My Power Quote !

A good book on a rainy day is happiness for me - Ruskin Bond

Friday, March 30, 2012

SUN - THE SHINING STAR

 When I fold my hands before sun god in the morning,  it slides me into reflective mood of how shrouded we are with the mystery of life. I am amazed by this very light and energy field. The more I read about Sun, the deeper will be my reverence. I bow my head to this daily wonder so as to remain more pious.

 In fact Sun is the living wonder right in front of us. Without His rays, no living species would survive and the Earth would freeze into an ice ball.   Though we made some inroads in knowing other stars in the Solar System, our research on Sun is still nascent.

When I talk about Sun, I am reminiscent of a Sun Temple in my Home State Andhra Pradesh, India, called Arasavalli Sun God temple situated in the coastal district of Srikakulam. It is one of the ancient Sun God temples in the country. The beauty of the temple structure is such that sun rays fall on the feet of the idol twice in the year during March and September in early hours of the day. This ancient temple is believed to have been built in the later half of the 7th century by Devendra Verma, the Ruler of the Kalinga Kingdom.

When it comes to ongoing research on the Sun, recently a group of scientists from Hawaii, Braziland California have measured the diameter of the Sun with unprecedented accuracy by using a spacecraft to time the transits of the planet Mercury across the face of the sun in 2003 and 2006. They measured the Sun's radius as 696, 342 km with an uncertainty of only 65 km.

It is believed that this gigantic ball of spinning gases is about 5 billion years old. The base material is Hydrogen (71 %), Helium (26.5%) and other elements (2.5%). The nuclei of hydrogen collide and fuse to form helium and this chain reaction produces energy, which among other things, lights and heats the solar system.

Scientists estimate that the mean distance between Earth and Sun is about 150 million km. If translated into flying hours, it means that a jet aircraft with 1000 km/hr would need more than 17 years of non-stop flying to reach the Sun.

Johannes Kepler, the German astronomer (1571-1630) produced the first accurate model of the solar system. Much of our present knowledge about the stars owes to an English astronomer, Arthur Eddington (1882-1944).

I feel that the mystery of Sun is no different from the mystery of Universe. It appears that deeper aspects of life and origin of Universe continue to remain beyond the realm of human comprehension. We can't be able to connect dots and what Arthur Eddington said to the world 84 years ago in his work : “ The Nature of The Physical World, 1928 (291)” still holds good: Something unknown is doing and we don't know what it is.

So the home point is, we are part of that mystery!

Friday, March 23, 2012

BUFF YOUR BRAIN

In the past 15 years, brain science has advanced to phenomenal levels. However, the fact remains is, whatever we discovered is only a tiny fraction of what there is to know about human brain !

Look at this 3 pound mass jelly which consists of 100 billion intricate network of neurons. Each neuron makes synaptic connection (points of contacts where information is shared between neurons) anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000. The permutations and combinations it could make is beyond the elementary particles of known universe. The fuel oxygen is 20 % of our total intake.

Numerous studies have been made on the cognitive abilities of humans and recent studies indicate that if we learn a second language, the cortical circuits that hold both languages, become active. The prefrontal cortex which is just behind our forehead, the so called CEO of our brain then steps in to choose the right word.

During brain anatomy studies, researchers observed that the gifted writers and poets may have excess connections between word and language areas of the brain. Likewise gifted painters and graphic artists may have excess connections between high-level visual areas.

Brain scans of London cab drivers gave an interesting insight. They have been found with larger posterior hippocampus, the region which files the spatial memories. These findings reiterate the fact that any skill can be cultivated by repetition which will not only improve our motor abilities but activate the non-mechanical parts of brain and fine-tune those abilities.

Brain is simply not a processing machine. It is a data warehouse. All the events of our life are stored in memory which is categorized into three kinds: procedural memory (new skills like bicycling), semantic memory (factual knowledge) and episodic memory. If we don't take enough care about what we are reading, seeing or hearing, it won't be retained in our mind.

Research also reveals that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing. It becomes easy to remember something written down on paper. Folk lore says that writing one time equal to reading 20 times. So next time when your children face any memory retention problems, ask them to write down which makes the task much easier.

Scientists believe that our greater cognitive capacity comes from having more neurons or synapses. The compounds such as BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) stimulates the production of new neurons and synapses. Physical activity gives enormous boost to brain power. Walking 30 minutes a day stimulates production of BNDF for creation of new neurons and synapses that underlie learning. Laboratory studies reveal that exercise increases grey matter in the region of the hippo-campus that processes new knowledge and dispatches it to permanent storage in the frontal cortex.

Meditation increases the thickness of regions that control attention and processes sensory signals from outside world. Indulging too much in gizmos will only lower our natural abilities. See how our mathematical ability has fallen drastically after the advent of calculators !

