Archive for November 29, 2012

Psychological Perspectives

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An approach is a perspective or view that involves certain assumptions or beliefs about human behavior: the way they function, which aspects of them are worthy of study and what research methods are appropriate for undertaking this study. There may be several different theories within an approach, but they all share these common assumptions. You may wonder why there are so many different psychology perspectives and whether one approach is correct and others wrong. Most psychologists would agree that no one perspective is correct, although in the past, in the early days of psychology, the behaviorist would have said their perspective was the only truly scientific one. Each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses, and brings something different to our understanding of human behavior. For this reasons, it is important that psychology does have different perspectives to the understanding and study of human and animal behavior.

The perspectives in psychology include:

Behaviorist Perspective: To layperson’s idea, psychology has always been of people in laboratories wearing white coats and watching hapless rats try to negotiate mazes in order to get to their dinner, and then you are probably thinking of behavioral psychology. Behaviorism is different from most other approaches because they view people and animals as controlled by their environment and specifically that we are the result of what we have learned from our environment. Behaviorism is concerned with how environmental factors called stimuli affect observable behavior called the response.

The behaviorist approach proposes two main processes whereby people learn from their environment; specifically, classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning involves learning by association, and operant conditioning involves learning from the consequences of behavior. Behaviorism also believes in scientific methodology that is to say controlled experiments, and that only observable behavior should be studies because this can be objectively measured. Behaviorism rejects the idea that people have free will, and believes that the environment determines all behavior. Behaviorism is the scientific study of observable behavior working on the basis that behavior can be reduced to learned stimulus-response units.

Classical Conditioning was studied by the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. Looking into natural reflexes and neutral stimuli, he managed to condition dogs to salivate to the sound of a bell through repeated associated of the sound of the bell and food. The principles of classical conditioning have been applied in many therapies. These include systematic desensitization for phobias, that is to say step-by-step exposure to feared stimulus at once and aversion therapy.

B.F. Skinner investigated Operant Conditioning of voluntary and involuntary behavior. Skinner felt that some behavior could be explained by the person’s motive. Therefore behavior occurs for a reason, and the three main behavior shaping techniques are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment.

Behaviorism has been criticized in the way it under-estimates the complexity of human behavior. Many studies used animals which are hard to generalize to humans and it cannot explain for example the speed in which we pick up language. There must be biological factors involved.

Psychodynamic Perspective: Who hasn’t heard of Sigmund Freud? So many expressions from our daily life come from Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis – subconscious, denial, repression and anal personality to name only a few.

Freud believes that events in our childhood can have a significant impact on our behavior as adults. He also believed that people have little free will to make choices in life. Instead our behavior is determined by the unconscious mind and childhood experiences. Freud’s psychoanalysis is both a theory and a therapy. It is the original psychodynamic theory and inspired psychologists such as Jung and Erikson to develop their own psychodynamic theories. Freud’s work is vast and he has contributed greatly to psychology as a discipline. Freud, the founder of Psychoanalysis, explained the human mind as like an iceberg, with only a small amount of it being visible, that is our observable behavior, but it is the unconscious, submerged mind that has the most, underlying influence on our behavior. Freud used three main methods of accessing the unconscious mind: free association, dream analysis and slips of the tongue.

He believed that the unconscious mind consisted of three components: the (id) instinctual drives; the ‘ego’ (organized, realistic part) and the ‘superego’ (critical and moralizing role). The instinctual drives contain two main instincts: ‘Eros’, which is the life instinct, which involves self-preservation and sex which is fuelled by the ‘libido’ energy force. ‘Thanatos’ is the death instinct, whose energies, because they are less powerful than those of life instinct and are channeled away from ourselves into aggression towards others. The instinctual drives and the critical and moralizing role are constantly in conflict with each other, and the organized realistic part tries to resolve the discord. If this conflict is not resolved, we tend to use defense mechanisms to reduce our anxieties. Psychoanalysis attempts to help patients resolve their inner conflicts. An aspect of psychoanalysis is Freud’s theory of psychosexual development. It shows how early experiences affect adult personality. Stimulation of different areas of the body is important as the child progresses through the important developmental stages and too much or too little can have bad consequences later.

