Zhuangzi, Basic Writings

Daoism’s essence is to understand the way and abiding in unity and the mode is elucidated in a number of Chinese classics and one such is Zhuangzi. Author Zhuang Zhou uses humor, anecdote, parable, non sequitur and nonsense to explain the points of the way by jolting the reader from ordinary logic. It is good read and the translation by Burton Watson is excellent to bring the richness of this age old text. Some excerpts that I feel I want to file for future reference:

Intro
The central theme of the Zhuangzi may be summed up in a single word: freedom. Essentially, all the philosophers of ancient China addressed themselves to the same problem: how is man to live in a world dominated by chaos, suffering, and absurdity? Nearly all of them answered with some concrete plan of action designed to reform the individual, to reform society, and eventually to free the world from its ills. The proposals put forward by the Confucians, the Mohists, and the Legalists, to name some of the principal schools of philosophy, are all different, but all are based upon the same kind of common-sense approach to the problem, and all seek for concrete social, political, and ethical re- forms to solve it. Zhuangzi’s answer, however, the answer of one branch of the Daoist school, is radically different from these, and is grounded upon a wholly different type of thinking. It is the answer of a mystic, and in attempting to describe it here in clear and concrete language, I shall undoubtedly be doing violence to its essentially mystic and indescribable nature. Zhuangzi’s answer to the question is: free yourself from the world.  What does he mean by this? he tells the story of a man named Nanrong Zhu who went to visit the Daoist sage Laozi in hopes of finding some solution to his worries. When he appeared, Laozi promptly inquired, “Why did you come with all this crowd of people?” The man whirled around in astonishment to see if there was someone standing behind him. Needless to say, there was not; the “crowd of people” that he came with was the baggage of old ideas, the conventional concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, life and death, that he lugged about with him wherever he went. It is this baggage of conventional values that man must first of all discard before he can be free. Zhuangzi saw the same human sufferings that Confucius, Mozi, and Mencius saw. He saw the man-made ills of war, poverty, and injustice. He saw the natural ills of disease and death. But he believed that they were ills only because man recognized them as such. If man would once forsake his habit of labeling things good or bad, desirable or undesirable, then the man-made ills, which are the product of man’s purposeful and value-ridden actions, would disappear and the natural ills that remain would no longer be seen as ills, but as an inevitable part of the course of life. Thus, in Zhuangzi’s eyes, man is the author of his own suffering and bondage, and all his fears spring from the web of values created by himself alone. Zhuangzi sums up this whole diseased, fear-struck condition of mankind in the macabre metaphor of the leper woman who, “when she gives birth to a child in the deep of the night, rushes to fetch a torch and examine it, trembling with terror lest it look like herself’.

Secret of Caring for Life
Your life has a limit but knowledge has none. If you use what is limited to pursue what has no limit, you will be in danger. If you understand this and still strive for knowledge, you will be in danger for certain! If you do good, stay away from fame. If you do evil, stay away from punishments. Follow the middle; go by what is constant, and you can stay in one piece, keep yourself alive, look after your parents, and live out your years.
Do you know what it is that destroys virtue, and where wisdom comes from? Virtue is destroyed by fame, and wisdom comes out of wrangling. Fame is something to beat people down with, and wisdom is a device for wrangling. Both are evil weapons—not the sort of thing to bring you success. Though your virtue may be great and your good faith unassailable, if you do not understand men’s spirits, though your fame may be wide and you do not strive with others, if you do not understand men’s minds, but instead appear before a tyrant and force him to listen to sermons on benevolence and righteousness, measures and standards—this is simply using other men’s bad points to parade your own excellence. You will be called a plaguer of others. He who plagues others will be plagued in turn. You will probably be plagued by this man. “And suppose he is the kind who actually delights in worthy men and hates the unworthy—then why does he need you to try to make him any different? You had best keep your advice to yourself! Kings and dukes always lord it over others and fight to win the argument. You will find your eyes growing dazed, your color changing, your mouth working to invent excuses, your attitude becoming more and more humble, until in your mind you end by supporting him. This is to pile fire on fire, to add water to water, and is called ‘increasing the excessive.

In the world of Men
I want to tell you something else I’ve learned. In all human relations, if two parties are living close to each other, they may form a bond through personal trust. But if they are far apart, they must use words to communicate their loyalty, and words must be transmitted by someone. To transmit words that are either pleasing to both parties or infuriating to both parties is one of the most difficult things in the world. 1%ere both parties are pleased, there must be some exaggeration of the good points; and where both parties are angered, there must be some exaggeration of the bad points. Anything that smacks of exaggeration is irresponsible. Where there is irresponsibility, no one will trust what is said, and when that happens, the man who is transmitting the words will be in danger. Therefore the aphorism says, ‘Transmit the established facts; do not transmit words of exaggeration.’ If you do that, you will probably come out all right. “When men get together to pit their strength in games of skill, they start off in a light and friendly mood, but usually end up in a dark and angry one, and if they go on too long they start resorting to various underhanded tricks.When men meet at some ceremony to drink, they start off in an orderly manner, but usually end up in disorder, and if they go on too long they start indulging in various irregular amusements. It is the same with all things. What starts out being sincere usually ends up being deceitful. What was simple in the beginning acquires monstrous proportions in the end. “Words are like wind and waves; actions are a matter of gain and loss. Wind and waves are easily moved; questions of gain and loss easily lead to danger. Hence anger arises from no other cause than clever words and one-sided speeches. When animals face death, they do not care what cries they make; their breath comes in gasps and a wild fierceness is born in their hearts. [Men, too,] if you press them too hard, are bound to answer you with ill-natured hearts, though they do not know why they do so. If they themselves do not understand why they behave like this, then who knows where it will end?  -Therefore the aphorism says, ‘Do not deviate from your orders: do not press for completion.’ To go beyond the limit is excess; to deviate from orders or press for completion is a dangerous thing. A good completion takes a long time; a bad completion cannot be changed later. Can you afford to be careless? -Just co along things and let your mind move freely. Re- sign yourself to what cannot be avoided and nourish what is within you—this is best. IN hat more do you have to do to fulfill our mission? Nothing is as good as orders (obeying fate—that’s how difficult it is!

