Monday, January 17, 2011

Happiness Explained and other emotions - feelings

Happiness Explained and other emotions - feelings

Happiness is the undying quest of life, the unquenchable thirst and the insatiable hunger of all human kind. Happiness is what we all seek for, what we long for. But can such bliss be nothing but an elusive state of mind, which is here one moment and gone the next, or is such a positive outlook attainable for a lifetime? Perhaps it is, it just is

The extraordinary power of love can be overwhelming and transforming. Love is indefinable and yet all pervading.

Nature provides us with the very essence of life. However, the world is increasingly taking recourse to synthetic and toxic materials, which is polluting the atmosphere and curtailing human longevity. It’s about time we shifted the accent to nontoxic, nonpolluting and eco-friendlier natural habits and habitats.

Breathing is synonymous with life. Yet, for most of us, it is just one more of those things that we take for granted. After all, it is just about inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, right? Wrong. And it’s high time we realized that

Despite centuries of Man’s continued existence on this planet, he has failed to conclusively solve the riddle posed by two indelible facts of human existence—Life and Death. What is Life? Religions have preached about it, philosophers have pondered over it and ordinary mortals have lived through it. But the eternal mystery of Life still eludes us.

The human quality of forgiving everyone and everything including yourself is taking a step nearer to enlightenment and the ultimate peace of mind. To forgive, the masters would have us believe, is the best gift you can give yourself.

Ethics and Values
It is said that evolution is as much of a biological issue as it is an ethical one: the higher you are on the evolutionary ladder, the more important become ethics, or the concepts of right and wrong. In fact, what sets Man apart from animals is a heightened sense of ethical and moral value—be it in the soothing realm of the family or the rapidly competitive world of work

Success is what dreams are made of. Success is about making it in life. Fast cars, expensive penthouses, designer labels—in other words, high material viability is the new success mantra. Yet we see large hordes of people demanding to do more than that by trying to find a common denominator for success. No longer weighed in terms of tidy bank balances, success is now regarded as all-inclusive quotient of material, emotional and spiritual gratification. Belying Alvin Toffler`s apocalyptic cry against capitalism and urbanization, success does not remain merely a socially abrasive economic phenomenon in a highly competitive world. Today success represents a holistic and positive attitude to life.

Attitude is everything. If you think you can, you most certainly can. Success is not closeted within some kind of brick and mortar premises. It assumes the individuality of a complete act executed with perfection. Material achievements do not define life. We do not remember the sports stars for the products they endorse but the spirit of achievement they represent. In the abundance of positive attitude underlies the grandeur of a truly rewarding and rich life.

Ancient Indian wisdom believes that the most qualifying aspect of success lies in following the four Purusharthas (tenets) of life. The Purusharthas are based on the four tenets of artha (wealth, social security), kama (fulfillment of desire), dharma (principles) and moksha (salvation). Wealth or artha means earthly possessions and material gains. People usually work hard to procure such standards of success, and yet, find themselves wanting more. Desires condemned by puritans the world over, is motivating force behind all action that manifests as success. High moral credo or dharma is a life based on principles. However the crowning glory to successful life is moksha or freedom from all desires. Artha, kama, dharma and moksha patterns a rite of passage for an adult life. According to Indian thought, success depends upon the smooth transition of an individual through each of these passages

Total transformation is perhaps the ultimate evolutionary step that the spirit can take. Yet, what has always been on the fringes of human endeavor—the preserve of saints and sages—is today moving into the mainstream. With modern day strains and stress-related problems, transformation is becoming your business and mine. Transformation is being sought as a solution to life’s problems and as a tool for personal development.

Less than a century ago heart disease was an extremely rare disease. However, today it is the cause of death of more people in the world than all other deadly diseases taken together. The most encompassing researches and studies on heart health have indicated that lack of happiness and gratification is by far the biggest risk factor resulting in heart problems. Since happiness is amongst the principal expressions of love, only those medicines that are love-based can truly and completely heal the heart and protect one from disease and ageing. If fear is the motivating factor that compels someone to go for a particular treatment or initiate major changes in life style or diet the chances of disease prevention or recovery are minimized. The current approaches for achieving heart’s health, free from any life threatening condition, are primarily symptom-orientated and do not deal with the underlying causes.

In many developed countries fatality rate from heart conditions have decreased a bit. This has happened due to breakthroughs in medical education and new medicines, the bypass surgeries and the angioplasties. Now the beneficiaries of these advancements are living, but with consequences. The less healthy hearts still beat, but they are not strong enough for living and enjoying a good quality of life.

Apart from giving a wide range of side effects most presently used treatments for heart diseases transfuse enormous fear in body cells, which react by releasing large amounts of the stress hormones. This by itself can threaten the healing system. Until lately, these treatments were conceived to be more or less safe but are now distinguished by leading heart centers and resources to be the primary cause of a new ailment known as chronic heart failure. Chronic heart failure is a gradual death-experience that has attained epidemic ratios. The inability of the science systems to make this organ healthy again instills the obligation for healing back to where it always belonged. That is the heart, body, mind and spirit of every being. It opens the way for alternative healing.

Believe it or not but the tendency to think that one will have a healthy heart all life lone without any extra effort is inherent by birth. Have u been taking your heart for granted? Are you waiting for something tragic to happen to realize how fragile this human organ truly is? The chances are the answer is a big yes. The sooner one takes the waking call and stops’ expecting the heart to perform well in spite of all one does the better.

The heart is merely not a pump - it is the headspring of every feeling and emotion, whether it is delight and excitement or gloominess and frustration. Mental and emotional tenseness disrupts the emotional heart, whereas, a junk diet, insalubrious lifestyle and absence of physical excises weakens the physical heart. Several illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol and obesity are also known to be the contributing factor for heart ailments. Smoking is also a major contributor to coronary diseases. Smoking may actuate coronary spasms where the blood vessels of the heart are pinched or narrowed, causing chest pain or a heart attack.

