Not only did my trip to Sri Lanka this summer serve as a much needed vacation, but also as a much needed reminder of the dangers lurking in not staying present and mindful throughout life. Now this may start to sound like the beginnings of an amazing yoga practice, but yogis and yoginis are not wrong to remind their students to stay present because as I have come to realize, staying present is not easy. We often blunder through life blinded by routine, to do lists, and social obligations. I feel that because of the daily hubbub of life, it is only natural that we take everything good around us for granted. So instead of rambling on, I have compiled a list of things that I took for granted while traveling:
Drinking straight from the tap: Even though more and more people in Canada swear by bottled or filtered water, at least we can drink straight from the tap here (maybe not in BC right now)
Having freshly ground coffee beans and a french press at my finger tips
Getting in my car and running errands on my own because I can
Not constantly sweating: It just makes daily interactions so much harder; however, it was such a great way to detox!
Hearing a constant barrage of honking on the roads
Locking up EVERYTHING – you seriously live in an impenetrable forte
As I re-read my list forged in complete honesty, I cannot help but laugh! I am sure that if family and friends in Sri Lanka read this, I will be perceived as the tourist from now on! In that being said, there was so much I enjoyed while uprooted in Sri Lanka! So, in the spirit of list making…
Meeting so many interesting people, this time making it a personal goal to actually keep in touch.
Stuffing my face with delicious, local foods (in my standards anyway)
Traveling around Colombo in a tuk-tuk
Viewing the beautiful design aesthetic of the architecture, with hints of colonial British times, but earthy in nature
Shopping! But more importantly, not paying a ridiculous amount of money for clothes made from real material
Just like with everything in life, there will always be the good and the bad, the things you will enjoy and the things you wish would change. So I will end with this: Is it too bold to say that without travel, we become complacent and distant, lost in our daily routine of sleeping, eating, working, paying bills, etc? Are we always due for an annual uprooting from normalcy to rediscover that which we take for granted?
It actually all started with stumbling upon David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things” video segment entitled “Smarty Plants”. While watching this video, I began to give these seemingly docile creatures a little bit more thought. I mean, they are everywhere and yet we pay them very little attention. But, what if they are smarter than we humans had thought? What if they “talk, forage, wage war and protect their kin” (CBC Television, 2012)? If you watched the video, what did you think? Did they display a higher consciousness akin to us OR was it simply mechanisms set in place “in favour of selection”, as one commenter pointed out?
Well, hopefully following the lead scientist and ecologist, Cahill, helped solve that question for you. His quest to find these “smarty plants” definitely uncovered some plants that blew my mind, such as the dodder vine favouring its victims based on their biochemistry. Another aspect discussed that intrigued me was how plants let out “chemical screams” to repel certain species of animal and insect, or attract the higher-ups on the food chain to avenge that specific plant from the unwanted invaders. Suzuki even points out that the smell of freshly cut grass is actually the grass letting out their “chemical scream”… to whom? … Now that’s a good question isn’t it. To whom indeed.
So, this entire video got me thinking… is it too bold to conclude that the grass might be formulating the right “scream” to get rid of us?
Don’t you think we’ve lost the capacity for critical thinking? For losing our discretion when it comes to making decisions… blindly following the strict rules and regulations?
Take for example, the simple yet controversial use of travel mugs. Controversial? Yes, controversial. Allow me to explain. Travel mugs are meant to lower your ecological footprint, making the use of paper cups obsolete… well that is the theory isn’t it. Well, I’ll have you know that I cannot finish the entire contents of my mug IF filled to the brim. So, I always ask for them, the wonderful people behind the counter, to only pour the equivalent of a small in my mug. However, I find myself figuratively scratching my head when they proceed to fill a paper cup first before pouring it into my mug. Heaven forbid they give me a drop too much or a drop too little. Kinda defeats the purpose of using one now doesn’t it. I’m happy to say that this doesn’t happen all the time as now I’m accustom to telling them to fill it half way instead.
Right, back to being a little bit more serious about critical thinking. It is really easy to take everything that bombards us on a daily basis at face value, not digging deeper into the context. Now I’m not going to lie, it’s an arduous task to sift through all the media broadcasts, but is it worth it when the credibility (or lack there of) behind the messages is uncovered? It’s just like thinking about the purpose of that travel mug before filling it with whatever beverage that the customer wants. It’s about using your judgment in estimating that small-sized amount and then asking the customer if that’s enough. It’s about using your intelligence, taking a step back, and processing our intricate world.
Now I could be wrong, so what do you think? Is critical thinking on the decline?