The Sign of Virtue Complete
Confucius said, “Life, death, preservation, loss, failure, success, poverty, riches, worthiness, unworthiness, slander, fame, hunger, thirst, cold, heat—these are the alternations of the world, the workings of fate. Day and night they change place be- fore us and wisdom cannot spy out their source. Therefore, they should not be enough to destroy your harmony; they should not be allowed to enter the storehouse of spirit. If you can harmonize and delight in them, master them and never be at a loss for joy, if you can do this day and night without break and make it be spring with everything, mingling with all and creating the moment within your own mind—this is what I call being whole in power.” “What do you mean when you say his virtue takes no form?” “Among level things, water at rest is the most perfect, and therefore it can serve as a standard. It guards what is inside and shows no movement outside. Virtue is the establishment of perfect harmony. Though virtue takes no form, things cannot break away from it.”

Autumn Floods
Once, when Zhuangzi was fishing in the Pu River, the king of Chu sent two officials to go and announce to him: “I would like to trouble you with the administration of my realm.” Zhuangzi held on to the fishing pole and, without turning his head, said, “I have heard that there is a sacred tortoise in Chu that has been dead for three thousand years. The king keeps it wrapped in cloth and boxed, and stores it in the ancestral tem- ple. Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its bones left behind and honored? Or would it rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud?” “It would rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud,” said the two officials. Zhuangzi said, “Go away! I’ll drag my tail in the mud!”

Supreme Happiness
What ordinary people do and what they find happiness in—I don’t know whether such happiness is in the end really happiness or not. I look at what ordinary people find happiness in, what they all make a mad dash for, racing around as though they couldn’t stop—they all say they’re happy with it. I’m not happy with it and I’m not unhappy with it. In the end is there really happiness or isn’t there? I take inaction to be true happiness, but ordinary people think it is a bitter thing. I say: the highest happiness has no happiness’ the highest praise has no praise. The world can’t decide what is right and what is wrong. And yet inaction can decide this. The highest happiness, keeping alive—only inaction gets you close to this! Let me try putting it this way. The inaction of Heaven is its purity, the inaction of earth is its peace. So the two inactions combine and all things are transformed and brought to birth.
Wonderfully, mysteriously, there is no place they come out of. Mysteriously, wonderfully, they have no sign. Each thing minds its business and all grow up out of inaction. So I say, Heaven and earth do nothing and there is nothing that is not done. Among men, who can get hold of this inaction? Zhuangzi’s wife died, when Huizi went to convey his condolences, he found Zhuangzi sitting with his legs sprawled out, pounding on a tub and singing, “You lived with her, she brought up your children and grew old,” said Huizi “It should be enough simply not to weep at her death. But pounding on a tub and singing—this is going coo far, isn’t it?” Zhuangzi  said, “You’re wrong, When she first died, do you think I didn’t grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but the time before she had a body. Not only the time before she had a body, but the time before she had a spirit. In the midst of wonder and mystery a change took place she had a spirit, Another change and she had a body, Another change and she was born. Now there’s been and she’s (lead, Il’s just like the progression of four seasons, spring, summer, fall winter. Now she’s going to lie peacefully in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don’t understand anything about fate So I stopped.”

Mastering Life
He who has mastered the true nature of life does not labor over what life cannot do. He who has mastered the true nature of fate does not labor over what knowledge cannot change. He who wants to nourish his body must first of all turn to things. And yet it is possible to have more than enough things and for the body still to go unnourished. He who has life must first of all see to it that it does not leave the body. And yet it is possible for life never to leave the body and still fail to be preserved. The coming of life cannot be fended off, its departure cannot be stopped. How pitiful the men of the world, who think that simply nourishing the body is enough to preserve life! Then why is what the world does worth doing? It may not be worth doing, and yet it cannot be left undone—this is unavoidable. He who wants to avoid doing anything for his body had best abandon the world. By abandoning the world, he can be without entanglements. Being without entanglements, he can be upright and calm. Being upright and calm, he can be born again with others. Being born again, he can come close [to the Way]. But why is abandoning the affairs of the world worthwhile, and why is forgetting life worthwhile? If you abandon the affairs of the world, your body will be without toil. If you forget life, your vitality will be unimpaired. With your body complete and your vitality made whole again, you may become one with Heaven. Heaven and earth are the father and mother of the ten thousand things. They join to become a body; they part to be- come a beginning. When the body and vitality are without flaw, this is called being able to shift. Vitality added to vitality, you re- turn to become the Helper of Heaven.
Woodworker Qing carved a piece of wood and made a bell stand, and when it was finished, everyone who saw it marveled, for it seemed to be the work of gods or spirits. When the marquis of Lu saw it, he asked, “N%at art is it you have?” Qing replied, “I am only a craftsman—how would I have any art? There is one thing, however. When I am going to make a bell stand, I never let it wear out my energy. I always fast in order to still my mind. When I have fasted for three days, I no longer have any thought of congratulations or rewards, of titles or stipends. When I have fasted for five days, I no longer have any thought of praise or blame, of skill or clumsiness. And when I have fasted for seven days, I am so still that I forget I have four limbs and a form and body. By that time, the ruler and his court no longer exist for me. My skill is concentrated and all outside distractions fade away. After that, I go into the mountain forest and examine the Heavenly nature of the trees. If I find one of superlative form, and I can see a bell stand there, I put my hand to the job of carving; if not, I let it go. This way I am simply matching up ‘Heaven’ with ‘Heaven.’  That’s probably the reason that people wonder if the results were not made by spirits.”

