Baba working at the Ashram

You Cannot Game Life

You can game yourself to sell customers on your claims. But you cannot game your customers into loyal, diehard clients.

You can game yourself into social tactics to win more acquaintances than you can keep up with. But you cannot game your acquaintances into real friends.

You can game yourself to pick up a girl that is there to be picked up at a bar. But you cannot game her into a true relationship.

You can game yourself with a degree and some networking into a fancy, good paying job. But you cannot game your career into a passionate one.

You can game yourself into paying a company to do everything for you to trek to Everest basecamp including planning, carrying your stuff, guiding you, feeding you, accommodating you, all but maybe walk for you. But you cannot game the fear, challenge, adventure, joy, and growth of facing the unknown, all alone, with nothing, but your own. 

Life is not a game. Life is the real thing.
It’s happening already, right here, right now.

Life cannot be confined or controlled.
Life is uncertain and unknowable.
Life is changing and flowing.

Life can only be grasped through experience.

Learn more about life.
By trusting life and yourself.
By believing in life and in yourself.

By practice. Persistent, mindful, practice.
Practice living true to yourself. No matter what.
Start where you are. Live one day at a time.

Live according to what gives you peace. 

Peace not pleasure. Peace not comfort.
Peace not certainty. Peace not luxury.
Peace not popularity. Peace.

Stop gaming yourself and start living life.

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Expectationless - photo taken in Jitpurphedi village Nepal of VIN volunteers.

Expectationless

Every encounter is a gift, given to you and me,
free of charge, 
free of expectations.

A gift to learn. A gift to give. A gift to be.
A gift to practice, having no expectations.

The bank teller. The flight attendant.
The waitress. The taxi driver.
The conversation with the bartender.
The girl sitting next to you, on the plane.
The presentation you’ll give at work.

Your colleagues, your friends, your relatives.

The guy you’ll bump into down the street today.

It’s all, a gift. Honor it by having no expectations.

Share yourself. Be Expectationless.
Show them, the beauty, that you see.

Now, become Expectationless with your plans,
your career, your goals, your relationships, your life.

Soak in the joy of letting go and letting life be.

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The Exposed Soul

Exposed

The unexposed mind, possesses a desire, for others’ understanding and acceptance, of what she has been, what she is, and what she may become. Such desire is rooted in fear. This desire can delude her view of reality. It confines her. It holds her back. In order to become what she was born to be, what only, she can be, she must detach. Detach from the comfort of what she knows. Because her potential lies, in the unknown, that is life.

She must expose herself to life.
To learn to be on her own. To earn trust in her own nature.
To gather her own self-knowledge. To realize she can manifest anything.
To become self-reliant. She must awaken, and live, her dream.
Once she has awoken, life is forever more lively.

Relationships are no longer the same. They too, are more pure.

There’s no attachment. There is trust.
There’s no assumption. There is clarity.
There’s no desire. There is love.
There’s no expectation. There is gratitude.

She is grateful, for all she has been, done, known, felt, and seen.
Life has matured her capacity to see, to feel, to know, to do, and to be, beyond herself.
She no longer sees herself as a victim of the stories of the past.
She can remember the pain, of yesterday, but, it too, is no longer the same.
She has forgiven, herself. She has forgiven and forgotten.
Sorrow has transformed into joy.

Joy is life.

In life, she is free. She exudes light. A mysterious, pure, innocent, yet refined quality.
Others gravitate toward her, unknowingly.
She has unearthed her own greatness. She has seen, the one, within.
She exposes, in love, the beauty of all she encounters.

Her soul is exposed.

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Be happy with no reason

Be

It does not interest me,
what you do for a living,
where you come from, or
what you have done.

I want to know, if you can, 

feel, with no thought,
do good, with no god,

walk, with no destination,
give, with no expectation,

climb, with no summit,
live, with no purpose,
love, with no desire,

be happy, with no reason.

- Sepehr Vakili

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Asutosh studying geography in Nepal

The Astronaut

“I watch Hindi films too.” I say to Asutosh soon after arriving at the home stay in Jitpur Phedi village in Nepal. He lives next door. He’s the youngest cousin of the family I live with while volunteering with Volunteers Initiative Nepal. “Oh, which movies have you seen?” He asks with surprise. “I’ve seen a few, but I don’t recall most of the titles. I’ve seen Chennai Express. Shah Rukh Khan is my favorite Indian actor.” I answer. “You have seen Chennai Express!” He exclaims. “What else, which film?” He is glad to know the foreigner, born in Iran, raised in America, has seen Indian films, the same ones he and his cousins love to watch. “I want to see Jodha Akbar.” I don’t want to disappoint him so I name the movie which I had downloaded, but had yet to watch. “Oh, Jodha Akbar! Jodha Akbar! I have this on DVD. Wait, wait, I will bring.” He’s grateful as he runs next door to his house returning promptly with the DVD in hand. 

