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If money can make you happy,
does debt make you sad?

Author: Cassondra Batz

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/if-money-can-make-you-happy-does-debt-make-you-sad

If money can make you happy, does debt make you sad?

Humans have long debated the adage ‘Money can’t buy you happiness.’ Popular opinion suggests that, indeed, it cannot, but more recently researchers have challenged this notion. Based on extensive studies, investigators found that money, or income, can contribute to your happiness. In our capitalist society, income leads to increases in happiness to the extent that funds are required to attain the things that lead to happiness. By meeting needs for shelter or food, allowing the purchase of a home or groceries, or opening the window to experiences such as adventure or travel, money can increase our sense of satisfaction with life.

But what about the relationship between debt and wellbeing? Does money, even when borrowed, make us happier – or does the state of owing money add to our dissatisfaction and stress? The ‘IOU’ is an ever-present and, at times, necessary evil that allows for a degree on the wall, a roof overhead, or a shiny car in the garage. Yet at what cost?

For my colleagues and I, the emotional impact of borrowing certainly merited study, given that 80 per cent of US households, and 70 per cent of college graduates, are currently in debt. A review of prior studies showed that stress from debt was two-pronged: it appeared to spill over and add to the psychological burden of life, but it was also a real drain on the actual resources required to pay off the debt.

To drill down deeper, our team analysed a large sample of college students and the impact of their student loans on subjective wellbeing. Much of what we found seemed self-evident: if a debt felt manageable, it was less damaging to an individual’s sense of wellbeing than if the debt felt overwhelming. A person’s sense of wellbeing varied with the source of the borrowed funds. Money borrowed from people or places charging less interest or offering more flexibility – subsidised student loans, for instance – results in less stress than money borrowed from financial institutions with exorbitant interest rates and no forgiveness policies. The emotional toll taken by debt varied with the degree to which an individual had other financial resources. A person whose debt was matched by investments or property had a security blanket to help them through. Especially important was the raison d’être for the loan. Debt undertaken for necessities, such as a home to live in, was less detrimental to one’s wellbeing; debt undertaken for an irresponsible splurge on unnecessary home renovations was more stressful.

So, is education debt less upsetting because it leads to levels of attainment necessary for many careers? Only to a certain degree. Unsurprisingly, our analyses showed that student loans lead to greater financial worry, which has a detrimental effect on life satisfaction. But the more that education led to real income, the less anxiety the borrower felt. We found that as students continued to pay out their debt over the course of up to eight years, happiness was reliably boosted by income and diminished by debt, until the two balanced out.

Is there any benefit to such studies, which seem to bear out the obvious? We think so.

When considering the issue of whether debt or income have stronger effects on the sense of wellbeing, it is helpful to understand whether income is merely the opposite of debt. After all, if debt and income are two poles of a unidimensional continuum, then comparing their relative strengths will not be substantively meaningful. But our team found an interesting juxtaposition between debt and income, and a far more nuanced relationship between the two: debt levels can accrue regardless of income levels. In fact, individuals who have higher levels of income also have access to higher credit and can incur higher debt. On the other hand, individuals who are financially competent will likely have higher levels of income and lower levels of debt – and this leads to an inverse relation between the two and the sense of wellbeing they provoke.

What appears simple, therefore, is somewhat complex. Our findings emphasise that students shouldn’t worry only about their credit scores when accruing large amounts of debt; erosion of the sense wellbeing and inner emotional life must be weighed as well. Students should understand, moreover, that not all debt has an equal impact. If you choose to carry some debt, a few considerations are key: only borrow what you can manage. Think hard about why you are borrowing the money and where it is coming from. And borrow only if you can back up the debt with income or other assets. If you consider these factors, then debt need not wipe that smile off your face.Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.


 

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What know-it-alls don’t know, or the illusion of competence

Author: Kate Fehlhaber

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/what-know-it-alls-dont-know-or-the-illusion-of-competence

What know-it-alls don’t know, or the illusion of competence

One day in 1995, a large, heavy middle-aged man robbed two Pittsburgh banks in broad daylight. He didn’t wear a mask or any sort of disguise. And he smiled at surveillance cameras before walking out of each bank. Later that night, police arrested a surprised McArthur Wheeler. When they showed him the surveillance tapes, Wheeler stared in disbelief. ‘But I wore the juice,’ he mumbled. Apparently, Wheeler thought that rubbing lemon juice on his skin would render him invisible to videotape cameras. After all, lemon juice is used as invisible ink so, as long as he didn’t come near a heat source, he should have been completely invisible.

Police concluded that Wheeler was not crazy or on drugs – just incredibly mistaken.

