Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Kama Muta" // "Psychological Elevation"... Is it actually a thing ?!

"Hey Doc, give the patient in room 2 a few minutes. We are warming him up," the nurse called out to me.
"Warming him up? What do you mean?" I was at the free clinic, a couple of months ago.
"Well, he gave his only winter coat to his room mate at the homeless shelter," the nurse replied.
"Why?! It's freezing outside," I said. 
"He says his room mate needed it more than him," the nurse replied.
I had no words for a moment.
"How is he going to get back to the shelter?" I asked. The wind chill was in the single digits outside.
"Oh... We'll rustle up something from the clinic. Everyone here wants to give their coat to him," she replied.
At that moment,  I would have given him mine in an instant. Imagining a homeless person give his only coat to someone who needed it more than him, was very touching. This was a collective sentiment of whoever heard about this patient's magnanimous act of kindness. It's a ripple effect. On hearing about random acts of kindness by complete strangers, a surge of goodwill & generosity envelopes people. 

And this sentiment is more common than you may think. A recent opinion piece on rekindled memories of this particular incident. What is the neuropsychological basis of such sentiments, when we witness or hear about acts of kindness by almost total strangers?

Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at UVA, called this positive emotion "Elevation" -- a warm, uplifting feeling that we experience when we see unexpected acts of kindness. It often makes us want to help others. And some psychologists call this emotion by another name -- "Kama Muta".

'Kama Muta' means "Moved by Love" in Sanskrit, and has been used in ancient Indian scriptures through ages. This emotion has a few distinct features. People may feel chills, goosebumps and some even might tear up seeing an unexpected act of kindness or love. After the initial intense feeling has passed, many folks may have a sense of buoyancy and uplift. The feeling is contagious and one good deed leads to another.

So please, everyone, let love and kindness flow. Inspire and be inspired. God knows we need compassion and humanity in today's turbulent times. Open your hearts and give without remembering. Real charity doesn't care if it's Tax - deductible.

"If you don't have charity and kindness in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble." ~ Bob Hope


Sunday, April 1, 2018

"#March for our lives"....... a day with a purpose

I was fortunate to participate in the "March For Our Lives" rally this past weekend. The emotion and energy of the people was palpable. And the speakers.... wow! Most of the speakers were teenagers and amazingly eloquent. They were focused on clear objectives. Is this a moment in our nation's history or will it be the beginning of a sustained movement? Only time will tell. Judging by the passion of the student leaders, I hope this results in some meaningful change.

Later that day, I was reminiscing about the rally with a friend, who is a Preschool teacher. The discussion veered towards guns, gun violence and impact of the same on young children.
"We practice "Active shooter" drills once a year for students," she said.
"In your school?" I was shocked.
"Yes, in my school. And my students are 4 and 5 year old kids," she said.
Images of 4 and 5 year-old kids, in all their innocence, hiding under tables and closets immediately flashed through my mind. It was an extremely distressing thought.

The same evening, my wife and I attended a First Birthday celebration for our friend's daughter. As I looked at the angel-like birthday girl, my brain warped back to the afternoon conversation. In 2-3 years, would this sweet little girl be practicing "Active shooter" drills in her school too? The mere thought made me nauseous.

I might be wrong, but I think we are the only developed country in the world, where kids have to go through "Active shooter" drills, starting from Preschool. You think that should be the normal way of life for 4-5 year olds, in any community, society or country?

Social activism is born when a perceived injustice has gone beyond a certain tolerance point. No wonder one of the slogans of these young crusaders is "Enough is Enough."  These young students have started something. They are not politicians or lobbyists. They have no ulterior motive, except one. They just want to be afraid of only their grades and Algebra when they go to school, not bullets. But they will need help and support to sustain this movement.

We are at such a place in our country at this time, that the question these days is not if a mass shooting will happen again, but when and where. When a society deems it "normal" to have "Active Shooter" drills for preschoolers, something is terribly wrong. 

When social issues are at stake, we must always choose sides.

"Neutrality always helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented" ~ Elie Wiesel