Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

I'll be grateful if you...

Aug 26, 2011

18th Edition of Shadow Dancing with Mind

Welcome to 18th Edition of “Shadow Dancing With Mind”. This Edition has the following topics.

My thoughts and quotes from the books that I have been reading...

Recently, in a discussion, I came across a view that the art, sculpture and writings of ancient India many times were inspired by the kings and emperor’s lustfulness. Examples of Ajanta Ellora caves, Temple sculptures of Konark, Kaam Sutra etc were mentioned... In this context, I am hereby reproducing some interesting examples of how the beauty of Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva, was described by one of the sages in a very famous literary Book “Soundarya Lahari” in explicit but beautiful terms, full of devotion..

The Soundarya Lahari is not only a poem. It is a tantra textbook, giving instructions on Puja and offerings, many yantras, almost one to each shloka; describes tantric ways of performing devotion connected to each specific shloka; and details the results ensuing there from.

The thoughts, talks and viewpoints that have captured my imagination....

Some times, I get things come to me, on its own and this one talk by Brene Brown on "The Power of Vulnerability" just popped up in my cyber space wandering. It gave me a lot of food for thought and views that I could relate to... hence I thought of sharing it with my friends here. It’s a beautiful TED Talk about love, belongingness and shame... if you don’t have time to hear and see her speak, then probably you can read the transcript that is provided at the end...

On 15th August – Independence Day of India, I reproduce lyrics of ‘Vande Mataram’ as well as the beautiful Vande Mataram song sung by A R Rahman, (Oscar winner). The Song Vande Matram is well known as the National Song of our country written by Bankimchandra wrote the 7th November, 1875.

Click here to

My impressions from the places, which I have captured through my roving lenses...

In month of July, I was in Vienna to fulfil my long time desire to see in person the most reproduced painting in the world ‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt as well as to see the famous museums and Danube River. I have always believed that the creativity is another form of meditation and wanted to soak in the atmosphere of the city that gave many creative genius’s like Klimt, Schiele.. This post has some of my impressions from few days I have had spent there...

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On one of my recent business trip to Europe, I have had an opportunity spend few days in Poland, visiting one of the largest office furniture manufacturer "Nowy Styl" in Europe and their Factory in Poland. This post carries some of my impressions from the journey... Hope you will enjoy it.

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Some of my whispers of heart, expressed in forms of poetry, Haiku and free verse..

Some of my Haiku this week..
Some of my Haiku from past... 
This one post is about passionate nights of love... the desires that grow within one’s purity of love, cast by the chaos of mind... sometimes one is not able to control what one wants to do and what one desires in its deepest passionate thoughts...

My spiritual wandering’s across life...

Every year the roads to pilgrim places like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Gangotri or Gaumukh (the glacier from where the Ganga originates) in Uttaranchal turns into flaming orange color with Kanwars – the saffron clad devotees, who’s mission is to collect holy ganges water from these holy places and consecrate the Shiva Linga’s at their villages and homes. 

A beautiful journey to Navdweep and Mayapur... a spiritual place for Krishna devotees
Here is a journey to Navdweep in West Bengal, where the Bhakti Movement was started by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and then later on taken to international shores by International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which is headquartered nearby in Mayapur....

From this Edition, I am starting another topic, which is all about Mantra Yoga – A meditation system that I have been following for some time. In this process one uses specific Mantra with breathing technique for manifesting health, wealth, Love, peace and wisdom in one’s own life. First of the series is a very powerful Mantra of Lord Shiva

If you are following me on various social media like this blog, Face BookTwitter or have received email from me then I am sure that you have come across my signature sign off...
 नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
And many times, I have been asked what it means. This post explains the meaning of the mantra as well as some very powerful recitations of the mantra chant – One a great Indian classical singer Pandit Jasraj and the other one by a great Krishna devotee Krishna Das which I love listening to....