A holistic approach to keeping the heart healthy requires one to nurture the emotional along with the physical heart. Prevention, as known, is always better than cure, however, in case of health of the heart there is less possibility of a complete cure. However, the possibility remains but only possible with an holistic approach. Salubrious diet plans and an active lifestyle coupled with emotional freedom will lay a strong foundation and ensure that the heart beats with life till the very end.

For most of us, aura is that golden glow emanating from deities` images in calendar art. However, this energy field is not the sole property of divine beings. We all have it—including dogs, cats, a block of wood or a piece of paper. And, in each case, it depicts the personality, health and the spiritual evolution of its material half

Wellness or good health is that state of vibrant equipoise between the individual and the universe. A state in which the body, mind and spirit are free and fully expressive

What is the next step in human evolution? Where are we, as a species, going? While some people believe that we have reached the acme of our possibilities and that now it’s time for entropy to take over, others believe that the superman is yet to come. Considering that the human race has been on earth for a very short span in this planet’s evolutionary scheme, it does seem more likely that we have tapped only an infinitesimal percentage of our potentials

An absolute power in modern society—money makes everything click! It remains the single source of almost all temptations and motivations ever known to man—entire empires and kingdoms have been raised and decimated for the lure of the lucre. Today, when social scientists raise ethical issues over the nature of man’s relationship with money, many agree about the constructive potential involved in making it. But at the end of the day the most eternal of all facts is that—all of us need it!

Omnipotent. Omnipresent. Omniscient. These are recognized as the universal attributes of God. But who or what is God and for that matter, which is the one `true` path to this Divine Soul? Should we meditate on a formless Supreme Being or worship a Divine idol? Better still, should we realize Him within our very own selves? These questions have plagued mankind down the ages and continue to do so till date, so much so that nations are erected in His name, wars fought and innocents massacred!

All in the name of God—and that `authentic` path, which might lead Man to this Supreme Being

What is death? The final good-bye? Or a transition from one level of existence to the other? Most religions talk of an afterlife. In fact, almost all concepts of morality are based on what’s going to be meted out to us after we die. So, does that make death a moment of mourning, a sad occasion when we see our loved ones for the last time? Or is it a moment of celebration, when we prepare to break free of the mortal form and exhilarate in the communion with the eternal?

Personal growth
Personal growth is the process of unfolding your full potential and achieving what you came to the earth for—your own Godhood, no less!

What does work mean? Is it just a means to earn your livelihood? Or is it an expression of your perception of life? If so, then, while choosing your career, should you go by what’s lucrative, or by your inner instincts and aptitudes?

As a natural state of mind, tolerance indicates an ability to coexist with others, to respect alternative points of view, to neither dominate nor be dominated. It suggests both the ability to be yourself as well as allow others that freedom. It is both sturdy individuality and acceptance of other points of view

When we share, we break out of the boundaries of our ego and recognize the humanity of the other. Sharing breeds inter-dependence, happiness and harmony

The word `stress` is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "a state of affair involving demand on physical or mental energy". A condition or circumstance (not always adverse), which can disturb the normal physiological and psychological functioning of an individual. In medical parlance `stress` is defined as a perturbation of the body’s homeostasis. This demand on mind-body occurs when it tries to cope with incessant changes in life. A `stress` condition seems `relative` in nature. Extreme stress conditions, psychologists say, are detrimental to human health but in moderation stress is normal and, in many cases, proves useful. Stress, nonetheless, is synonymous with negative conditions. Today, with the rapid diversification of human activity, we come face to face with numerous causes of stress and the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

"Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances."
—Thomas Jefferson

The Dynamics of Stress
In a challenging situation the brain prepares the body for defensive action—the fight or flight response by releasing stress hormones, namely, cortisone and adrenaline. These hormones raise the blood pressure and the body prepares to react to the situation. With a concrete defensive action (fight response) the stress hormones in the blood get used up, entailing reduced stress effects and symptoms of anxiety.

When we fail to counter a stress situation (flight response) the hormones and chemicals remain unreleased in the blood stream for a long period of time. It results in stress related physical symptoms such as tense muscles, unfocused anxiety, dizziness and rapid heartbeats. We all encounter various stressors (causes of stress) in everyday life, which can accumulate, if not released. Subsequently, it compels the mind and body to be in an almost constant alarm-state in preparation to fight or flee. This state of accumulated stress can increase the risk of both acute and chronic psychosomatic illnesses and weaken the immune system.

Stress can cause headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, eating disorder, allergies, insomnia, backaches, frequent cold and fatigue to diseases such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, heart ailments and even cancer. In fact, Sanjay Chugh, a leading Indian psychologist, says that 70 per cent to 90 per cent of adults visit primary care physicians for stress-related problems. Scary enough. But where do we err?

Just about everybody—men, women, children and even fetuses—suffer from stress. Relationship demands, chronic health problems, pressure at workplaces, traffic snarls, meeting deadlines, growing-up tensions or a sudden bearish trend in the bourse can trigger stress conditions. People react to it in their own ways. In some people, stress-induced adverse feelings and anxieties tend to persist and intensify. Learning to understand and manage stress can prevent the counter effects of stress.

Methods of coping with stress are aplenty. The most significant or sensible way out is a change in lifestyle. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, physical exercises, listening to soothing music, deep breathing, various natural and alternative methods, personal growth techniques, visualization and massage are some of the most effective of the known non-invasive stress busters.

Stress Can Be Positive
The words `positive` and `stress` may not often go together. But, there are innumerable instances of athletes rising to the challenge of stress and achieving the unachievable, scientists stressing themselves out over a point to bring into light the most unthinkable secrets of the phenomenal world, and likewise a painter, a composer or a writer producing the best paintings, the most lilting of tunes or the most appealing piece of writing by pushing themselves to the limit. Psychologists second the opinion that some `stress` situations can actually boost our inner potential and can be creatively helpful. Sudha Chandran, an Indian danseus, lost both of her legs in an accident. But, the physical and social inadequacies gave her more impetus to carry on with her dance performances with the help of prosthetic legs rather than deter her spirits.

