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October 11, 2016

It has been a while….

Memories should not be a burden upon us but should be utilised in order to proceed to a better life and a more positive attitude” – Rabbi Berel Wein

img_1437This blog will be a bit different to my normal blogs, hope that you enjoy.

We have just celebrated Rosh Hashanah and in an interesting blog from Rabbi Berel Wein he calls Rosh Hashanah a day of memory. He says “We all sense that memory is the greatest of all gifts granted to us. Memory impinges on all of our present actions and behaviour. It is the colouring to our lives and the true guide to our goals and hopes. It decides for us who are one’s heroes and villains. It helps us make correct choices and to ignore previous errors and pitfalls. …” He goes on to say “The sound of the shofar is also the sound of memory. … The shofar is a most powerful instrument of human recall and validation. In its sounds we hear our past, both personally and nationally. It serves not only as a wakeup call but also as documentary recording of our lives and events.”

In the lead up to Yom Kippur we have this “season” of Teshuva and Kapparah—repentance and atonement. This provides us with a special challenge and opportunity. We are granted a yearly period of time for intense evaluation of our lives. This period should serve as a springboard to deeper understanding and personal growth.

In a recent blog by Rabbi Marc Angel he sums up Yom Kippur “Although we popularly refer to the upcoming fast day as Yom Kippur, the Torah calls it Yom haKippurim—the day of atonements (in the plural). The plural form reminds us that there are many roads to atonement. Each person is different and is on a unique spiritual level; each comes with different insights, experiences, memories. The roads to atonement are plural, because no two of us have identical needs.”

After reading a book or after an event I like to think about what I have learnt. Below are some thoughts and “memories” on past events and books that I have read:

The Olympic Games:

  • The Olympics is meant to be the pinnacle for any athlete and I was really upset that athletes chose to miss the games as there are so many people who would have loved to get the chance to compete and be at the games. Is this not the Olympic spirit and pride for your country?;
  • Sports needs champions and it is brilliant to see some of the greats like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles on such good form. These people inspire others…;
  • With all the pressure on her, it was brilliant to see Caster Semenya put all the controversy behind her and earn gold. Her “behaviour” was incredible;
  • Watching Anna Meares being interviewed. She was so gracious in defeat and so happy with what she achieved at the games. She is a true Champion and was a brilliant leader for the Olympic team; and
  • I think it was really brilliant how the newspapers provided so many background stories to the para Olympians. I took inspiration from many of their stories and what they have had to do to just get to the games.

A Book – Autobiography of a Yogi

This is a first-hand account of the life experiences of Paramhansa Yogananda, a spiritual master from India. As an Indian yogi and guru he introduced millions of westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga.

Yogananda wrote down his aims. A few of these included:

  • To liberate man from his threefold suffering: physical disease, mental in harmonies, and spiritual ignorance.
  • To encourage “plain living and high thinking”; and to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples by teaching the eternal basis of their unity: kinship with God.
  • To demonstrate the superiority of mind over body, of soul over mind.
  • To overcome evil by good, sorrow by joy, cruelty by kindness, ignorance by wisdom.
  • To advocate cultural and spiritual understanding between East and West, and the exchange of their finest distinctive features.
  • To serve mankind as one’s larger Self.

A few lessons and insights from the book:

  • Hinduism tells each man to worship God according to his own faith pr dharma, and so lives at peace with all religions;
  • Yogananda counselled that, “One’s diet should be confined to foods which are easily converted into energy…..” This means pure, natural foods that promote good health and optimum vitality. He made a great statement “Remember, it is not always that which goes into you, but that which comes out of you, that makes you what you are. Some people may eat meat and still be holy and self-controlled, and some may eat only vegetables and fruits and be knaves and lead uncontrolled lives…” He even talks about visiting a person who was a fruitarian – yip they were around in the 1920’s!
  • He talks about meeting Ghandi. Ghandi must have been an unbelievable human. On the day he visited Ghandi, Ghandi was not talking. One day a week’s Ghandi did not speak as a means to refine his character. In a separate article I read. Ghandi’s assistant who wrote a book mentions Yogananda as one of the greatest’s people she ever met;

“Speak only if it improves upon the silence.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

  • Yogananda had the utmost respect for his Guru’s and their advice that he received; and
  • The spirituality of India;

In an article Chef Gabriel Gate said about India “… What an amazing country. So many contrasts, a very visible spirituality and a great genuine vegetarian cuisine …. India added spice to my life.”

  • In the books he talks of his meeting with Giri Bala[1] a lady who apparently did not eat for 56 years. Her insight onto why she would not share this ability was amazing. When asked why she would not teach the techniques she learnt she answered “I was strictly commanded by my guru not to divulge the secret. It is not his wish to tamper with God’s drama of creation. The farmers would not thank me if I taught many people to live without eating! The luscious fruits would lie uselessly on the ground. It appears that misery, starvation, and disease are whips of our karma which ultimately drive us to seek the true meaning of life.” This is a lesson on charity and kindness – Not only to humans, but to the plants!

A Book the Sports Gene by David Epstein

The Sports Gene is a book written by David Epstein, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, on the effects of genetics and sports training on human athleticism. Through investigative journalism, Epstein takes the reader through his experiences regarding what makes the difference between an amateur and a pro-athlete. This book explores the question of nature versus nurture as it pertains to training for athletes in sports using anecdotes which favour both sides of the argument. These anecdotes are combined with the results of statistical studies to give the reader an understanding of the magnitude that biology plays in athletics. Topics such as the effects of gender, race, genetics, culture, and physical environment are discussed as contributors to success in specific sports.

A few specific areas that were very interesting included:

  • The Jamaican sprinters;
  • The Kenyan runners from the Kalenjin province;
  • Why are people like Chrissy Wellington naturally so fit? and
  • His ability to build up a story or position and then break it down and make you think!

His final point is very poignant – “Everyone benefits from exercise and sports practice in some unique way” “Everyone has a different genotype…” – But he emphasises that to make athletic improvements require you to “KEEP TRAINING

The Book – Living with a SEAL by Jesse Itzler

Not going to say anything about this book, but going to mention a quote from the SEAL – David Goggins. David (born 1975) is a Navy SEAL and former USAF Tactical Air Control Party member who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is an ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, and triathlete.

“Failure is an option. It’s what you do with the failure that makes you who you are. Our failures mold us. I have failed at several things in my life. What sets some of us apart, is that when we fail, we can’t sleep at night. It haunts us until we have our time at redemption”. – David Goggins

To end a few quotes:

people who carry their past with them, can build the future without fear” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Atonement means that we can begin again. We are not held captive by the past, by our failures.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

To end a quote from Gary Player “You really don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward…”



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One Comment
  1. Mom Pam permalink

    Brilliant Ian, excellent blog. Muc can be learnt from it if you care to do so!! Well done. Gmar Chatmia Tova. Lots of love xxxx

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