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How I Went in Search of Myself and Found Jesus Instead

How I Went in Search of Myself and Found Jesus Instead

found Jesus

Note to readers: I respect all religions and love all people. This post is my personal experience I wanted to share with you, not a topic I’ll be writing about regularly.

I grew up a Hindu, visiting temples regularly, praying at home daily and attending my two weekly Hinduism-based religious classes, called Bala Vihar, on Friday nights and Sunday mornings.

Like many Indians in the U.S., I remember attending pujas and kirtans at homes of friends and family. The devotional singing and fellowship included chanting, prayer and always food – plenty of delicious, homemade Indian food.

The earliest memories I have of Jesus involved my parents attending Christmas Eve Mass when I was a kid.

No, we weren’t Christian, but my parents’ attempts to receive blessings from all divine entities led them to pay tribute to Jesus annually.

They had grown up attending Catholic schools and didn’t feel out of place in a church.

I also wasn’t surprised when we went to relatives’ homes and saw depictions of Jesus on the cross or the Virgin Mary in their prayer rooms.

No one in our family ever questioned or expressed anything critical about Christianity – except me.

Believe it or not, writing Vishnu’s Virtues while growing up (ha ha, yes, this has been around a lot longer than you think, as I wrote it for a family newsletter), I was the one who questioned Christianity more than anyone else.

(What do you mean, “Who has a family newsletter?” That isn’t normal??)

Some of my articles for the family newsletter questioned the evangelical practices of Christians and the over-zealousness of Christian missionaries.

Other than that, I had no beef with Christianity.

And I recall this particular verse from the Bible, which stood out for me as a teenager after I read it in a news magazine:

“For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Matthew 16:26 (King James version)

I reflected upon that quote from time to time as I began college in San Diego. While in college, I found the Hindu temple more inconvenient to reach than the local Self Realization Fellowship (SRF), which Paramahansa Yogananda had founded. I became acquainted with SRF when I read Yogananda’s spiritual and inspirational memoir, Autobiography of a Yogi.

The spiritual book about Yogananda’s life, plus the proximity of the SRF temple, led me to attend weekly sessions there in Encinitas. I became more interested in spirituality during this time because I found the university experience a struggle. I think that being away from most of my family for the first time and not fitting into a university filled with science-oriented, competitive students pushed me to seek meaning and fulfillment elsewhere.

I attended services once a week at SRF, where I regularly saw images of several gurus at the devotional alter. Not only did I see photos of Yogananda and his spiritual masters, I also saw that of the Hindu Lord Krishna – and, yes, even Jesus.

Throughout the years, I practiced SRF meditations and followed weekly at-home study lessons, but never felt a real connection to SRF. For three years, I tried to meditate, focus on the third eye and take up Kriya yoga-inspired teachings, but ultimately moved on from SRF.

Later, while married, I attended temples occasionally and prayed at home in my own makeshift prayer room. And because I enjoyed the music and worship so much, I created my own tradition of attending Christmas Eve Mass.

My journey to Jesus


Fast forward a few years to when my marriage started falling apart. I, like many millions of Americans, tuned in to Joel Osteen’s Sunday sermons.

I’m a tiny bit embarrassed to admit that Joel Osteen was the person who inspired my journey to Christianity, but I think his Christianity-light approach and heavy focus on practical application of spiritual principles in everyday life is why I tuned in.

I watched him religiously for a year after my separation, relying on his messages of hope and redemption more than his message of Jesus.

Joel Osteen didn’t necessarily lead me to Jesus but he did incite curiosity in me. He mentioned Bible passages that I looked up and became familiar with.

A few months after my divorce, I decided to travel and visit friends who had moved to Costa Rica. After a relaxing month visiting, seeing the country and enjoying the most scrumptious organic vegetarian food, I decided to brush up on the mediocre Spanish I had learned over the years.

I was hoping to study in Ecuador, but found this idea logistically difficult, as I would have to cross the Panama Canal. Instead I opted for Nicaragua, which was north of me. I did some research and picked the city of Granada, where I would attend a few weeks of Spanish school.

I had no idea what Nicaragua held for me but once I reached the capital city of Granada, I felt right at home. I fell in love instantly with this devout town that preserved much of its history and contained some of the most magnificent Catholic churches I had ever seen. I recall at least six churches that I had to walk by daily to get from my host family’s home to Spanish class.

Every day, I would stop into a different church to pray. Yes, it may have been unusual for a non-Catholic to drop into a Catholic church and pray, but, once again, with my Hindu upbringing (i.e., all religions are the same and all paths lead to one truth), I didn’t hesitate to do so.

