Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Meditate?

Meditation has become a buzzword. People have accepted it as a normal activity. Perhaps it is because of the mass trends, or because of celebrities taking it up.

But at one point, we may ask ourselves, on some uninspired day, when we place ourselves on the meditation seat: What am I doing ? Why am I spending time on this? Couldn't I just chill out and watch TV?
It is a good WIIFM (What's In It For Me) question.

For one thing, people are pushing themselves hard today. The frantic pace of life blurs our objective thinking, reducing our choices. We follow along with the herd's rush, and are less likely to look for innovation. It is a bit difficult to stand apart and have your own stand, not to be swept off in the crowd's pull.

Meditation has a hundred (or thousand?) other benefits, but this one strikes me as most important now: being able to find your feet and take your stand. Be level headed. With practice, you learn to be level headed in the face of adversity also.

Life is about making choices. Your choices each moment determine which direction your life goes-choices in the matter of thoughts, words, and actions. (inaction too).

We are all subject to the tyranny of the thought process, it goes on all the time, whether we like it or not. Our thoughts determine our reactions to stimuli from the outer world too. And this is what the world expects. You are to follow the pack. Don't think for yourself.

This may not be in our best interests all the time.For example, consider a recovered alcoholic diagnosed with damaged liver. His old drinking companions want him to continue drinking. Why? Because they don't want to change. When someone known to them changes, it forces them to look at themselves and shows the difference. It makes them uncomfortable.

Meditation frees you from struggling with the thoughts. In it, you focus on the breath (or some other medium like a prayer). It lets you watch your thoughts like an observer, like you watch traffic from your balcony.

When you cease to identify with your thoughts, you're free. You feel calm, relaxed and full of power. You don't feel the need to conform to the crowd. You truly feel you are the maker of your destiny.

Note: Sudden changes in life habits are not recommended. It is better to first gather strength through regularly meditating and educating ourselves about wholesome living. Selftalk and constant engagement in activity also help to stem the mind's turbulence.

Sustained practice helps build up your spiritual power. Here, the following adage is all the more relevant:
Have patience with all things, but most of all, with Yourself.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

They Gave and Got Rich: Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie, the steel tycoon, had such riches that he offered the people of Philippines $20 million, if they wished to buy their freedom from the United States. This was the price for which the United States bought the island nation from the Spanish.

His net worth was estimated at $290 billion. He spent more than $350 million in charitable works.

Andrew Carnegie's philanthropic works:

  • Established 3,000 public libraries in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, and Fiji.
  • Donated £50,000 to set up the University of Birmingham
  • Ardently supported the Spelling reform movement to promote the English language
  • Founded the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT), Pittsburgh (now part of the Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Founded the Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Set up the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
  • Set up the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust
  • Established pension funds for his employees at Homestead
  • Pension funds for college professors in the U.S.
  • Funded 7,000 church organs in the US..
  • Built the Carnegie Hall in New York City
  • Was a large benefactor of the Tuskegee Institute for African-American education
  • Helped Booker T. Washington create the National Negro Business League.
  • Founded the Carnegie Hero Fund for the USA, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Germany. It recognizes deeds of heroism in these countries.
  • Contributed $1.5 million for the Peace Palace, The Hague
  • Donated $150,000 for a Pan-American Palace in Washington for the International Bureau of American Republics.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

They Gave and Got Rich: Rockefeller

We start with arguably the wealthiest man in recent history: John_D._Rockefeller.

Rockefeller accumulated about $1.4 billion by the time he died in 1937. This was 1.5% of the GDP of the United States ($92 billion) at that time.

Rockefeller founded Standard Oil which became ExxonMobil, the petroleum giant.

From the beginning of his career as an assistant bookkeeper at age 16, he used to tithe regularly: 6% of his income to charity. Later he increased this to 10%. His salary was 50 cents a day at the time.

He was a staunch believer in the motto " gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can" (attributed to John Wesley, Christian theologian). Rockefeller believed his staunch belief in God and philanthropy were the sources of his success.