Experts tell us that stress, in moderate doses, are necessary in our life. Stress responses are one of our body’s best defense systems against outer and inner dangers. In a risky situation (in case of accidents or a sudden attack on life et al), body releases stress hormones that instantly make us more alert and our senses become more focused. The body is also prepared to act with increased strength and speed in a pressure situation. It is supposed to keep us sharp and ready for action.

Research suggests that stress can actually increase our performance. Instead of wilting under stress, one can use it as an impetus to achieve success. Stress can stimulate one’s faculties to delve deep into and discover one’s true potential. Under stress the brain is emotionally and biochemically stimulated to sharpen its performance.

A working class mother in down town California, Erin Brokovich, accomplished an extraordinary feat in the 1990s when she took up a challenge against the giant industrial house Pacific Gas & Electric. The unit was polluting the drinking water of the area with chromium effluents. Once into it, Brockovich had to work under tremendous stress taking on the bigwigs of the society. By her own account, she had to study as many as 120 research articles to find if chromium 6 was carcinogenic. Going from door to door, Erin signed up over 600 plaintiffs, and with attorney Ed Masry went on to receive the largest court settlement, for the town people, ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in the U.S. history—$333 million. It’s an example of an ordinary individual triumphing over insurmountable odds under pressure. If handled positively stress can induce people to discover their inherent talents.

Stress is, perhaps, necessary to occasionally clear cobwebs from our thinking. If approached positively, stress can help us evolve as a person by letting go of unwanted thoughts and principle in our life. Very often, at various crossroads of life, stress may remind you of the transitory nature of your experiences, and may prod you to look for the true happiness of life.

Stress Throughout Evolution
Stress has existed throughout the evolution. About 4 billion years ago, violent collision of rock and ice along with dust and gas, led to the formation of a new planet. The planet survives more than 100 million years of meltdown to give birth to microscopic life. These first organisms endured the harshest of conditions—lack of oxygen, exposure to sun’s UV rays and other inhospitable elements, to hang on to their dear life. Roughly 300,000 years ago, the Neanderthals learnt to use fire in a controlled way, to survive the Glacial Age. And around 30,000 years, Homo sapiens with their dominant gene constitutions and better coping skills, won the game of survival. Each step of evolution a test of survival, and survival, a matter of coping with the stress of changing conditions.

Millions of trials and errors in the life process have brought men to this stage. Coping with events to survive has led men to invent extraordinary technologies, beginning with a piece of sharpened stone.

From the viewpoint of microevolution, stress induction of transpositions is a powerful factor, generating new genetic variations in populations under stressful environmental conditions. Passing through a `bottleneck`, a population can rapidly and significantly alters its population norm and become the founder of new, evolved forms.

Gene transposition through Transposable Elements (TE)—`jumping genes`, is a major source of genetic change, including the creation of novel genes, the alteration of gene expression in development, and the genesis of major genomic rearrangements. In a research on `the significance of responses of the genome to challenges,` the Nobel Prize winning scientist Barbara McClintock, characterized these genetic phenomena as `genomic shock`.This occurs due to recombination of events between TE insertions (high and low insertion polymorphism) and host genome. But, as a rule TE’s remain immobilized until some stress factor (temperature, irradiation, DNA damage, the introduction of foreign chromatin, viruses, etc.) activates their elements.

The moral remains that we can work a stress condition to our advantage or protect ourselves from its untoward follow-throughs subject to how we handle a stress situation. The choice is between becoming a slave to the stressful situations of life and using them to our advantage.

Enlightenment or illumination is a fundamental philosophical concept which beyond religion and essentially means being illuminated by acquiring new wisdom or understanding.

The Buddhist Bodhi, Zen Satori and Hindu moksha all refer to this state of being. In all these traditions, enlightenment means one is ultimately free from the cycle of suffering and rebirth and to be born only to save others by aiding them in the path toward Enlightenment

Yoga is a way of life. It is predominantly concerned with maintaining a state of equanimity at all costs. All yoga schools of thought emphasize the importance of the mind remaining calm, because as the saying goes, only when the water is still can you see through it. Yoga Darshan or Yoga Philosophy also happens to be a valid discipline of Indian metaphysics (Brahma Vidya). It is the result of human wisdom and insight on physiology, psychology, ethics and spirituality collected together and practiced over thousands of years for the well being of humanity.

The basic idea of yoga is to unite the atma or individual soul with the paramatma or the Universal Soul. According to Yoga philosophy, by cleansing one’s mind and controlling one’s thought processes one can return to that primeval state, when the individual self was nothing but a part of the Divine Self. This is the sense encapsulated in the term samadhi. The aim of the yogi is to be able to perceive the world in its true light and to accept that truth in its entirety.

In Sanskrit, the term `yoga` stands for `union`. A yogi’s ultimate aim is to be able to attain this `union` with the Eternal Self with the help of certain mental and physical exercises. It is often said that Hiranyagarbha (The Cosmic Womb) Himself had originally advocated the traditional system of yoga, from which all other yoga schools have evolved. But for all extant knowledge of yoga and its practices, such as yogasanas and pranayama, the entire credit goes to Maharishi Patanjali.

Patanjali systematized the various yogic practices and traditions of his times by encapsulating them in the form of aphorisms in his Yoga Sutra. In this momentous work, he describes the aim of yoga as knowledge of the self and outlines the eight steps or methods of achieving it. These are:

• Yamas or eternal vows,
• Niyamas or observances,
• Yogasanas or yoga postures,
• Pranayama or breath control exercises,
• Pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses from distractions of the outside world,
• Dharana or concentration on an object, place or subject,
• Dhyana or the continuance of this concentration-meditation and
• Samadhi or the ultimate stage of yoga meditation.

