Red pill…anyone?

Shihanspeaks

The past few days have been challenging. Possibly right up there with the toughest times in my life. I have been fighting…and fighting hard. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle, but then I manage to get hold of myself. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy…but I didn’t know it was going to be this hard as well…

Ok. If you have reached this line, without calling me to check on me already, remind me to delete you from my list of 3 am friends. I know I sounded depressed, and in a way, this is close to clinical depression. I have, for the past few days, been undergoing what is known as a partial digital detox.

For the uninitiated, digital detox is, in simple terms, working on getting rid of our overwhelming addiction to our devices, especially the smartphone. Take a moment to look around you…while walking…

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The butterfly effect

Our smallest words and actions have the power to stir the world.  Ever met someone and walked away feeling like you had a great conversation, without having spoken a word ?  Sometimes you don’t say anything, and yet everything is said.  Such moments, though rare, have the potential to stay with you a lifetime.  They have a beauty beyond this world ——- one certainly beyond words.
It’s all about the connect.  We connect with each other at different levels, in different ways.  Words. Acts.  A gaze.  Sometimes, the changing quality of the silence.  With some it’s enough to just be connected, what is done or not done, said or left unsaid is not meaningful.  With others a thousand conversations are not enough.
butterfly-effect-chaos-theory1The critical point is that such connects needn’t be just between close ones, nor do they need to last forever.  Could you imagine that a fleeting connect with someone could have a major impact for the Universe ?  The Universe seems to work in strange ways.  We are all connected in such a manner that we cannot escape the slightest move of another.  In Shams of Tabriz’s 40 Rules of Love (Elif Shafak), the 26th rule is, “The universe is one being.  Everything and everyone  is interconnected through an invisible web of stories.  Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation…….. One man’s pain will hurt us all.  One man’s joy will make everyone smile.”
Heard of the Butterfly Effect ?  The scientific theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas by creating tiny changes in the atmosphere that could accelerate or even prevent the tornado.  Call it the Domino Effect or the Ripple Effect, but the point is the same as in Shams’ 26th rule.  We cannot escape the consequences of our actions or words, because “words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time.”
Lorenz_Butterfly_by_uk_daveWe witness this in everyday life with amazing impact.  Consider this —– you wake up one morning to a smiling husband offering you morning coffee.  You feel good, sing through your shower and are appreciative of colleagues at work.  Your colleagues feeling appreciated goes home happy, cooks an extra special meal and serves it with a smile.  The bonhomie at the table carries through to the next morning when a well-fed, happy family steps out to spread happiness.  You just made the world a better place.
Now look at it from another perspective.  Your husband wakes up grouchy, fights with you.  Agitated, you shout at the driver.  Irritated, he drives aggressively and infuriates many others.  Your colleague, receiving the brunt of your anger, spreads the ill will at home and her unhappy family steps out next morning to spread further animosity.  You just made the world a worse place.
Heard the story of Polish Prime Minister Paderewski and Herbert Hoover ?  Paderewski, also a legendary pianist, helped a couple of students study further.  Later as Prime Minister, when he received relief for a starving Poland, he realised that his country’s benefactor was one of the students he had helped, Hoover, now the head of the US Food & Relief Administration.  A massive Ripple Effect indeed.
We cannot pass by that person who needs our help, nor be rude to anyone without far-reaching consequences.  A kind word spoken is a kind word heard.  We have the power to make a difference by just being responsible and aware.
Understanding the power of the Butterfly Effect is a great way to feel empowered.  How could you be inconsequential in any way whatsoever, when a little movement or word from you could have such world-stirring effects ?
 

Id-ul-Fitr

Eid-ul-Fitr


Today our Muslim brothers and sisters celebrate ID-ul-FITR.  ID MUBARRAK to all.

