Love and Identity Meetup: November 7, 2013

Identity is that collection of attributes that defines how we see ourselves. It is the answer to the question: Who am I? Anyone who has ever seriously asked themselves that question may have found that the answer is not as obvious as one might think it should be.

The relationship that we have with the people we know, the things we do, and the stuff we own paints a very inviting image of who we are. But what happens when those things are threatened or taken away? Who are we then?

How does identity affect our sense of freedom and happiness?  What happens when life seems to fall apart and our sense of identity is rocked?  How do we cultivate a healthy sense of identity?  In this meetup we’ll explore the relationship between personal identity and the world around us.  

To register, please click here.

Life is but a Dream: Exploring the Subconscious Mind in the Movie Inception: September 29, 2013

inception

On September 29th, we have a special presentation from Gadadhara Pandit Dasa on the movie Inception.  This popular, action packed sci-fi movie takes us into the world of the mind, dreams, and the subconscious. We will explore the nature of dreams and try to understand where they come from. The presentation will include a short meditation exercise to visualize the mind.  We’ll wrap up with a discussion about Pandit’s new book, Urban Monk: Exploring Karma, Consciousness, and the Divine.  Pandit’s last presentation on Hindu wisdom in the Matrix movie was awesome.  If you missed it, you’ll definitely want to make this one.

A big thank you to New Work City for generously hosting the event.  If you haven’t been there, it’s one of the best co-working spaces in the city.  Please join us to blow your mind, meet awesome people, and share the love!

To register, please click here.

ABOUT PANDIT

Gadadhara Pandit Dasa (also known as Pandit) is a monk, lecturer and the first-ever Hindu chaplain for Columbia University and New York University. He speaks at the nation’s leading universities, yoga studios, and retreat centers, inspiring audiences with India’s spiritual wisdom. His unique approach combines teachings of the ancient classic, Bhagavad-Gita, with popular Hollywood movies such as “The Matrix.”

Pandit spoke at a recent TEDx conference at Columbia Univeristy and was featured in the NPR piece “Long Days and Short Nights of a Hindu Monk.” He appeared in the PBS Documentary on the Bhagavad Gita, as well as The New York Times. He is also a regular contributor for the Huffington Post.

Losing My Identity

Originally published on Huffington Post.

In mid 2009, I left my position as CEO of a company that I had founded. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of an almost four-year process that I can only describe as losing my identity.

In this time frame I would go through heartbreak and homelessness and question every aspect of my life. I moved from Honolulu to San Francisco to New York City. The new company I started went through eight pivots, four co-founders, and near bankruptcy. I spent 11 months living in my car and incurred massive debt just to keep things going. After a challenging breakup, I didn’t go on a single date for 18 months. I decided to stop eating meat and lost 15 pounds of muscle mass. I sold almost everything I owned down to my car, ultimately living on the grace of good friends. I went through immense psychological stress and periods of time where I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.

All the things that had been important to me — a nice apartment, fashionable clothes, a fancy startup, my social life, financial stability, my diet and fitness, even my sexuality — dissolved. Spending nights alone in my car, staring at rain drops sliding down the window, there was nothing to distract me from me.

As I began to let go of all these things, I came to a very challenging psychological place: I had no idea who I was. With every core identity in question, I had a very hard time even socializing with other people. If I had no identity, on what basis could I connect with others?

Identity is that collection of attributes that defines how we see ourselves. It is the answer to the question: Who am I? Anyone who has ever seriously asked themselves that question may have found that the answer is not as obvious as one might think it should be.

I am Lorenz. But who is that? The relationship that I have with the people I know, the things I do, and the stuff I own paints a very inviting image of who I am. But what happens when I take those things away? Who am I then?

When the attributes of our identity are externalized, those attributes control us. Our sense of self worth becomes dependent on external considerations. We must have enough money, means, and status in order to consider ourselves happy. In pursuit of maintaining this false sense of happiness, we cling all the more strongly to external identifiers because so much self worth emanates from them. It can take losing these things, losing our identity, to see our true nature outside of them.