I found out about the noon Masses, which started right after classes ended for the day. Later, I found an evening Mass that gave me another excuse to roam the town. For a good six weeks, this is how I spent my days: Spanish classes and then Mass twice a day.

I loved the churches because they had such a sacred vibe. And I felt that I could take solace in the Virgin Mary, who appeared in every church in town. At that point in my life, I found the Virgin Mother to be healing, compassionate and interested in all my prayers.


I prayed to Mary, I prayed to Jesus and I often tried to pray whatever prayers the Spanish-speaking clergy were reciting. I was lost among the advanced Spanish that the congregation spoke at Sunday morning Masses but was enamored with the Nicaraguan people and the amount of devotion I saw at the churches there. The people’s faith and devotion inspired me to show up more often and pray ever more deeply.

I was in Nicaragua and visiting churches during the most painful and confusing time in my life. I was ill-prepared to deal with the changes I was facing and I felt my life was spiraling out of control.

My pain and sorrow brought me to the church’s pews.

I prayed to end the suffering and pain. I prayed for healing and I prayed for understanding. I prayed for direction, forgiveness and compassion.

My Nicaraguan Catholic church experience led me back to California, where I was open to attending church services. When I moved to Southern California, a friend, who I will be forever grateful to, invited me to his non-Catholic church service at the Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills.

I started attending regular Wednesday evening worship and Sunday morning sermons. I loved the music worship and the celebration of Jesus in the church. I ate up the weekly sermons and the powerful message of love, forgiveness and salvation.

I read more about Jesus and his life story. His simple life and his bold call to surrender our lives to Him inspired me. Many of the lessons in the Bible about love, humility and forgiveness resonated deeply. I saw how much Jesus suffered as he tried to spread the word of God and the way in which he paid the ultimate price for others – with his life.

In Christ, I saw that I could start anew. I could give up the life I had been living: a life that was spiritually void and in which human frailties and shortcomings abounded. A life filled with mistakes, confusion and worldly pursuits. A life spinning out of control, without much direction or purpose.

The Bible became my solace and comfort.

The Psalms changed my life.

Every word of the Psalms, like Psalm 23, jumped off the page and blanketed me with hope and newfound peace.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me
.” (Psalm 23, 1-4)

While the word of God was convicting me and Jesus was blessing me, I wasn’t so hot on some of the political issues that the church was in the news for. When the pastors spoke of the sin of homosexuality or the sin of abortion, I shuddered.

These teachings contradict my personal views toward equality and women’s freedom.

In spite of these teachings, I continued attending church for some time, and also found myself, by simple circumstance, living with a Christian housemate who had weekly devotional meetings at his home.

You get the picture here: church twice a week and fellowship on Friday evenings in my living room!

The first home fellowship I attended was the most significant and life-changing one for me.

I didn’t have to walk very far, as I attended the meeting in our living room.

I wolfed down the delicious food and the soulful devotional music that the worshippers enjoyed after our meal. The shared group readings of Bible passages were also uplifting.

I felt great as the service ended and reflected that, here it was, my birthday, May 2013, and I was celebrating it with uplifting fellowship and praise of God.

Toward the end of the evening things became slightly uncomfortable – and my life changed.

As we finished the final reading and were about to call it a night, one of the attendees who had just met me asked openly if I had accepted Jesus into my life.

Imagine a joyful and noisy room halting to pin-drop silence as all eyes focused on me.

I had about 0.2 seconds to think about this question, which I had no answer to. I thought about it for a quick half second, weighed the pros and cons of my answers, reflected upon the wonderful food I’d eaten and the lovely evening I had enjoyed and went with – “yes”!

“Yes, I had accepted Jesus into my life.”

“I had?” I asked myself moments later.

Over the next few days, I reflected upon my proclamation. Had I accepted Jesus simply because of a vegetable stir-fry, chocolate cake and an evening of devotional music?

Had I sold my soul to Christ for a little food and fellowship?

And that’s what led to the next 10 days of my life, when the most joyous feelings slowly overcame me. I was excited about something, and felt like getting out of bed regularly and jumping up and down. (I literally did that several times in the week that followed.) I saw the good in everyone, felt happy all the time and thought the world was miraculous.

I’m not a heavy drinker and I don’t use drugs (no matter what you think!), so I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I began to tune in more acutely to that feeling. After church a few days later, and after consulting a friend with whom I was reading The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, I came to the conclusion that, Holy Christ, I was a believer.

The Holy Spirit had seeped into my life and I had, in fact, accepted Christ. It began, I concluded, after I publicly accepted Jesus.

Throughout the next year, I continued attending church, reading the Bible daily and praying regularly. The idea of being a Christian seemed normal and fitting to me, although I had no idea how I would explain it to anyone who knew me.

