Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Learn From The Animals - On How To Align With Nature

image by sundstrom,

Animals Can Teach Us A Thing Or Two In Self-Development

Sometimes I wish we could communicate with the animals. Over the past millennia, a process of dis-connect with Nature has been going on hand-in-hand with our quest to become biped. In our enthusiasm to develop the ability to walk tall, we have actually moved away from Mother Earth. We have come to rely so much on logic and abstraction and analysis and theorizing, and so absorbed have we become in appreciating the prowess of our brain and muscle that we have ironically tended to overlook and undervalue anything that is not registered by our instruments. Not given to such self-absorption, animals on the other hand have remained blissfully tuned in with the elements of Nature. And had we had the ability to communicate with them, they would certainly be in a position to teach us a thing or two!

image by runrunrun,

The recent news about an observation, carried out after scientific studies, that animals generally tend to align themselves with the north-south magnetic axis of the planet, needs to be appreciated from this perspective. But then they don't carry the magnetic compass with them, do they? Then how come? How is it that we, the most intelligent of all living species that has ever walked on Earth, do not possess this ability? Of being able to naturally detect the north-south magnetic direction, without any external aids, I mean?

image by canadiansc,

It is called Magnetoreception, this ability to sense magnetic alignment. This ability comes easy to all types of cattle, several insect groups such as honeybees, termites, flies, etc. Fishes, birds, name it, and they all have this sense. Except perhaps me and you.

image by mattox,

In fact, we have known of the long distance migration of birds and aquatic creatures from one location to another, in tune with the change of seasons. They do their relocation unerringly, precisely, year after year, and without the aid of any technology. They all do it, all the time. Just about everybody possesses this magic, except perhaps me and you.

image by rore_d,

It has been discovered that somewhere deep inside, the magnetic axis does have an impact on us. But so subtle is this sensation, and so total is our preoccupation with the material world around us, that we have never taken cognizance of it. Take our own sleeping position for instance. When we sleep in the E-W direction, it takes us less time to slip into dreaming mode than when we sleep in the N-S direction. (The time taken to shift from sleep to dream-mode sleep is called REM Latency.) When we were less than a year old, our REM latency was very short: which means that as an infant we would begin dreaming no sooner we closed our eyes; irrespective of the direction the caregiver put us in. Now, very interestingly, schizophrenic patients too have been observed to have abnormally low REM latency. Adding two plus two, we could hypothesize that sleeping in the N-S direction is best for our physiology - never mind at what level it affects us. (And let's leave it to the researchers to reject the null hypothesis!)

image by 1041992,

When sitting for meditation, facing the north of the earth's magnetic pole anecdotally gives the best results, as my post here suggests. The brain's own electromagnetic field and the earth's magnetic field are in resonance with each other, just like that of the cattle grazing out in the fields!!!

Magnetic lines, wiki

Yes, I wish we possessed the ability to communicate with animals. We would re-learn from them so many things that we have de-learned in our race to become homo sapiens.

image by nastynesty,
Read More ›

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

'Tis Time Doctors Begin Prescribing Breathing Exercises For Stress Control

image by felipedan,

An Overwhelming Body Of Research Recommends It As CAM

Has your doctor begun prescribing "deep breathing exercises" on their letter pad the next time you go visiting them for your medical conditions? 'Tis high time they started doing it. But whether they do or they don't, it is high time you began including it in your daily regimen. For it is your health we are talking about here.

image by woodsy,

There were days - back in the eighties - when people's reaction would range from total disbelief to total indifference at the claim made by Dean Ornish, Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCSF, that a small lifestyle change - just reduce the fat-intake and stick to a vegetarian diet, do some meditation or yoga, exercise moderately, and seek and enjoy social activities - is enough to take back control over your heart and your life. Those days of disbelief and indifference have gone, people have evolved. They now listen to him with rapt attention.


