A Remembering, A SmaRaNA of Shri GaneshA September 12th-13th 2018

Celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi September 13th 2018

Aum Shri GaNeshAya NamahA, Celebrating the Divya PurushA, evening of September 12th 2018, ChinmayA Mission, Cranbury, New Jersey (photo by jayant kalawar)

by jayant kalawar

He is the master of GaNas, categories.

We categorize the cosmos, slice and dice it.

So our limited cognitive ability can digest

What the senses deliver to us.

 

Our categories become our obstacles.

What they exclude makes for our ignorance, Avidya.

He removes these obstacles that make us ignorant, Vigna-hArA.

 

He is Buddhi-dAtA.

He blesses the SAdhakA,

Who strives to explore beyond ignorance,

With intellect, Buddhi.

 

He is Moksha-dAtA.

He shows the path to MokshA

To the SAdhakA who uses his intellect

To explore beyond the sensory world.

 

He is with us always.

We forget to remember

And connect with Him

So that He can guide us.

Aum Shri GaneshAya NamahA.

 

Above is a paraphrased summary of my interpretation of a short talk by Swami ShantAnandA at Chinmaya Mission, Cranbury, NJ on the evening of September 12th 20h18.

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?

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

Mars in Turbulent Fields: Astro-Weather Watch / Warning May 2nd to November 5th 2018

Mars Passing Through Turbulence Derek Thompson Unsplash 180518

Mars in Turbulent Fields (Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash)

Many of you have already noticed natural events, whether freaky storms, earth tremors or volcanic activity, since May 2nd. There is more to come, as Mars moves through turbulent fields between now and early November 2018, both in natural and human generated events with potentially negative impacts.

Here are the date ranges to watch out for such occurrences and within that some potential peak dates, when you may experience unexpected / sudden events.

Date ranges to be cautious and observe:

May 31st to June 15th (with May 31st to June 8th being peak dates for potential sudden / unexpected events to commence).

July 10th to July 28th (chances of sudden / unexpected events: July 10th to July 19th)

September 21st to September 30th (peak dates: September 21st to September 26th).

Besides the natural and mass human generated events, which we will all observe, each of us may experience events in specific areas of our personal and family lives depending on ascendant birth sign (using sidereal zodiac). Here are some pointers (if you want empower yourself to surf these waves, there are ways of doing it):

Aries: There may be some events relating to career and social status that impact your health, physically and emotionally.

Taurus: There is potential for some sudden events for your parents, advanced studies and good fortune in general.

Gemini: Some potential for loss of income and connections with elder siblings and mentors is seen.

Cancer: Potential for loss in career and social status may impact your spouse / partner.

Leo: You may find yourself in debt or disputes with your parents (or those in authority), obstacles in advanced studies and during some long distance travels.

Virgo: Expect some obstacles and endings in your emotional relationships and creative pursuits.

Libra: There may be some endings in personal and business partnerships.

Scorpio: Some disputes and debt situations may be seen with younger siblings, colleagues and any small business interests you may have.

Sagittarius: Some losses in your emotional relationships and creative pursuits may impact general sense of well-being for yourself and your family.

Capricorn: You may experience some personal impact due to sudden change in your financial asset, home or mother related situations.

Aquarius: You may experience some setbacks relating to small business situations, younger siblings and communication clarity.

Pisces: There may be changes in family situation that impact income and relationship with elder siblings and mentors.

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!

Parenting Your Child in the Age of STEM

Coping Strategy in Age of STEM

Parents who connect with me under the 21BanyanTree often come for advice on how to manage the challenges of raising children these days. One common theme revolves around the intense competition in schools and growing anxiety about academics and helping their child navigate digital social interactions.  Mothers and fathers express feeling helpless and this sense of helplessness creates an anxiety spiral in the family.

The starting point of the anxiety spiral begins with worry about test scores, especially in STEM-related coursework, and the need for the child to excel in this area for future success.  The other concern, given the increase in online bullying, is how children might be interacting with each other on social media. Even the most educated, professional and well-meaning parent finds control slipping away as the child enters high school.