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Machiavellian Wisdom

Most controversial and misunderstood author of 15th century ambassador and statesman is Machiavelli. Even though his concepts are ethically divisive, for common good and safety of citizens some are inevitable but the cruelty is still debatable. One example is the North Korean case where the accusation is the state has master-minded the assassination of current leader’s step-brother. In Machiavellian ethics, it may be allowed but the cruelty and atrocity in my opinion is still unacceptable – may be a middle ground is to devise ways that removes total threat and incapacitates that threat whatsoever without any harm to both the country and the individual – is what needed than total eradication but in extremes where annihilation if perpetrated by an individual as in cases of terrorism requires a befitting reply in similar kind to protect innocents – no doubt there.
Philip Bobbitt argues in his book ‘The Garments of Court and Palace’ about the general misunderstandings of Machiavelli’s masterpieces in the light that he was the first to foresee the advent of republic from monarchial to fiduciary to constitutional democracy as an evolvement to princely states to a modern era country-hood hinged on republican values.

Some excerpts:

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Princely Morality of State

  1. It is the nature of man that he’ll behave badly in order to get what he wants
  2. As a consequence, sometimes this will create a situation in which necessity – the necessity of preserving the sate – requires that a prince depart from the customary virtues in order to to cope with adversaries who are deceitful, greedy,n etc.
  3. Therefore, it is a prudent rule that the prince who governs a state must do unto others as they would do unto him.

Imagine you wish to train yourself to be poker player.Part of the training must be learning all the trick of the cardsharp, dealing from the bottom of the deck, palming a card, marking a deck, etc. You must learn these things so you can spot them when someone is trying to cheat you. But must you practice these tricks yourself? I suppose it depends on how good your game is, and whether the person with whom you are playing will enforce the rules once you have exposed the cheat. To the question. ‘Must it be this way? Can’t we do better?, the answer does not lies entirely within your power.

It is instructive that Machiavelli was thoroughly honest in his public service and dealings. When accused of corruption by jealous courtiers, an investigation cleared him of all charges. And despite the fact that he was chronically underpaid. There’s something appealing, to the present world about the misleading portrait of Machiavelli to which we are accustomed. It is consistent with our current contempt for bureaucrats, for politicians, for lawyers – the superstitious reaction of people who are frightened by the forces that they identify with those who are trying to master those forces, rather like blaming a volcanologists for a volcano eruption. Perhaps it was always so, at least since the birth of state that gave us the bureaucrats, lawyers and politicians that are its creation.

Statecraft as Stagecraft

The idea that the perception of a prince’s acts and qualities are an important elements in his ability to govern is a persistent and subtle theme of Machiavelli’s. In other words, the promises that the obligations of love impose on others, on which we rely, can always be unilaterally broken, because we can always break the commitments love exact from us without the consent of the loved one.
by contrast, the fear and dread imposed by another person, a person with power to execute his threats, creates habits and responses it is not in our power to dissolve unilaterally

The book also addresses the dichotomies like:

  1. The Prince is mirror book
  2. The Prince advocates autocracy, while The Discourses endorses a republican form of government
  3. The Prince separates ethics from politics
  4. Machiavelli both asserts and contradicts the claim that man can control his fate
  5. The Prince, with its flamboyant exhortation to liberate Italy, is a dramatic departure from the rest of the book

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A wise and enlightening read on politics and its machinations. Staying in power and doing good and reining the masses to ensure goodness should prevail in spite of human tendencies to topple, wreak havoc and endanger welfare schemes – requires a thoughtful study of masters to adopt a humane yet powerful approach to statecraft that embodies common and progressive goodness at heart while providing stability and growth for a nation especially at its infancy from a 3rd world to an advanced nation.