The saga caught the eye of the psychologist David Dunning at Cornell University, who enlisted his graduate student, Justin Kruger, to see what was going on. They reasoned that, while almost everyone holds favourable views of their abilities in various social and intellectual domains, some people mistakenly assess their abilities as being much higher than they actually are. This ‘illusion of confidence’ is now called the ‘Dunning-Kruger effect’, and describes the cognitive bias to inflate self-assessment.

To investigate this phenomenon in the lab, Dunning and Kruger designed some clever experiments. In one study, they asked undergraduate students a series of questions about grammar, logic and jokes, and then asked each student to estimate his or her score overall, as well as their relative rank compared to the other students. Interestingly, students who scored the lowest in these cognitive tasks always overestimated how well they did – by a lot. Students who scored in the bottom quartile estimated that they had performed better than two-thirds of the other students!

This ‘illusion of confidence’ extends beyond the classroom and permeates everyday life. In a follow-up study, Dunning and Kruger left the lab and went to a gun range, where they quizzed gun hobbyists about gun safety. Similar to their previous findings, those who answered the fewest questions correctly wildly overestimated their knowledge about firearms. Outside of factual knowledge, though, the Dunning-Kruger effect can also be observed in people’s self-assessment of a myriad of other personal abilities. If you watch any talent show on television today, you will see the shock on the faces of contestants who don’t make it past auditions and are rejected by the judges. While it is almost comical to us, these people are genuinely unaware of how much they have been misled by their illusory superiority.

Sure, it’s typical for people to overestimate their abilities. One study found that 80 per cent of drivers rate themselves as above average – a statistical impossibility. And similar trends have been found when people rate their relative popularity and cognitive abilities. The problem is that when people are incompetent, not only do they reach wrong conclusions and make unfortunate choices but, also, they are robbed of the ability to realise their mistakes. In a semester-long study of college students, good students could better predict their performance on future exams given feedback about their scores and relative percentile. However, the poorest performers showed no recognition, despite clear and repeated feedback that they were doing badly. Instead of being confused, perplexed or thoughtful about their erroneous ways, incompetent people insist that their ways are correct. As Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man (1871): ‘Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.’

Interestingly, really smart people also fail to accurately self-assess their abilities. As much as D- and F-grade students overestimate their abilities, A-grade students underestimate theirs. In their classic study, Dunning and Kruger found that high-performing students, whose cognitive scores were in the top quartile, underestimated their relative competence. These students presumed that if these cognitive tasks were easy for them, then they must be just as easy or even easier for everyone else. This so-called ‘imposter syndrome’ can be likened to the inverse of the Dunning-Kruger effect, whereby high achievers fail to recognise their talents and think that others are equally competent. The difference is that competent people can and do adjust their self-assessment given appropriate feedback, while incompetent individuals cannot.

And therein lies the key to not ending up like the witless bank robber. Sometimes we try things that lead to favourable outcomes, but other times – like the lemon juice idea – our approaches are imperfect, irrational, inept or just plain stupid. The trick is to not be fooled by illusions of superiority and to learn to accurately reevaluate our competence. After all, as Confucius reportedly said, real knowledge is knowing the extent of one’s ignorance.Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

 

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Cognitive Dissonance Helps Old Dogs With Their New Tricks

Author: Suzanne Cope

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/cognitive-dissonance-helps-old-dogs-with-their-new-tricks

Cognitive Dissonance Helps Old Dogs With Their New Tricks

How do we get others to change their minds? That is the question many of us are asking in this polarising social and political climate, where the gulf between some people’s beliefs appears almost insurmountable. But there is a way, based in the academic field of adult learning, that has helped people confront their own biases and find a new perspective.

The key to success is confronting cognitive dissonance, the state of mental discomfort one feels when holding two or more conflicting beliefs or worldviews at the same time. Coming to terms with cognitive dissonance facilitates what the adult learning theorist Jack Mezirow called transformational learning – identifying and addressing our biases through action, becoming a bit more tolerant along the way.

The ability to learn in adulthood is supported by the recent finding that the adult brain is much more plastic than we once believed. ‘Although the brain was once seen as a rather static organ, it is now clear that the organisation of brain circuitry is constantly changing as a function of experience,’ wrote the neuroscientists Bryan Kolb, Robbin Gibb and Terry E Robinson in their seminal paper in Current Directions in Psychological Science in 2003. This initial discovery and many subsequent studies have been upending the long-held adage that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. In essence, we have a much greater ability to learn in adulthood than we once thought, from learning new skills or knowledge, to the capacity to change one’s social or political worldview.

