelligent design of the universe. More importantly, trust that the universe is all-knowing, intelligent and generous. Trust in the universe’s ability to deliver what you need in your life, when you need and how much of it you need..

The universe has no interest in being directed or controlled by you. While you can set your goals and visions for your life, keep your focus on your actions. Leave circumstances you can’t control and outside of your capabilities for the universe to handle.

When you learn to live in sync the universe and trust the universe to do its part, you’ll see all your dreams and goals manifest right in front of you.

Do you let the universe deliver or are you a mob-boss type who regularly threatens the universe? Let me know in the comments below. (If you enjoyed this article, please tweet or share this article on Facebook and with the universe)

How the student who refused to speak Spanish taught me the language of success.

Bro, I think we've had enough of your Spanish here.

In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time. Anthony J. D’Angelo.

Let’s say you’re trying to learn the Argentinian tango or trying to get your book published.

Imagine trying to become a world-famous Chef like Julia Childs. Or even Julie Powell for that matter, who spent everyday of a full year cooking up one of Julia Childs’s recipes.

Or pretend you’re on the run from the authorities and need to spend a few months in the Central Americas, let’s say Nicaragua for now, and are trying to learn Spanish.

How do you do something you’ve never done before and excel?

How do you get good at something? What’s the language for success?

As you know, I’m in the spiritually buzzing city of Granada, Nicaragua, learning Spanish.  I took 4 years of high school Spanish but like my French, oh, I’ve never learnt or spoken a word of French in my life!), my Spanish had become rusty. When I snuck into Nicaragua this past month, however, I’ve only spoken Spanish at home, at school, church, and to people on the street.

In fact, here I am with the Spanish school director (who refuses to publicly acknowledge I’m a student of the school):

Don't ever tell anyone you studied here.

The student who wouldn’t speak Spanish.

At Spanish school, I met a fellow-student who had visited Nicaragua several times now but she still didn’t speak Spanish much.  She’s understood everything people were saying to her but usually did not respond. I probed her a little bit trying to inquire why she didn’t want to speak the language.

She said that she didn’t want to look bad by speaking it wrong. She wanted to speak it perfectly, so would continue to think about each word and sentence and perfect conjugation before saying what she wanted to say.

I, on the other hand, was told by my Spanish teacher on the first day of class that I speak Spanish like a ‘directionless bird’ – without any reference to tenses, time or proper conjugation. I’m not trying to brag in any way here about my bird-like ability to speak Spanish but I have and continue to reach a level of proficiency that I can get my basic point across (no matter how bad it comes out) and carry on a conversation.

That’s when I realized the successful ingredient to speaking Spanish or being successful in anything in life.

1. The language to success is learnt by failure.

Instead of hiding from the language or something new, the best way to master it is to attack it. You have to jump in there and get your hands dirty (if cooking), your feet dirty (if playing soccer) or your mouth dirty when speaking Spanish (You know what I mean!).

You must persist in pursuing a new skill or habit you desire to master, and be prepared to do it wrongly, incorrectly and so bad that you’ll be laughed at!

2. Cuddle with AND embrace failure. And no I’m not suggesting you go to bed with that loser ex of yours:) Not only is it a good idea to fail and fail often but also FAIL BIG. Because the more you fail, the more you’re learning. Most people don’t like the idea of failing because they look bad or feel embarrassed. But the flip side of never failing is never learning and never growing.

If you’re trying to learn a new course, a new language, mastering becoming a ninja, trying to become a yoga instructor, then go out and fail. It’s the same way when we were learning to ride a bike or mastered our handwriting as kids. We didn’t just come out on the first time and excel at it. We continued to mess up, look bad, feel horrible, had our parents yell at our incompetence before we figured it out and mastered it.

3. Treat your failures as your building blocks to success. When you do fail and do fail big, treat those failures as the vault of your future success.

People think the more you fail, the more of a loser you are. What if instead, the more you fail means that the more you know how not to fail in the future. And if you fail a lot now then you can’t help but being successful at the skill you desire to master, the habit you desire to have or the business you desire to build.

