Art/Culture/Music – you always need a back up!

IF YOU  MUSIC you need to watch these two docs – both are on Netflix

20 feet from stardom
20 feet from stardom – backup singers

I just watched a fabulous documentary called 20 Feet from Stardom and I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever loved and listened to music – so that means YOU & everyone else.  This is an Oscar-winning film by Morgan Neville that is long overdue and super fascinating.

Do the names Darlene Love, Táta Vega, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer mean anything to you?  Chances are you’ve never heard of them before but chances are you have heard them before.  Heard them sing that is!  Many times & on famous songs and hit records.  They are the back-up singers, otherwise known and relied on as being indispensable to the recording industry.  The unacknowledged unsung heroes – very much appreciated by the front runners of the industry but don’t get the credit from the general public that they so deserve. Although Darlene Love was recently & finally inducted into the music hall of fame by Bette Midler.

Darlene Love
Darlene Love

Neville talks to the big players like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and music producers about the mind-boggling talent of these women and how much they respect them and rely on their support.  Infact, most of them sing as well or better than their superstar counterparts.

It is not without sadness but it is also about greatness and possibility.  Bittersweet.

Okay, I don’t want to give too much away except to say once again, you NEED to see this documentary if you love music.  That’s all!

WATCH 20 feet from Stardom trailer:

I also really liked:

THE MEDICINE OF MUSIC and one Man’s Amazing Journey

Glen Campbell I’ll Be Memusic2

While on the subject of music docs here’s another interesting one I recently watched (even though both have been out for a while now) on country singer & music legend Glen Campbell who was sadly & unexpectedly told to hang up his guitar after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011 as he set out on an unprecedented tour across America.  Instead of the original intended 5 week tour, it went for 151 sold out shows over a year and a half while being documented as his “Goodbye Tour” as he and his wife decided to go public with his diagnosis and illness.   Alzheimer’s is an unpredictable, very common disease and it is great to see his family back him up with support, love, laughter and of course music (3 of his kids play on stage with him).  It is interesting, educational and heartfelt.

Interesting Tidbits: Bet you didn’t know that Glen Campbell played with the Beach Boys?  Yes, he did on occasion.

My friend’s talented daughter has the priviledge of recording at his son’s (Cal Campbell) home recording studio in California and said he is a lovely man.

GLEN CAMPBELL I’LL BE ME Official Movie Trailer

Directed by James Keach

Have you seen either?  


On my mind – if people thought like dogs

One thing for sure is….we would ALL be in trouble and I’d be such a bitch!music3

Have you ever wondered what a dog might be thinking or at least feeling with the many ways they tend to express themselves?  One thing for sure – you know right away whether they like you or not.  There’s no pussy (excuse the pun) footing around so you know where you stand right off the bat and since they’re a good judge of character it’s not a good thing if they don’t like you.  I’m always suspicious of dogs that don’t like certain people.  Most of the time they pick up on negative energy so I pay attention to that.  If my dog doesn’t like someone most likely I won’t either.

I’ve been watching their behaviour lately since I’m looking after Jack (an unusual name for a Jack Russell right?).  Vancouver is a much different environment for him having moved here from Thailand.  The weather, the living quarters, the kinds of dogs he’s not used to (mostly well behaved and on leashes)…all new.  He’s taking it all in.

Jack's favourite spot - the warmest place in the house so it feels a little like home
Jack’s favourite spot – the warmest place in the house so it feels more like home
Yes, go ahead...make yourself right at home
Yes, go ahead…make yourself right at home

His owner went back to Thailand yesterday and left a bag filled with stuff that puts my travel bag to shame.  Not only that, but he has way more sweaters than I have.  Jack is a great dog but he has a few quirks.  He doesn’t like black dogs.  I would call him prejudice (which is not allowed in my home) but then I found out he doesn’t like people who wear black sunglasses either.  So basically he doesn’t like anyone.  But he’ll adjust.

Yesterday he growled at a dog that was minding his own business across the street – for absolutely no reason that made sense to me.  The dog didn’t provoke him or anything like that so I was trying to imagine what he was saying.  Then I thought…

Imagine if people had absolutely no filters to the way we behave in public and went around barking, snarling, snapping, growling or wanting to take a bite out of those we don’t like or immediately go up and sniff or lick the ones we approve of.  Ha, ha….not sure about this but it is funny to think about.

