Indian Musical Instruments

indian musical instrumentsThe sound of India is immediately recognizable, even if you have never been there. With one strum or pluck of an Indian musical instrument, you are transported into a world where sacred sound, nada, is recognized to be the pulse of creation.  By now, nost of us are familiar with the sound of Om and its symbolic imagery.  The Om, for those who really understand it, is something far more powerful than the little trinkets you see people wearing on chains and t-shirts. For India, the sound of Om is a primordial force which holds the material world together.  If you have never had the chance to go to India, you can get an idea for the supreme richness of Indian culture by watching a quick video on its heritage.

Nada Brahma is the personification of this sacred sound and the name for India’s mesmerizing, classical music.  Its two most important elements are Raag and Taal.  Raag is the acoustic element which gives Indian music its sense of color and passion. It is a specific combination of notes, played to intentionally evoke a particular emotion in the listener.  Taal is the rhythmic cycle of the music, ranging from 3-108 beats, usually played by the drums.  For more information on classical Indian music, you can read this article on Hindustani Music.

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The Birth of Gypsy Jazz: Django Reinhard

gypsy jazzGypsy jazz is a style of music that originated in the 1930s in underground Parisian jazz haunts.  Traditionally, it is played acoustically, without a drummer.  An acoustic guitar is the lead instrument, with guitar and violin starring as solo instruments. To fill in for the lack of drum beat, the rhythm guitar is played with a distinctly-gypsy, percussive technique known as “la pomp,” a technique which is similar to the “boom-chick” you hear in bluegrass music.  Though it is not absolutely necessary, if you learn even the most basic of music theory, it can act as foundation for learning this unique style of guitar-playing.

Django Reinhardt

Gypsy jazz was borne out of the tragedy and genius of Django Reinhardt.  In 1910, Jean “Django” Reinhardt was born in a Gypsy encampment in Belgium. Django’s parents were gypsy entertainers, his father a musician and clown, and his mother, a dancer and acrobat. At the age of 12, Django was given a banjo, which he learned to play by watching and listening to others play. He proved early on to have great musical talent, and by the age of 13, Django was making a living playing music. He made his first musical recordings in 1928.  At the age of 18, after coming home late from a performance, he was injured in a fire. He suffered paralysis in his right leg and his fourth and fifth fingers were horribly burned, leaving them almost unusably gnarled. Everyone believed that Django had strummed his last note, but they were terribly wrong.

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Opening Chakras – A Map of Transformation

sacral chakraThe Indian Chakra system represents the map of our psycho-spiritual evolution – the gradual unfolding of our vital life energies through a series of stages, or chakras. Each chakra represents a stage in the process of that transformation.

The chakras are arranged in ascending order, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. You have probably heard the phrase “opening chakras,” but it is perhaps better said as “awakening to the transformational energy of the chakras.” They are really not something one can open or turn on like a light. They are always functioning in some capacity. The chakras metaphorically open when we reach certain levels of psycho-spiritual awareness, levels of awareness which result in transforming the way we see ourselves and thus experience the world around us.

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Firefighter Combat Challenge

firefighter combat challengeFirefighters are kind of like modern-day knights in shining armor, except instead of wearing shining armor and chainmail, they wear protective bunker gear, bright yellow hazmat suits, and shiny silver fire proximity suits. And when they aren’t fighting fires and rescuing people, they are competitively pretending to fight fires and rescue people, in which case they are more like modern-day gladiators – only they aren’t naked.

The firefighter coliseum is the Fighter Combat Challenge course.  The Challenge is a 5-event physical fitness speed-challenge in which firefighters across the world participate. It is a competition based on what firefighters do daily in their jobs. The order of the events include a stair-climb with a high-rise pack, hose hoist, forcible entry, hose advance, and a victim rescue. Firefighters compete to complete the challenge in the fastest time. Its purpose is to promote physical fitness, which includes both strength and endurance, an essential element in structural firefighting. A structural fire involves the all of the structural components of various types of commercial and residential buildings, as opposed to “room and contents,” wildfires, or other types of fires.  When you see what these guys (and gals) have to do to complete this challenge, you will have a whole new sense of appreciation for what they do.  As one firefighter said, “They don’t call it the toughest two-minutes in sports for nothing!”  In order to complete this kind of challenge, you have to get into the best shape possible by building muscle and increasing your energy levels.

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Thai Phrases for Beginners

Sukhothai Historical ParkAre you getting ready to travel to Thailand?  If so, you can make your life much easier by learning the basics of conversational Thai. It  may not be as difficult as you think. As you learn Thai phrases, you will notice that the same word appears to have many different meanings. This is because Thai is a tonal language, which means that pitch is a main part of the speech. Technically speaking, pitch is “the quality of a sound governed by the rate of vibrations producing it; the degree of highness or lowness of a tone.” In Thai, there are five tones: low, mid, high, falling and rising. So, several words look the same, but they have different meanings based on the tone. As you learn to speak Thai, don’t worry about getting your tone just right. The Thai people are accustomed to foreigners doing tonal damage to their words and can usually figure out what you are trying to say.