Likewise, cognitive dissonance has been widely used as a learning tool for adults, particularly as an aid to help students thinking more critically about their larger place in the world. Rachel Panton, an adult learning expert/practitioner and writing coach, sees cognitive dissonance at work when she teaches food memoir to emerging adults at the University of Miami. To help introduce cognitive dissonance around assumptions about their own culture, she has students investigate the socio-economic, political and historical contexts of the food they consider ‘American’, such as hot dogs and apple pie. She sees her white American students initially resisting their ties to ethnic foods, but ultimately, through research and discussion that provokes cognitive dissonance, many of them come to realise that their diets can be seen to be as foreign as the food associated with Americans of colour, including Chinese food and soul food. ‘So when we start to investigate the context of the foods that they eat and how much of it is foreign to their international student peers, or even other ethnic groups within the US, they begin to realise their own identities as European Americans instead of just “normal American diets”,’ Panton explained.

But we also see transformation through cognitive dissonance in everyday life. In February 2017, STAT reported on the Iraqi-born cardiologist Chalak Berzingi and his clinic in a small, overwhelmingly conservative town in West Virginia. The journalist Max Blau describes the positive relationship between Berzingi and Eugene Smith, 57, unemployed due to ill-health, and a self-described Trump supporter. ‘I feel for people like him … That makes me feel bad his family can’t come over here,’ Smith said. ‘I know they’re not all terrorists … I don’t know how we can weed out the bad from the good. That’s our problem.’

These statements show cognitive dissonance at work. Smith is thinking still of ‘other’ Muslims as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but, through his interactions with Berzingi, he is presented with evidence for creating a new worldview of Muslims as much more similar to himself.

Cognitive dissonance is also at play in works of social commentary across genres, such as the short film Let Me In (2016) featuring Alicia Keys. Here, the singer and her two small children are forced to flee their suburban home in Los Angeles because of fierce fighting across the coifed flower beds and winding streets of their otherwise average US neighbourhood. She and her children leave with little more than the clothes on their backs, and make their way toward the Mexican border.

This fictitious upending of refugee tropes, while obvious, is also arresting. We all recognise the upper-middle-class neighbourhood her character flees from, even if we don’t live there; and we can all imagine firefights in our front yard. Through the juxtaposition, assumptions about refugees are challenged and we are confronted with two conflicting worldviews overlaid: one includes our Western knowledge of middle-class family life; the other consists of our beliefs about refugees.

By conflating US suburbia and Syrian strife, Keys hopes that her audience will better understand the plight of refugees running from violence. Ultimately, she appeals to our pathos to create even more cognitive dissonance – we cannot help but empathise with the plight of her family, and thus we are challenged to rethink our feelings about other refugees too.

So how might we evoke cognitive dissonance to help change others’ minds? As in the examples above, we can connect narrow worldviews to the wider, conflicted world. Showing the humanity and even similarity of groups who are marginalised, for example, can counteract one’s established worldviews. Clashing views of reality might help anyone see the world through new eyes.

The technique even works when we use it on ourselves. First, we must identify our biases in the face of instinctual anger, revulsion or fear. If we can assess where this feeling comes from, and what it is founded upon, then we can train ourselves to respond differently the next time around.

‘We learned from the rapidly changing views on gay marriage that direct personal contact with gay family or friends had the greatest impact on challenging views,’ said Judith Beth Cohen, an adult learning expert at Lesley University in Massachusetts. ‘In this case, cognitive dissonance came from the human contact, which made an abstraction come alive. Given that most new media feeds people what they want to hear, we need ways to get beyond our bubbles and encounter the “other”, not just virtually but in the flesh.’Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

 

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Lifestyle Changes, Not A Magic Pill, Can Reverse Alzheimer’s

Author: Clayton Dalton

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/lifestyle-changes-not-a-magic-pill-can-reverse-alzheimers

Lifestyle Changes, Not A Magic Pill, Can Reverse Alzheimer’s

Last summer, a research group from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) quietly published the results of a new approach in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. What they found was striking. Although the size of the study was small, every participant demonstrated such marked improvement that almost all were found to be in the normal range on testing for memory and cognition by the study’s end. Functionally, this amounts to a cure.

These are important findings, not only because Alzheimer’s disease is projected to become ever more common as the population ages, but because current treatment options offer minimal improvement at best. Last July, a large clinical trial found little benefit in patients receiving a major new drug called LMTX. And after that, another hopeful drug designed to target amyloid protein, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, failed its first large clinical trial as well. Just two months ago, Merck announced the results of its trial of a drug called verubecestat, which is designed to inhibit formation of amyloid protein. It was found to be no better than placebo.

