The 15-minute challenge

Are you in? We’re taking the below 15-minute challenge for 3 months. Comment below if you wish to participate with us.

What to do:

  1. Find a place in the house that is quiet, dim, and free of distraction.
  2. In the room, find a place to sit where you can be alert and can keep your back straight without any back support. (Examples: on your bed, the edge of a chair or on the floor).
  3. Close your eyes. Keep your mouth closed. Keep your back straight.
  4. Bring all of your attention to the area of your nose where your breath is entering or leaving your body.
  5. Do not change the intensity or the duration of your breath. Keep your attention on your breath as it is operating naturally.
  6. Keep your awareness strictly on the experience of breath entering and leaving your body for as long as possible.
  7. As your mind has been trained to wander, it will naturally drift to day dreaming (i.e. it will think of conversations, past experiences, or possible future experiences). This is not a bad thing – it is the natural state of the mind to think. As soon as you become aware that your mind has wandered, bring your attention immediately back to your breath.
  8. Do not concentrate on any deities, religious philosophies, God, mantras, light, colors, or vibrations. Keep your focus strictly on your breath.
  9. Do not revel in ideas, stories, poems, or possible future projects. As soon as you become aware that your mind is doing something other than focusing on breath, bring your attention immediately back to your breath.
  10. Do this for 15 minutes every day for 3 months. At the end of 3 months evaluate if this exercise has helped you and determine if you want to continue, extend to a longer period than 15 minutes or stop the exercise altogether.

Why do this:

  • Transparency: When your mind wanders in this 15 minute silent space, you become exposed to what your mind is creating for your life.
    Context: Every word we say and every action we take is a product of our thinking. How do we know where we are headed in life if we do not know what our mind is creating for us. 15 minutes is very little time to observe one’s mind but at least it gives a shallow glimpse of what is most important to your mind at this time.
  • Focus: As we shift our attention from our mind’s wandering back to our breath, we enhance our ability to focus on something even though our mind would rather wander.
    Context: In today’s world, there are many distractions competing for our attention. Our ability to stay focused is constantly being challenged. Focusing on breath, on the other hand, is an extremely boring thing to do as our body is already breathing without our awareness. This practice of letting go of distracting day dreams and returning to the boring empty space of breath helps strengthen our mind to avoid mental distractions in our day-to-day life.
  • Letting go: The practice of letting go of more gripping day dreams in favor of returning to observing our breath also helps strengthen our ability to let go of certain thoughts when negativity arises.
    Context: Sometimes our mind creates very positive experiences for us: compassion for others, contentment, or general feelings of well-being. Those, of course, we wish to relish and retain. Sometimes, however, the mind creates very unhealthy experiences for us: fear, hatred, or obsession. We are largely at the whim of our mind’s tendencies when we slip into negativity. As we strengthen our ability to let go of thoughts to return to our breath, we increase our ability to let go of those negative thoughts when we are doling in them at a future stage.
  • Mind-Body Connection. The more we shift our mental awareness and attention to our breath, the more we strengthen the connection between our overall mind and our overall body.
    Context: Our body is constantly communicating to our mind when it is experiencing pleasure or pain. Sometimes these messages are very subtle and unfortunately are missed because our mind is already occupied with much thought or noise. Many of our ailments or physical dysfunctions could be avoided if we became aware of our incorrect posture or incorrect activity at an earlier stage in life.
  • Oneness: In those brief moments, when we are only focused strictly on our breath, we have effectively disassociated ourselves from our thought. In those moments, we may experience a state of emptiness or a state of inter-connectedness.
    Context: As we are living breathing entities, so too is the entire universe. The one thing that masks or separates us from everything else is just our thinking. Albert Einstein referred to this separation as a delusion: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires.”


Echos of us

You walked up with a friend
I was already there
leaning up against the bar
On impulse I bought your drinks
It didn’t matter
you would have stayed anyway
The conversation was great
We talked about things that didn’t matter
like bartenders, waitresses and cheesy guys at bars
and about things that did matter
like happiness and being right there in that very moment
I wanted to say something about your smile
how it could make someone very happy
We laughed, I remember
I touched your arm and at one point you put your hand on my shoulder to adjust your outfit
I pretended I didn’t notice
Eventually you walked away
fading into the crowd only leaving a trace of that smile
I smiled back
We both knew we would meet again

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Chapter 1

Reena darted out as soon as Dr. Swanson announced that class was over. Her fellow classmates sleepily gathered their belongings and swayed only slowly towards the exit doors. Reena, however, was on a mission. A few hours of Biology review awaited her in the Library. Although she always aced her exams she still panicked every time a quiz was announced. Her parents never applied any unreasonable pressure on her, and frankly were downright surprised at how she turned out. They wondered where she got it from: the drive to succeed, the despair when she did fail, and then the ambition to try harder the next time around. She made sacrifices of her own accord – giving up spending time with cousins so that she could solve some bizarre algebraic equation that no one expected her to. Her parents worried for a while, wondering if her obsession was healthy, afraid that she wouldn’t become the well-rounded female they wanted her to be, but nothing they did altered her course. She attended the family events as expected, practiced the obligatory dances for family weddings, learned just when to stop the tea from boiling, even perfected the art of pleating a sari pallu, and still kept up with her school studies. Eventually they gave up and finally just accepted her for who she was.

Her fellow classmates loitered around the building lobby catching up on the latest relationship gossip and making plans for the weekend, but for Reena, they were all only getting in the way. She maneuvered her way through the crowd, blasted open the doors of Beecher Hall and entered into the brisk open air of the courtyard. Without missing a step, she bolted towards Regenstein Library.

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Best Kirtan Service Ever

Okay, I know you aren’t supposed to have a favorite Kirtan service at a Gurudwara – they are all supposed to be special in their own ways, but still, today’s service impacted me in a unique way.

First off, it was my first time inside a Gurudwara since the August 5th shooting at Oak Creek Gurudwara in Wisconsin. (Actually, it was my first time back in a Gurudwara in over 4 months). I’m not sure why it took me so long to attend. Part of me has longed for the solace of the sangat and the sweet melody of the kirtan all week. Yet, part of me needed to come to terms with the despair that I was still feeling.

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Are we at war?

Back when wars used to mean something
People fought for causes
We were governed by our morals
We took up arms to protect others
Gave up our lives so that others could be free
So that others could worship in any way they saw fit
So that others could be our equals
Walk the earth with their heads held high, with respect

When did it come to this?
Now we fight for ourselves
We are governed by our hatred
We fight for revenge
To punish others
Because they worship differently than us
Something about the color of their skin
Or the way they tie their hair
Something as little as that
And we start a war with the world

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Blades of a fan

I’ve done some shit in my life. Some good, some bad.  Some people I may have helped, some people I’ve definitely hurt. Made some friends, some enemies. I’ve improved, deteriorated, loved, feared, laughed, danced, fought.  Gave everything up for a while, took it all in later.  Some people disappeared, others hung around. Some things I’m proud of, like that day when we all came together to rest under a blue canopy while rain fell all around us. I didn’t make it rain, but I did help put up the canopy, and we all came together as one.

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