Many people who travel to Thailand make a stop in Vietnam before they leave. If you want to do that, you may want to take a quick course in conversational Vietnamese.

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Forward Head Posture, Neck Pain and Bad Breath

forward head postureForward head posture is a common postural misalignment syndrome. It is caused by a few things: muscle weakness, repetitive motion, and a lack of body awareness. Muscular weakness comes from both lack of proper exercise and repetitive motion. Due to our unconsciously “forward-driven lifestyles,” many people hold a lot of tension in their upper body. Our arms are held for too long in front of our body when we work at the computer, we grip the steering wheel too tightly as we drive through highway war zones, and constantly thinking of what to do next keeps our heads out of alignment with the neck, in front of our shoulders. The most immediate action we can take to ease the pain of repetitive motion is to learn about workplace ergonomics. [Read more…]

Simple Neck Exercises for Neck Pain and Better Posture

neck exercisesNeck exercises have many benefits, especially if you have neck pain or bad posture. Neck exercises can also help in the healing process of neck injuries.  Before we talk about specific exercises for the neck, let’s take a closer look at its anatomy. The structure of the neck is made up of bones (vertebrae), cartilaginous discs, muscles, and nerves. In addition to protecting the cervical spine, the neck muscles support the weight of the head, turn and lean the head from side to side, and tilt it up and down.  The muscles of the neck also assist in chewing and swallowing.  A healthy neck has a slight C-shaped curve to it. Your head should sit comfortably in the center of your shoulders.  Generally speaking, the neck has a much more limited range of motion than other parts of your body, something which makes it prone to injury and strain.

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries for which neck exercises are suggested. We can also injure or strain our necks by cradling phones between our ears and shoulders and by carrying heavy shoulder bags. Forward head posture is also a big player in neck pain. Many people spend hours with their heads craned out in front of their shoulders, something which puts added stress not only on the neck, but also on the chest and back. Because of this domino effect, your neck exercise routine should also include some exercises for the chest and back. If you are just getting back to exercising after an injury, or just short on time, you can start out short and sweet with a quick 10-minute full body workout.

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Feng Shui Rules for Health, Wealth, Love, and Happiness

feng shui rulesFeng Shui (风水) is the ancient Chinese art and science of harmonizing your living space with the energies in your living environment. Feng Shui rules developed out of a systematic study of the cyclical movements of nature and the effects of those movements on human beings. Modern physics is finally catching up on what the Eastern traditions realized thousands of years ago: we are interconnected not only with each other, but also with the entire world of being which surrounds us. Feng Shui translates into “wind water” and the Chinese see these as the two natural elements which direct qi to a settlement, dwelling, or burial site. You can learn how to promote prosperity, abundance, better health, and improved relationships using Feng Shui to harness the positive forces of nature and to correct or deflect the negative forces.  Feng Shui is based on three fundamental principles of nature: ying and yang, five phases, and eight trigrams (Bagua).

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Global Awareness – An Integrated Worldview

global awareness

In 1976, Robert G. Hanvey wrote an essay entitled, “An Attainable Global Perspective,” in which he thoughtfully explored the possibilities for the education of students who would soon become adults in a world where cultural interpenetration would reach never-before seen depths.  The concept of global awareness is based on the idea that through enlightened education, we can foster attitudes which recognize and appreciate the extraordinary immensity, complexity, and diversity of the planet on which we live. Global awareness is an absolute must if one is to succeed in any kind of global business.

According to Hanvey, there are five dimensions of global awareness: perspective consciousness, state-of-the planet awareness, cross-cultural awareness, awareness of global dynamics, and awareness of human choices. These five dimensions form the foundational attitudes upon which global awareness can be implemented.

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Awareness Quotes for Inspiration, Meditation, and Reflection

awareness quotes

Although it is difficult to pinpoint the physical base or location of awareness, it is perhaps the most precious thing concealed within our brains. And it is something that the individual alone can feel and experience. Each of us cherishes it highly, yet it is private.

Dali Lama

Officially defined, awareness is the “the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns.  [It] may be focused on an internal state … or external events.”  Awareness is the means through which we develop qualia, the Latin word which means “instances of subjective, conscious experience.” It is through awareness that we build up our ideas about life. If our awareness is limited, then our ideas about life are also limited.  If you want to change anything about yourself or the world around you, then start with fine tuning your awareness.  Only through expanded awareness can you finally overcome your self-imposed limitations and start thinking outside the box. We hope that you find the following awareness quotes useful for inspiration, meditation, and reflection.

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