The Recycle Orchestra

When eight year old Luis Szaran heard a classical guitarist play, he immediately knew that music was his life. However Luis was the eighth child of a poor rice farmer and when his father learnt about his ambition to become a musician he was forbidden from playing music. Luis did not allow this to deter him and he secretly practiced music with a neighbor. By 12 he was composing short songs. Soon the head of a music school recognized his genius and sent him off to Europe on a scholarship to study music. When Luis returned he was an accomplished musician and slowly rose to become the conductor of Paraguay’s most prestigious national symphony.

However Luis was not satisfied with his spectacular success. He saw the role of music as an instrument of social transformation. He began touring the country, trying to establish a connection and trust with local communities. He wanted to bring music to the poorest of poor and he wanted his program to be completely free. This is how “Sounds of Earth” was born. For poor children music became an avenue for hope. Where formerly they had no purpose and resorted to drug and violence, now they have music to look forward to. Even communities benefited as they learnt to organize themselves to raise funds, to organize community events, to find a home for the music school, etc., The Sound Of Earth is now a fantastic success. It is self sustaining as it is run by local communities, and it thrives in hundreds of villages and poor communities.

One spectacular offshoot of “Sounds of Earth” program is the “Recycle Orchestra”. This came about when Sound Of Earth went to Cateura, a very poor community at the outskirts of the town. This community literally exists on top of a landfill, where people make a living by recycling trash. The response here was so great that the number of students outstripped available instruments. On a whim, Favio, the director who is in charge of the Sound of Earth program in Cateura, approached Cola who is an expert recycler with an idea. Could he fashion instruments out of trash? Cola was given a violin as a sample and soon he had fashioned an instrument from scraps of recycled trash. They laughed when they first saw the instrument, but soon realized that this was something that could be really useful. This could give a poor kid a chance to practice music, which would otherwise not be available to him. From this grew the idea of Recycle Orchestra that has now come to symbolize the hope of poor children of Paraguay.

Frontline Program on Sound Of Earth.
Full You tube movie on Recycle Orchestra

No CommentsAdd a Comment »

Nine Things To Know To Expand Your Intelligence

Can You Expand Your Intelligence

Here are nine things you need to know to expand your intelligence. The first three are related to the nature of intelligence:

1. Intelligence is multifaceted. It is silly valuing a car by a single feature such as its mileage. And just as there are many factors like comfort, safety, acceleration, power, durability, looks, mileage, etc., that go into determining the value of a car, our intelligence too is multifaceted. We have emotional intelligence, social intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, spatial intelligence, spiritual intelligence, mathematical intelligence, language intelligence, verbal intelligence, poetic intelligence, and so on. There may be thousands of different ways intelligence may be expressed. Do not allow anybody to tell you that the number represented by IQ (Which primarily focuses on problem solving math and language problems) measures the complete spectrum of intelligence that you have access to.

2. Intelligence is dynamic. One prevailing false notion is that everyone has a fixed quantity of intelligence that we are born with, and we can do nothing to change it. In fact intelligence is dynamic and it can both grow and ebb. It grows as we learn new things and our brains builds new connections and it ebbs when we under-use our brains.

3. Intelligence is a muscle. “Use it or lose it” works for both your muscle and intelligence. The metaphor of the muscle is useful when it comes to intelligence. You can grow it by practice and you have to work towards maintaining it. And just as a muscle is best worked by doing various types of exercises and stretches, your intelligence is expanded and maintained by engaging it in a variety of different ways.

The next three are related to the bottlenecks that limit us from expressing our intelligence:

4. Do not put yourself in a box. The biggest obstacle to expand our intelligence is the belief that our intelligence is limited and it cannot grow. If you convince a frog that its abilities are restricted to swimming in a small pond, it will never venture out in the open ocean. Similarly if we convince ourselves that we are not intelligent enough to tackle some of life’s demanding problems then we unnecessarily hobble ourselves. It is best that we cast away such mental shackles and prepare ourselves to swim in the open ocean.