So, I’m not going to tell you to go out and pursue success. No, my friend, I’ve learnt that the language to success is failing big and often. Falling flat on your face is a good thing.

My Spanish teachers hate me and are trying to ban me from coming back to the school because I speak the language horribly but I’m speaking it everyday, conversing with people and getting better.

The other day, I told the woman who tried to sell me a wallet that I wanted a $10 cordoba ($.50 US) discount because I didn’t want a plastic bag for the wallet. No, she didn’t give me a discount and no I didn’t buy the wallet but we both conversed without the dialogue turning too violent or her ripping me off.

Go on now – go FAIL at something. Keep failing your way to success.

Do you agree about failing being the recipe for success? Do you love to fail or do you embrace failing like a shark in an aquarium?

P.S. Can you do me a favor and share this article with the patrons at the pub you’re reading this post at? Or via social media, if easier. Cheers!

Let’s get this party started – my 7 favorite spiritual songs.

Even if you have no interest whatsoever in spirituality, religion, faith or this blog, you’re probably a fan of music.  Well, how ’bout spiritual tunes that can stir your heart and awaken your soul?

Music can be a big part of anyone’s spiritual practice. Having grown up in a Hindu household, I regularly awakened to hot devotional tracks  with shout-outs to every Hindu God that existed (more than 20,000 it felt like) and spent Sunday mornings singing group devotional songs called bhajans.

Some call spiritual music the universal language of God; a way to invoke the divine in our practice. (Others of you might call music a must-have for building up any modern-day, main-stream cult but that’s a conversation for another day)

So, what are my favorite spiritual songs?

Here’s a list of my top 7:

1) Familiar with the Gayatri mantra? If you’re not Hindu, probably not. If you are, you’re probably sick of hearing this chant. But how could you be? This particular Hindu mantra recited by millions of people at sunrise and sunset around the world is a divine recitation straight out of the Rig Vedas of ancient times. Set to catchy music in this video, this mantra praises the divine creator in the world and asks for enlightenment. Who can ask for more, yo?

I’ve known people who have told me that reciting this mantra has brought miracles into their lives. Check out the song and let me know what you think.

2. Who isn’t moved by the magnificence of Amazing Grace? Basically the spiritual story of an Englishman, John Newton, this hymn has been a strong part of our culture in the United States from the time of the country’s founding. Newton was an obscene sailor living an irreverent life ‘til one day he found himself in the midst of a terrible storm. His spiritual conversion started right there on that rocky ship and produced this beautiful hymn later in his life. Here’s a rendition from child gospel singer, Rhema Marvane:

3. Ave Maria is a Catholic prayer, based on the Gospel of St. Luke. Here’s a wonderful rendition of this Catholic hymn dedicated to the Virgin Mary, by Mirusia:

4.  Swing Low Sweet Charriot is an African-American spiritual with references to the underground railroad, which helped free thousands of slaves in the United States. It’s a deeply moving and spiritual song.

5. Om Namah Sivaya  is a Hindu mantra praising Lord Siva, the powerful Hindu God know to destroy evil spirits. Siva  is as big as it gets in the Hindu faith and most temples have a shrine dedicated to this powerful God. Enjoy this devotional tune dedicate to the all-powerful Lord Siva:

6. Oseh Salom was a song I had never heard previously until I came across it in the CD to the spiritual tome, Spirituality for Dummies.  Sharon Janis has put together a terrific collection of songs bound to get spiritually inspired. Oseh Salom is a beautiful song praying for peace and wholeness.

7. Finally, Creere, by Tercer Cielo is a song I’ve fallen in love with in my travels in Central America. A tour guide introduced me to this song on his Ipod, as one of his favorite’s, while on a hike in the heart of the La Amistad International Park tropical rainforest. It translates to “I will believe” and is an inspirational song about believing in yourself when the doors are closed and going forward in life even when you feel like you can’t.

For my book on spirituality and resiliency, Is God Listening?, click here. 

What in God’s name is church-hopping and why you should get in on the action?