The results from UCLA aren’t due to an incredible new drug or medical breakthrough, though. Rather, the researchers used a protocol consisting of a variety of different lifestyle modifications to optimise metabolic parameters – such as inflammation and insulin resistance – that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were counselled to change their diet (a lot of veggies), exercise, develop techniques for stress management, and improve their sleep, among other interventions. The most common ‘side effect’ was weight loss.

The study is notable not only for its remarkable outcomes, but also for the alternative paradigm it represents in the treatment of a complex, chronic disease. We’ve spent billions of dollars in an effort to understand the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s in the hope that it will lead to a cure, or at least to more effective therapies. And although we have greatly enlarged our knowledge of the disease, it has not yielded many successful treatments.

The situation is analogous in kind, if not quite degree, to the many other chronic diseases with which we now struggle, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While we do have efficacious medications for these conditions, none work perfectly, and all have negative effects. Our understanding of the cellular processes at the root of these diseases is sophisticated, but technical mastery – the grail of a cure – has remained elusive.

Acknowledging these difficulties, the researchers at UCLA opted for a different approach. Beginning from the premise that Alzheimer’s disease is a particular manifestation of a highly complex system in disarray, they sought to optimise the system by changing the inputs. Put another way, the scientists chose to set aside the molecular box which has proven so vexing, and to focus instead on the context of the box itself. Although we cannot say precisely how the intervention worked, on a cellular level, the important thing is that it did work.

The method isn’t entirely novel. Researchers have already shown that multi-faceted, comprehensive lifestyle interventions can significantly improve outcomes in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. But it’s difficult for these approaches to gain traction for two reasons. First, these protocols are more challenging than simply taking a pill at bedtime. Patients need ongoing education, counselling and support to effect meaningful change. And second, the pharmaceutical mode of treatment is deeply embedded within our current medical system. Insurance companies are set up to pay for medication, not lifestyle change; and physicians are taught pharmacology, not nutrition.

Despite these difficulties, it’s time to start taking these approaches much more seriously. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple over the next three decades, to nearly 14 million in the United States alone. Diabetes and other chronic diseases are expected to follow a similar trajectory. Trying to confront this epidemic with medication alone will raise a new host of problems, from prohibitive cost to adverse effects, without addressing any underlying cause. We know that comprehensive lifestyle modification can work for many chronic diseases, in some cases as well as medication. It deserves more than passing mention at the end of an annual check-up – it’s time to make it a cornerstone in the treatment not only of Alzheimer’s disease, but of all chronic disease.Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.


 

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To Be Happier, Focus On What’s Within Your Control

Author: Massimo Pigliucci

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/to-be-happier-focus-on-whats-within-your-control

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
To be happier focus on what's within our control

This is the Serenity Prayer, originally written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr around 1934, and commonly used by Alcoholics Anonymous and similar organisations. It is not just a key step toward recovery from addiction, it is a recipe for a happy life, meaning a life of serenity arrived at by consciously taking what life throws at us with equanimity.

The sentiment behind the prayer is very old, found in 8th-century Buddhist manuscripts, as well as in 11th-century Jewish philosophy. The oldest version I can think of, however, goes back to the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Active in the 2nd century in Rome and then Nicopolis, in western Greece, Epictetus argued that:

We are responsible for some things, while there are others for which we cannot be held responsible. The former include our judgment, our impulse, our desire, aversion and our mental faculties in general; the latter include the body, material possessions, our reputation, status – in a word, anything not in our power to control. … [I]f you have the right idea about what really belongs to you and what does not, you will never be subject to force or hindrance, you will never blame or criticise anyone, and everything you do will be done willingly. You won’t have a single rival, no one to hurt you, because you will be proof against harm of any kind.

I call this Epictetus’ promise: if you truly understand the difference between what is and what is not under your control, and act accordingly, you will become psychologically invincible, impervious to the ups and downs of fortune.

Of course, this is far easier said than done. It requires a lot of mindful practice. But I can assure you from personal experience that it works. For instance, last year I was in Rome, working, as it happened, on a book on Stoicism. One late afternoon I headed to the subway stop near the Colosseum. As soon as I entered the crowded subway car, I felt an unusually strong resistance to moving forward. A young fellow right in front of me was blocking my way, and I couldn’t understand why. Then the realisation hit, a second too late. While my attention was focused on him, his confederate had slipped his hand in my left front pocket, seized my wallet, and was now stepping outside of the car, immediately followed by his accomplice. The doors closed, the train moved on, and I found myself with no cash, no driver’s licence, and a couple of credit cards to cancel and replace.

