A poster of The Peanuts Movie featuring Charlie Brown

Irfananta: The Peanuts’ Life

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Charlie Brown can’t fly a kite.

He destroys the new neighbour’s (the red-haired girl) fence the day she is moving in.

He doesn’t get to perform his act at the school talent show as everyone else before him (he is the last in line) has taken up too much time. To make things worse, his sister, who precedes him, can’t get her act going. (He comes to her rescue, taking on the costume of the cow. The act’s a success, and so’s his sister, but not he.)

He leaves his book report till the last weekend, then decides to read ‘War and Peace’ (the same one by Leo Tolstoy), manages to finish it over the weekend (how?), manages to write a decent report (after one botched attempt), and then sees it sliced to smithereens by the still-loose model plane.

And when things seem to be turning around for him – he gets a perfect score in the test and becomes an overnight star – at the award ceremony, on receiving his paper and realizing it’s not his (in a mix-up during submission, he had written his name on the wrong sheet), he decides to own up. Much to everyone’s disappointment. Or maybe, expectation?

Seriously, Charlie Brown just can’t seem to get anything right.

So, when his name is picked up from the bowl for who’d want to be his summer pen-pal, why, when the rest of the class ignores him, does the red-haired girl, the girl of his kiddie dreams and sighs, choose him?

Charlie Brown wants to know this badly, and makes a dash for the bus – the girl is going to leave on it for the summer. He finally manages to fly the kite, or rather, the kite flies him. And reaches just when she puts her foot on the bus stoop.

“Why?” He quizzes her. “Why did you choose an insecure, wishy-washy failure?” (Have never before heard any words that depict a state of mind so perfectly.)

Her reply is sweet and simple. “I don’t see all that… I see someone who’s brave (brave enough to own up in front of the entire school)… Someone who’s compassionate (compassionate enough to forego his chance and help out his sister)…”

And Charlie Brown is sighing again.

Life should be a Peanuts’ movie.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy in a warm embrace

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Irfananta: Infinibliss

My physiotherapist friend, Dr Badrinath, is a follower of Infinitheism. Infinitheism, as he has explained to me, is quite simply about growth – in every aspect of life. The way I understand it, it’s about unlocking the infinite potential each person has within themselves to thus see the infinite possibilities/opportunities available to them – again, in every aspect of life.

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Dr Badri is quite a committed follower – he goes for its sessions regularly and, in his consulting room, there is the Infinitheism founder, Mahatria Ra’s photo frame with a quote, a book series, and a calendar. I joked one day, “This place is like a shrine”.

But I knew of Infinitheism before I met with Badri. I first came to know of it through its flagship store in Phoenix Mall, Velachery, and have since then read a couple of issues of its monthly magazine, Infinithoughts. Each time, there have been at least a couple of articles that have resonated with me.

Infinithoughts_PleasureOfPain

Badri and I have discussed the faith a few times. But a month back, he suddenly popped me an invite. “There’s a session this Sunday morning, at 7 am. Come along.”

I am not religious, although I do practice the Buddhist philosophy and path to some extent, but that’s more as a way of life than a faith/religion. Infinitheism doesn’t profess to be a religion either. Also, as I was exposed to it already, it took just one more push from him for me to agree. I also believe that if someone insists on you doing something, there must be a reason to it (which you may not see just yet), and you shouldn’t resist for the sake of it.

So, that Sunday saw me waking up at 3.30 am, completing my morning routine (without skipping breakfast), and leaving home to wait for Badri at the decided time. He was 45 minutes’ late, but we still managed to get there with some time, and the last few seats, to spare.

Following are my impressions of my first Infinipath session. Going by it, I guess I’ll be going for a few more.

Infinisilence

Once we entered the hall, we needed to maintain absolute silence. It’s rare nowadays to come across a space filled with about a thousand people and absolutely quiet. But it’s then that you notice how empowering that silence can be. It’s like you’re getting the energies of all those people without the distraction of all that chatter.

