Monday, December 30, 2013

Quotes From the Honest Guru

Most people are nice and pleasant
The course of history is dictated by the othes

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Had Jesus only known how much suffering his followers would bring to the world,
he would surely have taken his own life, rather than be captured by the Romans.
If Jesus only knew home much suffering his followers will bring to the world ...
If Jesus only knew home much suffering his followers will bring to the world ...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Goal Spotting

Continuously brainwashed by images of ‘success’; constantly bombarded with pictures of the rich and famous, who seem to have it all…

In our modern society, aggressive advertising implants images of successful people into our minds and encourages us to ponder how we can join this select group. Surveys have shown that most people view success as one of the major contributors to their happiness.

But can success really provide you with everything you desire? Are these ‘truly successful’ people happier than the rest of us? Research has shown time and again that those who are considered to be successful aren’t happier, nor do they feel better about their lives, than the average person.

Elvis, Stalin, Virginia Woolf… apart from being indisputably successful, what else do they have in common? For a start they led most unhappy lives; perhaps most importantly, they didn’t see themselves as being successful.

Using your imagination as a guide can help you achieve your own Personal Success, avoiding the trap of being successful in everyone else’s eyes but your own.

Models of success

As our models of success, the four below are achievers who were famous, powerful or they accumulated unparalleled fortunes. They achieved what the average person can only dream of; but how did they see themselves?

Elvis Presley (1935–1977), born of a middle-class family, and became one of the most important figures of twentieth century popular culture. He was the object of desire for millions of women, and his fame still continues decades after his death. He has sold over one billion records, more than any other singer in the history of music.

Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), a prominent British novelist. She is among the leaders of the literary movement of modernism. Among her books are masterpieces like Mrs. Dalloway and To The Lighthouse. She is mentioned with admiration together with other elite novelists such as James Joyce and T. S. Eliot.

Howard Hughes (1905–1976), an industrialist billionaire, movie producer and entrepreneur, who often achieved the impossible. He is considered the father of commercial aviation and was the first to fly around the world in less than four days. In 1947 he created and flew the awe-inspiring Spruce-Goose, the largest aircraft in the history of aviation, with a wingspan of 320 feet (compare to the current Boeing 747 with a wingspan of ‘only’ 213 feet). "Trying the impossible, achieving the impossible, it's an end in itself” was his motto and way of life.

Stalin (1879–1953), the Man of Steel. From a background of poverty he became the undisputed leader of the USSR, a position he held until his death. Many achievements are attributed to him: defeating Hitler’s army; the industrialisation of the USSR; the creation of the Warsaw Pact. He was, undoubtedly, one of the most powerful individuals to shape the twentieth century.

There’s no doubt that each of these individuals was a person of great ability and unparalleled achievements. But as you may have guessed, these examples weren’t selected by chance. The four were unsatisfied individuals who led unhappy and tragic lives.

Elvis Presley died at the age of 42 after years of drug abuse and suffering. Off-stage Presley was plagued with self-doubt, a basic dissatisfaction with his life and a feeling of utter loneliness.

Virginia Woolf committed suicide at the age of 59 after long periods of depression.

Howard Hughes: “Because he believed so strongly in himself he tended not to trust anyone else," says biographer James Steele. His last years were spent in complete isolation, refusing to leave his fortress or meet anyone, suffering from paranoia and desolation.

Stalin’s chronic suspiciousness led to his infamous brutality. His fearfulness made him see enemies everywhere. In the end, he even turned on his closest friends. One of his acquaintances testified after his death, that in his last days the only human trait he had left was his unhappiness.

But success doesn’t necessarily lead to unhappiness. There are plenty of examples to the contrary. Yet, these examples demonstrate that the common view of success might not lead you to where you want to be.

So what do people really mean when they say they want to become successful? Can a harmonic, pastoral lifestyle be your answer?

Dream or reality?

Some believe that success is about learning to enjoy the simple life. Are they right? Will it suit you? Let’s look at the famous urban myth.

While holidaying in a tiny village, a rich businessman saw a fisherman coming back with his catch. When he found that the fisherman had only spent a short time at sea, he asked why he hadn’t stayed out longer to catch some more fish. The fisherman explained that the catch was enough to meet his needs, and that he liked to sleep late, play with his children and spend time with his mates.

The tourist then suggested that he should start fishing longer every day, sell the extra fish and with the revenue buy a bigger boat. He then calculated that if he continued to invest the extra money back into the business, within 10 to 20 years he could be worth millions.

But when the fisherman asked what he was to do with all these millions in 20 years time, all the businessman could come up with was: “then you'll be able to retire in a pastoral village, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, and spend time with your mates."

The moral of this story is meant to be simple. If only you opened your eyes, wouldn’t you see that everything you need is already within your reach?