Before I started practising Stoicism, this would have been a pretty bad experience, and I would not have reacted well. I would have been upset, irritated and angry. This foul mood would have spilled over the rest of the evening. Moreover, the shock of the episode, as relatively mild as the attack had been, would have probably lasted for days, with a destructive alternation of anger and regret.

But I had been practicing Stoicism for a couple of years. So my first thought was of Epictetus’ promise. I couldn’t control the thieves in Rome, and I couldn’t go back and change what had happened. I could, however, accept what had happened and file it away for future reference, focusing instead on having a nice time during the rest of my stay. After all, nothing tragic had happened. I thought about this. And it worked. I joined my evening company, related what happened, and proceeded to enjoy the movie, the dinner, and the conversation. My brother was amazed that I took things with such equanimity and that I was so calm about it. But that’s precisely the power of internalising the Stoic dichotomy of control.

And its efficacy is not limited to minor life inconveniences, as in the episode just described. James Stockdale, a fighter-jet pilot during the Vietnam War, was shot down and spent seven and a half years in Hoa Lo prison, where he was tortured and often put in isolation. He credits Epictetus for surviving the ordeal by immediately applying the dichotomy of control to his extreme situation as a captive, which not only saved his life, but also allowed him to coordinate the resistance from inside the prison, in his position as senior ranking officer.

Most of us don’t find ourselves in Stockdale’s predicament, but once you begin paying attention, the dichotomy of control has countless applications to everyday life, and all of them have to do with one crucial move: shifting your goals from external outcomes to internal achievements.

For example, let’s say that you are preparing your résumé for a possible job promotion. If your goal is to get the promotion, you are setting yourself up for a possible disappointment. There is no guarantee that you will get it, because the outcome is not (entirely) under your control. Sure, you can influence it, but it also depends on a number of variables that are independent of your efforts, including possible competition from other employees, or perhaps the fact that your boss, for whatever unfathomable reason, really doesn’t like you.

That’s why your goal should be internal: if you adopt the Stoic way, you would conscientiously put together the best résumé that you can, and then mentally prepare to accept whatever outcome with equanimity, knowing that sometimes the universe will favour you, and other times it will not. What do you gain by being anxious over something you don’t control? Or angry at a result that was not your doing? You are simply adding a self-inflicted injury to the situation, compromising your happiness and serenity.

This is no counsel for passive acceptance of whatever happens. After all, I just said that your goal should be to put together the best résumé possible! But it is the mark of a wise person to realise that things don’t always go the way we wish. If they don’t, the best counsel is to pick up the pieces, and move on.

Do you want to win that tennis match? It is outside of your control. But to play the best game you can is under your control. Do you want your partner to love you? It is outside of your control. But there are plenty of ways you can choose to show your love to your partner – and that is under your control. Do you want a particular political party to win the election? It is outside of your control (unless you’re Vladimir Putin!) But you can choose to engage in political activism, and you can vote. These aspects of your life are under your control. If you succeed in shifting your goals internally, you will never blame or criticise anyone, and you won’t have a single rival, because what other people do is largely beyond your control and therefore not something to get worked up about. The result will be an attitude of equanimity toward life’s ups and downs, leading to a more serene life.Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.


 

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There Is More To Life Than Just Physical Security

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/as-we-grow-older-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

There Is More To Life Than Just Physical Security

As I grow older, I realize that I have so much to learn from younger and younger people. It is nice to be old, with all your happy and sad memories, the nostalgia and particularly the beautiful relationships you have built and you cherish – even if sometimes the people are no more. But if we get stuck in the past, and keep talking about “In my good old days….” we are denying ourselves the opportunity to participate in the most exciting and challenging things that are happening now, which we couldn’t even have dreamt of some decades ago.

I will not forget the hundred year old man who, when people asked what the advantages of being a centurion are, he replied: “No peer pressure.” I agree with him. If I spend time with people of my age or older, I find very few of them willing to adapt and adjust to the new world and enjoy what it has to offer. Living in the past is not going to bring back the past, but will deprive you of living in the present, and planning for the future.

That is another topic of interest. Many elderly people do not want to plan for the future (except bolstering their investments or health insurance) just because their age has crossed certain numbers. But there is more to life than just physical security. Here I would like to quote the story of another centurion who was very positive and enthusiastic, and when asked the secret of his motivation, he replied: “every morning I drag myself out of bed with all my bones aching, go outside and fetch the newspaper. I open the Obituary Column to see whether my photo is there. If it is not there then I know I have one more day on this earth and I might as well enjoy it!”

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Are We All Selfish People?

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/are-we-basically-selfish-and-greedy-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Are We All Selfish People?

