Where There Are Many More Losers, Very Few Winners

Corporate Pyramid by Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash 180613

The Pyramid Game: Very Few Winners (Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash)

By Jayant Kalawar

Most of us are driven to act by desires much of the time. And by fears some of the time. Some mix of the two most of the time. Sometimes we act out of habit. We have an inertia about changing how we act. Even when the driving desires and fears are no longer in us. Today I am going to talk about some consequences of acting in situations when desires do not give expected results.

Many of us have the desire to acquire and maintain a certain social status. That social status requires income, assets, acquiring of objects such as houses and cars and jewelry and clothes and college degrees. Many ands can be added. Career is one way of getting social status in the corporate (and remembers it’s only a little over a hundred years old!). The career structure is a pyramid. So people compete fiercely to get to the next level on the pyramid. It’s like playing musical chairs.

When someone else gets ahead in the pyramid, some of us feel that it was unfair. They did not get a fair shake. Those who got ahead were from the ‘in-group’. The others were favored. And so on. Factually it is likely that all that is true. When the desire to get ahead in the pyramid gets doused, many of us feel frustrated. Most of us reach this stage somewhere in their 40s and 50s. After all it is a pyramid. Only a few people can get to the top. We begin to see a few of our class mates and colleagues soar. And you know from way back that you are better than them. The frustration sometimes begins to boil over to resentment.

Getting resentful about not being able to get ahead on the career and social status pyramid sets the stage for some not very sensible actions. Such actions, born out of frustration, have consequences.

These not very sensible actions may show up as objections and snide remarks at meetings. Negative water-cooler talk is another vent. It may show up in a more passive aggressive way – in the form of internal corporate survey responses for example. We may assume those survey responses are indeed confidential and not shared. Most internal corporate surveys may be assumed to be used as barometers of where an individual is in terms of being a team player. So survey responses used for venting may have negative consequences. Perceptions in HR and senior management may turn negative. A venting team member cannot be relied upon as much.

So what can we do? Life is not fair. We learned that in kindergarten. We keep forgetting it. The odds are stacked against us, all of us, as we go up each rung in the pyramid. Those of us who are lucky, and much of it may be just luck, to get to the next rung, begin to think we are really good and better than those who did not make it there. We begin to think life is fair, so we made it there! Then when we cannot make it to the next higher rung, we are suddenly shocked that life is not fair.

So what can we do? The pyramid game is a finite game. There are many many more losers and very few winners in that game. Switch to playing the infinite game. The cosmos is infinite. We live and act in a microcosm of that cosmos. The microcosm has everything that the cosmos has. Remember the first verse of the Isha Upanishad:

Purnam-adah Purnam-idam, PurnAt Purna-mudachyate,

Purnasya Purnam-Adaya, PurnamevA Vashishyate

The switch from playing the finite pyramid game to the infinite game takes a cognitive shift within ourselves. Deconstruction out of the pyramid game to resonating with the cosmos.

So that we may begin hear the birds sing and flowers bloom, and notice the waxing and waning of the Moon.

Live to the rhythms of the universal clock within us, to sync with the cosmic cycles all around us.

And yes, it is very hard work to get there. But some of us may feel it will indeed work to get us there.

Are you one of those few?

(c) 21BanyanTree and Jayant Kalawar

Two Birds on the Tree of Life

Two Birds on the Tree of Life - allan godfrey 180429

Two Birds on the Tree of Life (Photo by Alan Godfrey on Unsplash)

By Jayant Kalawar

Many of you may know about the metaphor used in the Upanishads. Of the two birds on the tree of life.

It is a way of deconstructing ourselves, to become aware of how we function in this world.

We are the two birds. The tree of life is the cosmos we perch on.

One of the birds is the eater bird. The other is the observer bird.