[* Dr. Ornish's presentation at TED, Feb 2006. His discovery that cardiac patients can save their money on costly bypass surgery and at the same time reverse their condition through simple changes in lifestyle - has won him gratitude the world over. ]

There has been a virtual explosion on research in the effect of simple breath-control exercises - yes, we are now no longer shy of using the word "Meditation" - on alleviating a range of psychosomatic conditions. The realization that it is the mind that controls the brain and not vice-versa took some time to embed. And look how this one axiom has changed perspectives! Huge money is now flowing into mind-body research, and bright students entering medical schools nowadays find a subject or two from this domain included in their curricula. Yes, we are no longer shy of using the word "Meditation". We are also no longer embarrassed of discussing the impact of emotions and beliefs on the body's immune system and the brain.

image by lightfusio,

It is a different matter that the exact mechanism between the brain and the Mind is still unknown. We are still grappling with the concept of the homunculus that is hypothesized to be behind it all, from the first breath to the death rattle. But I am confident that it is just a matter of time... before this mystery also begins to unravel itself before our eyes. I hope to see this happening in my lifetime.

image by toutouke,

While reading this post, may be you could begin your deep-breathing exercises right away? Doesn't cost a penny. If there were an auspicious moment to begin self-development and a better way of living: this is the one.

image by topfer,
Read More ›

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Messiah Of Thyolo

Image from www.doctorswithoutborders.org_*

[* Image by Julie Remy, The caption for the image reads - "A woman living with HIV waits to see a nurse at a health center in Chiradzulu District, Malawi, so she can receive her medicine for the next month."]

A Project Crying For More Empathy And Better Management

It is hot and humid, the typical August weather in Thyolo, this small capital city of the district of the same name, in Malawi, southeastern Africa. Residents of the city, as well as from the neighboring towns of Manjolo, Muonekera, Kabombe, and Namireno, besides the others begin trooping in to the dilapidated room that calls itself the medical center. And the patient wait begins for the messiah to arrive.

Relatives waiting outside hospital, bbc UK

And when Christina Chinji, the nurse appointed by the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) walks in, there is a collective sigh of relief. For the residents, she is not an ordinary human being going about her job; she is a messiah. For, thanks to her, they are able to snatch from the jaws of certain death a few more sunrises to savor...


This messiah's job it is to administer basic ART to the almost 400 HIV-infected persons whose life depends on her being present in the center, her medicine kit in tow. These 400-odd people should consider themselves fortunate; they must have scored some good karmic points to at least claim some modicum of treatment; never mind that the kit's dosage follows the "one regimen suits all cases" approach, and never mind that this sort of generic treatment doesn't do anyone any good. (I wish the regimen has MBSR as one of the intervention techniques too, it has held out promise as a generic treatment in a controlled experiment; see this blog post.) For every one of these 400, there are thousands of others out there in the country and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, who have never ever been anywhere near a medical center all their life. And from all accounts, never will.

BBC UK image

Most of them seek out the traditional healer who has all the time in the world, unlike the healthcare workers who carry that I-am-totally-frazzled-and-about-to-collapse-with-exhaustion expression all the time. The friendly traditional healer whispers the nice comforting words of "everything will be alright" while administering his concoctions; hopefully that does make a difference.

image BBC UK

The problems faced by the likes of Christina Chinji are well-documented. Low salary level (USD 3 per day!) is the foremost de-motivator: everybody has a home and a hearth and a heart to tend to, you know. Obviously, the generous funding from donor countries is falling short somewhere. And then there is the constant Damocles' sword dangling on their own head. While administering treatment, they run the risk of becoming an HIV/AIDS patient themselves! As this report compiled by the MSF suggests, an estimated 200 deaths per year of health care workers are attributed to HIV/AIDS.

AP Photo, 2005

Now, this is one project that is crying for more empathy and better management! I am sure there must be somebody out there who is at the center of all the storm; who has their finger on the pulse of the situaton; and who can take the right, proactive action to handle the situation more empathically and professionally. For once, this somebody has to shed all cynicism, and also perhaps self-interest.

image by sachyn,

We churn out so many management graduates - and most of them have their heart in the right place! - every year, worldwide. It is time they proved their mettle and worth! It is human capital that is at stake, folks! Will prove to be a very interesting project for you, and one that will also earn you lots of karmic points, for sure.

image by weirdvis,
Read More ›

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When Are You Visiting Mars?

Full-Circle Color Panorama of Phoenix Landing Site on Northern Mars, Polar Projection_*

[*Full-Circle Color Panorama of Phoenix Landing Site on Northern Mars, Polar Projection - courtesy NASA. ]

Exciting Times Lie Ahead

That water is available on Mars is now old news. The buzz that has all space enthusiasts agog is the rumor that the team monitoring the wet-chemistry experiment - which the clumsy robots are working on out there on Mars - has stumbled upon some ground-breaking discovery related to the composition of Martian soil. And this time they have chosen to rush, not to the press, but to the White House to brief the folks about it. All news is - uncharacteristically - being kept under covers, apparently till further analyses corroborates whatever it is they have come across. While the rumor is being actively sought to be squashed, a sneak peek is scheduled for today, August 5, 2008, 11 am PDT, at a teleconference organized by NASA for the media.