The most important stage is the phallic stage where the focus of the libido is on the genitals. During this stage, little boys experience the ‘Oedipus complex’, and little girls experience the ‘Electra complex’. These complexes result in children identifying with their same-sex parent, which enables them to learn sex-appropriate behavior and a morale code of conduct. However it has been criticized in the way that it over emphasizes of importance of sexuality and under emphasizes of role of social relationships. The theory is not scientific, and can’t be proved as it is circular. The sample was biased, consisting of middle-class, middle-aged neurotic women. Never the less psychoanalysis has been greatly contributory to psychology in that it has encouraged many modern theorists to modify it for the better, using its basic principles, but eliminating its major flaws.

Humanism: Humanistic psychology is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the study of the whole person known as holism. Humanistic psychologists look at human behavior not only through the eyes of the observer, but through the eyes of the person doing the behaving. Humanistic psychologists believe that an individual’s behavior is connected to his inner feelings and self-image. The humanistic perspective centers on the view that each person is unique and individual and has the free will to change at any time in his or her lives.

The humanistic perspective suggests that we are each responsible for our own happiness and well-being as humans. We have the innate that is to say inborn capacity for self-actualization which is our unique desire to achieve our highest potential as people. Because of this focus on the person and his or her personal experiences and subjective perception of the world the humanists regarded scientific methods as inappropriate for studying behavior.

Two of the most influential and enduring theories in humanistic psychology that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s are those of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

Cognitive Psychology: Psychology was institutionalized as a science in 1879 by Wilhelm Wundt who found the first psychological laboratory. His initiative was soon followed by other European and American Universities. These early laboratories, through experiments, explored areas such as memory and sensory perception, both of which Wundt believed to be closely related to physiological processes in the brain. The whole movement had evolved from the early philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato. Today this approach is known as Cognitive Psychology.

Cognitive Psychology revolves around the notion that if we want to know what makes people tick then the way to do it is to figure out what processes are actually going on in their minds. In other words, psychologists from this perspective study cognition which is ‘the mental act or process by which knowledge is acquired.’

The cognitive perspective is concerned with “mental” functions such as memory, perception, attention etc. It views people as being similar to computers in the way we process information that is input-process-output. For example, both human brains and computers process information, store data and have input an output procedures. This had led cognitive psychologists to explain that memory comprises of three stages: encoding – where information is received and attended to, storage – where the information is retained and retrieved – where the information is recalled.

It is an extremely scientific approach and typically uses lab experiments to study human behavior. The cognitive approach has many applications including cognitive therapy and eyewitness testimony.

Biological Psychology: We can thank Charles Darwin (1859) for demonstrating in the idea that genetics and evolution play a role in influencing human behavior through natural selection.

Theorists in the biological perspective who study behavioral genomics consider how genes affect behavior. Now that the human genome is mapped, perhaps, we will someday understand more precisely how behavior is affected by the DNA we inherit. Biological factors such as chromosomes, hormones and the brain have a significant influence on human behavior, for example gender.

The biological approach believes that most behavior is inherited and has an adaptive or evolutionary function. For example, in the weeks immediately after the birth of a child, levels of testosterone in fathers drop by more than 30 per cent. This has an evolutionary function. Testosterone-deprived men are less likely to wander off in search of new mates to inseminate. They are also less aggressive, which is useful when there is a baby around.

Biological psychologists explain behaviors in neurological terms, that is to say the physiology and structure of the brain and how this influences behavior. Many biological psychologists have concentrated on abnormal behavior and have tried to explain it. For example, biological psychologists believe that schizophrenia is affected by levels of dopamine – a neurotransmitter.

These findings have helped psychiatry take off and help relieve the symptoms of the mental illness through drugs. However, Freud and other disciplines would argue that this just treats the symptoms and not the cause. This is where health psychologists take the finding that biological psychologists produce and look at the environmental factors that are involved to get a better picture.