What might they be saying? Maybe things like…music4

“I don’t like the way you look”

“that sweater looks so stupid on you”

“I love the way you look and want to hang around and play with you right now”

“you smell awful – when was the last time you washed?”

“what is the perfume you’re wearing cause I like the way you smell?”

“you’re not in my league”

“you’re out of my league”

“you’re nothing but a mongrel to me”

“what kind of mix are you?”

“I just want to have fun, eat well, walk a lot, sleep a lot and play” (oh; sounds familiar)

“I don’t like sloppy kisses”

“Ohhh I like him, he’s a badass!”

“you know what…you’re just a bitch!”

“Hey guys, I’ve had a ruff day, get out of my way”

One more tiny thing….

“If your dog is too fat, you are not getting enough exercise.”

me, Jack, Took & Jia Jia
me, Jack, Took & Jia Jia

I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren’t certain we knew better – George Bird Evans




Health/Exercise – What Happens When You Skip the Gym?


I’ve belonged to the same gym which is located a very short walking distance from where I live for more years than I want to admit.  If I really stop to think about it, If I went every single day since day one, my body would be in perfect shape right now.  But because I only go a few times a week instead, it is in almost perfect fairly good shape right now with room for improvement..always. My criteria is location, equipment, cleanliness and classes.  The classes are excellent and I go to the varied yoga classes with different instructors and practices.  I must admit that as much as I want to love working out with weights I don’t.  I tried and tried and liked seeing the results because weights really do work but I didn’t enjoy it. I have some weights at home that are still sitting on the floor waiting to be picked up…someday.  I don’t even enjoy spinning because I’d much rather ride a bike outside and I don’t like to sweat very much.  So spinning is out.  Running, Yoga and Dancing (tango/swing) works for me right now.  And I always walk.  I can walk and walk and walk for miles as long as my footwear is comfortable.  Basically I feel better about myself when I’m doing a physical activity to improve my body, but sometimes…

No matter how dedicated you are to fitness, sooner or later, it’s going to happen: You’re going to skip a workout… and another… and another. Maybe you can blame a vacation, a mile-high pile of paperwork at the office or just your run-of-the-mill funk. Whatever the reason, before you know it, you’re out of shape.

A running buddy helps to get you motivated
A running buddy helps you to get motivated

Neglecting the gym every once in a while is nothing to worry about—after all, sometimes your body needs to rest and recover. But, when you hit pause on your workouts for more than a week, you might actually be throwing your fitness level into rewind.  Here is an article I read on

How Fast Will You Fall Out of Shape?

You worked hard to get fit, whether by logging regular runs, or striving for new personal bests in your bench press. When your workouts fall by the wayside, how fast you fall out of shape depends on more than just how much time you spent away from the gym. Your overall fitness and the type of workout you’re missing will also impact your losses, says James Ting, M.D., a board-certified sports medicine physician with the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, CA.

As a general rule, the fitter you are, the longer it will take your muscles turn to flub, he says. Your physique doesn’t like change; it’s constantly trying to achieve homeostasis. So the longer you have been exercising (and the fitter you are), the more time it will take for your body to say, “Well, I guess we don’t need to build muscle anymore.”

If it’s only been a week since you broke a sweat, don’t stress. Whatever your workout history, it’ll take more than seven days for your body to soften. But two weeks? You might not get away with that as easily. One Journal of Applied Physiology study suggests that easing up on your workouts for just 14 days can significantly reduce your cardiovascular fitness, lean muscle mass, and insulin sensitivity. Meanwhile, it can take two months or longer to see complete losses of your fitness gains, according to Ting.

Endurance vs. Strength: Which Will You Lose?

Your body will react differently depending on whether you’re skipping endurance exercise versus strength training, says exercise physiologist and trainer Marta Montenegro, M.S., C.S.C.S.

That’s because your muscles contain both type I (slow-twitch) and type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers. Type I fibers contribute to endurance performance. Type II fibers are more powerful, and their “fast-twitch” capabilities help you power through high-intensity exercise or strength training.

During your day-to-day activities (like walking, talking, sitting at a desk, etc.), your type I fibers are contributing to the bulk of your efforts. But you really have to work to get your type II fibers to switch into gear. So, when you take a break from exercise, your type I fibers are likely still being used, helping to prevent them from breaking down. But some of your type II, fast-twitch fibers may be rarely, if ever used, if you aren’t working out, she says.

