The Swimming Swami
What do you do with a monk past his 125th birthday who wants to keep serving his neighbor, even if that person has leprosy? Well, if he happens to be in India, the government gives him an award and honorary title a century and a quarter after he was born. Swami Sivananda started living in the year 1896. He has technically lived through the turning of two centuries, been through an amazing life, and he’s still going thanks to an extremely disciplined life based on yoga and self-deprivation. The result is that he has lived long enough to see at least five generations and be honored as a national hero in India.
A Work of Humility in a Person
As simple as he is every day, Swami Sivananda appeared barefoot in front of President Ram Nath Kovind to accept his award. He walked up to the stage without help, and then the 125-year-old man also bent down to honor Prime Minister Narenda Modi as well. Clearly, the younger politicians should have been doing the work instead of Swami.
Living daily as a monk in Varanasi, Sivananda was destined to the monk life at a young age. By the age of six, he was already an orphan, which practically meant death without a family to feed and raise him. Even when his parents were alive, all they could feed him was some form of rice. However, the boy was taken in by Guruji’s Ashram, located in West Bengal. And, during that window, Sivananda learned and was exposed to the yoga expertise and religious practices of Guru Omkarananda Goswami. Part of those lessons was the understanding of his role to serve his fellow humans every way he could, a central tenant to Sivananda’s beliefs.
Physical Proof of Mind over Body
Clearly, Sivananda’s dedication to yoga has served him well. He’s living proof that it really does help control the body, and his longevity is a strong argument about the value of enlightenment. Additionally, despite being well over a century old, Sivananda’s physical strength continues to be amazingly solid, easily able to handle the rigor of his yoga exercises for hours every day. There’s no comfort provided despite Sivananda’s seniority; he sleeps on a floor mat and a flat wood board for a pillow. Sivananda has no medical issues from his choice of life, and he’s physically capable of completing his yoga exercise daily without assistance.
The celebration of Swami Sivananda’s accomplishments was a national event, televised and recorded for widespread viewing. However, for Sivananda, all he wanted to was to use the event to help convince people to help each other more. Even in the ultimate honor of the man’s life, Swami Sivananda gave the moment to the service of others.
Dutch Artist Pays Off Student Loan Debt with Unique Tapestry Creation
Mart Veldhuis, a talented Dutch artist, found a creative way to pay off his student loan debt. He crafted a remarkable tapestry that depicted the 46,000 euros he owed. This intricate work of art, titled “Eigen Schuld,” meaning “Own Debt” or “Own Fault,” became a symbol of Veldhuis’ financial burden.
Once completed, the tapestry found its home in the prestigious Dordrechts Museum. Unexpectedly, a buyer was captivated by the artwork and decided to purchase it for 45,879.40 euros. This generous offer brought Veldhuis closer to becoming debt-free, leaving him in a state of disbelief and joy. “This is what I had hoped for, but when I heard the news, I was really speechless. It still feels very unreal,” shared Veldhuis.
The tapestry itself was a visually striking piece, featuring various elements that conveyed Veldhuis’ feelings towards his indebtedness. One of the central motifs portrayed a Dutch lion clutching a menacing sword, symbolizing the artist’s perception of owing a significant debt to the state. The tapestry served as a powerful medium for Veldhuis to express his emotions and experiences.
The Dordrechts Museum facilitated the transaction and revealed the identity of the buyers as renowned art dealers Joke van Veen, 75, and Jaap Versteegh, 69. When asked about their decision to acquire the tapestry, Versteegh explained, “We bought the tapestry in the first place because we think it’s a good work of art. It is innovative and visually strong. In addition, the social theme of the work – the consequences of student debt and the social loan system – strongly appeals to us.”
Veldhuis’ creation not only captured the attention of art enthusiasts but also highlighted the pressing issue of student loan debt. Many students struggle with the financial burden of loans, and Veldhuis’s artwork serves as a reminder of this widespread concern. By showcasing his own experience, he sparked conversations about the consequences of student debt and the loan system in society.
The success of Veldhuis’ tapestry represents a triumph for the artist and sheds light on the power of art to address social issues. Through his creative expression, he not only managed to alleviate his financial struggles but also stimulated meaningful discussions about the challenges faced by students burdened with debt.
As Veldhuis moves forward, he can embrace a debt-free future, thanks to his artistic talent and the support of individuals who recognized the significance of his work. The tapestry will forever stand as a symbol of his journey, inspiring others to find innovative ways to confront their own challenges.
Study Finds That Helping Others is Universal
A new study led by Sydney Centre for Language Research Professor Nick Enfield has shown that the human tendency to help others within their social group is universal. The study, which was conducted across eight countries, found that people tend to help others in their close social circles when needed, regardless of their cultural background.
The study focused on small, pervasive low-cost requests such as passing items, helping to make food, or moving heavy objects. These requests are fulfilled immediately and are common in daily interactions within close social circles, such as in the home or village life. However, the study did not examine big requests, such as loaning large sums of money, or helping strangers in more formal settings such as workplaces, businesses, or shopping.
The research team conducted the study in towns in England, Italy, Poland, and Russia, as well as villages in rural Ecuador, Ghana, Laos, and First Nations communities across Australia. They found that people in all of these locations tend to help those in their close social circles without hesitation.