Each identity is a limited interpretation of who we are. The sum of our external identities is far less than the whole of our being. True freedom arises when we are not dependent on something outside ourselves for the way we feel about ourselves. The way we feel about ourselves starts with the relationship that we have with ourselves.

We choose the people we hang out with, the things we do, and the stuff we buy. That choice comes from somewhere. The source of that choice is much closer to our identity than the product. To understand our choices we must examine why we do the things that we do.

In experiencing my loss of identity, I could see that many of my actions were motivated by a desire for external recognition. I was either trying to impress others or worried about how they would judge me. However, any situation where my self expression is contingent upon the validation of others is bound to limit me from being myself. And if I’m not being myself, how can I possibly be happy?

True identity is being true to oneself. For me this is cultivating genuine self respect and a willingness to be vulnerable. This makes for a more flexible identity that is based on how I feel about my actions rather than the outcome of my actions. If I feel good then I know my behavior is aligned with values that bring me real happiness.

Since my car-living days, I’ve raised money for my company, moved into a beautiful apartment, and started dating an amazing woman. Am I attached to these things? Absolutely. But I try not to depend on them for how I feel about myself. Most importantly, I’m learning to see myself outside of my circumstances. This hasn’t happened overnight. It’s a process of making small choices that reinforce personal dignity day by day. When my self worth is decoupled from external considerations, I allow for genuine self expression to occur. In this sense, losing identity is really about finding ones true self.

In struggling to find my identity I realized that I create my own identity. This is the most valuable lesson that I have learned. When I let go of the need to define myself, I can choose any definition I want. By accepting that I am not limited by any notion of identity, I liberate myself to just be me. Right here, right now, I am choosing my identity by how I am choosing to spend my time. In this very moment I am creating myself and this is my identity.

Pandit on Love: Service and Sacrifice Without Expectation

Gadadhara Pandit Dasa is the Hindu chaplain at NYU and Columbia. He recently published his first book called, “Urban Monk: Exploring Karma, Consciousness, and the Divine.” If you’re interested in learning more about Hinduism, this is a great story about a kid growing up in LA who found inner peace in a Hindu monastery, ultimately settling down as a monk in New York City. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Pandit to talk about love. You can learn more about Pandit on his website or by following him on Twitter.

Notes from the video:

True love is service and sacrifice without an expectation attached to it. It is putting the need of others before our own.

Sacrifice isn’t always about giving something you want. It just means letting go. For example, in the relationship with the planet we sacrifice our greed. Putting aside our desire to have more and more. If we put that aside we can show proper care and respect to the planet. Love always involves care and respect.

Modern love is often body centered, about how we look and how we feel. Love for ourselves becomes dependent on how others feel about us. We’re always busy trying to present an image so that others will respond positively to us.

We need to be satisfied with who we are. In order for us to be satisfied with who we are, we have to know who we are at the core. While the mind and the body are part of who we are, the true nature is the spirit living in the body. The soul is made up of love. It is eternal, only the body is made up of matter that decays. We are made up of eternity, of knowledge, we are conscious of everything, we are made up of bliss happiness.

When we connect to the supreme soul, we experience true love for ourselves through that, but we also see everyone connected to the supreme soul so we naturally have love for everyone else.

All beauty comes from the divine. Imagine if we could just go straight to the source and experience where everything is getting its beauty from. The mind would be thrilled at every moment. We would would always be satisfied. Once we are able to connect with that, we are able to truly love others and ourselves. By cultivating love towards god we are able to love others without expectation and ourselves.

We can have love towards ourselves, each other, the planet, and god. Love for each should must be cultivated simultaneously.

Unless we remove things like envy, anger, greed and pride from the heart we’re not going to be able to love somebody else. Until we remove these, we are inhibited from loving others.

Love allows for compassion to take place. True love allows us to be compassionate towards others.

Regular meditation and mantra meditation is a process of purifying the heart. Mantra meditation is the practice that Pandit has been doing 16 years and it involves reciting sacred sound vibrations. When these sounds are recited they enter the mind and the heart and purify the person.