It’s a wonderful moral, but is it applicable to everyone? It’s definitely true for the villager, who felt successful and happy, regardless of how the tourist viewed him. But what about the tourist – was his final ‘realisation’ real? Could he be happy now with the simple life he hopes to achieve when he retires? Most unlikely!

The tourist may enjoy the stress-free holiday, and might even be dreaming of a retirement in the village. But with his business mind, how long could he really cope with the simple lifestyle?

A pastoral lifestyle just doesn’t suit us all.

Success: a personal feeling

Success [Encarta dictionary]: 1. achievement of desired aim: the achievement of something planned or attempted. 2. attainment of fame, wealth, or power: impressive achievement, especially the attainment of fame, wealth or power. 3. something that turns out well: something that turns out as planned or intended.

No two people have the same view of what success is. Dictionary definitions don’t seem to help either, as they only refer to the outcome and never to the achiever and how he or she feels. So why should you expect that success will lead you where you want?

The Latin origin of the word – successus: a happy outcome – might give us a better clue. It’s not about the outcome, but rather about the emotion, or feeling of happiness resulting from it. It can’t be defined by using external, measurable terms, and like any other emotion, the only way to know it is to feel it for yourself. Personal Success is the achievement of whatever produces this feeling for you.

Success: the technique

Research has shown that there’s little difference between our emotional and physical responses to reality and to the vivid mental images of the same reality. You can verify this for yourself: create an image of a situation you dread, may it be walking in the dark or giving a public speech. Make the image vivid in your mind, and examine your body and feelings. You’ll find that although you’re in the safety of your home, your body reacts as if you were experiencing the actual situation. You might find that you feel a knot in your stomach and that your heart is beating faster. You will use this response as your Internal Guide for Success, in a process similar to the children’s game of Hot & Cold.

You probably already have some image of what success means to you: having a dream home, owning a business, becoming famous or creating a masterpiece. Maybe your view is entirely different and you might desire a happy family life with time for hobbies and friends. There are no rights or wrongs, only some images can serve you well and lead you to the desired feelings; others don’t.

Now examine your feelings while making the image in your mind as clear and vivid as possible. Once you become aware of your feelings, slightly modify the image and examine your feelings again. Have they become more positive? If they have, you are on the right track. Make this modified image your new Internal Guide. On the other hand, if your feelings become less positive, return to the original and change it in a different way. Repeat this until you’ve found the image that produces the most positive feelings.

Put it into practice

Let’s look at an example. We’ll start by using the size of your bank account as your initial Internal Guide. You should imagine that you already own the account. Make the image specific: see yourself reading the bank statement, or viewing it on the Internet. You’re rich! At this stage, however, you mustn’t imagine using your money for any purpose. You can’t buy a house or take a holiday. These are not part of your image. Focus solely on the size of your bank account. Now, check your feelings while holding onto this image. If the image is vivid enough, your feelings will be as if your bank account were real. Where in your body can you feel it? Do you feel happy, fulfilled, satisfied? Are these the feelings you hoped to achieve?

If this image produces the right feelings, make it your Internal Guide. If it doesn’t, then it’s not the money that will lead you to Personal Success. Money, in this case, may only represent other desires you haven’t unleashed yet.

It might be a dream home that money represents, or maybe leisure time. Create these images and check how you feel. There are many avenues you can explore. Would you, for instance, feel the same if you earned the money, inherited it or won it in the lottery?

When you first start, you might find that your feelings are vague and weak. But keep it up. The more you practise, the more you’ll be able to refine your image and the stronger your feelings will become.

Follow through

Selecting a good Internal Guide is an important first step on your way to Personal Success. It creates potential – but potential alone isn’t enough. Once the image is embedded in your mind, you must refer to it regularly.

It’s like cooking, as a prominent chef once told me. Imagine that you’ve decided to create a new dish. You want it to be a masterpiece. In your mind’s eye you can see it, smell it and taste it. You’re not sure how to create it yet, but you know that as long as you keep this vivid image as your guide, you’ll eventually be successful. You could use a recipe as a starting point, but the recipe could never replace the image in your mind. After all, unlike the image, a recipe is only a description and can never convey the eating experience – the taste, smell or texture.

With this image in mind, you start experimenting with ingredients, time and temperature, comparing the results to the image in your mind. Until one day you realise that the dish on your plate matches the one in your mind exactly. Eureka! Your body and mind are filled with the great feeling of achievement and satisfaction. You’re successful, and more importantly, you feel successful.