Therefore, in conclusion, there are so many different perspectives to psychology to explain the different types of behavior and give different angles. No one perspective has explanatory powers over the rest. Only with all the different types of psychology which sometimes contradict one another – nature-nurture debate, overlap with each other; for instance, psychoanalysis and child psychology are build upon one another biological and health psychologist can we understand and create effective solutions when problems arise so we have a healthy body and healthy mind.

The fact that there are different perspectives represents the complexity and richness of human and animal behavior. A scientific approach, such as behaviorism or cognitive psychology, tends to ignore the subjective, specifically, personal experiences that people have. The humanistic perspective does recognize human experience, but largely at the expense of being non-scientific in its methods and ability to provide evidence. The psychodynamic perspective concentrates too much on the unconscious mind and childhood. As such it tends to lose sight of the role of socialization, which is different in each country and the possibility of free will. The biological perspective reduces humans to a set of mechanisms and physical structures that are clearly essential and important, for instance genes. However, it fails to account for consciousness and the influence of the environment on behavior.

Cognitive Conflict

Cognitive Conflicts

Cognitive has a simple, straight forward meaning. It is defined within the fields of psychology and linguistics as being aware of current intellectuality such as knowing and thinking. When conscious judgments are being made within the brain, the process is described as cognitive as the functions that are taking place provide us with our perspective and understanding of our thoughts and senses at that current moment in time.

Ignoring the physical processes, the word cognitive simply focuses on the intellectual functions that occur within our brain. This also includes our intuition and memory, which is why it is proving so effective within psychology studies today. It focuses on how out thoughts become acquainted within our brains, how they are produced, and how our intellectual thoughts function within the brain.

History behind where the word cognitive derives from helps to understand what it is used for. ‘To come to know’ and ‘meaning to become acquainted’ are the basic meanings behind the word itself; making the definitions clean and clear. Everything that the brain comes to know and understand is of a cognitive process. Memory is an important factor of this, it requires the brain to make a clear imagine and thought that can be remembered whenever it is needed.

Without memory, thoughts, knowing, learning and judging, our brains would be going to waste, but cognitive studies allow new experiments and conclusions to be produced and published successfully. It is for these reasons that the word cognitive has become very important within science and medical studies, and as the understanding of science progresses it is our brains that need to keep up.

If you’ve ever told a lie and felt uncomfortable because you see yourself as scrupulously honest, then you’ve experienced cognitive dissonance. It occurs whenever your view of yourself clashes with your performance in any area—you see yourself as smart but can’t believe you made such stupid stock investments. Exactly how we choose to resolve the dissonance, and its discomfort, is a good reflection of our mental health. In fact, cognitive dissonance can be a great opportunity for growth. Better living through cognitive dissonance, cleaning up emotional pollution is how I feel about you is how I feel about me. Misinterpreting the message of cognitive dissonance ruins marriages, a fact that totally eludes marriage therapists and relationship authors who promote "getting your needs met."

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort of self-image colliding with reality. Such collisions are inevitable, as self-image tends to be based on values – what is most important to you – while behavior is routinely directed at short-term comfort, pleasure, and utilitarian goals. The common cognitive dissonance in intimate relationships is “I am a loving and compassionate person. Yet I am not loving and compassionate to you at this moment.” The way we resolve cognitive dissonance helps determine health and well being. The following choice gives you the best chance of achieving a solid and authentic sense of self while improving your relationship.

I am a loving and compassionate person. Yet I am not loving and compassionate to you at this moment. Therefore, I must try harder to understand your perspective and sympathize with any discomfort or pain that underlies it. The choice below guarantees a precarious sense of self based on victim identity or self-righteousness, not to mention failure of all attempts at intimate relationship. I am a loving and compassionate person. Yet I am not loving and compassionate to you at this moment. Therefore, there must be something wrong with you – you are selfish, irrational, ignorant, unworthy, crazy, personality-disordered, abusive, damaged by childhood, etc..