Every year as I welcome the new students into our counseling course, I am amazed that so many of them come into this simple, experiential and unorthodox course with such high qualifications and credentials. Some have given up high-paid and high-status jobs, others have put aside prestigious achievements, comforts, their status, and have agreed to become students – to learn about life, about themselves, about others, and how to reach out to people.

When intellectuals say that humans are basically selfish and greedy, that they only look for their own benefit, I want to tell them about our students – and also those who have been giving selfless voluntary service for years after they qualify in our counseling course. These are the people who keep reinforcing my faith in humanity, and I feel so privileged that I am able to have such amazing people around me. That is what keeps motivating me to continue with my humble mission.

I am sure you too will find some selfless people around you – it is up to you to spend time with them, nurture your relationship with them, and find an oasis in the self-centered world.

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In Memoriam - Vasundhara Ghorpade

A Tribute By Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/in-memoriam-vasundhara-ghorpade-a-tribute-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Vasundhara Ghorpade

Let's not mourn her death, let us celebrate her life! Vasu, as we all called her, was a beautiful person inside and out. Daughter of the Maharaja of Baroda and Maharani of Sandur, wife of a minister, a person with stunning beauty even in her seventies, she was modest to the core. She did the Diploma in Counselling Skills (DCS) and then DLS courses with Banjara Academy, was quietly involved, bewitched people with her dazzling smile, reached out whenever required, and did whatever she did so modestly, no one would ever be able to guess who and what she is.

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"Born To Fly"

Written by: Nitin Sathe (Air Cdr)

Published by: Vitasta

A book review by: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/born-to-fly-book-review-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Born To Fly

“Airborne to chairborne” wrote Flying Officer M P Anil Kumar when a crippling accident brought him down from the fighter jets he was flying, to the confines of a wheelchair for life. But there was no pathos or rancour in what he wrote – he described his journey from being an outstanding fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force to the life of a quadriplegic in a Rehab Centre as one would describe a change of job or city. And that article brought him innumerable fans among school children who adored him for a quarter of a century. As if life had not doled out enough challenges for him, he succumbed to cancer after an eventful quarter century of helping, encouraging and motivating innumerable youth with his “pencil” power, a pencil held in the mouth to tap out great words of wisdom on the computer keyboard.

MP’s life has been immortalized by his batch-mate, now serving as an Air Commodore in The IAF, after extensive research on every aspect of this amazing person who has no parallel in history. Air Cdr Sathe spent two years travelling, meeting people, interviewing everyone who had interacted with MP, and going through innumerable writings of the great pilot-turned- writer. The result is this book, whose Royalty will be chanelised towards formation of MP Anil Kumar Foundation to look after paraplegics in the country.

A brief review like this one cannot do justice to the book. Whether you wish to learn about our great Air Force, about fighter planes, about human dynamics, about courage against all odds, and about how role models are made, just go through this fascinating narrative – which starts from MPs early days in a small village in Kerala, to Sainik School, to NDA to Air Force Academy to Pathankot Air Force Station and then to the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre in Pune. A life lived beyond the wildest expectations of anyone, a person worth saluting with respect, regard, love and honour.

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The Charm of Personal Story Telling

Author: Raja Sekhar Mamidanna

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/the-charm-of-personal-story-telling-by-author-raja-sekhar-mamidanna

I guess our generation was the last one to experience the charm of personal story telling.

Grand parents and their art of story telling is almost lost. The excitement of listening to 'long long ago' and once upon a time' is now long long ago and once upon a time.

We don't listen to stories now. We read them. We watch them.

Our generation can't tell stories. How can we ? Mobiles, TVs, laptops and Internet is always seeking our attention. To tell a story we have to hold the attention of the listener just like our grand parents did. They were not perfect story tellers. They were just perfect people.

All is not lost. I still have hope. Someday I will address the next generation, 'long long ago'. I will install in their heads an app called, 'Nostalgia'.

You see Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It's the bridge which never falls. Never fails. It will connect us to the lost art of storytelling!


 

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The Attitude of Indifference

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

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The Attitude of Indifference

I don’t know if I am over-reacting, but I find more and more people who do not stick to their commitments, punctuality, or minor responsibilities. In this era of very easy communication, I find people who do not take calls or messages, do not call back, and do not show any remorse when questioned on it.

At times it becomes a question of how important or useful you are to them. If you are a person in authority or are useful to them in some way, then they do not wait for you to contact them, they are calling you up constantly, sending mails, sending “gentle” reminders of what you have to do for them. And once the work is over, they go back to the same attitude of indifference.

