Monthly Archives: September 2015

“Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds,  the harvest can either be flowers or weeds.”  William Wordsworth Longfellow

Flowers at the Furano train station, Hokkaido

Flowers at the Furano train station, Hokkaido

Words can Change your Brain by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman
Mark  Robert Waldman  is a therapist and an Associate Fellow at the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, University of Pennsylvania

Out of approx. 500,000 words in the English language, how many do you use habitually?Although our working language may be 2000 words, what about our use of words? Research says its something like 200 (habitual) words. If we pay attention to our thoughts, there are some we repeat all the time.  My 10 yr old nephew recently asked me why he had to learn some English words for his spelling test such as “exhilarated” when most people speak like 5 yr olds. Ouch, but true, Out of the mouth of babes. Although we know many words, we may not use them.

How many thoughts do we process a day? Possibly 50,000 to 90,000 thoughts a day.  How may of these thoughts are the same every day? Do we think the same thoughts? [Oft used quote: Insanity is doing the same thing every day, and expecting different results. I’m guilty as charged.]

Some self-help gurus may advise us to listen to our inner voice. But do we confuse our inner voice for inner chatter?  How do we differentiate the two?  For some of us, our inner voice sounds more like a negative inner speech.

The authors examine the evolution of our brains and through experiments have isolated that the thalamus helps us in performing adaptive decision making to abrupt changes in the environment. However, the thalamus relates outside information as real. It doesn’t distinguish inner and outer reality. If we ruminate on imaginary fears, the brain interprets them as real.

Consciousness shapes the world we live in.

However, often our consciousness is interpreted through cultural lenses. People relate to a word differently, depending on the background they were raised, e.g. “You were beautiful” may be taken as an insult, even when we are using the same words.

Secondly, our everyday consciousness is a snapshot of reality. It does not reflect the entire reality simply because the average listener can only pay attention to a limited amount of information. Average of 3-4 chunks. Chunks of information can only be held for 20 sec, then it gets dumped. Our consciousness acts as a sieve, sifting out what we want to hear.

Thirdly, our consciousness amplifies. Our Inner speech preoccupies.  It gives voice to the world around us, helps us assert self control of our impulse.  Higher frequencies of inner speech lower levels of psychological distress. In 1926, Jean Piaget noticed that children between 3-5 yrs old verbalise their actions, what he calls “ego-centric speech”.  Language dominates our daily lives. Inner speech helps us rehearse what we’re about to say. This begins in the first few years of life, and occurs in the left side of our brain and helps us orientate us towards other people. Each emotional state, anger, joy, contentment has its own voice.

Severe trauma can activate these inner voices. We can become self-critical – “Its not good enough, the boss is going to complain”.  We see a piece of dress. “You can’t afford it”. “But I deserve it”. Sometimes, our negative inner dialogue can be destructive…

Change your inner speech, you change your behavior.
1. Close your eyes, and cease thinking.
If you’re new to this, your mind can cease thinking but not before mental chatter kicks in.

2. Become aware of continuous mind shifts, judgments, opinions.  Be aware of how the inner chatter shuts off other insights, e.g. comments such as “This is stupid”.

3. Bring it to inner silence.
Inner dialogue never seems to stop.  Your job is not to stop it, but to be aware of it. Learn to stay in the state of awareness –  you might even act with greater generosity to others.

4. Observe your inner speech.  Listen with your inner ear.
Get a sheet of paper, take a few deep breaths, yawn and stretch for 20 sec. Relax. Remain silent.  Try not to think of anything.

[Immediately, fragmentary thoughts drifting in and out. write them down, and the feelings or sensations. Let it float away like a cloud.  Remain neutral. Note and let go.

5. Transform negative inner speech.  Inner speech helps modify social behaviour.
Mindful observation + Optimistic Thinking = Add two years of life

6. Intuitional insight – we live in a world of language driven experience.

7. Learn to value silence
If you don’t pause in between, listeners cannot catch up.  Great speakers know value of silent pause, it creates deeper connection.  Let the other person talk.

Once upon a time, Chuang Tzu dreamed that he was a butterfly, flying about enjoying itself. not know that it was Chuang Tzu. Suddenly Chuang Tzu awoke. But alas, he was uncertain whether he was Chuang Tzu dreaming that he was a butterfly, or whether it was the butterfly dreaming that it was Chuang Tzu.

