A Comedy of (Slight) Errors

November 4, 2017

I’m late with my posts but hey, as long as it’s in chronological order who cares right?! right.

I have a funny story to recount from my day! This anecdote stars my SuperMom and me in a random, comical confusion of sorts.

MORAL OF THE DAY: Misunderstandings can never be blamed on one person. A communication gap is a lot like clapping. Both sides need to put in equal and opposite effort for the desired result. In fact, the person who talks needs to be very clear, making sure their thoughts are being formed into words, while the person listening also needs to consciously hear without putting their own interpretation into it. A gap grows when a speaker cannot put his or her ideas into words, and a listener cannot understand what he or she hears.

Since I started this Maun, I’ve been relying on hand signals and my version of sign language to communicate with my family. [Actually, only SuperMom can understand what I’m trying to get across, and she has to translate for my dad and everyone else, who just frown and give me blank stares. Let’s hope they get better at playing Dumb Charades or decipher my coded signs before the month ends!]

Anyway, this morning marked my mom and my first epic fail….. Thankfully, the misunderstanding was nothing serious, just funny from my point of view. As I was leaving the house to soak up my daily dose of Vitamin D this morning, I signalled SuperMom the following:

What I mimed:

SAY — HIM — I (my) — BATHROOM — NO — I — SHOWER — LATER

She nodded her understanding, and I left. (Normally SuperMom verbally repeats what I’ve mimed to her so that I can confirm she understood correctly, but this time we somehow forgot that step.) So, what did my hand signals mean? Well, isn’t it obvious – I said “tell him (the cleaning guy) to not do my bathroom because I’m going to shower when I get back.”

I soon returned, covered in beads of sweat and wanting to jump straight into a cold shower. Only… it was being cleaned. Did SuperMom forget to give the cleaner my message? I went in search of SuperMom to find out what happened. That’s when I realized my sign language got lost somewhere in translation.

Bottom line, SuperMom interpreted my signals to mean:

What she (mis)understood:

‘tell him to clean my bathroom because I’m not going to shower today.’

Ummm…. oops? Honest misinterpretation right?? Funnily enough, the slight difference between what I said, and what she (mis)heard, is a completely understandable situation.

Had I originally mimed what she thought I mimed, then my hand movements would have looked more like this: “SAY — HIM — CLEAN — I (my) — BATHROOM — (pause) — I — NO — SHOWER — NOW.”

Not much difference right?! The difference in meaning is so minuscule, that it could easily have happened between two speaking voices anywhere. Thus, Day 2 of my vow of silence began with this comedic exchange.

Until next time,

Ciao!

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Hello there!

Exciting news! I’ve decided (on a bit of a whim) to take a vow of silence (also called Maun Vrat) for the month of November. Depending on how I get on after 30 days, I might extend my vow! I’m hoping to document some of my insights from my journey here on the blog too, so keep checking back for more!

Since my mind is exhausted and now blank after a full day of introspection, relaxation, and settling into a new routine, I’ll just get down to some basic Q&A for today.

Enjoy!~

What’s a vow of silence?

A vow of silence is when you commit to not using your voice for a set period of time. Whether it’s an hour or a lifetime of silence, you can make up your rules. Vows of silence can be private (silent vacations, silent retreats) or public (while going about your daily routine). A vow of silence can be undertaken for religious, spiritual, and even political reasons. It is also known as Maun Vrat (Mauna Vrata in Sanskrit) or simply Maun (meaning silence) in many Indian religious traditions.

My explanation is rather elementary, simply because there are so many ways to undertake a vow of silence. In terms of complexity and variety, there is a lot left unsaid still, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

So what kind of Maun are you doing?

Glad you asked. I have previous experience with religious (Jain) Maun Vrats, but decided to take a public, non-religious, and more spiritual vow that does not focus on not speaking or talking at all, but rather targets increased awareness and presence of mind. Therefore, I’ve given myself the freedom to communicate in any way I see fit as long as it doesn’t use my vocal cords.

In the past, my religious Maun Vrats have meant I abstain from any form of communication with others. No making noises, sign language, hand gestures, facial expressions, and no writing/reading/singing/talking. This means practitioners cannot use cell phones, and technically, cannot write, read, or type. This cuts a person off from the rest of the world because sending emails, writing journals, making blog posts, sending texts, and attending to social media are all distractions from looking inwards to hear your inner voice and meditate upon your thoughts and consciousness.