Proof that Cosmos pervades, 7 Stages and the Cyclic nature

Veiled Pulse of Time by William Bryant – this book talks about biographical cycles and times and why I picked it, is to get some insights into astrological manifestations. I was more delighted to know how various cosmic rhythms and cycles affect our bodies, time and ultimately our biography. Gist of the reading is as follows:

Human and Cosmic Breathing

It’s always recognized by ancients of the encircling dance of planets and stars to rhythmic pulse of a dynamic and meaningful cosmos. This formidable insight confirmed the earlier belief that the cosmos made humankind in its image. In other words cosmic rhythms regulate everything from passage of world ages and the ebb and flow of civilizations to the biological cycles of the individual. It is a magnificent conception – unity in diversity. The ancients were aware of numerical correspondence between breathing and cosmic cycles. Our heart beats 72 times per minute and we breathe 18 times in a minute. Let’s take a look at cosmic numbers. Do note that a star rising in a particular spot on the horizon at 6 am on 23rd Jan 1972 will not be at the same spot on 6 am, 23rd Jan 1973 and so on. The star together with the celestial sphere, appears to creep westward year after year, century after century, until nearly after 25920 years, it returns to its first position. This cycle is known to ancients as the “Sacred Year” or “Great Year”, means that the zodiac drifts one degree (or gains one day) every 72 years. Dividing the Great Year into 12, we get the “Great Months” i.e. 2160 years, known as Zodiac Epoch which coincides with rise and fall of civilizations. There are 3 aspects to note here

  1. Breathing Cycle = 18
  2. Pulse Rate = 72
  3. Precessional Rhythm = 25920
  4. Cultural Epoch = 2160

A few simple computations reveals startling correspondences between them

ABOUT Detail FACT
Breathing Given our breathing rate is 18/minute, per day will be 18*24*60 = 25,920 times / day
Life Prototypical human life span = 72 years
Heart Pulse rate = 72 beats / minute, whereas Precessional movement of vernal sun = 1 degree / 72 years
Saturn Saturn’s orbit around the sun is ~ 30 years, in a “great month” (2160 years), it’s movement around sun =
(It  is also numerically linked to human respiration, life span, the Great Month and Great Year)
72 orbits
Jupiter For every “Great Year”, Jupiter orbits sun 2160 times
  Jupiter’s cycle in hours is reasonably close to heart beats per day = 103,680
  1 year in Jupiter equals heartbeats per hour =  4320 days

As we juggle all computations around astronomical facts, we can find innumerable permutations but the fact is as we delve more into these correspondences, we unearth the connections between geometry, temple building, cosmology, astronomy, meteorology, numerology and biography (individual’s life). All these facts points to incontrovertible connection between physical cycles and cosmos and our spiritual and mental development is also linked similarly.

Study of time is crucial as linear time stars operating the moment we are born, whereas the cyclic and rhythmic time is the harmonizer, meditator and coordinator of our physical and spiritual functions, enables the eternal to live in the deep recess to grow in the passing time of mortal world getting the imprints of all experiences as we interact with the world. Rhythmic time governs positions and placement of events and not what we do and how we react. Yet each experience is a seed planted in the continuum of rhythmic time to germinate in the right season. Because we retain our past, no experience is futile, infertile, or lost. Out of sight or out of mind, our life experience continues to live within us where it is dealt with by the juices of our physic digestion and spiritual metabolism. Thus, those things left undone, the missed opportunities, errors, and misjudgments, continue to prepare future stages for their correction, completion and redemption. Likewise, our suffering and setbacks serve to release new forces in the psyche which, when the time is ripe, “lead us to fortune”. The laws of rhythm decree that all things must take their course. This all alludes law of karma, nevertheless, its understanding clears human frailty and console ourselves on missed opportunities under due diligence.

The Sacred Seven

Stage SIGNIFICANE
0 to 7: Trailing clouds of glory Too much intellectual force/abuse at the expense of progress at tender age mires the nervous system and can cause mental and physic issues during prime time. It is a sacrosanct stage best left untouched by all education except by refreshing play world of stories, games, fantasy and imitation.
7 to 14: from Light tio Shadow As there’s tremendous physical growth, feelings take hold. Puberty arises and leads to more self-identity
14 to 21: Flush of independence With the competitive demands made by education, career and family groups, the individual stands at the cusp of independence and starts to contemplate the meaning of their existence and are ready for action and relationship
21 to 28: The chase of experience I like this poetic reflection: in verbatim here:
The voice of conscience , though stronger that it was in adolescence, is often smothered by the roar of action. On the other hand, the awakening sense of social responsibility drives many a flushed knight full tilt at the dragons of injustice and hypocrisy. These radical lances, however, are seldom tempered by perspective and wisdom
28 to 35: Adjusting the course Time of disorientation, stress or even dramatic change. Marriage obeys the law of life which states that a relationship which cannot transform itself destroys itself. Sometimes a stagnant marriage produces “Stale mates” than “soul mates”
35 to 42: under self-power Time to break free from straitjackets. Crisis and misfortunes arrive to tame illusions and self-inflation left by successes. They may enter in the form of marital conflict, illness, accidents or blighted hopes / missed opportunities. This period throws light to antagonism between instincts and desires of our lower life and our ideal or higher self, a deepening perception stirs new doubts and hopes in the soul
42 to 49: under dark wood Apart from menopause and mano-pause, this period is tainted with depressions, irritability, impotence, insomnia, hypochondria but it has its goodness – a time of psychological death and rebirth. Instead of a negative look to ‘dreadful drift to grave’ combined with fear of oblivion, loss of creative hope, unwelcome invitation to senility – we should  recover sense of purpose
49 to 56: a second wind In spite of all inner wear and tear, time not to lose pessimism and move forward
56 to 63: Reaping the harvest Time to withdraw from many of the temptations and superfluities of the external world further personalizes our existence. Aging represents a process of physical decrease and spiritual increase
63 to 70: Drawing the threads This marks a certain cyclic conclusion, a release from the remorseless drive of destiny as the will’s flame begin to withdraw to interiors to prepare for the approaching expansion across great divide. These years can offer as a blessing, a grace, the opportunity to complete the tapestry of destiny and pass the contributions to those who follow

Chrono’s Cycle – 30 year Saturn Cycle

Period Book
0 to 30 : Formative Integrate and add to our uniqueness all the shaping and modulating forces of our heredity and environmental backgrounds
30 to 60 : Constructive Pursue our goals and work the inner and outer core. Gather vast amount of experiences and inject our virtues, gifts and striving into a world which, in turn, continually deepens and modifies our consciousness and self-understanding.
60 to rest : Reflective All our previous experiences are incorporated that outlives our death. Event though we appear inflexible and resistant to change, our inner content and psyche in sharp contrast to outer activity is much more contemplative and inward.

