My friends Playground

I have a friend who recently, that is, in the last few years found out that she has MS.  Coincidentally, I have another friend, this time male, who discovered the same.  Two young people at the top of their game, and both are right beside me.

I am learning from them.

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My female friend – I’ll call her Eve (although she’s more like Scarlett Johanssen’s “Lucy” came up with the slogan, “Keep on Moving.”

For example, she would follow these steps if they suit her:

A Physical Therapist’s  Help

Physical therapy for people with MS focuses on helping them return to the roles performed at home, work, and in the community. Your first visit to physical therapy will consist of a complete examination to determine your areas of strength and weakness. Following the examination, your physical therapist will develop a specific exercise program for you based on your condition and goals, including a home-exercise program.

Research studies have found that people in the early stages of MS may experience changes in their walking ability, balance, and breathing. If ignored, these early signs can lead to further disability. When someone receives a diagnosis of MS, the best option is to begin physical therapy right away to help improve any mild challenges, and possibly slow down the progression of the symptoms of the disease.

Exercise programs

Types of exercises beneficial for someone with early MS are aerobic training using a treadmill, rowing machine, or any type of stationary bike, strengthening, balance training, and stretching. In general, the program should be based on the individual’s ability and progressed at that person’s tolerance level. The goal of physical therapy in the early stages of MS is to help you perform all your normal activities.

As MS progresses, further disability can occur. Research in physical therapy has identified benefits for people with MS in many areas after completing different types of exercise programs. Aerobic exercise, using equipment, such as an elliptical machine, a treadmill, or a stationary bike can improve your leg strength, walking and exercise endurance, balance, and mood.

General strengthening

Other types of exercise therapy include general strengthening for arms and legs, balance training, stretching activities, and relaxation techniques. These types of exercise have been found to improve walking ability, leg strength, and general balance during normal activities.

Aquatic therapy

People with MS may find aquatic exercise a beneficial way to increase their activity. Pool temperature can help maintain a normal core body temperature during exercise to support your general strength. The buoyancy of the water can offer support for people who cannot walk on solid ground, and provide gentle resistance to exercise movements. The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America strongly supports the use of aquatic therapies for people with MS. A list of MS aquatic programs can be found at mymsaa.org.

Tai Chi and yoga

Programs that include Tai Chi and yoga may also be beneficial for people with MS. Tai Chi is a low-intensity, movement-based form of exercise that can be performed in standing or sitting positions. Deep breathing is included in the technique. Yoga includes breath work, exercises for strengthening and flexibility, and meditation or relaxation techniques. A physical therapist trained in these programs will modify these exercises specifically for each individual’s needs and goals.

All adults should complete at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week (30 minute sessions, 5 days a week), per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans developed by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in partnership with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

Can this Injury or Condition be Prevented?

Scientists have yet to determine a specific cause of MS. The best measure of prevention is the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Performing at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week (30 minutes per day, 5 days a week), eating a healthy diet, getting an appropriate amount of sleep, and managing daily stress are all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment for MS can lead to a more successful and active life.

So- there are also other thoughts about healing, if you subscribe t the idea that everything is energy and contains information.

Recently Remote Viewer David Morehouse with Dr. Deepak Chopra (yes Dr. Chopra is an actual M.D – worked along with Michael Crichton) – so two people with lots of other-worldly information have also come up with ways to find information that can cause a reversal of the symptoms, the cause of it, and joy while initiating the process.

To learn the basics of and do Remote Viewing yourself, try the intro tapes, “Remote Viewing” by David Morehouse, Ph.D
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For my part, I do my own meditation called chanting, which makes a sound that attracts other positive wavelengths attached to it.  Works everytime.  As long as we remember that we are more than our bodies, yet honor our bodies in terms of fulfilling our calling.  We need one!

According to Dr. Morehouse…..

5 steps to mastery in any area of your life:

  1. Initial impact – transcend the thing that makes you think you can’t. Decide to end the trance that says I can’t do this. Remind yourself to end the trance that things are possible for others but not you.

Prepare yourself now for now for transcendence! If you decide to end the trance that limits your life and the possibility in your life, hey, this thing will give you a new awareness, a new definition, a new idea of what is possible for you and you’re going to love the outcome. Life is a true adventure! And this is going to be a journey for you through these four cds. Prepare yourself now to attain optimum results.

