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A Nonviolent Approach

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"Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from indomintable will."-Ganndhi

“Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from indomintable will.”-Gandhi

We all learn about the great nonviolent movements of historic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. How these movements changed history and persevered amidst opposition is eye opening.  The importance of these movements lies within the radical and defining changes they brought about in society.  Through nonviolent tactics both leaders produced prolific and resounding revolutions that we still refer to today.  However, despite being introduced to these movements early on we refuse to accept these teachings, no matter how peaceful and gentle we claim to be.

I wrote a paper on Martin Luther King Jr. when I was entering high school. It is difficult to learn about the history of America without learning about slavery.  It is hard not to see the effects Mahatma Gandhi had on the history of India and Great Britain.  The heights Gandhi’s activities reached are unparalleled and were noticed worldwide, but then what? We watch movies, read books, dwell on quotes, and praise these men, but this is all history; what does it matter now?

Learning about these movements teaches us how history was formed,

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

how revolutions were created without weapons, and the force of the multitude.  However there are some lessons that are not taught and less spoken of, lessons that reach far beyond history.  These lessons include how one man can change the world for millions, how a single belief can proliferate, and most importantly, the root of non-violence.

The root of nonviolence lies within us.  Most of us deny living violent lives; we don’t expend force upon anyone, we do not aggressively hit others, nor do we act out in ferocious behaviors. Although aggression, ferociousness, and force are very broad terms they all contain a seed of violence.  The seed of violence is planted within us at a very early age and is given adequate nourishment to grow into very bushy trees.

Each derogatory remark, criticism, and blame we place upon ourselves is a form of violence.  Starting in our early school years to when we start mimicking media: trying to get that perfect figure, getting that perfect grade, trying to perform that flawless routine; we begin pushing ourselves, slapping ourselves, and smothering ourselves.  Every time I fell in public I would call myself names and think I deserved punishment despite the fact that the fall was not really my fault.

The violence within us

The violence within us

Just as the saying goes ‘we are our company,’ we project onto others what we think and do to ourselves.  If our minds are negative, it only follows that we will become accustomed to repeating that negativity.  When we are in school most of us compare ourselves with others, and when this comparison doesn’t meet our expectation we tend to blame and find inexcusable fault with ourselves.

This is where violence begins.  When our minds become agitated and upset we inflict pain and misery upon ourselves. This pain can only be contained for a short period of time before we start projecting our internal state onto others.  When we lash out at others or share an insult with another what is it but a violent act?  Most of us equate violence with physical acts of hate, but words can hurt far more than knives.  If we know how to hate, punish, and sabotage ourselves it follows we will know how to do the same to others.

Violence is a societal phenomenon.  Violence is taught to us in schools, through the media, and via fraternities.  When I was I high school, college, and post grad school I used to pull all-nighters and stayed awake all day, all night, and all day again for the sake of a grade, scholastic learning, or official work; what is this if not violence to our bodies? My average day is 13 hours and when I run above 15 hours I start feeling achy and groggy. When I was in school I sat like a zombie if front of the computer until that 2nd kick came in at 21 hours. It is not the natural state of the body to stay awake for this long, but we feel the need to in order to feel good about ourselves, meet the deadline, or compete with others.

Through competition and comparisons, we are actually taught to commit heinous acts against ourselves, and to propel and amplify the hatred by putting ourselves down, criticizing ourselves, and doubting ourselves.  Violence, like other learned phenomenon is only as effective as the energy you put into it.  So although we are given the tools for violence at an early age, it is our continuous practice and involvement in the behavior that labels us violent creatures.

Unfortunately, we are violent beings; most of us won’t admit to it, but the torture we put ourselves through proves otherwise. Our internal monologue creates changes within our bodies and because our minds are so susceptible to subliminal messages and other forms of convincing propaganda our internal monologue creates damaging changes such as the rate of digestion, tense muscles within our body, or secretion of abnormal hormones.

Free yourself from the violence within you and bring peace to the world

Free yourself from the violence within you and bring peace to the world

The effects of violence are so pervasive so why not cut down on the violence and start leading more peaceful lives?  We watch the news and condemn the violence that we see around the world, but we neglect to see and acknowledge the violence within us.  If we are nicer to ourselves, the atmosphere of our minds will be reflected in our surroundings.

