About Sharani

As a librarian and bibliophile, I especially resonate with the written word. I began studying meditation as Sri Chinmoy's student in 1985 and my spiritual strivings and creative expression are primarily a spirit of delight in the supernal beauty of God.
Apr 08

New Memoir Benefits Christchurch

Ushasi Jill Thompson
Ushasi Jill Thompson
“You have a destiny. You have a role to fulfill in your community and in the larger context of our country, and in the world. Each individual has a guiding light and a voice deep within that will direct you to become all that you are here to unfold in your life. Be in touch with that voice. Be in touch with that direction. Be in touch with your destiny as an instrument of healing touch. “
-Ushasi Jill Thompson offered the above words to students of Swedish Institute upon their graduation from the massage therapy program.

Currently Director of Academic Support Services at Swedish Institute, the oldest continuously running school for massage therapy in the U.S., Ushasi shares her own guiding light and journey to destiny in her newly published memoir Thy Will Be Done.

The book is a fascinating account of her life experiences which includes her coming of age in New Zealand at the age of 18 and conversion to born-again Christianity.

Thy Will Be Done book cover
Thy Will Be Done book cover

It follows her through the world of Esalen, Divinity School, the Metropolitan Community Church in New York, teaching massage therapy and finding her spiritual home in the Sri Chinmoy Centre as a disciple of the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

Her faculty profile nicely sums up her varied experiences:

Ushasi’s 20-year practice as a massage therapist focused on massage therapy for medical conditions, as well as providing massage as part of the integration of bodywork with psychotherapy and spiritual meditation practice.
Ushasi holds a Massage Therapy Diploma from Swedish Institute. She has a B.A. in History of Religion from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA, and a Master of Divinity degree from the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She is a long-time member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre, and has studied bodywork and gestalt therapy at Esalen Institute.

Because her spiritual journey began in New Zealand and the memoir includes her return there again 30 years later with the International Sri Chinmoy Centres, Ushasi has decided that all proceeds from sales of the book will be donated in support of Christchurch Earthquake relief. First for sale this April 2011 in New York, copies may be obtained by contacting the author at: thywillbedone(dot)ushasi(at)gmail(dot)com.

Apr 07

Christchurch Rebuilds

Tomorrow starts here is the slogan chosen by the Government of New Zealand for their official Quake Appeal campaign to solicit donations for the rebuild effort after the 6.3 Canterbury Quake on 22 Feb. 2011.

It is a perfect example of the spirit of resilience and hope evident a mere 1 ½ months since the 2011 earthquake caused widespread damage in the environs of Christchurch.

Support for the effort to rebuild has poured in from many places and takes many forms. Kurashiki, the Sister City of Christchurch in Japan, had collected $300,000 up until the earthquake hit in Japan and still shared the money with Christchurch although subsequent efforts have been focused at home after the March 11 Japan quake.  Concerts to raise money have already happened and various celebrities have gotten involved such as Russell Crowe.

One simple but sweet effort touched my heart – a woman from Christchurch living in Australia is creating a paper “Chain of Hope” as people make donations large or small and she will bring the paper chain with her to Christchurch in May as a gesture of support and goodwill. Her site also led me to this video on YouTube that shows both the destruction and the spirit of hope shining in response.  Gospel songwriter Ric Knott of the band Magnify penned the tune after the earthquake. Magnify won Best Christian/Gospel album at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2004

Mar 16

Light a Candle – Pray for Japan

There is not a single difficulty
That is not followed
By relief-hands.
Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 21, 2001.

Talk and act
From the heart
Of your generosity.
Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 83, 1984.

I fell in love with Japan when I visited there a few years ago and my thoughts and prayers are there now as the world responds to the Japan Honshu Earthquake, Tsunami and the nuclear reactor crisis.

While people from many nations valiantly struggle to assist in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, the whole world also comes together in unity and sympathy with prayers for survivors and those who perished.

One place to virtually “gather” to say a prayer and light a candle for Japan is located at the website Gratefulness.org. Over 11 million candles have been lit there since it began ten years ago and right now there is a group where candles are being lit for the people of Japan.

Sri Chinmoy (my meditation teacher) wrote many books on spirituality which include poems, essays and questions and answers offering insight into the quest for solace in times of hardship and suffering.

In an interview with someone from the Russian Tass News Agency in 1999, Sri Chinmoy discussed the impact of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and part of his answer follows:

Your country has suffered tremendously, and it breaks my heart because, as I said before, I am a seeker. As a seeker, I pray not only for myself but also for all of humanity. On the strength of my oneness with all human beings, I suffer. I am an Indian; I come from Bengal. But for me there is only one country, and that country is the country of our heart. In my heart-country, you are there, she is there, everybody is there—each and every human being. When I say you are my brother, I mean it. When I say she is my sister, I mean it. The heart is oneness. The mind is division. As soon as I think of you, my mind tells me that you come from another country. But in my heart you are absolutely, inseparably one with me.