Outside of my small circle of friends, I hadn’t told many people that I had become a Christian, and definitely did not talk about it here on the blog.

I find it a little ironic that one of the reasons I started blogging was to share spiritual truths and examine spiritual matters, but more from an Eastern perspective and philosophy.

I was on a spiritual journey to myself and wanted to share the discoveries I was making about that journey. What was the difference between the different kinds of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita? What did enlightenment or nirvana mean? What was presence and mindfulness all about?

Instead, here’s where I am today: a Christian.

Exactly one year after my first experience with the Holy Spirit, I experienced it again before my trip to visit family in 2014. I felt the spiritual vibrancy and joy of the Holy Spirit for another 10-day period, which led me to speak to a pastor so that I could make sure I was okay and shouldn’t get checked out (mentally, I mean).

I felt it was a confirmation from God that I was, in fact, on the right path and that what had happened a year earlier was no fluke or wild flight of imagination.

To top things off and really take the plunge, this happened in October 2014, as I marked my journey to Christianity.


Yes, I was baptized in holy water a small swimming pool at church. I accepted Jesus and publicly declared my inward faith.

How do I feel about the whole experience?

I feel like all of this happened without me really wanting it to happen.

I didn’t set out to become a Christian and I’m probably just as surprised to tell this story as anyone who’s reading it.

Maybe I was seeking Jesus for comfort and faith, but I sure wasn’t seeking Christianity.

Also, I’m not sure how this whole thing will go over with my Hindu family. It’s a devout Hindu family that has started temples in Malaysia. My grandfather led efforts to build the only temple in town more than 50 years ago. Ten years back, my dad built the second one in the town I was born in.

And I’m not sure how the Bible will fit into my political and social beliefs. I’ve not had any major change of heart about equality for all people or women’s freedom. My personal beliefs remain contrary to church doctrine and the Bible.

I don’t know the answer to these questions.

All I  know is that I’ve accepted Christ into my life and felt a profound transformation.

I know that I had to share this story with you because I want to be completely honest and transparent with you.

This blog talks a lot about overcoming adversity and making comebacks in life. It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t tell you a big part of what changed my life and helped me get centered again. I wanted to share with you what helped carry me through my most difficult time.

 “One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints.
Other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life
When I was suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord, “You promised me, Lord,
That if I followed you, you would walk with me always.
But I noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
There have only been one set of prints in the sand.
Why, when I have needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints
Is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson

Thank you for reading, your friendship, support and understanding.

When did God become a dirty word? 7 ways God trumps cheap medication and the mafia.

When did God become a dirty word? 7 ways God trumps cheap medication and the mafia.

Is God Listening?

I've given up, people. Blogging now instead.

Imagine random strangers sauntering through your home at all times of the day and night to visit the temple-like prayer room.

If you’ve lived in such a home, you know you’re likely going to need a therapist later in life, join a monastic order or become a spirituality blogger.

And no, not for a second as a teenager did I think it was odd to have strangers and friends seek the blessings of our 3-foot granite elephant God statue, housed in a make-shift prayer room.

Those who visited the friendly Lord Ganesha usually came seeking blessings, peace of mind and stock market insights.

Survey says…“Don’t talk about God!”

While I didn’t ultimately join a cult or spend many years in therapy, I did start a blog which focuses on improving your life and even occasionally mentions God here and there.

So imagine my surprise when I did a reader survey recently and received an overwhelming response from you reminding me that the last thing you wanted to hear about was…God.

You don’t want to read about it and many of us don’t want to even think about it!

And you almost can’t say the word “God” out loud in public places ‘cause people will think you’ve lost your mind.

We are more interested in a game of Angry Birds, Harry Potter novels, Miley Cyrus twerks, Kim Kardashian selfies and what the new royal baby, Prince George, is wearing today than anything to do with the ruler of the universe.

What we’re going to do during half-time of a football game has become more interesting than the afterlife.

Sunday football now trumps a day of devotion.

Instant messaging now replaces the rosary and prayer. Karaoke has replaced choir practice.

No doubt, God’s on the run. And there are some legitimate reasons for God’s disappearance from our everyday lives.

After looking at some of the many reasons for God’s absence from our lives, I’ll propose 7 reasons to consider allowing God back into yours.

A laundry list of reasons why God is less popular Vladmir Putin and bachelor Juan Pablo.

♠ Why would you ever want to worship a God whose many followers seem to be judgmental and carry around a holier-than-thou attitude? If God-worshippers are arrogant and ego-fueled, what can God really have to offer?

♠ You can see your new Android phone. You can see and heart the photos you post on Instagram. You can observe the many floats streaming down 6th Avenue in New York during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Unfortunately, you can’t SEE God. Not only can you not see God, the entity, but you don’t feel you have enough evidence of God’s existence.