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The Need to Win

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Life is a game without winners or losers

Life is a game without winners or losers

Life is a maze. Life is a puzzle. Life is a game; but we generally forget we are just players not competitors. Have you ever played the game Life? It starts with an empty car and if we are lucky we add passengers to our car. Sometimes our car breaks down, sometimes we have to take a detour, and sometimes we get to move ahead 4 spaces, but all cars take the same route and eventually get to the same endpoint. Similarly, in life we experience setbacks, complications, and smooth sailing, but we are all on the same platform at different stages. However sometimes we forget that life is an experience with ups and downs, not a game with winners and losers.

I never considered myself competitive; as a child I was involved in the most competitive sports; gymnastics, soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball, roller blading, and track. Despite partaking in some very competition worthy activities and receiving a high school education from a prestigious preparatory institution which produces high achievers, I never felt the need to compete with others. Whether this disinclination was due to my youth, maturity, or disability I don’t know but while my peers learned to compete for the best [running] time, the most accurate goal, and the highest grade I began to compete with myself for these things and thus became a perfectionist.

the glories of winning

the glories of winning

The need to compete is inborn; it is that incessant voice in us that uses that word ‘than.’ In school, I had to earn a better grade than Joan; at the prom, it was ‘I am prettier than her.’ In whichever sphere, that troublesome word than puts unnecessary stress on outside circumstances. Whether we are playing a game, using social media, or performing daily activities, our mindset usually harbors on comparing ourselves thus competing with others.

When we compare ourselves with others we are putting our attention where it is not needed. The need to compare is instinctive as we are so immersed it competitiveness that we are not even able to censor our own thoughts from it. Our minds naturally start comparing when we see two girls: who is prettier, when we see two books: which is more interesting, when we see two grades: which is higher, when we see two swimmers: who has a better stroke, or when we see two puppies: which is cuter. Our minds are trained in this way, to see hierarchy and rank; this is one way our mind categorizes and organizes information, but it’s when we start subjectifying comparison and start molding it into competition does it start to affect our output and mindset.

When we start competing for the best hairdo, car, outfit or any other best we start losing the focus on ourselves and start putting the focus on outward experiences. I recently started playing the Spellathon with my

Spellathon

Spellathon

dad; trying to make a word out of seven jumbled letters. It interesting to note that when I play this game on my own I cannot seem to get it, but when I play with my dad the word seems to jump out at me. In this sense, competition can be constructive, but usually competition is a mindset that drives us to excel and be better that everyone else.

This mindset is engrained into us from early childhood when we are ranked by the best grade in class or the prettiest picture drawn. In 2nd grade when we were learning multiplication, every week we were given a timed test and the person who won was awarded. In high school, we competed for titles like Most Handsome or Most Likely to Succeed. When my senior poll came out, I was voted Friendliest and Sweetest, but even titles like this were popularity contests and ostentatiousness rather than merit.

From early childhood into adulthood we are thrust onto the field of competition. We compete for the best grade, the best dressed, the thinnest figure, the sleekest car, the best paying job and the list goes on. In school, on the sporting field, in the workplace, and in organizational settings we strive to be the best by scoring the most goals, being awarded for being the most productive, or being recognized for being the best dressed.

When we worry about being better than or the best we are expanding our attention and thoughts to others. This takes the focus and thus energy away from our own experience. When we compete we are trying to win and in most contexts this means thinking about others’ actions, reactions, and moves. When we compare, we focus on two or more characteristics, actions, or processes that we try to be better than.

Comparing is an effect of competition that affects our mindset, awareness, and consciousness. As we get older our inherent need to win decreases as our organized activities decrease, but this need prevents us from experiencing our individual journey fully. Everyone has their own path, their own purpose so why continue to compare apples to oranges? If you compete, compete with yourself. Strive to outdo yourself as it is futile to compete with someone else as they will have a different mindset, strengths, ideals, and knowledge.

The next time you find yourself comparing, striving to be better than, or outdoing another take a minute the think about why you need to be better. What will it give you, what will you gain, and how much effort are you putting into this interaction?

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What you see is what you get

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What you perceive is what's important

What you perceive is what’s important

People wish, want, and pray real hard for that ideal partner, that promotion at work, monetary success, or a better life, but we usually don’t get it.  Despite how much we think we want something, our actions, thoughts, and energies sometimes say something different.  We dream and wish for a partner with specific traits, but when we find them we question this reality.  I always dreamt of finding someone who would love me inspire of and despite my condition, and after coming across this person my suspicions pertaining to his sincerity, loyalty, and motive grow endlessly.  I got what I always wanted, but now that I got it I am thinking and sending energies and affirmations that contradict the very manifestation that I wanted.