Why has this feeling of parental helplessness become pervasive and what can we do to get out of the anxiety spiral?

Self-help books suggest breathing and problem-solving techniques, and to focus on the positives, to influence and reduce your child’s anxiety.  These techniques work for some and not everyone.  The 21BanyanTree Coaching practice takes a different tack.  Our technique focusses on helping identify specific patterns of desires and fears, common to most parents, and the triggers that kick-start the individual anxiety spiral. Only when these are patterns of desires and fears are identified, through the self-discovery process, can you learn to control and influence the triggers of anxiety.  There are no cookie-cutter solutions.

For simplicity, let’s consider one area of desire and fear that is common among many parents right now: specifically, the desire to maintain a particular level of social status, and the fear that their child may not have the earning power to match the desired social status.

The Desire for Social Status: Modern consumer societies encourage the individual to attain and maintain a level of physical and social ‘well-being’ signaled by what we own and consume, our educational qualification and profession, and so on. For some, a bank balance and stock value (aka net worth) is integral to the social status portfolio, for others origin-country and skin color or even accents signal social status. In many ways, we are habituated to monitor status signals, and any loss in our personal social status portfolio becomes a cause for anxiety.

Parents who desire a social status portfolio for their children may pressure them to take coursework [for e.g., several APs] to get into top-tier or near top-tier schools. Regardless of their interest or passion, children are encouraged to become doctors, engineers, investment bankers or tech entrepreneurs – professions and businesses that are viewed as providing the earning power to maintain the desired social status. Any indication of a decrease in the future social status portfolio, like lower grades that jeopardizes getting into the Honors or AP track, sends parental anxiety into a tail-spin.  To get the child ‘on track’, parents react with intense tutoring and restricted hours of play and down-time to control the environment.

The fear, corresponding to this desire, is that the child who cannot make it onto the STEM ramp will become a misfit, unable to succeed and make a living in a society that is rapidly becoming powered by AI.

To be fair, not all parents strongly desire or are compelled to motivate their child to acquire social status portfolios. Yet, even here, we’ve observed children become anxious and influenced by signals in schools [ranking by STEM education; eliminating or reducing coursework like art, or educing recess and play time, in favor of STEM classes], and peers on digital social media.

The problem underlying this current dynamic is driven by political, social and cultural considerations and cannot be solved individually in the short-term. What can parents do at the personal level, in addition to providing all the resources required to get onto the STEM ramp, to help themselves and their child in this environment?

Self-discovery:  Everyone has deeply embedded patterns of desires and fears, many we are not aware of and that we continually act upon.  Each pattern of desires and fears arises from our social, economic and cultural background.  The process of self-discovery begins with recognizing and acknowledging our social, economic and cultural selves.

One way is to visualize that we are all living in a dense socio-economic-cultural city of karmas that we’ve built on our collective sentient desires and fears accumulated over time.  In this city are hubs of karmas: the positive hubs shower us with peace, joy and calm, the negative hubs are painful, while others neutral.

To navigate this city of karmas, we first need to become aware of who we are and how we got here – that is how the city got built – before we can understand how our karmas affect us.

Self-discovery begins with the discovery of stories embedded in the three layers- biological, socio-economic and cultural, and personal –  that make up our individual configuration of desires and fears from birth.  When we become aware of our nature, of who we are in the karmic city, can we begin to manage our fears and desires.

There are many options available to managing anxieties arising around raising your child at this particular time. Medications are one and talk therapy is another.

The third option is guided self-discovery with a focus on uncovering the patterns of desires and fears that have most of us in the grip of the anxiety spiral.

At 21BanyanTree we focus on your unique story to help you discover your strengths and competencies as parents, and as individuals to disentangle yourself from the anxiety spiral.  We help you become the parent who can help your child navigate this apparently increasingly uncertain and ambiguous world.