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Plan of Life

--by Nicole Grasset (Sep 07, 2009)
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For most of us, the first thing we must do is to work -- to have a roof over our head, bread in our mouth, fire in our chimney -- for ourselves and for those who are dependent on us.  Work chosen and loved by a few, accepted and hated by most.

Then there is the joy we give to those we love, those who love us.  Joy and happiness given unreservedly, graciously, with a smile.  Gift of our time, strength, resignation, health, concentration, sleep, money, abgengation, calm -- received with or without gratitude.

There is that part of our life which we give to the world -- to show our gratitude of having had the privilege of being in this world -- the part we leave ... to others.  It may be a painting, a sonata, a hospital, a vaccine defying death, a law improving justice, writings opening the minds of some, actions and words bringing comfort to others.

Then there is the part which we give to ourselves, to develop the potential talents received at birth, or to give us the joy and serenity we need -- for ourselves or to share with others.  It may be music, philosophy, ballet dancing or mathematics, and reading, gardening, walking in forest or dreaming on the beaches.

But what portion of our time, strength and love must we give to each of these?

--Nicole Grasset, at the age of 20
(Nicole passed away last month at the age of 79, after having led a team of doctors to eradicate smallpox in the world, having started Seva Foundation and served the world in many ways, small and big.)


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14 Previous Reflections:

 
On Apr 13, 2010 Bill Emmet wrote:

 As a very young WHO Operations Officer with the Smallpox Eradication Programme in Indonesia and India from 1970-1974, I had the honor of working with Dr. Grasset. In directing the programme in New Delhi, Nicole was my regional supervisor. However, she was much more than that to me. As my mentor and as a close friend to my young and growing family, Nicole encouraged me to devote my energies and indeed my life to addressing public health challenges in disparate parts of the world. Largely due to her advice, I went on to get advanced degrees in public health while working on initiatives focused on MCH care, diarrheal diseases, immunizations, family planning, HIV/AIDS, and health policy. Throughout my career, I have been conscious of and aspired to meet the high standards Nicole set for herself and, by extension, for those of us who were touched by her grace and compassion. While none of us will attain her degree of dedication, all of us will forever be in her debt. May God grant her  See full.

 As a very young WHO Operations Officer with the Smallpox Eradication Programme in Indonesia and India from 1970-1974, I had the honor of working with Dr. Grasset. In directing the programme in New Delhi, Nicole was my regional supervisor. However, she was much more than that to me. As my mentor and as a close friend to my young and growing family, Nicole encouraged me to devote my energies and indeed my life to addressing public health challenges in disparate parts of the world. Largely due to her advice, I went on to get advanced degrees in public health while working on initiatives focused on MCH care, diarrheal diseases, immunizations, family planning, HIV/AIDS, and health policy. Throughout my career, I have been conscious of and aspired to meet the high standards Nicole set for herself and, by extension, for those of us who were touched by her grace and compassion. While none of us will attain her degree of dedication, all of us will forever be in her debt. May God grant her a place by His side.

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On Dec 16, 2009 lorna wrote:

I liked this passage so much that I wrote it out long hand, and found the act of writing to be meditative in itself.  Very beautiful, profound and educative words, that I could never have written at age 20, and am loving and learning from at age 59.



On Sep 22, 2009 Kisstheground wrote:

It is inspiring to read such insight coming from one so young. When I was 20, I had no idea what gratitude was. At 43, I'm only starting to understand how being of service is central to my life purpose.

Thank you for sharing this.  I will be linking you site on my blog.

http://kisstheground.wordpress.com



On Sep 15, 2009 Lucia Gallardo wrote:

The indigenous peoples have always lived this way, i.e. without a plan, depending on each other, caring for one another, living in community. And through the ages, to the present even, the western cultures impose their values telling the indigenous that they are wrong, that they need to get with the times, that they need to acculturate, to become more westernized. All this without giving value to the wealth the indigenous have in their communities, to what they have held for us, to the example they set for the rest of humanity. Thank you, Niphun for keeping this inspiration alive for us through these Wednesday circles of Truth. We live in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, and there is a subtle violence that feels like a clash of three cultures, of different sets of values: the original peoples (indigenous), the mestizo, and the new western arrivals from all over the world. I hope we can get to at least hold hands together on even ground.