He’s sweet, humble, and kind. Reminds me of my little brother. He has a spark that is pure and true, the kind we are given, at birth. The kind that unfortunately, too often sheds off, as we become, adults. “Which countries have you been to?” He asks, not to know, but, because he is knowledgeable. “I’ve been to about twenty-five or so.” I answer while reaching for the iPhone kept in the right pocket of The North Face jacket I wear to keep my body warm in the 6 degree celsius weather, inside the room. “Okay, Iran, Austria, USA…” I read the chronological list from the offline iCloud Notes. “Oh, Austria, it’s land-locked, like Nepal.” He remarks. “What? I don’t understand.” I ask him to repeat as I squint my eyes turning my head slightly, exposing my right ear to him. “Land, locked.” He stresses, clearly. “Nepal is also surrounded by land, no body of water.” He teaches me. “Wow, you’re right, I don’t remember ever learning this term.” I thank him for teaching me something new.  

He studies in the mornings as I go to the city or the village for volunteer duty. He walks atop the hill where the two homes sit on, overlooking the open horizon where the sun rises. The flat lands below are abundant with green rice fields. He walks back and forth covering about fifty feet of ground, reading aloud, some time in English, some time in Nepali. The family’s calf, Maya, which means love in Nepali, munches on hay and grass as Asotush walks by, gently stroking her hair with his left hand, holding the textbook with the other. 

Asutosh hugging Maya, the family calf.

Asutosh hugging Maya, the family calf.

“So, you always study on the weekend?” I ask him, two weeks later, as he curiously approaches me to see the screen of my MacBook Air. I am editing a poem I had written the night before. He carries two books, one in each hand, both geography, one in English, the other in Nepali. “Yes, sometimes, but this is not for school. I just want to know about the world.” He answers. It is a Saturday morning, his one-day weekend. I’m staying in the village this weekend to spend time with Asutosh and the family. We sit on the concrete flat, about two feet above the dirt ground, facing the sun. The eagles glide freely in the misty blue sky beyond. Nepal is known for its eight hundred and sixty-four species of birds. The rising sun evaporates the cool water on the fields below, clearing the misty air, as the eyes shed tears when an aching, broken heart needs to heal.

“What is your dream? Your aim.” I ask as he turns the page to the map of Iran to locate my birthplace, Birjand. “Oh, oh, my dream, I don’t know.” He hesitates, momentarily, as he brushes his fingers through his hair, lowering his head, bringing his chin to his chest in a side to side wobble. “My dream is to be an astronaut.” His head rises, his face glows, instantly, revealing an effortless smile. “Oh wow, astronaut! That’s wonderful. Why, why astronaut?” I ask to learn if his dream is for an imagined future prestige, or a pure and present pursuit in and of itself. “Because, I want to know more about the planets, and maybe one day go to space.” He confirms the happiness in his pursuit.

Asutosh locating Birjand Iran.

Asutosh locating Birjand Iran.

For Asutosh, school, is not about memorizing random facts to one day get a job that he’s not even interested in, as it was, for me. For him, going to school, is, living, his dream. 

Asutosh, is not a thirteen-year-old boy. 

He is, a seeker.
He is, an explorer.
He is, a dreamer.

He is, an astronaut.

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Free - Eagle in Jitpur Phedi Nepal

Free

Atop the hill, the sun, shinning,
over the rice fields, green.
The eagle, gliding,
she, is, free.

I have lost.
Lost the pain.
The pain, of yesterday.

A distant nightmare,
I saw, for sleep, I remained.
Alas, I have awaken,
to the dream.

In joy, I live. 

I too, am free, as is she,
gliding, beyond me.
I am not, me. I am, thee.
And you, are me.

- Sepehr Vakili

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Anna at Boudhanath

Unearthing Dreams in Nepal

“Then, Yasoda walked up to me, held my head in her hands, looked me in the eye and said, Anna, stop crying, you will come back here again, one day.” Anna was telling me of the first time she served at Volunteers Initiative Nepal (VIN) last year in her distinct Australian accent. I have a love of accents – though I didn’t when I was a boy. We had immigrated from Iran to the states when I was eleven. All I recall is the pride preached by others how so and so had learned to speak English with the American accent and does not sound like a Persian immigrant.