♠ You’re frustrated, confused or just offended by the mumbo jumbo in religious texts. You’re weary of words like sin and salvation, atman and samsara, the Covenant and the Law, tawhid and wahid, flustered by the myriads of angels, prophets, and kings in the religious books.

♠ The ways of worship trouble you. You might disagree or be offended by various cultural and traditional practices for worshiping God around the world.

You find fire worship and chanting loony, prayer five times a day obsessive, or the practice of confession disconcerting, scary and giving you a feeling that you might do some jail time.

♠ The same reason you hated school and your parents while growing up: rules and commandments.

There doesn’t seem to be leeway.

The standards are just too high. Accepting God doesn’t seem to be enough.

If you make the wrong move, commit the wrong sin, or find yourself off course, you’ve bought a one-way ticket to hell, or you might be reincarnated as Charlie Sheen in your next life.

♠ Although God is accepting and open to all, you’re offended by the close-mindedness of it all.

If you drink, you’re not permitted to.

If you party, you’re told God doesn’t approve.

You’re condemned if you divorce, lie, steal, text and drive, or watch House of Cards.

You’re told what is tolerable and what will make you burn in hell for eternity.

♠ You’re terrified that religious folks are using God for their own social and political agendas, absolutely petrified that your life will be dictated by principles in holy books and dictates from one religion or the other. You see the religious fanatics in every country trying to dominate the political discourse and hijack civic life with religious legislation.

♠ God ruined your relationship, gifted you a mother-in-law from hell, forced you to become a lawyer, or made you live in Flint, Michigan!

God allows billions of people to go hungry, die in war and remain in abject poverty.

What kind of maniacal God would allow so much suffering?

You didn’t get the job you wanted, the man you desired, the home you had envisioned in your mind since you were six. Instead, your life has been filled with disappointments, failure and heartbreak.

♠ Scandal-ridden clergy members and controversial ministers who are hypocritical, abusive and showy.

Not cool.

The men and women who claim to serve God include cons, sex-hungry thieves and scandal-filled charlatans. They drive fast cars, pocket from the people they lead and flash bling like 50 Cent (the rapper, folks!).

Now, there may be a myriad of other reasons God is simply an afterthought in your life.

Why do YOU hate God?

Why do you treat God like a house guest who has overstayed her welcome? Hang up on God like a telemarketer calling at dinner time?

7 practical reasons to give God another go.  

You might hate God and hate me now for writing about God.

As I said, many of you who answered my survey told me not to talk about God whatsoever, and yet here comes this post about God.

Don’t worry, friends, I promise you’ll only see posts about God as many times as you’ll see X-Factor judge, Simon Cowell, being kind to a contestant (never), but a little more than how many days it rains each year in Southern California (twice).

What God can do for you that cheap medication and the mafia can’t.

Forget about all the reasons you’re resisting and keeping God away from your life.

Develop a relationship with God and you’ll experience these 7 benefits in your life. (Hey, it’s cheaper than feel-good meds and less dangerous than asking for a favor from a mob boss)

1)    Strength.

When life-crushing and soul-shaking experiences come into your life, how do you deal with it? Ok, after you put down the gin and rum, how do you deal with it?

Alcohol and medication can only help you cope for so long. When life is unusually cruel or throws you under the bus and runs over you a couple times, allow God to carry you through the difficulty.

You can share your sorrows, summon the strength to carry on and seek the counsel of God. 

It’s like your own personal psychologist without the insurance companies, therapist couch or condescending personality, similar to a trusted, loyal, uplifting and supremely helpful best friend.

2)    Meaning and fulfillment.

Have you pondered the meaning of life after a binge 50-episode Duck Dynasty marathon?

Or charged off on a holiday shopping spree to rival those of Victoria Beckham? All the while feeling like you’re caught up in a consumerist lifestyle which gives importance to material wealth and social status?

God allows you to find meaning and fulfillment in your life. You’ll realize that you yourself are enough. You’re divine! You don’t need to be anything or anyone else.

Your purpose now is to live a divinely-inspired life.

Cozying up to God can help you find fulfillment and purpose, including loving your neighbors, loving God more, serving others, or inspiring others to live more divinely-inspired lives.

3)    Humility.

You may think you’re smarter than Einstein, hipper than Jay-Z, more beautiful than Heidi Klum and more talented than Jessica Chastain, but you’re probably more likely living in a place where cannabis is legal.

Many religious traditions talk about being meek and humble. You may find that tough to do as our monster-like egos consume our lives.

Putting God in perspective allows you to surrender your ego to this omniscient, omnipresent entity.