We all have one don’t we, that metaphorical hole which we fill with something or another to make us feel whole. Its substance unique to the individual as, of course, everyone has different priorities. The putty, if you will, could be anything from socializing and shmoozing, shopping, family, religion, health and fitness, etc.
So where exactly am I going with this seeing that the above paragraph is ridiculously obvious? Well, what happens when it’s barren? When life is void of meaning? It’s dismal to think about the idea if yours is filled to the brim with nothing but positive things, but for some people this is their reality. So is this when people turn to scrupulous activities and become self-destructive? I mean, it’s undeniable that many negative outcomes to such a bleak outlook on life exist. For instance, a prime example would be the unfortunate and deadly, last-ditch-attempt-to-make-the-world-a-better-place suicide. So this begs the question, shouldn’t there be more effective safety nets installed in any given society that helps these said people? There are so many factors which can deprive someone of a full void like, for example, losing their job. So does that mean that we, as a collective, are responsible for these people? That the government should be more active in helping those who risk severe depression? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that our society has installed a plethora of groups specific to treating those that fall into self destructive habits. But, are they as effective as we think?
With all these questions swirling about, it would have been nice if I were qualified to research further into this… maybe a major in sociology wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.
Right now, I’m listening to the rain. As each rain drop falls from the sky and splashes on the ground, a melodic sound echos through the air. That, and coupled with the sound of gentle wind chimes and waves just enrich the audio experience.
I’m listening to ambient music courtesy of an app on my iPhone because I miss the rain. The weather has been teasing us Canadians with the promise of rain to cool us off from the intense heat and humidity we’ve been condemned to this summer. Unfortunately, it hasn’t properly rained in what feels like ages and this, my friends, is highly problematic. Why? We risk a severe drought. Already the grass is shrivelled and burnt. And let’s not forget the flowers that can’t stand the direct rays of the afternoon sun, as they have been roasted alive.
It gets worse.
On the news, the anchors and specialists were talking about the drought affecting food prices and ultimately the economy (unfortunately, I can’t remember the direct source). How? The crops aren’t surviving, which means that food prices are going to increase because the supply is dwindling. Now, the economy is already taking a nose dive so people are already pinching their pockets. But with the expected increase in grocery bills, people will think twice about breaking the bank over gourmet foods. Less spending = bad for the economy. Now this is based on the drought in the US, but it will take a toll on those countries which US exports to. Clearly I’m just grazing the surface on this impending crisis, so by all means, research into this problem further.
“…we believe that everyone can have access to yoga and everyone can walk into a Moksha studio and know right away that they belong – all religions, body types, injured bodies, all political views…”
– Moksha Yoga
A beautiful and idealistic notion isn’t it, to include everyone regardless of their differences. To have that one sanctuary void of judgement, a place to find internal peace and a strong sense of community.
This increasingly strong Moksha subculture has taken root in the Western world despite being around for centuries. Why? Because of this promise of inclusivity. The Western world is a conglomerate, a heterogenous mix of differences all bombarding each other. There are different institutions and facilities based on strong diasporas, but has anyone thought of an attainable union? Now, that goes without saying that there are institutions in the public sphere aimed at embracing differences, but I have never come across a pure place of union – of different people with different religions, political views, etc – like a Moksha studio. Granted, I’ve never tried to search for places like this. I just only happened to stumble on Moksha because I wanted to try hot yoga. But, needless to say, places with this ideology are much needed, especially in an increasingly hostile environment towards differences.
Intoxicating in the promise of sheer bliss, this – dare I say – social movement is taking the Western world by storm. With all the scrupulous activities, global conflicts, and hectic lifestyles, environments like that of a Moksha studio is seemingly the white knight we all need, the white knight that is accessible to all who seek out the peace and belonging they desire.
“We have the right to exist, but do we when we hinder others”
– Me, in a dream
Where do I even begin? What did I even mean “to exist”? Maybe the brief context behind this revelation is due.
I said this to a man who was having a conversation with someone else while a speaker was talking to the crowd. I was arguing with him about why he should be quiet. Then, he argued that we all have the right to exist, which brought me to retort with this quote. He smirked and fell silent.
Maybe I meant to exist in a space surrounded by others. If so, should we be in that space if we are “crab-bucketing” those said people? Hindering them, mentally or physically?
Or was I indirectly speaking about the collective and our right to exist on our humble host, the earth? We are indeed choking it, destroying parts of it like a virus. Sorry to splash you with the cold hard reality, but we are the most resourceful virus without the proper immune system to destroy us. That has been my mindset as of late, reflecting on the proper metaphor to describe humanity’s destructive nature.
The vagueness of this dream is stifling, however this quote leaves a gigantic abyss where you can fill with your own thoughts. To exist or not to exist while being a hindrance? That is the question.