An accent is the vibrant, individual notation that is music for the words we speak. Our speech is nature’s invisible canvas stroked by the sights and stories of the places and people we’ve come to know. When we speak we reveal the invisible. It is a part of who we are. 

I loved listening to Anna. She spoke truthfully. She didn’t seek attention or admiration. She had earned her own self-respect. She had fought and won her own personal battles. She knew fear. She knew love, too. She had let go of the comforts of her home in Sydney, Australia to be here in Nepal. “It was my last day in Nepal and it was just so difficult to say goodbye, I had found a home here.” She continues with ease. Her hands move in a rhythmic flow as she speaks. She has a Tibetan mala prayer bead looped around her left wrist. She wears the traditional Nepali long dress, vibrant, red, as red as her rosy cheeks that cold night. We were sitting in the outdoor patio of a bar drinking and waiting for her favorite local band to perform.

I arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal on December 31st, 2014. I was to volunteer as a youth empowerment teacher in a local rural community. It was my second Friday in Thamel, a tourist district in Kathmandu. I had left the village home-stay I live at to stay in town for the weekend.

“I just didn’t want to leave. I was sobbing. Bhupi, VIN’s founder, hugged me and I just dropped my face on his chest and cried.” She continued with her story as the band tuned their instruments. “But I couldn’t stop crying until Yasoda walked up to me and said those words. And she was right, I came back to Nepal, again, and again.” Her first time in Nepal was in November, 2012. She returned again in December, 2013 and December, 2014. This time, she plans to stay until June, 2015.

Yasoda enjoying her momo dumplings at the VIN office in Nepal

Yasoda enjoying her momo dumplings at the VIN office in Nepal 

I first met Yasoda, the office cook and all-around maid when she greeted me with a smile and a cup of hot tea on the first day in the office. I was exhausted, anxious, had a fever, and travelers diarrhea. I had been in Nepal less than forty-eight hours. It had taken three flights and thirty-seven hours to travel from Atlanta to Kathmandu. The first sip of her tea eased my troubled mind. It wasn’t just the tea. It was Yasoda, too.

Light exudes from her.
A mysterious quality many people here possess. 

“You have been abroad?” I asked, Yasoda. I tend to speak broken English when abroad as a humble attempt to ease communication. “Oh me? No, I don’t know, this is every one’s dream. Maybe one day.” She nodded her head in a center to right wobble as she glanced up with a smile, calmly whispering “If God willing”. “Maybe one day if can save money.” She said it as though it will always be a dream. She believes in her distant dream. It gives her hope. “Where, which country you like to go?” I eagerly attempted to keep the conversation going. She seemed hesitant, overwhelmed by my unusual curiosity. “I don’t know, I don’t know any place. I have never seen.” She walked away toward the kitchen, taking her smile with her.

I’m usually the second person in the office here at Volunteers Initiative Nepal. I leave Jitpur Phedi village at nine and get to the office by ten. Others roll in shortly after ten. Yasoda, is the first person here. She begins the day by sweeping the floor and then the front yard. She then prepares her traditional hot Nepali black tea boiled with ginger to warm the staff as they seek comfort from the cold outside. Next, she’s off to the tiny grocery shack down the dusty, busy, bumpy, noisy road to gather the ingredients for the day’s lunch. She spends about three hours preparing lunch for the entire staff and any volunteers that may be in the office. Usually ten to fifteen people.

“In the seven months I have been in Nepal over the last three years, I have yet to experience a meal that can compare to hers.” Anna was telling me. “Not just in Nepal, but anywhere.” It was time for lunch and I was excited to experience her cooking. I was a bit suspicious, but Anna was right.

The nutrients in her food may feed bellies,
but the love in her craft satiates the hungriest of souls. 

Yasoda was born and raised in Okhaldunga, a nearby village. She started to cook when she was about five in the village with her mom. She loved it from the start.

She’s not a cook.
She’s a lover, of life. A passionate one.
She’s an artist. And her art, is cooking. 

She was raised according to her nature. To do what made her happy. Some of us were not raised as such, for reasons we must not aim to criticize. We have created illusory walls of fear that trap and confine us. We were raised to fear lack of wealth. To fear a simple, minimalistic way of life. To fear not being “successful”. To fear not being like what so many seemingly happy, yet, miserable people on Earth are, heartless, passionate-less.