The eater bird has desires and it has fears to match its desires. It desires to eat the fruits it sees on the cosmic tree. It starts by eating what is nearest to it. Then its appetite increases and it hops to other branches. Higher branches, with apparently big juicy fruit. We start by only wanting to eat, be just about warm and to sleep. Then we want to have fun. Then we want to have social status: more food, more house, more car, more degrees, more fashion statements, more show-off. Many of us want to have children. We want them to maintain and increase our social status. We do this every day and night. We are either nibbling or grasping off the cosmic tree or we are plotting and planning how to eat more and more.

The eater bird starts triggering its fears as soon as it starts desiring. What if I do not get to the fruit. What if some other eater bird grabs the fruit before I can eat it all. What if there is no more fruit on the branch I am on. What if I cannot jump to the higher branches. What if other eater birds knock me off this branch. What if they do not let me get on to another branch. What if. What if.

Those are the fears we carry with us all the time. Free floating anxieties. Many times those fears come true. It is an uncertain world out there. We, as eater birds, have very little control. We may deceive ourselves to believe that we are in control of some part of some fruit. We know we are not in control. And it reinforces our anxieties.

Many of us hear inner voices sagely telling us to stick to what we know. In our comfort zones. Those voices are our fears talking to us. They are telling us how to manage our fears down and make the most of the fruits in hand. We give it fancy names. Managing risks down. Maximizing returns. We feel good that we are sophisticated and modern. We are eater birds on the cosmic tree. Eating fruit we do not own. On which we have very little control on.

And then hopping along with the eater bird part is the observer bird. Always there, besides us. If only we were to look. It is that part of us which has an understanding of the nature of the cosmos and our part in it. When we connect and immerse ourselves in the observer bird part of us, we may be able to calm down our desires. As our desires become minimal, so do our fears. When our fears become minimal, we can sleep better. We are more energized with less.

There are primal desires that never go away. We manifest in this physical body. It comes with the desire to survive. And the other desire most of us come with is the one to procreate. So while we may be able to minimize material and social desires at a personal level, these primal desires of the eater bird need a culture that helps manage these primal desires to a minimal level, without being violent with each other. That is where the personal become social.

The cultural fabric seems to be collapsing in slow motion around us, as science and technology of the material becomes our master, ruling how we live and connect with each other under the guise of Reason. We seem to be slowly but surely becoming even more disconnected from the observer bird part of us.

The challenge is not just at a personal level. It is even more so at a social level. And it is global. Start with a contemplation: what will the world be like to really act out that we desire minimally and flourish as observers of the cosmos. Step back, from time to time, from being an eater bird, and be the part that is naturally you: the quiet observer.

Have a great week.

© 21BanyanTree.com and Jayant Kalawar

Energy Boost from the Sun in Aries: April 14th to May 15th 2018

Sun in Aries 2018 Photo by Tanishq Tiwari on Unsplash

Glow in the High Energy of Sun in Aries (Photo by Tanishq Tiwari on Unsplash)

By Jayant Kalawar

When the Sun transits through Aries between mid-April and mid-May, most of us sense a boost of energy in different areas of life, depending on your ascendant birth sign (using sidereal, not tropical zodiac). If you are in touch with your energy flows through your inner work, this is something you will sense. You will be able to channel this burst of energy appropriately to heal yourself and others around you.

This year though, Mercury is still hanging around in Pisces (where it has been going back and forth since early March) and will be there until May 9th. Mercury in Pisces makes for generally less than effective communications for most of us. This is exacerbated for Aries (may cause some losses, increased expenses), Libra (mis-communications may lead to disputes) and Leo (may cause challenges in career and social status). Those situations may likely be resolved after May 9th.