It’s easy to avoid the trap of cognitive dissonance in intimate relationships. Instead of asking what is wrong with your partner, ask, what in me is making it hard to be compassionate right now. The answer will almost always be guilt (I’ve hurt or neglected you), shame (I feel too inadequate), or fear (I’m afraid of your response). The only thing that relieves guilt and shame for violating a value is investing more energy in the value. Ignoring it or continuing to violate it by blaming your behavior on your partner will only aggravate guilt and shame, no matter how much you try to hide your failure beneath resentment, anger, or self-righteousness. If fear blocks your compassion, share that with your partner, which will give him/her a chance to feel compassion for you. What you want to arrive at is a relationship song that goes something like this. I want to be more compassionate to you and I know that in your heart you want to be more compassionate to me. Let’s figure out how we can make it easier for each other to be compassionate and pursue what is best for both of us.

Resolving cognitive dissonance in this way makes you less likely to seem critical or attacking, which makes it difficult for your partner to be defensive. The stakes of accurately interpreting cognitive dissonance are high. Fidelity to values generates energy, confidence, and vitality, while violation of values depletes all three, which is why it requires adrenalin; usually in the form of anger or resentment – to temporarily restore energy and confidence. Like all amphetamine effects, these dissipate in an hour or so, in favor of a depression that is likely to be relieved by more resentment or anger. Continuing this roller-coaster ride of disaster leads inevitably to contempt of self; however, hidden by chronic resentment and self-righteousness and a deeper contempt for the former loved one.

The alternative choice is to invest in a deeper compassion for self and loved ones.

Nostalgic Reverie

Take a minute and consider a ship that leaves the US and embarks on a journey to sail around the world. Let’s say it takes ten years to make this journey. Along the way, it undergoes many repairs. The side panels have to be replaced; the floorboards are swapped out for new ones, and so on and so on until eventually, by the time it returns to the US, all of the major pieces of the ship have been replaced. Here’s the big question. Is the ship that returned to the US the same ship that left the port ten years ago? On the one hand, if every single piece of the ship is different, then it simply has to be another ship altogether. But, on some intuitive level, it may feel as if this is in fact the same ship that set out on the journey ten years back. To philosophers, this conundrum is known as Theseus’ paradox and it’s prompted a lot of deep thought and controversy ever since at least the first century, and for good reason – it’s a difficult question to answer. Instead of ship, think about a person whether he or she remains the same or changes, things may become a little bit clearer.

We’re motivated to think about ourselves as maintaining some level of continuity between who we were yesterday and who we are today; even if people change a little bit here and there. On an existential level, it can be downright scary to think that you are fundamentally a different person today from the person you once were. This feeling of “discontinuity” can arise from unfortunate life events such as a job layoff, a divorce, death of a loved one, etc. It can be maladaptive to experience a sense of discontinuity.

How can we make the link between who we once were and who we are today feel a bit more seamless? A way to bridge the gap is by conjuring up a feeling of nostalgia. Most people are familiar with this emotional experience. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing for the past that is mostly happy, but also tinged with sadness. When experiencing nostalgia, you may feel happiness thinking about what once was, but also a slight twinge of sadness when you recognize that certain aspects of your life or life in general, are no longer present. Nostalgia is a feeling that arises precisely because something may not be right in the present. When an event occurs that produces a discontinuity in our lives, one way to make ourselves feel better, and more continuous, is by conjuring up a more pleasant past; even if that past wasn’t necessarily as positive as you make it out to be.

So, is there any evidence that feeling nostalgia can actually boost continuity to one’s past self, or can nostalgia grease the communicative pathways within selves? Thinking about a nostalgic event can in fact boost continuity with the past self, but there is an important caveat; this can be true only for people who are feeling happy at this moment. If someone is really feeling low, thinking back to a happy time in the past may ironically make the present seem particularly unpleasant by comparison.