  1. Repetition – the mother and father of all skill.

In cantations (Never, I can’t do this or that – but, I can do it, I just need to practice.)

If you think it, it will be so. Where focus goes, energy flows.

  1. manifest again and again – write it down. A 2-dimensional manifestation -incantations of success…writing down goals, questions, incantations. Writing distills your learning process.

What will help you maintain your on state of focus – writing will allow these concepts to energize, crystalize, nurture your soul, to open your heart to promise and possibility

  1. Integration

Means it has now become a part of you – integrating these steps to mastery until they become effortless. They become integrated into your being.

The knowledge that you are more than the physical is not something that has to be refreshed by going back and simply doing remote viewing. It becomes knowledge integrated into who you are.

The knowledge that you are more than just the physical is an effortless thought, the idea that you understand the purpose of your life can become an effortless process your existence defining how you move through this world. The idea that you understand what your perpetual question is can become integrated into your life, it no longer has to be something that you go back and reevaluate and so on. You’re integrating.

  1. Reinforcement – if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Ask yourself how you’ll apply this new information?

I wanted to end on a happy note.

The following excerpt is about things to do to make your friends with MS happier – habits that they can develop.  The point is, they have made me happy by already developing these strengths.   Their bravery and heroism, their inquiry into a the finer side of a huge challenge helps me tackle my own life, and my only set back seems paltry compared to taking on this.

THE HABITS OF SUPREMELY HAPPY PEOPLE

October 22, 2014

 Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, theorizes that while 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment, the remaining 40 percent is up to us. In his 2004 Ted Talk, Seligman describes three different kinds of happy lives: The pleasant life, in which you fill your life with as many pleasures as you can, the life of engagement, where you find a life in your work, parenting, love and leisure and the meaningful life, which “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.”

After exploring what accounts for ultimate satisfaction, Seligman says he was surprised. The pursuit of pleasure, research determined, has hardly any contribution to a lasting fulfillment. Instead, pleasure is “the whipped cream and the cherry” that adds a certain sweetness to satisfactory lives founded by the simultaneous pursuit of meaning and engagement.

And while it might sound like a big feat to to tackle great concepts like meaning andengagement (pleasure sounded much more doable), happy people have habits you can introduce into your everyday life that may add to the bigger picture of bliss. Joyful folk have certain inclinations that add to their pursuit of meaning – and motivate them along the way.

1. They surround themselves with other happy people

 1Joy is contagious. Researchers of the Framingham Heart Study who investigated the spread of happiness over 20 years found that those who are surrounded by happy people “are more likely to become happy in the future.” This is reason enough to dump the Debbie Downers and spend more time with uplifting people.

2. They smile when they mean it

 Even if you’re not feeling so chipper, cultivating a happy thought – and then smiling about it – could up your happiness levels and make you more productive, according to a study published in the Academy of Management Journal. It’s important to be genuine with your grin: The study revealed that faking a smile while experiencing negative emotions could actually worsen your mood.

3. They cultivate resilience

According to psychologist Peter Kramer, resilience, not happiness, is the opposite of depression: Happy people know how to bounce back from failure. Resilience is like a padding for the inevitable hardship human beings are bound to face. As the Japanese proverb goes, “Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

4. They try to be happy

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Yep – it’s as simple as it sounds: just trying to be happy can boost your emotional well-being, according to two studies recently published in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Those who actively tried to feel happier in the studies reported the highest level of positive moods, making a case for thinking yourself happy.

5. They are mindful of the good

It’s important to celebrate great, hard-earned accomplishments, but happy people give attention to their smaller victories, too. “When we take time to notice the things that go right — it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day,” Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. told The Huffington Post in May. “That can help with our moods.” And, as Frank Ghinassi, Ph.D. explains, being mindful of the things that do go your way (even something as simple as the barista getting your coffee order right) can make you feel a greater sense of accomplishment throughout the day.

6. They appreciate simple pleasures

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A meticulously swirled ice cream cone. An boundlessly waggy dog. Happy people take the time to appreciate these easy-to-come-by pleasures. Finding meaning in the little things, and practicing gratitude for all that you do have is associated with a sense of overall gladness.

