I’m in print! Click here!

I’m in print! Click here!

Visit the above link to get a free “Look Inside” preview of my new book,
Meditation Q & A.   The subtitle is, “Questions submitted to online forums,
answered by Prahas.”  Enjoy!

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Beyond Information

In a world awash with data, please remember:  there is something immensely valuable beyond information.  A beautiful, divine silence exists beyond the mind-stuff.

There is a miraculous, subtle force in play which moves us gently toward this silence.  This is the story of how this force worked on me.

In my twenties, I was steeped in the intellectual world.  I was reading spiritual texts, but they did not penetrate.  When I turned twenty nine, I moved to a suburb of the city in which I was living.  This move lessoned to a large degree the noise and distraction to which I was subjected.  In astrological terms, I was in my Saturn return, so the miraculous force had the stars on its side.

One night, at a dinner party, I exchanged a few words with a new acquaintance.  She mentioned she spent six months in the U.S. and six months in India.  I didn’t think much of it.

A few weeks later, I was standing in line at a cafe, and I caught sight of a group of four people laughing and enjoying.  Upon looking more closely, I noticed the woman I had met at the dinner party.  I was wearing a tee-shirt with the logo of a theatre company with which I had worked.  My acquaintance said, “I didn’t know you worked in theatre.  This man is a world-renowned theatre artist from Germany.”  Introductions were made, and I sat down with them to have a coffee.

Two minutes later, I was crying my eyes out.

I have no recollection of what transpired between the introduction and the crying.  However, I do remember, after I finally calmed down, the German artist saying, “You are ready.”

There is an ancient saying.  The student does not find the Master; the Master finds the student.  In this case, the Master used one of his disciples to find me.

A few weeks later, I was immersed in a Zen Theatre course, which combined theatre exercises with meditation techniques.

Shortly thereafter, I became the disciple of an enlightened Master, and began to learn the methods which helped me to have a glimpse of that which lies beyond the spoken word, beyond the zippy thoughts, beyond the emotions, and beyond the sensations of the physical body.

It only took one glimpse of this peace, this silence, this blissfulness, to know that in the end, this is all I need.

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Covid July 2021

I am growing concerned about our vaccine policy.  This morning I find myself moved into the world of thought and hypothesis as these words come forth.

If it is the case that the virus came out of the Wuhan lab (and I believe that this is likely) and if it is the case that this lab was doing gain-of-function and other kinds of research (also likely, in my opinion) then it may be the case we are dealing with a virus with properties the likes of which we have never seen before.

When I say “we” I would like to emphasize the vaccine manufacturers, who are having to neutralize this threat which they may not fully understand.

This places us between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand, because the virus may have unknown qualities as a result of emerging from the dimension of unique, advanced science, it poses a grave threat to human health.  In my view there can be no arguing this point.  4.2 million deaths worldwide and 628,000 deaths in the USA, even accounting for margin of error, is nothing to shake a stick at.   In other words, doing nothing is not an option.

However, doing something when we don’t fully understand the biology and biochemistry involved invokes the “First, do no harm” phrase from the Hippocratic Oath.   Two of the vaccines use mRNA technology, which is being used for vaccine delivery for the first time.  (The history of mRNA is interesting and problematic and worth reading about.)  So in mRNA-vaccinated people, we are cooking up a chemical cocktail of the active ingredient, the “greasy nano-particles” which surround this ingredient (to ensure that our immune systems do not attack it before it arrives at the virus), and the virus itself (which again is in some sense an “un-natural” organism because of the ways in which it has [most probably] been altered).  Is this trajectory “doing no harm?”

Another alternative is more lockdowns while we do longer-term tests on the vaccines.  But this of course does great damage to an already-hurting economy.  And does more damage to our psyches as well.  My sense is we all want to “get back into life.”  Given the emergence of virus variants, and given the state-of-the-art tech, my sense is longer term studies on the effects of the vaccines is essential.  So perhaps a moderate approach is best:  some vaccination and some softer lockdowns (or slow downs).  More work-from-home and less large-group gatherings.  And so on.  