It was an EID day in Madina, during the lifetime of the Prophet.  All his companions, young and old and especially children, were clad in new clothes.  They were preparing to rejoice and partake of the divine bounties of Id.  They offered namaz led by the Prophet.  Thereafter, they warmly greeted and hugged each other and had a whale of a time.  The most excited were the children who were overwhelmed by their parents’ love and care.  But a little boy among them looked sad and sullen.
The Prophet came across the sad boy, bent down and lovingly asked, “Why are you unhappy, my dear ?”  The boy who couldn’t even see who was before him, sobbed, “Leave me alone, please.”  The Prophet of Mercy very gently ran his fingers through the little boy’s hair and asked again.  The boy opened up, “My father is no more, and my mother has married again, but my stepfather does not want me to live at home any more.  Today is ID and all the children are happy with new garments and delicious food.  But I have no new clothes or food, neither do I have a home.”
The Prophet felt sad and said, “I can feel your emotions, my dear.  I lost both my mother and my father when I was a child.   But, if I become your new father and my wife Ayesha your new mother, and my daughter Fatima your new sister, would you be happy then ?”  The little boy was utterly surprised and, when he looked up, he found that it was Prophet Muhammad, the most gracious man, before him.  He felt he was in seventh heaven when the Prophet took him home and gave him beautiful clothes and delicious food.  It was a wonderful Id for the little boy who was no longer an orphan.
ID literally means something that returns every year, while FITR means a form of charity.  So Id-ul-Fitr is an occasion that comes every year to remind s of our humane duty towards the weaker sections of society.  It returns every year to enliven the spirit of sharing with the destitute ones, especially the orphans.
This is the prime purpose of Id-ul-Fitr.  Therefore, it is enjoined upon Muslims on this day to distribute FITRAH ( a fixed amount of charity mandatory for every Muslim) to the poor.  We are also exhorted to hold delicious feasts and invite friends and neighbours.  Such noble acts on Id-ul-Fitr are meant for SILAH RAHMI, i.e. maintaining ties of kinship , bonds of love, mutual harmony, brotherhood and social integrity.
Such a person who maintains good relations with others is called al-Wasil in Arabic.  The Prophet explained that “al-Wasil is not the one who recompenses the good done to him by his relatives, but al-Wasil is the one who keeps good relations even with those who have severed relations with him.”
Id is not only about feasting on delicious food and wearing fancy dresses.  It is actually about “lighting the candles of delight, kindness, compassion, brotherhood and mercy.”  Once the Prophet was asked what actions were the most endearing to him.  He replied, “Hearten the human beings, feed the hungry, help the afflicted, lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful and remove the wrongs of the injured.”
———— Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi.

A divine dialogue

We all know that the Bhagavad Gita is Lord Krishna’s teaching to Arjuna.  Once, a person told me, Swamiji, ” I know the Gita ——– the book that Arjuna taught Krishna !”
“No”, I corrected him, “it is the other way round.”  “What difference does it make ——- who taught whom”, he retorted.  True, as far as knowledge is concerned, the identities of the teacher and student, to a certain extent, are inconsequential.  However, n the case of the Gita, it is of utmost importance.  We cannot say Arjuna taught Lord Krishna.
What makes the Gita so “special” and “unique” ?Let us begin with the GITA DHYANA SHLOKAS.  The very first verse is :      Oh Bhagavad Gita, destroyer of birth(s), thou has been instructed to Parth, son of Prutha, by Lord Narayana himself and later included by the ancient sage Vyasa within the Mahabharata.  Showerer of the nectar of advaita, if 18 chapters, Oh Mother ! I meditate upon thee.” –
Here, the Gita is addressed as AMBA —– MOTHER.  When the Gita is addressed as “Mother” it implies a mother’s love and concern for her children.  Similarly, the Gita has love for all and is only interested in our happiness and well-being.

Krishna_Arjuna


In Chapter 10 of the Gita, the Lord declares that He is the source of everything, and wherever and whenever we see something glorious, spectacular and powerful ——– it is His special glory, VIBHOOTI.  Lord Krishna points out that among the Pandavas, He is Arjuna ; among the great sages, He is Vyasa ; and among the Vrishnis, He is Vasudeva Shri Krishna.  These are His exceptional manifestations.

So, who is the teacher of the Gita ?  Lord Krishna.  Who is the student ? Lord Krishna in the form of Arjuna.  Who is the composer ? Lord Krishna in the form of rishi Ved Vyasa Rishi.  He is yet another manifestation of the Lord’s brilliance.  Lord Krishna is speaking of His glory to His own glory.  And this phenomenon is narrated by Sanjay, a devotee of the Lord.
Logically, if divinity is everywhere, the resultant song can only be divine.  This is the first speciality : since the teacher, the student, the composer and the writer were all divine, the consequent creation is naturally, divine.  Therefore, the Gita is divine knowledge given by none other Divinity Incarnate.
——- Swami Tejomayananda.     

