Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Step 6: The Roots of Ideas

I double majored in Economics and American History and got a minor in Psychology at Penn because I was interested in the energy of money, its influence on major world events, and its effect on the human psyche. Through the lens of History and Psychology, I found that Economics was much more a moral discipline than a disinterested field. Early on, we learned the name John Maynard Keynes and the underlying theories of Keynesian economics: a system of checks and balances, a fervent acceptance of the role of uncertainty, and a logical, predictable linking of specific actions to specific consequences. Because of my interest in the human impact of money, I was made to be his student.

He was an economist who loathed an over-reliance on data. Data can say anything we want it to say; it can be twisted and turned and reinterpreted to suit any hypothesis. To really understand a situation, we’ve got to pick our heads up, knowledgeable of the current data, though able to correlate it to easily expressed principles and moral values.

This morning I started reading Keynes: The Return of the Master by Robert Skidelsky. From the very first words, I re-discovered how important it is to read original theories and primary source material, not just interpretation of that material. As I got out of the subway, I thought about the other books I’m currently reading. I’ve started to gravitate toward these primary sources: books of Yogic scripture to prepare for my yoga teacher training class, works by John Dewey to understand the underpinning of our education system, autobiographical accounts of world events, and original documentation that established our government.

While it’s one thing to observe, practice, and read the works of experts and influencers, it’s only in reading the original grounding work of a philosophy, of a movement, that we can develop our own views and deep observations. If all we do is interpret and translate someone else’s interpretations of primary material, eventually we enter into a game of telephone, and the original beliefs are likely distorted beyond recognition.

To truly understand an idea, we have to go to the source, to the seed that gave that idea to the word. As Keynes so brilliantly stated and Skidelsky rightly echos, “ideas matter profoundly…indeed the world is ruled by little else.” The roots of those ideas matter profoundly, too. Get to the root.


Archan Mehta said...

Hello Christa:

I have become an avid reader after stumbling upon your blog purely by chance. Just one of those things that happen when you explore the web/net. Thanks for this latest post. In general, I have found your articles interesting to read. Kindly continue with your yoga classes. It will help to unite body, mind and spirit. You seem like a person who values ideas. Try to read the works of Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Such books can help you in your yogic lifestyle. My guess is, yoga will have a positive impact on your state of mind. Yoga will help you to find the center of your being and enable you to become more mindful. Especially in a crazy city like New York, you probably need that to ground you. My best wishes.
There are many benefits to yoga. I wonder if you have switched over to a vegetarian diet yet? Many consider this to be a yogic diet.
Do write about your sojourns. We readers want to learn more about your life (just out of curiosity).
I am happy for you that you are pursuing things that make you happy. It shows in the way you smile. Are you already experiencing "bliss consciousness?"

Christa said...

Hi Archan! I am so touched by your comment and thank you so much for posting. I am thrilled that you are enjoying the blog. I certainly love writing it.

I've read some Chopra though nothing by Dyer or Yogi. I will definitely add them to my list. Are there certain titles you would recommend?

My yoga teacher training starts in late February. I just found out today that I will be able to chronicle by training on, a new yoga site that has recently launched. I will post up the URL on this blog and post when I have put up a new piece on Yogoer. I'm very excited about that project.

I have not yet become a vegetarian, though plan to do so once I start the training. It seems like the right thing to do to adopt a non-harming lifestyle when I am in training.

I am certainly experiencing a great deal of bliss in my life. Your comment today made my day!

Archan Mehta said...

Hello Christa:

Well, anything by Chopra, Dyer and is fair game. It has been a life-transforming experience to read their works. Apart from yoga, do you practice meditation? I would recommend meditation, to be sure. It will help you to make meditation a daily habit. Yes, even if it is only for a short duration. Meditation has changed my life. I meditate daily, so I am writing to you based on personal experience. You can probably find a guru in New York to teach you a special mantra that you can chant multiple times either silently or out loud. Or you can design your own mantra, one that works for you. Keep on chanting that magic mantra and drown out other voices and be free from distractions when you are meditating. Find the silence of your own being. Enjoy it too. And lock yourself in a dark room when you meditate--let nothing disturb you. I hope this helps you.

Christa said...

Hi Archan,
Thank you so much. I love these recommendations. I have actually never been successful at meditation because I can't seem to sit still for long. Odd because my father was a hypnotist!

Your idea of a mantra that drowns out the other voices will definitely help. I'm going to give it a whirl as I prepare for my yoga teacher training. I'm hoping at that training I'll be able to find a guru, too.

Archan Mehta said...

Hey Christa:

Okay, so you failed at meditation. Big deal, don't sweat over it. I couldn't sit still either because of my interest in sport. I was physically active in the outdoors and sitting still and doing nothing did not float my boat for a long time. Meditation is something I could never do, but I persevered after reading the works by our modern masters. It took me a long time to sit still and meditation was even more difficult. But guess what? I finally managed. It just takes practice, practice, practice. I am rooting for you. I want you to succeed. And I didn't have a guru, so hope you find a good one. Just stay away from the wise guys who claim to be gurus but just want to fleece you. Invest only in the real deal. I had to train myself in meditation through self-study. I pray you will be luckier. Once you succeed at meditation, make it a daily habit. Being good at meditation will also help you in other walks of life, trust me. This has been my experience. It will, for example, help you to be a better yoga teacher, friend, colleague, etc. However, I warn you: it can take some time. So, be kind to yourself and don't become impatient for results. Don't aim for instant gratification: meditation does not work that way. And if I can do it, anybody can do it. Enjoy the process, take your time, be gentle with yourself, learn to relax, and go with the flow. I will be cheering you on!