Don’t we all come to this world as guests—constantly striving to find the golden rule of a successful rapport with everybody and everything we come across? From birth to death a person’s success or failure is measured by the kind of relationship he/ she have had with elements of this world: people. Nature and beyond it all, with the spirit behind this "relative world". But striking the right chord in a relationship often proves a hard nut to crack.

The world seems to constantly echo with a disconcerting chorus of voices, the result of frustrated relationships between parents and their children, husbands and wives, friends, siblings, in-laws, employees and colleagues—individuals disillusioned with themselves for not being able to relate successfully to their environs.

The most interesting aspect of this scenario is that, today there happens to be no dearth of methods to arrive at that elusive "success" in the act of relating.

The phenomenal flux of changes in every sphere of our lives since the last century has redefined the role of human relationships. Social revolutions such as the women’s lib, the cult of the individual, and even the human potential movement have re-patterned the basic premises of relationships. A good relationship today is not one that just lasts but one that coexists with self-respect, individuality and the need to grow.

For it to thrive successfully, marriage counselors and psychologists, also, stress the need for this kind of "space" within a couple’s relationship. An individual in a marriage shouldn’t be a repository of one’s own needs and desires; in fact both the people involved should be totally committed to their relationship. They must be ready to take responsibility for themselves as well as the relationship.

How to Make Relationships Work

• Don’t try too hard to convince the other person of your love. Love and trust yourself more. This will relax your love defenses and enable you to give yourself totally to relationship.
• Don’t question the other person’s love all the time.
• Feel the oneness of the universe. Step beyond the `me first` conflicts that mar relationships. This would help you be complete within yourself.
• Don’t use your relationships to fulfill your expectations.
• Know yourself. Analyze the cause of your reactions.
• Acknowledge the other person as an individual. Grow and let grow.
• In a conflicting relationship, check where you went wrong rather than where the other person failed. Listen to each other. Communication strengthens the foundation of a relationship.
• Take the first step in working out a relationship without worrying about who is in the right. Don’t depend on any person and don’t let the other person depend on you.

One of life’s greatest achievements is to grow and let your seeds grow. Nothing in life is more fulfilling than watching your children blossom. More so when you have to nurture, educate and guide them towards a life most suitable to them. Millions of parents do it all the time—some, with a lot of effort, some without a thought. So, what really is good parenting? Is it discipline, moral education, freedom to let your child be what he is? Or is it something more subtle, something that goes by the name of life’s lessons?

But it might be a good thing to remember that, no matter how eager or ambitious we are in shaping our children’s lives, there is a limit to what we can accomplish. Swami Vivekananda, founder of Ramakrishna Mission, uses the analogy of growing a plant to drive home the point:

"You cannot make a plant grow in soil unsuited to it. A child teaches itself. But you can help it to go forward in its own way. What you can do is not of the positive nature, but of the negative. You can take away the obstacles, but knowledge comes out of its own nature. Loosen the soil a little, so that it may come out easily. Put a hedge round it; see that it is not killed by anything, and there your work stops. You cannot do anything else. The rest is a manifestation from within its own nature."

"You cannot make a plant grow in soil unsuited to it. A child teaches itself. But you can help it to go forward in its own way. What you can do is not of the positive nature, but of the negative. You can take away the obstacles, but knowledge comes out of its own nature. Loosen the soil a little, so that it may come out easily. Put a hedge round it; see that it is not killed by anything, and there your work stops. You cannot do anything else. The rest is a manifestation from within its own nature."

• Teach values such as honesty, integrity, patience and self-control gradually and steadily, that too by your own example.
• Praise them openly and often, reprove secretly and seldom; reprimand the bad behavior, not your children.
• Teach them self-esteem and self-confidence (something they’ll carry for the rest of their lives).
• Restrict television watching and recreation time. Keep a watch on your children’s company.
• Try to keep alcohol and drugs away from the house, or keep them in moderation.
• Maintain a happy and loving home environment.
• Give a lot of your time to your children, both quality and quantity.
• Make humor and laughter a part of your relationship with children.
• Allow children to grow and learn through the mistakes they make.
• Hug and show feelings of love whenever possible.
• Communicate gently but clearly and firmly.

• In a time of nuclear families in which wives also contribute to the family kitty, it is imperative that fathers too share the responsibility of bringing up a baby. Don’t view the time spent with your child as a chore. It is an integral part of your life that will help strengthen the parent-child bond.

• The keynote in approaching fatherhood is to relax. A baby is responsive to the parent’s feelings. If you are anxious, so will the baby be.

• A baby often makes demands on its mother at the most outrageous times, leaving her exhausted. At this time you can encourage her by taking on some of the tasks—such as changing nappies or waking up in the night to look after necessary chores.

• It might seem difficult to change your lifestyle that the baby’s presence would inevitably demand. You may have to say good-bye to indulgent hobbies that you have developed over the years, the partying that used to be fun. But if you allow yourself to get involved in the process of your child’s growing up—building blocks with him, doing jigsaws, and reading from picture books—you will discover a new joy, as you watch the wonder of life unfold through its eyes.

Current medical wisdom regarding the rearing of children, upholds some traditional Indian practices while rejecting others:

• Avoid pre-lacteal feeds like honey water, glucose or formula milk.
• Talcum powders serve no purpose and can be avoided. Soaps, if used at all should be mild.
• If your religion your child to be circumcised, postpone circumcision till a later stage and make sure that it is done by a qualified surgeon.
—Dr Promilla Butani in Parenting
• don’t give the child any water or juices until he starts on solid food.
• Avoid applying kohl in the baby’s eyes.
• Take any ailment, even a minor fever, seriously in a newborn
• Avoid putting ear or nose-rings
• Use cotton clothes and diapers.
• After feeding, burp the child. Don`t let the child lie down face-up immediately after feeding.
• Don’t try tricks such as coating your child’s thumb with chilies to rid it of thumb-sucking habit. These are psychological problems that should be handled by a pediatrician.
—Dr Dwarkadas Motiwala

We alternately love them and hate them, but one thing’s for sure—what would we do without them? Our companions for life, our competitors, our confidantes, our rivals, our comrades-in-arms against the whole mad world—what would we do without them? No other bond in the world can beat siblings at sharing such a unique and complex love-hate relationship!