On Sep 14, 2009 susan bradley wrote:

Thank you to the the Mehta Family for your home and the delicious meals you prepare for us, for your loving nature and the opportunity to sit in meditative repose within community. _______________________________ Giving what we can, Taking what we need…   Giving to and serving others, for the common good The common good of family and community The common good that keeps things moving positively forward For the good of the whole, for the good of it all   When we serve others we feed parts of ourselves, too Our desire to be of help to others, the community, our family Our need to feel needed and wanted And our desire to be fulfilled   The truth is, we need service, too Each needing the love and attention of the other Needing to be cared for and attended to We need to recharge with the service of another   To accept the care and giving from another Prepares us to be able to be of service to others, again...     sb7/09/2009  See full.

Thank you to the the Mehta Family for your home and the delicious meals you prepare for us, for your loving nature and the opportunity to sit in meditative repose within community.

_______________________________

Giving what we can, Taking what we need…
 
Giving to and serving others, for the common good
The common good of family and community
The common good that keeps things moving positively forward
For the good of the whole, for the good of it all
 
When we serve others we feed parts of ourselves, too
Our desire to be of help to others, the community, our family
Our need to feel needed and wanted
And our desire to be fulfilled
 
The truth is, we need service, too
Each needing the love and attention of the other
Needing to be cared for and attended to
We need to recharge with the service of another
 
To accept the care and giving from another
Prepares us to be able to be of service to others, again...
 
 
sb7/09/2009

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On Sep 14, 2009 susan bradley wrote:

  The question that was posed this Wednesday evening as the mic passed through the community at the Mehta house, was how is your life plan from age 20 progressing for you from then to the present day? In other words is your life as you planned? Interestingly from the youngest to the oldest among those that chose to reflect in this manner on Niccole Grassete's writing, the resounding answer was no and even more that it didn't matter that the plan was not met! The reality is that life is a working plan! The recurring message, attitude and desired behavior of so many in our community is to live in the moment, to be present in this moment with who you are with and with what you are doing. As the mic continued to move around the room this evening, most shared they liked the idea of some sort of plan something forward thinking, though they desired to not be chained to the "plan" but rather to be accepting of the changes that might occur with the “plan“. Ther  See full.


 

The question that was posed this Wednesday evening as the mic passed through the community at the Mehta house, was how is your life plan from age 20 progressing for you from then to the present day? In other words is your life as you planned?

Interestingly from the youngest to the oldest among those that chose to reflect in this manner on Niccole Grassete's writing, the resounding answer was no and even more that it didn't matter that the plan was not met!

The reality is that life is a working plan!

The recurring message, attitude and desired behavior of so many in our community is to live in the moment, to be present in this moment with who you are with and with what you are doing. As the mic continued to move around the room this evening, most shared they liked the idea of some sort of plan something forward thinking, though they desired to not be chained to the "plan" but rather to be accepting of the changes that might occur with the “plan“.

There were a number of our community returning, those that had been unable to attend for weeks or even months, Susan from England joined too, having been wanting to attend a Wednesday evening for so very long and finally being able to!

As these several weeks and many weekly reflections have passed behind us, this week's lesson was equally as poignant as so many before, though perhaps this week for many, acceptance that life is truly every changing and that it's alright to go with the flow and still have a plan a road map of sorts, well it seemed a healthy recognition for us.

 

Several other thoughts came up as well, such as Rumi's poetic thought, "May the beauty we love be what we do." Is it like Rumi writes or like Cheryl Crow sings, “It's not having what you want, It's wanting what you've got.”

The consensus for sure was that small acts of love and kindness were just as important as the larger acts such as eradicating polio in a portion of the world! That each of us, in our small acts of kindness ,can change the world, our little worlds, and have an impact on those we love and the stranger we pass on the street with a kind gesture, word, and even with the sweetest smile. \:-D

 

 

 

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On Sep 11, 2009 Maria Rogers wrote:

Reading about the Law of Reversed Effort reminds me of the ancient teachings.



