The Donkey in the Well

Picture of donkey in the well

Many of you may have heard this story, but I was thinking of it recently and wanted to share this time old tale as a reminder for us to “take a step up”.

Once upon a time, a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well that the farmer had accidentally left uncovered. The donkey cried and cried, and the farmer tried to figure out a way to get the donkey out of the deep hole, however, the sides were too unstable to lower someone down with a rope to tie around the donkey, and as the donkey was panicky and thrashing about, he was concerned he or one of his farm hands might be injured and stuck down the hole too.

The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway, so it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited his neighbors to come and help, so they all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.

As he felt the dirt falling on him, the donkey, being a donkey, kicked and kicked. When that didn’t seem to help, he brayed and brayed. Once the piles of dirt hit the donkey, the animal found renewed energy, and brayed even louder than he had before. The men turned their eyes from one another and pretended not to hear the donkey’s pleadings. The donkey kicked up a fuss and made a terrible commotion, but no one came to help. The donkey cried, but as he tired and began to understand the hopelessness of its situation, he began to give up, and got quiet, and then he realized something amazing was happening.

The donkey realized that the dirt was a gift. With each scoop of dirt that fell into the well, the donkey shook off any that landed on it and then took a step up onto the top of the pile of dirt forming at the bottom of the well. More dirt, another shake and another step up.

The men kept shoveling; certain that they were burying the poor donkey. But as they were shoveling, the donkey was shaking off the dirt and stomping it into the ground below him. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey shook the dirt off and took a step up. As the men continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up. The men were busy shoveling so they didn’t notice what was happening.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer and neighbours finally looked down the well and was astonished at what they saw. The men were quite surprised to see the donkey, looking right straight at them. It was standing on top of all that dirt that had been dropped on it. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!

This story of the donkey in the well is timeless, and has circulated for a while. Its message is timeless, as many of us have found ourselves stuck in a situation where we just didn’t know to get through. The metaphorical dirt was poured over our heads, and we got buried by the problems, or we shook the dirt to the ground and rise above the circumstances. Continue reading

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The Third Leg of Happiness

picture of smiley face

Happiness research indicates that we all have a “base level” of happiness. Positive and negative events veer us off this baseline only temporarily. A vacation or the purchase of a long sought of appliance only makes us temporarily happy and we revert back to our base level of happiness. On the same lines a flat tire or an illness makes us temporarily unhappy and we eventually revert back to our base level of happiness.

These may seem trivial examples but studies have shown that even after major events like winning a lottery or losing a leg, people usually revert to the same baseline happiness within a year of the event. So does this mean that the pursuit of happiness is a futile exercise? If the level of our happiness is pretty much baked in, why should we spend a lifetime of effort looking for happiness? The answer is that our baseline happiness, though relatively stable, can be moved up and down. This means we can in-fact become happier if we do the right things. The problem is that many of these are not things that we usually assume make us happy.

Studies have shown that happiness increases with wealth only up to a level. In the US this is an annual income of $75,000. Above this level of income there is only weak correlation between happiness and money. After this, social status then becomes a bigger driver of happiness than money. If the work we do is widely recognized and appreciated, this too leads to higher happiness because of our increased social standing, even if it may not make us wealthier. This means that the first leg of happiness is money, success, and social-status.

The second leg of happiness is social support and social network. This refers to the relationships in our lives and the connections we have with significant others, friends, relatives, and associates. If we have long and stable relationships, positive support, and strong connections, we are happier. If we are lonely and/or have poor connection with family and friends our level of happiness is lower.

The third leg of happiness is stress. The level of stress that we have has a direct impact on our emotional and physical well being. If we are less stressed we are able to relax and enjoy the moment.

Another reason why stress is so important is that it also plays a direct role with the first two legs of happiness. Higher stress levels clouds our thinking and makes us error prone. Our chances of success decrease at high stress levels because high stress lead to poor decisions.

Stress also had direct correlation with our relationships. Higher stress levels make us high-strung and emotional. We are ready to explode in anger or have a meltdown. Consequently relationships take a beating when our stress levels rise. We may find our social support and social network diminish as stress levels rise and consequently our happiness levels go down.

The problem with the first leg of happiness is that after a certain level, making increasing progress does not add to happiness. The main reason for this is that increasing wealth, success, and social standing, tends to increase our ego. This in-turn leads to higher stress and this counters any increase of happiness that we may otherwise have accrued.

An understanding of the three legs of happiness and the correlation between them should allow us to better manage our lives and increase our levels of happiness. As we make progress on the first two legs of happiness we must always keep an eye on the level of stress in our lives and take step to counter this. By balancing the three legs appropriately we can lead both happy and successful lives.