After researching world personalities like Churchill, Nehru, Lawrence of Arabia, Christian Mutts, Kennedy, Mao, Mary Ann Evans, Marilyn Monroe, Balzac, Emerson, Darwin, Marie Curie, Johannes Kepler, Newton, Martin Luther King, most of them conform to a synchrony with some are misalignments. These are indeed tragedies – a deformed destiny. The thirty year cycles are often the most dramatic of all the cycles. This means that our thirtieth and sixtieth years, along with forty-fifth, are likely to be scored by crucial incidents or a change of pace, direction, and emphasis.

Conflict, Constriction, Release, and Breakthrough

For many souls the years between 28 and 30 are intensified by stress, turmoil (even conflict), as well as a key event. It could be described as a period of psychic compression, a constriction prior to a burst of expansion; indeed , it is rather a concentrated transition in many lives. This is where the sever and 30 year cycles are meshed as both complete their respective tasks before opening an expansive surge of creativity. For many, the span between 21 and 28 is teeming with raw experiences. Naturally, all this has to be properly absorbed and digested. There is a subtle though sometimes disconcerting change in self-awareness around 28 which interacts with the completion of the major destiny cycle at 30. The build-up of psychic pressure is released at 30 and this often results in a breakthrough into another phase of biographical genesis and fresh opportunity. Again my take is the years may shift a few years back and forth and needn’t be that accurate depending on individual’s case.

Jupiter’s Cycle

The seven regulates the cyclic patterns of our inward descent through the psychological layers of the personality, but the 12-year cycle translates this changing self-awareness into the sequential steps of our life’s work, the psyche’s expression in the world. Best described as a vocational rhythm, the 12th years mark phases of scientific, artistic, or philosophical activity, the maturing of ideas, spans of personal relationship, and even the strokes of good fortune that punctuate our path through life. These are moments when something clicks, something meets us just at the right moment, or a new idea or plan suddenly falls into place.

Leo Tolstoy and years of creativity

Period/Output Years
Childhood 23-24
Family Happiness 30-year transition
War and Peace 35-41
Anna Karenina 45-48
The Kreutzer Sonata 60-61 1/2
Resurrection 60-71 1/2

‘Fate, Freedom and Destiny’ & ‘The Seasons of Immortality’ chapters have been given an erudite thought and eloquent rendition. The gist of the 2 chapters is summarized in final thoughts as follows:
Never easily forget that everything has its share of time, its seasons of becoming, from the humble worm to civilizations and solar systems. Whenever we are impatient, we should remember that destiny decrees times of increase and times of decrease, times of action and times of assimilation. Thus, this added dimension of awareness permits us to look beyond temporarily to the “forever”

The Conquest of Happiness–Continued

Causes of Happiness:

Zest:
If more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has, and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he losses one thing he can fall back upon another. Life is too short to be interested in everything, but it is good to be interested in as many things as are necessary to fill our days.
Genuine zest, not the sort that is really a search for oblivion, is part of the natural make-up of human beings except in so far as it has been destroyed by unfortunate circumstances. Young children are interested in everything that they see and hear; the world is full of surprises to them and they are perpetually engaged with ardor in the pursuit of knowledge, bit of course, of scholastic knowledge, but of the sort that consists in acquiring familiarity with the objects that attract their attention.

Affection:
General self-confidence towards life comes more than anything else from being accustomed to receive as much of the right sort of affection as one has need for.
The habits of mind formed in early years are likely to persist through life. Many people who fall in love look for a haven of refuge from the world, where they can be sure of being admired when they are not admirable, and praised when they are not praiseworthy. To many men home is a refuge from the truth; it is their fears and timidities that make them enjoy a companionship in which these feelings are put to rest. They seek from their wives what they obtained formerly from an unwise mother.
Affection received has a twofold purpose. One is security but in the adult life it has an essential biological purpose, namely parenthood. To be unable to inspire sex love is a grave misfortune to any man or woman, since it deprives him or her of the greatest joys that life has to offer. This deprivation is almost sure sooner or later to destroy zest and produce introversion.
The best type of affection is reciprocally life giving; each receives affection with joy and gives it without effort, and each finds whole world more interesting in consequence of the existence of this reciprocal happiness.

Family: I didn’t much interesting to capture

Work:
Two chief elements make work interesting: first, the exercise of skill, and second, construction. An even more important source of happiness than the exercise of skill, is the element of constructiveness. II n some work, though by no means in most, something is built upon which remains as monument when the work is completed. The terms of construction an destruction needs to clearly differentiated. The satisfaction to be derived from success in a great constructive enterprise is one of the most massive that life has to offer, although unfortunately in its highest forms it is only open to men of exceptional ability.