On Sep 10, 2009 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho and you might think that I don't know you, but I'd like you to know that I love you all... All Wednesdays at the Mehta kindness Temple are beautiful and inspiring. Last night wasn't the exception. After feeling the passage for the second time, some clear ideas came to mind, but some siblings in the circle, before me, invoked first Tolstoy, then Thoreau, then a farm. It was impossible for me to not feel/think about Gandhi and the Tolstoy Farm. These are the three points that I shared with you: 1. A Tolstoy Farm Story: Food and Unity. 2. The Hardest Thing: conceiving without imagination. 3. Vinoba's Aspirations. 1. A Tolstoy Farm Story: Food and Unity. Gandhi's follower and friend Kallenbach handed over his farm of 1100 acres in South Africa for Satyagrahi families to stay over there without any rent on May 1910. Later this farm was known as the Tolstoy Farm. Hindus, Muslims, Parsees, and Christians belonging to Gujurat, Tamilnadu, Andhra and North  See full.

My family calls me Pancho and you might think that I don't know you, but I'd like you to know that I love you all...

All Wednesdays at the Mehta kindness Temple are beautiful and inspiring. Last night wasn't the exception. After feeling the passage for the second time, some clear ideas came to mind, but some siblings in the circle, before me, invoked first Tolstoy, then Thoreau, then a farm. It was impossible for me to not feel/think about Gandhi and the Tolstoy Farm. These are the three points that I shared with you:

1. A Tolstoy Farm Story: Food and Unity.
2. The Hardest Thing: conceiving without imagination.
3. Vinoba's Aspirations.



1. A Tolstoy Farm Story: Food and Unity.
Gandhi's follower and friend Kallenbach handed over his farm of 1100 acres in South Africa for Satyagrahi families to stay over there without any rent on May 1910. Later this farm was known as the Tolstoy Farm. Hindus, Muslims, Parsees, and Christians belonging to Gujurat, Tamilnadu, Andhra and Northern India lived in this farm. As everyone was free to take food of his or her own choice (vegetarian and non vegetarian), there was the need of two kitchens. Side by side, there was need of two types of cooking staff. Some vegetarians asked to "morally" impose the nonviolent diet, yet Gandhi honored choice and respect (as nonviolent means) and said something like: let's have two kitchens.

Gandhi's deep love and the solid unified policy of taking food together, influenced Muslims and Christians so much that in a few months (if not weeks!) they all preferred taking vegetarian food in a single group. Now, there was only one kitchen there and that too totally vegetarian. An extraordinary example of non prejudice, trust and love. Not only that, for different castes  and communities living and working unitedly, taking their meals together, it is a unique example of the Soul Force.

Here is another example of Gandhi's wisdom regarding food and unity:

A pioneer of Human Rights, narrates a story about Mahatma Gandhi's Muslim friend's son visiting his Ashram on the day of Bakar Id. Gandhi the vegetarian, ordered for the non vegetarian food to be brought to the Ashram for his Muslim friend's son as it happened to be associated with his festival. It is another matter that the Muslim boy in deference to the rules of Gandhiji's Ashram insisted that he will have no non vegetarian food in Gandhi is ashram. Respecting each others sentiments comes alive in his best form here.

Later in India, around 1917, the situation/experiment of the two kitchens was repeated with the Champaran peasants. But this time it took weeks (for sure) to move from two kitchens to one.

That was the Mahatma's work, that was Gandhiji's Plan of Life: to practice the Science of Nonviolence. To honor diversity at the surface level and unity at the heart level.



2. The Hardest Thing: conceiving without imagination.
Nothing is harder than conceiving what has not yet being imagined.

Once we are capable of imagining our highest ideals of harmony, love and unity, we can move to comprehend them, to conceive them, to practice them, and finally to master them.

For a "plan of life" we need imagination. Then the comprehension of the principles of life. Then the art of applying them in life. And finally, the personification of those principles and the master of that art.

This is the whole Science of Life. The Total Revolution of the Human Spirit.

 

3. Vinoba's Aspirations.

Vinoba shares his Universal Love with us:

When imagination is crippled, we are sure to fail; what else can happen? Therefore, we should always aspire to rise higher. It is aspiration that ensures human's progress in life.

One cannot take a single step forward without higher aspirations. If you have this vision, this aspiration, this exalted spirit, then only the question of appropriate means arises; otherwise everything will reach a dead end.

To defeat the lack of imagination, we need to have divine aspirations, to keep the mind free and wings strong.

This sky where we live

is no place to lose our wings

so love, love, love!

 

May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.

