By Parveen Chopra
In my introductory editorial piece in the April 1996 issue of Life Positive, I confessed that a ‘celestine conspiracy’ played midwife at the birth of India’s first body-mind-spirit magazine. Twenty years of the magazine’s evolution – and growing offshoots – teaches me that the Universe itself conspires to support an idea or project if it is life-affirming and for the common good.
So what else has Life Positive taught me that I carry with me and that has illuminated my path? For one, while managing a biggish setup like Life Positivefor eight years, I had my share of conflicts and challenges. I remember at critical moments I’d ask – How would my Higher-Self respond? The emerging decision usually had no churn of rage or rancour. The same talisman also helped me pass the baton gracefully to Suma Varughese, the current editor.
Coming to America soon after presented its own challenges. Fortuitously, the record of my work and accomplishments at Life Positive helped my family put down roots in the new country as residents. A positive mindset saw us through jobs lost and found. Mixing here with a wider set of people – blacks, whites and browns, Jews, Christians and Muslims – has busted many myths, broken stereotypes and made us more accepting of others’ mores, thus opening up new perspectives on life. Our friendly and forgiving attitude was reciprocated manifold by those in our vicinity, who would proffer handy tips for new settlers, or offer to shovel snow for us with their snow-blower.
Paradoxically, living in the midst of material abundance in a country where pursuit of happiness (pleasure rather) is a constitutional right, reinforcement aplenty has come for me that only what you do to nurture your body-mind-spirit lasts. Vicious cycle and virtuous cycle are both a heartbeat away – a constant vigil is required to ascend with the latter.
The Life Positive stream of consciousness has its practical uses too. Whether through meditation or another means when you reach zero state, you know you are neither Indian nor American, neither Hindu nor Muslim, neither male nor female – In fact, none of the usual categories. This helps me stay neutral and uninvolved in the face of, for instance, hardening polarities of Hindutva vs secular back home in India, conservative vs liberal in America, the West vs Islam all over.
The theist-atheist/rationalist dichotomy may be harder for a spiritually inclined person to polevault over. But I have reconciled myself to the fact that neither side has proof of the existence or non-existence of God. Even this reconciliation I will not fanatically try to advocate or promote.
Working for Life Positive also taught me to have a healthy scepticism about the divinity of spiritual gurus or religious teachers. What they preach in public is worth emulating, but the personal lives of some of them may be less than exemplary. Quite a few of those giants turn out to have feet of clay. To other seekers I am ready to advise: Never let go of reason, never surrender blindly. Remember the Buddha’s last words – ‘Appo Deepak bhavah – Be a light unto yourself.
If the stars align right again, I may find a medium to further broach these topics dear to my heart in the spirit of open-minded inquiry.
Parveen Chopra, Founder Editor, Life Positive, is currently the New York-based Editor of The South Asian Times and The Asian Era magazine
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