That may explain why type II fibers tend to atrophy more quickly than type I fibers, she says. In other words, your max bench press will suffer before your 10K time does when you’re slacking. If you’re taking a break from strength work or high-intensity intervals, you’ll notice a huge difference when you finally do go back to the gym.

Endurance athletes aren’t entirely out of the woods, though. When you perform regular cardio, your type II muscle fibers gradually change from type IIx to type IIa, Montenegro explains. Type IIa fibers are key to endurance performance: They are powerful, but don’t tucker out as quickly as IIx ones, meaning they can help power your long runs. When you take a break from your long runs and rides, this essentially reverses, and your percentage of type IIa fibers decreases, while your IIx fibers increases, she says. So prepare to tire out way faster.

Breaks Aren’t All Bad

Before we terrify you into heading to the gym right now, know that it’s actually good for you to skip workouts from time to time. In fact, if you train hard , taking a break can actually help improve your strength, muscle development and aerobic fitness, says certified strength and conditioning specialist Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., assistant editor-in-chief of the Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Days off can also improve your mental fitness. “Your body and mind both need time to recover for overall health and in order to achieve optimal performance,” says Ting. “Failing to recognize this and training too hard can lead to fatigue and, ironically, underperformance, the so-called overtraining syndrome.”

If you’re sore more than 72 hours after a workout, you’re feeling ill, or your fitness progress is stalling, it may be time to back off. How long should your break last? “There’s no hard and fast rule for how long a ‘break’ from exercise should be,” Ting says. “It may be as short as a few days, but it’s important to realize as well that it can also be up to one to two weeks without any significant detriment or loss in previous fitness gains.

Just remember that taking a break from exercise doesn’t (and shouldn’t) equate to gluing your butt to the couch and Netflix-binging. “Taking up some light activity that isn’t part of your typical training regimen, such as yoga or even a long walk or leisurely bike ride, can all constitute a ‘break,’” Ting says.  (Oh, I see…I’ve been taking breaks all this time instead of actually working out).

How to Jump Back Into Your Workouts

Depending on how long you took off—and lazy you were—you might not want to jump back into your workouts, but rather ease into them. If you’ve taken any more than a couple weeks off, you’ll probably notice some differences. After a month or more, you’ll definitely want to get started with a less-intense version of your regular workout, Ting says.

“The most important thing is to back off a little for the first week,” Schoenfeld says. “Choose a weight where you will be able to stop several reps short of failure on your sets. The following week you should be able to train at your previous level, assuming the reason for stopping wasn’t an illness or injury.” Meanwhile, if you’re getting back into running, start at a pace at which you can run comfortably and are able to speak in short sentences. After a week, try turning up the speed.

It can be frustrating to exercise at anything less than your max effort, sure, but gradual is the way to go to prevent injury. The last thing you want is to walk into the gym after a month off, try to squat your “usual” load, and throw out your back. (Hello, another month off.)

Luckily, when it comes to getting back into your pre-break shape, you do have muscle memory working for you, Schoenfeld says. There are two aspects to muscle memory. One involves your ability to carry out movements in a coordinated fashion. Wonder why your first rep on the bench press looked so sloppy? It’s because your body was learning which muscle fibers it needed to recruit, and which ones it didn’t, to properly perform the exercise.

Then second component of muscle memory involves your cells. “Muscles have satellite cells—basically muscle stem cells—that help to drive protein synthesis. Resistance training increases satellite cells and these changes remain for years,” he explains. “So even if muscle is lost from taking time away for many years, a person can regain the lost muscle much more quickly after an extended layoff.” Score.

Exactly how long it takes will vary from person to person, but by and large, you can expect to be back in fighting shape in a few weeks.

What kind of exercise do you do on a regular basis?

Source: K. Aleisha Fetters, Life by Daily Burn (

Feel-good Friday: MUST LOVE DOGS!

It’s never too early for SANTA PAWS!   A DOGGY FUNDRAISER in Vancouver.  All breeds, All ages welcome.  They can bring their people too.santa pawsJust wanted to share this with you as I know the person who has “Love on a Leash” trusted dog care services.  My wish this Christmas & always is to help those in need.dog3dog1dog4Who’s talking to who? Maybe it’s a good thing that dogs can’t that we get the illusion that we’re the most perfect beings on earth. But I really hope they know how special they are to us.  This Christmas please THINKabout finding a DOG a FURever HOME!  Please, please please.….dog2

style – Middle Sister

A NEW BOUTIQUE on Vancouver’s 4th Ave.middle8

middle9Like any middle child knows, the central position in the sibling hierarchy has its challenges – constantly seeking approval from older siblings and trying (and often failing) to establish some sort of dominance over the “baby” of the family. Linda, who is the owner and stylist knows this all too well: when you’re in the middle of the pack you have to shout a little louder in order to be heard.