I would like to add a couple of personal notes.  My contribution to the safety of the community is to remain isolated.  My particular life situation allows me to remain alone in my room most of the time.  When I get groceries, I wear a mask and use hand sanitizer and socially distance.  I know that my biology is very sensitive.  Even when I have taken supplements in the past, I have had to start with one quarter of the prescribed dose, to give my body a chance to get used to them.  Primarily for these two reasons, I have chosen not to get vaccinated.  This being said, if my lifestyle changed, and I began to interact with lots of people, I would almost certainly get the J&J vaccine, after building up my immune system naturally first (to prepare myself for the expected “hit” of the vaccine).  

Finally, I want to broaden the context a bit, and look at other leading causes of death in the USA.  To be honest, when I had this thought, I was certain the other leaders would be significantly larger than Covid.  It turns out this is not the case.  In 2019, heart disease killed 659,000 people, cancer killed 599,000, and accidents took 173,000. [1]   Covid, in roughly 17 months, killed 628,000.  This puts Covid in 3rd place, with roughly 443,000 deaths in a year.   But because it came out of nowhere, it put a huge strain on our health care system.  

I know these ramblings don’t lead anywhere.  And I notice that I am stopping short of saying that the government mandating vaccines is a bad idea, although something in me senses that it is, both for “backlash” reasons, as well as for more substantive reasons related to the above “do no harm” thoughts.  But Covid is continuing to put all of us in a very difficult situation, and I felt moved today to comment on it.  May we all be blessed with wisdom, patience, acceptance, and Love.

[1]  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

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Morning’s musings…

formlessness.
light and darkness.
all of the various forms:

rocks and trees and stars and mountains;

animals and insects and birds and men and women;

men and women thinking about food and clothing and shelter and transportation and family and tribe and love and survival.

And so humans form governments, associations, institutions, so that they can improve their lot in life, extend their lives.

Winston Churchill famously said democracy is the worst form of government, except for all of the others.

What can I say about patriotism?  Love of country?  E pluribus unum?  Division?  Nationalism?  Disillusion?  Civic life?  Equality, inclusion, self-government and aspiration?  What can I say about collective association?  Cultural conformity?  Consolidated polity?  

Do any of these things truly exist?  Can I touch them, taste them, feel them?  Part of my mind wants to come back to the individual, to this (imagined) moment of interaction with one person.  This moment, standing before you:  the one word you utter; each syllable of the word; the tone of voice; the energy it carries; the micro-expressions on your face; the way in which your hair moves as you utter it; what I notice about my posture as I listen; the slight distraction I feel caused by the whirr of the refrigerator nearby…  And still, even in this one simple moment, this one simple interaction, so much unknown, so much data missed; so many chances for me to mis-perceive, for me to project, for me to misunderstand.

But — I can imagine a college professor’s protestations about “my doubt,” and certainly I am no stranger to intellectualism, philosophy, and the re-arrangement of abstract labels and concepts.

So here it goes….

A key piece of the civic puzzle, in my view, is that more and more individuals rediscover the virtue of good-faith negotiation and problem solving.  More and more of us need to spend more time honing in on one issue, learning a lot about it, and then showing up in the appropriate forums, rolling up our sleeves, and getting to work on moving forward on that issue.  If voting is your thing, learn about elections.  Read the history.  Learn about current election laws and practices.  Learn about paper ballots versus machine ballots.  Learn about how we count votes and declare winners and losers.  Learn about the electoral college.  And then find out where high level discussions about election laws are taking place and get involved. 