To purify yourself, you can consciously identify things you want to change and work on them. Meditation and mantras also automatically cleanse you. These methods work best together to purify the heart.

We didn’t cover this in the interview, but the mantra that Pandit recommends is:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

“Hare” – feminine potency of the divine
“Krishna” – the all-attractive one
“Rama” – the reservoir of all pleasure

The Time is Now Meetup: July 11, 2013

Modern life is a multitasked existence. In our pursuit of productivity, we have perfected the art of constant partial attention such that our enjoyment of the things we do is equally fragmented. Spending time with friends, we think about work.  Working, we wish we had more time to spend with friends.

As we rush to get to the next moment, the present moment often goes by unnoticed.  Yet life is a collection of present moments and time is the medium through which we experience life.  Our relationship with time is a direct reflection of our relationship with life itself.

In this meetup we’ll explore the meaning of time.  Why is it so hard to be present?  How does one cultivate presence?  What is the best way to manage our time?  How is time related to love?

We hope you’ll make some time to join us for this conversation.

To register, please click here.

A Splinter in the Mind – Exploring Hindu Wisdom in The Matrix: June 16, 2013

On June 16th we have a very special presentation from Gadadhara Pandit Dasa exploring the juxtaposition of ancient Hindu wisdom with the hollywood blockbuster, The Matrix. The 1999 sci-fi film explored existential topics such as: who am I? How did I get here? What is the purpose of my life? It also implored its audience to ask the question “am I awake or is everything around me a dream concocted by the mind?”

Arjuna, in the Hindu classic, the Bhagavad Gita, wrestles with these same questions and experiences a nervous break down right before he goes into the most important day of his life. Clips of the movie will be shown as we explore the relationship between this modern sci-fi classic and ancient wisdom and attempt to resolve these age-old questions.

A big thank you to New Work City for generously hosting the event.  If you haven’t been there, it’s one of the best co-working spaces in the city.  Please join us to blow your mind, meet awesome people, and share the love!

 

ABOUT PANDIT

Gadadhara Pandit Dasa (also known as Pandit) is a monk, lecturer and the first-ever Hindu chaplain for Columbia University and New York University. He speaks at the nation’s leading universities, yoga studios, and retreat centers, inspiring audiences with India’s spiritual wisdom. His unique approach combines teachings of the ancient classic, Bhagavad-Gita, with popular Hollywood movies such as “The Matrix.”

Pandit spoke at a recent TEDx conference at Columbia Univeristy and was featured in the NPR piece “Long Days and Short Nights of a Hindu Monk.” He appeared in the PBS Documentary on the Bhagavad Gita, as well as The New York Times. He is also a regular contributor for the Huffington Post.

The Time is Now

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

I regularly feel challenged by time. I want more time to do everything I want to do, learn the things I want to learn, be with my friends and family, and just relax once in a while. Yet time holds me prisoner in its unstoppable progression.

Ultimately, what is most stressful about life is our relationship with time.  Modern life is a multitasked existence. In our pursuit of productivity, we have perfected the art of constant partial attention such that our enjoyment of the things we do is equally fragmented. Spending time with friends, we think about work. Working, we wish we had more time to spend with friends. Though we may speak on the phone, read an email, and eat at the same time, we have not tripled our efficiency as much as diminished the quality of each experience.

If time holds us captive, it simultaneously offers the key to our liberation. Our shackles belong to the past and the future. In the present moment there is no past or future that is not contingent upon our attention to exist. Learning to manage our attention is the best way to manage our relationship with time.

Quality of life is proportional to the quality of our attention. Presence is focused attention on the current moment. It’s a choice and a practice. We choose to be present with our work, our friends, and our families. Then we practice and practice and practice.

In my own experience, this practice has been training myself to give attention to one thing at a time and being fully attentive when I’m having a conversation. I try to catch myself and breathe deeply whenever I feel my mind wander. In the pursuit of building a better relationship with my mind, I’ve found meditation, exercise, and diet to be the three pillars of progress. The key ingredient, though, is a continuing commitment to myself to be present.