If you continue to see the negative then that is what you will receive.  Pessimism is vicious cycle: no matter how much one wills or wants to receive and be part of something positive their pessimicity will always come in the way.  Many of us have wanted to change jobs, maybe even career paths at some point, but when that opportunity comes we second guess it either because of security, comfort, or disbelief. If you wake up at 8 every day with a grunt to go to a job that you could enjoy, but refuse to look past the hours you are putting in, the increasing workload, or to the monotonous tasks to what you are receiving, then the first reaction to everything will be a grunt.  Most jobs are roughly 9 hours hence it is important to be comfortable when we are there as it occupies more than half our day.  So if you chose to change jobs make sure it is not your perception and negativity forcing you on, but some other motivation.

Seeing an inadequate job will make that job inadequate. Once you convince your mind that your job is inadequate, your mind will reciprocate and only hone in on things that convince you that your job is inadequate.  When you constantly read about and see infidelity, your mind will take no extra time in raising suspicions and pointing out the negative qualities of your partner.   This is not to say that you should censor your mind, but if you constantly feed negativity to your mind that is what you will see and become.  Our minds are thus susceptible, but also influencable.

When your mind is positive, what you see will be positive.  Your mind controls the hue, emotion, and meaning of everything your eyes see. So even when we get what we want our minds can blur our vision so much so that it is construed as something we don’t want. Similarly,

When you can see the rainbow admist the rain, clouds, and dreariness that is what you'll get

When you can see the rainbow admist the rain, clouds, and dreariness that is what you’ll get

when we get something we don’t want our minds can construe it as something positive.  Negativity (pessimism, criticism, complaining etc.) narrows and blinds our minds whereas positivity (optimism, resourcefulness, happiness etc.) opens our minds to possibilities.

Getting what we want involves two things: first there needs to be active participation in attaining the item sought. This means that dreaming is not enough; we need to make a conscious effort towards attaining what we want. We can think about it, imagine what it would be like to have it, or act as though achieving it is inevitable.  Second, once the item is in our horizon of acquisition don’t question it. Unknowingly we question and contradict our own efforts and realizations when trying to make our dreams come true by disbelieving, being suspicious, or being afraid.

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What to expect when you are not expecting

Waiting in anticipation...
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Waiting in anticipation...

Waiting in anticipation…

Life often falls short of our expectations and as a result we are unhappy. When we set our minds on a certain outcome we are setting ourselves up for failure.  Every Saturday

I go out for lunch with me best gal pal; the one day of the week I get to feed my craving with a delectable warm fudge brownie topped with ice cream. So naturally I look forward to and expect to feed my sweet tooth while indulging in sweet company; hence I start waiting in anticipation for the day to come.  Here’s whats wrong: I am attaching unrealistic satisfaction with this event.  What happens when she or I cancel, if the food is not tasty, they are out of brownies, or she and I have an argument during the meal? There are so many variables I am hoping and praying go in my favor that my expectation for satisfaction is left to the mercy of unforeseen and uncontrollable variables.

Looking forward to something is good, healthy even, but it is when we start attaching expectations to those events that it becomrs problematic and not so healthy. If I simply looked forward to my weekly lunch date and had no expectation, I would not be attaching any emotion to event. I would simply be waiting for a date I will share lunch with that person; the moment I add expectation I start looking forward to the good company and the good food.

Adding expectation adds subjectivity to the event we are looking forward to.  Doing a cardiovascular workout for 20 minutes a day makes me feel more positive, more energetic and more agile. I have had this experience time and time again so I have started expecting to get this boost everytime I do cardio. But what happens when I can’t exercise or when I don’t get this boost from doing cardio? I will get disappointed because I have set a certain expectation that if I do this I will get that. If I simply look forward to exercising I would not necessarily get disappointed as I am not focused on the benefits I will be receiving.

These days meditation has become the new exercise fad. Everyone is talking about it and everyone either does it or wants to do it.  We hear of the benefits of meditation and expect that we will receive those same resilts.  Once we start expecting we begin focusing on the outcome rather than the meditation itself.  First, the results from meditation are individual and second and more importantly, focusing on the outcome  takes away from the results we are trying to achieve.  Expectation gets in the way of experience.  If you are so focused on the results you will miss the journey that brings you the results.  Moreover, if we do not get our anticipated results our spirits flounder.