The spiritually-buzzing landscape of Granada, Nicaragua

“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.” Khalil Gibran

Have you rolled out of bed after a night of bar-hopping to a merciless hangover? Yes, a head-throbbing headache, vomit, unquenching thirst and not knowing where the hell you are or what happened the night before?

 

Now, can you imagine a morning filled with strength, hope, peace and enlightenment?

You’re kidding right?

No, my friend, I’m talking about church-hopping and no better place to have discovered this activity than the colonial, spiritual city of Granada.

The city of Granada, Nicaragua stands out for it’s colonial architecture, historical heritage and yes, beautiful churches! I’ve found this to be an extremely spiritual city as well.

Not only is the landscape filled with sacred churches, (I walk past exactly 5 each day to Spanish class) but the people here emit a kind of spiritual vibrancy.

What’s a church-hopper?

If you hopped bars on a Saturday night, you’re a bar-hopper, but what if you hop through churches instead?

I’m going to call you a church hopper if you frequent churches, temples, and places of worship like you do your favorite watering hole.

Church hoppers maybe religious-junkies, spirituality-addicts or you’re probably thinking, lost souls who are going to spend their afterlife in a very hot place.

I would classify church-hoppers as people who frequent religious establishments as a religious or spiritual practice. People who realize that God’s everywhere and no religion has a monopoly on God; that God can be found in all places of worship.

Why church hop?

Having grown up in a Hindu household, I now do religion like you do all-you-can-eat buffets. Hinduism teaches us that there’s only one truth (or God) (or entree as the case may be) but many paths (religious or spiritual practices) to help get us there.

Since there are no Hindu temples here, I have no problem visiting and worshiping in some of the sacred churches of Granada.

In fact, I drop into one or two a day for a little prayer, reflection and meditation. A brief visit to one of the area church’s can give you a little boost of energy for the day, peace of mind and awareness. A little prayer in life, I’ve always found, to instill hope, strength and wisdom into my life.

As a church-hopper, you also get the variety of different religious practices and traditions. Church-hopping shakes up your regular worship routine.

Is this for real Vishnu or are you smoking some ganja in the Nicaraguan barrio?

Listen friends, this isn’t for everyone. If you believe that only your faith or religion has the true connection to God, then by all means attend your church. If you belong to an organization which demands absolute loyalty, a uniform and compound to live, by all means stay 🙂

I’m not advocating this as a path for everyone but if you’re thinking it’s time to give religion a go again, time to try a different religious or spiritual path or just want to get a feel of another religious establishment, then by all means go for it.

This can be a spiritual, cultural and travel adventure of sorts if you’d like! Plus, this is absolutely free and at many Eastern temples and places of worship, you get fed!!! (That’s probably half the reason I’m considering converting to Sikhism)

And come on – worshiping in someone else’s church or temple doesn’t simply mean you’re abandoning your beliefs, faith and traditions. I take it to mean that you’re so confident in your faith that you have no problem worshiping outside of tradition and your comfort zone.

Vishnu, are you going to hell?

In some folks eyes, this could seem as complete heresy, blasphemy and a one way ticket to hell.

But I’m three steps ahead of you. One, I’m increasing my odds of getting to heaven by spreading my risk – there’s less chance I’m embracing the wrong religion if I embrace them all. In fact, I’m probably increasing my chances of escaping hell and making it to heaven.

And if all else fails, as a Hindu, I’m just going to embrace the theory of reincarnation and plan to return in my next life to figure this one out.

Now before you head over to the comments and start giving me a earful, let me use these Nicaraguan church photos as a way to distract you.

Enjoy!

Cathedral church, across from Central Park
Iglesia Xalteva - the church closest to home.
You can find the Virgin of Guadalupe in all churches here.
Don't worry - plenty of room for you.

If you enjoyed those photos, check out this video I captured for you last night of the spiritual vibrancy here. It’s a street parade & celebration of a revered nun in Nicaragua.

What do you think? And I  especially want to hear from the militant religious-type fanatics out there:) Is church-hopping absolutely ridiculous or can worshiping in any religious establishment be ok?