InfiniMan

Bang on time, Mahatria stepped in. A few started clapping, but he asked them to maintain the silence. Glad for that, as by then, it felt like one’s energy was growing, feeding on that silence.

MahatriaRa

By first impressions, Mahatria is like any other new-age, spiritual guru from India. 50ish, dressed in a white kurta-pajama, with a beard, and salt-and-pepper hair in that beard and scalp. But a few minutes into his discourse, some of the ways in which he stands out from other religious leaders begin appearing. He is quite an orator – clear, solid voice, contrasted with the impression you have of a soft-spoken guru. And can he make people laugh (examples coming up). My reaction at this was, “He’s like a stand-up comedian…”

Incidentally, I can “afford” to say all of the above as Mahatria himself announced to the gathering, more matter-of-factly than arrogantly, “You may have an opinion about me, but I don’t care what you think about me”. So, he should be cool, I guess. (Hope the same about his followers.)

Infiniwisdom

He traversed many points that speak to me, and many others, I’m sure. “You are just one breakthrough away…”, “Getting something shouldn’t have to be such a struggle…”, “There’s a reason for religious practices…” “Why stop at this (indicating a lower level)? Aim for this (indicating something higher)…” But won’t go into these as they are best understand live – no, not even on the webcast. The winner, though, was the topic for the day…

Infinidoing

He began this with the raging fire of the time – Maggigate – and shared something simple, profound, but rapidly-becoming obsolete: How humans were only meant to eat things that perish, rather than things that expire “within 9 months from manufacture”. He then effortlessly wove this with how fast our lives have become today, with special thanks/no-thanks to digitalization. We seem to be in a constant spin of do-do-do. If we continue at this pace, soon, we won’t be able to do anymore. (This may already be happening, with recent reports of several mid- and senior-level employees at IT firms being laid off and 20s being the new 40s in terms of age-related diseases.)

That’s why, he provided as a salve, we need to bring in some… Non-doing. Some time in the day when we are not doing anything, but just being.Infinithoughts July 2015 issue cover (on non-doing)That’s also why, he offered as age-old evidence, in any religion, the scriptures/priests insist on you doing nothing in the midst of or after a ritual – as a few moments of peace and calm for you to reflect, instead of rushing to the next item on Wunderlist.

Non-doing

But Mahatria didn’t leave it at that. He actually practised what he preached, and made us too. (And of course, joked about it too… Cue typical Indian accent: “So, someone asked me, how to do non-doing?”) Requesting everyone in the thousand-strong audience to cooperate with silence – he imitated some typical disturbers, who now suddenly need to clear the throat that was alright so far or address that itch where there was none before – he started preparing us for a group meditation session.

MahatriaRa_Meditation   Infinitheists_Meditation

Giving us instructions and then demonstrating (and adding that he’s demonstrating for effect, but that we should do so silently), he gradually led us in. With his guidance, we slowly started wading in…

And then came the bowling ball: “Think about your source of faith…

Momentary anxiety…

For a full minute, I felt like nine pins. Most others would have no shocker at this, as they unquestioningly follow the religion/faith they’ve been born into and hold as a bedrock. But for someone who doesn’t follow any religion (but his own path, dare I add), what does one cling to instead of religion? For sixty seconds or so, my boat was rocked more than Pi’s, as I kept searching in my mind – and hurtling far, far away from the purpose of meditation (to find peace and calm)…

Calm restored…

I guess you need your vessel rocked from time to time, for that’s when you dig deep in and know what you’re made of, or in this case, what gives you energy. I won’t answer what gives me my faith here – we all need to find and develop ours – but suffice to say, the meditation after that went the way meditations should go.

