July 2018: Venus may provide respite, from turbulent Mars, for some.

Venus in Leo - Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash - 180704

Venus in Leo in July Balances the Turbulence of Mars for some of us (Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash)

By Jayant Kalawar

Venus will be energized as it transits through the cluster of nakshatrAs (constellations) that make up SimhA lagnA (Leo ascendant) from the evening of July 4th to the early morning hours of August 1st. This will provide a welcome cushion for those with lagnA (ascendant) birth signs of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Libra and Scorpio. The rest of us (those with Leo, Virgo, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces) may have to manage by keeping a low profile and very patient.

Mars, as of this writing on July 4th, is beginning to close in and will fully immerse into the turbulent field of Rahu-Ketu between July 12th and 29th. Expect more of the events such as freak storms, volcanic eruptions, as well as strong emotional expressions of frustration and anger, within us and amongst us, that we saw during the previous Mars immersion in the first two weeks of June. This transit of Mars will be experienced by most of us with varying degrees of intensity, depending on how much we practice focused awareness, enabling us to channel and sublimate out (not suppressing for future eruptions!) the turbulent energies, which trigger memories of past angers and frustrations, leading us to actions which we later regret.

Practicing focused awareness makes us observe the churn of emotional energies arising with the waxing and waning of planetary energies. When we are accomplished in this practice, we can watch them trigger our own particular memories, which become thoughts that we take to be all too real. We then act upon this reality of our mind. It takes a long time, many births perhaps, for this practice of focused awareness to be rooted, become one of our limbs in the subtle space. There are many techniques one can use, and many paths one can take, to climb this mountain. It helps to have a seasoned coach, at least to get ready and started on this climb, at the base camp of this mountain!

(c) Jayant Kalawar and 21BanyanTree.com

I use Systems Approach to Vedic Astrology as propounded by Professor V.K. Choudhry in my use of Jyotisha as one of the range of modalities in my coaching practice.

Contemplating on the Fallacy of Work-Life Balance

By Jayant  Kalawar

I often hear people talk about the stress of balancing work and life. So I decided to do some research on how that sense of separating work from rest of our life came about.

Work-life balance appears to have become a term mentioned with increasing frequency in popular media in the last quarter of the twentieth-century, according to a contested entry in the Wikipedia.  This particular quote from a popular book captures the sentiment that appears to inform the work-life balance problem eloquently:

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”

Then there are solutions offered to balance work and life. Mayo Clinic tries to help in this regard by providing practical tips to a better work-life balance like time management, learning to say no and nurturing one’s self.  What does “nurturing” yourself mean? According to one generally accepted definition it includes: “Eat a healthy diet, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep. Set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as practicing yoga or reading. Better yet, discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends — such as hiking, dancing or taking cooking classes.”

If we are honest, all this only adds “more things to do” on the already overflowing plate of our lives, resulting in juggling more activities and stresses.

There is inherently something not quite right in the whole Work-Life balance movement:  How can one see “Work” separate from “Life,” as is implied in this framework? Do we not spend more time and energy at work, in our whole life time, than in any other activity? Do we put “Life” on hold when we are in the “Work” mode? It just does not make sense, does it?

Let’s look at balancing our life from a different perspective by approaching our work, relationships and money as the three key theaters in our life and that we play different roles on each stage in each of these theaters.   At work, we play roles as colleagues, subordinates or the boss.  In relationships, we are spouses, siblings, partners, parents, children and friends. With money, we are earners, savers, creditors, debtors and investors.  Much of the time, we play these roles without giving enough thought except, perhaps, at work where our performance is measured frequently and rewarded (or not) accordingly. Along the way, we inadvertently may play out parts of scripts of one role appropriate to one theater on to a different stage in another theater of our life.  For instance, what we learn about our roles at work may help us function with excellence on that stage, but if we bring that role into our personal relationships, without being aware of what we are doing repeatedly over long periods, we risk becoming substandard role players on the stage of personal relationships.   So being a great boss at work does not necessarily translate into being a great parent or spouse.  When such slips happen they are mundane instances of actions without awareness.

Only when we start distancing ourselves from the roles we play without identifying with those roles will we begin to excel in playing them over a cycle of days, weeks, months, years. To excel in all our roles in all our theaters of life of work, relationships and money, we need to learn how to act in awareness.

Awareness is a subtle potential that we all have. We can strengthen and deepen our awareness potential through specific contemplative, breathing and meditative practices.  With a deepened awareness potential we develop the ability to observe what we do and how we act out our roles , learn how to gracefully refine what makes sense and to let go of all that does not to achieve what we want for a balanced life.