Also, there will be one other major movement in the next few weeks. Mars will be moving into Capricorn on May 3rd and will be hanging its hat there until November 6th. In Capricorn Mars is energized and is generally positive for most signs, provided we channel its energies appropriately (so Leo ascendants may sense great energy flows which make them competitive at work and help win in disputes. Make sure to manage it with the long run in mind, not just the short run wins i.e. do not burn bridges for immediate applause, bring people along with you). This year Mars will be heading into rather rough astro weather in the June-July time frame, with the Moon’s orbit disturbing the Sun-Earth gravitational field (yes the July solar and lunar eclipses are just one measure of this disturbance). Mars energies will be weakened considerably. Many of us are likely to feel the stress of this sudden drop in energy levels in different ways. Those with Gemini, Leo and Aquarius ascendants need to be especially aware: prioritize and focus to conserve energies, to get through positively in the June-July period. I may write more about this next month.

To end on a positive note, currently, between April 13th to 20th, there is a Venus-Jupiter alignment going on, which is giving positive energies to many of us. May be a nice time to enjoy art and culture (Venus) and a general sense of well-being, blessed by expansive energies of Jupiter.

(c) Jayant Kalawar and 21BanyanTree.com

Sigh of Relief: Venus Transited into Aquarius February 6th 2018

Venus Crossed into Aquarius February 6th 2018 - Can Be Seen in low in the Evening Sky

Venus Transited into Aquarius February 6th 2018 – Can be seen in the evening sky (Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash)

by Jayant Kalawar

You may have read about Astro Weather happening between January 27th and February 10th.

The first part of the weather happened between January 27th and 31st 2018: when Venus’s connection to Earth went through the nodal agitation zone, which I explained in the linked article.

Many of you may have experienced this disturbance in your personal lives during the last week of January 2018. Spouses and partners getting very upset. Not being able to enjoy aesthetics or luxuries.  Generally a time when expression of romance seems to be behind the clouds.

In the news in late January 2018, FLOTUS was shown to be unhappy with POTUS. Did not show up in Davos. Travelled to SOTU address separately and apparently did not applaud as heartily as others. That may be a more public indication of Venus being disturbed. Privately, many of us, especially the sensitive among us, would have likely experienced some sort of Venus related disturbance in that week.

Today (February 6th), Venus moved into Aquarius, far away from the disturbed zone. Most of us may expect relatively better vibes in your spousal / partner interactions (except for Cancer, Virgo and Pisces ascendants, for whom Venus energy may give some low level stress over next 3 weeks, but easily manageable).

Between February 1st and February 5th, Earth’s connection with the Sun went through the nodal agitation zone. Leadership / authority roles may likely be challenged more than usual. Many of us play leadership / authority roles in some areas of life. Parents, for example, have this role when it comes to children. Many of us find ourselves being supervisors of a team, if not big bosses, at work. Expect to get surprising push backs in those authoritative / leadership roles that you take on in your lives, however limited the roles may be.

Mecury-Earth connection will go through the nodal agitation zone between February 7th and 10th. In general, expect misunderstandings due to miscommunications and re-check your spreadsheet work during these four days. Those of you blessed with having Gemini, Leo and Aquarius ascendants may see passing but sudden disturbance in home / house matters (Gemini), career /professional matters (Leo) and general obstructions in whatever they are attempting to achieve (Aquarius).

Want to know more about this? Check out our Services page and contact us.

(c)21BanyanTree and Jayant Kalawar

Delicious Desire: Making Sense of the ‘Nutella Riots’ in France

Hazelnut Nutella Riots

Delicious Desire (Source: Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash)

On the morning of January 26th 2018, BBC News reported rioting after a chain of supermarkets in France announced a deep discount on Nutella:

A discount on Nutella has led to violent scenes in a chain of French supermarkets, as shoppers jostled to grab a bargain on the sweet spread.Intermarché supermarkets offered a 70% discount on Nutella, bringing the price down from €4.50 (£3.90) to €1.40.But police were called when people began fighting and pushing one another.”They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand,” one customer told French media.

It was surprising to read of this behavior in a country that is extolled worldwide for its superior cuisine, wines and desserts, not to mention a culture that is based on acting out the principles of civilized, secular science. The video, embedded in the news, shows healthy, well dressed and not starving individuals of Northern European extraction, (not newly arrived unwashed immigrants), who came to blows over the price of a processed food like Nutella.