Rockefeller's Contributions:

  • The University of Chicago
  • The Rockefeller University, New York (earlier named the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. 23 Nobel laureates are associated with it )
  • Major funding for the Spelman College, Atlanta (America's first college for African-American women)
  • Founded the General education Board, for providing education at all levels in the U.S.
  • Financial support to the Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Brown, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley and Vassar Universities
  • Founded the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission (research conducted here eradicated the hookworm disease that plagued Africa)
  • Assisted in developing the Peking Union Medical College (now known as the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences )
  • Provided World War I relief
Rockefeller gave away a total of $550 million in his life time.

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The Real Secret of Getting Rich: Giving

Online statistics reveal that there are at least 5 million queries every month, globally, about making money quick. Searchers also want to know how to become a millionaire, billionaire, trillionaire etc. Obviously, people are after money in a big way.

However, there is a quirky turn to the science of getting rich. It is a characteristic shared by many rich people-they did just the opposite of getting riches: they gave away riches. In the rush of getting rich fast, this facet has been largely ignored: giving to others.

Inspiration Bonanza features a list of people who gave and got rich: They gave and got rich.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

Benefits of Stream of Consciousness Writing, with Example

Stream of Consciousness writing, or Free writing as it is called in this article, has many health benefits. People have waxed eloquent about it being a source of creative ideas. I have not experimented deeply in that terrain. But I can vouch for its therapeutic effect.

To understand this, we need to first appreciate the amount of repression that an individual is subjected to while growing up, and later forced to conform to as an adult. All expressions of spontaneity are actively discouraged- you cannot laugh unless the occasion warrants it, out of fear of offending others. Those who do may be labeled a peculiar type among many things. Similarly, other expressions of emotion are also discouraged-no crying, no show of warmth unless the occasion sanctions, you can’t express anger, sometimes you even have to swallow your indignation and appear pleasing and happy.

"Children start out emotionally honest. They express their true feelings freely and spontaneously. But the training to be emotionally dishonest begins at an early age. Parents and teachers frequently encourage or even demand that children speak or act in ways which are inconsistent with the child's true feelings. The child is told to smile when actually she is sad. She is told to apologize when she feels no regret. She is told to say "thank you," when she feels no appreciation. She is told to "stop complaining" when she feels mistreated. She may be told to kiss people good night when she would never do so voluntarily. She may be told it is "rude" and "selfish" to protest being forced to act in ways which go against her feeling....more here ".

I remember the cancer patient (recuperating from chemo) who was interviewing for a sales post. The interview went well, and the manager enthusiastically clapped him on the back. The poor man, nearly doubled over with pain, for he was not fully healed. His face turned deathly pale, and he struggled to keep balance-that is until he noticed the manager watching him with growing consternation. To regain his footing, he put on his best smile and shouted,” I’m loving it! I’m loving it!” this made the manager even more skeptical. He was not selected. (Incident mentioned in A Funny thing happened at the interview by Gregory F Farrell*).

So you see the mindless repression arising from people following long established, unquestioned beliefs and practices, without using their independent judgments. It prohibits us from all forms of expression which are not in sync with established, accepted norms. Another example is when people of opposing races or religions fall in love or get married: they may face persecution.

Children are most charming, for they are not encumbered with these societal norms. The emotions pass through them freely-when they’re sad they cry, when happy they laugh, when angry they show it-it does not stay in them.  It passes through. And this keeps them emotionally healthy and so refreshingly innocent that adults crave their company. This innocence lasts until the child is forced to learn society’s adult ways to conform, for society has a mortal fear of spontaneity.

All this makes the individual lose esteem in himself or herself. What I inherently am, is of no value, I have to conform to what is imposed from outside. Children are silenced immediately when they speak up or express an idea or opinion. This happens in most families except the few progressive ones, where parents are introspective.

Bound up as we are in this hopeless mesh, we still have a ray of hope-to be ourselves as we were born. A child does not doubt itself nor the world. Free Writing (Stream Of Consciousness writing) offers some hope so that we can regain some of our spontaneity.