Luckily I never had to do this. I’m the eldest of three – I have a brother and sister so I got to boss them around which was my established right.  But back to the boutique…


Middle Sister is the culmination of Linda’s desire to express herself. Inspired by the places she’s travelled and the people and things she’s fallen in love with, the boutique is a love letter to the life she’s lived and an invitation to those wanting to join her on her journey.  There is a nice cross section of everything from clothing (local and international designs), accessories (I bought a beautiful leather wrap-around belt with tassles), home accents and cool cards for every occasion.

Fun Leggings
Fun Couture Leggings – the logo certainly appeals to me


At Middle Sister, the focus is exploration and discovery, of being introduced to something new and stimulating. Here, you won’t have to shout to be heard. The focus is always on you.  That speaks to my heart!

FO.BE - handcrafted in Athens
FO.BE – statement jewelery handcrafted in Athens.  


Address: 2137 West 4th Ave

Photos: d. king





Holiday Dessert – Pumpkin Ice Cream

Do you remember my homemade coffee and chocolate ice cream made easy recipes?  pumpkinicecream3Since then I’ve made homemade French vanilla which turned out very tasty and a great base to making lavender/honey, green tea and cinnamon – all delicious!  I decided not to post those recipes just yet – they are a bit more involved.  However…

Thanksgiving in America in this Thursday November 26th, so if you want to switch up your pumpkin pie at a late notice (assuming that is what you are planning to serve for dessert – many people do) then I have the most perfect, light, easy and presentable after dinner treat. And you don’t have the time to make a homemade vanilla ice cream on top of it right now.

I love pumpkin pie but this is a welcome change and has been tested (by some impatient people):


Dad’s Secret (& Most Yummy) Pumpkin Ice Cream

– Serves 10-




½ GALLON HAAGEN-DAZS, or other high-quality vanilla ice cream (1.89 liter, or 4 of the normal-size H-D containers).

1 PUMPKIN. This is optional, because you can just use a bowl to serve the dessert. But the pumpkin makes for a nice serving dish, and reinforces the “home-made” fallacy. See picture below for an idea of pumpkin scale.pumpkinicecream2


1) You will need some space in the freezer for the pumpkin, so make room in your freezer.

2) Clean the pumpkin out like you would a Halloween pumpkin: cut off the top, and clean the insides out. The seeds are fun to roast with salt and a little olive oil, while you make the rest of the ice-cream. If you don’t want a pumpkin as a serving dish, you can skip this step and it all becomes even easier.

3) Place the pumpkin in the freezer so it starts getting cold.

4) In a large mixing bowl, mix: the ice-cream, 1 ½ cans of pumpkin, and 2 Tablespoons nutmeg. Mix it around good until it is a uniform pumpkin color.

5) Taste it  – add more pumpkin and/or nutmeg if you want.

6) Take the pumpkin out of the freezer, and spoon the now semi-melted pumpkin ice-cream into the pumpkin

7) Place the top on the pumpkin, and put in the freezer. It takes a while for it to get to a normal consistency. I like making this ice-cream the day before any event so you don’t worry about it being too soupy.

8) Bring to the party and relish all the compliments/Enjoy.

Source (recipe & photos):

If you make it I would appreciate your comments.







Art/Culture – East Side Cultural Crawl

Enjoying ART & CULTURE on Vancouver’s EAST SIDEeastvan5

In it’s 19th year now, this year marked the biggest ever for the Vancouver Eastside Cultural Crawl, with artists showing off the best of their craft, and thousands of people in attendance.eastvan4

The crawl has grown from what started out as only three buildings and a handful of artists to over 80 buildings and almost 500 artists. Last year was the very first time I attended and I couldn’t believe the diversity of art and the number of people.  It was very lively and educational.  It was a good example of what this city has to offer for ART’s sake.  We have quite a few talented artists to be proud of.eastvan10

The crawl began on Thursday November 19th and ran through until Sunday, the 22nd giving the public four days to check out the various work of these artists in all the locations for free.