The greater presence of God in your life permits you to be open to others, to temper that gigantic ego and to be a person of service.

4)    Peace of mind.

Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to travel life alone?

God’s available at a moment’s notice to listen and to be there for you.

You can conveniently unload life’s thorniest and weightiest problems on God.

All you have to say is, “God, I can’t handle this, give me the mental stability and emotional peace to deal with this challenge. Walk with, walk beside me, and help me through this one…”

5)    A practice of love and compassion.

Having a greater divine presence in your life allows you to see the divine in other people.

You can become a more loving person by becoming a more God-inspired person.

God doesn’t want to hurt anyone or see anyone suffer. God’s NOT a mafia boss or an angry ex-lover.

God is love and compassion. Seek more God in your life and you’ll find that you’re more loving and compassionate to others.

Interestingly, today’s religious fanatics are usually the worst at showing love to others.

If you, on the other hand, understand that everyone shares the same divinity as you, you can’t help but feel a kindred spirit with your friends and neighbors (and even your family)

6)    Hope in despair.

How will you wake up tomorrow?

How are you going to deal with your house being flooded, cancer, a divorce or a legal squabble?

With God, you have two kinds of hope. First, God promises that you’ll get through the rough patches and make it to a better day. You’ll have the strength and courage to face life’s most cruel trials.

God may not alleviate the situation as much as transform you to be more accepting and resilient in your life’s struggle.

God can inspire you to find solutions, seek resources and light that spark of creativity to change your circumstances.

The second way God can provide hope is by giving you comfort at the end of life.

Your trial run on earth can be rewarded with heaven, enlightenment, reincarnation or other eternal rewards.

7)    Community and fellowship. Although there are many complications you’ll encounter with religion, each tradition offers you a unique way to congregate and respect God.

Find a suitable religion, and leave ones that don’t resonate with your soul.

To deal with life’s trials and tribulations, God can help us through the dark alleys, but you can also benefit from the help of a congregation, church or temple community on a similar life path.

Most traditions of God-worship are communal and bring together a community of people.

Your co-worshipers can provide the additional courage, understanding and direction to help you through the ups and downs of life.

They’ll be there in the good times and the soul-wrenching ones.

I hope you’ll consider giving God another chance.

I hope you’ll even consider purchasing this book I wrote about God, Is God Listening? I wrote it 2 years ago, but just put it up for sale for your reading pleasure. Yes, you’ll laugh, cry and think about God differently.

Are you willing to give God another go? Or are you going to jump out the third-story window if you ever hear the word “God” again 🙂 ? Let me hear you in the comments below.

How to Light a Candle of Hope in your Darkest Hour

How to Light a Candle of Hope in your Darkest Hour

A flicker of hope

A flicker of hope

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu

When I was going through a breakup and divorce, my life was filled with darkness. The end of an eight year marriage, the pressures by our families to stay together and the pending divorce proceedings were overwhelming and soul-crushing.

A blogging friend of mine had been unemployed for a little more than a year. When she left her last job, she didn’t realize that the tanking economy would take her through a roller coaster period of unemployment. The mental and emotional pressures continued to build up month after month.

Another friend from college was diagnosed with breast cancer when she had just turned 34 years of age. With her father’s recent passing and her diagnosis, making it through each day was a struggle.

How do you persevere when your future looks bleak? How do you move forward when you feel like you can’t?

How do you cultivate hope at your life’s absolute lowest points?

When the path seems uncertain and the future dark, cultivate these ten states of mind and beliefs to persist in the darkness:

1. A belief in a better tomorrow. A conviction that what’s happening doesn’t have to always endure. Another day can bring new circumstances, new opportunities and new solutions to improve the situation you find yourself in.

You can’t fall back much farther when you’ve hit the depths of despair.

It can and it usually always does get better.

2. Keep going even when you’re uncertain about the future. One of the scariest feelings you confront is having an indeterminate sense about your future.

How do you ride your bike along an unknown path? How do you forge ahead when you can’t see where you’re going?

Even when you’re uncertain of the path and can’t see in the dark, keep moving forward knowing that you will have more clarity with each step.

You don’t have to know exactly what the future brings, but know that you have more control in what can happen than what occurred in the past.

Trust your intuition and double down on hope knowing that you’ll see glimmers of light and direction soon.

3. Don’t allow roadblocks to halt your journey. As you move forward, you will stumble upon more bumps in the road: obstacles, setbacks and delays.

You can allow these roadblocks to get in the way or you can be determined to move past them and accelerate.

Think of roadblocks as pebbles in your path that can be cleared instead of unmovable boulders that paralyze you.

There is a solution to every obstacle you face. Often, it just takes creativity and persistence to prevail.