When we focus on the expectation of the future, we miss the turn that leads to the present

When we focus on the expectation of the future, we miss the turn that leads to the present

Once we learn how to subtact expectation from looking forward to events we can be in control of our own happininess, mood, peace that much more.  We will learn how to appreciate the journey, we will allow ouselves to enjoy the experience, and we will be happier when we do get the results.  Looking forward to something rather than expecting it spares us the possible and probable negative emotion we will inflict on ourselves.

When you allow yourself to expect something you are setting a standard that you believe will be met, if it is not met there is a disappointment that naturally arises.  As our bodies experience disappointment we undergoe psychosomatic changes that may promote aches, immune dysfunctionality, and  decreased activity.  Disappointment can be externalized as when we get angry at others for falling short of our expectation or internalized, as when we become frusterated with ourselves for not performing up to par. In both cases we are allowing external stimuli to create agitation within our bodies.  When a student expects to get the A he is already setting that benchmark, when he looks forward to it he will study hard to achieve it.  When a kid conveys sickness they expect to be excused from physical chores, when they are given other responsibilities they may become disappointed.  When a child expects an after school snack to be ready for him, he will be displeased when it is not there.

Trying to lower our expectations in life will make for a more stress- free life.  Expectations lead to unnecessary disappointment which it turn propogates negative emotions such as anger, frusteration, and sadness.

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When the World becomes a More Inviting Place

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Knock. knock. The world wants to play with you

Knock. knock. The world wants to play with you

All of us have been annoyed with the proceedings of our lives, at one point or another.  Some more than others, but we all feel like helpless victims at some point.  We are slaves of karma, servants to our children, and robots in a commercialized culture; sometimes we just want to break free and do what we want when we want.  When I was in law school there was a shirt that I used to wear very frequently because it was comfortable. One day while I was waiting for class to begin, I read the outside tag of the shirt; it said ‘Do what you like and like what you do.’ I was thrilled at reading this, for two reasons: I practice this philosophy and I was wearing/ showcasing this enlightening slogan, which made me cool by default.   This eloquent yet simple phrase is a philosophy to live by; we spend 75% of our lives working, and if we actually enjoy what we do rather than working to meet an ends, we will find ourselves in a much happier

People who are passionate about what they do everyday have less of a chance to greet the morning in a grumpy state.  If you enjoy what you do, where you go, and what you are working on your body and mind will have less of a reason to be negative.  When I went to work I would wake every morning enthused.  My mind didn’t find excuses to delay going to work such as oversleeping or a phantom ache.  Of course work comes with stress and other issues that can create negativity, but enjoying what you do means not forcing your mind and body to be in a place it doesn’t want to. As children we make a face and mope when told to do something we do not want to: our bodies will lag and our minds will start searching for excuses. As adults, we understand responsibilities, so feel compelled to force our minds and bodies, but our bodies still start to lag (ulcers and other disorders) and our mind tries to find excuses (making unintentional mistakes).

Why do children seem to be in a happier state than adults? Yes, they have their parents to worry and take tension for them; but more it’s than that.  Children are not bound by the responsibilities and restrictions adult learn to adopt. Children do what they want regardless of etiquette or consequences.  For example I wanted to watch a movie that would’ve ended at 1 AM the other night but weighed the cost and immediately reconsidered; had a child wanted to watch that same movie they would have regardless of the repercussions i.e. late for school, less sleep and would have dealt with them as they came. I ended up regretting not watching the movie the next day. If we do something we enjoy, we can save the extra energy our bodies and minds use to engage in tasks that they do not want to.

This way to a more delightful journey

This way to a more delightful journey

Finding a profession that we are passionate about is not an easy task. After all, we don’t learn passion, we emote passion. In this culture, the ultimate aim is a higher paycheck, not the simple feel good job.  However, every job can elicit some passion if we can change our perspective:

  • Instead of complaining about the hours, responsibilities, coworkers, etc. take a more active role and try owning some aspect of your responsibility; bring your initiative, creativity, and think of ways to enhance whatever it is that you do
  • If you think it is a practice run for the promotion, you will shine harder.
  • Every job is a learning experience; somewhere, somehow we pick up a few tricks of the trade
  • It is our prescribed duty and we will be graded on how dutifully it is carried out.

So go into work with a smile instead of a frown.  Don’t go in with anticipations and expectations. Change your perspective and let the prospects change for you.

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