Escape Chaos

We live a life of interruptions. Unceasing stream of stimulations. Notifications from messengers, social media, emails, shopping apps, and a thousand more. It is killing our focus like death by a thousand papercuts. We need apps to keep us focused and then they themselves keep us distracted. The urge to refresh and check for notifications is insatiable. 

People get texts, and they respond. The responders then at some point become initiators, and the story goes on. Eventually, even the kids who don’t want to be attached to their phones don’t have such an easy choice. In a culture where everybody sends each other 200 texts a day, you get left out if you only send 30. We are no longer concerned about the fragmentation of our attention or our dependence on devices. Our devices are an extension of ourselves. Our devices were supposed to be our tools. May be it is time to pause and think who is the master and who is the tool. 

Technology has brought us an abundance of information and uninterrupted connections with friends, family and employers. I refer to technology in a far broader sense than smartphones or computers.

If unbalanced, it becomes the bringer of chaos.

The message of the world today is that if you want to hang on you better speed up, you better get used to the chaos, the maddening flurry of incessant action. 

But it’s useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated. The need to belong. The need for nearness and care and love. This is given only through slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal. 

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Raga Aesthetic

Art and design are central to everything that I do. To me artistic beauty is inextricably linked to moral goodness. Even though it is fluid and subjective, the aesthetic remains connected to and contributes to the experience. The aesthetic, and here I fall back again on Dewey who has had a great influence on me, becomes a kind of judgment, an attitude and an experience. Aesthetic experience is not only about the visual art perceived from a detached vantage, but also includes, especially at Raga Svara, the therapeutic experience, the architectural experience, the culinary experience and the cultural and philosophical experience. 

The following picture shows one design motif that represents Raga in and its philosophy in certain ways. Gond art is a form of folk & tribal art that is practiced by one of the largest tribes in India – the Gond – who are  predominantly from Madhya Pradesh, but also settled in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The work of Gond artists is rooted in their folk tales and culture, and thus story-telling is a strong element of every painting. With the help of our team of designers and artists, we are creating original works of art that represent the aesthetic experience at Raga Svara. Each piece of work has been made to represent an element of Raga.

One of my goals is to ensure that aesthetic experience does not, in Dewey’s words, “become isolated from the human conditions under which it was brought into being and from the human consequences it engenders in actual life experience.”

Mohit Patel, Co-founder

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Trees and Us

I call her Smarana. She belongs to Ficus Benghalensis family, the Banyan Tree. She is strong and wise. Older than I am. She has been here in this spot for decades and seen things. From scorching sun to 3 years  droughts to torrential rains breaking century old records. She has also seen the longings of intrepid humans around it. When I was young, I would have played around her. She has welcomed guests for four weddings. Now the landscape around her is changing. Bustling workers, hauling  bricks and making things. Would she be worried about her place in the  new scheme of things?

Who can tell her that not just Smarana but all of her cousins from the  extended family have the highest place in my heart and at Raga Svara,  Northstar and RKU.

I thought whether I was wrong in anthropomorphising a tree. Some part of  me does think that it may be too sentimental to think of non humans in  this way. But I really think of these beings as equals. Not because I  believe in some form of speciesism theory. But because it is innate to  my “nature”. Most of us think of trees as a backdrop to human actions.  They are always one plane behind in the focus of our attention. More details to find at sesyoku-syogai.net.

Planting trees, which seems to be the dominant mode of expressing one’s concern for the environment, is an important (perhaps the most important) way of managing climate change (read this). Though planting trees does not always translate to grown, mature trees.  Taking care of plants and trees is a difficult and time intensive process (specially in the early stages of growth) which most people are  not inclined to do.

However  at a philosophical level, planting or growing trees for the purpose of human benefit (in this case protection from climate crisis) is  fundamentally an expression of instrumentalism. We want to “use” trees  so that they can do things for us which we can’t. The human centeredness  and the utilitarian purposes are hard to shake off. We are unable to  think of them in anyway other than “specimens” of nature meant to be  used for human progress. Another purpose of growing trees (or  cutting/not growing) is projection of nature as ornamentation to human  aesthetic. Fitting the “right” kind of trees in spaces for artistic  effects (shape, texture, smell) is still a subordination of nature to  human preferences.

A recent phenomenon has been the scientific study of the benefits of  being in nature, within trees. Many studies have revealed the positive benefits, both in physical and psychological health, attributed to even intermittent immersion in nature (Read herehere and here).