Effort and Resignation:
Resignation, however, has also its part to play in the conquest of happiness, and it is a part no less essential that the part played by effort. Even in pursuit of really important objects, it is unwise to become so deeply involved emotionally that the thought of possible failure becomes a constant menace to peace of mind. Efficiency in a practical task is not proportional to the emotion that we put into it; indeed, emotion is sometimes an obstacle to efficiency. The attitude required is that of doing one’s best while leaving the issue to fate.
Resignation is of 2 sorts, one rooted in despair, the other in unconquerable hope. The first is bad and the second is good. The man who has suffered fundamental defeat that he has given up hope of serious achievement may learn the resignation of despair, and , if he does, he will abandon all serious activity. He may camouflage his despair by religious phrases, or by the doctrine that contemplation is the true end of man, but whatever disguise he may adopt to conceal his inward defeat, he will remain essentially useless and fundamentally unhappy. The man whose resignation is based on unconquerable hope acts in a quite different way. Hope which is to be unconquerable must be large and impersonal. Whatever my personal activities, I may be defeated by death, or by certain kinds if diseases;,I may be overcome by enemies;I may find that I embarked upon an unwise course which cannot lead to success. In a thousand ways the failure of purely personal hopes may be unavoidable, but if personal aims have been part of larger hopes of humanity, there is not the same utter defeat when failure comes.
Resignation in certain cases are much easier compared to most difficult situations like a big reform or progress of science. These are cases in which only subsidiary purposes suffer a check, while major purposes of life continue to offer a prospect of success. A man, for example, who is engaged in important work shows a failure in the desirable kind of resignation if he is distracted by matrimonial unhappiness; if his work is really absorbing, he should regard such incidental troubles in the way in which one regards a wet day, that is to say, as a nuisance about which it would be foolish to make a fuss.


The Conquest of Happiness

A timely companion for troubling times and a classic by Bertrand Russell, describes in his own acerbic wit the way to happiness – as all our lives are mired in unhappiness in some sort.
After briefly dealing with causes of unhappiness and Byronic unhappiness, he jumps into the details:

Competition:
In modern times, struggle for life is struggle for success. The fear that they’ll fail to outshine others is the root cause. Perhaps a business’s glory demand that he should make much money and therefore like a Hindu widow suffer this torment gladly. The root of trouble springs from too much emphasis upon competitive success as the main source of happiness. There is no denial that the feeling of success makes it easier to enjoy life. What I do maintain is that success can only be one ingredient of happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all the other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it. It is not only work that is poisoned by the philosophy of competition; leisure is poisoned just as much. The kind of leisure which is quiet and restoring to the nerves comes to be felt boring. There is bound to be a continual acceleration of which the natural termination would be drugs and collapse. The cure for this lies in admitting the art of sane and quiet enjoyment in a balanced ideal of life

Boredom and Excitement:
Boredom, however, is not to be regarded as wholly evil. There are two sorts, of which one is fructifying, while the other is stultifying. The fructifying kind arises from the absence of drugs and the stultifying kind from the absence of vital activities.
There is an element of boredom which is inseparable from the avoidance of too much excitement, and too much excitement not only undermines the health, but dulls the palate for envy kind of pleasure, substituting titillations for profound organic satisfactions, cleverness for wisdom, and jagged surprises for beauty. A certain power of enduing boredom is therefore essential to a happy life.
The capacity to endure a more or less monotonous life is one which should be acquired in childhood. A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are nt good for the young, and cause them to grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.
Consider the difference between love and mere sex attraction. Love is an experience in which our whole being is renewed and refreshed as is that of plants by rain after drought. In sex intercourse without love there is nothing of this. When the momentary pleasure is ended, there is fatigue, disgust, and a sense that life is hollow. Love is part of the life of Earth; sex without love is not. The special kind of boredom from which modern urban populations suffer is intimately bound up with their separation from the life of Earth.

Fatigue:
A better way to treat anxieties:
When some misfortune threatens, consider seriously and deliberately what is the worst that possibly could happen. Having looked this possible misfortune in face, give yourself sound reasons for thinking after all it would be no such very terrible disaster. Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance. When you have looked for some time steadily at the worst possibility and have said to yourself with real conviction, ‘Well, after all, that would not matter very much’, you will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent. It may be necessary to repeat the process a few times, but in the end, you’ll find that your worry disappears altogether and is replaced by a kind of exhilaration. Worry is  form fear and all forms of fear produce fatigue.

Envy:
Of all the characteristics of ordinary human nature envy is the most unfortunate, not only does the envious person wish to inflict misfortune and do so whenever he can with impunity, but he is also himself rendered unhappy by envy. Instead of deriving pleasure from what he has, he derives pain from what others have. Envy if of course closely connected to competition. Beggars do not envy millionaires, though of course they will envy other beggars who are more successful. The instability of social status in the modern world, and the equalitarian doctrine of democracy and socialism, have greatly extended the range of envy. Fatigue is also frequent cause of fatigue. If a man feels inadequate to the work he has to do, he feels a general discontent which is exceedingly liable to take the form of envy towards those whose work is less exacting.

Next article to carry excerpts on the ways to happiness after understating causes to unhappiness.

Meaning of Life

Re-blogged from the summary @ brainpickings – a lovely site full of life caring and changing insights from books.