Hope you would enjoy this edition of my ‘Shadow dancing with Mind’ Please leave a comment on the pages you visit and I will be very grateful if you click the follow button, so that we can be in touch...
नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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FEATURE : Soundarya Lahari "Waves of Beauty" - Adi Shankaracharya

Sculpture at famous Sun temple - Konark

Recently, in a discussion, I came across a view that the art, sculpture and writings of ancient India many times were inspired by the kings and emperor’s lustfulness. Examples of Ajanta Ellora caves, Temple sculptures of Konark, Kaam Sutra etc was mentioned... showing explicit images of naked female and male forms in public places that offended the sensibility of modern Indians. So I highlighted that, this was the way, Ancient Indian’s lived and as is the case with many tropical countries, they was actually no need to cover the upper part of the body. This seeming nudity was the way of life for Indians at that point in history, which got reflected in the art and culture of India.

In this context, I am hereby reproducing some interesting examples of how the beauty of Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva, was described by one of the sages in the Book “Soundarya Lahari” in explicit but beautiful terms, full of devotion..

Brief Note
Adi Shankaracharya
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma
The Soundarya Lahari (Sanskrit: सौन्दर्यलहरी) meaning "Waves Of Beauty" is a famous literary work in Sanskrit believed to be written by sage Pushpadanta and Adi Shankara. Its hundred and three shlokas (verses) eulogize the beauty, grace and munificence of Goddess Parvati / Dakshayani, consort of Shiva.

It is said that once Adi Shankara visited Kailash to worship Shiva and Parvathi. There, the Lord gave him a manuscript containing 100 verses which described the many facets of the Goddess, as a gift to him. While Shankara was returning after visiting Kailash, Nandi stopped him on the way. He snatched the manuscript from him, tore it into two, took one part and gave the other to Shankara. Shankara, desolate, ran to Shiva and narrated the incident to him. Shiva, smiling, commanded him to retain the 41 verses with him as the initial part of the 100 verses and then, write an extra 59 verses in praise of the Goddess himself. Thus, verses 1 - 41 are the original work of Lord Shiva, shedding great light on the ancient rituals of TantraYantra and various powerful Mantras. The remaining verses, i.e. 42-100 are composed by Adi Shankara himself, which mainly focuses on the appearance of the Goddess. All the 100 verses are collectively known as 'Soundarya Lahari'.

The Soundarya Lahari is not only a poem. It is a tantra textbook, giving instructions on Puja and offerings, many yantras, almost one to each shloka; describes tantric ways of performing devotion connected to each specific shloka; and details the results ensuing therefrom. There are many interpretations and commentaries but best of these are arguably those that provide word-to-word translations, as also the yantras, the devotion to be performed and the results of the devotion.

Text Source: Wikipedia
Below are some of the verses from the book which I liked very much. As these were also Tantra Verses, they are supposed to have an effect on the specific areas of manifestation. So you will find in the beginning, in brackets, what the verse or the tantra is supposed to manifest.... Hope you will enjoy reading this... in case some of you want the verse in Sanskrit, please let me know.
In context with above discussion, please read the Sutra’s numbered 78 – 80 specifically..
Sculpture at Konark Temple

Soundarya Lahari
Part I

Lord Shiva, only becomes able.
To do creation in this world along with Shakthi
Without her, Even an inch he cannot move,
And so how can, one who does not do good deeds,
Or one who does not sing your praise,
Become adequate to worship you
Oh , goddess mine, Who is worshipped by the trinity.

(Attainment of all knowledge)

The dust under your feet, Oh Goddess great,
Is like the city of the rising sun,
That removes all darkness , unfortunate,
From the mind of the poor ignorant one,
Is like the honey that flows ,
From the flower bunch of vital action,
To the slow witted one,
Is like the heap of wish giving gems,
To the poorest of men,
And is like the teeth of Lord Vishnu
In the form of Varaha,
Who brought to surface,
The mother earth,
To those drowned in this sea of birth.