4.Life lessons are teachers. Being hopeful means using the problems and challenges which confront you in a positive way.

Each difficulty and obstruction can reveal something to help improve your life.

What is the wisdom that’s contained in the obstacle confronting you?

There is always a lesson there. Your job is to simply find it.

Don’t ask, “why me” or “why did this happen”. Instead, ask: what can I learn from this today?

5.Pain transforms. If you’re going through a throbbing life event that is tearing at your heart and soul, be aware of the tenderness and hurt.

Once again, there are many lessons and insights your life’s most painful events can teach you.

Once you can acknowledge the pain, allow hope to alter the pain into a gift that can be used for the next steps in your life.

If you can view your pain as a gift of steadfastness and strength, you’ll be better prepared for all the current and future hitches you’ll confront in your life.

6.Keep hope thriving. It’s easy to want to give up or throw your hands in desperation. Especially when your pain is protracted or the difficulty is too excruciating to handle.

Even in the darkest of hours, allow hope to lead. Progress ahead. Know that persistence will have its reward. Be open to the idea that circumstances will improve.

Your day will come if you can make it through the unknown and demanding stretches. Those who persist, usually prevail.

Focus on all the positive possibilities.

Just because the current situation worsened doesn’t mean you have no control over the final outcome. Know that you can take action to change the outcome.

Hope demands that you surge onward and keep believing in a better tomorrow even in the most agonizing circumstances.

7. Keep taking small steps forward. Having hope doesn’t mean you simply sit back with an intention of a better tomorrow.

Hope is cultivated through action.

To improve your tomorrow, you must take small steps toward improving the situation today.

Brainstorm ideas with friends and families. Explore options. Seek help and advice. Set the problem aside for some time and come back to it later. Seek inspiration from mentors.

8. Allow for inner growth and development. You may not be able to control what’s happening outside of you, but trying circumstances will help strengthen your inner resolve.

Challenges will help you rely on your ability to persist and develop characteristics in yourself you never know you had.

External circumstances help chip away at the rougher edges of your personality and help you connect with your true self.

When life shakes you up, allow for your truth to be heard, your inner core to be strengthened and for character building.

There is no better time to acknowledge the skeletons in the closet and come to terms with them.

Allow adversity to strength you.

9. Hope is letting go. You can’t control every situation and circumstance.

Hope also means you have to let go and allow circumstances to work out on their own, after you’ve done your part.

It’s releasing expectations of a specific result or demand.

The serenity prayer reminds us that wisdom is knowing the difference between accepting the things that we cannot change and the courage to change the things we can.

Hope is anticipating the best when you have no control over what transpires next.

10.Hope wins. Hope is realizing that many have prevailed with hope.

Hope taught me that with each passing day, my life can transform from sorrow to joy, from pain to wisdom and from loss to clarity.

I could wake up again and see a brighter day – divorce was certainly not the end of the world.

My blogger buddy found work in a more desirable city, closer to her family and with more pay.

My friend from college became cancer-free, changed her perspective on life and is now filled with gratitude for all the small things life has to offer.

Even when circumstances don’t unfold in your favor, the lessons you’ll learn and your inner resolve will create a stronger and more fearless you.

Even when trying circumstances persist and challenge you, rely on hope to make it through the rough days.

Let hope be the lantern you carry to shine the light on the path to a better tomorrow.

* Photo credit @killerturnip

Has hope gotten you through some rough patches in your life? When do you cling onto hope and when do you throw in the towel? Anything I missed on living a life filled with hope? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

How to Confront Hate.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I recall one year when I was close to Yuba City, California, I journeyed to an event called, Nagar Kirtan. Imagine the most colorful carnival-like event in your life with the most delicious home-cooked Indian delicacies. Yes, free food!

I kept waiting for a cashier to pop up from nowhere with the lunch tab or security to hall me away to wash dishes for the next 12 years of my life.

Instead, I received hot chapathis, paneer, dahl, and other mouth-watering Indian sweets and delicacies. There were dozens of booths set up and each and every one of them were filled with joyous Sikhs distributing better food than most Indian restaurants I’ve eaten at.

“Am I still alive?” I asked myself. “Is this heaven?”

The fact the Sikhs have mastered the art of Bhangra dancing and the free food at their holy events made me want to convert to this religion on the spot.

Are you suggesting I’m a counterfeit for wanting to jump religions for music and food? How dare you!

Now, what the hell does this have to do with hate?

Nothing really.

It’s one reason that I LOVE this religion, its people and everything Sikh. Scrumptious food and dancing aside, Sikhs live their faith everyday of their lives, serve generously in every community they live in and are committed to the equality of all people.

