Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Divine Geometry Of The Solstice

Fire kept burning through the longest night of the year, wiki_*

* Fire kept burning through the longest night of the year, wiki

Let's Get Back In Rhythm With Nature, This Solstice

After coming to this planet and living here for so many years now, I can still not get over the wonder and awe at the care that has gone into making my stay comfortable. The arrangements are nothing short of heavenly! Just visualize the blue marble spinning on its axis at a speed of about 465 meters per second. Four hundred sixty five meters per second - that's a lot of vertigo! And this marble hurtles around a huge ball of fire at a speed of about 30 kilometers per second. Thirty kilometers in one second - that's a lot of speed! And yet, despite the heady cocktail of dizziness and hurtle, I am feeling oh so comfortable as I am typing this; just the same comfort that I felt when I slid out of the womb into the open air. And, going by the experiences shared by others who have passed by this property before me, this degree of comfort is undisturbed by and large, barring a tsunami here or a hurricane there or an earthquake here-and-there, which I put down to system maintenance. Such an elaborate arrangement of such universal scale needs some downtime sometimes, is it not?

image by ilco, sxc.hu

And to dot the revolution around the huge ball of fire are two occasions that happen so consistently year after year. Sometime between June 20 & 23, and then again between December 20 & 23, the earth tilts one of its polar caps towards the Sun. "And while we were busy getting on with our life, while life continued to happen to us, the earth and the sun performed this very exquisite change of rhythm in their cosmic dance on the Solstice Day" -- was how I wrote about the June Solstice of 2008 in my Quest for Nirvana blog. A yin-and-yang dance between the earth and the sun, "...a divine love affair that has been going on since eternity - but only from a distance - acknowledgment of this love taking place only in this gesture of the imperceptible bow". You really must read this piece if you haven't already - here is the post.

Diagram of the Earth's seasons as seen from the north. Far right: December solstice, wiki_*

* Diagram of the Earth's seasons as seen from the north. Far right: December solstice.

Somehow, in our quest for living in these modern times, we have tended to move away from this subtle cosmic event. Standing on the toes, peering into the distance to catch a glimpse of the approaching bus or train or car or whatever that will take us to wherever, we have tended to lose sight of the "standing still" of the Sun taking place in the sky. Glued to the couch before the TV, getting our regular dose of the favorite soap or getting amused at the politicians tying themselves in knots over resolving this or that crisis, we overlook the slight tilt that the ground beneath the feet is undergoing. Working on the next move that will help score brownie points over that rival, or deciding on how to manage that intimate relationship that seems to be derailing, we dismiss the significance of the rhythm of the event that really doesn't have any direct impact on our material life.

image by magicmarie, sxc.hu

Which is sad. Because, if we look back, we find our forefathers used to attach a lot of importance to the symbolism that the solstices represent. Perhaps that is because they were more in tune with Nature than we are. Given the hardships and the problems that we are facing, isn't it time we began getting back in tune with Nature? And regain our sense of balance and re-capture the sense of comfort of getting up in the morning everyday and see the Sun right where it is supposed to be, the earth right where it has been set to be?

Potbellie in Monte Alto, Escuintla, Guatemala, wiki_*

* Potbellie in Monte Alto, Escuintla, Guatemala. Somebody in 1800 BCE sculpted this altar as part of an elaborate ritual in an astronomically aligned Monte Alto complex in Guatemala. That somebody was part of a culture and society that was in tune with Mother Nature.

Today, 21 December, is the Winter Solstice. Chances are, this momentous event will be overlooked and ignored by the world. And to think that we spend time and money in celebrating events such as the New Year of January the First, which is practically of no significance - somebody in the Medieval Ages randomly thought of creating a calendar which randomly begins with this particular date. And mechanically, like a robot, we have been following that somebody's dictum down the ages. If we build some personal ritual around this day to mark this event, then soon, the business houses will take the cue and create beautiful cards to sell to us and public functions for us to buy in and participate and have fun, so that they can earn money on the Solstice days. And there are two such days every year - year after year! So twice the opportunity to do business, such incentive! For us, us ordinary human beings who simply want peace and solace and food and shelter and money-in-the-bank and good friends and intimate relationships and some happiness and not much else, we can begin appreciating as a mass, the nice and cozy arrangements that have been made to make our stay on the planet Earth so comfortable.

image by shlomaster, sxc.hu
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Women, Addiction And Psychological Distress

image by ioneq, sxc.hu


Mother Nature Has Made You Very Fragile! Don't Abuse Your Fragility.