Engaging in constant activity will seriously jeopardize the brain performance. Those who want to ride with time should also listen that a nap in the afternoon not only restores brain power to its fully awake best, but can also raise it beyond what it would have been without some shut-eye. Studies also show that 15 minutes after-noon nap is ideal to refresh the mind.  That's why the search engine giant Google went a step ahead in providing nap rooms for their employees and others must follow the suit to increase the employee productivity.

The more you know about your brain, the more still remains. The old myth about human body as a structure should be replaced with what mind-body medicine expert Dr. Deepak Chopra calls as "Energy and Information Field.'

To put it in a flash of insight : an intention to excel in any activity is the prime driver to keep your brain at best!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

TIME = MONEY; HAPPINESS = ZERO


Ever since I decided to write on daily basis to improve my writing skills, I search for triggers to ignite my mind. One such trigger recently came from the heading of a small article in a news magazine which I adopted it as a title to this article.

In fact, happiness is the underlying thread in any activity we undertake in this world . Instead of finding true centre of happiness, we ceaselessly slaughter the world for our own pie.

The true wisdom lies in enjoying with our own being without encroaching into other's space. It is what Henry David Thoreau did when he left for Walden bank (United States) to live alone. He wrote about all his experiences in an epic book "Walden" which is a masterpiece for self-transformation. The chapter on 'Solitude' is one of the best inspiring pieces of his literature. When asked why he went to Walden bank to live alone, he contended that : "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front , only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover, that I had not lived. "

The paradigm of happiness has now undergone a tectonic shift  and people  grab material possessions so ruthlessly which brink them to shallow lives. Those who value time with money have neglected their relations and by the time they start realizing, it is too late for them as considerable damage already happens in their lives.

The work alcoholics who treat time as money should be more cautious. The new research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology shows that the more one treats time in terms of money, the more one loses the ability to 'experience' time and everyday happiness.

A latest survey put India ahead of so many advanced countries in terms of happiness. India ranks Number 2 with 43% 'Very Happy people' out of 24 countries in a survey conducted in February, 2012 by a French marketing company Ipsos. Indonesia tops the list at 57 %. It is time for others to learn something from us and it is happy going for India right now!!

CREATING A BETTER WORLD FOR CHILDREN


As our children grow, we worry too much about their future. Instead of allowing them to flourish on their own, we impose our own ideas on them, thereby condition their minds.

Noted Indian spiritual guru Sadhguru Jaggie Vasudev says that it is time to learn back from children. He further says that think for a moment: Who looks more happy – you, or your children ? He believes that children are consultants for happiness.

My daughters when they are taken to evening stroll, they make spirited discussions which they don't do when they are indoors. So take your children on regular walks and listen to their ideas. Robin Sharma in his much acclaimed book 'Who will cry when you Die' echoes the same point: "Children come to us more highly evolved than adults to teach us the lessons we need to learn."

The difference between your child and you is that you know a few survival tricks while he/she is still innocent and brimming with creativity.   Allow them the life they want to lead. Don't be their boss. Be a guardian and facilitator so that they feel comfortable and share their views liberally without any inhibition. If you frighten them, they will shy away from you. So be like a friend. Communication is very vital. The greatest gift you can give to your children, Robin Sharma says, is the 'gift of your time'. But how much time do we really spend with our children is a moot point.

When it comes to education, we evaluate our children through their report cards. We compare them with their peers, and question them why they are not better than their friends in studies. This mindless comparison kills their creativity. It is our duty to nurture their inherent talents so that they achieve their full potential in their area of interest.

Sam Pitroda, former adviser to the Prime Minister on Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovation, says that you cannot really teach your children. They learn the way they can. Do what you are supposed to do, and your children will get the message loud and clear. He further says that give children enough space so that they can understand the works of the world and adapt themselves to the situations.

But the present educational system helps little to blossom children.  The marks mania is eroding the educational standards. I was shocked when I read a news item in a reputed news magazine that India ranked 73 out of 74 countries in a 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study based on extensive testing of nearly 5,000 upper primary students in the educationally advanced states of Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. What is more disgusting is that eighth graders from India could barely match the Math skills of South Korean third graders.

With regard to content of text books,  the same magazine in their story reported that Class 3 Urdu-medium schoolchildren in Andhra Pradesh are being taught Hindustan kevazir-e-azam PV NarasimhaRaohai ( P.V. NarasimhaRao is India's Prime Minister).

Some tough decisions need to be taken to reform the education sector, otherwise children continue to be the victims of mediocrity.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

MEDITATION FOR QUALITY LIFE !


 Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.
                           - Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is what Krishna taught about 5000 years ago, Lord Buddha about 3000 years ago and Jesus Christ about 2000 years, who said that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.