Your differentiator

What is your differentiator ?  Are you one of a crowd or do you stand apart ?  What distinguishes you from ‘others’ and gives you that ‘cutting edge’ ?——— “I’m not like the rest.  I’m different”.  How often we hear people say this in varied contexts.  To some extent it is true —— all of us are unique, different from each other.  It is heartening to know that no two snowflakes are alike and all fingerprints are unique.  Indeed, very few things in Nature are exactly alike : each cloud, every flower, tree, every Life less ordinaryleaf, and even water molecules are different from each other.  Certainly, Nature never meant humans to be clones of each other.  Our DNA, circumstances of birth, culture, upbringing, influences and exposure —- all ensure each individual has striking differences from another.
But we ignore that reality and pour ourselves into readily available casts.  We model ourselves on available leads, become part of groups and lose our individual identities.  Looking around for affirmations and approvals, we end up as clones of each other.  Drowning the voice of our individual drummer, we march to tunes that have the stamp of “social approval”.
And yet the niggling voice within sometimes asserts itself, and we declare we are different.  Of course we are.  But, do we really appreciate or even understand our own “differentiator” ?  Do we work upon and display these to our advantage ?  “If you only read the books everyone is reading, you can only thing what everyone else thinking,” says Haruki Murakami inNORWEGIAN WOODS.  True.  And similarly, if you only do what everyone else is doing, wear what others are wearing, echo opinions and reflect attitudes you encounter elsewhere ——- YOU CAN ONLY BE ONE OF MANY.
If you want to lead a life less ordinary, it is important to create your differentiator and nurture.  Just like a differentiator helps grow or kill a business, a differentiator for an individual gives him that “competitive edge” over others. This is what will make you stand out, be the one who is selected from amongst many, the cynosure of all eyes in a crowded room.
To identify your differentiators, focus on understanding and accepting yourself as you are, without wanting to be someone else.  This will help you naturally gravitate towards things that enhance and add value to you.  You will learn to develop skills and use these to your best advantage without looking around for guidance or waiting for a sign.  You will develop your own individual personalities as well as style statements.
It is important to develop your signature style, be it personality traits, attitude or style statement.  It could be the pursuit of a hobby that lifts you above the rest, or a philosophy or outlook you display. unique
Step out of boxes you have been taught to grow up within, and explore possibilities beyond.  Consciously attempt to do things in your own unique way.  Certain traits become the hallmark of a profession.  Bureaucrats will be pompous, politicians will be smoothly devious, journalists will e intrusive, clerks will be irritable, scientists will be absent-minded, lawyers argumentative and doctors harried.  But really, must you ?  Some are smart enough to consciously step away from adopting the traits associated with a group or a profession., they develop their own differentiators and attitudes.  These are the ones instantly marked “different”.
Different yes, but different from what ?  It is very easy to be different if difference alone is the agenda.  Wear strange clothes, walk in a strange manner, be rude amongst polite people and take on an anti-social stance.  You are different.  However, being subversive or an object of ridicule is not the point.  Nor is the idea to stand out for the heck of it.  Your differentiator has to be real and true to you, as you understand yourself.  Then alone is it enticing and exciting.
Remember, in order to be effective, the differentiator has to define you and your agenda, not be the agenda itself.
——————– vinitadawra.nangia@timesgroup.com.