It's been proven: amongst the two genders, women are the more vulnerable when it comes to succumbing to addiction. Ladies, if you are in the child-bearing age - especially between 18 and 44 -, then you are sensitive to becoming addicted to stuff like drugs and alcohol, even nicotine. More sensitive than your male friends.

image by forwardcom, sxc.hu


So you become intoxicated with just a fraction of the quantity that men take without batting their eyelids. And while the macho hunks can ingest any amount of marijuana and opioids and cocaine and heroin - and flush them out of their system without much ado, you tend to hold the stuff within you till they begin to gel and mesh and merge with the exotic and unique chemicals in your innards; till a stage comes when you become addicted to them. And while it takes a lot of practice and effort for the male to get addicted, you, delicate girl, slide into addiction so fast that you don't realize it until it's too late. The researchers call it "telescoping effect" - this stage from simply "trying it out" for fun or to impress or yielding to peer pressure "telescopes" into dependence so fast! ...that the next thing you know, you begin hanging out with people who supply you such stuff.

image by shin0, sxc.hu

This telescopic effect has got something do with the gonad-centric hormones that come out of those glands, ladies, which somehow cannot resist coupling with the swaggering psychomotor-stimulant drugs once they enter your bloodstream. Why the hormones cannot resist, nobody knows, but that's not the entire story, because gonadectomized (read castrated) females too have exhibited the same behavior. Going beyond these trifle chemicals, therefore, it is how you are constructed as a whole - your essence - which is making the difference. It is what makes a woman, woman, which is making the difference.

image by zela, sxc.hu

Determination to abstain helps but tenuously; for relapse is more the order of the day. One reason for this relapse, especially in the child-bearing age, is the menstrual cycle. You will have to guard against relapsing especially in the post-luteal days, when you will find it difficult to abstain, and will more likely give into the craving for the next shot.

image by nicoledee, sxc.hu

Findings from research after research also point to structural damage in women taking place at a more accelerated clip than in men. So get ready to being told that the heart, muscle, liver and the brain has begun atrophying, earlier than they will tell your male counterpart.

image by porah, sxc.hu
Another observation is that women who face psychological distress at any point in their life, and who doesn't?, tend to binge on alcohol more than do men, which is more freely available than drugs (I am referring to the alcohol, not the men). Why? But whether it is alcohol or drugs, addiction to either has the same effect on the body.

image by kenhamrock, sxc.hu

Here are two research papers that talk about these interesting phenomena: here is one, this is another. (Subscription required to read the papers in full.)

image by ophelia, sxc.hu


The conclusion is: In whichever areas you might want to compete with men, ladies, don't ever think of competing with them on drug / alcohol intake. Mother Nature has the stack loaded against you on this score. Sounds pretty grim, doesn't it? It is.

image by tahuano, sxc.hu

So, for your own sake, ladies, stay away from such stuff. Nature has given you a certain fragility that you should celebrate, not abuse.

image by marcos_bh
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Turn Off The Televisions, Please

image by mzacha, sxc.hu


It Has Become A Harbinger Of Only Negative News, These Days

I guess for the past few weeks (or is it months), this blog has been shrilly harping on the same theme again and again: keep your chin up, cheer up, there's nothing wrong with you and there's nothing wrong with this world, whatever bad that we see going on around us and with us is a grand detoxification of all sorts of hitherto fore-ignored negativities that were being built up in the society as a whole and within our own life; so remain positive and go through this process with excitement and wonder and see what new world is emerging. And with every passing day, it is indeed becoming a challenge to keep each others' cheers high, as news keeps pouring in about this person gone bonkers because of X reason, that company folding up because of Y reason, blah, blah, blah.

image by fishmonk, sxc.hu

And yet, we have to keep up with the good cheer, if that is the only thing left to be done. Keep up with the good cheer ourselves, and egg on everybody in our vicinity and reach to keep up with their good cheer.
image by bal969, sxc.hu
As if what is happening in our neighborhood is not enough, bringing to our hall and our desk more gloomy news from distant shores are the ubiquitous TV and the newspapers. The way the headlines scream in big and bold fonts ("make them even bigger, Johnny"), the way the news anchor couches their words in gloomy terms, you would think that the world is coming to an end. After soaking in all the darkness and the despair through our senses, it is but natural for the mind to dwell on these thoughts. Which is what we do not want. So what is the solution? Banish the newspapers for the time being. Turn off the television, and keep it turned off. Never mind if you miss a few episodes of your favorite soap. Never mind if doing this creates a huge chunk of vacuum in the waking hours. But then, what do you do with so much time on your hands?

image by icelandit, sxc.hu

May be, just may be, you could consume this huge chunk in walking through the woods. Get in tune with nature. Listen to the silence that soothes and embalms. Listen to the bird calls as they go about their routine. Realize what a beautiful place it is that you live in. Greet people who once you had never bothered to give a second glance, while you rushed past, totally absorbed in your world. Make new friends. Take up a new hobby. There is so much to do in this huge chunk, really.