I think a sustainable and an inherently “good” way of thinking about trees is to think of them as an extension of our embodied self. If that means anthropomorphising them to show true empathy, then it would be a good step. If that helps in removing the “otherness” of nature that has crept in our modern world, then it would be a good step.

Meet Smarana, she and many others are our guardians and friends.

Mohit Patel, Co-founder

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MOOC on “Indian Kitchen Herbs for Respiratory Disorders: Ayurvedic and Modern Perspective”

Ayurveda is now gaining exponential popularity worldwide and people are interested in knowing more about Indian medicinal plants, especially the kitchen herbs and utility of these herbs on the basis of modern evidence-based research. Raga Svara in association with RK University brings you a 4 week free MOOC on “Indian Kitchen Herbs for Respiratory Disorders: Ayurvedic and Modern Perspective”, where participants will get brief knowledge about kitchen herbs on the basis of ancient wisdom and current science. This course gives an Ayurvedic & modern perspective on Indian kitchen herbs, particularly on their usefulness in respiratory disorders.

When: Starts on 6th July, 2020

How: Register for free here – www.theraga.org/mooc

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International Yoga Day

Yoga is not only for physical fitness but also for the inner self. Yoga holds together a person’s body, brain, and soul which helps in finding peace, take a pause and allow you to see the world inside you. This International Yoga Day, take a pause & rediscover yourself through Yoga.

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Self-Portrait in a Hat – Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin, 1893

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin is the next artist in our aesthetic wellbeing series. Gaugin was a French Post-Impressionist artist, unappreciated until after his death but now he is recognized for his experimental use of color and synthetist style. His work was influential to the French avant-garde and many modern artists. He was an important figure in the symbolist movement as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramist, and writer. Self-Portrait in a Hat is an 1893 oil on canvas self-portrait by Paul Gauguin, produced following a trip to Tahiti.
We recommend the following for learning more about Paul Gauguin: Read “The Moon and Sixpence” by W. Somerset Maugham, listen to Keanu Reeves reading from Paul Gauguin’s Noa Noa and watch the movie Gauguin – Voyage to Tahiti(2017) directed by Edouard Deluc,

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Biodiversity at Raga Svara

Crimson marsh glider is one of the common dragonflies of wetlands from the Libellulidae family. The males usually perch on dry twigs, aquatic plants, and overhead cables. They feed on nuisance species such as mosquitoes and biting flies. They are also considered model organisms to assess the effects of global climate change. It is one of the commonly found species at the Raga Svara campus.

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World Environment Day

This environment day, let’s take a pause, try to disconnect with the chaotic world to connect with a peaceful environment which has so much to show us.

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Bell – Rituals

Every ritual in Hindu culture has a deep meaning to it. Generally, devotees ring the bell while entering into the holy place. It is said that by ringing the bell, the devotee informs the lord of his/her arrival. Ringing the bell produces a divine sound, positive frequencies, and vibrations around the place. Often bell is rung as a sign to invoke almighty so that virtuous and noble forces enter and the evil forces that lay within us depart. The sound that is produced by ringing the bell activates the seven chakras in our body and acts like a shock that helps us focus on the present.

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Biodiversity at Raga Svara

One of the beautiful shrubs at Raga Svara campus is Damiana. It belongs to the family Passifloraceae. Damiana is a relatively small, woody shrub that produces small, aromatic flowers. The shrub is said to have a strong spice-like odor somewhat like chamomile, due to the essential oils present in the plant. It blossoms in early to late summer

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Self-Portrait with Monkey – Frida Kahlo, 1983

The next in aesthetic wellbeing series is Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy. Frida Kahlo’s first solo exhibition was at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1938. Self-Portrait with monkey is one of the many famous oil on masonite painting by her, commissioned in 1938 by A. Conger Goodyear.

We recommend the following for learning more about Frida Kahlo: – Read Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo(1983), by Hayden Herrera. – Listen to the song for Frida Kahlo by Tinpan Orange, Soundtrack of film “Frida” by Elliot Goldenthal – Watch the movie Frida(2002) directed by Julie Taymor

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Om Chants – Rituals

Chanting OM mantra in our daily life is very beneficial for us. This is the only mantra that is traditionally chanted while doing Yogasana. This single word when chanted can produce powerful and positive vibrations that allow you to feel the whole universe. By chanting om we tune into the potential of the Universal consciousness that lies within us. Chanting Om helps in bring us into a deep state of relaxation and inner peace, giving us much needed rest from the distractions and worries of the outer world.

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