In Free Writing, we just write- we just move the pen. We do not think. We do not judge. And we do not stop until the timer is up. We don’t bother about spelling, grammar, logic, punctuation, meaning, coherence, commonsense, taboos, nothing. That is it. It does not have to make any sense. We are not even to think of sense. We only have to keep moving the pen. Or keep typing on the keyboard. It isn’t important to keep the i dots and t crosses and other marks correctly, either.

When we stop judging the subconscious, it develops trust in us, and slowly reveals more of its treasures. You have accepted the subconscious, this gives an increased sense of self-esteem from deep within, as the subconscious is also part of your being.

Free Writing provides a sympathetic listener who will not judge you for your thoughts and feelings. You can write whatever you want, about whomsoever you want, in whatever way you want, and as for whatever length you like. You can’t be that open with humans, of course.

In the beginning the onrush of repressed feelings can be a bit intimidating. It may be like a dam about to burst. Please read the following para carefully:

CAUTION: It is likely that unpleasant thoughts and feelings that have been repressed for long come forcefully to the surface. If you find that some unpleasant thought recurs in your free writing, you can write “Why am I writing this way ?” again and again. You may or may not get the answer. But it has a sobering effect that calms the turmoil. (Dr. James.W.Pennebaker, who has researched this topic in detail, advises to consult a psychotherapist if the obsession persists. He has authored the book “Opening up: The Healing power of expressing emotions**”. Most likely, if you detach yourself from your thoughts (because you are not them), and keep writing the question calmly, you’ll be able to come through any turmoil that may arise.

Because we give ourselves unconditional, non-judgmental attention, (heck that’s why we freewrite  everything that we think, right?) our craving for attention is reduced. This attention seeking has caused more problems than one can imagine.

It is quite likely that miraculous results are produced, over time, because the subconscious is a treasure house. Many important discoveries happened when the logical mind was not working. The best example that comes to mind is of  August Kekule who discovered the molecular structure of Benzene. He had thought deeply about it prior to that, and the alternating double bond structure was revealed to him in a dream.

I’ve also found that when I’ve something important to do (a meeting or decision-making), a session of free writing (say 5-15 mins) clears up my thinking, and I can get through the task smoothly.

A Stream of Consciousness Writing Sample
There are lots of Stream Of Consciousness writing samples on the net, however they contain very few errors, and few logical contradictions. And no trace of taboo topics. These are items that are very likely to surface when you take away the dos and donts of writing. Seriously leads one to believe that these samples have been edited, which makes them non SOC. So here is one of my SOC samples, just in case, anyone is wondering what it might really look like:

"if yiu ahve ever wondered what youa re going to do in the event of a manually powered recesssion, i can only tell you that it is but an imopossible mandream for the big biibs of istrionics calim that ather is notheing sucha s a manually powered recession. To top oit all, you have to check out once in every while to see if you have been triccking yourself into  fourteen year okld recession. it is in the interests of the netehr lands ther htha you have to et used to a manually powered recession in the event of ewhich you will find yourself nbeinf anonymously prooeeled foerward into a big pithoe that will only laugh at the stupiditieds of what you ahve don in your whole lifetime of aesthetic perfection."

This one does not contain profanities, but if it did, they'd be marked something like *&^#$@. No need to show you the dirt!

Note: Keep your SOC writing private. People who are ignorant about this process can misinterpret you.

      Core Catharsis: A New And Radical Approach For Resolving Anxiety, Fully Accepting All Your Experience, And Engaging Impulses

Why People Don't Reap the Rewards of Stream of Consciousness Writing
Here I've to differ from the notion that Stream of Consciousness Writing is writing your thoughts as they occur. It would be, if we did that. However, from the examples available, we can see that people are not really writing down their thoughts. They do, so long as they are agreeable thoughts. When an unpleasant memory rears it head, we recoil, and divert ourselves to some other topic. We may even pretend that such a thought did not arise.

People do not like to relive the memories of traumas like disease, abuse, rape, bereavement, and others. Because they also give rise to associated feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and so on. If these issues have been addressed through therapy, it may be easier.