[*Uni. Of Arizona Video footage on the Phoenix mission.]

Expect the reports coming through over the next few weeks to oscillate between "Yes, the planet is hospitable for human life" and "No; the planet is not hospitable for us yet to go there, settle down, fall in love, get married and then get divorced, raise children and die". I am skeptical about the latter. Skeptical not about the settling/loving/marrying/divorcing/dying part, oh we are past masters at all this, but about the 'no' part. Going by our record of the past couple of millennia, if the planet is not hospitable; well, we will make it hospitable. If the environment is harsh, we will modify it to suit our tastes and comfort and lifestyle. We will create the right ecosystem where we can subsist and then do all that we always do... you know - the settling down, the falling in love, etc, oh no, no need to worry about non-hospitability.

After Rasping by Phoenix in 'Snow White' Trench, Sol 60_*

[* NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander used the motorized rasp on the back of its robotic arm scoop during the mission's 60th Martian day, or sol, (July 26, 2008) to penetrate a hard layer at the bottom of a trench informally called "Snow White." This view, taken by the lander's Surface Stereo Imager and presented in approximately true color, shows the trench later the same sol. Image and text courtesy - NASA.]

Wonder how we would react if one of these missions were to discover some living being stalking the planet? Surely, we have evolved, no?, from the time when we had fled from our homes upon listening on the radio that the Martians had landed? When we rushed to the churches to pray to the almighty to save the world as we knew it from the aliens, never mind that the world has already gone to the dogs, and ask for forgiveness and absolutions of our sins, since "we are all going to die anyways"?

Orson Welles_*

[* Orson Welles at work, delivering a running commentary of the events of the "landing of Martians" in Van Nest Park, New Jersey, on October 30, 1938. The warring Martians moved swiftly within the span of the next few minutes to lay siege to the entire United States. Poor things, they finally succumbed to the humble and unassuming bacteria pervading the air on Earth. Imagine, the humble and unassuming bacteria coming to the rescue of mighty mankind!]

'Martians, Go Home'_*

[* 'Martians, Go Home' - a science fiction novel written by Fredric Brown. ]

Evolved souls that we are, jaded spirits that we have become, this time around the first and foremost action we would do would be to rush to create a new page on Wikipedia to record for posterity the historic event! The paparazzi will leave the harassed celebrities alone for a while and strain with their cameras and listening devices to capture images of this wonderful being who is not one of us. Uh, they would be the first to catch the next flight to Mars! The TV, news channels, papers, internet, all the popular shows, will have for a few days nothing but the latest byte about the Martians.

image by clix,

The team in charge of the Mars project will become celebrities in their own right, with their spouses, kids, siblings, distant relatives and pals, even their pet dogs and cats getting full limelight. They will even have the opportunity to appear on Oprah Winfrey and Larry King Shows - the ultimate, I am told, in celebrityhood! And the blogs. Especially the blogs, will have their own take on the Martian, with every blogger worth their salt giving an opinion from all possible angles, three sixty degree and beyond, about what to do with this thing in our midst. We bloggers do not miss any opportunity to speak our mind on anything under the sun, you see.

image by svilen001,

Philosophers and sociologists and other intellectuals amongst us would present papers on the best way of establishing contact with this representative from a new and unknown society with unknown culture and unknown style of living. A new branch in anthropology will come into being overnight; and people will churn out tomes after best-seller tomes of absorbing content with Martian society as the theme. A new breed of "experts" would come out of nowhere, their beaming faces, arms folded across the chest, a halo please around the head, the mystical aura of a know-all Guru no less, looking at us from spanking new websites, giving us profound insights on what this all means to humanity as a whole.

image by tony26,

Suddenly, everybody would be busy! A new opportunity on the horizon, yet another way to make money and become famous! Martian trinkets and memorabilia, Martian music, Martian fashions... Let's cash in on the boom fellas, so much money waits to be made! Oh, what will I not do to be the first to shake hands - or whatever it is that they have in the name of "hands" - with the Martian, and have my photograph splashed all over the media!

image by zoofytheji,

Exciting times lie ahead. Let's get busy packing our bags for the next bus to the moon. So when are you coming?

image by isouthpawi,

Are you game for traveling to the moon? There is gold waiting for you out there! Here is another interesting take on the subject of celestial trips.
Read More ›