I do agree that we live in a competitive world, and everyone wants to keep climbing up the ladder of success. But what I fail to understand is that having people to support you when you stumble, cheer you on when you are struggling, or guide you if you are straying from your path – are as important as those who can actually give you a lift. Even Newton, when praised for his great achievements, is reported to have said, “I could see far ahead because I was standing on the shoulders of tall men.” There are emotionally tall men and women all around us. They are not celebrities or billionaires or persons in authority. But they can lend their shoulders, not only to climb and see far ahead, but sometimes to lean on and have a good cry. Are you nurturing such shoulders?

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Ancient Aviator Anecdote

'Trainers'

Author: Air Vice Marshal Cecil Parker, MVC VM (Retd)

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Depending upon the context in which it is used, the term 'trainers' can refer to people or to specialist sports shoes or to ight simulators! Fliers world-wide however know it as the generic term used for two-seater aircraft (AC) utilized for pilot training ranging from basic to type-trainers of high- performance, single-seat combat AC.

My generation's association with Indian Air Force trainer AC began in 1951 in Ambala with basic ying training in the fabric- covered, biplane, the Tiger Moth, in which the pupil ew from the rear cockpit! In the advanced stage of pilot training we ew from the front cockpit of the all-metal Harvard AC. Post-commission we moved to the CTU to convert on to the Tempest AC which had no type-trainer. We were therefore given four dual sorties from the front cockpit of the Spitre MK 1X – the trainer derivative of the famous 'Battle of Britain' ghter AC. In comparison the Tempest was a far more powerful, heavy and difcult AC to y; we survived but alas our naval aviator course mate did not. This was the end of our training on piston-engined, tail-wheel AC as the Tempest was soon grounded and we moved to a squadron equipped with the very rst jet AC of the IAF.

The Vampire type-trainer was still in the future hence we were briefed thoroughly and, after a ground-run, were launched solo in an AC where, for the very rst time, the engine, was behind us and we were seated in the nose of the AC; we coped! The next AC was the Toofani which also did not have a type-trainer but now, with over two years ying experience on Vampire jets, we converted more easily onto this French AC with it's toe-brakes and wing-tip tanks. At FIS (Flying Instructors School) we learned to y from the rear cockpit of the HT-2 and Harvard trainers as well as learning how to teach.

Back to squadron life and ten consecutive years on the Hunter AC which had a very professionally designed trainer variant with side-by-side seating. A good deal of my instructional ying was from the right hand seat especially at the (Hunter) OTU which I raised and commanded from 1966 – 69. During this period I also had the privilege of being taken up for an air experience sortie in a visiting Canberra AC by one of the IAF's legends who happened to be my then Station Commander. As a station commander myself, I inducted the tandem seater Polish Iskra trainer AC into the IAF and which, along with the Kiran trainer, we used for both advanced and applied stages of pilot training. As the Air Ofcer Commanding of an air base for Mig AC, I did my Type 69 conversion and as Commandant of the Air Force Academy ew the prototype HPT-32 trainer AC.

The last two trainer AC I ew in the air force were the Mig 23/T-24 from Leh and the Jaguar T-2 from Ambala where it all started 35 years earlier! My log book tells me that 35% of my ying hours are as a 'trainer' but, as all (old) pilots know, 100% was experiential learning!

The author is a retired air vice marshal of the IAF and a freelance writer who can be contacted at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


 

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Feel The Touch

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Touch is one of the ve senses with which we interact with the world, and just slight variation in touch can convey so much! A man who shakes the hand of a woman, and does not let go for two or three seconds more than necessary; a father who holds the arm of a son and gives a slightly tighter squeeze; a friend who silently slips his palm over the hand of a distressed buddy -- all these can speak volumes.

Human beings have a skin hunger, a need to be touched, held, and to feel the warmth of another body. Right from a baby who stops crying when the mother holds him to her bosom, to a dying man who puts his feeble hand out to whoever is by his bedside, we all need touch desperately. And unfortunately touch is rarely given as freely as it should be – in the name of etiquette, decency, etc. The frail old grandmother you go to and bend down for a cursory touch of her feet probably needs a bear hug more than mark of respect.

Many people resort to touching themselves because their need for touch is not fullled. Clasping one's hands, folding hands on one's chest, cupping the chin, crossing of legs, stroking one's face or body, masturbation, giving oneself a rigorous bath – are all indicators of this. I sincerely wish that in this lonely and formal world, there were more people who offered touch as a means of conveying their concern, affection, love or companionship

In a monitored experiment a Librarian was asked to delay in handing over the book but touch the hand of every member whose card had an even number, and those with odd card numbers were given fastservice,butwithoutatouch. Whena feedback was taken, members with even numbers gave much more positive comments than those with odd numbers, even though they were the ones who were givendelayedservice. This is the power of touch!