The nostalgic reverie can indeed help, but only if we’re not feeling too low to begin with. This may seem complicated; although, it’s possible that discontinuity leads to sadness, it’s not necessarily the case. Could a job layoff make you feel disconnected from who you once were? Could it also make you languish around and feel sad all the time? Maybe, but maybe not; there are still other causes for being happy. In a scenario like this, feeling nostalgic might help.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether nostalgic reveries can help people who are actually experiencing a sense of discontinuity in their lives or whether or not there needs to be a limit to just how much nostalgic thinking one does; too much may make the contrast between the past and the present too stark, but just the right amount could smooth the connection between the past and present self.

That’s The Way It Goes

Posted November 29, 2012 by dranilj1 in Art

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Informed Creativity

God-Science-Universe

 

Creativity can never be explained by appeal to reason alone. Like the birth of a child, creativity compels us not to explanation but to wonder and awe. I am in deficient of explanations for what I feel, but definitely am awestruck and wonder about creativity!!! Creativity combines industry and imagination. When we are creative, we reach beyond what we or others have done before. We seek unfamiliar ideas, and we test some of them in the real world. We explore and take risks, knowing that not all new ideas will be valuable, but that some turn out to be priceless. Often the best path to creativity is to play with possibilities, setting aside critical analysis till afterwards. Even so, the most fruitful creativity processes are informed by knowledge and skill. Informed creativity allows us to solve problems or follow dreams. It allows us to grow, as individuals and as a species, to shape a future that is different than the past.

To seek unfamiliar ideas one need initiative like seeing something that needs to be done and starting it. It means taking the first step rather than waiting for someone else or a "better time."

In order to take initiative, we have to push past our inertia and insecurities. This requires an attitude of flexible responsibility, a willingness to step in to fill-a-gaps. It also requires a basic trust in our own judgment and abilities. Often times when one person shows initiative — to open a dialogue, for example, or to solve a problem or to launch a creative project–other people join in. Initiative is a core part of leadership.

One who is creative and takes healthy initiative values independence; believes lives are shaped by personal priorities rather than external constraints or social pressures. It means we are able to follow our own deepest values and exercise our judgment even when others disagree or disapprove. To maintain independence, we must recognize our natural human tendency to assimilate–to gradually conform our ideas to those of groups or leaders that we like. Because group dynamics encourage conformity, independence can create situations that are uncomfortable. Though sometimes awkward, the presence of independent thinkers is a gift to all because it keeps a group from falling into shared illusion or error.

To avoid falling into illusion or error, we must conduct with integrity and this in essence is being true to ourselves and being honest, upright, and decent in our dealings with others is a must. When we are guided by integrity, our thoughts and words are in line with each other; our actions align with our principles. Our conduct speaks for us, more eloquently than words ever could. It becomes the basis for both reputation and self-respect. Integrity demands courage but delivers untroubled sleep.

Developing integrity requires internal honesty, because we can’t be honest with others unless we are honest with ourselves. It requires self awareness, since we cannot accurately communicate what we do not know. People of integrity can be counted on to stand up for what it right, even if it is unpopular, and to behave with honor even when there is no one around to see. Integrity allows other people to trust us because they know that we value our commitments and seek to live by them. It is one of the cornerstones of loving relationships and shared endeavors.

Late for Work!

Little Penguin is Late for Work!

Oh! Nooo, the alarm clock froze again! Go little guy, go! Your boss is not going to be happy about this…

Credits—Furry Talk

Posted November 29, 2012 by dranilj1 in Life

Tagged with , , , , , , , ,

Trails Are Completed By Walking

God-Science-Universe

 

The ‘W’ in WALK stands for Witness. When you walk, you quite literally see more. Your field of vision is nearly 180 degrees, compared to 40 degrees when you’re travelling at 62 mph; higher speeds smudge our peripheral vision, whereas walking actually broadens your canvas and dramatically shifts the objects of your attention. For instance, on walking, we would notice the sunrise everyday, and how, at sunset, the birds would congregate for a little party of their own. Instead of adding Facebook friends on line, we will actually make friends in person. Life around you comes alive in a new way. A walking pace is the speed of community. Where high speeds facilitate separation, a slower pace gifts us an opportunity to commune.