While I enjoy these religious experiences a lot, what I want for myself right now, in 2017, cannot be fulfilled under the Jain guidelines for vows of silence. Instead, I’m interested in noting down the thoughts I have while I’m having them, and making this experience about learning to listen, increase one’s spiritual awareness, and be more in-tune with myself and who I am and who I want to be.

When do you start?

Actually, I started at the stroke of midnight on November 1st (Indian standard time). So today was my first day on my vow!

How did Day 1 go?

Surprisingly well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to prepare for this month on Halloween – that would be yesterday. I notified friends, family, co-workers, and people I communicate with on a daily basis. I also sat down and tried to hash out the terms and conditions I’ll be following while I’m on my Maun Vrat. Made good headway today, but definitely hoped not talking would save me energy, and that I could use that surplus elsewhere.

Any new insights you’d like to share?

I’ve been thinking and note-taking a bunch of points in my little notebook today. But I have made one important, and insightful decision today.

THIS VOW IS ALREADY A SUCCESS, WITH NO CHANCE OF FAILURE. WHATEVER HAPPENS, I WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY OR BLAME MYSELF FOR ‘NOT DOING ENOUGH.’

Taking this decision automatically made me feel happier, more relaxed, and put my mind at ease. I’m a master of self-deprecating humour, and more often than not, find myself the butt of most of my own jokes (where others will laugh at my expense). Alongside this, I also have unrealistic expectations of myself, which I can rarely ever live up to.

I’m a recovering perfectionist with the tendency to be overly critical of my own merits or successes. By choosing to not feel guilty, or be too hard on myself, during my whole Maun Vrat was both liberating and enlightening. May it propel me forward to strengthen my skills and convince me of my talents.

So how long is your vow of silence?

Because my decision to do the vow of silence was only decided one day in advance, I haven’t fixed on a length or duration for my vow. It will be anywhere in the vicinity of one month, going up to 12 months. But to play it safe right now, let’s say my vow of silence will be for the month of November 🙂

Why 30 days? and why now?

Well, as soon as we enter October and approach November, I always get a bit anxious. Somehow, this NaNoWriMo phenomenon makes me think of the month of November as a sort of free-for-all Lent (where I need to make a resolution and stick to it). With such strong feelings associated with the eleventh month of the year, I decided November first as initial day.

I could have waited to start on new year’s day or any other important day I wanted, but the only thing going through my head was…. why wait? If you know you’re going to do it anyway, then why waste time. Just jump right in. And so I have!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

(Some Afterthoughts)

Wow, it’s been ages since I wrote my last blog post! But here I am, and I did it. I’m not going to make any excuses or apologize for my absence.  I’m relieved to say my health and mood are much better now. But what does my mood have to do with blogging, you may wonder? Well, I’ve noticed that I tend to write and blog under three conditions:

[1.] when I’m under loads of stress,
[2] when I commit myself to doing a challenge, or
[3.] when I’m feeling particularly depressed/angry and need to get it off my chest.

So what does this mean? It means that when I’m happy, content, and feeling calm, it never crosses my mind to write anything. This is why I’m gonna keep this journey guilt-free and not challenge myself to post x times a week during this personal time.

Peace out everyone!

Defining AHIMSA

July 28, 2012

***Arbitrarily found this written in a pamphlet somewhere, but it sums up the attributes of ahimsa [nonviolence] very well!

AHIMSA is…

Avoidance of
Harm
Intended by
Mind
Speech or
Action                                       

Just shared a photo on my facebook page that read ‘Just Pray. Tell God all the things that bother you & cry it all to Him. He hears you and He cares.’ I’m not really into religious messages, but I thought this message what quite profound. It made me go in search of some good crying quotes.

These are a mixture of the best few that I found from here! They explain the nature and importance of shedding tears.