Imagine now, being a Sikh man taking a leisurely walk in your Harlem neighborhood after dropping off your wife and 1 year old son at home. Imagine being surrounded by a group of rowdy and misguided youth attacking you for believing you were Muslim, Osama bin Ladin, or a terrorist, simply because you were wearing a turban and had a beard.

This is the violence that was perpetrated upon Columbia professor and physician, Prabhjot Singh, last week.

This case isn’t far from the norm. Sikhs in the United States continue to suffer the misplaced hatred aimed at Osama bin Laden.  Incidences like the one which impacted Dr. Prabhjot Singh are much too common all over the United States. Sikhs continue to be harassed, racially profiled, bullied and physically attacked all over the country.

For simply practicing their faith; not cutting their hair, wearing a turban, carrying the kirpan (a small ceremonial sword).

Each one of these incidents towards people practicing their faith disturbs me to the very core. While those who devoutly follow their path seek the highest ideals of their faith, worship God and embrace love, they are bullied and harmed for no reason other than ignorance.

How do we stop the violence and hate against people practicing their faith?

Here are 10 ways to reduce hate in the world.

1) We can continue to educate ourselves and the general public more about the principles of faith of other religions, including religious diversity training when talking about bullying in schools. Please take a few minutes to learn more about the Sikh faith in the video I share above. (A follow up video is here)

2) Continue to monitor, track and compile statistics of hate crimes so policy makers can make informed decisions about the allocation of resources and priorities.

3) Love more. Much of the threats posed by racism stem from hatred and fear. We can each individually continue to live our own lives from a place of love, than fear.  You can give more of yourself to others in service. When you radiate love in the world, it is harder for hate to thrive.

4) Practice your own religious traditions more faithfully. It doesn’t matter what faith you are but practicing your faith more will help you practice more kindness, compassion and generosity towards all.  You can be the light that radiates acceptance and peace.

5) Gratitude. Dr. Prabhjot Singh, now a victim of a hate-crime, finds reasons to be thankful even under the horrific attack – thankful to bystanders who helped, thankful the injuries weren’t more severe and to his supportive Harlem community.

6) Confront and acknowledge your personal biases and prejudices towards other races, religions and faiths. Once you become more conscious of our hidden fears and prejudice, you’re better able to transform your thoughts of judgment to compassion.

7) Stand together with others when confronting hate. One way you can stand with Dr. Prabhjot Singh is to send a note of support or prayer to him and his family. Many supporters of Dr. Singh have rallied around him during this challenging time and have called for more tolerance and education so events like this don’t happen again.

8) Organize your community to stand up to injustices and hate. The best kind of education starts with you engaging your family, friends and neighbors about issues of racism, stereotypes and hate. What collective action are you willing to take to promote peace?

9) Chardhi Kala – The Sikh concept of staying positive, optimistic and joyful. Even when facing racism and hate crimes, the Sikh community inspires all of us to stay positive and constructive. How can you use tragedy and acts of hate and transform it into good?

10) Forgiveness. The Sikh faith promotes forgiveness. “Where there is Forgiveness, God Himself is there,” states the Sikh Holy Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Slok 155, p. 1372 Can forgiving hate-mongers sow the seeds of love in you and in them? Are you able to forgive those who commit acts of hate against others?

When confronted by hate, it’s easy to feel like fighting back with equal and greater hate. Our own anger can propel militancy and violence, or simply judgment and bitterness.

Have you confronted hate in your own life because of your race, gender, religion or your beliefs? How did you handle it? How can others? I look forward to seeing your comments below.

Unveiled: My Life and Lessons as a Nun

A guest post by Melissa Tandoc of the Graciedo blog:

Having grown up in the Catholic faith my entire life in a very religious community and family, the call to know God was growing louder.

At the age of 20, I made a decision which would forever alter the course of my life. I decided to get hitched.

And I’m not talking marriage. I’m talking about a lifelong commitment to Jesus.

Dashing my parents hopes and dreams of a marriage, kids, a nursing career and dreams of going to America, I left it all behind to do something that felt so right in my life – to  become a nun.

The calling was so strong. I just had to be with Jesus at that moment.  Similar to Mother Teresa, I imagined a life of service to the poor. My mind was set on ‘doing’ things for God.

A journey of faith

The thing is, one has to be formed (prepared) before immersion (living in a mission area). It took several years of Bible studies, theology classes and tests in relationship before the real thing took place.

My spiritual mission started as a nurse in a private school. I asked my spiritual mentors, ‘how come I was assigned there when I wanted to be with the poor?’ However, within the months, I saw that the ‘poverty’ the rich children had there was deficiency of attention from their parents. They had all the material comforts of the world but with psychological and emotional issues of the modern world.  I have learned to embrace those children in their needs.