(Mutual attraction between male and female)

You who grant all the good things,
To those who bow at your feet,
Was worshipped by the Lord Vishnu,
Who took the pretty lovable feminine form,
And could move the mind of he who burnt the cities,
And make him fall in love with him.
And the God of love , Manmatha,
Took the form which is like nectar,
Drunk by the eyes by Rathi his wife,
After venerating you,
Was able to create passion ,
Even in the mind of Sages the great.

(Victory in the matters of love)

With dishevelled hair,
With upper cloths slipping from their busts,
With the lock of the golden belt getting open due to the haste,
And with saris slipping away from their shoulders,
Hundreds of young lasses,
Run after the men,
Who get your sidelong glance,
Even though they are very old,
Bad looking and not interested in love sports.

(Ability to write poems and ability to become scholar)

Sweetest words rivalling the honey, milk and grapes,
Can only Come to the thoughts of the devotee,
Who once meditates on your face,
Which is like the white autumn moon,
On your head with a crown with the crescent moon and flowing hair,
And hands that shower boons and give protection,
Which hold the crystal chain of beads and books.

(Victory in love)

He who meditates on,
The lustre of your beautiful body,
Which is blessed by the rising sun,
And which dissolves the sky and the world,
In light purple hue,
Makes celestial damsels like Uravasi and others,
Who have eyes like the wild startled deer,
Follow him like slaves.

(Seeing of the Goddess in person, curing of sexual diseases)

I pray in your holy wheel of Mooladhara,
You who likes to dance,
And calls yourself as Samaya,
And that Lord who performs the great vigorous dance,
Which has all the shades of nine emotions.
This world has you both as parents,
Because you in your mercy, wed one another,
To recreate the world,
As the world was destroyed in the grand deluge.

Part II

(Victory over all)

Oh, Goddess , who is the consort of Shiva,
Let the darkness of our mind be destroyed,
By the crowning glory on your head,
Which is of like the forest of opened blue lotus flowers,
And which is soft , dense and shines with lustre.
I believe my mother,
That the pretty flowers of Indra’s Garden,
Are all forever there,
To get the natural scent of thine hair.

(All round luck)

She who is the consort of Lord Shiva,
Please bathe me with your merciful look,
From your eyes which are very long,
And have the glitter of slightly opened,
Blue lotus flower divine.
By this look I will become rich with all that is known,
And you do not loose anything whatsoever,
For does not the moon shine alike,
In the forest and palaces great.

(Good fame)

Oh mother mine.
The center place of your holy breasts,
Wear the glittering chain ,
Made out of the pearls,
Recovered from inside the head of Gajasura,
And reflect the redness of your lips,
Resembling the Bimba fruits,
And are coloured red inside.
You wear the chain with fame,
Like you wear the fame of our Lord.
Who destroyed the three cities.

(Capacity to write poems)

Oh daughter of the king of mountains,
I feel in my mind,
That the milk that flows from your breast,
Is really the goddess of learning, Sarswathi,
In the form of a tidal wave of nectar.
For , milk given by you ,who is full of mercy,
Made the child of Dravida*,
The king among those great poets,
Whose works stole one’s mind.

(Complete renunciation, Victory in love)

Oh daughter of the mountain,
The God of love who is the king of the mind,
Being lit by the flame of anger of Shiva,
Immersed himself in the deep pond of thine navel.
The tendril like smoke emanated from there,
And mother, people think,
That this is the line of hair,
That climbs from your navel upwards.

(Attracting all the universe)

Oh daughter of the mountain,
Is your navel a whirl pool in river Ganga,
Which looks very stable!
Or is it the root of the climber,
Of the stream of your hair line,
Which has two breasts of yours as buds,
Or is it the Homa fire,
Where the fire is the light from cupid,
Or is it the play house of Rathi, the wife of God of love,
Or is it the opening to the cave,
In which Shiva’s tapas gets fulfilled,
I am not able to make up my mind!