Meditation is a state of restful alertness. It is the art of taming your mind without any manipulation. American Cardiologist Herbert Benson, M.D., a pioneer in
meditation research, reported that Buddhist monks are capable of raising their body temperatures in near-freezing weather to the point that they are able to heat up and completely dry ice sheets wrapped around them.

Dr. Mani Bhaumik, whose book " Code Name God' is Los Angeles Times Best-seller says that Meditation is , by the way, also the mind's most blissful state, as evidenced by the significant rise of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain chemistry of deep meditators.

Our daily lives put us under enormous stress affecting physical and mental well-being. 90% of diseases are caused by stress. Latest studies reveal that our very chromosomes are affected by stress which cause us to age faster.

Scientists find an extraordinary wear and tear of telomeres of people who are leading stressful lives. Telomeres are in fact the end tips of chromosomes, little caps that protect our DNA. Telomeres play an important role in cell division and get a bit shorter every time a cell divides. There is an enzyme called telomerase which maintains and repairs the telomeres, prolonging the life of our cells. An exciting 2010 study shows that people in an intensive meditation practice had greater telomerase activity in their immune cells than those who did not meditate.

Published research reveals that a regular practice of meditation for 5 years will reduce your chronological age by 12 years. Its benefits include lowering of heart rate, blood pressure and stress related hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the immune system and increased blood levels of serotonin. A consistent practice of meditation thickens the prefrontal cortex, the so called CEO of your brain.

Psychologist Roger Thompson says that the true nature of individuals is emphatically non-individual. So simply sit quiet for 20 minutes daily at an appointed time so as to get inner serenity with a wide range of health benefits. While sitting for meditation, ensure that you wear loose-fitting clothes and be a witness to what is happening inside your mind.

Jiddu Krishnamurthy, the eminent Indian philosopher guides us to witness the mind and thoughts like a lizard on the wall. Don't attempt to stop or change the thought pattern and be a witness . Take a deep breath with eyes closed. The posture is simply sit on ground with folded legs and spine erect or sit comfortably on a chair.

Meditation facilitates you to concentrate your energies more on present moment than brooding over past or wavering for future. Dr.Bhaumik wraps up that once meditation becomes a regular practice in our lives, we become part of something much larger than our individual selves. !

Thursday, March 15, 2012

STEPHEN HAWKING, THE EINSTEIN OF OUR TIMES

Stephen Hawking needs no introduction. This Einstein of our times was born in 1963. When he was just 21 , he contracted with 'motor neurone disease' which only gave him 2 years to live, but that keeps on extending till date  to the utter amazement of medical doctors.

This former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge provided mathematical proof for Big Bang theory.

As far as I remember, it was during 2001, I got a glimpse of his much acclaimed book ' The Universe in a Nutshell' I was terrified to comprehend the concept and scientific jargon used in the book. Though the book narrates the origin of Universe in common man's parlance , I could not grasp and left it untouched again. Fast forward to 2012, I mustered enough appetite to read books on mainstream science, astrophysics,  though a difficult nut to crack for a modest commerce graduate like me. His other amazing books include 'A Brief History of Time', 'The Grand Design'.

Though I have not seen him face to face, a huge respect outpours from my heart and he remains one of my inspiring personalities. I read so many articles about him especially his computer-aided voice synthesizer without which he can not share anything with the outside world. The science came to the aid of this physicist to share his insights on the mysteries of Universe.

I personally feel that the scientific temper might have kept Hawking alive. Under normal circumstances, a crippled body could have led to diminishing mental efficacy.   But in his case, it proved the opposite. He personifies that scientific temper which helped for ground-breaking theories on Big Bang and Black Holes etc. What I have learnt from his life is this unparalleled scientific temper to remain inquisitive.

Science is fast changing the way we see the world and we must constantly update our knowledge dished out by these great minds. I recently read "Science versus Spirituality- A War of the Worldviews, co-authored by Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mladinow. This book literally created ripples in United States. It will be a fitting tribute to this man if we ever expand our scientific temper which refines our everyday living.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

SOLITUDE

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in the company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as Solitude.
                 - Henry David Thoreau

In the hustle and bustle of city life, I need one constant company that is my own solitude. Outer world is a poor substitute when it comes inner serenity. Hours will pass like a blip of second when I sink into myself.

When I was a bachelor for 5 years after entering into service, I never rubbed my shoulders too much with anybody. In fact, I have a very limited number of  friends . I feel scared of having too many friends as I can't carry the burden of their expectations. In fact, the liberty or the chastity of freedom has driven me to take a step of being aloof from the crowds. I really cherish my moments in solitude than meeting anybody else.