'Pieta' by sculptor David Robinson, one of the artists whose studio is open to the public for the Eastside Culture Crawl. (David Robinson )
‘Pieta’ by sculptor David Robinson

The massive building at 1000 Parker has the densest collection of artist studios on the map every year and so starting the crawl experience here is always advisable.  Not only was there something magical about this building on the opening night of the crawl (crowds were thick and fast with energy, studios full and artists ready to chat) but to cover as much ground as possible, Parker Street gives you that solid start.

Zoe Pawlak | Show Me with Your Eyes | Parker Street Studios
Zoe Pawlak | Show Me with Your Eyes | Parker Street Studios

There’s a lot to take in – so much to see.

Tanis Saxton's sculptures have been referred to as visual poems that inspire and often leave the viewer with a thoughtful stillness. Taken from website  
Tanis Saxby sculpts ethereal works of art.  They have been referred to as visual poems that inspire and often leave the viewer with a thoughtful stillness.  Taken from website.

 There really is something for everyone’s taste and budget. If you missed it, there’s always next year. eastvan9

If you attended I’d be interested in your comments









Happiness RULES! – Part Two

Following yesterdays post re the ancient philosophy of Vedantamind2

Peace of Mind is the most important factor for feeling grounded and achieving happiness.

What disturbs your peace of mind?

No external factors can disturb you except yourself. You make yourself, you mark yourself. The world cannot disturb you.mind1

Rule #1: If you operate on likes and dislikes, you will face the consequences thereof.

A man picks up a cigarette and finds so much pleasure in it; another guy can’t stand smoking. A man goes to a lawyer to divorce his wife, and he finds great pleasure in getting rid of her; another guy is desperately waiting to marry the same lady.

This happens everywhere: The lady produces joy to one, sorrow to another. Therefore, it is not in the object or in the being—it is in how you relate to it. It’s your mind that wreaks havoc on your peace, not the external world. It is a mistake to believe that joy or sorrow is in the external world.

The mind is replete with likes and dislikes. So when you’re operating at the level of the mind, you do what you like, and you avoid what you don’t like. And when you’re dependent on your likes and dislikes, it’s miserable. For example, an Indian comes to the United States and he only likes rice and dal, but you give him pasta. What is this pasta? Meanwhile, the pasta-lover doesn’t like rice. If you operate on likes and dislikes, you’re dependent on the world. The world is in a flux of change. It can’t cater to your likes all the time. Therefore, you will be frustrated. If you only like summer, you will enjoy three months and suffer for nine. When you operate on likes and dislikes, you operate on the mind. But when you operate on the intellect, you choose the right course of action.

See, what is pleasant to you in the beginning is not so in the end. Junk food is pleasant in the beginning, but not so much in the end. You don’t like exercise, and you avoid it, but it becomes a problem later. What you like is detrimental; what you don’t like is beneficial. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do what you like—I’m only asking that you examine whether it is proper.

One Indian man heard my lecture and he went home and he looked at his wife. She said, “Why are you looking at me like that?” And he said: “I was liking you very much, but Swamiji said that I should throw out my likes and so I’m going to throw you away.”

Crazy! I didn’t say that! For heaven’s sake, don’t throw your partner away! All I said is to examine your likes and dislikes. If you don’t like exercise, you can’t just throw it away. If you like junk food, and you eat it all the time, there are consequences.

Rule #2: Know the mind has a tendency to ramble.

When I’m talking to you, it’s impossible to follow everything I say, even though you might want to follow. The mind rambles. It’s natural. It rambles into worries of the past, and anxieties for the future. That tires you. Action doesn’t tire you. Action can never tire you.

Therefore, you are making the biggest blunder by getting away from action for weekends and rest. In my entire life, I’ve never taken a vacation. Every day is vacation. At the Institution, students are in a three-year course. They’re up at 4am and we go until 9pm, 365 days a year. There are no breaks for weekends or vacations. Come and examine the students—nobody wants a break.

If you don’t find rest in action, you will never rest by getting out of action. In fact, you’re working for weekend and vacations. But if you don’t know how to control your mind and act in the present, you will always feel tired.

Do you want proof? Examine your own children. Your children are never tired. They are bristling with activity. Because of the simple fact that children have no worries of the past and anxieties for the future, they’re happy. But you all have the worries of the past and anxieties for the future, and it tires and fatigues you. So you need rest. It’s as simple as that.