For each one of us this set of roles, and the deft balancing acts that are required, is different at different times in our life.

Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.

Socializing, Intimacy and Privacy in the Digital Age: Socializing – Part 1

Is Your Socializing Fragrant 180701

Bring the fragrance of jasmine to your social group! (Photo by Socialpictures CH on Unsplash)

You may have noticed that when there are times we want to be alone and we give it a positive value. At other times, we may feel lonely even when we are amongst family, friends, colleagues and so on. The physical situation may be the same, but the time and place that the situation of being lonely is happening is something we do not want. Then we give it a negative value. What makes for being alone and what makes for being lonely?  I hope to write about this in a series of posts in a contemplative exploration of what being alone means, in the context of socializing, intimacy and privacy that each of us may relate to and practice in different ways.

Many people inhabiting the 21st century digital world feel that being alone provides the opportunity for rejuvenation within the boundaries of privacy. They want only a certain amount of socializing. And with certain individuals of their choice, they would like the intimacy. There is a balance between intimacy and socializing, which seems to be managed by signaling privacy boundaries.  When that balance is right, we may get to the alone time we value. When that balance is skewed, we may either end up with too little of the alone time or too much of the alone time, which at some point becomes lonely time.

This may happen both over time in different phases of our life cycle, and across the spaces we inhabit. When young, we may sense the need for more socializing and less alone time. When older we may feel the need for more alone time. It may also differ from person to person the same age group, due to a myriad of reasons. Join me in this contemplative, intuitive exploration.

In this Part I post I will explore socializing and what it means in the digital age. Future posts will cover socializing in the context of different degrees of intimacy and privacy factors, how we create boundaries and manage them and how it comes together in giving us positive alone time sometimes, and leaves us feeling lonely and hungry for company at other times.

Socializing

The framework I use for this contemplative exploration is from the Advaita Vedanta perspective (and this is just touching one point of the shore of the surface of the breadth and depth of the Vedanta framework on being human): the human is considered to have 4 capabilities – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. In these contemplations I articulate that perspective using 21st century memes.

We socialize physically, by being present in a team meeting or on the playing field or at the coffee shop.  We cannot have the physical presence in our digital social interactions (yet – sometime in the future that may change given augmented reality and holograms and so on, they may be able to produce the sense of smell and touch, which is part of the core of our physical socializing).

During these social physical together times we interact emotionally, often times with the full range of emotions: from affectionately positively friendly to angrily upsettingly negative. Being in the same physical space and in a group, makes for moderating influence. We are more circumspect on both sides.  On the other hand, when we have emotional social interactions digitally, we may end up not being so circumspect. Losing some of our composure and expending physical energy in the process.

We socialize intellectually too: we have conversations about politics, education, health care, welfare. We have opinions based on our observations, we propose them using models we have in our minds. We defend and argue about our models. And learn and sometimes change our models (often surreptitiously, without admitting it) in the process, so we can argue better next time. Those are the steps of an intellectual process. Scientists and academics do that more formally. This type of intellectual socialization may work in a digital space, especially if we leave our emotional interactions at the door. That happens more in a physical setting, and not as much in digital settings, as we notice in the flame wars on social media sites.

As I have grown older, I find I value socializing less and intimacy (which I expect to explore in a future post) and alone time more. I manage it through setting privacy boundaries (which also I will explore in a future post in this series). I see a similar pattern both in those close to my age around me, as well as my children, as they get closer to 30. My work based socialization has become very focused individual or group based problem solving interactions, strategic and wide ranging as they may be. My socialization outside of work projects, coaching and satsanghs is down to a few select friends. My alone time is filled with long walks, meditation, chanting, reading, writing, doodling, sketching (and lately sporadically knitting a scarf).

I have reached over the 800 word limit already on this post, which apparently is the expected attention span of a digital interaction. I will continue in my next post.

Meanwhile, on a scale to 100, I would say I value socializing at 30, intimacy at 30 and alone time at 40 at this stage of my life. How about you?

The 2018 Piscean Month – March 14th to April 13th – is a mixed bag

Pisces by Jeremy Thomas Unsplash 180317

Do you see Pisces in the sky? (Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash)

I am late posting my ruminations for the Piscean month of March 14th to April 13th when the Sun is seen to transit in zodiac of Pisces on the sky map. I was busy with coaching and writing. Also, this is mixed bag of planetary transits, so I cannot take short cuts, have to speak to each sign and talk to the positives and challenges. So that took some time.