When it concluded, about 15 minutes later, I felt I had been transported to my Goa vacation of five years ago: cloudy skies, haze of rain, cool winds, gurgling sea, unpeopled stretches of beach, me walking those stretches, with just me for company…

Infinicalm

Mahatria concluded the session soon after, stating it’s best to wind up in that sublime state, played some spiritual music to keep up the atmosphere, and soon people started making their way. (Many went up to embrace him – that’s a practice, I gathered.) But Badri doesn’t do that, and I wanted to maintain that peaceful feeling, so we exited slowly. So much so that, as we eventually came out, he asked me how I found the session, and my response was a spontaneous yet soft, “You know, for things like these, one should come without company and go without company…” He understood. We had a short chat over (his) breakfast. And we split soon after.

Infinipractice

If you know/practise it, meditation (or in this case, non-doing) doesn’t end at one session. When sharing my thoughts on that Infinipath with Badri the next day at his clinic, he provided, “Mahatria is a man of action”. That’s why he demonstrated non-doing at the session after the “gyaan”. And he urged us to practice non-doing for the next 21 days at least – until the end of the month. (They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit.) So, without pushing us, he meant for us to continue it. Obviously, for our own good.

Infinieffect

So, the crux question. No, not the one about source of faith – as I said, that’s personal and you have to find yours. But the question: Have I been doing non-doing for 21 days?

Oh, yes. And the results, it seems, are beginning to show. Yesterday, my mom noted, “You’re looking younger”. As I’ve been discussing my spiritual practices – Buddhism, yoga, meditation, Infinitheism, non-doing – with my mom, she knew where it’s coming from. But I guess someone else would have asked further: “Wow, so what have you been doing?” My response would have been an honest “Nothing”.

If you’d like to know more about Infinitheism, visit their site: http://www.infinitheism.com/

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Irfananta: Thoughts on Day Two of Yoga

I’ve been undergoing physiotherapy for the past month and a half for a couple of chronic injuries, the one work-related (rotator cuff syndrome due to overuse of the computer mouse) and the other sports-related (calcaneal spur due to heel-abusive running). The good doctor has managed to get me to 75% better so far (bless him) and is working even harder to take me to the finishing line (more power to him).

Apart from the exercises, he has also been “educating” me – in his opinion, the biggest part of getting better. This “education” has meant me making seminal changes, such as changing the way I sit and stand; taking breathers and doing simple exercises between work; investing in shoes that “lock my heel”; and most critically, taking up (for/from now) sports/activities that don’t abuse my shoulder and heels. The last has meant that I now go walking (instead of running), go walking at least 50% of the time on even surfaces (the road in a park compared with the road on, well, the road), adding cycling to my regime (as it does not intensely involve the heel), and considering taking up yoga.

Yoga seemed especially attractive as it is known to offer physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits. So, I scoured my neighbourhood for yoga studios and finally decided on one that was close enough and offered the gamut (asanas, pranayama, meditation). They were offering three trial classes, and I decided to take these up, although I was sure “I would 99% likely sign up before going through all the trial classes.

Below are my thoughts on Day Two of the trial classes.

You’re skidding me

You know that yoga mats have one side as anti-skid. This is the bottom one, so that you, um, don’t skid especially when trying a treacherous, er, tricky asana. (The other side typically has the brand logo, and is meant to go on top, um, for you to sit on.) Methinks they should make both sides anti-skid. I had sweat dripping and dropping from my forehead (despite having a headband) onto the mat as well as awash on my palms, preventing me from getting a grasp on the mat and thus executing any asana that needed me to place my palms on the mat. So, pretty much all of them. And I wasn’t even doing hot yoga.

Caveat yogi

If the makers can’t both make sides anti-skid, the studio guys better add a ‘Let the yogi beware’ clause during their registration process. Else, the injury count, and thus the insurance claim, from people slipping and falling during these asanas is seriously going to dent the profits they are eyeing.