Rule #3: Uncontrolled desires create havoc.

Without desires, you can’t live. You can’t survive. So what do you do with desire? You have to monitor and control your desires, because when unmonitored, desire becomes lust, greed, and avarice.

That’s what happened in 2008—the greed mounted to the point where there was a crash, and crash after crash. But if you control your desires, it becomes an aim, an ambition, or aspiration, and that is alright. You have to watch your desires before they mount to greed.

Rule #4: Preferential attachment is deadly.

What you pass off as love is nothing but preferential attachment. And preferential attachment is deadly.

When there is love, I serve you.
When there is attachment, I look for your service; what can I get out of you?

The husband says: This is my right, I married you.
The wife says: This is my right, I married you.

It’s more a life based on rights than on duties. It’s because of preferential attachment. It’s passed off as love.

Love + Selfishness = Attachment

Attachment – Selfishness = Love

Get that straight!

I’m not against love, I’m against this deadly thing called attachment.

The home should be the center, not the boundary of your affection/love. It becomes the boundary when you can’t see anything or anyone beyond it.

When you change yourself, you change the world

You cannot change the world without changing yourself. Everyone has the ambition of changing everything except for themselves.

All the great prophets, they changed themselves, then changed the world. If you change yourself, you change the world. If you want to change your children, you need to lead by example.

There is an inscription on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in England:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But it, too, seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.

If you want to change the world, you must change yourself first.






























Health: how does one achieve LASTING Happiness?

By practicing Vedantahappiness2Vedanta is an ancient philosophy that is based on the end of the four Vedas. (It literally means “the end of knowledge.”) The scholar comes from the Vedanta Academy, a school just outside of Mumbai established by Swami A. Parthasarathy, a nearly 90-year-old guru who has been traveling the world explaining how to eradicate unhappiness for more than 60 years.

At its heart, Vedanta revolves around developing the intellect: That we are all unhappy because we drive our lives forward using only our minds, which are the seat of emotion, likes, and dislikeswe need our intellect, the seat of reason and rationality—to keep the rambling and anxiety in check.

It is simple and profound, and incredibly relevant to life today—in fact, Parthasarathy (respectfully known as Swamiji) spends most of his time working with business leaders and CEOs, who are struggling to scale companies and embrace the tenets of real leadership.

Parthasarathy is incredibly prolific and has written 10 books, dealing with everything from love versus attachment, to business and relationships, as well as mentoring his ever-expanding pool of scholars. It’s going to expand even faster, as they’ve just introduced an e-learning portal where anyone, anywhere can access 368 lectures, to be consumed over the course of three years. If you want to get a baseline understanding, he recommends that you start with four books, in this order: The Fall of the Human IntellectThe Holocaust of Attachment, Governing Business & Relationships, and The Vedanta Treatise: The Eternities.happiness1

PART ONE (it’s quite lengthy so I had to cut it into two parts) – excerpted from a talk by Swami A. Parthasarathy.  

Below, an abridged version of a lecture Swamiji recently gave in Southern California that gives an overview of what Vedanta is all about.

Tonight, we are going to discuss Vedanta, a word that you won’t find in the English dictionary. Vedanta is ancient wisdom, laid down thousands of years ago. It’s made up of two words—veda and anta—which mean, respectively, knowledge and end. So the word Vedanta simply means the end of knowledge, the culmination of knowledge. It is ancient, but it is relevant in modern life—in our day-to-day living.

Now when you purchase a machine—any gadget, really—you’re given a manual for how to operate it, whether it’s a shaver or a coffee pot. If you don’t have the manual, you are in trouble. Now, you have the subtlest of machines within you—and nobody has a clue what it is. And what’s more, this machine is operating you throughout your life. There is no reference to it in school or universities. Nowhere are you taught what it is, or how it operates in your life. Even the most intelligent people have no clue.

And therefore we get into all sorts of problems. And problems, problems, and more problems. For the last 60 years, I’ve been listening to only problems.

It’s interesting because a human being is a masterpiece of creation—but a human being has all the problems. Look at the animal world: No problems at all. And that is because all creatures are protected by nature. But humans…humans do what they like—exactly what they like. Have you found one zebra in the animal planet that is overweight or underweight? One impala? They all have the same weight. Because nature takes care of them.