God is our Father, God is our Mother, God is everything to us. If we claim the Creator as our own, very own, we are bound to claim the creation—which includes each one of us—as our own, very own.

I wish to tell you not to look behind. Let us look forward. The destination is right in front of us, not behind. The past has not given us satisfaction. Anything that has not given us satisfaction, anything that has not fulfilled us, is not the answer. The answer comes from our inner awakening, inner illumination, inner perfection. Once we get inner illumination and inner perfection, then our outer life becomes a life of satisfaction.

Suffering there is. But if we think all the time of how much we have suffered, it is not going to serve any purpose. We have to look for light, we have to look for love and the feeling of oneness so that we do not make the same mistake and we do not suffer again.

Sri Chinmoy Answers, Part 18, Agni Press, 1999.

To pursue that “inner awakening, inner illumination, inner perfection” of which Sri Chinmoy speaks to as the foundation of our existence that resides outside of joy and suffering, I try to deepen my meditations.  I have been drawn inward to intensify my spiritual life and have increased the time I spend in meditation each day.

My goal since the earthquake has been to meditate seven times a day but I have yet to actually reach that number quite yet. To this end I have been watching video footage of Sri Chinmoy meditating and giving a concert in Japan which can be found at a website called SriChinmoy.TV. I find a poignant relevance in watching video footage of  Sri Chinmoy meditating and performing in a peace concert in Japan while my thoughts are currently focused in this part of the world.

Source: Sri Chinmoy TV

Last but not least, I revisit Sri Chinmoy’s poems about hope quoted by New York Governor Paterson at a 9/11 memorial last September.  They beckon as a candle in the darkness whatever the circumstances.

Knows no fear.

Hope dares to blossom
Even inside the abysmal abyss.

Hope secretly feeds
And strengthens

-Sri Chinmoy

Jan 04

Lessons Learned From My Cat

Cat, my cat,
You cry for constant affection.
I have affection plus compassion.
Stop crying,
Start smiling.
I tell you a supreme secret:
“I treasure your dependence.”
Excerpt from Animal Kingdom by Sri Chinmoy

For six months I have been a Mama to a Siamese cat that I adopted because he was living on the street, primarily in my backyard.  Having lived alone for almost ten years and having never been a pet owner since moving out of my parent’s house over 30 years ago,  the experience has been a crash course in caretaking for a four-legged furry little being.

Named Bowtie, he is extraordinarily affectionate and our days and nights are not complete unless he spends time sitting on my lap, laying on top of my legs, head-butting, kneading his paws against me and licking my face quite thoroughly. In return I try to talk to him, massage and pet him, cradle him in my lap and sleep with him draped over my arm or shoulder.

When I think of how my life is different as the mama of a cat, my notion of lessons learned includes:

Undivided Attention: Quality time with Bowtie involves giving him my full attention. I almost never watch television anymore and use a computer less than before adopting him. He seems attuned to it if I am trying to multitask and is far less satisfied with anything but at least some time each day in which we interact without any distractions.

The Power of Encouragement: Popular psychology about cats states that they do not understand the concept of scolding or the word “no”. If you are telling them no and in your mind’s eye are imagining what you want them not to do, they will just do it. Only the positive approach works. If he tries to get out the door when I have to leave the house, I have to see in my mind’s eye that he is under the dining room table a few feet away and then he reluctantly does what I am visualizing. How often does the positive approach also only prove effective with people as well? Pretty often in my experience.

Give Me Bread but Give Me Roses: Even if I provide for Bowtie with all the material comforts, toys, etc. to meet his needs, he wanders around with a sense of malaise unless he also has the opportunity to socially interact with others in a playful and loving manner.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness: Before life with Bowtie, I used to cut corners in the cleanliness department – especially at floor level! Now that I know he sees the world mostly from that range and his dark fur shows every little speck of dirt or fluff, I vacuum about a million times more often than previously. Keeping the cat litter boxes clean (I have 3 all-together for him), the water fountains (2 all-together) and his food dishes clean keeps me busy too.

Regularity and Routine: While the fact that cats do not like change could be seen as a negative, the positive side to it is that keeping a regular routine in a consistent manner can be a real asset for discipline and achieving goals. Routine seems related to ritual as well and for spiritual practises can be a tool to assist in the gestalt of spiritual and religious intensity.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Now that I am handling medical emergencies with Bowtie and coping with various health and emotional issues that seem connected to his background as a stray, I seem infinitely more relaxed and mellow about the other stresses of life that inevitably arise. When you are invested in the well-being of another living creature, the joys and trials of that kind of “parenting” seem to diffuse the degree of importance or anxiety I used to place on the dramas of my life and relationships with others.