The great thing about living in America is that an individual can do all of these things without fear of getting arrested by the FBI.  (And of course I must modify this statement by saying one is free if one respects the red flags and intellectual lines in the sand which appear from time to time:  there are places our minds are not allowed to wander…  But more on this another day…)

Right now, again in my view, many of us spend far too much time arguing on social media, consuming half-baked entertainment/news shows (when we are not watching re-runs of sit-coms), playing video games, and / or memorizing sports statistics.  If we individually and collectively spent even half of this time and energy on diving deep into one issue and then acting (as described above), I believe we could dramatically move forward on many of the vexing challenges facing us today.

But this is just a belief, an inspiring hypothesis, born of the combination of past thoughts stored in my brain and perhaps, if I’m lucky, a bit of morning inspiration from the muse.

This is just the mechanism named Prahas, showing up to reply to a David Brooks editorial, shared on a group email;

this is our little tribe, our little sangha, grounding the light;

humans doing the best they can;
light and darkness swirling.
formlessness.

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Pain

Click for this morning’s essay.

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The Year 2020 in Review

“Throughout the entire history of the world, there has never been a single problem. Not one. Not ever. Nor could there ever be a problem.

Yet to our mind these “problems” seem very real.

Look at all the trouble our minds have gotten us into.”

–Peter Windi’Hi Cutler

*****

“There is a single word that serves as a fitting representation of 2020: resilience. Very few periods over the course of modern history have tested our resilience and shaped humanity, culture and politics the way 2020 has. From a global health pandemic, racial injustice and an increasingly volatile climate to complex geopolitics and a divisive U.S. election, the impact of this year will be felt for decades to come.‌

Our ability as a society to adapt, innovate and grow on a global and local level has been extraordinary. From innovations in science and medicine that accelerated a COVID-19 vaccine to the social awakening of citizens and corporations taking action in support of Black Lives Matter to communities rallying together to fight natural disasters to the largest turnout of voters in the history of U.S. presidential elections, this year has demonstrated our humanity, scars and all, and what it truly means to be a global citizen.

For Verizon Media, when faced with the very worst, I saw the best rise from our employees, consumers and partners. Our employees came together like never before, helping each other tackle the struggles of working from home. Our consumers relied on our entire ecosystem as a source for connections, transactions, trusted news and content — when accurate information was more critical than ever. We worked with our advertisers and publishers to innovate and develop products and services that catered to the “new normal.”‌

A year in review might suggest that the moments are behind us. What 2020 has shown is the events that defined this year will last a lifetime. Here is a snapshot.

January
The year kicks off with some of the worst wildfires in Australia’s history, destroying over 12 million acres of land. The World Health Organization announces the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, and the first COVID-19 case is confirmed in the U.S. COVID-19 will go on to kill over 1.6 million people worldwide by year’s end. The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begins. Basketball icon Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others die in a tragic helicopter accident. A Ukraine-bound plane crashes shortly after taking off from Tehran airport; Iran’s government later admits it mistakenly shot the plane down. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce their intention to step down from the royal family.

February
The United Kingdom finally exits the European Union in what has been coined Brexit. The Kansas City Chiefs defeat the San Francisco 49ers in a stunning Super Bowl comeback. Parasite becomes the first non-English-language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. The Senate votes to acquit President Trump at his impeachment trial. Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, is fatally shot after being pursued by three white civilians in Glynn County, Ga., and solidarity events are held across the nation. Harvey Weinstein is convicted on multiple charges in a high-profile court case. Joe Biden wins the South Carolina primary, notching his first win in a run that will eventually gain him the Democratic presidential nomination.

March
The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic and lockdown begins in countries around the world, triggering a global economic reaction that causes the worst single-day point drop for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The highly anticipated Tokyo Summer Olympics are canceled. Racial injustice remains at the forefront of people’s minds as Breonna Taylor is killed by police during a botched raid in Louisville, Ky. The first COVID-19 relief bill is passed in the U.S., helping millions of people and businesses. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for COVID-19. Tom Brady signs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a legendary run with the New England Patriots. Tiger King hits Netflix and becomes a quarantine smash. Yahoo celebrates 25 years.