In this instance, we can rule out desire arising out of biological hunger as a driver. Also, an attachment to tradition and heritage as a dynamic, was not in play here. Addiction to sugar and chocolate? Perhaps, especially when it is deeply discounted by 70%.   This may well be the trope for the 21st century consumer, programmed as we are by advertising and marketing memes to look for discounts and consume brand name processed foods, that make us acquire desires in the current socio-cultural milieu.

Desires and Fears

At any moment, our actions are driven by a combination of our personal desires and fears that are constantly interacting with the fears and desires of others around us.  In the microcosm, as we saw in the Nutella ‘riots’, desires play out as acquiring a commercially processed food at a low cost, on one hand, with the fear of losing out on the deep discount, on the other,

Then, there is the ladder of fall, when apparently civilized adult humans lose their capacity for judgement.   Modern biology tells us that humans use their forebrain to make judgements, and the capacity to make sound judgements kicks in fully by the age of 26. If this is true and the Nutella ‘rioters’ were, from the video, apparently much older, what went askew with their judgement capacity?

The Downward Spiral

My ancient tradition tells me that when desires are not met, we lose the capacity of judgement. The ladder of fall is described in these following steps:

  • When our energies attach themselves to an object that identifies our well-being, the desire arises to acquire, control and consume that object [Nutella].
  • When these desires are not met as expected (more on expectations in a later blog post), it leads to frustration [not getting our hands on the deeply discounted Nutella].
  • Frustration [of desire being unfulfilled] leads to anger.
  • Anger leads to loss of judgement [apparent loss of access to forebrain capability].
  • Loss of judgement leads to violence. This was in ample evidence in the video in the linked article.

What we see, in the relatively less hurtful and harmful microcosm of the ‘Nutella riots’, can happen to any of us individually, and amplified into group dynamics: desires not met to our expectations, rising frustration not resolved, mounting anger looking for action, culminating in indiscriminate violence and hurt.

Does this feel familiar to you, in your immediate surroundings and in the country you are living in, as well?

(Some of you may have recognized that I am referencing the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 2, verses 62-63, when I reference the downward spiral from my ancient traditions above).

 

 

Navigating Ambiguity and Uncertainty in 2018 and Beyond

DEVI IN MEDITATION (c) ANUVA KALAWAR December 2018

Devi in Meditation (c) Anuva Kalawar December 2018

Coming as I do from a deep and strong tradition of connecting with the Devi through contemplation, chanting and meditation, I use the lens of the ‘pre-modern’ to view the rational modern social and economic world I inhabit. This enables me to come up with different ways to navigate ambiguity and uncertainty than what can be found in the box of modernity.

The conceit of modernity dates to the publishing of The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes in the mid- 1600s. Modern man or woman began to see him/herself as rational and, thus, more mature. Structured, deductive thinking was given higher value and became the core of what is known as the European Enlightenment. One of the central tenets of this philosophical framework is that nature is dead, inert, and lacking of any spirit and, therefore, the Modern man and woman can dominate and exploit it without regard to consequences.  The consequence of this philosophy is the modernity paradigm that has produced the capital intensive carbon-based economy we now live in.

The academic and scientific establishment arising out of the European Enlightenment framework have further broadened and deepened the social construct of Hobbes to reach every nook and cranny of our lives. One organic outcome of this framework is the assembly line processes of education with its increasingly singular focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). It has also influenced the approach to health care based on the view that our bodies are part of nature, hence inert. Emotions and intellect are to be seen as arising out of the organic cellular interactions. Increasingly nature of human agency came to be suspect: it was seen as an extension of the material.

The modern individual in the 21st century is programmed to see themselves and the world around them in a particular rational manner: to look for cause-effect processes, and wait for confirmation from academics and scientists to tell them what those are.   Individuals acting on any memes without the blessings of science and academia are considered pre-modern and superstitious – even child-like and dangerous

Reliance on academia or science has made us less and less equipped to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty.  Our individual agency has gradually been eroded and outsourced to a scientific establishment that has often been found to be hand-in-glove with big business.