No animals, or objects, were hurt in the making of these asanas

There’s a simple reason why so many asanas are named after animals: only animals can do them. Only the cobra can make the perfect arc of the bhujangasana, and only the camel can throw its neck that far back as in the ushtrasana. If the human body were meant to go through these twists and twirls, we would have been given as many limbs, or none at all (lucky snakes). Actually, it’s not just animals. There’s also non-living things, such as the plow/plough, which inspires halasana, and the sun, which begets the surya namaskar. See, both were designed for those angles, the one by man and the other by the Good Lord. And how can I compete with a creation of God?

Dogs

From yoga… to noga

The class ends, I’m a bag of sweat, my body feels more kneaded than dough, my muscles are weeping, I step out, and the owner asks me, “So, have you been able to decide (whether you’re joining after taking two trial classes)?

Here’s what I told her: “I’ll check with my therapist and get back to you.

Here’s what I’m telling you: No. No way. Not at all. Well, ok, at least not now.

It is abso right when they say that no matter how much exercise you have done before this, yoga reveals (exposes) how inflexible you really are. Now, I don’t mind my frailty being exposed (then, I wouldn’t have blogged this post), but I realised this – yoga might prepare me for awesome things (suppleness, energy, calm), but I need to prepare myself for yoga. So, I’ll take it up again/properly when I’m better prepared. And how do I plan to do that? Well, there’s an indication of that in my next (upcoming) post.

PS: My thoughts on Day One of the trial classes? Well, if it wasn’t already clear: Yoga 1, Me 0.

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Irfananta: In-possible

It’s a new month; half the year is over; it’s Doctor’s Day; and starting today, helmets are compulsory for all two-wheeler riders in Chennai, pillions included. Good enough reasons (or excuses) to start off a new series.

I give you, as the featured pic says, Irfananta. Like my blog name (Irfinity) and the other series in my blog (Irfictionary), it too is a coming together of my name and the essence of the blog/series. In fact, the name is, aptly enough, the Hindi translation of my blog name: ‘ananta’ means ‘unending’, or ‘infinite’.

And what’s it about? A couple of new practices that I have gotten drawn toward this year (and hopefully will continue in the future too): yoga and Buddhism. Things of the spiritual sphere. Yoga is widely believed to offer you unending physical health (through the asanas and pranayama) as well as spiritual well-being (through meditation). Buddhism too is held to help you quieten and strengthen your mind and thus unlock your infinite potential.

Then, shall we start on this Irfananta journey? With, interestingly enough, a slightly tongue-in-cheek piece (tongue yoga?) – hopefully showing that the spiritual doesn’t have to mean the solemn.

 ∞

As I just wrote, yoga helps make your body as pliant as a serpent’s (there’s a cobra pose in yoga – bhujangasana – and many asanas have animal names as they are inspired by the design and/or motor capability of that animal) and helps make your mind and being as calm as Kung Fu Panda’s teacher, Shifu.

However, the manufacturers of yoga mats (the place on which you’re supposed to work on this pliancy and peace) and yoga mat bags don’t seem to be similarly aligned. How else would you explain that the yoga mat, after you’re done with your practice, is never malleable enough to go back into that bag – no matter how tightly you roll it or how small you make the front portion? Or by correlation, why that bag isn’t flexi enough to take back the desirous mat without a struggle, and in most cases, not at all?

I’ve tried, tried, and then some, and have managed to put the mat back in all of once, that too after ananta sweat-drops of struggle. Beginner’s luck. All other times, I have managed na-da; in the process, feeling first annoyed, then irritated, then frustrated, and finally angry. Seriously, where is that peace of mind yoga promised me?

Animal Yoga

I am reasonably confident that, after months of huffing and puffing, I will be able to execute the halasana (plow/plough pose) and get my legs behind my head on the ground. But getting the yoga mat back into its bag after I’ve done the halasana? Don’t see that happening for, well, forever. Seriously, there should be an asana just for this. Kasht (difficult) asana? Dhairya (patience) asana? Gussa (anger) asana?

So, I’ve decided to do the next best thing. I’m getting the bag custom-made. Appropriately enough, at a nearby organic store named Moksha (salvation).