30 Day Photo Diary: Day 13 – A story about temples

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Experience of Indian temples is difficult to explain and describe- they need to be seen and felt. The richness of the culture and spiritual life and the symbolism of the rituals evoke a unique mix of peace and fascination. For me it started as a sort of a fairytale-ish experience and with time evolved into something that goes beyond words- a special feeling of going back home, feeling safe and becoming very very still.

There are different types of temples and deities that are being honored and with time I discovered the ones closest to my heart. Without a doubt, these are the temples in remote villages in Kerala.

They are small, intimate and strikingly different than the mega-temples in the big cities. Very often they are not located in the heart of the village, but in outskirts, where you feel inexplicably united with nature.

The rituals (pujas) take place early in the morning or in the evening. The evenings are special for me. First it’s the preparation- the temple rules are that you are clean, presentable and decently dressed. Then it`s the ritual- the candles, bells, music, the richly decorated deities.. it`s a symphony for the senses, a story told without words, rich food for your imagination.

At one point it comes to an end- and only the silence is left. You`ve just participated in the ritual and paid your respects to the deity – not just to the idol – Ganesa, Krishna, Shiva, Karthikeyan or whichever it is but most importantly – to the deity in yourself. You`ve felt the connection with the light, sound and nature. And you know that everything will be just fine.

It`s not just a temple that you`ve visited. It is a visit to your soul.

 

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Positive Psychology Part 4 – Love is

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When I was a little girl I was very fond of a bubble-gum called “Love is”. Every package contained a drawing and an example of an act associated with love- for instance “ love is squeezing lemon in his tea”. I found the whole package very appealing, however at that point couldn`t quite grasp how this exactly linked to love. Later I found out that this understanding is something that evolves in a course of a lifetime. Let`s have another look at it today.

So, following the introduction to positive emotions and the benefits that experiencing them bring, let’s zoom into one of the most important ones – Love.

So what is love? Some common perceptions of love are that it is exclusive; without finding it you are incomplete; it is a sort of an achievement; it involves serious commitment… Do these resonate with you? Our existing views of love inarguably serve us well, but it is such a profound emotion that it deserves to also be looked through a different lens.

Let’s start with what is NOT love. Love is not sexual desire, passion, romance, commitment, exclusivity or even something that necessarily lasts for a lifetime.

And what does science  say about love?  First, Love is a positive emotion that we mostly co-experience in the company of others. It is about investing in the well-being of another person without anything at stake. It is also a feeling that “you get me” and “I get you”. Looking at it scientifically, it can be defined as “interpersonally situated experience marked by momentary increases in shared positive emotions, behavioral syncronomity and mutual care.” The subsequent “products” of love are improved rapport with the person, forming social bonds and commitment.

If we honestly think about it we are not “chronically” invested in the well-being of others, and we can`t say that we “love” the whole time if we strictly follow the definitions above. What does this mean? That’s where emotional science kicks in.

According to emotional science and more specifically positive psychology love blossoms every time when two people connect over a shared positive emotion.  This is closely linked to the concept of “Positivity resonance” which effectively is a “co-experience” of positive emotions; a micro moment of connection when a positive emotion unfolds for both of you, between and amongst you at the same time (more about the background of positivity resonance can be found here- link).

Similar to its siblings from the positive emotion family, love also has a “broaden and build component”(for those of you who need a recap of “broaden and build- you can find it here (paste link)-it has a momentary effect based on which we build and expand.

Research has shown that practicing a certain type of meditation called Lovingkindness meditation (an ancient Buddhist meditation which practice involves generation of gentle, caring and warm feelings towards oneself and others) results in improved vagal tone (variation of heart rate when we breathe in and out) which predicts better immune function, cardiovascular health, glucose regulation and last but not least – social skills!

Now that we cover the positivity psychology view of love let`s think about the practical insights:

1) The experience of love is dynamic and not static and it is in our hands to maintain it!

2) Our hearts literally become more responsive to our breath as we experience loving feeling towards others which has huge benefits for not only our health but also our social skills and creativity.

3) Pay more attention to the little positive emotions that you experience and that you usually tend to trivialize- they can enhance not only improve the quality of your relationships, but also your well-being.

4) Never forget that love is not a relationship status – it is a verb, and an action that requires attention. Your attention.

I`ll end here with a beautiful quote by  Ursula Le Guin which was also mentioned in the course:

” Love doesn`t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new”

 

 

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Before the flood

Climate change is a fact. But do we know enough about it? In my view not.

This documentary gives a synthesized view of the enormous threats that the humankind is facing as a result of Climate Change  and even though I cannot say I agree 100% with all the reasons for it that are being mentioned, what I find supremely valuable is that they are clearly stating the facts:

  • Global Warming is a problem which has started impacting us and is likely to impact even more the future generations
  • If things continue the way they are, the outlook is extremely gloomy
  • It is in our hands to solve this problem
  • We can do this by consuming differently – what we buy, what we eat and how we get our power.

I really think that this is something that children should study at school, so future generations of leaders and decision makers have it embedded in their thinking.

Be mindful and informed. It is our planet and our responsibility.

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