(Getting remarkable beauty, Becoming expert in magic)

Oh Goddess mine,
Placed just below your shoulders,
By Cupid , the God of love,
Tearing your blouse which is attached ,
To your body by the sweat,
When you think of the greatness of your Lord,
And resembling pots of Gold,
Your breasts appear to be tied by him,
Securely three times,
By the three creeper like folds*.

(Attainment of knowledge and wealth)

Many poets reach the Goddess of learning,
The wife of the creaor,
By composing soulfull poems.
Many who search and attain riches,
Are termed as the Lord of the Goddess of wealth.
Oh, first among chaste woman,
Except Lord Shiva your consort.
Your breasts have not even touched,
The holy henna* tree.

(Attainment of all occult powers)

Oh Goddess who is the source of all words,
This poem which is made of words,
That you only made,
Is like showing the camphor lamp to the Sun,
Is like offering as ablation to the moon,
The water got from the moon stone,
And is like offering water worship,
To the sea.
- By Adi Shankaracharya
Translation by P R Ramchander

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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Aug 22, 2011

WANDERLUST: In search of Krishna - Mayapur and Navdweep

A beautiful journey to Navdweep and Mayapur... a spiritual place for Krishna devotees
Today 22nd Aug, 2011 is Krishna Janamashtami, the day Krishna was born in ancient time. On this occasion, here is my journey to Navdweep in West Bengal, where the Bhakti Movement was started by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and then later on taken to international shores by International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which is headquartered nearby in Mayapur.... but before that lets know a little bit more of Krishna.

Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda, is shown performing
a 'kirtan' in the streets of Nabadwip, Bengal.
Who is Krishna?

 literally is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is an Avatar of Vishnu and considered in some monotheistic traditions as the Supreme Being. Krishna is identified as a historical individual who participated in the events of the Mahābhārata.
Krishna is often described as an infant or young boy playing a flute as in the Bhagavata Purana, or as a youthful prince giving direction and guidance as in the Bhagavad Gita. The stories of Krishna appear across a broad spectrum of Hindu philosophical and theological traditions. They portray him in various perspectives: a god-child, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero and the Supreme Being. The principal scriptures discussing Krishna's story are the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana and the Vishnu Purana.
Worship of a deity or hero called Krishna, in the form of VasudevaBala Krishna or Gopala, can be traced to as early as 4th century BC. Worship of Krishna as svayam bhagavan, or the Supreme Being, known as Krishnaism, arose in the Middle Ages in the context of the bhakti movement. From the 10th century AD, Krishna became a favorite subject in performing arts and regional traditions of devotion developed for forms of Krishna such as Venkateshwara  in  Andhra,  Jagannatha  in  OrissaVithoba in Maharashtra and Shrinathji in Rajasthan. The Gaudiya Vaishnavism sect of Krishnaism was established in the 16th century, and since the 1960s has also spread in the West, largely due to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
TEXT from Wikipedia

Shri Radha madhav temple
ISKCON - Mayapur
Now this brings me back to my journey to Navdweep and to ISKCON Headquarters at Mayapur. In the early hours of Friday, we started our 300 KM journey. Typically, the roads in India, specially in this part of the country, are full of challenges but as we left the crowds of Kolkata, the country side gave way to the lush green fields and the occasional rivers and canals provided much needed relief from the city environment and pollutions. By the time we reached Mayapur, it was evening.
My first steps to Sri Radha Madhav Temple complex was a kind of let down as I did not realise that it’s not a typical temple per se but a place for gathering of devotees. The main hall, Sri Sri Panchtattva Temple, had very attractive and magnificent larger than life deities of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with His associates Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Advaita Acharya, Sri Gadhadhara Pandita and Sri Srivasa Thakura. These were installed in 2004, which was a remarkable event in the history of ISKCON. The small Pancha-tattva deities were installed earlier, in 1996.