The true worth of having had brothers and/or sisters around while we were growing up never strikes us till we are way past our childhood. The most important lesson we learn at that stage of our lives, is how to get along with individuals other than ourselves. That was also when we learnt to develop social values such as cooperation, honesty, kindness, and tolerance.

Learning such important social skills usually takes a lot of time, but they are imbibed much faster while living with brothers and sisters. Children with siblings learn how to share and resolve conflicts quite easily. And with the right kind of guidance from parents, siblings also get a lot of practice in learning how to be cooperative, supportive, and nurturing to others.

In other words, we probably turned out much better because we had that bullying older brother or the irritating younger sister it prepared us for all the important relationships we encountered later in life.

Tips for Managing Quarrelsome Siblings
• Let siblings express their feelings.
• Try to comment only on the disagreeable behavior and avoid telling one child that a sibling is better at something.
• Try to give each sibling according to his/her individual need.
• Don’t take sides in sibling fights. Instead, try to let the children work out differences on their own.
• It takes time and persistence for you to learn new ways of treating your children and for them to learn new ways of getting along. • Don’t give up.

A friend is someone who walks in when the whole world walks out. Our friends are equity shares we earn in life. We continue to reap dividends on them throughout our lives. Yet today how many of us have shoulders to lean on outside our immediate familial relationships? In a highly competitive and result oriented world, we seem to be drifting away from each other all the time. This is not to say that the world is short of amiable individuals, but rather that we have forgotten the art of maintaining positive camaraderie. In a mad rush to keep up with the fast changing pace of urban living, we fail to nurture and care for basic ties of love and warmth that binds us all together.

Tips for Better Friendships

1. Being Fully Committed
2. Taking Personal Responsibility
3. Taking Care of Yourself
4. Being honest, and
5. Doing Your Work—will allow you to experience the love, happiness, joy, and quality of life that you deserve, and is worth your best effort!

As parents seek admission in schools for their children, they need to pick up the prospectus, fill in forms, seek information, and even go through long tests. All for the elusive `perfect` education for their child... Is it possible to have both—academic skills as well as a free and happy childhood?

Talent is not synonymous with creativity. For, unlike the talent concept , which most often means being good in a certain field, the concept of creativity is that it is a point of view, an approach towards the mundane that transforms every blade of grass into a wonder of life

The Latin term "communitatus" from which the English word "community" comes, is comprised of three elements, "Com-" - a Latin prefix meaning with or together, "-Munis-" –that means "the link" and "-tatus" a Latin suffix suggesting diminutive, small, intimate or local.. German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies, defined that "community" is perceived to be be a tighter and more cohesive social entity within the context of the larger society, due to the presence of a "unity of will." He added that family and kinship were the perfect expressions of community but that other shared characteristics, such as place or belief, could also result in a community. Pehaps, the key is “unity of will”. Communities can be truly empowering and could provide a tremendous support system to all of us. The Indian term “satsang” that talks of a group of like minded souls is the seeker’s solace, support and mainstay.



by Life Positive
Making a case for revival of universal human values and morality,

 Anil Bhatnagar argues that they are a reflection of the order prevailing in Nature and the universe

• The ultimate happiness and prosperity can come from our being attuned to the universal principles. Our behavior and values

• The ultimate happiness and prosperity can come from our being attuned to the universal principles. Our behavior and values that are not in harmony with the universal laws take us away from bliss, beauty, abundance-the primary qualities of the Latent Oneness.
• You can reconnect yourself with the Latent Oneness by living in the present moment, for only in the 'now' can we take correct action, for the past is gone and the future has not arrived as yet.
• Pause before responding to any situation, so that we respond consciously from our viveka and not from our negative pattern of habits.
• Learn to be detached. Get rid of your attachment to money, to winning arguments, to your physical form, your assets, your people, and your past and to the notion that your ideas, actions, attitudes, values alone are right.
• Develop a general reluctance to judging people and situations. Develop reluctance to resist or fight against anything.
• Surrendering to life instead of trying to control it brings harmony within and without. Redefine your goals in terms of giving.
• Look within. Going within more often to align yourself with your being through consciously watching your thoughts and actions.
• Discover the values within by awareness of established timeless principles. Values cannot be cultivated or imposed for they are there within us; we only have to discover them and bring them forth. Values, in fact, stem from clear perception. A child who never used to wash his hands unless reminded by his parents, gave up this undesirable habit, once shown his unwashed hands swarming with bacteria under a microscope. Similarly, anyone who comes to understand the functioning of the invisible mechanism that operates the universe cannot think of breaking the laws of Nature.
• Discover the purpose of your life. Each one of us is born for a unique purpose and hence is blessed with a unique set of traits and abilities. Once purpose and values are identified, a harmonious balance comes in life. We all have had instances of narrow escapes. God saves our life many times—for a purpose. And we need to discover that purpose and fulfill it.
• Develop awareness of your values. Knowing our values is, in fact, knowing ourselves. When we uphold our values, we shall feel fulfilled.
• Reexamine your definition of success. Our personal values are greatly influenced by how we perceive success. Once we perceive correctly what success is, the correct values often fall in place on their own.

The fabric of society is held together by the standards of morality that we maintain and practice. Values are our personal set of beliefs about what is important, unimportant, right, wrong, good and bad. In other words, values are a kind of map in our minds of how things are or should be. Just as a map is not the territory, values are only our perception of the principles of nature that govern our lives or the universe, not the principles themselves.

