Friday, May 31, 2013


"We are primed to use stories. Part of our survival as a species depended upon listening to the stories of our tribal elders as they shared parables and passed down their experience and the wisdom of those who went before. As we get older it is our short-term memory that fades rather than our long-term memory. Perhaps we have evolved like this so that we are able to tell the younger generation about the stories and experiences that have formed us which may be important to subsequent generations if they are to thrive."

How to Stay Sane: The Art of Revising your Inner Storytelling

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Feeling the world

"We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the goodbye kiss feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.

Mark Nepo in 'The Book of Awakening'

Presence, not praise

"Being present, whether with children, with friends, or even with oneself, is always hard work. But isn’t this attentiveness — the feeling that someone is trying to think about us — something we want more than praise?"



"What is supremely important is to be free from contradictions: the goal and the way must not be on different levels; life and light must not quarrel; behaviour must not betray belief. Call it honesty, integrity, wholeness; you must not go back, undo, uproot, abandon the conquered ground. Tenacity of purpose and honesty in pursuit will bring you to your goal."

Nisargadutta, 'I am That'


"The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together.

There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

Italo Calvino, 'Invisible Cities'

Actions, not words

From 'Don't Sleep, There are Snakes, Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle', by Daniel L.Everett. A fascinating account of his discovery of an intriguing language and the worldview it represents, among the happiest people he has ever met, people who smile, laugh and joke more than any community he has ever seen.

"One of the things about the Piraha that immediately fascinated me was the lack of what linguists call "phatic" communication - communication that primarily functions to maintain social and interpersonal channels, to recognize or stroke, as some refer to it, one's interlocutor.

Expressions like hello, goodbye, how are you?, I'm sorry, you're welcome, and thank you don't express or elicit new information about the world so much as they maintain goodwill and mutual respect. The Piraha culture does not require this kind of communication. Piraha sentences are either requests for information (questions), assertions of new information (declarations), or commands, by and large. There are no words for thanks,  I'm sorry, and so on.

...The expression of gratitude can come later, with a reciprocal gift, or some unexpected act of kindness, such as helping you carry something. The same goes when someone has done something offensive or hurtful. They have no words for "I'm sorry." They can say "I was bad", or some such, but do so rarely. The way to express penitence is not by words but by actions."

Page 11, 'Discovering the World of the Pirahas'

This passage also made me think of how I have rarely heard the words for "Thank you" and "Sorry" being used in our Indian languages, among close relatives or friends, especially when I was growing up, in the 70s and 80s. We did indeed believe that we need to reciprocate by actions, not words.

Somewhere along the way, are we substituting that with these easy words, moving on without taking the trouble to re-establish or re-affirm relationships by concrete acts of connection?

The birds don't alter space, they reveal it

Yes. At traffic signals, on a bike, you get to watch kites endlessly circling space, a gliding-peace-ritual that never fails to calm you. Kite meditation, available to us, for free, all day.

Praise Them

The birds don't alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
astonishment collects
in chill air. Be glad.

They equal their due
moment never begging,
and enter ours
without parting day. See
how three birds in a winter tree
make the tree barer.
Two fly away, and new rooms
open in December.

Give up what you guessed
about a whirring heart, the little
beaks and claws, their constant hunger.
We're the nervous ones.

If even one of our violent number
could be gentle
long enough that one of them
found it safe inside
our finally untroubled and untroubling gaze,
who wouldn't hear
what singing completes us?

Li-Young Lee, 'Book of My Nights'

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Not everything is lost

This is so completely my vision of happiness. This is what I live for. A real incident, from one of Naomi Shihab Nye's memoirs. Her father is Palestinian, her mother American.

"This is the world I want to live in.
The shared world.

Not everything is lost."

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well — one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used -
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her — southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag —
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers —
Non-alcoholic — and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American — ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands —
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate — once the crying of confusion stopped
— has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye

What We Want

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names--
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.

We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.

Linda Pastan,'Carnival Evening'


Brilliant fusion by the Auroville-based band Emergence, the Carnatic Classical blending in seamlessly!  The video is superb, this one has to be seen, as well as listened to.

Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower' by Emergence:

Emergence is a four member band from Auroville, Pondicherry, made up of Krishna Mckenzie (lead singer and guitarist), Mishko M’ba (bassist), Suresh Bascara (drums), and Karthick Srinivasan (violinist and vocalist). They’ve released two albums under record label Blue Frog.

Emergence Music:,

Music underlies language acquisition

“Spoken language is a special type of music,” said Anthony Brandt, co-author of a theory paper published online this month in the journal Frontiers in Cognitive Auditory Neuroscience. “Language is typically viewed as fundamental to human intelligence, and music is often treated as being dependent on or derived from language. But from a developmental perspective, we argue that music comes first and language arises from music.”

Theory: Music underlies language acquisition

Sunday, May 5, 2013


If I never see you again
I will always carry you

on my fingertips
and at brain edges

and in centers
of what I am of
what remains.

Charles Bukowski

Standing Deer

As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.

As the thoughts of a person
in age sometimes grow sparer,
like a great cleanness come into a room,
the soul may grow sparer;
one sparrow song carves it completely.
And still the room is full,
and still the heart.

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.

Jane Hirshfield, 'The Lives of the Heart'

Have you ever smelled old leaves?

"Let's talk about something else. Have you ever smelled old leaves? Don't they smell like cinnamon? Here. Smell."

"Why, yes, it is like cinnamon in a way."

She looked at him with her clear dark eyes. "You always seem shocked."

"It's just that I haven't had time......."


"Oh, they don't miss me," she said. "I'm antisocial, they say. I don't mix. It's so strange. I'm very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn't  it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this."


"Sometimes I sneak around and listen in subways. Or I listen at soda fountains, and do you know what?"


"People don't talk about anything."

"Oh, they must!"

"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else."

Page 28, 'Fahrenheit 451', Ray Bradbury

Blog Archive