Presence doesn’t make our schedule any less hectic. It does, however, change our relationship with time. Each moment becomes more satisfying, less consumed with worrying about what’s next. Time begins to revolve around our attention, instead of our attention revolving around time. That shift is the difference between freedom and bondage. It is the freedom to live life on our own terms, taking the time to do what’s important to us. It is the freedom to experience each moment fully, our attention undiminished by thoughts of elsewhere.

There is no magic analgesic that will grant us presence and mental acuity. Building a relationship with the mind takes work. Being present is a commitment to our own humanity. We exist to participate in life, not stress it’s future nor lament it’s past. Time only gives us one chance to experience the beauty in each moment. Now.

The Virtue of Selfishness: May 7, 2013

Being selfish is generally considered a bad thing, but what about when we’re being true to ourselves?  Can we really be selfless if we’re not happy?  Can we serve others if we feel depleted and overwhelmed?

The greatest contribution we can give to others is our own excellence.  In order to truly give of ourselves, we have to know ourselves – know what we actually have to offer.  What does this mean though and how can we distinguish between being selfish for the right reasons and being selfish for the wrong reasons?

This meetup will explore the relationship between selfishness and selflessness.  What is the difference between serving and pleasing?  How do we truly serve others?

To register, please click here.

The Human Spirit

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” – Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States

This week I sat down to write about the human spirit. I wanted to understand how is it that something common to every human being is so difficult to grasp. No doubt this is the domain of religion, but my inquiry is more practical in nature – what does it mean to be human? Though my quest did not yield the articulate definition I was hoping for, it left me with a powerful thought: the human spirit offers us the capacity to persevere in pursuit of truth.

Our most rewarding endeavor is to build confidence in our beliefs and cultivate the wherewithal to actualize them. We are born to contribute by creating. From that intangible space between mind and heart emerges the palette of creativity. Our thoughts are manifest through action, each a stroke of the soul’s paintbrush. Life is the canvas upon which our spirit renders it’s masterpiece.

Each of us struggles with limitation in a very personal way. Without limitation we would have no individuation. Humanity would be a canvas of even monochromatic brushstrokes. Our perceived limitations offer the kaleidoscope of human experience. The apex of our potential is where we find the full expression of our being.

In striving to realize our full potential we encounter the source of our fulfillment and frustration. That which is most true to us, the deepest desire in our heart, is rarely a straight and easy path. In my own life, I’ve endured lots of failure and even spent a year living in my car. I’ve been in situations where I simply did not see a light at the end of the tunnel. Worse than failure, is ambiguity. Not knowing how to move forward, being stuck in limbo. It’s painful and can make the strongest person want to quit.

The alternative, however, is not being true to oneself. It is to diminish the human experience, settling for an easier life at the expense of our heart’s joy. We let ourselves down and sell others short the benefit of our full grace. Each of us is an example of what is possible and, by virtue of that, inspires greatness in others. Our greatest contribution to those around us is our own excellence.

When there’s a truth that we are aching for, when a person yearns to fathom the color of their own soul, the human spirit gives us the capacity to see it through. How ever many times we might fall, the human spirit gives us the strength to get back up and try again. Inevitably, persistence begets progress. One day, despite all odds, we accomplish what we set out to create.

We overcome limitation when we change our perspective. We tend to think of ourselves as existing in one time and place, but we don’t. The present moment is only the tip of the paintbrush. It takes time to create a work of art. Our journey begins with the first stroke and our spirit, that intangible essence which makes us human, sees us through to the last.

Crime and Punishment: April 3, 2013

Justice isn’t the first thing we think about when we talk about love.  Inevitably though, crime happens and our government is confronted with the burden of dealing with it.  In an enlightened society there may be no need for justice, but in the mean time, how can we treat our criminals in an enlightened way?

Modern justice traditionally treats the symptom and not the cause.  We don’t ask, why did this person become violent or why did this person start stealing?  We focus on a binary version of good and bad, guilty or not.  Compassion, forgiveness, and understanding don’t really have a place in the judicial system and the question is – should they?  Can punishment come from a place of love and what does that mean?

In this meet up we’ll explore the meaning of true justice and it’s place in our society.

To register, please click here.