Modern rationality structures time and space through contracts. It teaches us that everything has to be a time and cost bound contract, whether it is written or verbal. These ubiquitous social contracts began with the one that Hobbes proposed in mid-17th century, as the basis for the modern national legal framework. The expected outcomes of these social contracts have become our portfolio of desires and fears.

Social contracts drive our actions, and when they fail our expectations of these outcomes fail.  Desires related to the expectations from the social contract collapse and fears take over as we increasingly find ourselves face to face with uncertainty and ambiguity. We are less and less equipped to deal with areas of life that have less obvious rational structure.  And as the fragile framework of modern rationality buckles under us, both adults and youth are left traumatized.

For adults, such break down of social contracts may arise from loss of spouse, children, jobs, homes, cars are outcomes of events where major social contracts have collapsed at our personal level. These are the big traumas many adults face, as they wander into uncertainty and ambiguity, as the fragile framework of modern rationality buckles under them.

Besides major social contracts, we engage in the myriad daily mini-social contracts. One of these unending contracts is STEM education which allows for tracing of performance on a daily basis and provides outcomes in grades. Failures are inbuilt into the processes which implement such contractual system. The individual student who is at the receiving end of outcomes of STEM contracts is (irrationally) blamed for the failed outcomes by the rationally constructed structures. Because the rational STEM educational process itself is too narrowly programmed, just like old-fashioned computer code. It does not have a way to deal with the inbuilt failure points in its delivery system. The result is many students in the modern educational students may end up seeing themselves as failures.

How did this state of affairs arise in a framework that promises individual liberty and pursuit of happiness?

Techno-Optimism to the Rescue

The ‘software will eat the world’ meme expressed by Marc Andreessen (designer – maker of the first user friendly web interface – Netscape – in the early 1990s and now a prominent Silicon Valley VC), and published in the Wall Street Journal in 2011, was peak of techno-optimism.

Post 2008 financial crisis and the great recession, techno-optimism became the savior paradigm. Software would eat the world: it would deliver goods and services to people much effectively and efficiently than people could. The consequence would be:

  • Labor would play increasingly smaller roles in creating and maintaining the social world.
  • There would be a move to universal basic income to ensure people do not starve and have basic minimum needs met.

STEM became the gospel to spread the good news of techno-optimism to the schools. Oracles were handed down from Silicon Valley.

In one fell swoop post 2008, funding for STEM streamed into public schools from the Federal and State governments. Testing schemes were put in place and educators ‘adapted’ to the new paradigm. Stories of student and teacher burn out began trickling out [in some schools teachers tried to bend the rules to help students pass tests.]

Eight years on, in 2016, social and economic ambiguity and uncertainty were still high: only a few young people were getting the high paying jobs in Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Most were floundering. Parents had adult children back at home after an expensive college experience. And software had not yet eaten the most dysfunctional sector of the economy: healthcare. The apparently massive systems solution put in place to support affordable health care ended up with confusion and higher costs for many, if not most, families.

The ‘software will eat the world’ meme has had its time on the national stage.

The new meme

We are now, in 2018, embedded in the make-America-great-again meme floated to take care of the social and economic ambiguity and uncertainty that we face. During the techno-optimism phase, stocks of companies such as Apple, Google (Alphabet) and Facebook rocketed up. Now, in very early 2018, all American company stocks are up with the make-America-great-again meme, making all who own stocks winners.

For the many who don’t own stocks or enough stocks, the ambiguity and uncertainty in the social and economic world we inhabit is likely to continue and increase. The trend towards automation is not going away. Global warming trends are not going away. And new geo-political realities of having more than one great power may not emerge without conflict.

Many of us carry this angst within us and it impacts our mental and physical well-being.  How can we cope with this angst and heal ourselves, regardless of what new major meme is played out in the rational modern world?