6 Reasons Spirituality Is an Offer You Can’t Refuse

Do you want to look ravishing, land a leading actress role in Hollywood, snag your own reality TV show and sport a Mercedes?

Getting spiritual won’t help you achieve any of those things.

HOLD ON there paisano! Before you flip the channel, hear me out…

What CAN spirituality do for you? (let me make you an offer you can’t refuse on getting spiritual – in addition to the free makeup kit and hairbrush, of course)

Hustling spirituality in your life will have you to start asking some deeper questions about meaning and purpose. It might question your desire for the fancy car and reality TV show in the first place. Living from a spiritual place will bring about a re-examination of your desires and intentions.

Getting spiritual will also help enhance your life in these 6 ways:

1) Reduce suffering from indigestion, anxiety, stress or jet lag.

Ok, I don’t know about jet lag which you mostly get from flying across time zones but connecting with your inner self can help you dramatically reduce or alleviate some of your life’s stresses.  Seizing a spiritual practice can make you less anxious, reduce your blood pressure and lead to a calmer and more balanced life.

2) Control your mind like a lion tamer.

By the time you’ve devoured this post or glanced at this sentence, probably a hundred thoughts have gone through your head. Your mind is like a rabbit in search of a carrot . Or a lion about to eat it’s tamer:) It’s frantic and wild (and is jaw-crushingly strong) – how do you tame your mind?

Start a mindfulness practice to calm your mind. If you calm your mind like a lion tamer tames his cat, you will achieve more awareness, clarity and can become more effective  in life’s daily activities.  I’ve found having a tame mind helps stop procrastination, increases focus and helps you achieve goals. My friend Sandra has provided you with 10 essential tips to tame a wild mind here.

3) Open your heart.

Spirituality has been known to put you in sync you with the world. If you start thinking the world around you is a part of you, you’ll be acting from a place of connectedness, abundance and love. And when you operate from such a divine place, all positive things and infinite possibilities start opening up in your life.

Spirituality can open the heart of the most rushed Mom, stressed professional or entrepreneur.  Once you start operating from an open heart, you’ll find love, kindness, empathy and compassion pour  forth.

4) Clarity in your life.

Oh, yeah – you’ll start having profound life revelations. Material and trivial things begin to fall away from what actually matters. Prada purses and fancy sports cars lose their meaning in and of themselves. You may have thought your purpose in life was to be the divine Goddess to all men but you might realize that the purpose for your life is to be simply divine.

With clarity, you’ll find purpose.

You’ll bail out of professions that don’t suit your soul or fulfill your purpose, and start tackling work that does. You’ll stop wasting time and procrastinating because you’ll become inspired with your life. Clarity is a beautiful thing!

5) Being content.

You might be living a life of lack and unhappiness because you don’t have the perfect mate, house or car. You’re running frantically trying to achieve a dream, goal or fulfill an expectation of you.

Getting spiritual will help you realize that you don’t need to fulfill a single damn goal or dream to be happy. You’ll also realize contentment in the place you are in life for the the things you do have. If you’re content with what you have and grateful for it, you’ll be rocking a life filled with abundance. Spiritual teachers of new and old also teach us that being in alignment with abundance will bring forth everything that you’ve ever needed or wanted.

6) Having the universal laws work with you, instead of against you.

Does everything feel like it’s working against you? You want bullet it home and find yourself in a hellish LA rush hour! You pain-stakingly sign up to take that horrendous architectural exam to find out it’s being offered in a different city. On a different %(&#%@$* continent! You want to marry Giovanni but find out he already is!!

Whenever I’ve noticed that things go bonkers in my life, I’ve noticed it’s because I’m not in sync with the universe and stopped pursuing my spiritual practice momentarily.

When you are in sync with the universal laws, things just start to shift. Opportunities come your way, obstacles get removed and life becomes magical. Traffic jams disappear as God himself intervenes to get cars off the 405 (in Los Angeles)!

I hate you, blogger-dude. Or what if you’re already spiritual?

Oh, I get it – you were born at Woodstock, grew up going to Sunday school or spent your college years being a Hare Krishna.  You drink organic chai, visit church on Christmas and do yoga. You’ve got spirituality locked up.