Throughout history, this world has seen individuals, families, societies and nations dying for want of values that sustain life—almost with the same certainty with which a plant dies for want of water. We can choose our values to be in harmony with the laws of the universe or to challenge them. Laws are fixed, so are the consequences of breaking them. We cannot break the laws of the universe; we can only break ourselves against them.

The real asset of a nation is not its natural resources, but people with right values. Just as it is futile to fill a leaking bucket, it is futile to think of economic reforms and progress without relinking ourselves with our lost values. All over the world and more so in our country, what we need first and foremost are solutions that can be utilized on a wide scale and on a long-term basis for reestablishing moral values.

Are values really on the decline in the contemporary world or is this a perception common to every age?

"History is replete with instances of sons killing fathers to usurp power. Earlier, the news did not spread so far and so fast. Today, it does. As a result, we feel there is more crime and decline in values," says Bikram Uppal, a young executive with SAIL. However, others disagree. D.R. Karthikeyan, director-general, NHRC, says that deterioration in values is so fast and steep that it is perceivable year after year.

Someone aptly summed up the situation thus: "Earlier, people would say: 'How can we speak a lie-we have a family to look after.' Today, they say: 'How can we speak the truth-we have a family to support'".

Indeed, the erosion of values is one of the major concerns of today's society. Human beings are similar in every generation; it is probably the increasing stress, fast pace of life, keen competition and overvaulting ambition to achieve too much in too little time that has made today's man seemingly less principled than his ancestors. This explains, but does not excuse us of responsibility for the widespread decline in values: even in today's turmoil and stress, people of integrity are still around.

Some of us consider it patriotic to deny that we are corrupt as a nation. Accepting, not ignoring reality is the first step to set it right. Lord Buddha said: "If you want to untie a knot, first learn how it came into being."


Philosophical reasons: Identifying with the physical body. We think we are our bodies. With this belief begin all the attitudinal problems. It makes us feel that we are islands. When we see people dying, our ego rebels since it wants to continue. Continuance implies continuance of the body, which we identify with. The need for continuity breeds the need for security. Deep down we are eternal beings-omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.

In our search for pleasure, we become greedy. Greed gives rise to fears-of not being able to fulfill our needs. Fears give rise to the need for false psychological protection in beliefs.

We have convinced ourselves that money is the solution to all our problems. However, money is only a manifestation of and flows from abundance, not vice versa. Prosperity is a vector. It has magnitude and direction. Most people focus only on the magnitude, not the direction it may take one's life towards-happiness (if one is rich spiritually too) or misery, stress and insecurity (if one lacks inner purity).

"When the heart is empty it collects things. And the one who dies rich lives in vain," said Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian philosopher. Today, we are looking for happiness where it is not. Cut off from our inner being, there is a constant dependence on, and struggle for, external things for fulfillment. People, therefore, often amass wealth through unethical means but fail to remove their inner poverty. We fail to realize that the most precious things are those that money cannot buy. When one focuses one's attention exclusively on external success, one may get there faster only to find that the one who was supposed to enjoy this success has already been lost somewhere on the way.

It is in vogue these days to abort discussions and concerns regarding the degrading values in our society with the question: "Right according to whom?" This may give us a transitory feeling of intellectual superiority, but deep within we all know that primary values like honesty, sincerity and commitment to family, society and humanity as a whole command respect wherever they exist. We may not be able to define honesty, but we know what it is.

If values were so subjective, why would Mother Teresa have commanded such universal reverence? Why would a thief or a murderer be imprisoned? How these values are defined, interpreted and applied in real-life can be debated-but their intrinsic correctness is universally accepted. They are not so subjective that we cannot decide, for example, whether honesty is more desirable than dishonesty, or whether killing fellow humans for money should be punished.

No society has ever respected cowardice over courage. Fairness, kindness, dignity, charity, integrity, honesty, concern for others, patience, empathy, compassion, justice, integrity and commitment are among the desirable primary values that have been accepted universally in every age. Values may be subjective, but not the principles of Nature. For example, Hitler was value-driven but not principle-driven. He followed certain personal values, which were out of step with the principles of nature.

Psychological reasons: What inferences we draw from what we observe depends not on what actually transpires but on how we perceive or process it, which depends on our state of consciousness. A person who relies merely on the senses takes every event to be a result of sheer chance. He is bound to choose different values from the one who appreciates that there is an underlying interconnection and order in the events of our lives.

The greatest tragedy of the modern world is that it has given us enough to live with but nothing to live for. Today, our purpose of life has become hazy. Existence has become more important than living. People today do not ask themselves what they feel concerned about and what they would like to dedicate their lives to; they ask which field has better 'scope'. They seek to take decisions on the basis of what lies in the external world, instead of being driven from within. But unless we find a cause to live for, we are not fit to live.

With increasing distances to commute to our workplaces and devoting more time to work, we are left with little time for ourselves, to acquire calm and stillness. In the absence of this calm we find ourselves unable to take stock of the direction of our life vis-à-vis our core values. So the lack of intention to interact with our inner selves, too, is at the root of the problem.

We hardly have time to look up and admire the beauty of the sky or appreciate the mysteries of Nature. We have lost the capacity to enjoy small 'nothings' of life. Like antibiotics, we seem to need bigger and still bigger doses of excitement to make us feel happy.

We seem to be driven not from our strong will to act correctly, but more from our reaction to others' behavior. "I will teach him the lesson of his life", has become the motto for many. The scale to which we can harm and hurt others has become an index of our supremacy. The saner alternative of forgiveness has taken a back seat and is considered a sign of being timid, weak and lacking in self-respect. If everyone starts reacting without giving a chance to one's higher values, you can imagine the consequences.

"Today, our need for self-preservation and material gain takes precedence over concern for society and the community," says Aura Riana, freelance writer.