April
Nova Scotia suffers one of the deadliest mass shootings in Canada’s history. Much of the U.S. is in lockdown mode, with New York hit the hardest by cases of COVID-19. The pandemic has a disproportionate effect on diverse communities, with Black people, Asians and Latinos affected the most. It continues to hit all economic sectors, with unemployment numbers at 14.7 percent in the U.S., the highest rate and the largest month-over-month increase since 1948, when data was first collected. Yahoo Life, a new vertical focused on all things mental health and wellness, launches. Verizon Media donates $10 million in advertising inventory to help mental health organizations. The highly anticipated mobile streaming service Quibi launches, only to shut down six months later.

May
George Floyd is killed after a police officer kneels on his neck for an extended period, setting off worldwide protests and a racial justice reckoning. Political protests calling for democratic leadership and economic reform begin in Belarus, and separate protests erupt in Hong Kong after China votes to impose strict national security legislation. Costa Rica is the first Central American country to legalize same-sex marriage. Cyclone Amphan hits India, causing significant damage and becoming one of the costliest cyclones recorded in the North Indian Ocean. “Murder hornets” become a new fascination as they reach North America for the first time.

June
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declares the country “COVID-free.” China’s economy bounces back into growth following a record Q1 slump. Global protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing escalate as citizens call for police reform and justice. Verizon announces a $10 million commitment to organizations focused on social and racial equality. The Supreme Court rules against the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program in a 5-4 decision. India wins a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council.

July
The Trump administration considers banning the social media app TikTok, setting off a debate on whether the app poses a security threat to the U.S. Allegations of a toxic workplace emerge at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Glee actress Naya Rivera drowns in a California lake. Beloved TV host Regis Philbin dies. The NBA resumes its season in a “bubble” at Disney World, and Formula 1 announces it will resume racing, beginning with the Rolex Grosser Preis von Osterreich. The first four weeks of the Indian Premier League experience a sizable surge in viewership, even surpassing the viewership of the English Premier League.

August
Joe Biden announces Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his VP running mate, making her the first woman of color on a major-party ticket. California wildfires rage, fueled by dry heat and extreme temperatures, showcasing the volatility of climate change. Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, is left partly paralyzed after police shoot him seven times in the back in front of his three children. A huge explosion of ammonium nitrate stored at a dock in Beirut kills over 200 people. The sudden death of Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman shocks Hollywood and fans alike.

September
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at the age of 87 from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, setting off a major political battle over her replacement. Tributes to RBG, as she was fondly called, pour in from around the world to honor the feminist icon. President Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett as RBG’s replacement. Biden and Trump have their first debate, which highlights bitter exchanges and name calling and sets off a meme titled “Will you shut up, man?” in reference to a remark from Biden. Naomi Osaka wins her second U.S. Open title.

October
The Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. President Trump and the first lady test positive for COVID-19, in addition to over a dozen others associated with the administration. Two legends in film and music pass away: Sean Connery and Eddie Van Halen. The NBA sets a successful example for a sports comeback as the season ends with zero positive COVID-19 results for players within the Orlando bubble. LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers go on to defeat the Miami Heat to win the NBA championship.. LeBron James and the LA Lakers go on to defeat the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championship.

November
With much anticipation, Election Day arrives and more Americans vote — including by mail — than in any other election in U.S. history. Joe Biden is declared president-elect, winning both the electoral and popular vote. The U.S. formally exits the Paris Agreement. Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek dies after battling pancreatic cancer. India resumes international cricket in Australia for the first time since March.

December
The first COVID-19 vaccines are administered in the U.K., followed by the U.S. The rollout of the vaccine creates a sense of optimism across the globe as cases continue to surge across the U.S. The Electoral College casts its votes and officially affirms Joe Biden’s victory.