Meaning of Life and Interconnectedness

It is possible that on a spiritual level we are all connected in a way that continues beyond the comings and goings of various life forms. My best guess is that we share a collective spirit or life force or consciousness that encompasses and goes beyond individual life forms. There’s a part of us that connects to other humans, connects to other animals, connects to plants, connects to the planet, connects to the universe. I don’t think we can understand it through any kind of verbal, written or intellectual means. But I do believe that we all know this, even if it is on a level beyond our normal conscious thoughts.

If we have a meaningful place in this process, it is to try to fit into a healthy, symbiotic relationship with other life force. Everybody, ultimately, is trying to reach a harmony with the other parts of the life force. And in trying to figure out what life is all about, we ultimately come down to expressions of compassion and love, helping the rest of the life force, caring about others without any conditions or expectations, without expecting to get anything in return. This is expressed in every religion, by every prophet.

CBT and how to use it for daily Mindfulness and help others

Excellent service from MoodyGym on practicable Cognitive Behavioral Techniques to help the depressed and moody and light them up…

What you think is what you feel

Events lead to Thoughts which lead to Feelings which lead to Behaviors.
When events happen in life, we develop thoughts and feelings about those events, which affect our behavior.

10 types of warped thinking

Type of error + Hints for contesting the error

1. ALL or NONE THINKING

  • Is it really all or none?
  • Just because there is one problem does it mean that everything had been ruined?
  • Are there any positive outcomes?
  • What is the evidence that everything is wrecked?
  • 2. OVERGENERALISATION

  • One error does not mean multiple errors.
  • Can you learn to improve so that it won’t happen again?
  • Does it really mean you have these characteristics all the time?
  • 3. MENTAL FILTER

  • Is this part that you are focusing on the real full picture? Have you misinterpreted the big picture?
  • 4. DISQUALIFYING the POSITIVE

  • What is the evidence that the positive comment can be dismissed so readily?
  • 5. JUMPING to CONCLUSIONS

  • Have I any evidence from which to derive this conclusion?
  • Do I know what that person is thinking?
  • Do I have any real evidence of what will happen in the future?
  • 6. MAGNIFICATION or MINIMISATION

  • Is the problem so big?
  • Have I not appreciated my achievements?
  • 7. EMOTIONAL REASONING

  • Just because I feel sad/anxious/upset/miserable doesn’t mean I am in reality a miserable, emotionally inadequate person.
  • Do I really need to feel so miserable about this event? Is it really worthy of my feelings of misery?
  • 8. SHOULD STATEMENTS

  • Why should it be like that? It might be easier if it was that way, but it doesn’t mean that it should/must/ought to be like that.
  • 9. LABELLING and MISLABELLING

  • Is that a truly accurate name for that event, that person, for me?
  • 10. PERSONALISATION

  • Am I really responsible for that?

The seven areas of personal vulnerability?

What are your particular problem areas. (if any) and do you need to build up your unwarping skills in these areas?

What sort of areas are you vulnerable in?

The most common areas are:

  • The need for approval (you are very sensitive to criticism and the good opinions of others, you feel the need to keep others happy).
  • The need to be loved (you feel happiest when others approve and love you, without it you feel worthless and rejected, if someone you like doesn’t like you, you feel unlovable).
  • The need to succeed (you feel you must be outstanding in one area at least, you feel inferior and a failure if you do not succeed).
  • The need to be perfect (if it can’t be done perfectly, then there is no point in doing it at all, falling short of perfection is pathetic and a C (even B) grade is unacceptable).
  • The sense of feeling deserving (if you can’t get what you are entitled to, then it’s not fair, it’s unjust, unreasonable and frustrating; if you are kind and thoughtful then others should be kind back).
  • The sense of being able to influence all things (if something happens, somebody gets upset then it is your fault and you are responsible).
  • The sense that happiness is contingent upon external things (you feel you have no control over your emotions, your feelings, that happiness is dependent on external factors).

Being nice to yourself for a change

The first exercise to improve self-esteem involves trying to treat yourself the way that you would a friend.

  • Every day in the next week spend 10 minutes doing something that you like to do.

    This means indulging yourself, spending time alone, if you like doing that, with music, etc. (Need ideas?) Develop a list of potential events which you enjoy doing.

  • Spend 5 minutes everyday being as nice to yourself as you would to a friend who has problems with their self-esteem.

    For example, if you react badly to a situation, don’t say to yourself "you worthless worm", say "it’s pretty normal to react that way, you are being hard on yourself. I think you handled the situation as best you could", etc.

  • The Unwarping

  • To identify some methods to attack your warped thoughts that don’t involve mentally contesting the warp by ‘straight talking’.
  • To look at the areas of personal vulnerability in greater detail.
  • To work on your self-esteem some more. The first aim is to use other methods than straight talking or personal dialogue to contest those warpy thoughts. Why use other methods than straight talking?