Come, sit with us under the BanayanTree

At 21BanyanTree you begin to explore how to live and thrive amidst the cacophony of confusion and deceit that seem to surround us. There are no guarantees. Nothing may change outside of us. What we will work together is on cognitive shifts inside of us. And to energize ourselves.

We use ‘pre-modern’ approaches and views of ourselves, the memes that modernity has shunned in the last 400 years. We do not throw the baby out with the bathwater but retain a carefully curated set of modern processes, technologies and solutions that integrate into our goals of a more harmonious and joyful life, even as we work hard to change our perspectives.

Our goal is to help manage desires and fears, using techniques that create more agency for ourselves at the individual and group level.

To explore this further, you can reach me at jayantkalawar@gmail.com.

KulAmrutarasikA: the 90th MantrA of the LalitAsahasranAmA

sri-chakra-image-from-121018

Sri Chakra representation drawn by Jayant Kalawar

By Jayant Kalawar

In the 22 mantras, spanning the 90th through 111, the LalitA SahasranAmA (those unfamiliar, please read this overview link) describes how LalitAmbA, Mother LalitA plays within us, as She rises from the MooldhArA to the SahasrArA.

The 90th mantra describes her at the top in the Sahasrara:

kuḷāmṛtaika rasikā

This mantra occurs in the 36th verse of the LalitA SahasranAmA, which is:

mūlamantrātmikā, mūlakūṭa traya kaḷebarā |

kuḷāmṛtaika rasikā, kuḷasaṅketa pālinī || 36 ||

(Listen)

The vibration of the mantra connect us to LalitAmbA, LalitA-Mother (AmbA). Listen to the link above and chant the mantra. You are calling out to the Devi LalitA, the Mother (Devi pronounced it as They-vi, for those unfamiliar with SamskrutA). And the Mother responds to your call.

Many of us though would like to know the ‘meaning’ of the mantra. That helps too, as it helps to create a visualization. How to chant a particular mantra with what focus and visualization is best as a one-on-one conversation. The vibration of the mantra along with the visualization can and does begin to change the vibrational structure of the individual. It is something to be learned when one is ready to begin connecting with the more subtle aspects of oneself, after gradually stepping away from the attachments of sense based objects.

Just to give a high level sense of the verse:

Rasika is the enjoyer. LalitAmbA is playing and enjoying. What is She enjoying?

Amrut: that which is opposite of Mrut, death. Non-Death. LalitAmba enjoys the state of Non-Death when She reaches the SahasrArA, where she meets and dances with ShivA.

Shiva is always sitting in meditation bathing in peaceful moonlight at the Sahasrara. Awaiting his beloved LalitAmbA to join Him.

LalitAmbA works through a series of obstacles to rise from the MooldhArA to meet her beloved ShivA in SahasrArA.

She awakens Him out of his meditative state in the Sahasrara. They begin their celestial dance.

And the Amrut, Non-Death, flows in the subtle plane.

In the physical plane it flows out of Kula: the body.

Hence, the practitioner tastes the sweetness when the Devi Shakti reaches the SahasrArA. It  flows as KulAmrut.

For LalitAmbA is indeed the RasikA, the enjoyer, of KulAmrut.  Hence KulAmrutaikarasikA.

The reader may have noticed, in the description above, how gender apparently seems to play a role. The feminine principle, LalitA rises to meet the male principle, Shiva.

Where does this take place? In each of our individual subtle bodies. So in that sense, each one of us has something that we may categorize as feminine and also masculine.

It is the meeting of these two principles within each of us culminates in the subtle celestial dance, which produces the A-Mruta, the Non-Death state.

It is also interesting to note that the 1000 mantras of LalitA are roughly divided, in terms of gender ascription, into one third feminine gender nouns, one third masculine gender nouns and the rest as neuter gender nouns.

Many of you may be interested to know more about how both the feminine and masculine principles play a role in each of us. I have written more about that here.