Be Proactive: God helps those who help themselves sometimes. I am still somewhat incredulous that Bowtie used to live 2 doors down on the street where my house is and that he ran away because he didn’t like his living situation in a multi-pet household with 2 dogs and another cat. Or at least that is what the teenage girl who lives there told me when she saw him in front of my house one day. Considering that he is declawed, he has a lot of chutzpa and bravado to choose to live on the street over a situation where he didn’t like his circumstances. Apparently it has been 2 years since he lived with them and I am either his 3rd or 4th owner. He still adores to go outside and several times I have witnessed him chasing away cats bigger than him in the neighborhood (and those cats have claws presumably). I feel I have much to learn from him in the bravery department. And when his softer side shows itself and I have my hands full with his emotional scars and separation anxiety, I find myself thinking that being brave often means doing something even if you still feel scared inside.

Last but not least, I am very grateful to Bowtie for the affection and companionship that we share. I try to model for him the spirit of unconditional love that I feel has been shown to me by God in the last 25 years of spiritual seeking. Since we adopted each other, I am a happier person than before even if it involves the likes of trying to get liquid antibiotics in a syringe into his mouth twice a day for 2 weeks or getting him to remain calmer and more secure that when I go on vacation or leave for the day that I do come back.

Sri Chinmoy’s quote at the top of this post about the essence of a cat having to do with affection rings 100 percent true with Bowtie and myself. And I do indeed love our mutual dependence.

Nov 26

The “Thanks” in Thanksgiving

Today was a little different than usual for me in the outer circumstances of  Thanksgiving. I was at home and cooked all the fixings vegetarian style during most of the day.

Some of you might be saying how is staying at home and cooking different? Isn’t that what lots of people usually do on Thanksgiving day? Well, most of the time I am on the move over Thanksgiving – either to spend it with family who do not live nearby or to visit far off climes using as little vacation time as possible because of the built in time off of work during this holiday.

I also received a a k2 punch in the battle of holistic care of my newly-adopted cat named Bowtie when he went AWOL for hours on this holiday afternoon for the first time in 4 months. I scoured the house and neighborhood looking for him and since bringing him in from being a stray he has never vanished like he did today. Luckily he did return.

Knowing that he is likely mad about his herbal bladder medication dosed this morning and recent attempts to improve his diet, kibble is back in the food dish after 48 hours without it even though the holistic vet says NADA, NYET, VERBOTEN! Bottom line… today at least (and realistically probably every day) Cats Rule.

Whatever the circumstance – or in today’s case the drama – might be on the surface, the unchanging essence of Thanksgiving still prevails. The holiday is a time to ponder gratitude – the “thanks” in thanksgiving.

One place to explore the power of gratitude is Gratefulness.org. I wrote about Gratefulness.org and its Light a Candle site previously on this blog and of all my posts, this one consistently remains the most likely entrance point to my blog. This makes me believe that the art of cultivating gratitude resonates for many, many people.

Another wellspring of wisdom on the subject of gratitude and giving thanks can be found in the chapter devoted to the subject inside a new book by Sri Chinmoy called The Jewels of Happiness. The chapter entitled “Gratitude” is one of thirteen in a new compilation featuring his most compelling aphorisms and wisdom. I find myself pondering his writing on gratitude for days after reading it.

Here are a few samples from the chapter to give an idea of their profundity:

Gratitude is the creative force, the mother and father of love. It is in real love that gratitude exists. Love expands only when gratitude is there.    (Sri Chinmoy, The Jewels of Happiness,  p. 189)

The things that most deserve our gratitude we just take for granted. Without air we cannot live for more than a minute for two. Every day we are breathing in and breathing out, but do we ever feel grateful to the air? (Sri Chinmoy, The Jewels of Happiness, p. 192)

On earth there is nothing as important or significant as gratitude. (Sri Chinmoy, The Jewels of Happiness, p. 196)

If you have true gratitude, it will express itself automatically. It will be visible in your eyes, around your being, in your aura. It is like the fragrance of a flower. (Sri Chinmoy, The Jewels of Happiness, p. 199)

In addition to the thought-provoking words on the value and importance of gratitude in The Jewels of Happiness, one can also find a wealth of practical techniques to cultivate gratitude. For example, one exercise calls for imagining that you are a river rushing to the source of the ocean while silently repeating the word gratitude while breathing in.

At the top of this post I wrote that Cats Rule. I stand corrected. Gratitude Rules and when it rules triumphantly, the world becomes a much sweeter place, a vast expanse of endless possibilities regardless of outer circumstances.