I think that, what many of the ISKCON temples lack in the power emanating from the idols, they make it up with their devotion and love for Krishna. Our temples like Kedar Nath, Neel Kanth, Madurai Meenakshi temple, Bala Ji Tirupati etc are there for many centuries and people’s constant devotion, attachment and prayers make these places very vibrant in itself but then ISKCON Temples are different in thoughts, philosophy and services as well as modern structures. That somehow makes these places of worship, different and interesting. This realisation dawned on me the next day morning.
At 4AM in the morning, me and my friends went for mangala aarti, which goes on till 5 AM with ritual of lighted lamps, mantra chanting and a beautifully co-ordinated singing and dancing of the ISKCON devotees. To begin with it was just people chanting “hare Krishna” mantra.... and as the whole place got filled up with bhajan, kirtan (ritual chanting) and rhythmic dance, subtly and slowly the atmosphere changed. I was unmoved in the beginning but slowly I could feel the power ... of the collective religious devotion gathering all around me and at one point of time I could really feel the Krishna coming down from the place his Idol was placed and playing with all of us. In the end I was totally engrossed and flowed within the reverent feelings of the people around me. I did not know when I started matching my steps with all those devotees around, totally involved in their chanting, singing and dancing .....
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
World Head Quarters - Maya Pur India

In the evening, we were on time for Aarti - Archna ... which starts around 6 PM. As I was watching the preparation, I saw a very devout person listening to the Chanting and he could not hold himself more and started to dance on the sides of the hall behind a pillar, so as not to disturb the gathering. By 6.15 the atmosphere started changing.. the guards from outside came in and demarcated a place in the adjacent hall by ropes and a Tulsi (Basil) plant was brought in. Most of the ISKCON’ites gathered around it and the chanting began with Tulsi Puja. .. this slowly built in to a religious fervour and ended after 2 hours of devoted Aarti by most of the devotees. I saw two very small kids, one boy and a girl in the gathering, who were so involved with the whole ceremony. It was a pleasure to watch them dancing and chanting ‘Hare Krishna’ Mantra. The women were gathered outside the arena and formed their own group to sing the songs of Lord Krishna.

Next day, early morning we started our visit to Navdweep. When I stepped on the boat from the Mayapur to reach to the Navdweep, the journey itself prepared me for the vision that I was going to have in the birth place of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The river in its meandering ways with trees bent low, almost touching the holy waters of River Ganges, as if in obeisance. I almost saw Krishna playing joyfully in those branches of the trees... I kept wondering, what is so special in these dusty crowded streets where only a rickshaw can move..? What is it in the place that makes me bow down to touch the earth in deep reverence?

In Navdweep, I had felt a kind of blissful joy surge in me. Finally I was in the place where bhakti yoga took its root and the air was full of vibrancy and devotion. Many devotees fresh from the bathe, they took in holy Ganges, with droplets clinging to their clothes, like dew drops, smile on the enchanted faces; I could almost see them, just like gopis ready with desire in heart to meet Krishna, ... How graceful the way these simple village folks laid bare their love for Krishna. Among them I find myself so insignificant and small… how easy it is for them to be with you all the time along with their household chores.. and family duties.

The temple where Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
used to worship Krishna
The streets were full of people and vendors showing me all kinds of things related to Krishna. Some were pushing their beautifully crafted Peacock feather fan, some placed in my hands, beautifully made idols. The tea shop was full of people starting the new day with an invigorating drink. The whole day, we spent going from one place of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lila to another. In the evening, I tasted the best tea, while waiting for the boat to arrive for our return journey to the Mayapur. 

I felt sad going back to Mayapur as the environment in Navdweep was full of energy and Krishna’s breath. I felt closer to Krishna when I was at Navdweep. There, among the people, who were carrying within them the devotion that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had for you, I was able to reach you more easily....

हरे कृष्ण हरे कृष्ण
कृष्ण कृष्ण हरे हरे
हरे राम हरे राम
राम राम हरे हरे

Sources: Wikipedia, ISKCON, Mayapur

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The long walk to Rishikesh - Kanwarias                   Bodh Gaya - Buddha Pilgirmage

Aug 21, 2011

MANTRA YOGA : Om Namah Shivaya - A powerful mantra to attain wisdom

One of the twelve Jyotirlinga of Shiva - Kedar Nath
This image is from 2005, when I visited
the holy place
If you are following me on various social media like this blog, Face Book, Twitter or have received email from me then I am sure that you have come across my signature sign off...