image by eperagi, sxc.hu

Am I being escapist? By turning a blind eye to the goings-on, am I advocating that everything will be alright? The point here is this - let the collective consciousness take on the responsibility of setting this "everything" to "alright". Let us focus on setting to "alright", the one and only one person we can take responsibility for - and that is "ourselves". There are people whose job it is to get the economy back on track. They are doing their job as best as they can. It won't help if we keep watching them from the sidelines, biting our nails fretfully, wondering what the next moment and the next day will bring. Your troubles won't go away by your continuing to nurse them with worry and anxiety and fear, will they? But by deciding to not give them more importance than is due, by deciding to keep intact the peace of mind, you might actually find a solution! The deep woods and the embalming silence and the chirping birds and the beautiful neighborhood and the stranger faces and the new friendships and the new hobbies can and do spark creative ideas, you know. Ideas that can bring the sunshine back.

image by zela, sxc.hu

The least we can do, and in these circumstances the best we can do really, is to keep intact our sense of balance and calm, and be optimistic and hopeful about what the future holds for us.

image by mckenna71, sxc.hu

So, if there is a television blaring in the background, switch it off please, for your sake.

image by zela, sxc.hu

[In our drive to achieve miracles at work, we sometimes forget some very basic elements of our existence. We tend to ignore the simple miracles that keep happening around us, only, we have taken them for granted. While on the subject of not letting negative, depressing thoughts to enter our mind, here's one reflective piece on the joys of pausing to stand and stare: "While Pushing To Achieve Miracles At Work".]
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Let's Use The Present Crisis To Learn A Thing Or Two About Money

image by iofoto, sxc.hu


'How To Respect Money' Is The Lesson From The Present Crisis

Difficult it is, is it not, to keep our head in place when all around us are losing theirs? This is precisely what the current economic conditions are demanding that we do. To retain our cool, and not let the mayhem and gloom and sense of doom get to us.

image by sachyn, sxc.hu


That nowadays there is generally a feeling of being shipwrecked, along with the realization of the traditional support of lifebuoys, lifeguards, rafts, etc not being available to take us to the safety of solid ground -- is clear from the recent spurt in visitations to counselors by people who had never any record of visiting one before. The common leitmotif behind the motivation to seek counseling are the expected ones - job losses, layoffs, furloughs, salary cuts, and the accompanying worry of paying for the kids' tuition fees and paying for the debts taken when times were more cheerful. Another feature that is most visible in today's social life is the increase in attendance at spiritual and religious congregations: the subconscious connection we make, of a higher force being our lifebuoy, lifeguard, raft, etc is a throwback to the times when we used to be led by the finger by somebody senior to such places, and when we found them regaining solace and strength and comfort, making their particular road ahead more bearable for them.

image by drakemata, sxc.hu

Both these features - receiving counseling and attending spiritual / religious congregations - must be counted as positive side-effects of the present economic crisis. We have been on auto-pilot mode of "earn-enjoy-have-fun-and-tomorrow-will-take-care-of-itself" for so long, that a correction which makes us pause and take stock of our mental and spiritual health had become overdue. This taking stock leads us by the finger towards some deep self-analysis sometimes, which again is a positive offshoot. A churning begins in our mind about the way we have lived our lives all this while, about the thought processes that have dictated our decisions and choices. As with any churning, some very good aspects about us come to light. And as with any churning, some not so great aspects about us too come to light.

image by sundstrom, sxc.hu

Take for example, our approach and attitude towards the concept of money. While it has been fed to us every moment of the day - by our parents, seniors and peers, by the newspapers and the TV and the radio, by the local religious congregation we used to go to - that (one of the, if not the only) most potent and powerful entity in this world is M-O-N-E-Y, tell me, how many of us really, really understand this thing called "money"? That a majority of us are largely ignorant about it - never mind the grand posture we take before the family members or the eloquent gestures and theatrical dialogs that we deliver before relatives and friends - is clear by the fact of the huge debts we have run up on our credit card and we now realize that we cannot pay.

image by isouthpawi, sxc.hu


As this article here suggests - Raise Your Hands, All Those Who Love Money -, unless somebody taps us on our forehead and points to us the folly of our approach towards this arguably most potent power in the world, we continue to live the same way that our upbringing has taught us. And continue to make the same mistakes we have always made.

image by nusrin, sxc.hu


While the economy will take its own time to get back on its feet - and that it will, there's no doubt -, let's use the present opportunity of the thumb-twiddling free time that we seem to have with us - waiting for the next job or contract to come our way - to conduct a positive self-analysis and identify areas where we can improve ourselves. Including how to give money some more respect than we have been giving it up until now.

image by alexkalina, sxc.hu
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