Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bird watching

Sitting on the fence, back to me,
it doesn’t know I am watching
as it watches the yard next door.

Yellow beaked, black bodied,
head bobbing, eyes darting,
the blackbird looks for food.

Then, it sits still for a long time,
head held high, like a falcon,
as if sunning its beak.

I wonder if birds meditate,
or plan their day, maybe
stake out hunting grounds.

Or are they totally unaware
of the past, escaping fast
and the future, madly onrushing.

Living in the timeless Now,
unconcerned, about
an illusion called time.

Heeding only the voice
of instinct, as it surely guides
them from birth to death.

When I turn away,
it’s still there, unmoving,
as if frozen in time.

Friday, June 29, 2012


The wind rages
like a crazed animal,
snarling up trees,
curling around houses,
scowling, howling.
In stark contrast,
the voices in my head
slowly stop clamouring,
stop rippling and fade.
I settle into stillness.

There is a place within us
that the winds of turbulence
cannot reach, the fire of
crises cannot scorch.
The floods of despair
cannot dampen. Here,
the soul resides.
And presides. Here,
boundaries vanish,
distinctions dissolve.

All it takes is a stepping away,
a conscious shift,
a delving into the silence
beneath all sound,
into the space in which
everything arises.
It is there, always,
ready, waiting.
For us to disengage,
to come home.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The chase

Something niggles,
like an itch in a corner
just out of reach.

The day was a pleasant enough,
helping a friend serve the monks
at the Buddhist monastery.
Steeped in tranquility,
lulled by birdsong,
sang to by streams.
But a haze came creeping around the corners.
Like a nebulous shadow
cast by a rain cloud
lurking just beyond the horizon.

I try to pin it down,
out-stare it in a staring contest,
but it shifts shape,
defies definition,
steals away.

Maybe the boil will burst in my sleep.
Maybe in my dreams
it will show its face.

For now, I chase
the shifting shadows.

Why our brains are large

In today's excerpt - Martin Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania professor whose research has led to the development of the field of positive psychology, comments on the purpose of our large brains and speaks to the importance of relationships with others as one of the keys to our well-being:

"Other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the sin­gle most reliable up. ... My friend Stephen Post, professor of Medical Human­ities at Stony Brook, tells a story about his mother. When he was a young boy, and his mother saw that he was in a bad mood, she would say, 'Stephen, you are looking piqued. Why don't you go out and help someone?' Empirically, Ma Post's maxim has been put to rigorous test, and we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested. ...  
"Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to? If your answer is yes, you will likely live longer than someone whose answer is no. For George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who discovered this fact, the master strength is the capacity to be loved. Conversely, as the social neuroscientist John Cacioppo has argued, loneliness is such a disabling condition that it compels the belief that the pursuit of relationships is a rock-bottom fundamental to human well-being. ...
"Two recent streams of argument about human evolution both point to the importance of positive relationships in their own right and for their own sake. What is the big human brain for? About five hundred thousand years ago, the cranial capacity of our hominid ancestors' skulls dou­bled in size from 600 cubic centimeters to its present 1,200 cubic centi­meters. The fashionable explanation for all this extra brain is to enable us to make tools and weapons; you have to be really smart to deal instrumentally with the physical world. The British theoretical psy­chologist Nick Humphrey has presented an alternative: the big brain is a social problem solver, not a physical problem solver. As I converse with my students, how do I solve the problem of saying something that Marge will think is funny, that won't offend Tom, and that will per­suade Derek that he is wrong without rubbing his nose in it? These are extremely complicated problems -- problems that computers, which can design weapons and tools in a trice, cannot solve. But humans can and do solve social problems, every hour of the day. The massive pre­frontal cortex that we have is continually using its billions of connec­tions to simulate social possibilities and then to choose the optimal course of action. So the big brain is a relationship simulation machine, and it has been selected by evolution for exactly the function of design­ing and carrying out harmonious but effective human relationships.

"The other evolutionary argument that meshes with the big brain as social simulator is group selection. The eminent British biologist and polemicist Richard Dawkins has popularized a selfish-gene the­ory which argues that the individual is the sole unit of natural selec­tion. Two of the world's most prominent biologists, unrelated but both named Wilson (Edmund O. and David Sloan), have recently amassed evidence that the group is a primary unit of natural selection. Their argument starts with the social insects: wasps, bees, termites, and ants, all of which have factories, fortresses, and systems of communication and dominate the insect world just as humans dominate the vertebrate world. Being social is the most successful form of higher adaptation known. I would guess that it is even more adaptive than having eyes, and the most plausible mathematization of social insect selection is that selection is done by groups and not by individuals.

