There are many ordinary and mundane things in our day to day life that could be interesting and insightful, which add immense value to the course of our life. It is akin to the proverbial statement ‘small is beautiful’. The whole world is in search of exciting adventures, adrenaline driven, and sometimes, life threatening ventures to relieve ourselves of the work related and life-style related pressures and stresses. With an aim to garner happiness and refresh ourselves, we fill our holidays with packed programs and eventually return home more fatigued than before. While one opts for rough terrain trekking, racing, skiing and scuba diving or the many other outdoor, on shore and off shore engagements, event planning and managing these in itself has become an upcoming and booming business.
Yet there are simple ways and means for us to meaningfully engage with our life and its ramifications. These recommended deeds could prove more socially and personally meaningful, and simultaneously prime our inner self spiritually. They are not only down to earth practices but are truly earthly in their content and purpose, because if at all there is heaven, as the scriptures proclaim, it should surely be on earth, and those who practice these aspects on earth, will nurture paradise in their own hearts and in that of others.
Early in the morning or late in the night go out under the open sky. Look at the sky intently without any other thoughts. Feel the vast expanse of the sky. Let it be plain and direct as if you are the only person with the sky above you and nothing else. Feel your complete presence in this universe and contemplate on who you are and what this life is all about. Look at your presence deeply and feel yourself intimately with the whole universe and saturate yourself fully with that awareness. Can you feel the natural flow of communication already existing without our own effort? The air we breathe in and breathe out already merging effortlessly with the universe and pulsing back and forth all the time; the touch of our feet on the ground beneath us already connecting with the earth; and the warmth (or the chillness) of the air already interacting with every pore on our skin, touching our body. Through what you feel as the essence of your being, feel the surroundings - animals, birds, trees and human beings – and you will see your essence merging with whatever you see as the other. Are they truly other or merely an extension of you? Continue doing it, and feel it every day, not as a ritual… but as a plain commune with the space within and without as one.
Pay a visit to an old age home, orphanage, or a family dwelling on the streets and roads of cities and suburbs. Speak to them; find out how they lead their life, their history, their beliefs, aspirations and so on. Professionally, we are advised to think of what we would wish to be in five or ten years from now and to strategize accordingly. Try to find out from them what their plan ahead of ten years is and try to know what it means for them to plan ahead, fitting into their contexts. We are also told to have a dream for our future. Find out what their dreams are and what kind of life they are leading so as to have their dreams fulfilled. Is there a plan at all in their lives for the future? If so, is it short term or long term; what mission and vision statements could there be for them? Could it be affordable for them? Try to connect with them; just listen with inquisitiveness without judgment.
Whatever little or more resources that you have, periodically and regularly share it with others, if possible, with those who are underprivileged. It need not be always material, but your time, love and concern. You need not have a long checklist to find out who is genuinely working towards the well being of those who suffer and what extent they are genuine or committed. Keep it as simple as possible without any tags; like rehabilitation, social responsibility, upliftment and so on. Focus more on the way of sharing and relish the moment of sharing than on its long term objectives. Some prefer to visit special places like cancer afflicted and terminally ill patients, but this requires a special skill to deal with them. But it too is helpful to realize the pains, fears and agonies of the terminally ill patients, even though, in a sense, everyone’s terminally inclined at the worldly level.
You may even visit an animal shelter, for small animals like dogs and cats or even a cow shelter. Spend time with the animals, if you are an animal lover or simply remain there and observe the happenings around. Animal handling, that too of undomesticated and stray animals, is challenging. Speak to the founders to know what made them to opt for that kind of an initiative, besides knowing about how they manage to source and utilize resources. Observe how the veterinarians, if available, or the animal care takers, handle the animals and the way they respond to them. Do you notice any similarities between helpless animals and helpless human beings; beyond food and shelter, what do they truly expect from others?
Find means to help underprivileged children to continue their studies and to complete their schooling. Many self motivated youngsters conduct night-schools or free schools for children in socially backward communities. Participating in their initiatives is mutually helpful and rewarding. If you cannot be a teacher, source some interesting books on science, history, travel and other stories and children books. Books open the other side of the world to children and nurture inquisitiveness in their young minds. Do you recall the books you read during your childhood, the images; do you recall the impact they created within you, some remnants still continue to influence you?
Maintain a kitchen garden in your backyard or in the terrace or whatever little space in your home that you can afford. It could be a collection of medicinal plants or vegetables, ornamental plants or flowers. Water them; observe them grow, flower and fruit… and die and regrow. Probe their mortality, their mulch becoming manure for the garden, how they respond to the immediate surroundings and conditions, the whole phenomenon of ecological cycle and balance. It would feel great if you could use the produce you have grown in your own small garden. Is it possible for you to relate your efforts and also appreciate the efforts of farmers in the rural areas, growing loads of vegetables and fruits, their farming challenges with regard to access to water, resources and related uncertainties, pains and sufferings; above all, with agriculture being their sole livelihood?
Visit a library in the neighborhood. Spend time not only with the content of the books but the physique of the book, the dog ears of the often read books, the torn wrappers, and the sheen and fragrance of the new books and the shelves they are stacked on, dark and light areas of the rooms where the books are read and stacked. Observe everything about the books, their smell, texture and feel them. Do you think there is a birth and death of books too, like any other organism?
Visit a public park, beach, hill top, waterfall, dam, riversides or at least a community or a temple pond where people gather, with an aim to enjoy or merely get together. Observe all the happenings around with calm and peace. Just an oversight, not an intent observation, like looking through a microscope at specimens. Spend time with the local vendors selling fried peanuts, cooked peas and minor snacks in a humble way, without any banners or hi-fi implements. Find out what would be the turnover in a day, a month, a year, their investments, and returns, high or low seasons and sales and marketing strategies, especially dealing with competitions and loss. What story would the fortunetellers cook for you?
Visit a museum, if it is nearby. Understand the way people lived their lives, their culture, tradition, food habits, currencies, their gods and goddesses, festivals, their livelihoods, tools and weapons used for hunting and agriculture; the life of the kings, queens, and commons, and the science and medicine, and so on. Try to understand how their history was reconstructed using archeological evidences, documentation of oral traditions and mythological stories. What have they left behind for you to learn and realize? What are we going to leave behind for our children of the future? Do you detect an insight in to the relation between the threats of today to the human civilization, to those that threatened our ancestors? What were the roots of wars, violence and mass homicides?
Travel alone for a short while, preferably like a nomad. Solitary travel is gaining momentum nowadays. Keep a minimum luggage and move around as you wish. It can be a tour to a pilgrimage centre, or a tourist place, or to a neighboring state where you do not know the language. Observe yourself, how you are able to communicate and manage, dealing with the people and place unfamiliar and new to you. Understand how your survival skills and instincts and fears operate within. Contemplate on your social identify in an unfamiliar place far from your residence or native; understand the inner urge for social relationships. Find out whether this kind of solitary sojourn helps you understand yourself better, a kind of self discovery.
Following the above deeds, picking any one of them at a time, as per the convenience and availability, pacing slowly but engaging fully will definitely prompt transformation as the time passes. Returns could be big for those who make it deliberately and engage completely.