As we traverse rural area at the speed of a couple of miles per hour, it becomes clear how much we could learn simply by bearing witness to the villagers’ way of life. Their entire mental model is different — the multiplication of wants is replaced by the basic fulfilment of human needs. When you are no longer preoccupied with asking for more and more stuff; then you just take what is given and give what is taken. Life is simple again. A farmer explained it to me this way: "You cannot make the clouds rain more, you cannot make the sun shine less. They are just nature’s gifts — take it or leave it." When the things around you are seen as gifts, they are no longer a means to an end; they are the means and the end. Thus, a cow-herder will tend to his animals with the compassion of a father, a village woman will wait 3 hours for a delayed bus without a trace of anger, a child will spend countless hours fascinated by stars in the galaxy, and finding his place in the vast cosmos.

So with today’s modernized tools at your ready disposal, don’t let yourself zoom obliviously from point A to point B on the highways of life; try walking the back roads of the world, where you will witness a profoundly inextricable connection with all living things.

The ‘A’ in WALK stands for Accept. When walking in this way, you place yourself in the palm of the universe, and face its realities head on. You will walk at the peak of summer, in merciless temperatures hovering above 120 degrees. Sometimes we will be very hungry, exhausted and even frustrated. Our bodies would ache for just that extra drink of water, a few more moments in the shade, or just that little spark of human kindness. Many times we will receive that extra bit and our hearts will overflow with gratitude. But sometimes we will be abruptly refused, and we had to cultivate the capacity to accept the gifts hidden in even the most challenging of moments.

It goes like this, once I remember one such day, when I approached a rest house along a barren highway. As heavy trucks whizzed past, I saw a sign, announcing that guests were hosted at no charge. “Ah, my lucky day,” I thought in delight. I stepped inside eagerly. The man behind the desk looked up and asked sharply, “Are you here to see the temple?” A simple yes from my lips would have instantly granted me a full meal and a room for the night. But it wouldn’t have been the truth. So instead, I said, “Well, technically, no sir. I am on a walking pilgrimage to become better human. But I would be glad to visit the temple.” Rather abruptly, he retorted: “Um, sorry, we can’t host you.” Something about his curt arrogance triggered a slew of negative emotions. I wanted to make a snide remark in return and slam the door on my way out. Instead, I held my raging ego in check. In that state of physical and mental exhaustion, it felt like a Herculean task– but through the inner turmoil a voice surfaced within, telling me to accept the reality of this moment.

There was a quiet metamorphosis in me. I humbly let go of my defences, accepted my fate that day, and turned to leave without a murmur. Perhaps the man behind the counter sensed this shift in me, because he yelled out just then, “So what exactly are you doing again?” After my brief explanation he said, “Look, I can’t feed you or host you, because rules are rules. But there are restrooms out in the back. You could sleep outside the male restroom. Though, he was being kind, his offer felt like salt in my wounds. I had no choice but to accept.

That day I fasted and that night, I slept by the bathroom. A small lie could’ve bought me an upgrade, but that would’ve been no pilgrimage. As I went to sleep, I had this beautiful, unbidden vision of a couple climbing to the top of a mountain from two different sides. Midway through this difficult ascent, as the man contemplated giving up, a small sparrow flew by with this counsel, “Don’t quit now, friend. Your wife is eager to see you at the top.” He kept climbing. A few days later, when the wife found herself on the brink of quitting, the little sparrow showed up with the same message. Step by step, their love sustained their journey all the way to the mountaintop. Visited by the timely grace of this vision, I shed a few grateful tears — and this story became a touchstone not only in my relationship, but many other noble friendships as well.

So I cheer you to cultivate equanimity and accept whatever life tosses into your laps — when you do that, you will be blessed with the insight of an inner transformation that is yours to keep for all of time.