But no two people are the same—some are underweight and some are overweight—because nature does not take care of humans. Why has this happened? Well, as I said, a human is a masterpiece, so nature has left it to us to handle our own lives. It’s exactly like when your son or daughter reaches the age of 18 and you hand over the finances and tell them to operate on their own. They are grown-up, they can handle their affairs. Similarly, nature leaves us to ourselves because we have been provided with an intellect.

We get to do what we want. But we sure have messed it up. Because here is the rub: There is nothing in the world that can disturb you except yourself. You are the architect of your fortune and the architect of your misfortune. You can entertain yourself, and you can also disturb yourself.

Vedanta deals with the subject of YOU, and your life.

How do you define your life?

Your life is a series of experiences. That’s your life. That’s my life. A stream of experiences, just as water flowing is a river. Your experiences flowing, one after another: That is life.

So what is an experience? It consists of two factors. You and the world. You alone cannot have an experience—for example, in deep sleep you don’t have an experience. The world is what you experience. So there is a subject/object relationship that brings about an experience. The subject is you. The object is the world.

When you contact the world, there is an experience. So ancient scientists went about beautifying the world and making it a better place for us all to live. I’ve seen the world evolve in the past 70 or 80 years—there’s been a phenomenal change, it’s really incredible. But as the world has been improved, human beings are not as happy or comfortable as they once were. It’s a paradox. Our ancestors were much happier. It’s a contradiction.

The world has been improved, but the individual has been neglected. We live in a beautiful world but are unable to make use of it properly. It’s like having excellent food, but no appetite.

What compels us to act?

We must continue contacting the world—action is the insignia of life, while inaction is death. You have to act. So the question is really, how do you act? The body performs the action. When I’m talking to you, it’s an action. When you are listening to me, you’re performing an action. But all that said, my body cannot come here and talk to you by itself. There is something other than the body that propels it and compels it to act. What is it? You are not taught this in school or university; you were not taught this by your parents when you were a child. No government takes up the subject. We are all left high and dry in the world without knowing that which enables us to act in the world. It’s like being blindfolded. So learn this today: You have two equipments, and one is the mind, and one is the intellect.

The mind consists of emotions. It is the seat of feeling, of likes and dislikes. You’ve been collecting likes and dislikes since childhood. The intellect, on the other hand, is for reasoning. You’ve just never bothered to deal with it.

There are three living species. Plant, Animal, and Human.

A plant has only a body; it has no mind and no intellect.

An animal has a body and a mind, but no intellect.

Only a human being has all three.

But human beings don’t know how to use their intellect. And you need your intellect for success and for peace, which we all want.

What is this intellect?

First, you must understand the difference between intellect and what you all know—what you all know is intelligence. Intelligence is knowledge.

Intelligence is just information you gain from your predecessors. You gain intelligence from external agencies like teachers and textbooks, from schools and universities. That knowledge and information provide you with intelligence. No amount of intelligence can make up the intellect. It is impossible. They are on two different wavelengths.

So you have intelligence and you’re making a living off of it. And you’re complacent. You have a good business. You have this, you have that. Let’s talk about that.

You have a pen. And you leave it behind today. Are you going to drive back and get it? Probably not, it’s just a pen.

Let’s say you leave your wristwatch here. You’re going to call the hotel and give a description and ask them to keep it safe so you can come and pick it up.

Let’s say you have your wristwatch and you go out to the parking lot and your car is missing. What is the loss of a car to you?

Let’s say the car is there, and you drive home and your new beautiful, fully paid-off home has burned to the ground. What is the loss of a house to you?

Let’s say you drive home and your friend calls you to tell you that your wife and two children have met with a fatal accident. What is the loss of family to you?

Draw the line from the loss of a pen to the loss of your family and then find out where you stand. No amount of intelligence is going to help you tackle that problem. If you are buckling after the loss of a wristwatch, or the loss of a car, and it is causing you sleepless nights, that’s a pretty bad state. No amount of intelligence is going to help you handle your affairs. You need an intellect to help you handle the faculties of the mind, for it is the mind that troubles you and destroys your peace. It is nothing else. You must know how to deal with your mind.

The only real value of intelligence is to help you make a living. You might go to medical school to gain the knowledge of medicine so that you can make a living. Same with engineering school, or law school. But all animals make a living without going to university.

Millions of doctors have passed through medical school, but one guy found out how to transplant a kidney, one guy found the cure for tuberculosis. How about that? Those men had intellect, besides intelligence.

So how do you develop the intellect?