To achieve any goal, whether in cooking, art, sport or business, you must continuously use your Internal Guide like a landmark. While everyday life might distract you from your path, the landmark is always there, and as long as you keep it in sight, you know that you won’t lose your direction. If you check frequently where it is in relation to where you are, you‘ll never drift too far. In this respect, your Internal Guide is like any other goal. As long as it’s clear in your mind, you know that you’re on the right track. Unlike other goals, however, your Internal Guide ensures that your path will lead to where you want to go.

Obstacles to avoid

Any plan has its pitfalls and obstacles: procrastination, lack of self-confidence, to name a few. The main difference between those who achieve and those who don’t is their ability to foresee obstacles and deal with them. So many great ideas have been initiated; so few have come to conclusion. So many people are starters; so few are achievers. So let’s cover two main – though less talked-about – obstacles, namely: falls after an easy climb, and the problem of attachment.

The inability to recover from a fall – eg a great setback or disappointment – after an easy climb has prevented many from achieving their goals.

There are times in everyone’s life when things just fall into place. Everything happens the right way, effortlessly. It’s just like a mountain climber who has reached an easy stretch after a long struggle, and is now ascending rapidly and easily. Both the climber and you should enjoy these opportunities, but must never forget their perils.

Under normal conditions, the climber would place an anchor into the rock every few steps to ensure that they could never fall too far. But when the climb is easy, a fall seems unlikely, and while progressing rapidly the climber may inadvertently fail to place anchors and leave long segments of unsecured rope. When climbing gets tough again – as it always does – with no anchors behind, a fall is often long and grave. The same applies to your path towards Personal Success. You should, undoubtedly, enjoy and take advantage of good times, but must never fail to check your Internal Guide frequently.

Vocational English in Japan used to be really fashionable. English conversation schools were popping up, and the demand for English teachers soared. Often, the sole requirement to be employed as a teacher was to be a citizen of an English-speaking country. Jane was one of those teachers. After years of working back home as a secretary, she was attracted to the high salary, ease of life, and the glory that a position of teacher (sensei) offered in Japan. She became a celebrity, was invited to glamorous social events, and was even asked – once she could converse in Japanese – to appear on TV. Life was perfect, and she put aside any thought of what it was that she actually wanted. Reality inevitably changed, and when vocational English lost its appeal, Jane, like many others, was forced to return home. The change from being a well-off celebrity back to her mundane old life was more then she could cope with. Her fall, from which she has never recovered, was hard. It was the price she had to pay, not for having had a good life, but for losing sight of her direction. Falls are always painful, but had she kept her Internal Guide, a quick recovery was much more likely.

The risk of attachment

Attachment to your goals is another obstacle you should avoid. Although striving relentlessly towards your goals will help you achieve them, this mind-frame can become your enemy when trying to achieve Personal Success. You may find yourself reaching your long sought-after goal, only to discover that it’s not what you want any more. You must never forget that your Internal Guide isn’t merely a goal, but rather a means to creating the desired feelings and emotions.

Reality changes, and so too do our feelings. Things that only a few years ago seemed attractive might seem meaningless now. Things you didn’t care about in the past might become the centre of your current life. Your Internal Guide must reflect these changes.

So it’s vital that you not only keep your Internal Guide vivid in your mind, but also examine it frequently and make sure it always produces the right feelings. Sometimes you may find that only small adjustments are required. Other times you may find that you’ll need to create an entirely new image. By doing so, you will avoid the trap of being successful in everyone’s eyes but your own.

No one has put it better than Marlon Brando in his last days: “I searched for, but never found, what I was looking for either on screen or off. Mine was a glamorous, turbulent life but completely unfulfilling.” With your Internal Guide, you can do better.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Quotes From the Honest Guru: The Reason For Wars

Optimism yields wars.
No war would have started, had both sides expected defeat.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Day I Joined the Underground

This is an excerpt from the book I am working on. Here the mother is telling her story to a group of kids sitting in the shelter.

“Soviet Union – yes … Egypt – no … Greece – no … United States – Yes … Grandpa, with a sheet of paper of all the countries in the UN assembly, was adding the numbers. On November 29th 1947 everyone was glued to the radio.

“As soon as the last vote was counted, we all rushed out, flooding the streets, heading for the city center, singing David Melech Israel Chai Vekaiam (David the king of Israel alive and living). Shops and restaurants opened their doors and handed out free food and drinks. Circles inside circles of hora dances erupted, and I, too, was singing and dancing, carried along by the crowd, unable to choose my way. After two thousand years, a dream was coming true; we were going to have a country again. The sight of the brightening eastern skyline startled me and brought me back to reality. Dreading punishment, I rushed back to the Old city. Grandpa was very strict.

“From the street below I could see that the light in the kitchen was on, and I knew that grandpa was awake, awaiting me. As soon as I put my key in, he opened the door. I froze. My throat was dry. I did not know what to expect. This was the first time I’d been out the whole night.