After a year, I was sent to live with the street children. With them, I learned that kindness isn’t in the softness of one’s voice. I learned how to be gentle and firm at the same time. I wanted to stay there with them but God has other plans.

The time came for me to go to a foreign mission and I said, yes, to a mission in North Africa. Preaching in North Africa was a no-no. And even if it were permitted, I couldn’t have done so with the little Arabic that I studied. It came to me as a surprise that some people there spoke Italian (it was an Italian colony before) and it was a huge relief!

Not all patients welcomed the idea of a ‘Christian’ working in their midst and some called me ‘kalba’ (female dog). It took years of working with them to finally call me ‘sorella’ (Italian for sister).

Preaching with words was prohibited but preaching with acts of love and kindness weren’t. Most of them said that, ‘Christians’ lit the dark rooms of the hospital where we worked.

I spent several years in North Africa, being a nun and serving as a hemodialysis nurse.

Maybe I could pause here because the next question will be, “If I were happy doing all these, how come I left?” And that would be another story (and another future post).

In taking this path, here are 5 lessons from my spiritual journey as a nun:

 Take life at your own pace. I decided to enter the convent at a time when most of my friends built their careers, dated and created their own families. Instead of following a set path and doing what others were doing, I did things on my own pace and time.

It’s something similar to child or a plant. We grow through our experiences.

Respect your own pace.

  Spiritual direction and trust is necessary. The answer to life is not in the formulas nor in the seven-steps to this and that. There are no quick answers nor shortcuts in living life fully.

We need modern day saints, holy more than spiritual people (priests, nuns), who could guide us in discerning our path.

Allow God to lead. Yes, we did psychology to understand ourselves better. But there are limitations to science. We couldn’t rely on psychology to heal us. I dare people to have faith that God works in our lives and to listen to the path that God has for you.

My greatest teacher and mentor, Jesus, was my guide to entering and then leaving this path that I had chosen.

->If religious life is not your cup of tea, then learn to discern . Your inner voice,  will tell you.

Go back to the roots. Dig deep. We are taught to forget our past. But I think we should do the opposite.  Reread your history with God’s eyes – in faith and openness.

Embrace your past and use your past as an opportunity to grow in faith. In the alternative, use ALL your experiences to be the best person you can be today. You are who you are because of your story.

Don’t dwell in it but don’t forget it neither.


The lessons learned in the convent are helping me live more humbly in my regular life today.

I am reminded not to have the ‘holier than thou’ attitude or judgment of others. We are all journeying together ~ some further along and others at the starting point.

Where you are on your spiritual journey is fine.

In my next post, Vishnu has asked me to write about how I began a new life outside the convent. Update: Part 2 Unveiled: Why I left? When should you?

To pick up a copy of my book, Is God Listening?, about God, spirituality and resilience, click here.  

Malaysia Visit: Kota Bharu Temples

Malaysia Visit: Kota Bharu Temples

My life will forever be tied to Kota Bharu, Malaysia.

Yes, it’s officially the name I see on my birth certificate under birthplace.

But this also feels like the town of my spiritual birthplace.

Growing up, visits to Kota Bharu were always filled with audible Muslim prayers around town throughout the day, visits to the Hindu Sri Muthumarrian temple and plenty of 4 a.m. prayer time with my grandparents. Well, they prayed. I tried to stay awake.

I’m back once again visiting this northeastern Malaysian town that has so much family and spiritual significance to me. It’s also the place my great-grandfather moved to from India nearly 100 years ago.

Here are some photos of the Sri Muthumariamman temple from the Thai-border town of Tumpat. The South Indian Mother Goddess Mariamman, believed to have been found in the sands along the beach of the coastal town of Tumpat 100 years ago, resides here.

Like my friend Vidya who shares beautiful visits of temples in South India, I hope you enjoy a few photos below from my recent travels and temple visits.

Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha


Lakshmi- the Hindu Goddess of wealth

The 100+ year old Tumpat temple

The 100+ year old Tumpat temple

Decorative tower, gopuram, above the temple entrance.

Decorative tower, or gopuram, above the temple entrance

So many memories of Tumpat temple visits, which is about 30 km away from the main town of Kota Bharu. The last years in Kota Bharu have brought forth a more centrally-located temple, the Siva Subramaniyar temple. The temple opened in 2004 and serves the local Indian Hindu communities in the central part of town.  A few more pics:

The newest Kota Bharu addition.

The newest Kota Bharu addition


Hindu Gods welcoming visitors


Say What!?!

As I’m visiting temples and family in Kota Bharu, I hope you’re having a good summer too. Going anywhere interesting? Let me know in the comments below.

* Did you know that I post inspirational message and travel photos on Facebook. Add me and keep in touch:)