Fat and fabulous

FAT. It’s a beautiful word made ugly in a “thin-inspired” world.  It is important to keep your fat consumption under control, but eliminating fats entirely results in eliminating an extremely key nutritional component your body needs.  It adversely affects your efforts at getting fit.  Your body needs a healthy combination of protein, carbs, vitamins and fats for you to burn fat., because “fat burning” is a high metabolic activity.  Simply put, YOU NEED FAT TO BURN FAT.
Some fats are bad for you, pile on the cholesterol and cause problems and some fats are good.  Fats like MUFA and PUFA and Omega-3 fatty acids aid your overall weight loss and weight management goals.  Include these fabulous fats in your diet. —-
(1) Fat : AVOCADO  Fabulous : Avocado is loaded with vitamins (vitamins K, C, B5, B6 and E), fibre and antioxidants.  It is not alien to health and well-being and can be eaten in the form of a dip (like guacamole), in a salad or even on its own.  Go green
Avodaco(2) Fat : ALMONDS  Fabulous : An Almond is  a nutritional boon, combating health issues like high cholesterol and osteoporosis.  It’s also good for your heart, brain and immunity  Get a daily handful of this nutritious ninja (5-6 almonds per day if you are not on a weight loss programme)  to derive the best to offer.  Unsweetened almond milk is also a good  substitute for cow or buffalo milk if you are lactose intolerant.
(3)  Fat : WALNUTS.  Fabulous : Walnuts brim with nutrients.  Having 2 to 3 a day is enough to help your heart, bone health, mood and weight loss.  It also helps fight insomnia, gallstones, diabetes.
(4) Fat : FLAXSEEDS.  Fabulous : Flaxseed is an understated  power-packed fat.  Not only does it act as a natural laxative, it decreases cholesterol and has been known to put up an impressive fight against diabetes.  A teaspoon a day of toasted flaxseeds is all you need.
(5) Fat : GROUNDNUT.  Fabulous : Groundnut oil has a  great balance of MUFA & PUFA.  This oil is especially good because it has the antioxidant “resveratrol”, and is a good source of Vitamin E.  Those with peanut allergies need to avoid this though.
spanish-olives(6) Fat : RICE BRAN.  Fabulous : Another oily option is rice bran oil.  This is packed to the hilt with vitamin E and antioxidants.  It melds well with whatever you cook, be it Indian or Continental.  Its relatively low price makes it an extremely economically-viable option.
(7) Fat : SALMON.  Fabulous : Salmon fights heart disease, protects joints, improves mood and boosts cognition Cured or grilled salmon can be  apart of your plate in many different avatars.
(8) Fat : EGGS.  Fabulous : With just 16 calories per egg white, it is a 100% reference protein.  All the protein you get from an egg gets fully absorbed by the body, with none going to waste.  It is also cheap.  Eat it daily to keep your energy battery on auto recharge mode.
Baked Salmon(9) Fat : OLIVES.  Fabulous : Olives are great fats, and have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.  Pop it in salads, slice it in pasta or just have it as it is.
(10) Fats : SESAME SEEDS  Fabulous : Sesame seeds not only work to give you the good fats you need but are also an excellent source of calcium.
Whatever you choose to eat, all fats should be kept to about 10% in total of your daily recommended calorie intake.  Remember —– Good fats are not always less calorific but they can nourish you like few other things can.
—— Pooja Makhija (Nutritionist)   

Yoga on the go

Travelling for long hours means stiff joints and poor blood circulation.  Prepare your body, mind and spirit for travel fatigue.
You could be on a long road journey, a train ride or a two-hour flight ……… the seats are small and constricted and your legs are cramped in a tight space.  Travelling for long hours also means loss of blood circulation to the lower body.  One must straighten the legs and move the feet forward and backward periodically.  Feel the tension in your calves.  Rotate ankles, clockwise and anticlockwise.  Flex and stretch your toes too.
Gyan mudraSTRENGTHEN NECK MUSCLES :  While a neck-pillow works well in cushioning your spine during travel, some basic yoga steps only make your travel more comfortable.  ** Look up and bend your head back.  Then bend your head down and look downwards.  Move only your neck, breathing normally.  Repeat this three to five times.  ** Now turn your face as far right as possible.  Then turn to the left.  Repeat three times.
BENEFITS : Removes stiffness of the neck muscles and counters spasms, corrects the neck posture and aligns the joints.
LOOSEN UP :  ** Take your hands behind your head.  Place your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder.  Your elbows should point upwards.  ** Interlock your fingers.  Cover your forehead with your palms.  Exert force with your hands and neck in opposite directions.  The palms should force the neck back while the neck forces the palms forward.
BENEFITS :  Removes all traces of stiffness in the shoulders and neck muscles.
ARM STRENGTH :  ** Outstretch your arms, at shoulder level.  With all your strength, clench your hands into fists and then unclench them.  ** Rotate your fists in both directions.  ** Keep your hands on your shoulders and rotate elbows clockwise and anticlockwise.
BENEFITS :  Removes weakness in the arms, cures stiff shoulders and neck, alleviates joint pains.
yoga-reflectionsGYAN MUDRA :  ** Sit in a comfortable position in your chair folding your legs, keeping your back and neck straight.  ** Form the Gyan Mudra by touching the tip of the thumb with the tip of the index finger, the other three fingers straight and joined together.  Place your hands on the knees, palms facing upwards.  Close your eyes gently and focus on your breathing.  Hold this position for 10mins.
BENEFITS :  It improves concentration and reduces negative thoughts.  Regular practice eliminates insomnia, migraine usually associated with long travel.
POST-TRAVEL ASANA :  Stand erect, heels together and place both hands on your chest, fingers interlocked.  Stretch your arms ahead and slowly raise them up while breathing in.  Raise your heels, stand on tiptoe and stretch your entire body upwards.  Repeat two or three times.
BENEFITS : Strengthens the spine, ankles, knees, thighs and abdomen.  Relieves physical exhaustion.
———- Inputs by Yogacharya Dr. Surakshit Goswami.