“Grandpa did not say a word. Slowly I looked up. ‘There is someone here to see you,’ he said, his face solemn, not angry. I followed him to the kitchen, my anxiety turning to curiosity. Who would visit so early in the morning? Two men were sitting at the table. Grandpa did not mention their names. Instead, he leaned forward and whispered, ‘These are members of the Haganah. They want to speak to you.’”

“What’s Haganah?” Tali interrupted.

“It’s a secret army when we were not allowed to have a real army,” I said.

“Let her tell the story,” someone hushed me. I looked around. Having pulled the mattresses closer, everyone was sitting in a circle around us.

“Boaz is right,” mom said. “The Haganah was an underground organization that defended us from the Arabs. They were our heroes. I remember one night when Grandpa entered my room with a bag in his hand. He thought I was asleep. From his bag he pulled a gun and tucked under a tile in the floor. That was when I learned that he, too, was with the Haganah.”

“Grandpa was in the Haganah?” I asked, loud enough to make sure that nobody had missed it.

Mom shot at me one of her warning glares, long enough to make me regret my comment. Then she continued. “I was disappointed. The men looked so ordinary, not like heroes at all. One was short and very thin. The other spoke in a secretive voice. He had a pointy mustache and looked like a kibbutznick. They invited me to sit with them, and told me how the Arab Higher Committee did not accept the UN resolution, and that the seven Arab states were planning a war.

“None of this was new to me. Arguing politics was our favorite pastime at school, in the youth movement, and at home. Everybody knew that the League of Arab Nations had promised 'to soak with blood every inch of Palestine' should the resolution pass. I still didn’t know why they came to speak politics with me, especially so early in the morning.

“‘We were hoping you’d help us,’ the short one said.

“I was tall and strong for my age, but could not imagine how a young girl like me could help. Still, I was excited. I didn’t think about danger or war, only that the Hagana was asking for my help. Of course I’d help. What child wouldn't?

“I jumped to my feet, stood upright and saluted. ‘At your command,’ I said

“Grandpa, who had joined us at the table with coffee and slices of cake, laughed.

“The short guy laughed, too. ‘At ease,’ he said. Then he turned serious again. ‘The Arabs do not agree to turn Jerusalem into an international city. They believe that destroying Jewish Jerusalem will break our spirit.’

“He took the last sip from the coffee and, turned the cup upside down, letting a few drops fall into the saucer. ‘You've always made the best coffee,’ he sighed looking at Sabba. Then he turned back to me. ‘The British will be leaving in six months. But they won’t let us prepare. They’ll search and arrest adults, but we believe they’ll let children pass. Your father says that you can find your way around in the Old City with your eyes shut. We need you to help us get ready.’”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Astrology and the New Planets

This is a continuation from Why astrology is not scientific, while astronomy is.

Using scientific theories to discover unknown planets, reinforced Newton’s theory of universal gravitation and proved its usability. But there is nothing sacred about Newton or his theories. Had astronomers not found the planets as expected, Newton's Theory of Gravitation would have been falsified, and would have to be replaced by a theory that could better explain the discrepancy in the orbit of Uranus.

Meanwhile, astrologers were enthusiastic about these discoveries, which increased the range of heavenly influences they could explain. They were quick to assign power and influence to the three planets, and associate the discovery of each of the planets with events characteristic of these powers. The discovery of Uranus, associated with human rights, rebellion and progress, was related to the American and the French revolutions of 1778 and 1789 respectively. The discovery of Neptune, the planet linked to both cults and the occult, was closely followed by the emergence of a Chinese clerk, Hung Hsiu-Ch'üan, who decided that he was the son of God, and in 1847 attempted to conquer China and establish his own dynasty. It is believed that more then 20 Million people were killed during his Taiping Rebellion. The discovery of Pluto, which rules atomic energy, is associated with Cockcroft and Walton splitting the atom in 1932.

Astrologers forecast; yet there are no known records of astrologers foretelling the discovery of the new planets. No mismatches between astrological observation and earthly events had ever been attributed to unknown heavenly bodies, nor is there any evidence whether adjusting the charts for the new planets has improved the accuracy of astrological predictions. Whatever the reason for the planets’ orbital mismatch might have proved to be, astrology would have remained unchallenged, irrefutable, and therefore, by definition, unscientific.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Social Media and the Dump

Finding value in social media is like going to the dump.

When you speak to a professional scavenger, she will tell you treasures can be found, if only you looked long and hard enough. She is right, there are treasures buried in the dump, yet most people would not spend their lives searching in piles of rubbish.

Social media is the same, but somehow, although the smell is not much better, millions happily assume the role of the professional scavenger, hoping to find the treasure