5. Be wary of the ego. The ego is a huge roadblock to access the deep reservoir of untapped intelligence and creativity within us. The ego creates unnecessary stress and fear and prevents us from entering a state of “flow”. When we are in a state of “flow” we work at our peak level with all aspects of our brain fully engaged. The state of flow is a completely egoless state. Rather than spending energy with questions such as: “What will others think of me?” or “What will happen to me if I fail?” all our energy is directed at the problem itself.

6. Out-of-control stress is an issue. A big factor that prevents us from tapping the full scale of intelligence available to us is stress. When we feel under attack, or when we feel insecure or fearful, or when we feel threatened, our body responds by triggering a stress response. This type of stress prevents us from focusing our energy on any given task. All we can do is to have very short attention spans and nervously jump from task to task without accomplishing anything. If we want to expand our intelligence, the first step is to learn to control and reduce this type of stress.

The final three are things you can do to expand your intelligence:

7. Constantly work the intelligence muscle. Challenge yourself in all areas. If you are not musically inclined take music lessons. If you are not a hands-on person take up hands-on hobbies such as sculpting, painting, or wood working. If you are mathematically challenged try your hand at math games that will improve your math skills. If language is not your strong suit set a challenge to read at least one book per month. When you expand your brain in one area, new connections are built and the brain expands in all directions

8. Do yoga to control ego and stress. The oldest known remedy against both ego and stress is yoga. Since both ego and stress are big bottlenecks to expand and access your intelligence, a regular practice of yoga becomes mandatory. If you practice all eight limbs of yoga that would give you even better results. This means you should be doing regular meditation, have a daily routine of breathing exercises, have a regular yoga practice, and make life style changes that put you in line with Yamas and Niyamas suggested by Patanjali.

9. Fine tune your diet. The brain is extraordinarily sensitive to the foods we ingest. Extra-spicy and sugary foods should be avoided. You should also put aside any habit of regular drug use if you want to expand your intelligence. Heavy, fatty, and greasy foods that make you dull should also be avoided. Over-use of caffeine, nicotine, and stimulants such as tea should also be avoided.

In an increasingly fast-paced world where information and complexity is growing exponentially, it is important that we expand our mental faculties. This article provides important pointers that will help move you in this direction. Please feel free to share this article by pressing on the like button to share these ideas with others.

Related: Superbrain Yoga

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

No CommentsAdd a Comment »

Six things To Know About Walking After Meals

Walking After Meals

Most of us are obsessed about what we should be eating. Relative little attention is paid on how to eat and what to do AFTER you eat. It has generally been regarded as a good thing to go for a walk after meals. Here are six things you may want to know about this:

1. Walking after meals aids digestion
A study in 2008 showed that walking after consuming a large meal sped the rate at which food moved through the stomach.

2. It regulates blood sugar levels
Another study in 2009 showed that a 20 minute walk after a meal helped regulate blood sugar levels.

3. It can be a short walk
The good news is that your walk can be as short as 15 to 20 minutes. Ayurveda has long been a proponent of walking after meals, and it indicates that even a ten minute walk can be very effective.

4. It should not be strenuous
The walk after meals should be a leisurely stroll. No jogging and no power-walking. Your body needs to focus its energy on the process of digestion. This is not the time to engage in any activity that needs a lot of energy.

5. If you cant walk don’t sit
If for some reason you cannot go for a stroll after your meal, see to it that you do not remain seated for the next 20 to 30 minutes. Do some light work that needs standing and/or moving about.

6. It should not add to your stress
If the temperature is too high or too low, or if going out adds to your stress, then it may be better to skip the walk. For about 30 minutes after your meal, you may also want to skip any activity that adds to your stress level, including activity that needs strenuous or stressful mental effort.

Related: NY Times article on walking after meals

You may also like: Seven Insights Into Mindful Eating

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

No CommentsAdd a Comment »

Why Thirty Is Not The New Twenty

The Twenties of a person’s life is a defining period. The first ten years of a career has an exponential impact on our lifetime earnings. Eight out of ten defining moments of our life happen by our mid thirties. In the twenties our brain undergoes rewiring that defines us as a person. Most personality change takes place in our twenties. And by our thirtieth birthday we would have most likely met and known the person we get married to. Female fertility peaks at age 28 and things get complicated after 35.

Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with people in their twenties. She is author of the book “The Defining Decade”. In this wonderful and wise talk she warns that by telling people in their twenties that “30 is the new 20″, we are telling them that they have extra time in their hand. This is a dangerous message to give and leads to life altering results on the downside. If the twenties are lost then it builds too much pressure in the thirties. This increases the likelihood of mistakes and when things go wrong there is little time for correction. Luckily for those in their twenties, things can be turned around much more easily than in their thirties. That is why it is important for those in their twenties to pay heed to Meg Jay’s message: Thirty is not the new Twenty.

Please pass this on to those who are in their twenties or know somebody in their twenties.

You may also like: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

No CommentsAdd a Comment »

Five Things You Want To Know About Turmeric



Scientists are puzzled over some facts: Why are cancer rates less than half in India as compared to the US? Why is the rate of Alzheimer for people aged 70-79 less than a quarter in India as compared to the US? One suggestion is that the difference is due to the widespread use of Turmeric in India as opposed to the US. Here are five things you want to know about Turmeric:

1. How does it help?

The benefits of Turmeric cast a wide net. It is an antioxidant. It is anti inflammatory. It has anti-biotic and anti-viral properties. It is said to work against different types of cancers (Prostate, breast, skin, and colon). It is said to benefit Alzheimer patients. It reduces blood sugar levels in laboratory mice so it can help diabetics. It can help with indigestion. It may help with arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is said to be a natural liver detoxifier. It has been used in Chinese medicine as an anti-depressant. It has been shown to slow down progression of multiple sclerosis in mice. Because of its excellent anti-inflammatory properties it could also help with allergies, asthma, and bronchitis. It may also have a positive impact on Cardiovascular Diseases. In addition it is supposed to help with inflammatory skin disease. There are even reports that it can help in the treatment of AIDS.

2. What does the Science say?

The biggest rap against Turmeric is that its effects have not been proved in human trials. This is true in most cases, but human trials are expensive and this is to be expected. This is because no big pharmaceutical company is going to throw dollars in proving Turmeric’s benefits as it is not going to be patentable. But there is now 30 years of science supporting most of the claims. There are plenty of in-vitro studies on cells and studies on mice that indicate the benefits listed.

3. What are the downsides?

There are very few downsides of Turmeric. However please note the following: Turmeric should not be consumed by people with Gall bladder disease. It should not be consumed in high doses (More than 8 grams per day) for prolonged periods. It has also been suggested that those on blood thinners may not want to consume Turmeric in high doses and consult their doctors if they still want to do so at lower doses. Those undergoing Chemotherapy should also consult their doctors before consuming Turmeric.

Here is another warning: Please do not use Turmeric as an agent of primary cure. Its role should be better viewed on the preventive side rather than the curative side.

4. How much should I take?

The FDA has declared Curcumin (the active ingredient of Turmeric) as safe. (It is classified as a GRAS, Generally Regarded As Safe.) A daily consumption of 1-2 grams of Turmeric is considered to be safe.

5. How do I take it?

Turmeric is known to have poor bioavailability. This means most of the active ingredient of Turmeric does not get absorbed. This is why Turmeric powder is usually consumed in India along with “Masala powder”. One of the key ingredients of “Masala Powder” (also known as “Garam Masala“) is black and white pepper. The active ingredient of pepper is Piperine. This is known to increase manifold the bioavailability of Turmeric’s active ingredient. So your best bet to consume Turmeric is to take it as a spice along with other spices such as Cumin seed and Masala Powder. The other option is to take it as a supplement. (Most supplements include Piperine along with Turmeric powder in the capsules.) If you use Turmeric in your cooking be sure you do not burn it by cooking it at high temperatures. Instead sprinkle it on top after the cooking is done. If you want to consume Turmeric as a tea, please be sure to add crushed black pepper to the mix.

If Turmeric was a drug produced by a Pharmaceutical company its benefits would have been blasted from every roof top. It is cheap and safe. Incorporating it into your diet is painless. Given the wide range of its potential benefits it may be a great idea to make Turmeric a part of your daily diet.

Turmeric Research
The Magic Of Chia Seed

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

No CommentsAdd a Comment »