Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Once a while we get these flashes of memory from past events that bother us. These are situations which we did not accept fully when they occurred. They become part of this baggage that we carry with us. Eckhart Tolle calls this pain body.

We need to take care of this baggage from two fronts. On one side we need to decrease its growth and on the other side we need to start getting rid of what's in the baggage from past.

As new events occur in our life everyday, we need to accept them as they are. This will make sure these don't get added to the baggage.

As we get memory flashes from past, we need to accept those past events unconditionally so they are removed from the baggage.

Acceptance his Will (Hukam) as it unfolds in everyday life will trigger His Grace. The Grace will align us to the flow of life. The alignment is the purpose of our life. Being in alignment does not require effort. It's about being not doing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The message of Diwali

During the night of Diwali the myriad little clay lamps (diyas) seem to silently send forth message of Diwali: "Come, let us remove darkness from the face of the earth".
The dharma of the fire is the same wherever it is: in a poor man's house, or in a rich man's house, in America, in Antarctica, or in the Himalayas. It gives light and heat.

The flame of the light is always turned up. Even if we keep the lamp upside down, the flame will burn upwards. The message is that our mind should be focused on Atman, the Self wherever we are. The lamps remind us of our dharma of realizing our divine nature. "

The Self is self-luminous being pure Consciousness. The cognition of all objects arises from the light of pure Consciousness." -says Bhrihadaranyaka Upanishad.

One lamp can light several others. Even after lighting 1000 other lamps, still the flame and the light of the first lamp will remain as it is. It loses nothing. By becoming manifold, the light loses nothing.

The rows of lamps teach yet another important lesson and that is of unity. The light that shines forth from the Sun, the moon, the stars, and the fire is all the same. To see and recognize that one light, the light of consciousness, which is manifesting and pulsating in and through all of creation, is the goal of life.

The lights of Diwali are displayed at the entrance doors, by the walls of houses, in the streets and lanes. This means that the inner spiritual light of the individual must be reflected outside. It should benefit the Society. Feeding empty stomachs, lighting blown-out diyas and bringing light to those whose lives are in darkness is the true spirit of Diwali.

-- from an invitation to a Diwali celebration gathering

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Blind City Tech Student from Afghanistan to Compete in New York City Marathon

It won't be hard to spot 45-year-old Nooria Nodrat among the 37,000 or so runners participating in the New York City Marathon on November 5. She'll be the one in an Achilles Track Club t-shirt accompanied by a coterie of six runners, one of whom will be tethered to her with a dish towel.

One of 20 totally blind participants seeking to complete the grueling 26.2-mile course, Nodrat, a student at New York City College of Technology/CUNY (City Tech) majoring in human services, has been there before; this marks the sixth year in a row she has competed. Her support team of volunteers from the Achilles Track Club will help her avoid collisions, stay upright throughout the course and find toilets and water.

Her achievement is all the more remarkable given a daunting array of difficulties and tragedies that lay in her path. Born in Kabul in 1961, long before the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Nodrat remembers the country as an old world poised for change -- a world where women had to accept a subservient role. At 16, she entered an arranged marriage with a man 21 years her senior. They had two children, a son and a daughter.

Both her oldest brother, Zia, whom she idolized, and her husband were blind. To be of assistance to them, she learned Braille, unaware of how necessary that skill would become later in her life. She worked as an editor in the Publishing Services Department at the Institute for the Blind in Afghanistan, proofreading large print books and checking Braille texts.

In 1988, her brother was kidnapped by fanatics and never heard from again. A few years later, her husband of ten years was killed by a terrorist bomb. Soon after, Nodrat came with her parents to the United States, leaving her children with her husband's brother, who then refused to send them after her. Finally, in 1995, after four agonizing years, she was reunited with her children in New York. "Women in my country have to be patient. Very, very patient," she says.

In 1997, tragedy struck again. Nodrat was attacked in the subway by a mentally disturbed teenager who threw her to the floor and repeatedly punched her in the head, destroying her retinas, which were already weak from glaucoma. Following the attack, she lost her sight completely. Despite five surgeries, the doctors could not restore her sight and in 2003, after she developed an infection, she chose to have both eyes removed because of the pain.

Through it all, Nodrat persevered. She will receive her associate degree at the end of this semester and will go on for a bachelor's degree in human services at City Tech. She then plans to earn master's and doctoral degrees from Hunter College to prepare for a career as a clinical psychologist. Her children, now 25 and 22 years old, have done well academically and have made Nodrat proud.

"I'll be walking the marathon course this time," she says, "because my schedule is too busy to make time for running training." Not only is Nodrat a full-time college student, she has mentored other students and has worked as a volunteer at the Catholic Guild for the Blind and the Jewish Guild for the Blind, offering English as a Second Language training to blind students.

As president of the National Federation of the Blind's New York Student Division, she helps blind high school and college students navigate the higher education system. The group's mission is to help blind students understand their rights, help them achieve their goals, and realize and maximize their potential. Her strong knowledge of computers and technologies for the visually impaired has proven to be very useful.

"I've contacted 15 colleges and am working with the heads of their disability offices to develop strategies so that we can pursue programs to help disabled students," she explains. "One person alone can't achieve very much. But many voices together can make a difference."

In addition, she is trying to create a foundation to help blind women and children in Afghanistan. "My job is to raise my voice," she says. "I hope to encourage sighted people to join the struggle -- to support organizations that help women and the disabled."

She is also an active member of the Women's Association of New York. A resident of Long Island City, she was a volunteer in the Department of Music Therapy at the Queens Center for Progress. In her "spare time," she does karate (as an advanced yellow belt), yoga and ceramics.

Nodrat has received awards and scholarships in recognition of her activism and academic achievements from the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind and the New York City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, among others. In 2006, she received a Benjamin H. Namm Scholarship from City Tech. Despite a jam-packed schedule, she has maintained a 3.7 (out of 4.0) grade point average in her studies.

"I think I've chosen the right field," she says about her decision to become a clinical psychologist. "A person who has known hardship, as I have, is in a good position to help others who are struggling to make sense of their lives."

Nodrat's guide dog, Yahoo, a black Labrador named after the Internet company that sponsored his training, changed Nodrat's life, she says. "For the past four years, Yahoo has allowed me to move through the world with more confidence. He was trained by Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a wonderful training school."

She expresses deep gratitude to other organizations that have helped along the way, including, The Lighthouse, the Catholic and Jewish Guilds for the Blind, the Achilles Track Club (which helps athletes with disabilities compete in sports activities), the Commission for the Blind, Vision Self Manner, Recording for the Blind, Hadley School for the Blind and City Tech, which supports more than 30 students with varying degrees of visual disabilities.

As the marathon approaches, Nodrat is looking forward to the challenge. "Last year, I finished in seven hours and 15 minutes. This year, if I can make it in six and a half hours, I'll consider it a great victory. I want to say to the world, if Afghan women have the chance, they can do great things. If I can be an example for them, it would be an honor for me."

The largest public college of technology in New York State, New York City College of Technology of The City University of New York enrolls more than 13,000 students in 57 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs. Located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, City Tech is at the MetroTech Center academic and commercial complex, convenient to public transportation.

Source: New York City College of Technology