"The intuition for group selection is simple. Consider two primate groups, each made up of genetically diverse individuals. Imagine that the 'social' group has the emotional brain structures that subserve love, compassion, kindness, teamwork, and self-sacrifice -- the 'hive emotions' -- and cognitive brain structures, such as mirror neurons, which reflect other minds. The 'nonsocial' group, equally intelligent about the physical world and equally strong, does not have these hive emotions. These two groups are now put into a deadly competition that can have only one winner, such as war or starvation. The social group will win, being able to cooperate, hunt in groups, and create agricul­ture."

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
by Martin E. P. Seligman by Free Press
------------- excerpt for the delanceyplace newsletter -----------------

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Looking inward

We are so addicted to looking outside ourselves that we have lost access to our inner being almost completely.We are terrified to look inward, because our culture has given us no idea of what we will find. We may even think that if we do, we will be in danger of madness.

This is one of the last and most resourceful ploys of ego to prevent us from discovering our real nature. So we make our lives so hectic that we eliminate the slightest risk of looking into ourselves.

Even the idea of meditation can scare people. When they hear the words egoless or emptiness, they think that experiencing those states will be like being thrown out the door of a spaceship to float forever in a dark, chilling void. Nothing could be further from the truth. But in a world dedicated to distraction, silence and stillness terrify us; we protect ourselves from them with noise and frantic busyness.

Looking into the nature of our mind is the last thing we would dare to do."

~ Sogyal Rinpoche, from Glimpse of the Day

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

NZ photographs

Quite by chance, I can across a blog on WordPress which showcased photographs taken in NZ and since both are close to my heart, I just had to share.

NZ Photos


Monday, June 18, 2012

The other side

It takes only a small mis-step,
a tiny, wandering thought,
to derail my train of happiness.
The flooding of pain
is sudden and unwelcome,
like a dark thunderstorm
it blots out the light.

I apply the usual balms -
music, dance, books.
It retreats and bides it time,
and just as surely,
when the beats stop,
the book is closed,
it is there, waiting,
like a faithful lover.

I marvel at its insidiousness,
its tenacity.

Maybe I should give it its due,
pay the blood-price.
Maybe pain is the other side of joy.
Why should I expect
to enjoy the charms of daylight
without enduring the night?

The night is going to be a long one.
Perhaps, joy waits on the other side.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Woman and man

"A woman's highest calling is to lead a man to his soul, so as to unite him with Source. Her lowest calling is to seduce, separating man from his soul and leave him aimlessly wandering.

A man's highest calling is to protect woman, so she is free to walk the earth unharmed. Man's lowest calling is to ambush and force his way into the life of a woman."

- Cherokee Proverb

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Oftentimes it has so happens that a conversation with someone or some people leaves me drained and exhausted. I have wondered why that is the case and some deeper reflection has revealed the following. Conversations (even with yourself) are like meals. They are meant to nourish and sustain you, and promote growth. What your eat the tongue should find savoury, that is the first milestone. But more importantly, it should enter your stomach, be easily digested and absorbed and turn into muscle, bone and blood.

Some conversations on the surface look like fun - chirpy, frothy, gossipy. They are like junk food, good to see, smell divine, even the taste-buds go into salivary overdrive, but they full of empty calories with very little goodness. They enter the system and lie heavy on the digestion and possibly lead to ill-health. As much as I can, I try to avoid these junk-food, small-talk conversations, that make me feel later that I have lost a part of myself.

I wait for those rare, scintillating, exquisite ones, in which the words flow with ease, in a space of mutual trust and understanding. Where neither party is trying to show off their knowledge, or prove the other wrong, or just wants to skim the surface with words. Where listening is practised as an art and not extended as a favour. Where one listens with one’s whole being, not with just the ears or the brain. Where personalities are set aside, and the illusion of separateness dims and there is not only the meeting of minds but also of the essences. No one mentions, or maybe even notices it, but love sits there quietly holding everyone’s hand. And long after the conversation is over, its light lingers and transforms us ever so subtly, and we find that we have grown and taken a step towards our Higher Self.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nature loves courage

Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed. 

Source : Internet


The teacher

A teacher cannot give you the truth
The truth is already in you
You only need to open yourself –
body, mind and heart,
so that his or her teachings
will penetrate your own seeds
of understanding and enlightenment
If you let the words enter you,
the soil and the seeds
will do the rest of the work.

Source : Internet

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My adventures with fire

A couple of incidents set me on a train of thought.

One : I was taking something out of the over the other night, and in a definitely ‘duh’ moment had not put on my oven gloves. Focussed on the cooking item I did not realise till too late that my hand had made contact with the red hot oven coil. There was a sizzle and a bit of smoke as I pulled by hand out and a very strange smell hit my nostrils. It took me a moment to realise it was the smell of burning skin as it was the very first time my brain had encountered this smell. I stood there for a few moments, transfixed, processing this new bit of information, ‘this is how burnt human flesh smells like’ before dunking my hand into cold water.

Two : Today is a windy day. The wind has been blowing like a demented animal, curling around the house trying to blow it down and the house has been creaking in complaint. It got so cold that I decided to light the fire. The operative word here is ‘I’ because the official fire lighter has always been my husband. So I thought, ‘how hard can it be?’ After all humans have been lighting fires since, well, fire was discovered and that was a long, long time ago. Fire-lighting skills should be in my genes by now. Little did I know that my fire-lighting skill gene had been mutated by the convenience of modern living.

I had the vague notion that a fire of sorts should be started using paper and kindling before the logs are introduced so that is what I set about doing. I know your are not going to believe this but let me tell you that setting fire to paper is easy but keeping it alight is close to impossible and it is even harder with kindling. The fire kept dying out and I kept adding more paper and more kindling and there was a time, I must confess, when I was tempted to ask Uncle Google. Such abomination! I’m sure my Stone Age ancestress would have turned in her fossil and gone up in smoke in shame. Finally, half and hour and reams of newspaper later, I managed to put the logs in and get the fire going. After which I sat back and toasted myself :)

Gazing into the fire brought back the memory of the smell of burnt flesh and I began to wonder. How is it that when it took me, admittedly a novice, half an hour to start a fire with dry combustible materials, do people, also novices, burn live human beings in a jiffy? True, a bride being burnt for dowry usually has kerosene poured over her and that speeds it up. Also true, that in a riot when people try to kill humans that belong to the other caste / religion / tribe, they use petrol and the clothes that people wear are combustible. Which then brought me to the deeper question, to what extent does greed or hatred eat away at a human being that he/she can set fire to another human being and bear the acrid smell of burning flesh, and watch that person writhing in agony. The shock of the smell of the slight singeing of my hand still reverberates painfully in my head, how can anyone bear to watch another human being be burnt alive?

A recent Delanceyplace article I read titled ‘soldiers are reluctant to kill’, says “It is the simple and demonstrable fact that there is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. A resistance so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it.” It goes on to give evidence that “The weak link between the killing potential and the killing capability of units was the soldier. The simple fact is that when faced with a living, breathing opponent instead of a target, a significant majority of the soldiers revert to a posturing mode in which they fire over their enemy's heads."

If such is the case, then how do some people overcome that resistance to kill, especially if the other has done them no harm and their lives are not being threatened in any way? How and why are we able to overcome our innate goodness, bypass the ‘survival of the species’ instincts that Nature has hard-wired into us and turn ourselves into killing monsters? What is it that pushes us over the edge into murderous madness? Is there, like Freud suggested, a basement in our psyches where we tend to keep our socially-disapproved emotions suppressed but which occasionally thunder up through the trapdoor and overcome us?

No answers, just questions. And the final one - am I capable of this act of killing? What would it take me to tip over the edge? Would I be able to stop it?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Nary a discontented tree

I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!

~John Muir

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected ~ frequently humorous.

1. Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on my list.

3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right - only who is left..

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. They begin the evening news with 'Good Evening,' then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

10. Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations. On my desk is a work station.

11. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.

12. In filling out an application, where it says, 'In case of emergency, notify:' I put 'DOCTOR.'

13. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

17. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

18. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.

19. I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.

20. You're never too old to learn something stupid.

21. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

22. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

23. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Source : Email forward :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Yes, when? And why?

"In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?"

—Gabrielle Roth, dancer, musician and author

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Child sexual abuse

Second episode of Satyamev Jayate

Watch video here