  • The alternative methods for contesting warpy thoughts will include:

  • Taking the role of the reporter (turning Clark Kent into Superman)  :
    Consider taking the role of a reporter describing the events that you get upset by. This will allow you to step back from your deep involvement and automatic responses and allow you to distinguish observations from interpretations.
  • Increasing positive self-interpretations: 
    This technique will also help your self-esteem. People vulnerable to depression and anxiety often tell themselves negative things: You might be used to telling yourself how pathetic, miserable and under-deserving you are. In this exercise, it’s time to reverse it and credit yourself with some positive statements to replace all those negative ones! Replace the negative attributes that you seem to ruminate (think constantly) about with positive attributes that you might have.
  • Setting up experiments to test thoughts and interpretations:
    During the week find an occasion when you get overly upset. Write down the event and your interpretation of it in your workbook. Also take note of your consequent behavior. Then go around and ask others how they would feel about such a situation, and about their reactions to it. Sample at least 3 people for this event. Compare your interpretation of the event with others that they come up with and enter this in your workbook.
  • Doing "Let’s Experiment": 
    The main idea is to attempt to test whether your thoughts or views are straight or warpy by changing your behavior. Act in direct contradiction to the feelings you have. (But take warning…You need to preserve social norms…Don’t do any crackpot things, and don’t do anything inconsiderate to others).
  • Talking yourself out of warped thoughts (being your own coach): 
    Say positive and affirmative statements by yourself
  • Doing "Mental Biofeedback":
    For this technique you’ll need to either purchase a wrist counter or keep a pocket notebook.Monitor your negative and warpy thoughts by clicking the dial of the wrist counter every time you notice a negative thought. Otherwise, keep the little pocket notebook handy and tabulate the number of negative thoughts and feelings you have during the day.

    The central key to overcoming and preventing negative emotions is to challenge and contest your warped thoughts or your warped thinking habits. There are two questions to ask yourself if you find you can’t identify the type of warped thought or you are not sure what content to work on.

These questions are: What is the evidence? What are the alternatives?

Wound up in the Wind

Wind is a terrific force that takes different shapes and paces as breeze, gust, gale, twister, tornado, tempest, hurricane and storm. These are seen in our external environment and do affect us nominally or fatally, but there’s always shelters and early warning systems to protect us. But wind in our bodies is altogether a different ball game albeit with early warnings at times or none mostly. When we’re young, it’s an age where even stone gets digested, that’s the power of youth. But as one ages and steps into mid-life notwithstanding mid-life crisis, there are different sorts of malfunction or disobedience perpetrated by our organs at random or periodically, further aggravated by our impulse and withdrawal which fatigues the whole system. In any case, we’ve to be more alert of the food intake, its implications and repercussions for over or under indulgence. Wind is what intestines generate when enzymes churn our food to extract energy, somehow the gas so made has lesser outlets than in youth. So its exit management deteriorates and gets trapped – typical of mid-life career situations! The trappings are so great that food type and amount of intake has to be calibrated and controlled – and any misgivings leads to “Wind in the Pipe” situation with severe back pain anywhere along the spine or waist or even near back of upper neck. This pain is so intense that it gives an appearance of stiff neck or back but it’s workings are internal where the gas presses the nerves to cripple your free movement. Apart from stinging pain, flatulence is more pronounced with crackling noise and burping upends to become belching. A strange combination of jet stream releasing on both fissure with no road to decent recovery until all fizzes out – a long way indeed. Surely a difficult and awkward position to be in being pounded on both ends. ENO salt, mint in alcohol, TCM, simethecone and domperidone can’t tide the onslaught with gale force moving to g-forces pressing all areas of spine on the torso and back, no space left of its destructive forces pressing excruciatingly on nerve endings.

Sometimes, these are man-made depending on our type of food intake, stress levels but rarely it’s karmic, then the only way out is to endure. All the above cures act only as palliatives until it relents of its own accord. Till then, the nightmare continues even in daytime. I always wondered if there could be micro endoscope to suck all the air pressure out of stomach and intestine easily as an out-patient day care clinic service? Lot of flatulence and belch rich individuals would rejoice of some relief in pressure and pain. Hopefully my unexpected and unrelenting tornado eases to comfort me and resume normal cheerfulness which has taken refuge. Let planets turn themselves and take the pressure off my tract with tact and restore intestinal calm amidst gaseous chaos. Let the karmic benign twister after taking its toll becomes breeze to restore the yin-yang. I’ve exhausted all the above palliatives and yearning for a belch and flatulence free monday morning! What a great yearning – health is wealth – and a privilege to record this great once-in-a-lifetime tornado (hope there’s no recurrences, early warning systems to kick in and yoga to the rescue!?) to pass its banks with no further damage!!

Fate’s tryst and unbinding

We’re all powerless in the gusty winds of fate and have a false notion of free will to manage our own destiny. This debate is endless since time immemorial where most of them arguing either sides with no victory. One important couplet summarizes this debate to an end:

What powers so great as those of Destiny? Man’s skill
Some other thing contrives; but fate’s beforehand still.

What is stronger than fate? If we think of an expedient (to avert it), it will itself be with us before (the thought).

It rains dogs and cats and it’s true to fate in it’s benign and malignant moments too. So the best anti-dote to handle both sides is through equanimity and to pray that malignant precedes the benign. When you’re aware that your earthly endeavors, however hard you try, can’t displace fate’s power. That’s a great awakening and it’s time to acquiesce to its powers and do the best not to precipitate it but patiently wait for the tide to recede to bring in prosperity in all spheres. The understanding and helplessness is the central part of the awakening and to accept that things are beyond our control and to mind map outcomes and to accept pain as an ingredient to higher order learning. During this process of learning, I cherish this couplet

Smile, with patient, hopeful heart, in troublous hour;
Meet and so vanquish grief; nothing hath equal power.

If troubles come, laugh; there is nothing like that, to press upon and drive away sorrow

Having read so many books, assimilating and applying them, leads to a fundamental shift in your approach to all your endeavors, that is: to be good is to do good always in times of distress and relief,  to be respected is to maintain equipoise in times of turmoil and tranquility and to be adored is to learn more philosophy and practice them unwaveringly.