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

And many times, I have been asked what it means. I have explained to many but then I guess, it’s better to put all the things related with the mantra that makes me so peaceful and calm, at one place. So here is the meaning of the mantra as well as some very powerful recitations of the mantra chant – One a great Indian classical singer Pandit Jasraj and the other one by a great Krishna devotee Krishna Das which I love listening to....


Om Namah Shivaya (Sanskrit Om Namaḥ Śivāya  नमः शिवाय) is a popular mantra in Shaivism. Its translation is "adoration (namas) to Śiva", preceded by the mystical syllable "Aum". It is also called Panchakshara, the "five-syllable" mantra (viz., excluding the Aum). It is part of the Shri Rudram Chamakam, a Hindu prayer taken from the Black Yajurveda, and thus predates the use of Shiva as a proper name, in the original context being an address to Rudra (the later Shiva), where śiva retains its original meaning as an adjective meaning "auspicious, benign, friendly", a euphemistic epithet of Rudra.

The meaning of the Om Namaḥ Śivāya mantra was explained by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami:

Namaḥ Śivāya is the most holy name of God Śiva, recorded at the very center of the Vedas and elaborated in the Śaiva Agamas.

Na is the Lord's concealing grace, Ma is the world, Śi stands for Śiva, Va is His revealing grace, Ya is the soul. The five elements, too, are embodied in this ancient formula for invocation. Na is earth, Ma is water, Śi is fire, Vā is air, and Ya is ether, or Ākāśa. Many are its meanings.
Namaḥ Śivaya has such power, the mere intonation of these syllables reaps its own reward in salvaging the soul from bondage of the treacherous instinctive mind and the steel bands of a perfected externalized intellect. Namaḥ Śivāya quells the instinct, cuts through the steel bands and turns this intellect within and on itself, to face itself and see its ignorance. Sages declare that mantra is life, that mantra is action, that mantra is love and that the repetition of mantra, japa, bursts forth wisdom from within.

The holy Natchintanai proclaims, "Namaḥ Śivāya is in truth both Āgama and Veda. Namah Śivāya represents all mantras and tantras. Namaḥ Śivaya is our souls, our bodies and possessions. Namaḥ Śivāya has become our sure protection." 

The book "The Ancient Power of Sanskrit Mantra and Ceremony: Volume I" by Thomas Ashley-Farrand defines Om Namah Shivaya as:

"This mantra has no direct translation. The sounds relate directly to the principles which govern each of the first five chakras on the spine...Earth, water, fire, air, ether. Notice that this does not refer to the chakras themselves which have a different set of seed sounds, but rather, the principles which govern those chakras in their place. A very rough, non-literal translation could be something like, 'Om and salutations to that which I am capable of becoming.' This mantra will start one out on the path of subtle development of spiritual attainments. It is the beginning on the path of Siddha Yoga, or the Yoga of Perfection of the Divine Vehicle."

"Na" refers to the Gross Body (annamayakosa), "Ma" refers to the Pranic Body (pranamayakosa), "Shi" or "Chi" refers to the Mental Body (manonmayakosa), "Va" refers to the Intellectual Body (vignanamayakosa) and "Ya" refers to the Blissful Body (anandamayakosa) and "OM" or the "silence" beyond these syllables refers to the Soul or Life within.

TEXT: Curtsy Wikipedia

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

Aug 17, 2011

TALKING POINT: Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

Some times, I get things come to me, on its own and this one talk by Brene Brown on "The Power of Vulnerability" just popped up in my cyber space wandering. It gave me a lot of food for thought and views that I could relate to... hence I thought of sharing it with my friends here. It’s a beautiful TED Talk about love, belongingness and shame... if you don’t have time to hear and see her speak, then probably you can read the transcript that is provided at the end...
BRENE BROWN: The Power of Vulnerability

Brene Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

Why you should listen to her:
Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. 