Well here’s the deal – practice allows you to be more conscious of and grasp your spirituality more. “In the spiritual realm, it is not that practice makes perfect so much as that spiritual practices reveal your perfection” according to Kumuda, aka Sharon Janis, in the sacred Spirituality for Dummies.

“If you’re a multi-billionaire but you don’t know it, you may find yourself living like a pauper instead of in luxury. Similarly, if you don’t know that you’re an express of divine universal spirit, you may think that you’re just a world-entrenched person living in spiritual poverty” Janis tell us in her spiritual guide.

So even if you think you’re spiritual, spirituality is something that can be perpetually refined. You have to practice spirituality to realize your perfection. It’s not just reading a Deepak Chopra classic the next time you hop on a flight. Spirituality, like dating and diets takes work.

If you’re spiritual, what are your practices and what benefits have you received?  If you run from spirituality like you’ve just seen a 7 headed-monster, why?

To pick up my book, Is God Listening, about spirituality and resilience, click here

5 ways to live life shaken, not stirred. (Part 2)

Are you shaking things up?

“If you could pick one rule to experience amazing things, I suggest: If it feels uncomfortable then you’re doing something right. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing.” Scott Dinsmore

Are you living a comfortable life?

A life that’s within your comfort zone? A life without much variety or challenge?

Is life becoming boring, monotonous and preventing you from growing further.

Why shake up your life?

I wrote my last post on why to shake up your life on purpose and encouraged you to get out of your comfort zone and take more risks. To take on more challenges and try more uncomfortable things.

One reason I suggested to purposefully shake up your life is to help you embrace the impermanent nature of things and changes that life brings your way.

In addition to embracing change, shaking up your life can inspire further self-development and growth. As my friend Adrienne says, having an adventure allows us to discover more about the world, each other, and ourselves.

As Live Off Your Passion author, Scott Dinsmore, says, “It takes courage to try new things. It takes courage to blaze your own trail.The crowd lives in comfort. An extraordinary life thrives in testing the limit.”

Shaking up your life and getting out of your comfort zone can also be fun, exciting and challenging all at the same time.

5 ways to live a life shaken, not stirred. How to take action and challenge yourself.

1. Determine why you want to shake up your life.

You can shake up your life due to simple boredom and blandness.

You can also do it to challenge yourself, overcome a fear, take on new challenges and grow as a person.

For example, you may be terrified of traveling alone and being uncomfortable outside of the city you live in and the language you know. So travel to overcome your fear.

You may be a terrible dancer because yo were never taught. Take lessons to show yourself you can improve and master a skill.

You hate writing because it requires you to express yourself. Start blogging so you can overcome your reservations.

Don’t have a midlife crisis or go jumping out of airplanes for no reason. Know why you’re shaking things up in your life.

2. Choose activities outside your comfort zone.

The idea here is to challenge yourself and grow as a person.

If you do activities that you’re already doing, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to grow and develop.

If you love meeting people, you’re not challenging yourself by ‘forcing’ yourself to the company party.

If you practice silence every day of your life because of monastery rules, being silent out in public is no big deal.

If you think about an activity and it makes you feel uncertain, anxious, fearful or uncomfortable, that’s the activity you should pursue.

As Ali Luke suggests, the question to ask yourself is, “what makes you nervous” in life? Those are the things to do in order to test your comfort level and challenge yourself.

3. Do your research.

I decided to leave a comfortable job, friends and a place I was becoming comfortable with. A year before I did so, I started doing research.

I found out how much it would take financially to take a work “sabbatical”. I calculated how much it would take to live in different parts of Central and South America. I researched the various countries I was going to travel to and prioritized them

With the power of the internet, you can research anything today. No matter what it is. From starting an online bookstore to selling tea online, to traveling the world or pursuing an acting dream. There are bloggers, writers, and experts in the field showing you how to do what you want to do. Find out how much things cost, and evaluate the pros and cons before you shake up your life.

4. Plan ahead.

Before you leave for an around the world journey or try to become enlightened or launch your music career, have a plan.