————————————————————————————-

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”  ―    Charles Dickens,    Great Expectations

“If you’ve never eaten while crying  you don t know what life tastes like.”  ―    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Crying is one of the highest devotional songs.  One who knows crying, knows spiritual practice.  If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer.  Crying includes all the principles of Yoga.”  ―    Kripalvanandji

“He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.”  ―    James Joyce,    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“When someone is crying, of course, the noble thing to do is to comfort them. But if someone is trying to hide their tears, it may also be noble to pretend you do not notice them.”  ―    Lemony Snicket,    Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

“Guys always think tears are a sign of weakness.  They’re a sign of FRUSTRATION. She’s only crying so she won’t cut your throat in your sleep.  So make nice and be grateful.”  ―    Donna Barr

“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve.  Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water.  But there must be sunlight also.  A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.”  ―    Brian Jacques,    Taggerung

“Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.”  ―    Carl Sandburg

“During the last few months of the camp’s existence the shortage of food was so acute that the prisoners (the camp staff were still well fed) resorted to cannibalism, and one former British internee gave evidence at the trial of the Commandant and some of his staff that when engaged in clearing away dead bodies as many as one in ten had a piece cut from the thigh or other part of the body which had been taken and eaten, and that he had seen people in the act of doing it. To such lengths had they been brought by the pangs of hunger.

  This witness said:

I noticed on many occasions a very strange wound at the back of the thigh of many of the dead. First of all I dismissed it as a gunshot wound at close quarters, but after seeing a few more I asked a friend and he told me that many of the prisoners were cutting chunks out of the bodies to eat. On my very next visit to the mortuary I actually saw a prisoner whip out a knife, cut a portion out of the leg of a dead body and put it quickly into his mouth, naturally frightened of being seen in the act of doing so. I leave it to your imagination to realize to what state the prisoners were reduced, for men to risk eating bits of flesh cut from black corpses.”

— Lord Russell of Liverpool 2008, p. 178

The “camp” that Lord Russell of Liverpool, also known as Edward Frederick Langley Russell, was referring to in this quote was Bergen-Belsen. I originally came across this account by Lord Russell in Garry Hogg‘s 1958 book Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice (p. 188-189) while doing research for an essay on survival cannibalism in the 20th century. Because The Scourge of the Swastika was originally published in 1954 by London: Cassell, with this 2008 version just harboring a new introduction by Alistair Horne, I was able to track this second-hand reference to its source.

Two of my quotes posted on this blog have made mentioned of cannibalism. To read them please click here and here. I have already evaluated that the practice of humans eating flesh from other humans is neither a strange nor rare practice around the world.  This practice is thought to be most justified as a method of survival. Thus, the act of cannibalism taking place in the mortuary of Bergen-Belsen due to acute starvation and hunger is understandable. For prisoners to have to resort to such ‘inhuman’ measures, however, can often lead to much embarrassment and a devaluing of self-worth. Still, it would be erroneous to assume that the prisoner mentioned in the witness testimony speedily ate the chunk of human flesh because he was “naturally frightened of being seen in the act.” If this act referred to the prisoner being caught by Nazi officers for not following orders, that would be true. However, to assume that anyone would be appalled or would retaliate to see a prisoner commit “the act” of cannibalism is unlikely and unknown. At least that is what I believe.

Surprisingly, this is the only (direct) evidence I could find of cannibalism taking place during the Holocaust. You can read this section here on Google Books. While many sources express that cannibalism was rife during this episode in history, I have been unable to find details in the literature. This may be because of the embarrassment felt by camp survivors who partook in this activity post-WWII. As their dire circumstances have been replaced by comfort and reintegration into societal life, this may in fact be a memory many have repressed or hidden from historians, archivists, and loved ones.

Reference: Lord Russell of Liverpool 2008. The Scourge of the Swastika: A History of Nazi War Crimes during World War II. New York: Skyhorse Publishing

“With repeated use even the simplest activity can leave marks on the bone. The things we do today may become imprinted on our bones and years from now we may have “couch potato buttocks,” “remote control thumb,” or “Nintendo wrist”.”

— Peggy Thomas 1995, p. 58, 61

This osteology quote is pretty self explanatory – the movements we make our bodies do today may be soo repetitive that they will be noticeable as slight, but distinctive, changes on our skeletons. The only thing to consider is whether we will ever be able to identify the bone changes correctly to the right activity? Especially since people today are very diverse in their activities, and do so many of them, that it may only be possible to say which part of the body was moved in which direction, but not for what reason. Thus, only the descriptive what, rather than the resulting why may be discovered…

Reference: Thomas, P. 1995. Talking Bones: the science of forensic anthropology. New York: Facts on File

Ego Quote on Billboard

February 16, 2012

Found this in an airport the other day and thought I should share…

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