„Hello, how are you doing?“ - A quite common way to greet someone. Sometimes I am not sure how I should respond. I am wondering: Is this person actually interested in my well-being or was the question just a formality? Do I actually want to tell the person about my inner life or should just play the game and say „yes, I am fine!“ Maybe right now I feel exhausted, frustrated or lonely. But do I want to share it? Obviously no always, and therefore the question and the answer to „how are you doing?“ often remains superficial.
In the Ramayana however, we find a more spiritual version of the same: „When the saintly person Viśvāmitra came to the court of Mahārāja Daśaratha, the King, in order to receive the saintly person, asked him, aihiṣṭaṁ yat tat punar janma jayāya. He asked the sage whether everything was going on well in his endeavor to conquer the repetition of birth and death. The whole process of Vedic civilization is based on this point. We must know how to conquer the repetition of birth and death.“ (1)
It is the same question „How are you doing?“ but with a much deeper meaning, with a clear focus on the most important aspect of life — our spirituality! After all, this is what we are meant to do. From the Absolute point of view, this is our only duty and nothing else really matters.
Of course, there are other areas of life that also require attention, that in some way, are equally important for our personal growth. The analogy of a tree gives a good picture of this fact. The roots of a tree go deep into the ground and stand for our relationship to the source of everything, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The trunk stands for strong growth and represents the way we live our life, our lifestyle choices. And the crown of the tree, which bears flowers and fruits, symbolizes what we have to give to others, how we serve God, how we contribute to society. In this connection, we might like to ask ourselves „How am I doing in these different areas of life?“ (2)
I found the following questions for self-reflection quite inspiring and maybe a good way to reflect on how we wanna start the new year:
The Roots – Your individual spiritual nourishment, your spiritual wellbeing
1. Do I feel spiritually nourished and connected? If yes, then how can I maintain my state? If no, where have I been negligent and what can I do to nourish myself spiritually?
2. What time of the day and in what space do I have my spiritual practice? Is my setting favorable “to be” in the present moment? Or do I maybe have to rearrange my schedule or environment to create that sacred space?
3. How often do I read spiritual texts or hear lectures about self-development? Do I further reflect on what I have read and heard? And not to forget, do I apply what I have read or heard?
The Trunk – A supportive lifestyle for your physical and emotional wellbeing
4. Do I feel physically and emotionally nourished? If yes - fine, let’s continue with what is nourishing myself. If no – what are the reasons for being undernourished and how can I refill my physical and emotional life.
5. What do I do to stay healthy i.e. in terms of exercise and diet? Do I get enough sleep?
6. What would my ideal life look like and what steps would I need to take to achieve that vision. What are the areas in my life I need to focus on the most right now?
The Crown – my contributions to the welfare of others, my social wellbeing
7. Am I thinking and acting for the welfare of others - or has my world shrunken so that only I, me and mine is left? If I feel the need to expand my consciousness, then how may I act for the benefit of others in a way that I feel acquainted at the moment?
8. In which way do I feel that I inspire others? How would I like to further develop in these areas? Sometimes it may help to seek advice from friends.
9. Are my current engagements suited to my skill set? In what way could I contribute further with the skills that I have? How could this be facilitated i.e. what are steps that need to be taken? (3)
1 - Purport Srimad Bhagavatam 5.10.15
2 - Inspired by `Tree of Life` from H.H. Sacinandana Swami
3 - The Nine Questions are taken from a Seminar by Divya-simha Dasa, based on the Tree of Life