Credits:This has been written by Raj Shah and edited by Ketna Shah.

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Remain seated and still do yoga!

Picture of Chair
Have you heard this: “I can’t do yoga until I feel better (or can get to yoga class).” 

Injury or illness, age or other ‘limitations’ (including working all day at your desk), may prevent you from getting on a yoga mat on the floor or to stand to do certain yoga postures, as you know them. However with some creativity and modifications you can ALWAYS ‘do’ yoga.

“If you can breathe you can do yoga” says Krishnamacharya.

Sitting as tall as you can yet relaxed is the key to many meditation postures and breathing exercises (pranayama). That is a great place to begin. If you can’t do any physical asana (posture) you can always observe your breath as it is or do some basic breathing exercises (inhale slow 3 counts, exhale 3, then work up to 4 counts etc), or recite a mantra (“I AM”) as you inhale.

There are chair yoga versions of most postures to increase mobility, vitality and flexibility:  sun salutation, forward bends, back bends, spinal twists, sitting mountain pose, eye exercises (helps computer strain) and breathing exercises (calms or energizes and increases concentration).

At your desk, in a wheelchair, or wherever you are sitting now, take a 2 min yoga break!  Re-energize with just 1-2 minutes of yoga posture. Try it: inhale lift your arms up overhead exhale lower. Repeat 5-10 times and see how you feel!. I’ve seen great shifts in posture and energy from my senior home chair yoga classes using poses from a simple chair yoga series I have devised. There are also chair yoga classes at local studios and senior centers that involve standing postures using a chair for support, but there is plenty of ‘yoga’ you can do without getting up or down from the chair if you are not able.

Yoga IS for Everyone! So stay seated and do yoga today! Inhale sit tall, exhale relax! 

Stacie Doorek is a Gentle Integral Yoga Instructor, Kundali Yoga Instructor as taught by Yogi Bhajan. She has done B.A. In Religious Studies and also trained in Iyengar yoga. Here is her story. You can find Stacie over here. Join Stacie on Sept 10 and 11th 2011 for a Chair Yoga Teacher Training. More details here.

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The Stress Trap!

Many of us suffer from chronic-illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, depression, anxiety, etc. However very few of us realize that many of these problems are related to something called a “stress-trap”. For the first time ever a short video presentation has been created to illustrate this concept and show you a way out. This video will highlight that an understanding of the stress system is vital for our health and success. It will show us that we have to treat life as a long distance marathon and not a sprint.

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Is Stress Good For You?

Picture of lady focussed in study
The stress system is much maligned and misunderstood. Knowledge of the stress system should help identify it as our friend. This article will explore the role of stress system in our lives. This understanding should allow us to make use of the stress system when we need it and help us understand why we should be careful not to overuse it.

Imagine you are giving a crucial test and that a lot is riding on it. You want to focus and concentrate all your energy to make sure you put in your best effort. You want to make sure that you do not feel hungry or have the urge to go to the bathroom while giving the test. But how do you put your normal biological processes on a temporary hold? The answer lies with the stress system. All you have to do is invoke it! Once the stress system is invoked it will orchestrate for you all the behind the scene activities needed so that all your energies are focused on the test. Without the stress system it is not possible to accomplish anything of significance.

The stress system can be viewed as an “energy booster”. This is because the stress system is able to divert energy from other routine tasks and channel it towards a single purpose. When this is done properly amazing results can accrue. We all are aware of times when we are “in the flow”. When this happens it appears as if we lose track of time. All distractions and worries fall by the wayside. We are entirely focused on the task we are doing and our creative juices begin to flow. Only when the task is completed we realize the amount of time that has passed and are amazed by the amount and high quality of work accomplished. This would not have been possible without the stress system being fully activated and channeling all our energy into the task we were doing. After the task is accomplished we feel exhausted but exhilarated. There is a feeling of accomplishment and though we feel drained at the moment we would love an opportunity to get back into a similar kind of flow and have our creative juices flowing in the same way again. This is an example of “good stress” and we would all love to have “good stress” in our lives as it makes us productive and useful.

On the other hand there are plenty of examples of “bad stress”. There are times where we know we have to get going on an important task but cannot find the energy and focus. We worry about the result and find ourselves distracted. The creative juices are simply not there and we find ourselves mired in confusion and error. The flow of thoughts and ideas is missing and our actions seem disoriented and error-prone. Our stress levels rise but nothing productive seems to come out. Eventually we give up in frustration. Our energy is drained and we feel low and burnt out. We never want to be in such a position again and dread the notion of taking up the unfinished task one more time. This is an example of “bad stress”.

So the question is: how do we get into situations that create “good stress” and avoid those that produce “bad stress”? Continue reading

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