7. They devote some of their time to giving

Even though there are only 24 hours in a day, positive people fill some of that time doing good for others, which in return, does some good for the do-gooders themselves. A long-term research project called Americans’ Changing Lives found a bevy of benefits associated with altruism: “Volunteer work was good for both mental and physical health. People of all ages who volunteered were happier and experienced better physical health and less depression,” reported Peggy Thoits, the leader of one of the studies.

Givers also experience what researchers call “the helper’s high,” a euphoric state experienced by those engaged in charitable acts. “This is probably a literal “high,” similar to a drug-induced high,” writes Christine L. Carter, Ph.D. “The act of making a financial donation triggers the reward center in our brains that is responsible for dopamine-mediated euphoria.”

8. They let themselves lose track of time. (And sometimes they can’t help it.)

When you’re immersed in an activity that is simultaneously challenging, invigorating and meaningful, you experience a joyful state called “flow.” Happy people seek this sensation of getting “caught up” or “carried away,” which diminishes self-consciousness and promotes the feelings associated with success. As explained by Pursuit-of-happiness.org, “In order for a Flow state to occur, you must see the activity as voluntary, enjoyable (intrinsically motivating), and it must require skill and be challenging (but not too challenging) with clear goals towards success.”

9. They nix the small talk for deeper conversation

molecukles bouncing with joy

Nothing wrong with shootin’ the you-know-what every now and then, but sitting down to talk about what makes you tick is a prime practice for feeling good about life. A study published in Psychological Science found that those who take part in more substantive conversation and less trivial chit chat experienced more feelings of satisfaction.

“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings,” is one of the top five regrets of the dying – a sentiment that hints at the fact that people wish they’d spent less time talking about the weather and more time delving into what it is that makes their heart swell.

10. They spend money on other people

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 Maybe money does buy happiness. A study published in Science found that spending money on other people has a more direct impact on happiness than spending money on oneself.

11. They make a point to listen

“When you listen you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts,” writes David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism. “You are also demonstrating confidence and respect for others. Knowledge and confidence is proof that you are secure and positive with yourself thus radiating positive energy.” Good listening is a skill that strengthens relationships and leads to more satisfying experiences. A good listener may walk away from a conversation feeling as if their presence served a purpose, an experience that is closely connected with increased well-being.

12. They uphold in-person connections

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It’s quick and convenient to text, FaceTime and tweet at your buddies. But spending the money on a flight to see your favorite person across the country has weight when it comes to your well-being. “There’s a deep need to have a sense of belonging that comes with having personal interactions with friends,” says John Cacioppo, Ph.D., the director of the Center of Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Social media, while it keeps us in touch, doesn’t allow us to physically touch, which harvests the warm-and-fuzzies and even decreases feelings of anxiety.

13. They look on the bright side

Optimism touts plenty of health benefits, including less stress, a better tolerance for pain and, as HuffPost Healthy Living recently reported, longevity among those with heart disease. When you choose to see the silver lining, you’re also choosing health and happiness.

Seligman summed up perhaps the greatest characteristic of the optimist in one of his most acclaimed books, Learned Optimism:

The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.

14. They value a good mixtape

Music is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy. Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages. Choosing the right tunes could be an important factor, however, as a happy or sad song can alsoaffect the way we perceive the world. In one experiment where researchers asked subjects to identify happy or sad faces while listening to music, the participants were more likely to see the faces that matched the “mood” of the music. Click here for a few of our favorite mood-boosting jams.

15. They unplug

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Whether by meditating, taking a few deep breaths away from the screen ordeliberately disconnecting from electronics, unplugging from our hyper-connected world has proven advantages when it comes to happiness. Talking on your cell could increase your blood pressure and raise your stress levels, while uninterrupted screen time has been linked to depression and fatigue. Technology isn’t going away, but partaking in some kind of a digital detox gives your brain the opportunity to recharge and recover, which – bonus – could increase your resilience.

16. They get spiritual

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Studies point to a link between religious and spiritual practice and mirth. For one, happiness habits like expressing gratitude, compassion and charity are generally promoted in most spiritual conventions. And, asking the big questions helps to give our lives context and meaning. A 2009 study found that children who felt their lives had a purpose (which was promoted by a spiritual connection) were happier.

Spirituality offers what the 20th-century sociologist Emile Durkheim referred to as “sacred time,” which is a built-in, unplugging ritual that elicits moments of reflection and calm. As Ellen L. Idler, Ph.D., writes in “The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Spiritual/Religious Practices,”:

The experience of sacred time provides a time apart from the “profane time” that we live most of our lives in. A daily period of meditation, a weekly practice of lighting Sabbath candles, or attending worship services, or an annual retreat in an isolated, quiet place of solitude all of these are examples of setting time apart from the rush of our everyday lives. Periods of rest and respite from work and the demands of daily life serve to reduce stress, a fundamental cause of chronic diseases that is still the primary causes of death in Western society. Transcendent spiritual and religious experiences have a positive, healing, restorative effect, especially if they are “built in,” so to speak, to one’s daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual cycles of living.

17. They make exercise a priority

A wise, albeit fictional Harvard Law School student once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, thanks to the the various brain chemicals that are released that amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation. Plus, working out makes us appreciate our bodies more. One study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that exercise improved how people felt about their bodies – even if they didn’t lose weight or achieve noticeable improvements.

18. They go outside

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Want to feel alive? Just a 20-minute dose of fresh air promotes a sense of vitality, according to several studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. “Nature is fuel for the soul,” says Richard Ryan, Ph.D, the lead author of the studies. “Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” And while most of us like our coffee hot, we may prefer our serving of the great outdoors at a more lukewarm temperature: A study on weather and individual happiness unveiled 57 degrees to be the optimal temperature for optimal happiness.

19. They spend some time on the pillow

 Soft Pillow.

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed isn’t just a myth. When you’re running low on zzs, you’re prone to experience lack of clarity, bad moods and poor judgment. “A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety,” Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center told Health.com. “You get more emotional stability with good sleep.”

20. They laugh out loud

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You’ve heard it before: Laughter is the best medicine. In the case of The Blues, this may hold some truth. A good, old-fashioned chuckle releases happy brain chemicalsthat, other than providing the exuberant buzz we seek, make humans better equipped to tolerate both pain and stress.

And you might be able to get away with counting a joke-swapping session as a workout (maybe). “The body’s response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise,” explained Dr. Lee Berk, the lead researcher of a 2010 study focused on laughter’s effects on the body. The same study found that some of the benefits associated with working out, like a healthy immune system, controlled appetite and improved cholesterol can also be achieved through laughter.

21. They walk the walk

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Ever notice your joyful friends have a certain spring in the step? It’s all about the stride, according to research conducted by Sara Snodgrass, a psychologist from Florida Atlantic University.

In the experiment, Snodgrass asked participants to take a three-minute walk. Half of the walkers were told to take long strides while swinging their arms and holding their heads high. These walkers reported feeling happier after the stroll than the other group, who took short, shuffled steps as they watched their feet.

 

I believe that these are lessons that we can all use to enjoy our lives no matter where we stand or what we are facing.

PS: Here is an short experience by Colleen and Rhonda, two people whom I have never met, but love their spirit.

Challenging Multiple Sclerosis One Workout at a Time

Posted on June 8, 2015

At the Hutton House Fitness Centre, Colleen and Rhonda are challenging the impact of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) by staying active.  They currently attend classes twice a week and have been doing so for many years.  (In above photo, Rhonda is on the left, Colleen on the right.)

Rhonda taking a break during her workout.Rhonda smiles when asked about her strength.  “I am so much stronger since working out.  My sons are even impressed with my muscles,” she says.  “Although my core strength isn’t quite what I would like it to be, my balance is so much better with exercise,” she notes.

“Working out helps strengthen muscles, so when your brain misfires and sends the wrong signal your muscles are stronger and can help keep you from falling.  It really helps me keep everything moving,” Rhonda adds.

Colleen agrees that the benefits of working out have been significant.  “It’s good for you,” she says enthusiastically, as she flexes her arms to show off her biceps proudly.  “I need to make sure my body is in good shape so it’s ready for any challenges MS throws my way,” she adds.

In the article “Why Exercise and Be Active” by the Alberta & Northwest Territories Division of the MS Society of Canada, exercising is recommended for several reasons including – to improve muscle strength, lessen the effects of fatigue and have a positive impact on independence.

Challenges

“Individuals with MS often have difficulties with their balance, core strength and physical coordination,” notes Kristy Hoornick, Fitness and Wellness Facilitator at Hutton House.  “It really depends on the individual though.

Rhonda working out at the Hutton House Fitness Centre.Not only does MS affect each person differently – but different body types face varying challenges.  Any injuries sustained during an individuals’ lifetime also need to be taken into account,” adds Kristy.  For example, any shoulder, back, hip or knee problems that are not necessarily related to MS must be considered.

Customized Support  

To adapt to each individuals’ needs, Kristy and her team at the Hutton House Fitness Centre offer customized, flexible programs and classes.

“The staff cater to each of us working out,” says Colleen.  Rhonda notes that, “the staff are always willing to assist.”

Adaptations to accommodate different levels of strength and mobility are common.  For example, individuals are welcome to complete exercises while holding onto a support or from a seated position.

Ninety minute group classes allow extra time for warm up and cool down.

Flexible Equipment

“I have weights and exercise equipment at home, but I never use any of it,” says Rhonda.  “The treadmill is too fast, and it’s hard to get motivated.  I prefer to come into Hutton House.”

“When we purchase equipment for the Fitness Centre we look for items that can be used in a variety of ways by individuals with a wide range in strength and mobility,” says Kristy.  Items such as the TRX, sandbells and SkiErg offer different levels of resistance, the ability to train many different muscles, and can be used from a seated position.  “Whether an individual relies on a wheelchair and has limited mobility or is comfortable standing, the equipment can still be used by both,” notes Kristy.

Colleen smiling during her workout.Other equipment was chosen with balance or mobility challenges in mind.  The MOTOmed is a favourite for individuals with leg mobility issues.  This unique piece of equipment allows individuals to stay seated while it gently guides an individuals’ legs around in circular motion.  A recumbent bike allows participants to stay seated while cycling.  The treadmills have side bars to hold on to.

Staff Support & Motivation

“The group atmosphere here at Hutton House helps to keep everyone motivated,” notes Colleen.

Colleen working out.Encouragement is key and it not only comes from staff and volunteers but in the friendships and encouraging words between those attending.  “It’s not a quiet place.  There are always lots of conversations on the go and you see lots of peer support,” says Kristy.

“We started out with classes specific to individuals with MS.  Over the years though, we’ve created blended groups where individuals with a developmental disability, or conditions such as COPD, Fibromyalgia and Osteoporosis also attend,” says Kristy.  “Everyone enjoys supporting each other.”

 

 

Hollywood’s history of aiding in the role of Intelligence – Argo

Live Playscape - To Write is to Live

The real players

Following the SOTU address last night by President Barack Obama, many feel that we have had a magnificent President all along, working without beating his chest like “Tarzan” or pitting people or countries against each other, or religions against each other – but just doing what has to be done and must be done, with the brave men and women willing to and trained to do it.   Even the Republican response to the address from Nikki Haley agreed with the President’s call for unity  and warned of the dangers of following a town-crying, truth-defying and egotistical Donald Trump who seeks to destroy any civility in  this great United States.  His arguments call for those in this Administration to drop diplomacy and adopt outright hate of everyone who does not look like him – which, in itself would be difficult.  Not many orange people lately, with flying-saucer hair showing up on…

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Hothouse Children

So very astute, while the privileged go about business as usual without a thought to their children’s sense of self-empowerment or survival. Challenges are essential for little ones, in my opinion, forging the Self in fire for the sake of living with freedom, confidence and true sight. What happens when the play-date mommy cannot fix things for her young one? A recent photo of Kendall Jenner in Kim K’s “mom-jeans”, a throwback to Chris Jenner, makes me wonder about this family and how they will make their way psychologically in this world. Do they see their path as their own, or as an increasingly tangled Cat’s Cradle of familial entanglement? While navigating the dangers of the Corporate jungle, have these not so little spirits learned to navigate their interior with their natural compass blurred by the controlling memes of celebrity? I once met a professor at Mayfield, a preparation Elementary School to Caltech (think NASA/JPL) who started a program to accept a number of students from public schools. Why? Because, he told me, he felt that privilege was a setback for these kids, who in his opinion, needed to learn from Public School kids. Whenever I attended any of their functions to observe, he always sought me out like a secret confidante. I hope that his program went well, noting here that my brother is now an Engineer at NASA/JPL, not from being inherently privileged, but having shepherded his fellow school mates with compassion and a third-eye view to life.
Thank you for this thoughtful, insightful blog which may serve to free many from the Cat’s Cradle of installed buttons and electric fences. Let’s see how well we learn to be excellent trackers of our own destiny. (See Rabbit Proof Fence) https://youtu.be/Lbnk8wSVMaM

The Gaily Planet

Nearly 20 years have passed since my drive-by with a Maasai shepherd in southern Kenya, but I can still visualize the intensity of his gaze as if it happened yesterday.
I was literally driving by– scouting the next location for a fashion photo-shoot with our intrepid fixer,Masjid, at the wheel of an open air Land Rover and me in the back seat– when I locked eyes with the shepherd for just a few seconds. And while I have no empirical evidence to back up my theory, somehow I instinctively understood that if the shepherd and I were to find ourselves stranded on the savannah with a lion chasing us– no harm would come to me if I just followed his steady lead.
If you subscribe to the myth that every young Maasai must kill a lion before he can be circumcised– a rite of passage that happens once the child…

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A Life Based on a Great Vow Is Unshakable

A Life Based on a Great Vow Is

Unshakable

mandela with kids

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election.

His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.

A Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended the best universities where he studied law. Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League.

He rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign.

Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961.

There’s no doubt that with the passing of Nelson Mandela, Madiba to those who loved him, a hole is left in the fabric of global society and its few but intrepid Heroes.  Or is there? Surely we all have the ability and most likely the innate mission to leave this world a better place than we found it.

But how?

In a lecture given by  Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, he states that one must “make a great vow,” based on ones profound awareness that in doing so, one will have the strength to win over the fierce obstacles that naturally arise when advancing kosen rufu.”

He elaborates, “We cannot bring forth the strength to withstand great hardships or persecution unless we make our ultimate goal the attainment of Enlightenment in this lifetime and dedicate our lives from the depths of our being.”

The Daishonin uses the Dragon Gate as a metaphor: According to Chinese legend, a carp that can climb the Dragon Gate will turn into a dragon, with the ability to control the rain and thunderclouds. However, the path to the top of the waterfall is fraught with unending perils. Nichiren describes the falls as rising 100 feet and spanning more than half a mile in width. In addition to the roaring currents, fishermen and birds of prey lie in wait. Only when a carp can overcome all these difficulties and reach the top of the waterfall can it become a dragon.

climbing_the_dragon_gate_iii_by_puimun-d4rvi13Nichiren urges his disciples to “make a great vow,” that it will give them the strength to win over the fierce obstacles that naturally arise when advancing world peace;  make a masterpiece of personal human revolution sparking the light of courage in others simultaneously to do the same thereby gaining unshakeable happiness together!

Nichiren Buddhism regards happiness not as a private possession, but rather a virtue that increases the more it is shared.

President Ikeda met with Nelson Mandela on a number of occasions. They shared ideas on advancing peace and especially on protecting and empowering our youth.

In an interview Mandela recounts a number of stories on how he dealt with this 27-year challenge.

The low, scrubby oval of Robben Island, a few miles offshore from Cape Town was a kind of Purgatory in plain sight for those the white regime feared most, a place forbidden to all but the inmates and their jailers.

South Africans called it simply “The Island”, and speculated fearfully as to what went on there. Yet when Nelson Mandela was asked how his 27 years in prison, most of them on Robben Island, had affected him, his answer was unexpected. “I came out mature,” he said.

N.Mandela in his cell on Robben Island (revisit} 1994

Mandela disappeared from the world with the reputation of a charismatic but often boastful lawyer, a keen boxer and ladies’ man who did not have the temperament to remain undetected for long when he went underground.

He returned a dignified old man who had won the respect of his captors, so much so that they were anxious to negotiate the hand-over of power to him. Thanks to Mandela’s imprisonment there, Robben Island is now a World Heritage Site, but when visitors see the conditions in which he was held, few find it easy to imagine how he retained his sanity, let alone triumphed over his oppression.

ikeda madibaDisembarking from their jetfoils after crossing the often turbulent waters of Table Bay, tourists see the same sight that greeted every prisoner on Robben Island: a concrete gateway with the emblem of the apartheid prison service and the motto, “We Serve With Pride”.

As they roam the concrete blocks, they are shown the bleak cell, barely 6ft square, where prisoner number 46664 spent years with nothing but a bedroll on the floor, a tiny stool and a ceramic pot.

“Journeying to Robben Island was like going to another country,” Mandela wrote in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. “Its isolation made it not simply another prison, but a world of its own.”

After another trial in Pretoria for treason, he stayed to the island from June 1964 until March 1982, when he was moved to the mainland. He did not walk to freedom until February 1990.

Mandela recalls his first arrival on the island in his book: “We were met by a group of burly white warders shouting [in Afrikaans]: ‘Dis die Eiland! Hier gaan julle vrek!’ (This is the Island! Here you will die!)” Immediately he showed the spirit of resistance that helped to carry him through, telling his fellow inmates to walk when the warders were shouting at them to run, and threatening legal action against one notoriously brutal figure who seemed about to hit him.

While Mandela was never assaulted during his prison term, everything about the regime was designed to punish and humiliate black leaders who had had the temerity to demand equality with whites.

Category D political prisoners like him were allowed one 30-minute visit and one letter every six months. Anything deemed “political” in the letters would be cut out, so that often the prisoner received nothing but a tattered, indecipherable remnant of paper.

Africans also had a worse diet than any other race. Removing these inequalities was among the first of many issues on which Mandela and his fellow political prisoners mounted campaigns of passive resistance during their years on Robben Island.

Despite poor food, inadequate clothing in the wet and windswept Cape winter, and heavy labour in the island’s lime quarry, where  Mandela’s sight was damaged by the blinding glare of the sun on the quarry’s blanched walls, he remained unbroken.

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“The challenge for every prisoner, particularly every political prisoner,” he wrote, “is how to survive prison intact, how to emerge from prison undiminished, how to conserve and even replenish one’s beliefs… The authorities’ greatest mistake was to keep us together, for together our determination was reinforced. We supported each other and gained strength from each other.”

The bullying, poorly educated white  warders were uncertain how to deal with these articulate, determined political prisoners, who seemed confident that they would one day  prevail, no matter how long their sentences or how complete the white regime’s apparent domination. By the early 1970s, Mandela had tamed the prison authorities to the point where they would frequently consult him. Occasional attempts to revert to the old brutal regime were transformed, and concessions, such as the right to study, were won.

But Robben Island remained deeply isolated – Rather like Alcatraz in San Francisco, a city to which Cape Town has often been compared for its scenic beauty and hedonistic tendencies- Robben Island served as a constant reminder to those on the mainland of the privations being suffered by some.

Above all, Nelson Mandela had to fill the endless years without ever knowing how long his imprisonment would last. He had been sentenced to life, and until the late 1980s apartheid’s masters insisted that he would die behind bars.

“To survive in prison,” he wrote, “one must develop ways to take satisfaction in one’s daily life. One can feel fulfilled by washing one’s clothes so that they are particularly clean, by sweeping a corridor so that it is free of dust, by organizing one’s cell to conserve as much space as possible. The same pride one takes in more consequential tasks outside prison, one can find in doing small things inside prison.”

Mandela took pains to remain physically fit, and was one of the few who did not complain when the authorities made the prisoners walk to the quarry rather than being taken by truck. He saw it as an opportunity to view the island’s wildlife, much of it descended from animals released for hunting, such as various types of buck, and the swarms of rabbits originally intended to feed passing ships.

South Africa’s future president said he first heard about the island as a child, because a hero of his Xhosa tribe, who led a 19th-century uprising against the British, was incarcerated there.

But Robben Island was used as a political prison & later served as a leper colony, a lunatic asylum and as a naval base, where his father was stationed during the Second World War. On his daily trek to the quarry, Mandela would have seen the largest of several naval gun emplacements on the island.

“During the harsh days of the early 1970s,” Mandela wrote, “ the ANC seemed to sink into the  shadows … In many ways we had miscalculated; we had thought that by the 1970s we would be living in a democratic, non-racial South Africa.”  In 1975, he turned 57, and two of his closest comrades suggested he write his autobiography. It cost him study privileges for four years when part of the manuscript was discovered, but even after it was smuggled out, the ANC in exile decided not to publish it.

The following year, a new generation appeared on Robben Island: militants jailed after the Soweto uprising. “These young men were a different breed,” said Mandela. “They were brave, hostile and aggressive; they would not take orders.” They were almost as skeptical of the older prisoners as of the authorities: after so many years of being branded a radical revolutionary, Mandela found that “to be perceived as a moderate was a novel and not altogether pleasant feeling”. It reinforced the fears of the long-term inmates that “we had become frozen in time”.

This was the greatest challenge of the ANC leader’s years in prison, and Mandela rose to it. He refused the pleas of the prison authorities to intervene with the younger inmates, instead seeking to mediate among the political factions represented on the island. The new prisoners were predominantly supporters of Black Consciousness, which had little respect for the ANC or the rival Pan Africanist Congress, but in time most came under the ANC banner.

The influx also brought unexpected benefits. So busy were the warders with the young firebrands that the older prisoners were practically left to themselves.

In 1977, the political prisoners succeeded in having manual labour halted, giving them more time for reading, studying and political debate. Mandela cultivated his garden and kept fit by playing tennis, the yard of his cell block having been converted into a court.

But those held on Robben Island were still subject to the whim of the authorities, as Mandela discovered in March 1982, when he was abruptly told that he was to be transferred to Pollsmoor prison on the mainland. The reason, it later emerged, was that the apartheid government thought he might prove more pliant in negotiations if he was kept apart from his comrades. They soon discovered they were wrong, but, for Mandela, who had spent the best part of two decades on Robben Island, it was a wrench.

“A man can get used to anything, and I had grown used to Robben Island,” he wrote. “It had become a place where I felt comfortable.”  More than that: as he himself said, his ordeal there was the making of him.

Nelson Mandela, like others before him had not only survived prison, but mastered it. He did not resent his predicament but learned how to use it to his benefit, and on his release sought not revenge, but peace for all mankind.

Daisaku Ikeda reminds us how valuable it is to have a philosophy that enables us to constantly tap and manifest fresh, vibrant life force from within, as well as a network of friends with like minds that offers mutual encouragement and support as we strive to overcome each obstacle and move forward one step at a time!

If you fall down, pick yourself up again. Every time you do, you will become stronger. There is no trial that you cannot overcome through invoking the Mystic  Law.

His own mentor Josei Toda:who was also imprisoned for his beliefs stated:

“As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, our lives contain the power of the Mystic Law, which can transform and move all things in the universe. We have to make full use of that power. Youth, firmly resolve to achieve your goals without fail! Open the way; blaze a trail! Transform every challenge into a story of victory!”

Today, for the first time in history, America has an African American President who faces his own challenges, but with a hero like Madiba and a Country he loves, he also remains undaunted in his quest to stand up for those who need it most.  The poor, the sick, the elderly — our kids, the future.  What will each of us do?

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Time and Space

dior 3Many writers seem tongue-tied in natural situations — like story-meetings or worse, board meetings. It’s the same reason  why we writers are able to arrive at a point in time with the same stories, themes and premises — why studios have five versions of the same themed-stories. As I just discussed with my friend and co-writer who is gifted with opulent, fast-paced, vibrant dreams,  we do appear on the scene of other worlds seemingly as spies, silent witnesses to other-worldly places and worlds.  Who is to say that time exists outside our man-made device to keep track of human, earthly progress — our ‘being here’.

In that space ‘in-between’ there is no such thing, and dropping in on a particular scene at a particular “time” becomes as natural as if by remote. As easily as brushing one veil away displaying before our senses the viewing of another world.  I suppose we are fortunate to be able to view the ordinarily ‘unviewable’ – an exhilarating silent witnessing of energy arranged in pictures, scenes, sounds, activity — all in wildly vibrant technicolor. It is necessary for what we contribute in the here and now.

So if you are one of those who feel awkward in the here and now of meetings, budgets and structured boxes, feel comfortable in knowing that without that awkwardness, one may not have that specially gifted makeup of being able to slip between worlds when the rest of this one is at sleep.

Game of Thrones Recap: Wedded Diss

Truly faithful to the book in horror, as Red Weddings go.

TVLine

Game of Thrones Season 3 RecapNed Stark’s beheading in Game of Thronesfirst season was brutal. This week’s episode makes that murder look like a gentle mercy killing.

If you’re among what some fans of the series refer to as the “unsullied” – aka those who haven’t read George R. R. Martin’s book series and are therefore unspoiled about what’s likely to happen in the TV series – the hour probably put you into a catatonic state. I am decidedly sullied… and it was still a really sad, grossly violent, hard-to-watch episode.

Let’s all get through this together, shall we? Here’s what happened in “The Rains of Castamere.”

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