1968 documentary film Powers of Ten, written and directed by Ray and Charles Eames.  The film, available online, depicts the known universe in factors of ten:

Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe.  Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only as a speck of light among many others. Returning to earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward – into the hand of the sleeping picnicker – with ten times more magnification every ten seconds.  Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell.

You can look at every situation in the world from different angles, from close up, from far away, from upside down, and from behind.  We are creating frames for what we see, hear and experience all day long, and those frames both inform and limit the way we think.

– Tina Seelig, inGenius, a Crash Course on Creativity

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, … every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.”
― Horace Walpole

Do you see two faces or a vase?

Focus your eyes therefore on things that are eternal, and last the test of times.



Source: World Mysteries: Illusions



When talking through a melon patch, don’t bend down to tie your sandals.

If life gives you melons ,
You might be dyslexic


Watermelon juice in Malacca. Drill a hole, insert a drinking straw.

If we are happy to see film stars, rock stars and sports stars receive astronomical incomes, shouldn’t we also be willing to see ‘celebrity’ CEOs rewarded in a similar way?

This was the question posed in class for debate.

Should everyone be paid a minimum wage? Intuitively, it sounds appealing for me who feels strongly when I see old folks picking up used cans and cardboard boxes for recycling to make a few cents.

But here we are talking about people who are paid millions. And a reminder of a wikipedia post of a certain CEO of an American bank who paid $1,000 for a wastepaper basket. (Not with his own money.)

Arguments in favour of high salary for CEOs:

Companies that pay for high-priced executive talent usually get better results—and the money they pay these executives is a good investment.

The quality of a company’s CEO is the single biggest driver of its financial results. Since Bob Iger took over Disney in 2000, he almost doubled the company’s value, creating $50 billion in shareholder wealth. Steve Jobs did not persuade Tim Cook to take on a $1 salary, and many credit Tim Cook for successfully getting the iPads to the stores on time.

CEO salaries are rising because more companies realize the value of good CEOs, and their pay—much like contracts for top-tier professional athletes—is getting bid up.

Arguments against astoronomical salary of CEO

Star athletes generally have exceptionally rare skills that are honed over a lifetime of practice.

The rarity of that skill that drives the demand and value of their services. What is often lost in analyzing athlete compensation is the value creation that is tied to those rare skills.

People are happy to pay up to experience the best; and this is true in sports, music, literature and most other fields. Athletes command high wages because they are the centerpiece of both production and demand in multi-billion-dollar businesses.
Question is if the CEO has a rare skill like an athlete or if he is a coach in talent management, bringing the best out of his team. What about CEOs who bankrupt their companies?

Should we attribute those to external circumstances such as the economy or to the “pursuit of high risk, high returns” ventures?

The question is really about whether the skills of a CEO equally rare? In terms of leaders who are true visionaries, those skills probably are rare. Likewise, the ability to juggle the multiple demands on a CEO’s time, mediate between rivals and ultimately accept responsibility for the direction of a company.

CEOs are a synthesis of athlete and coach. Certainly there is a visionary aspect to almost every successful CEO, and not everyone is born with that ability. Likewise, some people are simply unable to cope with conflict or to make a high-stakes decision from multiple options. Those would all seem to be innate traits akin to a star athlete.

Like the performance of a star athlete, would a CEO be interested to invest in long-term capabilities building of the organisation rather than on-site personal brand-building behavior?

For this, perhaps a balanced score-card model on measuring performance would be a consideration.

Would you watch a performance if your favourite star is in it? Even if it bombs in the box office? Many would. Then some argue that the snapping of star CEO would guarantee box office in the eyes of stock analysts. Paying good money would seem worth it. What do you think?


Nakervis, Alan

Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work. Chuck Close


Kew on a plate

A team including Kew gardener Joe Archer (above) has created a stunning kitchen garden that is a showcase of heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables.

This morning I woke up at 7am, and want to sleep a little longer. My usual waking up time is 6am because I have to rush to class before the morning traffic.

Haruki Murakami, in his book “What I talk about when I talk about running”, recounted an interview with Olympic runner Toshiko Seko.

I asked him, “Does a runner at your level ever feel like you’d rather not run today, like you don’t want to run and would rather just sleep in?” He stared at me and then, in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, “Of course. All the time!”

With that thought, I got out of bed, made a glass of bittergourd juice with soya bean and mango sauce and bounced off to wash my clothes. Which meant putting the clothes into the washing machine.


Photo source: mine