As I sit here, re-reading my last post, I picture myself writing as the dewy-eyed girl that I was who saw the world through rose-tinted glasses. Case and point: I wanted to be friends with everyone “in the whole entire world” (as I remember myself clearly saying when I was much shorter and younger), not realizing how challenging that would really be. For instance: You will have to be extra careful of what you converse about in hopes of not offending anyone and avoiding the drama that will surely follow, and think about the amount of time you will have to spend socializing with EVERYONE “in the whole entire world”, etc. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. (NOTE: To my friends now, I love you and do not feel burdened by you so don’t be mad! I love socializing with you, really!)
Back to the point and steering you away from this incessant rambling…
As I was reminded by a fellow blogger stfallen (check out his blog!), our stereotypes, labels, and stigmas we have of others are more deeply rooted in our perception, not just in instinct. This is why propaganda works so well as it aims at our perceptions of the world around us. Political, religious, and other social propaganda endanger us all, turning best friends into mortal enemies and peaceful nations into waring ones… aka the force which is powerful enough to derail us from the progress we are making. Don’t doubt me on this, because it’s true. Just think back in history and of the intensity of the marginalization of people. Now, compare that to today’s society. See, progress, especially in more metropolitan areas due to the influx of immigrants.
Now I know that most Canadians take pride in our Multiculturalism thanks to our charismatic leader (in the past), Pierre Trudeau. We have assimilated it into the Canadian identity, aka what it means to be Canadian. This mentality makes it easier for most of us to tolerate those who are different. Unfortunately, this is not the case with other countries. So it is my hope that eventually, this concept of coexistence will reach those countries and progress takes root in their fertile soil.
My “manifesto” -so to speak- for writing has always been to provide ideas that make you reflect, and by no means is it to impose heavily saturated topics like religion and politics. However, the temptation arose while reading The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez. I could feel the urge bubbling up to write and write and write about the things that really stood out for me, knowing full well that it would go against everything I stood by when it came to writing. Frankly, it was hard. This novel stirred emotions and agitated me beyond belief (however, don’t get my wrong, it was a pleasure to read all the stories that were intertwined in this fabulous novel). So what now? Well with all the heavy religious politics weaved into the novel made me think about our shrinking world and how tolerance plays a huge part in today’s society. We are constantly surrounded with people who come from various places with different mentalities. It’s only natural that a little friction will occur between different groups of people, but how do we keep everything in perspective to avoid snowballing the friction?
To answer that question, let me introduce this lecture given by Ven. Dambara Amila Thero, a Senior Lecturer at the Sri Jayawardenapura University. He mainly talked about Buddhism and its place in today’s society, but he also incorporated more universal truths and themes that we can all learn from. In that being said, I want to share with you all this one quote that really struck me:
“…the rivers Ganges, Yamuna, Achiravati, and Sarabhu flow down from the Himalayan mountains towards the ocean separately… Once they reach the ocean they are all referred to as the ocean. This was taken as a metaphor to explain the matter that we do not need nationalistic divisions, caste discrimination, religious divisions and prejudices.” – Ven. Dambara Amila Thero (translated from Sinhalese)
It’s a brilliant metaphor, n’est-ce pas? We’re all the same, all classified as humans and yet we tend to shine a negative spotlight on our differences when something goes awry. This spotlight tends to instigate violence and ultimately full-on war. Now don’t get me wrong, our differences make us, well different! We take pride in them and we form communities based on them. Unfortunately, the trouble lies when these same differences are not tolerated. Don’t you think that when people become fixated on everyone else’s differences, they pave the way for prejudices to settle in? It seems that way doesn’t it.
Imagine waking up to a world changed overnight, where your morning glass of water becomes impossible to find and expensive to buy because of a sudden shortage of water… a world without water, a frightening concept indeed. But, it’s not really a foreign concept to us is it. We’ve known for a while now that this will happen, but we’ve pushed it out of sight and out of mind. Okay okay, the world wont exactly change overnight, but let’s face the facts, it won’t be long before water becomes scarcer. Sorry folks, but our water supply is running out.
It makes me wonder about how Canada will deal with this impending conflict…
We in the west are rather spoilt; we control most of the fresh water supply and yet we squander it as if it is no big deal. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but it is. We fail to think of those who wait in lines for a bucket of water every day while we turn the faucet on, having fresh running water available to us whenever we want. It’s so normal to us. But, as dismal as this sounds, this false sense of security will crumble. It’s scary to think of a society drastically different from our own. But to be honest, it seems to me that the future is going to be unstable and volatile. Don’t you think so?