Just like doing your research, a plan is important for your journey to shake up your life. If you don’t have a general idea of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, you’re not going to get very far.

Figure out how many months or years you’re going to pursue your project or passion. Figure out how you’re going to get around and what kind of transport you’ll use.

If you’re going to need the support of friends and family, know when and who to ask.

If you’re going to move to become a ninja, you have to figure out how to save up to get to Japan, find a dojo and master you skill.

If you’re going to start a web design freelance business by returning to the motherland, the Philippines of course, have a plan on how you’re going to deal with the challenges of moving back and working there.

For me, it took planning but that’s why I can now share these Nicaraguan pics with you:)

A view of the city of Granada
A fountain in a lovely garden.
Colorful streets of Granada, Nicaragua

5. Evaluate your progress.

Once you start your journey to shake up your life, evaluate your progress regularly. If you set out to overcome a fear or grow as a person, check in and see how you’re doing.

Are you getting more comfortable in your adventure or less?

If you’ve nailed it and successfully become the person you wanted to be or overcame the obstacle you were facing, maybe it’s time to shake up some of the other areas in your life.

Consciously monitor the progress of your new activities and see if it’s making an improvement in your life and helping you become the person you’d like to be.

If you are the new ‘you’, great! If you’re not and you’re spending a lot of time on it, it could be time to move on.

Here are a few folks I know who have shaken up their lives in different ways:

♦ Janet quit her job and move to the Philippines to start her own online freelance business.
Amy is a personal trainer who regularly challenges her clients to get out of their comfort zone with working out and life.
Wendy Irene strives to live a life of wellness and took on the Gunnar challenge, witth her husband, to lose weight.
Irving, or the wise Vizier, has embraced change in his life and blogs about the many lessons life’s taught him on his blog, Han of Harmony.
Penelope left the city, married a farmer and is raising two kids on a farm, while writing, blogging and helping young professionals manage their careers.
Milo, Therese and Izzy quit their jobs. Milo is now an international man  of copy and is trying to dominate the world . Therese helps you get unlost in life so you find your career path and Izzy is going to become a ninja.  (laugh at your own peril here)
Lori runs an engaging community blog and made a leap to publish her own e-book on kindle without going through traditional publishing channels.
Keith  started his own blog recently and is about to break some habits. (and takes us along for the ride)
Caroline, Meg, David & Maria are each shaking it up by traveling, taking on life and blogging about it.
Razwana has made a couple major job changes to London, then Paris and started a blog to help others find their ideal jobs.

Have you shaken up your life by doing something new, challenging or different? Please share your experiences in the comments below and what steps you took to shake things up.

Sharks, surfing instructors, a guest post on Everyday Gyaan and Muir Woods

Be careful when you scream 'shark'!

Hi there virtuous people!

Just a quick post to let you know about my guest post at Everyday Gyaan.

Have you falsely yelled “shark” when taking surfing lessons and had beach police show up? NO?

Oh, never mind. Please do read the guest post anyway as it’s about how to remain calm like the ocean floor when life confronts you with killer waves and challenges.

Thank you so much to my new blogger friend, inspirational writer and life coach, Corrine, for the opportunity to guest post on her wonderful blog, Everyday Gyaan.

Attention all tree-lovers and tree-huggers – enchanting Muir Woods photos!

Although I’m in Costa Rica at the moment and soon heading to Nicaragua, I did want to share some photos with you of a spiritual paradise  in Northern California.

Although I grew up in Northern California, I didn’t spend as much time in this place as I should have until recently. Muir Woods is a sanctuary for the ancient redwood trees. These trees are majestic. Did you know they can grow up to 379 feet tall and they are 2000+ years old? The tallest tree at Muir Woods is 252 feet, 1000 years old and 14 feet wide.

These trees flourish in California’s fog belt where the summer fog supplies the necessary moisture for these redwoods to thrive in California. The next time you’re in the San Francisco area, head over 12 miles north of the Golden Gate bridge to Muir Woods and pay homage to this cathedral of redwoods.

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness” conservationist John Muir.

Some photos from my recent Muir Woods trip: