For those who are not aware, on Friday, March 20, 2015, a total solar eclipse occurred between 5:45 am (EDT) and 7:50 am (EDT). I was extremely lucky to watch this live celestial event on the Slooh Community Observatory network as it happened. They had a live feed from the Faroe Islands but due to the clouds playing their game of hide and seek, the visibility was not apparent. However, using their partner networks and courtesy of NRK news, Slooh was able to broadcast an entire 3 hour event from Svalbard.
It was the most moving, emotional and wonderful experience of my life. So if you need some help practicing silence, here I share with you an approximate five minute experience of what happens in the galaxy. You cannot help but be affected by this. The music is not there for a reason and I hope that they don’t add it in the editing process. You will see the beauty and enjoy the silence of the galaxy as it goes through a transitional period. So please take a look at the Total Solar Eclipse in Svalabard 2015.
The small bead like structures that you see during totality in red and purple are called Bailey’s Beads. After the moon starts moving away, there is a Diamond Ring Effect. Ladies, hide your engagement and wedding rings, because this celestial event will put all diamonds on earth to shame!
Try practicing your five minutes while watching the Total Eclipse of 2015 on the Spring Equinox!
This week I have been thinking a lot about silence and how it gives rise to a peace within. According to the Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary who lived most of her life in India, Mother Teresa has sublimely stated the following, “In silence, we will find new energy and true unity. Silence gives us a new outlook on everything. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” If you would like to read further, I have included excerpts of her book In the Heart of the World (Copyright 1997) by New World Library where she writes about the silence of the eyes, ears, tongue, heart and mind.
As she further elaborates, silence is found in nature, where trees, flowers and grass grow in silence while the stars, sun and the moon move in silence. This universe that is eons and ages older than us regenerates and retracts in silence. Human civilization has been in existence for approximately 12,000 years considering the Neolithic Revolution as the start of human culture towards agriculture and settlements. We believe that since we are so progressive and advanced that we know better, we know everything and we have all the answers. However, the age of the earth and the universe are approximately 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years and 13.798±0.037 billion years respectively. So shouldn’t we give some credit to what the earth or the universe might be telling us. How do we listen to these entities that try to sustain us and work in our benefit? The answer is to practice silence.
In silence, you will see the solutions to problems that have been plaguing you for a while. In silence, you will hear the voice that has been trying to tell you what is best for you. In silence, you will feel the energy and the positive vibrations move through you. In silence, your speech will finally take rest so that your thought process can take over. In silence, you will finally touch your own soul and those of others. The unity of your senses, to your mind and heart will be felt as you practice silence.
And guess what, it is not that hard to practice. The best thing to do is to take five minutes out of your busy 24 hour day to remain in silence. This doesn’t just mean that you stop speaking. It means silence in your movement, in your surroundings, in your thoughts and to start actively listening. It is best to practice silence either in the morning so that your day improves many folds OR to practice silence at night as you go to sleep as it works as a form of meditation yielding peace. So to practice silence, find a quiet place anywhere; turn off your phones, computers, televisions, radios and other distractions. That’s it, you are practicing silence. Let your thoughts come but don’t react. Don’t say anything or move, just be in this stillness. Once you start, you will be addicted and you will move on to longer periods.
The acoustic ecologist, Gordon W. Hempton who records the steadily vanishing natural soundscapes says, “Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything.” When you practice this form of silence, you will finally hear, feel, see or touch what was present for you all the time but in the noise found in your environment inside and outside, you could not make sense of it or could not experience it.
As we start the new week, March 16 to 22, 2015 is Brain Awareness Week (BAW). It is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. By practicing silence, each of us will be contributing to this wonderful campaign and important research as we will realize the full power and potential of our minds and hearts.
On this auspicious day of Holi, the Indian Spring festival of colours and love, the 14th and current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso has inspired me to write about compassion. The Dalai Lama has beautifully stated, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
All of us discuss compassion but what does it truly mean? Per Webster Merriam, the full definition of compassion is the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it OR in simple terms a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry or in trouble. In this era of consumption and fear, we have chosen financial and technological progress over humanity. However, there are many people out in the world practicing compassion otherwise we would not be a planet of close to 7 billion. So we should take pride that as a collective group we are practicing some form of compassion.
However, there is more work to be done. As the Benedictine nun, author and speaker Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B succinctly says, “Serving others with love and passion is compassion.” We can easily adapt this principle in our lives. It can be as simple as thinking that the work we do eight hours a day is not a chore or a burden but that we are making a significant contribution to improving the lives of many in terms of technological means, in the health field, in finance and other such areas. Once we consciously acknowledge this phenomena, we will automatically stand up against the ill treatment of others and injustices that we observe. As contributing members of society, you will be a voice for those who do not have a voice or means to be heard. Wouldn’t that feel great?
Why do we just have to extend our compassion towards our fellow humans? Lets elaborate and stretch further. Nature has always practiced compassion towards humans. For example, we might all be sick of the snow in the East Coast of Canada and the US but we easily forget that without that snow we might be victims of drought and water shortages in the summer. Let’s outstretch our compassion to the animals that are endangered, the forests that are being destroyed, our planet that sustains us and this universe where we are nothing but a mere speck of dust when the vastness of it is considered. It is our turn and time to practice compassion to nature, the environment and the many galaxies.
Compassion should not be mistaken with sympathy because in sympathy we just feel and victimize the opposite party. There is no action in sympathy but compassion consciously allows you to relate with the other entity in order to help. To practice compassion, all one has to do is change their mindset. Changing this mindset in turn will allow you to be happy and make others happy. You will see the world differently and it won’t be a pessimistic outlook. This compassion will allow you to see and enjoy the beauty around and beyond you in this world. You will appreciate yourself and others more. If being happy can be this easy to practice, shouldn’t compassion be a necessity for all of us?
So as we quickly approach International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8, 2015 where the theme is “Make it Happen”. Let’s make compassion happen in our sphere and domain of action, interest and knowledge.
Hope is such a complex feeling and belief. Per Merriam-Webster dictionary, hope as a verb means the want of something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true. Hope as a noun is the the chance that something good will happen and/or someone or something that may be able to provide help. As the month comes to an end, two wonderful human beings have inspired me this week to help figure out this complicated and intricate concept of hope.
The late President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist said, “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
I believe the Greek Mythology, Pandora’s Box explains Nelson Mandela’s statement very well. Pandora was the first woman on earth who was extremely privileged and was endowed with many gifts from the Greek Gods. As a wedding gift, Zeus gave Pandora a beautiful jar (we think it is was box, but it wasn’t) with instructions to never open the jar under any circumstances. Of course, as humans we always want to do what is restricted and therefore Pandora opened her jar. The consequences of her actions caused all the evil from the jar to be released on earth. Pandora did try to close the jar but was unsuccessful. Disheartened she hears a small voice from the jar, fearfully she looks inside to find a small fairy like spirit named Elpis. Elpis consoles Pandora that upon her release into the world the suffering inflicted by the evils will be lessened in the expectation that she will bring forth. Pandora was astonished as she had seen the huge forms and wickedness of the evils. In comparison, Elpis had a small stature and was demure. Pandora thought how can this sweet being combat these evils? However, Elpis assures Pandora not to be fooled by her size because it is through compassion and suffering that she will grow strong. With these last wise words, Elpis departs into the world to do her best to fight evil.
As we reflect back on history and the struggles of human beings through the ages, we see this principle of hope. Situations and circumstances can seem so bleak and detrimental but as a race we move forward through love, compassion and understanding to advance in the face of difficulty and rise above that oppression. It is vitally important to remember that we might be entering the tunnel of darkness but there is that glimmer of light at the end. That truly is HOPE and it stems from hardships but makes you courageous and fearless.
This second enlightened individual then added to the concept further. He is the late leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was an American Baptist Minister, an activist and a humanitarian. He has stated that,”We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
That is the beauty of this emotion. While facing a situation we might fail and it might take a long time to attain success, however, as long as all of us, as individuals have HOPE, we will get to the “promise land.” I am not saying that it is easy, it is a difficult road paved with potholes, boulders, thorns and barricades. However, potholes can be repaired with education and awareness; boulders can be removed with team work and patience; thorns can be picked out with compassion and love while barricades can be broken down with understanding and actions.
Taking into account human suffering, compassion, kindness and hope, on every February 28th for the past eight years, EURORDIS in partnership with 84 countries (Canada was one of the first members!) marks the observance of International Rare Disease Day. There are approximately 6,000 rare diseases for which there are no proper cures and millions of individuals around the world are affected. However, by planning and participating in awareness raising activities across the globe these partners have the hope for success with the slogan “Day-by Day, Hand-in-Hand.”
So, regardless of how small that hope maybe, it is our responsibility as a race to keep it alive and burning. Every individual is really that powerful and can inspire many others. Lets make the pledge to ourselves and others that we will never lose hope as it is our only saviour.
The title of this post was inspired by the South African social rights activist and retired Anglican Bishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu who was a staunch opponent of apartheid. He has elegantly stated the following,”Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” How beautifully simple in terms of a sentence but how incredibly deep when giving it further thought.
In today’s day and age, we are bombarded with images of suffering and hopelessness all over the world especially when we watch the news everyday. Guilt and fear make their home in ourselves as we absorb this knowledge through print or visual media. As altruistic and helpful beings, we rush to judgement about governments, organizations and key opinion leaders who should do more and make a difference to bring change to those lives and situations.
However, we forget the difference that we can make within cities where we reside, communities where we live, work places where we spend most of our time, schools attended by our children, neighbourhoods that provide a safe haven and finally our homes. As individuals we have the strength to impact strangers, colleagues, neighbours, loved ones, friends, relatives, family and ourselves the most. Once we start focusing on the immediate and take responsibility and pride in our area we will see our outlook and attitudes change for the best. Moreover, as we decide to volunteer our time and help others around us not only do we feel good for giving but also view ourselves as a valuable and contributing entity of society.
Giving your time and to help someone does not have to be something huge. It can be something like having a few kind words with your neighbour, spending time with your children, planting a tree, volunteering for an organization supported by your work and many more such activities. Do something you love so that the impact you create is meaningful to you.
Making a difference is similar to growing a beautiful healthy tree. The seed is you as the individual. As it grows, the good deeds that you conduct manifests itself as the trunk of the tree that expands as you do more selfless acts and give of your time. The branches on the tree symbolize the people you affect, so a healthy tree has many branches. Each branch has many green leaves representing the individual good works of the people that you affected. As the tree grows and flourishes, it bears flowers and fruit, this marks the result of your collective deeds together. Now think about the amount of time that a tree needs to take form from a seed. It might just be that it will be some time until one sees the results but when it happens, so many of us will benefit from those good acts down the road. Many of those beneficiaries are probably not on this earth yet. In addition, each individual that you affect is also adding their own tree to make a grove.
Of course, you and your fellow comrades will reap benefits of your time and efforts but maybe the result won’t be immediate nor would it be huge. Remember though, it is the small bits of good that overwhelm the world! With your one selfless act and kind word, you are influencing your community and your living space. As we move towards celebrating the World Day of Social Justice (February 20), let’s aid our vicinity to thrive, prosper and succeed.
The above quote from American author and poet Maya Angelou has inspired me to start this blog. As we are about to begin the International Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 9-15, 2015), I thought what better way to provide kindness not only to myself but to others by explaining what the above quote by Dr. Angelou (as she liked to be called) means to me.
Timidity means “to fear” and is often the cause of the fear that we experience. In this day and age where independence and ambition are heavily touted and promoted, we are discouraged from showing any vulnerability. We are not allowed to show our fears, weaknesses or anxieties. Also, if we do admit to these occurrences, we are told to deal with them. These emotions are so overwhelming that dealing with the entire issue can lead to an individual’s downfall and detriment.
Instead, let’s take a very small step to deal and “fight” the timidity. For example, if a person is afraid to speak in public, let them at least present for five minutes in front of their best friend. This will give the individual the courage to be able to present in front of five people, moving up to ten and so on. We are just told in general terms that there is nothing to fear, everything is going to be alright and/or we should face our fears. However, it might be helpful to provide us with some instances or tips on how to start and accomplish this process. The small step of combating timidity will prepare you for fighting the huge battle against your fear.
One of the smallest but yet biggest impact that you can create is to admit to yourself that you are afraid of something. That will release you from your own destructive thought process and feelings. Be vulnerable and open with yourself. Once you do that, you can open up to others about your timidity. Believe me, your sharing will alleviate the other person’s worry and it will free you from your own imprisonment. Don’t discount the impact that you will have on another person and in turn they will have on you when you share your anxieties. There is no shame in that.
In the inertial reference frame, Newton’s first law of motion states, “A body in rest stays in rest.” This is true for humans as well in terms of their emotional well being. Useless inertia makes you heavy and keeps you at rest. This will lead to further fearfulness and anxiety. We have to rise above this inertia. Expanding this law further, “The body will stay in rest unless an external force acts upon it.” For the heaviness to fade and disappear, a good external force is our ability to share our concerns and issues with individuals that we love and trust. Your support system will accept, love and understand you without any questions and will act as the external force that you require to step out of your timidity. No one should suffer in silence. Take the first step to talk and share.
These first steps can be something very small like smile at yourself as you look in the mirror, smile at a stranger, get out of the house, go for a walk, greet someone you don’t know or take the first step to do something that you have been afraid to do. That one act of kindness and courage that you are showing will just make someone else’s day. But you will never know, until you try it.
So as we start this week performing random acts of kindness, lets take an oath to be kind to ourselves first. This should not just be for a week but forever. Let’s rise above this timidity that leads towards darkness and this useless inertia that causes heaviness. Let’s take that first step of courage and motion towards happiness and light so that we realize our fullest potential as human beings.