*****

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year like no other. As unrelenting as the headwinds were, what I saw — citizens and communities across the world exhibiting courage, humility and sacrifice — made me optimistic. Resilience is what defined 2020, but more importantly, it will be what takes us forward.

Thank you to our employees, consumers, partners and everyone who joined us on the journey this year. I look forward to the prospect of a new year in which we can see each other in person, share a handshake or hug, and pass one another in the hallway with a smile and a simple “Good morning.”

Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021 for you and yours.

Best,

K. Guru Gowrappan
CEO – Verizon Media

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Ordering Food on My Smartphone

Friends,

There is a recognition that change needs to happen.

There is a recognition that our institutions are imperfect and need updating.

There is a recognition that we need to shift from Game A to Game B.

There is a recognition that our sensemaking needs a lot of work.

There is a recognition that the information ecology is terribly polluted.

And – even as we work to create heaven on earth, let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

***

I was sitting in my car this morning.  I pressed a couple of icons on my smartphone.  I drove a mile or two, got out/ of my car, and picked up a package with the food items I had just ordered.

Allow me to present a partial list of the things behind what had just happened:

* Computing power has advanced to such a degree that we have icon-based, easy-to-use software allowing me to pull up menus and place an order;

* Computer hardware has advanced in so many ways:  miniaturization; touch screens; the list goes on;

* Sitting in my car using LTE technology, my smartphone can send a signal to a cell phone tower, which routes it to some kind of Internet interface, which sends my food order to the restaurant in a matter of milliseconds;

* Our financial system allows the phone app to transfer funds from my bank account to the restaurant’s bank account.  There is enough trust built into the system that I believe the restaurant will act in good faith and provide me with the goods I ordered, and the restaurant believes that the bank will in fact credit their account with the funds;

* Farmers from around the world worked hard to produce the raw materials which went into the food I ordered.  Truckers transported the food on roads built by thousands of workers.  Factories may have processed some of the farm-products into food-stuffs:  ie sugar cane into sugar.   Accountants tracked the finances behind each of these activities;

* What to say about my vehicle?  The internal combustion engine; the gas, oil, plastics, and metals and their trajectories.  The traffic laws which allow us all to drive with a reasonable amount of safety.  The street lights and stop signs…

* And all of this remains possible in the midst of a pandemic and an extremely contentious election cycle.

I could go on, but I think the major point is clear.  With all of its faults, our society has made it possible for me to pay for food and eat it in a nearly miraculous way.  

Are there shortcomings with each of the processes I have mentioned?  Certainly.  Is there room for improvement, for upgrades to the systems?  Absolutely.  But let us move incrementally, recognizing that when we change one thing, it effects the whole puzzle.  

Let us celebrate the creativity and output of our ancestors even as we work to improve things.

Love.

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Happening By Itself – Joan Tollifson

This is really good – a six minute read.

Click here.

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Video tribute to Justice Ginsberg

Click here for the YouTube video. Fly high, RBG!

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On Climate Change

With all of the fires and storms, I felt it was time again for me to post my thoughts on climate change.  

Let me preface this by saying I do believe it is time for more action to reduce the human-made emissions which contribute to climate change.  However, I  think many people misunderstand the science.

I’ve looked at mainstream coverage of the science, going beyond the summary reports into individual studies.  I’ve also looked at two or three “skeptic” scientists.  I can summarize my position thusly:

* I am convinced the climate is in fact warming due to human-made effects.

* What the effect of this warming will be is far from clear, from a scientific standpoint.

With one exception, the claims of future calamities are based on statistics and computer models, which do not satisfy me.  Statistics on a global scale are frankly easy to massage to one’s liking.  And the attempts to model climate over time — to take into account all of the various factors and forces at play — are noble indeed, but to me are inconclusive.  Consider the classic one-liner from chaos theory:  the flapping of a butterfly’s wings over Hawaii can lead to a tornado in Nebraska.  How in the world can scientists model with any degree of certainty weather patterns years or dozens of years from now?  While the sheer number of studies predicting ill-effects is cause for concern, the doom-and-gloom hysterics seem overblown.