She poses the questions:
How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

"Brené Brown is an absolute legend. This is groundbreaking - not in terms of peoples awareness of these subjects and what they mean... But in these messages enhanced communication made accessible to a wider audience on this level. I have a jumbled up jigsaw in front of me with pieces I've been putting together my whole life- and Brené Brown has just connected so many pieces. This makes so much sense on so many levels. Really awesome stuff. I will watch this a few times and recommend it to people!"
jakesandersonaudio on YouTube

Transcript of the Video

So, I'll start with this: a couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event. And she called, and she said, "I'm really struggling with how to write about you on the little flier." And I thought, "Well, what's the struggle?" And she said, "Well, I saw you speak, and I'm going to call you a researcher, I think, but I'm afraid if I call you a researcher no one will come, because they'll think you're boring and irrelevant." (Laughter) Okay. And she said, "But the thing I liked about your talk is you're a storyteller. So I think what I'll do is just call you a storyteller." And of course the academic, insecure part of me was like, "You're going to call me a what?" And she said, "I'm going to call you a storyteller." And I was like, "Why not magic pixie?" (Laughter) I was like, "Let me think about this for a second." I tried to call deep on my courage. And I thought, I am a storyteller. I'm a qualitative researcher. I collect stories; that's what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I'm just a storyteller. And so I said, "You know what? Why don't you just say I'm a researcher-storyteller." And she went, "Haha. There's no such thing." (Laughter) So I'm a researcher-storyteller, and I'm going to talk to you today -- we're talking about expanding perception -- and so I want to talk to you and tell some stories about a piece of my research that fundamentally expanded my perception and really actually changed the way that I live and love and work and parent.

And this is where my story starts. When I was a young researcher, doctoral student, my first year I had a research professor who said to us, "Here's the thing, if you cannot measure it, it does not exist." And I thought he was just sweet-talking me. I was like, "Really?" and he was like, "Absolutely." And so you have to understand that I have a bachelor's in social work, a master's in social work, and I was getting my Ph.D. in social work, so my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed the life's messy, love it. And I'm more of the, life's messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box. (Laughter) And so to think that I had found my way, to found a career that takes me -- really, one of the big sayings in social work is lean into the discomfort of the work. And I'm like, knock discomfort upside the head and move it over and get all A's. That was my mantra. So I was very excited about this. And so I thought, you know what, this is the career for me, because I am interested in some messy topics. But I want to be able to make them not messy. I want to understand them. I want to hack into these things I know are important and lay the code out for everyone to see.

So where I started was with connection. Because, by the time you're a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it's all about. It doesn't matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice and mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is -- neurobiologically that's how we're wired -- it's why we're here. So I thought, you know what, I'm going to start with connection. Well you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things you do really awesome, and one thing -- an opportunity for growth? (Laughter) And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right. Well apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they'll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

So very quickly -- really about six weeks into this research -- I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn't understand or had never seen. And so I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection. The things I can tell you about it: it's universal; we all have it. The only people who don't experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this "I'm not good enough," -- which we all know that feeling: "I'm not blank enough. I'm not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough." The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.

And you know how I feel about vulnerability. I hate vulnerability. And so I thought, this is my chance to beat it back with my measuring stick. I'm going in, I'm going to figure this stuff out, I'm going to spend a year, I'm going to totally deconstruct shame, I'm going to understand how vulnerability works, and I'm going to outsmart it. So I was ready, and I was really excited. As you know, it's not going to turn out well. (Laughter) You know this. So I could tell you a lot about shame, but I'd have to borrow everyone else's time. But here's what I can tell you that it boils down to -- and this may be one of the most important things that I've ever learned in the decade of doing this research. My one year turned into six years, thousands of stories, hundreds of long interviews, focus groups. At one point people were sending me journal pages and sending me their stories -- thousands of pieces of data in six years. And I kind of got a handle on it.