Before I dive in, did you read about the solar magnetic storm that was to pass by Earth from September 14th to 18th? Most of you know that there are regular space weather bulletins issued by the US National Weather Service.

Overall, in the Piscean month this year, Gemini, Cancer, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius are relatively more positive. Aries, Taurus, Leo, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces may have somewhat more challenges, in varying degrees.

The mixed bag comes from three events we notice in the sky:

First is Mercury’s transit in Pisces through this month, giving us more emotional and less analytical / logical vibrations. At the same time Venus is transiting Pisces until March 25th. Venus adds positively to the emotional energies. So the next week or so is great time to bond with your mother, for example. And, only coincidentally, many of us are celebrating Chaitra Navratri during this time, connecting with the Mother, LalitAmbA, through puja, chanting and meditation. It is a meditative time (see my meditative-contemplative suggestion at the end of the post).

Second is that Mercury, Venus and Sun energies reach us through the disturbed nodal axis zone created by the last solar and lunar eclipses in February 2018. That disturbed zone is still quite potent and will dissipate only after the first week of April. This causes confusions, which add to the already emotionally charged month. This will be experienced more by some signs than others and I point that out below.

Third, is the transit of Mars close to Saturn, reaching the same exact longitude on April 2nd-3rd 2018. The effect of this Mars-Saturn conjunction will begin experienced from March 23rd to April 10th, with peak on April 2nd-3rd. This is a complex experience, and each of us will observe it from different angles in our lives. I give broad directional flavor below by signs, but that is really hand waving – it requires you to get a sense of your birth chart and the role that Saturn and Mars play there, to better appreciate this conjunction.

Ok, here we go.

Aries: You may experience some temporary losses and separations in different areas of your life. On the positive side, you may get some gains in your passive income e.g. investment income, pensions, rents.

Taurus: This may turn out to be stressful month on the professional front, as well as health, work and home areas. Step back, conserve energy, focus on what is required and do it well. Sometimes stress makes you come out a champion, when managed well.

Gemini: Overall a positive month, when fortune shines and blessings flow. Some temporary stress is seen in home, children and creative areas. Be careful with your communication and how you present yourself.

Cancer: A very mixed month. Many positive uplifting things happening in home, creativity and general sense of well-being, punctuated by some passing sudden confusions. Between March 23rd and April 9th, you may see some obstructions to your career goals. Slow down, step back and then actively work towards overcoming the obstacles by collaborating with your partner(s) and seeking help from people you trust.

Leo: Fortune is likely to shine on work you do this month with your personal and business partners. On the other hand, expect and manage obstructions in career matters, communication issues and health.

Virgo: On the positive side, a general sense of well-being is pervasive. You may get to be quite emotional in your communication – slow-down in your speech and writing and try to veer to being thoughtful and silent. Hard work and showing the excellence of your work will be more beneficial than talking about it. Your physical and emotional health may be under stress especially between March 23rd and April 9th. Be careful about operating mechanical machinery, including cars, as you may be prone to injury during this time.

Libra: On the positive side, you may work closely with your partner(s) in the areas of creative projects, romance and children. Health and work place matters are likely to be stressed. The usual slow down rule applies.

Scorpio: There is potential for positive results this month, when you connect creativity, children and romance in your career area, with thoughtful communication. There may be some sudden confusions which you may have to be on the watch for. There may be some passing disputes and disturbances in home matters.

Sagittarius: A generally positive month, with some passing disturbances in passive income, career matters and luck. Connecting creativity, children and romance to new initiatives may lead to success in this period.

Capricorn: Career matters likely to move in a positive direction, with some hiccups since fortune may not favor at this time. You may experience some passing obstructions in your communications and in interactions with younger siblings, friends and colleagues. You may continue to experience a sense of loss this month (this feeling may pervade until early 2020), exacerbated due to loss in home related matters.

Aquarius: An otherwise positive month may be marred by some recurring confusions arising out of communications and also your interactions with personal and business partners. Be thoughtful. Taking a leadership position with younger friends and colleagues to drive entrepreneurial initiatives likely to lead to success now.

Pisces: The continuing challenges in the career area are likely to show up as a general free floating sense of malaise this month. This is an emotionally challenging month, which may be reflected in physical health too. Communications and overall relationship with partner(s) are likely to be under strain.

Let’s turn this month of mixed possibilities into one of abundance of the Devi’s blessings this Chaitra Navratri through meditative-dance!

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).