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On Sep 10, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

There is a word that is not mentioned in the piece but all over it - equanimity. The author is able to see so much not because she is all tangled up with life, but because she has taken a step back, decided to be equanimous. From the stillness of equanimity, one can sense freedom and choice. I remembered Leo Tolstoy's famous story, Three Questions. The story expands on the question. One becomes three. What is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times? And the answer to each, from the lovely story, is: The most important time is now The most important person is the person with you The most important thing to do is to do good to the person with you Nicole's question can be asked in two different ways and a personal experience comes to mind. Just before I left for my 10-day meditation retreat, someone close to me challenged my wisdom of going for this. Th  See full.

There is a word that is not mentioned in the piece but all over it - equanimity. The author is able to see so much not because she is all tangled up with life, but because she has taken a step back, decided to be equanimous. From the stillness of equanimity, one can sense freedom and choice.

I remembered Leo Tolstoy's famous story, Three Questions. The story expands on the question. One becomes three.

  • What is the best time to do each thing?
  • Who are the most important people to work with?
  • What is the most important thing to do at all times?

And the answer to each, from the lovely story, is:

  • The most important time is now
  • The most important person is the person with you
  • The most important thing to do is to do good to the person with you

Nicole's question can be asked in two different ways and a personal experience comes to mind. Just before I left for my 10-day meditation retreat, someone close to me challenged my wisdom of going for this. This person said, "Why are you doing something that is best left for people above the age of 60? What a criminal waste of time. You will find that the world has moved on by 10 days, and you have lost 10 precious days of your life. So much work is to be done and you are escaping from the world." These words were said with so much force that I was confused. I consulted my wife, "Do you think I am doing the right thing? Should I go?". She looked straight at me and said, "Do you really need someone else to tell you the value of meditation?" Immediately, I remembered. I found myself thanking her and off I went. Of course, all these doubts vanished after the 10-day, but Nicole's question remained.

The difference was in the person who was asking the question. Before, it was one whose mind felt like a slave of time. After, it was one whose mind felt like a master of time. Going from a slave-mind to a master-mind is possible. Without practice, I know that the slave-mind will be back. But knowing that there is something beyond the mind, to which the mind can be a friend or a foe is a very empowering and freeing idea. I am amazed at how much I've managed to get done after coming back, and at the absence of fear of being overwhelmed.

It is not as though everyone has to go for a 10-day meditation retreat to free their mind. The point of this story is equanimity. Everyone has a different way of reaching it. The 10-day retreat is one tool, but there are many other good tools. 

Nipun raised a good question - what did we plan when we were 20? Funnily enough, I wrote down my plan, laminated it and carried it in my wallet. I have looked every time I change my wallet (which is once in so many years). This was at a workshop where the instructor told us to write down an immediate-term goal, a medium-term goal and a long-term goal. I looked at the worn out laminated card again and found that I've met the immediate and medium-term goals, and one of my two long-term goals. The second one will also be met in the coming years. It is surprising that in a world of constant change, there is something that can remain constant. Standing where I am right now, I still agree with the goals I'd written down. Perhaps this is why we often get encouraged to write down what we want to do - for we have just manifested our desire in a very concrete form. And I suppose that when we are younger, with lesser garbage in our heads, we can see ourselves a lot better. 

I loved Pancho's poem. I hope someone posts it here. Also loved all the other reflections, from the spiritual vibes of Mt. Shasta, to a conversation with a manager about the plan to be happy no-matter-what, to how plans at 20 are no where close to what happens after two decades, to sharing a lovely sunrise with an 80-year old couple. 

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On Sep 8, 2009 mitrani wrote:

Good to think about Gratitude of being the privilege of  this world.

We could revert.



On Sep 8, 2009 chasgribbs wrote:

The balancing question (or quandry) came and went for much of my life. Now, at age 69, I almost never hear it. Seems to have answered itself.



On Sep 8, 2009 Kanchan wrote:

I loved the question posed: "But what portion of our time, strength and love must we give to each of these?"

This is a balancing act I need to learn how to do this.

Right now, my way of balancing is, switching between phases of giving too much and then becoming selfish for some time :) Finding the right balance will be very helpful.
 



On Sep 8, 2009 mangala wrote:

We can do anything we want to if we stick to it long enough



On Sep 8, 2009 Tricey wrote:

I thought this was good.... she wrote that at age 20 in her journal

and then at 79 died having lived her life the way she envisioned.

I really resonated with what she wrote.... hope you can too.  Love Tricey