The ‘L’ in WALK stands for Love. The more we learn from nature, and built a kind of inner resilience to external circumstances, the more we fall into our natural state; which is to love. In our dominant paradigm, Hollywood has insidiously co-opted the word, but the love I’m talking about here is the kind of love that only knows one thing — to give with no strings attached. Purely. Selflessly. Most of us believe that to give, we first need to have something to give. The trouble with that is that when we are taking stock of what we have, we almost always make accounting errors. Oscar Wilde once quipped, “Now-a-days, people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” We have forgotten how to value things without a price tag. Hence, when we get to our most abundant gifts — like attention, insight, compassion — we confuse their worth because they’re, well, priceless.

In Indian villages, you could notice that those who have the least are most readily equipped to honor the priceless. In urban cities, the people we encounter began with an unspoken wariness: “Why are you doing this? What do you want from me?” In the countryside, on the other hand, villagers almost always meet you with an open-hearted curiosity launching straight in with: “Hey buddy, you don’t look local. What’s your story?” In Indian villages, your worth is not assessed by your business card, professional network or your salary. That innate simplicity allows villagers to love life, win pleasure in all connections.

Extremely poor villagers, who couldn’t even afford their own meals, will often borrow food from their neighbors to feed a guest. When you refuse, they will simply explain: “To us, the guest is God. This is our offering to the divine in you that connects us to each other.” Now, how could one refuse that? Street vendors often gifted me vegetables; in a very touching moment, an armless fruit-seller once insisted on giving me a slice of watermelon. Everyone, no matter how old, would be overjoyed to give me directions, even when they weren’t fully sure of them. I still remember the woman who generously gave me water when I was extremely thirsty — only to later discover that she had to walk 10 kilometers at 4 AM to get that one bucket of water. These people know how to give, not because they had a lot, but because they knew how to love life. They didn’t need any credit or assurance that you would ever return to pay them back. Rather, they just trusted in the pay-it-forward circle of giving.

When you come alive in this way, you’ll realize that true generosity doesn’t start when you have some thing to give, but rather when there’s nothing in you that’s trying to take. So I hope that you will make all your precious moments an expression of loving life.

The ‘K’ in WALK stands for Know Thyself. Sages have long informed us that when we serve others unconditionally, we shift from the me-to-the-we and connect more deeply with the other. That matrix of inter-connections allows for a profound quality of mental quietude. Like a still lake undisturbed by waves or ripples, we are then able to see clearly into who we are and how we can live in deep harmony with the environment around us.

When one foot walks, the other rests and doing and being had to be in balance. Our rational mind wants to rightfully ensure progress, but our intuitive mind also needs space for the emergent, unknown and unplanned to arise. Doing is certainly important, but when we aren’t aware of our internal ecosystem, we get so vested in our plans and actions, that we don’t notice the build up of mental residue. Over time, that unconscious internal noise starts polluting our motivations, our ethics and our spirit, so it is critical to still the mind. A melody, after all, can only be created with the silence in between the notes.

As we walk– witness, accept, love — our vision of the world indeed grows clearer. That clarity, paradoxically enough, blurred our previous distinctions between me versus we, inner transformation versus external impact, and selfishness versus selflessness. They are inextricably connected. When a poor farmer gave me a tomato as a parting gift, with tears rolling down his eyes, was I receiving or giving? When sat for hours in silent meditation, was the benefit solely mine or would it ripple out into the world? When I lifted the haystack off an old man’s head and carried it for a kilometer, was I serving him or serving myself?

Which is to say, don’t just go through life — grow through life. It will be easy and tempting for you to arrive at reflexive answers — but make it a point, instead, to acknowledge mystery and welcome rich questions … questions that nudge you towards a greater understanding of this world and your place in it.

That’s W-A-L-K. Today, at this momentous milestone of my life, I came in walking and I will go out walking. As I walk on into a world that is increasingly aiming to move beyond the speed of thought, I remember the importance of travelling at the speed of thoughtfulness. I hope that you will take time to witness our magnificent interconnections. That you will accept the beautiful gifts of life even when they aren’t pretty, that you will practice loving selflessly and strive to know your deepest nature.

May you be blessed…Change yourself…change the world.

Have a wonderful day!

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