The findings of this study have significant implications for our understanding of human social behavior. They suggest that helping behavior within close social circles is not limited to specific cultures or regions, but is instead a universal human trait.
Moreover, the study’s findings suggest that this behavior is rooted in the social dynamics of human relationships. Close social relationships, such as those within families or small communities, are built on trust, mutual support, and reciprocity. Helping others within these relationships is a way to reinforce these bonds and ensure their survival.
The study’s lead author, Professor Enfield, emphasized the importance of studying these small acts of help and how they build trust and community. We tend to focus on big events like natural disasters, but the small acts of help that we see in our daily lives are just as important, if not more so, in building and maintaining the social fabric of our communities.
Finland Stays At #1 In 2023 World Happiness Report
The World Happiness Report has released its list of the 10 happiest countries in the world, and for the sixth year in a row, Finland has taken the top spot. The report, which looks at six key factors – social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption – measures the subjective well-being of individuals in each country. Finland held onto the #1 spot despite the pandemic, and attributes its happiness to lifestyle, food, nature, and sustainability.
Finland is a country known for its stunning natural beauty and high quality of life. It has a strong social welfare system that provides a safety net for all citizens, and the country is committed to sustainability, with a focus on reducing carbon emissions and preserving the environment. Additionally, Finland has a strong emphasis on education and gender equality, with women making up nearly half of the country’s parliament.
The rest of the top 10 happiest countries in the world include Denmark, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand. These countries all share similar characteristics, such as strong social welfare systems, a high standard of living, and a commitment to sustainability and the environment.
On the other end of the spectrum, Afghanistan and Lebanon remain the two unhappiest countries in the survey. Both countries have faced significant political instability and conflict in recent years, contributing to low levels of happiness and well-being among their citizens.
While the World Happiness Report is just one way to measure the well-being of individuals in different countries, it provides valuable insights into the factors that contribute to happiness and the ways in which countries can work to improve the lives of their citizens. As the world continues to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic and other global issues, it is more important than ever to prioritize well-being and focus on building happy and sustainable societies.
Native Species Conservation Strengthened in Northern Victoria By Animal Tourism
As the world grapples with the ongoing loss of biodiversity and wildlife, two wildlife sanctuaries in Central and Northern Victoria are working to strengthen their conservation efforts and protect threatened species from extinction. Jirrahlinga Dingo Conservation and Wildlife Education Centre and Kyabram Fauna Park are both expanding their operations and implementing new strategies to promote awareness and education about conservation and wildlife protection.
Jirrahlinga Dingo Conservation and Wildlife Education Centre is a unique conservation that combines two already established conservations – the dingo farm and the koala sanctuary – to provide the public with an opportunity to interact with animals while learning about their threat of extinction. All the animals at Jirrahlinga have been abandoned or rescued, and the center has hired six workers to help visitors interact with the animals and have the best experience possible. The tours are very popular and educational, providing visitors with a chance to learn about the importance of conservation and the role that they can play in protecting wildlife.
Kyabram Fauna Park, which has now combined with Zoos Victoria family, has also expanded its conservation efforts, pledging to protect 27 threatened species from extinction on their watch. The park is made up of evaporative ponds and has added thousands of tree plantings and restoration work which has seen the return of more than 35 bird species. One of the park’s biggest draws is the meerkat enclosure. People love meerkats because they are energetic and charming, and the park has made sure to incorporate these animals into their conservation efforts, promoting their conservation and educating the public about their important role in the ecosystem.
Both Jirrahlinga and Kyabram are doing important work to protect and conserve wildlife in Central and Northern Victoria. By offering educational tours and providing visitors with opportunities to interact with animals, they are promoting awareness about the importance of conservation and encouraging people to take an active role in protecting wildlife. With their combined efforts, these two wildlife sanctuaries are making a real difference in the fight to protect biodiversity and ensure a sustainable future for our planet.
Stumpy, the beloved DC Cherry Blossom is blooming again
Every spring, visitors to Washington D.C. are treated to a magnificent display of pink and white cherry blossom trees. These iconic trees have a rich history in the United States and are a symbol of the friendship between the United States and Japan. The cherry blossom season in D.C. typically lasts from late March to early April, and attracts millions of visitors to the nation’s capital each year.
Cherry blossom trees were first gifted to the United States in 1912 by Japan as a symbol of friendship between the two nations. The original gift consisted of 3,000 trees, which were planted along the Tidal Basin in D.C. Unfortunately, the trees were diseased and had to be destroyed. Japan sent another gift of 3,800 trees in 1915, and those trees still stand to this day.
While the majority of cherry blossom trees in D.C. are healthy and thriving, one tree has captured the hearts of many visitors. This tree, affectionately nicknamed “Stumpy,” is located near the Jefferson Memorial and has a disheveled appearance. In 2020, a photo of Stumpy went viral on Reddit, with many commenters expressing their love for the tree’s unique character.
Despite its appearance, Stumpy still blooms every spring, producing beautiful pink blossoms that serve as a reminder of the beauty and resilience of nature. The tree’s stunted growth is believed to be due to an overflow of water in the area, which can cause trees to wilt and eventually die. While Stumpy’s future is uncertain, for now, it continues to serve as a beloved fixture in the D.C. cherry blossom season.
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