Many of us are unable to see beyond our own interest. We feel bad about this only when we are at the receiving end. This happens because we fail to see the same 'self' in others that has the same needs, expectations and rights. If only we could perceive the Big Plan of the cosmic mind that interconnects all living beings, we would learn that when we give, we give to ourselves and when we hold happiness from others, we hold it from ourselves. The greatest paradox of life is that when we hold on to life for ourselves, we inevitably lose it, but when we decide to use it for 'giving', we regain it.

Mahatma Gandhi used to say that there is enough in this world to satisfy man's need, but not his greed. S.B. Gogate, an Indian interior designer-turned-corporate trainer, feels that "conversion of needs into greed prevents right values from prevailing in our society". Greed manifests itself as absence of trust in the Big Plan, belief in scarcity and a general feeling of insecurity.

The fact that corruption is a universal phenomenon and ours is not the only nation facing it, should not be a source of solace to us. Nor keep us from finding solutions to our problems. Think of whatever little you can do, and do it. It is easy to shift the blame on a faceless agency or the system, but it makes the problem persist. Accepting that change is required and we alone can bring it about, is the first step towards change.

We think worshipping God or great people can be a good and easier substitute for following values. Often those who feel guilty of making money through dishonest means, think that they can ward off karmic repercussions by building temples or making donations. They fail to realize that Nature is not interested in punishing them, only in making them learn the correct values. And if they refuse to learn voluntarily, they will leave no option for Nature or God but to make them learn the harder way.

We apprehend that upholding right values may go against pecuniary interests. Is our economy suffering because of values or for want of them? Any company that creates trust along with its products is bound to perform better financially. People do not buy the product; they buy the trust. "Ethics can play a major role in making our nation great. Industry, vested with higher credibility, will get a boost both in the domestic and international markets," says M.M. Luther, former secretary-general of FICCI and a management consultant. Karthikeyan states: "Ethics alone will make ours a great nation." An attitude towards life, which is in harmony with the laws of nature and hence imbued with strong positive values, is the only possible source of sustainable bliss and prosperity. No amount of material planning, wealth and connections with people in high places can be a substitute for that. Dr M.B. Athreya, management guru, asserts: "In the medium to long-term phase, ethics make sustainable riches. Dharmo rakshiti rakshtah: Preserve dharma; it protects."

We conceive that trying to uphold values may be frustrating. However, frustration and upholding values are two different things. Frustration follows one's inability to fulfill some expectation; take away the expectation and the frustration will cease. Frustration accompanies upholding of values only when we are using values as a rational strategy towards an end or to seek approval. When values are exercised as a choiceless response from one's intrinsic nature, where does the question arise of getting frustrated?

We think that we cannot afford values since the rewards of upholding them are intangible, whereas those of breaking them are concrete. That may be true, but there is another higher truth: the tangible, manifest world comes from the unmanifest. Focus on making your inner, intangible world great by purifying it with strong values. The external world shall change accordingly.

Social reasons: Breaking up of joint families into nuclear families. Most homes do not have a value-giver today. Homes have turned into mere houses where family members come to eat, watch TV and sleep. Akhilesh Kumar Singh Chandela, a security guard, says: "Values are inculcated by the mother, who is usually not available to the child for the major part of the day. When the mother arrives home after the day's work, she is already too tired and has other things to look after. At the most she manages to help them in doing the homework—often not even that. Then, usually the whole family sits before the TV till bedtime. Where are the values going to come from?"

Today, there is a powerful image of people, who seem to be leading happy and respectable lives even without ethics. Respect is proportional to money and external achievements, not to the quality of means employed to get them. Impressionable young minds choose unhealthy role models for themselves early in their lives.

Shyama Chona, principal of Delhi Public School and founder of Tamanna, a school for the disabled, says: "There is concern over the state of urban youth. The educated city youth apes his Western counterpart with pride. He is filled with ideas and attitudes unrelated to our traditions and culture. He must be taught anew to appreciate his Indianness and the glory of our past."

"An unpleasant, combative environment at home and unresponsive, unsympathetic or ignorant teachers who cannot act as role models, are the principal reasons for decline of values," says Luther.

Our school textbooks talk more about wars than about the lives of people with exemplary values. The students look for role models from the contemporary world, as they can relate to them. However, textbooks imply that such people lived only in Sat Yuga (the spiritually evolved era according to Hinduism) or centuries ago. The media also underplays reports of exemplary people as it assumes that good deeds are uninteresting, hence unsaleable.

Cutthroat competition and the resulting higher stress levels. Stress may affect moral reasoning capacity and the ability to use it in real-life situations. Competitiveness exists because instead of trying to discover who we are, where our roots lie and how we can serve others, we are trying to become what we are not. Instead of trusting that real security comes from within, we are looking for it in money, possessions and power.

There's an ancient story about a frog, which, having been told by his friend about an elephant, went on bloating his tummy to confirm from his friend if the cited creature was that big. Then, he exploded. We must remember that everyone has a place. A frog need not try to become an elephant to gain importance since, in the scheme of this universe, he is already as important as an elephant.

Pythagoras once said: "Humans who kill animals for food tend to lose their sensitivity; they tend to see killing of their fellow humans with the same apathy." Whatever be Pythagoras' reasoning, the fact is that we do exhibit the kind of insensitivity he's talking about. It is paradoxical that as physical distances are shrinking, the psychological ones are widening. Nothing seems to stir us. Is it because we fail to see the same self in others that we so readily see within us?

Administrative reasons: "The decreasing faith in, respect for and fear of law; the increasing delay and cost, making justice inaccessible to large segments of the population; and the near-collapse of the established grievance redressal system are some of the factors," says Karthikeyan. Criminals believe that they can get away provided they have the right connections or money. On the other hand, innocent victims have nowhere to go. Since independence, not a single case comes to mind where a big politician or criminal was punished for misappropriating public money. Luther says: "There should be visible and transparent punishment-and-reward systems in the industry and government, providing exemplary punishment to those guilty of misdemeanor."