But ordinary folks never like solitude. They term it as loneliness which is different. They usually go to others to converse issues from heaven to earth till the other person gets bored from that non-sense. When you ask such people why they do so, they argue that they don't like loneliness which means that they don't want to be in their own company.  The question here is when you don't like your own company, how can others bear you ?

Some people connote solitude with elements of spirituality. There is no denying in that. Solitude is such a silent ocean of energy that will not only churn your creative juices but gives a higher level of awareness which helps you to go to magical realms of infinite possibilities. If you want to know the gross description of solitude, read Henry David Thoreau's magnificent Work : "Walden. Every word of Thoreau in chapter "Solitude" touches your soul and you will relish its prose.
On Solitude, Albert Einstein says : I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity. Solitude and writing are inseparable twins. Great writings happen in the deeper chambers of your soul. I personally feel that the best inspiration comes only in solitude. It could be affirmed in the words of one wise man that "one can be instructed in society, but one is inspired only in solitude".

The inventor of electric bulb Thomas A. Edison sagely says that the best thinking has been done in solitude. So do take regular chunks of solitude in daily life !

IS THERE REALLY ANY GOOD DAY OR BAD DAY ?



“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
                        -Robert Louis Stevenson 

When anything crucial is to be undertaken, normally we in India look for an auspicious moment. Some people consult their family astrologer to see if there will be any impediment in the coming days in their lives. Some others remain frenetic regarding movement of their stars rather than their tasks on hand. Is there really any good day or bad day as we think of ? This question needs a closer look.

Good or bad depends on our thought process and it is our attitude that counts. If you march forward by following  trial and error basis, then there is no need to be panic when bad moment comes. In the constant flux of events, we should have the soldier's spirit to handle the situation on hand, rather brood on planetary positions. But modern life is fast becoming a  complex web of problems and happiness remains a dear commodity even within family life. Impatience becomes hallmark of our personality. Nobody likes to bear the difference of opinion. Your spouse may ask you some suggestion and when you don't respond according to her/his expectation, the tirade will sweep away your own happy mood. 

The problem is due to the fact that we are giving much more credence to our predestined beliefs rather use the intellectual ability to understand the things in larger scheme. 

Before you label any day good or bad, start your day by gazing magnificent sun-rise. Is there any change in the quality of sun rise ? Further billions of flowers blossom on the planet Earth. When the Creator shows no difference between a good day or bad day , why do we ? It is in fact our inclination to have no failure that is is blocking the road to enjoyment. In difficulty, there is an opportunity to learn. In sorrow, we cherish the moments of happiness. So it is time to look beyond our fickle minds so that the idea of good or bad day will never crop up and wisdom prevails according to the situation.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

MY WRITING FOR MY OWN SAKE


Though I am an avid reader for more than a quarter of century, little I thought to write seriously. But it always remained as one of my deep passions. Though having a blog for the last so many years but  not posted even a single  article until March 2011 when a friend of mine persuaded me.   He said that  I should write something regularly so that my creative ideas will find a natural expression and those writings may inspire and benefit at least some people. In my friend's words I should contribute something to society about my insights/ experiences on life.

After being inspired with his words,  I posted my first article on my  blog on 26th March, 2011 with a pledge that I write regularly to give an outlet to my hidden potential.  A little milestone has been achieved on 30.12.13 by completing 100th article. Though I am not trained in journalism, a deep passion drove me to indulge into the hobby. The reason to choose online world/ internet as a medium is because when you are a nascent writer, initially it is a tough job to get your articles published straight away in newspapers/ magazines. Further, when you go on sending your articles to newspapers/magazines  and if they don't respond it will puncture your spirits and whatever the strength you muster to write against all odds will die down instantly.

Writing is a tough hobby which needs tremendous mental energies . It is in fact a kind of evolving into a higher self. Inspiration comes from many quarters. Some times the  inspiration comes from a young boy like  13 year old,  Aryaman Dalmia who has written a book ' Graham, Buffett & Me'.

In fact, I draw my inspiration from countless great people which include Deepak Chopra who is one of my favourite writers. He is a celebrated Indian American doctor having authored more than 60 books , several of them are New York Times Best Sellers. Initially his writing career is not glittering as there were no takers for his new concept of mind-body medicine and several medical research journals refused to publish his insights. At last he chose to bring out his research in the form of book which he self-published thereby he slowly came to limelight. Equally enchanting is the story of investment banker Chetan Bhagat who became the celebrity writer with his book 'Five Point Someone' with no journalistic background. These people became prominent writers out of blue.

When I analyze the lives of highly successful people, I find that Travelling, Reading and Writing ruled their lives. When asked about his life's ambitions after retirement from public life, Shri P. Chidambaram, a prominent politician of India told that he wants to take a serious pursuit of his three hobbies i.e. Reading, Writing and Travel .

It is true that when your basic material needs are catered, this trio should rule the life.
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