But it is possible to face these unpleasant thoughts and memories, if we remember these points:
  • Express the trauma a few times in writing.
  • If they become repetitive, use the technique mentioned in the para labelled CAUTION above.
  • Remember that our thoughts or actions are not us.
By far, this is one of the most exhaustive resources I found on Stream of Consciousness writing:

You may also want to read Turning Garbage into Gold: How to Write Well with Stream of Consciousness

Is the fear of failure sabotaging your attempts at personal transformation? Find out: How to overcome the fear of failure
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Catharsis in Regression Hypnotherapy: Transcripts of TransformationWitnessing The Field Of The MindFinding BalanceBeyond the Breath: Extraordinary Mindfulness Through Whole-Body Vipassana Meditation

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Do We Need to Change?

For a while, I thought I was obsessed with Anger management ( Overcoming Resentment and Other Negative Feelings: Part 2 and Part 1). Do human beings really need to do something about their violent behavior ?

The statistics gravely say : Yes.
These are the approximate figures of the death toll because of wars and anthropogenic (man made) disasters in human history:

That is, humans have killed approximately 4-5 billion from their own race. The actual figure will be much higher, if we consider individual crimes.

People kill for pride, vengeance, racial and religious bigotry. The modern world has invented newer reasons devoid of emotion: profit. Yes, wars mean profit for the arms dealers. The more wars, the merrier they are.

In this world, one has to be extra careful about maintaining one's emotional balance. The sole reason for this malady of the world is that it has mistaken the goal of human existence. It thinks life is only for enjoying more and more pleasures, for accumulating more and more wealth. This is a fallacy. We are still running after the same pleasures that we sought decades ago-in the vain hope that the next experience will quench our thirst. At best, pleasure experiences can have but one benefit: they can teach us about their own emptiness.

The spiritual masters and scriptures have declared the true purpose of human life: to know Oneself.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Meditating Wonder Boy Transforms Village into Thriving Township in 10 Months!

Anybody who has tried prolonged sitting meditation will have faced the rebellion of the body, the senses, and the mind. I find it quite a struggle to sit still and awake during meditation, even after having been at it for years.
So I found this news astonishing. See the video: (Recorded by DISCOVERY TV)

More on him here:

Organisational web site: (Contains the most current information, including talks given in 2010)
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Thursday, July 07, 2011

How to Come Out Smelling Like a Rose

You might have experienced it. Your day was going along wonderfully, until that colleague made a cutting remark. Or you were having a fine time with your spouse when he or she made an unjust statement. Cut to the quick, we seethe inside. Caught unawares, we are confused as to how to react.

Obviously, the person was really insensitive to say or think like that. Should we get even in the same way, hitting back? Should we distance ourselves from them?

These are difficult questions, especially when the concerned person is your spouse, child, sibling, intimate friend or your buddy in your project team. The situation is very delicate.

I won't make any comment now about how you deal with that person, mainly because there is somebody else who has to be handled before that. Who ? Me of course.

Yes, we need to regain our composure and mental serenity, first. Lets get back our balance and equipoise first. We cant do this by struggling with our hurt feelings and anger. It'll be like taming a wild elephant.

Instead, use your breath.

Your breath is your ever present friend-and sometimes, it is the only one.

Recently, a great spiritual teacher (Mata Amritanandamayi) said that the breath is divine. To watch the breath is to meditate on your innate divinity which is ever calm and blissful. Breath is the life-giver.

It is mighty, it can heal-anything. All that we need to do is to be aware of it-as it moves in and out of our body. Gradually, one can feel the vice like grip of negativity loosening and falling away, leaving us in peace and freedom. We have overcome another wave of turbulence!

Here, we are actually practicing being in the Here and Now. The NOW is where healing occurs. As Eckhart Tolle says: The NOW is the fresh smelling rose, the eternal present. It cant hold the unpleasant odors from the past. Nor the anxieties about the future.

So when you come here, you are free of unwholesome feelings. The breath is an excellent key to come here.

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