What would you do if you had no boundaries?

“What would you do if you had no boundaries?” asks Mia the blue-eyed girl sitting in front of me.
It is one of the most important questions any one has ever asked me.
She means to ask, What would you do if you had no boundaries from your mother, father, lover, friends, brother, sister, neighbor, from the boundaries you impose on yourself and the ones imposed on you. What would you do?

We are talking about choices and I am sitting there contemplating which path I should choose to tread upon, what is right and wrong, what I should and shouldn’t do, when Mia looks me in the eye and asks me that one simple question,
“What would you do if you had no boundaries?”

It suddenly became easy to answer what had puzzled me. I start answering her with excited little heart of a child speaking withou care.
I think of my dreams and what I would do with life, if the only thing that steered me was the mast of my soul.
The answers that came was the naked voice of my heart, stripped bare of anything superficial, of what another thinks I should be and who I wish to be in front of another and who I’m supposed to be for another.
The voice that answered was my own. It was me being me.

Where would I go? What would I do? What would I say to another and to myself? Who do I love?

What would you do if you had no boundaries?
Who makes these boundaries but us, for ourselves and for each other?
Any one who truly listens to his own soul, could never go wrong because our souls are the throne of God, where his voice guides our feet.
If you listened to that voice, would you choose a new dream? Where would you travel and who would you meet? Perhaps you would meet yourself on a foreign street. Who would you say the deepest words of your soul to? Which friends would you hold onto for ever and who would you let go of? What would you want to see and what would you to do to go there, just to glimpse at yourself.

“What would you do if you had no boundaries?” If you listen to that answer, you will hear your heart speak.

by SHENAZ WAHID

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.”
Rumi

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Meditating in the Casino

I’m aware how this title sounds. I’m also aware that the casino is not a place to meditate. What was meant to be a random fun night, turned out to be one I won’t forget because of what I experienced at that roulette table,
And so I tell this story.

It’s our last night in Kathmandu. The city sleeps early and having already explored it, we ask the cab driver what we should do for the night and this is how we find ourselves in the casino. This is my first time in one. On second thought the first was as a child in Las Vegas watching the adults play, not allowed to touch anything, my hands to myself I watched the apples and hearts roll on the slot machine.

I could now pull that forbidden lever.
Besides pulling the lever on the slot machine with the few pennies of stupidity that I hope will amass unexpected riches, like everyone else who pulls it, I have no idea what to do here. Z plays blackjack with a skill that surprises me of the sides to him I am yet to discover and we move on to the roulette table.
He is winning and losing and winning and losing, going by the rule of the casino, playing for the fun of it.

It doesn’t take me long to drift into boredom and I am now just sitting at the roulette table beside him, watching when a thought whispers in my mind,
Empty yourself and you will be full.” I find this thought strange, because it is a meditative Sufi like thought, that doesn’t belong here.
I decide not to question or pursue it and begin to do as it says.
While Z plays, I stare at the roulette table blankly, thinking of nothing and emptying out my mind as much as I can……… when quite suddenly the number 30 starts to shine on the board, glinting like magic. I dart my eyes around the board quickly and just this one number has that gleam.

I take a coin at once and place it on the no 30.
Z turns to look at me questioningly because I am playing, “What are you doing?”.
I don’t reply staring only at the number that is gleaming like magic.
Ten seconds later the rotating ball stops on the number 30.
His eyes are wide “Did YOU just do that?” …. We are so excited with the win, that we don’t look at the rolling ball which stops at 30 again. The two men on the table playing seriously look at me quizzically.
It wasn’t a wild guess because I played just once. It wasn’t a maybe or a what if?
It was a crystal clear shining number 30.
It happens twice again that night, a gleaming number 9 and number 5, but this time I foolishly don’t trust it. Because of this experience, Z & I are both awaiting in eager anticipation for the magic, and it doesn’t arrive because the whole idea is to not use your mind, but empty it completely of what you think is right or wrong, for the magic to show itself

I know this is not why you meditate – to go win at the casino, but this encounter went far beyond that moment on the roulette table.
It was a far too tiny glimpse of Rumi’s poetry insisting that if you empty yourself of your thoughts,you will be surprised with the haven of magic and love that will pour itself and fill you. It was a moment that told me to always trust my intuition. It told me that magic is real and that everything is indeed connected, in a way that I am far too preoccupied to notice.

I am just a beginner learning how to meditate, and I have the incredibly inappropriate thought of what it would be like if a highly meditative person, like a Zen monk walks into the casino and can see the number’s crystal clear beforehand. Z tells me that the paradox is they wouldn’t be here. True.
My mind is racing and in its reverie a movie like “21” is playing and he teasingly says it will be a flop film, but he also tells me not to write this story, because we should go back again and not give “our secret” away.

Far beyond the silliness, another question starts to form, “Empty yourself and you will be full”. I have experienced this on however minute a level.
What will happen if I stop asking myself questions for just a week? Those questions that torment me with their how’s and why’s. What will happen if I stop seeking answers for just a week? And I stop making them up. We’re always asking ourselves questions. How? Should I or shouldn’t I? When? WHY?
What if I laugh at the questions in my mind and laugh at the answers that pass me by? What magic will I find?
I know that magic lives in everyone and I can’t help wonder, what we might find?

I will not forget what I saw with my eyes, that gleaming no.30 and what it taught me. We did’nt walk out millionaires but I felt enriched.

by SHENAZ WAHID

Everest is conqured, but not Machapuchare.

Z and I are walking around the Annapurna mountain ranges, when he gets his first glimpse of Machapuchare. He points out like a child would an elephant, “Look the fishtail, Machapuchare.” It’s beautiful I think, but he is besotted by its allure, always waiting for the clear skies to reveal to him, his favorite mountain.

He doesn’t know why he loves Machapuchare, he just does, like a love that needs no reasoning. Our local guide Mr.Indra tells us, “No one has ever been able to reach the peak of Machapuchare. Sometimes the first leg set onto it gets broken. Often those who went, never returned. Or those who did, were injured and unable to reach its summit. Planes and helicopters don’t fly over it, because of its powerful magnetic force. And now the Nepalese government has banned all trekkers from climbing its mystery mountain.”

However Mr. Indra, did have a morbid love for dark stories concerning death, so I looked up what Wikipedia had to say, just incase he was indulging himself. “Machapuchare has never been climbed to its summit. The only attempt was in 1957 by a British team led by Jimmy Roberts. Climbers Wilfrid Noyce and A. D. M. Cox climbed to within 50 m of the summit via the north ridge, but did not complete the ascent; they had promised not to set foot on the actual summit. Since then, the mountain has been declared sacred to Lord Shiva, and it is now forbidden to climbers.” It is not always the tallest mountains that are the mightiest (with all respect to Everest).

Something that Machapuchare holds within itself, is its own little secret that remains a mystery and allows none to tread upon it. Bare without footsteps in the company of the sky, we respect the mystery of its virgin peak. Sometimes instead of questioning how or why, you have to just revere mystery. We let the mystery be mysterious to itself, often like it is to be human. Science, Art and Philosophy; all explain their own idea of why we’re here and what we’re doing. Darwin would say Life is but the process of natural selection and Evolution. Ask the great Persian poet Rumi, and he would say life’s purpose is to Love. Many don’t even look further than the roles assigned to them by society that follow a prescribed order. Each has his own explanation, the poet and the scientist, the musician and the philosopher, but life itself goes on to be a mystery like Machapuchare.

by SHENAZ WAHID

photography ZAHID BARI