The exception is sea level rise.  While I am convinced that measuring sea level is somewhat tricky, the combination of the melting of the glaciers (proven to me), and the expansion of ocean water due to temperature rise (also proven to me), indicate there is a real risk to coastal cities.  

While the number of major calamities seems to be growing, most climate scientists will agree that their tools and techniques are not sufficient to say conclusively that any one event (forest fire, hurricane) has been caused by climate change.  They are certainly working on developing tools which can do so, but they are not there yet.  Add to this the vastly more rapid and comprehensive communication of daily events to many of us worldwide (fifty years ago we simply didn’t hear about as many weather events), and our perception of what is happening may be skewed.  With regards to forest fires, I’ve heard several people say at least one cause relates to the ways in which we have been managing our forests.  

That being said, on an intuitive level, it certainly seems to me that the number of extreme weather events is increasing, and doing so in line with the predictions of the climate change computer models.  It is tempting for me to agree with Bernie Sanders and the governor of California and many others.  But the science just doesn’t support my intuition – at least not yet.

Climate science for me resides between a hard science (chemistry) and a soft one (sociology).  And predicting the future in any domain is tricky business.  However, there is enough science to provoke me to want to watch things like heat waves, draughts, fires and so on.  And to begin to prepare for the worst.  Therefore, I support the calls for action to reduce emissions which cause climate change, as well as funding for preparations to deal with calamities (especially coastal flooding due to sea level rise.)

Lastly, many of the prescribed solutions (moving to non-fossil fuels, eating less meat for two examples) seem like good things to do for several reasons, for individuals as well as the planet.  So why not just do the good things, for goodness’ sake (whether or not climate catastrophe is just around the corner)?  This question of course is an invitation to a longer conversation… 

Offered with Love.

***

Post script:

My hypothesis is many people recognize that humanity is doing many harmful things.  It is clear that spewing pollutants into the air from all kinds of smokestacks is bad for us.  It is clear that discarded plastic is polluting our lands and oceans.  It is clear that air quality is declining in many places around the world.  It is clear many people cannot drink the tap water anymore.  And the list goes on and on…  So my hypothesis is that many people use climate science as a way to persuade people that we need to make healthy changes.  Because apparently it is not enough to simply say, “doing these things is bad — we can see that — so let’s stop doing them.”  I know it is bad to eat processed sugar, but I don’t stop.  But if the fate of the world is at stake, then maybe I’ll stop.  

***

PPS:  This statement needs researching.  “As you warm up the atmosphere it can hold more moisture and so it can pull more moisture out of forest ecosystems, therefore drying them out faster.  And so then as long as you get spark and wind, and you’ve got enough to burn, you are going to burn it.”  Park Williams, hydro-climatologist, Columbia University.   As quoted on the PBS News Hour.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aul7dVMaJRs

The following link is an excellent, accessible dive into the subject. From a brief skim, my conclusion is this: while there is some evidence climate change is leading to more severe forest fires, it is not yet conclusive. I would add that it seems logical that increased temperatures would lead to more evaporation which would lead to dryer forest vegetation which would lead to more fuel for fires. However, because there are so many factors to consider, it is a hard thing to pin down scientifically. At any rate, this link is definitely worth a skim…

Click here for the link

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The Mechanism (video version)

Prahas talks about interconnectedness and the localized actor.

Click here for the video.

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Prahas Talk August 2nd, 2020

Prahas explores the absence of peace inside; the threats we face; accepting what is; the fear of death; the right to a sacred space around the body; and the samurai warrior’s code: to fight only when no anger is found within.

Click here to view the video.

 

Posted in Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, Meditation, New Age, Politics, Psychology, Spirituality | Leave a comment