When I can get my car license delivered at home without having to clear a driving test, I am tempted. This occurs when normal routes are either arduous or almost closed. Routes are made arduous when there is a demand from the top for money, not performance. This is because we choose insecure people to lead us. This happens because secure people do not feel the need to be chosen, in order to serve society.

What can be done: Let the media shift its focus to rebuilding values. The scripts of soap operas should be written responsibly, since they influence millions of people. The scriptwriters probably do not realize the great opportunity (and hence responsibility) that they have. Preference should be given to soap operas that are based on inspiring real-life incidents. Images of rich and happy people who used the right values to get rich, and of those who led miserable lives despite being rich for want of values, can transform the viewers' minds.

Advertisements, too, can play a role. They do not become less effective if they carry powerful messages promoting right values. On the contrary, it builds the image of the company. And people buy the image of the product before the product itself. LG's New Heroes is one such series aired by Zee News, wherein people of extraordinary achievements, having strong values are introduced. And who does not want to know about successful and inspiring people? Values can be rebuilt in our country if we start giving the same kind of publicity to them that we give to the World Cup Cricket.

Revamp our political system. Frequently, we vote for a party, not the candidate. We are often left with the option of choosing the least undesirable candidate. This is because the right to decide who can contest is in the hands of politicians. People can only vote for candidates who are given tickets by political parties.

Each candidate should be required to fulfill a minimum criterion. In our country, an applicant for a peon's job has to have some qualification, but a political leader needs none. A criminal or illiterate person can be the leader of the largest democracy in the world! When there is three-tier screening for selecting civil servants, why should there not be tougher screening for the politicians who command them?

I propose that institutes be opened for developing politicians, with focus on personality development and value orientation, and after graduating, they are screened by an autonomous board before being allowed to contest.

Revamp our education system: Shyama Chona, emphasizing the need for value-based education, says: "Ultimately it is the morality of man that makes or breaks him. If it is true that 'the destiny of India is being shaped in her classrooms', let us change the educational pattern. Inculcating character-building values is perhaps the most meaningful contribution we can make to the lives of our children."

Rishi Pal Chauhan, with his American friend Steven Rudolf, is doing commendable work in this direction through the Jiva Institute that he heads. The three areas the institute is focusing on are education, health and culture. Chauhan says that education should develop both skills and ethics, as was done in gurukuls. Today, there is almost no correlation between what the student is taught and the life he is leading.

Luther advocates meditation, prayers and yoga in the school curriculum. Karthikeyan, stressing the need for value-based education from the primary level, says: "Skills and knowledge are important, but far more important are attitude and values." Textbooks should include stories of people of exemplary ethics. Parents and teachers should follow values, and convey unequivocal and confident messages on upholding right values.

No one has ever become a saint by inculcating values. One has to discover and believe in one's saintliness within. Values flow from one's self-image, not vice-versa. Once we help a child realize his spirituality and make him perceive himself as a spiritual giant, the task of value education becomes easier. A child who is convinced of his divine heritage behaves like a saint without knowing it.

Revamp our administration and grievance-redressal machinery. Karthikeyan underlines the need for these systems to be made functional, fair, speedy and effective. He feels that society should demonstrate that those who do not believe in and practice right values would have no place in governance and in all walks of life.

Reduce stress level in people's lives. Educational institutions and offices should not require anybody to commute large distances. If possible, accommodation should be provided on the campus. No office or factory should function for more than five days in a week. Staying beyond office hours should be discouraged. The hours lost can easily be compensated by effective time management.

Let us slow down our pace, try to find our purpose in the scheme of the universe through our liking, talents and aptitudes. An effective and efficient cobbler is better than an incompetent engineer or doctor. It is not a particular profession that guarantees you abundance and happiness, but your competence.

So just forget about competition... there isn't any except in your mind. Just go on moving within yourself, towards yourself and get linked to your roots. Discover your purpose and give your life to it.

View things from your children's perspective and understand them before expecting them to see your point of view. This will develop trust in them. Children adapt to parental values that get internalized if trust exists between parent and child. Children are sensitive and can recognize uncertainty and confusion in their parents' value system, and can become disenchanted with following the rules when they find that their parents' deeds do not match their words. Do not confuse the child by your double standards or by reacting inconsistently to their behavior. Let children see the logical connection between their deeds and the likely consequences.

We feel disillusioned with values because our leaders do not exhibit congruence between words and deeds. "Our rewards, leadership, positions, appreciation and recognition ought to go only to those who live by high values, not to those who merely speak them," says Kiran Bedi. Similarly, we should be vigilant to detect any hypocrisy in our behavior.

I am convinced that people can be transformed, irrespective of their age and conditioning. All that is required is to make them trust the light within and see the need to remove all that keeps our real light from shining forth. Who can doubt that personality traits of people can be transformed, having witnessed the incredible transformation of the prisoners of Tihar jail in Delhi, India.

Javed Raza, an inmate, says: "When I came to Tihar jail in July 1997, I had thought that it was going to be the worst experience of my life. But 22 months since, the experience has turned out to be a lifesaver, one that has changed me for the better, made me happy and hopeful for the future. The first vipassana course taught me to let go of a lot of my anger and anxiety. Instead of feeling angry and disappointed with people and events, I now feel love and compassion. And I understand deep down that if I am feeling angry or distressed, it is not because of the person or the event that appears to be causing it, but because of my own lack of equanimity towards my mental contents and physical sensations."

Countless people are taking quantum leaps in their personal growth with vipassana, reiki, meditation, prayers, self-observation and other transformation tools. We should try to transform ourselves, not for the sake of society, but for ourselves and the world that our children are going to inherit.

All that it requires is patience, faith and perseverance. Here faith means that we view the happenings in our lives—howsoever unjust or purposeless they may appear—as timely and essential gifts from God in the best interests of our growth and ultimate happiness. So we should not wait for others to change first, because transforming ourselves is not a sacrifice but something that will ensure bliss, harmony and transformation in our external circumstances too.