I kind of understood, this is what shame is, this is how it works. I wrote a book, I published a theory, but something was not okay -- and what it was is that, if I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness -- that's what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness -- they have a strong sense of love and belonging -- and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if their good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we're not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

What do these people have in common? I have a slight office supply addiction, but that's another talk. So I had a manila folder, and I had a Sharpie, and I was like, what am I going to call this research? And the first words that came to my mind were whole-hearted. These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data. In fact, I did it first in a four-day very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled these interviews, pulled the stories, pulled the incidents. What's the theme? What's the pattern? My husband left town with the kids because I always go into this Jackson Pollock crazy thing, where I'm just like writing and in my researcher mode. And so here's what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage when it first came into the English language -- it's from the Latin word cor, meaning heart -- and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this. They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating -- as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say "I love you" first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They're willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

I personally thought it was betrayal. I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research -- the definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena, for the explicit reason to control and predict. And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting. This led to a little breakdown -- (Laughter) -- which actually looked more like this. (Laughter) And it did. I called it a breakdown, my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you it was a breakdown. And I had to put my data away and go find a therapist. Let me tell you something: you know who you are when you call your friends and say, "I think I need to see somebody. Do you have any recommendations?" Because about five of my friends were like, "Wooo. I wouldn't want to be your therapist." (Laughter) I was like, "What does that mean?" And they're like, "I'm just saying, you know. Don't bring your measuring stick." I was like, "Okay."

So I found a therapist. My first meeting with her, Diana -- I brought in my list of the way the whole-hearted live, and I sat down. And she said, "How are you?" And I said, "I'm great. I'm okay." She said, "What's going on?" And this is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their B.S. meters are good. (Laughter) And so I said, "Here's the thing, I'm struggling." And she said, "What's the struggle?" And I said, "Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help." And I said, "But here's the thing, no family stuff, no childhood shit." (Laughter) "I just need some strategies." (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you. So she goes like this. (Laughter) And then I said, "It's bad, right?" And she said, "It's neither good, nor bad." (Laughter) "It just is what it is." And I said, "Oh my God, this is going to suck."


And it did, and it didn't. And it took about a year. And you know how there are people that, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it. A: that's not me, and B: I don't even hang out with people like that. (Laughter) For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.

And so then I went back into the research and spent the next couple of years really trying to understand what they, the whole-hearted, what choices they were making, and what are we doing with vulnerability. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No. So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability -- when we're waiting for the call. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, "How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?" And within an hour and a half, I had a 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what's out there. Having to ask my husband for help, because I'm sick, and we're newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid-off; laying-off people -- this is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

And I think there's evidence -- and it's not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it's a huge cause -- we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is -- and I learned this from the research -- that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can't say, here's the bad stuff. Here's vulnerability, here's grief, here's shame, here's fear, here's disappointment, I don't want to feel these. I'm going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. (Laughter) I don't want to feel these. And I know that's knowing laughter. I hack into your lives for a living. God. (Laughter) You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn't just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that's uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I'm right, you're wrong. Shut up. That's it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There's no discourse anymore. There's no conversation. There's just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort. We perfect. If there's anyone who wants their life to look like this it would be me, but it doesn't work. Because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks. (Laughter) Which just, I hope in a hundred years, people will look back and go, "Wow."


And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They're hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not so say, "Look at her, she's perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect -- make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade." That's not our job. Our job is to look and say, "You know what? You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." That's our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we'll end the problems I think that we see today. We pretend that what we do doesn't have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate -- whether it's a bailout, an oil spill, a recall -- we pretend like what we're doing doesn't have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, "We're sorry. We'll fix it."

But there's another way, and I leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place I believe that says, "I'm enough," then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.

That's all I have. Thank you.
Video, Transcript and Image Curtsy TED Talk 

Brene Brown: The power of Vulnerability

ॐ नमः शिवाय 
Om Namah Shivaya

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