Research has also showed that tactile people (i.e. those who touch a lot), are generally found to be more attractive by others than much more good looking people who do not touch. Human touch has wide-ranging physical and emotional benets. It lessens pain, improves pulmonary function, increases growth in infants, slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and glucose levels, and improves immune function. But by the time children reach their teen years, they receive only half as much touching as they did in the early part of their lives. Adults touch each other even less, and senior citizens receive the least touching of any age group. This may be due, at least in part, to emphasis on young- looking skin and the implication that older skin is unattractive and thus untouchable.

To help nd a socially acceptable middle ground, try touching a friend's lower arm, hand or shoulder lightly during a conversation. Both you and your friend will benet from this tactile form of communication. Aftertherstthree(eye-to- body contact, eye-to-eye contact, and speaking), the remaining nine involve touching (starting with holding hands, then kissing, and eventually sexual intimacy). While couples who are satised with each other do tend to touch more, the true indicator of a healthy long- term bond is not how often your partner touches you but how often he or she touches you in response to your touch.

Virginia Satir, one of the key family therapists of our time, said that we need to get four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth. So, you might think about it: are you getting your 12 hugs a day? It's important to do that for yourself, and to do that for your family and your kids.

At times when we feel the need, are we ready to have people to reach out to us? Don't we feel shy and reticent that we have to show our vulnerability to others, that we are lowering ourselves down to the level where others have tohelpusout? Manyofusdo.

80 million bacteria are transferred in a 10 second mouth-to-mouth kiss


 

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Don't mistake the PART for the WHOLE – Lesson on the Riveredge

Author: Sreedhar Mandyam

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I must have been around nine-ten years when we were traveling from Bangalore to Mysore. My grandfather was with me. We stopped on the Cauvery River Bridge in Srirangapatna and since rivers are regarded as sacred, we were asked to bow to the River and offer some coins to the River. As kids we did not understand any of it but loved the act of throwing coins into the River. I asked my grandfather, “Is this the Cauvery River?” His answer left an impression on me. He replied, “This is part of the Cauvery River. No one can see the whole River. Wherever we go we see partoftheRiver” Howtrueisthat?

Work, Love, Life

Now does that apply to a lot of issues in our lives? We see part of things and assume about the whole? How many times have you heard yourself and others say, “My working life is crap”, “My marriage is a disaster”, “My life sucks”. Isyourworkinglifecompletecrapor part of it is crappy? Are there benets from your work life? Are you making good money from it? Are you having good relationships at work? Are you enjoying part of the routine? Yeah, parts of your work life could be something you don't like. Maybe you like everything about it except the commute. Maybe it is just the paperwork you dislike. Maybe you love the work but not SOME of the people whom you have to work with. Are you mistaking the PART for the WHOLE?

Which Parts of the Relationship are not working?

What about your marriage or your close relationship? ALL of it is BAD? Maybe you just don't like the additional relatives part? May be it is the lack of attention lately from your partner that is bugging you? Maybe you just dislike the fact that you don't get to spend enough time with one another? Maybe you dislike ONLY the sloppiness of your partner? Maybe only the lack of respect for time from your partner gets your goat? When you say your marriage is a disaster, are you mistaking the PART for the WHOLE?

Life as a whole?

“My life sucks” oh yeah? Which part of it? You love everything about your life except your job? Oh you love your job but it is the lack of Romantic Partner in your life that gets you? Oh you are married and it is the lack of connect in your marriage that gets you? Your marriage is great but it is the relationship with your siblings that breaks you? Is it just the relationship with your parents that is not working out? Your work is great, you have a great marriage, your relationship with your siblings and parents is ne but it is your health that upsets you? Your health is great but it is the nances that get you? Some part of your life is not working out perhaps not your whole life. So when you say, “My life sucks”, are you mistaking the PART for the WHOLE?

Gaining Perspective

Think about it: When we are going through some misery, do we tend to mistake the PART for the WHOLE and brush aside all the things that are working well for us as inconsequential. When we begin to think of the PARTS that are not working within a job, relationship, life, we put things into perspective and not paint the WHOLE with the black brush. We also realize that we have to work only on the PARTS and that is a smaller task compared to having to work on the WHOLE. Perhaps an easier one too. We look at other people whose life is working out great in the part where our life sucks and wonder why can't my life be like that. Parts of every one's life sucks. Just that, your part differs from mine.

No one can see the WHOLE river standing on the riverside.


 

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Hats off to all the volunteeer-counsellors of Banjara Academy who have been carrying on this work silently, anonymously for the last couple of years. Truly commendable! - Ali Khwaja

 

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