Struggle, I learned in Nepal, is not the same as living in poverty. Struggle, is lacking peace of mind. Misery, is an internal mental challenge, not an external physical one. I grew up thinking that life must be lived as an up-hill battle, a struggle of sorts. Now, I see life as an ever-expanding horizontal flow, where peace lies. I am not a writer, a philosopher, or a poet, maybe a seeker and communicator of truth, a passionate lover of life. Like Yasoda.

Passionate lovers of life, that’s what we all are, if we dare muster up the might. This is what we should all aim to be.
Forget the labels and fantasies. 

Prajana, Yasoda, and Shardha preparing traditional Nepali momo dumplings

Prajana, Yasoda, and Shardha preparing traditional Nepali momo dumplings

As for our friend, Yasoda, she was meant to cook. Call it destiny, purpose, faith, or nature ( I recommend nature – it is baggage free ). She too has dreams, like you and I. Traveling abroad for her and most other Nepali’s is a distant dream. One they will live to experience, if they so believe.

Regardless, they are innately grateful. They live with little means. They are joyful to work. There’s no complaining. No bragging. They simply do and are, at peace. 

How would your life be if you grew up in an honest, supportive, loving environment, and society? If you were taught to trust life, and to trust yourself?

Maybe, you’d started pursuing a dream earlier in life.
Maybe, you’d have unearthed your dream.
Maybe, you’d be living it, now.

Maybe.

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Namaste

Namaste

“Namaste!” I cheered with joy as I climbed up the bumpy road recognizing the old man sitting on the street-side. I was walking to the office listening to the Nepali traditional music on my iPhone that I loaded last week from a friend in the office. I had to stop myself from dancing. I settled with waving my hand as I walked. “Namaste.” He brought his hands together below his chin, in front of his chest, nodding his head gently with a smile. He seemed surprised to see a strange foreigner notice and greet him. “Photo uncle?” I asked. He repositioned himself to sit erect as he granted me permission to take a photo.

Namaste, means “I bow to the divine in you.” What does this mean? What do we mean when we say this? It means to recognize the beauty in another. To recognize the potential in another. The potential to be and do whatever she believes. To recognize the greatness that exists in all of us. The ability for each of us to become what we believe we can become. That, is, Namaste. To appreciate another as she is. This, cannot be done authentically or truly, however, if one hasn’t come to see such beauty, such potential, such greatness, such self-acceptance, such self-love in herself first. For to recognize a quality in another, be it negative or positive, is to project the qualities which you, yourself have come to realize and understand through life experience.

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If I Should Have a Son

If I Should Have a Son

If I should have a son, and only when the time has come,
I would put my hands on his shoulders, look him in the eye and say,

Son, I’m proud of you. Because here you are. And so am I. As for advice, there are some things you should know. Know that I did the best I could do and that’s all I could ever ask of you. Let go of blame, for your life is too short to give your power away, even if it’s me you want to blame. You’ll find, her, one day too. And when you do, be a lover, a partner, and a friend, be all the above, and never pretend. Do not worry, do not hurry, just let life carry, you. Trust in something son, anything beyond, and not, another someone, for when life knocks you down, that’s the only thing that can pick you up. If I don’t approve or understand what you do, then forgive me, for it’s all I can do. Nevertheless, I still, do love you. So, follow your heart, face your fears, do your work, and earn the difference, between your dreams and mere fantasies. And remember, the world is, full of magic, and wonder, too. A tunnel of darkness, life can seem, at times, but the light is always there, if it’s what you hold in mind.

- Sepehr Vakili.

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The Return

The Return

Nature serves. It does not consume.
Nature allows. It does not expect.
Nature flows. It does not hold.
Nature gives. It does not take.
Nature is. It does not attempt.

Man, thinking, departs Nature.
Man, departing, deludes himself.

Nature is peace. It is not, happy.
Happiness, is man’s choice.
Happiness, is man’s privilege.
Happiness, is a function of his mind.

Man, desiring, seeks to possess.
Man, possessing, traps himself.

Nature, speaks.
Love, is her tongue.
Love, knows no logic.
Love, has nothing to say.

Man, knew love, at birth.
Man, in time, forgot love.
Man, in Nature, remembers love.
Man, by love, returns to Nature.

– Sepehr Vakili

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