You need to start developing your intellect at the age of 7, of 8, of 9. And these are the two most important points.

  1. Never take anything for granted.
    2. Question everything.

I can prove to you that you have taken everything for granted and that you don’t question. It’s called herd instinct. You follow the herd. You follow your predecessors. You go to primary and secondary school. I ask, “Why do you go to school?” You reply, “Everyone goes to school.” You brother, your sister, your mother, your father. I ask, “Why did you get a job?” You reply: “Because after school that is what everyone does.” And then you get married and have children.

Herd instinct. I’m not saying that going to school is wrong. Or that getting married and having children is wrong. But have you thought about why you have done these things?

Here are some words from Galileo:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

What are you working for?

So once you provide yourself with intellect, what do you do? First of all have you have to fix an ideal in life: What are you doing? What do you want? Everybody in the world is running around with no time, just running and running. But what are you all working for?

Most of you are probably working for your husband or wife and children. You are working for your family—everything else is a blur. Your home is the boundary of your affection. But it should really just be the center of affection.

With the intellect, you have to fix an ideal. And an ideal requires working beyond yourself. You can work for your family, you can work for the community, you can work for the country, you can work for humanity…you can even work for all living creatures.

The higher the ideal, the greater the initiative to work. The problem is that people don’t have ideals or a higher focus and there is no initiative for them to come to work. They work instead through incentives. You jump from company to company because they provide better perks. The boss, herself, has no initiative to work.

So you really work for perks and weekends and vacations. Thank God It’s Friday. TGIF. It’s even come to India, can you believe that?

You don’t want to work, the CEO doesn’t want to work, the manager doesn’t want to work…nobody wants to work! If you don’t find rest in action, you will never find it. You are trying to find rest by getting away from action.

But before we get to that, you are all looking for success and peace. You need the intellect for both.

What defines success?

So what is success? Success is an effect. Success belongs to the future. And what’s the cause? The cause for success is the right action. If the action is perfect, there’s success. If the action is imperfect, there’s failure.

The correct or perfect action boils down to the three C’s:

  1. Concentration
    2. Consistency
    3. Cooperation

So what is concentration? I ask this question all over the world. I always get this answer: Focus! So what is focus? It’s concentration! So nobody really knows what concentration is. They go about in circles.

Think about it. It is directing the mind in one direction, toward one point. The human mind has the tendency to slip into the worries of the past or the anxieties of the future. Everybody’s mind, including mine. Concentration is keeping the mind on the present job and not allowing it to slip. This can only be achieved through the intellect—you must have a powerful intellect to keep the mind in its place.

Similarly, you have to be consistent. If Tiger Woods plays golf for one month, baseball for a second month, and football for a third month, you can probably beat him! You have to be consistent with what you are doing—all your actions must flow in one direction. Only the intellect can keep you on the direction you’ve set.

And the third is the spirit of cooperation. If you don’t have intellect, you have a superiority or an inferiority complex. We are all spokes in the wheel of life and nobody is important, and nobody is unimportant. Who is more important? The person who removes trash from your house, or the person who sits in the White House? For a week or more you can probably do without the person who sits in the White House, but not the person who removes trash from your house. To understand that we are all spokes in the wheel of life is to understand the spirit of cooperation.

If you practice all three C’s, you’ve prepared the cause of the effect of success. Here is an example.

There was a forgery case in India in the ’30s. The lawyer defending it spoke for six hours. The other lawyer? He dozed in the courtroom. The defense lawyer was speaking eloquently and documenting things and the judge kept waiting for the other lawyer to interrupt and contradict him. So the judge asks him if he has anything to complain about and he hasn’t even been listening. He says, “No objection.” The defense lawyer sits down, and the judge turns to the other lawyer and asks him if he has anything now to say.

And he says: “My lord, look at the document against the light.” So he puts it against the light. “Do you see the watermark? This paper was manufactured in 1932. And the document is dated 1930. Is this man Einstein? How did he manage to do that?” He handed over the two samples and walked out of the courtroom. That is the power of the intellect.

You need the intellect to program concentration, consistency, and cooperation. And you also need it for your peace of mind. Every one of you can give a seminar on what disturbs your peace of mind. And it will all be external factors.

Check back tomorrow for Part Two.  Find out what disturbs your peace of mind and some RULES to live by to achieve inner peace.

This is a longer post than usual, but since I find it to be interesting and introspective I wanted to share it with like minded readers.