“Be the lotus”

I can’t remember when my Nani (gran) first said this to me. But I remember it being said frequently. When I complained about childhood feuds, sibling rivalry and my own failures, I was met with the…

Source: “Be the lotus”

Biological View of Hair Follicle

Grey hairs are the aftermath of a battle that our bodies wage every single day.

On one hand, there are antioxidants (comprised of vitamins, proteins and enzymes), which protect our body against cellular deterioration. While on the other hand are the pro-oxidants (or free radicals). From pollution and smoking to deficient diets plus a lack of or excessive exercise, a build-up of those pro-oxidants cause an imbalance inside the body, known as oxidative stress.

So how does oxidative stress cause hair to go gray?

Each tiny follicle on your head is involved in a dynamic hair growth cycle, during which the follicle is either in a stage of growth (the anagen stage), in a period of rest (the telogen stage) or in a interval between the both (the catagen stage).

The anagen stage can be divided into half-dozen distinct processes. For the purpose of grey hair  we focus on anagen stage III and anagen stage IV.

Hair follicle melanocytes (specialized cells which directly manage the pigment of one’s hair) achieve their peak during anagen stage III. As the melanocytes grow, they become aligned inside the foundation of the hair follicle bulb and start the transition to anagen stage IV, which causes the hair pigmentation process.

Based on biomedical and pathology research within the UK, US and Germany, oxidative stress directly impacts melanocyte development through the anagen stage III process. An excess of pro-oxidants accumulates inside the papilla cavity. This kills off the melanocytes. There are no longer any melanocytes to pigment the hair, resulting in the grey hair strand.

However: Don’t resign yourself to grey hair just yet. Although this process may seem final, it stands to reason that if oxidative stress can lead to melanocyte death, then the reduction of oxidative stress can allow these specialised cells to re-emerge and kick-start the hair pigmentation process all over again.

There is hope

Grey hair may be reversed. There is ongoing research on how this may be achieved and I am hopeful that solutions will be shortly available.

[ C. E. CROSS, B. HALLIWELL, E. T. BORISH, W. A. PRYOR, B. N. AMES, R. L. SAUL, J. M. McCORD, and D. HARMAN. “Oxygen Radicals and Human Disease.” Ann Intern Med, October 1, 1987; 107(4): 526 – 545.]


[TOBIN DJ, SLOMINSKI A, BOTCHKAREV V et all (1999). “The Fate of Hair Follicle Melanocytes During the Hair Growth Cycle.” J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc 4.323-332.]


Are You A Genius?


GENIUSMeaning of genius: Exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.

The word genius comes from the Latin word gignere which meant “attendant spirit present from one’s birth”.

The original meaning ‘spirit attendant on a person’ came to be understood as ‘a person’s characteristic disposition’ (late 16th century), which then became ‘a person’s natural ability’, and finally genius was taken to mean ‘exceptional natural ability’ only in the mid 17th century.

This suggests to me that using ones innate abilities leads to genius. It makes sense from a scientific perspective as well. We are all built differently, anatomically and physiologically. Hence if our bodies are innately efficient at performing a particular task, then that task comes easy to us. If we are then passionate about doing that particular thing and decide to make a career out of it – we are more likely to excel at it. Our proficiency may eventually become legendary…

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Syrian Refugee camp lebanon Syrian Refugee camp lebanon

Since the onset of the Syrian Civil war in 2011 over 9 million Syrian nationals have been displaced. Almost 6 million have moved within Syria and approximately 4 million have fled the country. Most refugees have settled in neighbouring countries – Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Four years on: the UN bodies maintaining Syrian refugee camps are running out of money. The Civil War has not ended and we have no idea as to how long it will continue. Hence there is much uncertainty about the Syrian refugees ever going home.

Much of the current crisis is blamed on the EU response. EU countries have spent far too long debating and discussing a solution to the predicament with no real resolution. This is the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war – it should be a priority. We need answers promptly.

Open Heart Symbol - signifying that Refugees are Welcome    Open Heart Symbol

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Destroyed during the Malian conflict Destroyed during the Malian conflict

Mali has a rich history, literally. In the 14th century half the worlds’ gold was produced here. This was unknown in the west until the Malian Emperor Mansa Musa, a devout Muslim, made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. It is said that on this journey he spent so much of gold in Cairo that its price was severely depressed for years. But Mali’s wealth was not limited to its gold. It was considered the intellectual centre of Africa. Home to Islamic texts, unique mosques and tombs of Sufi mystics; Mali’s rich culture combines Islamic religious practice and Sufi mysticism with its traditional African roots. Throw in existentialism from its French influence and you have a unique melting pot of art, beliefs and culture. A modern secular democracy, famous for its musical rhythm and joie de vive, one would not expect rebellions. Yet due…

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Living fully, human potential and especially my own potential have fascinated me since childhood. Much to the annoyance of my parents, I had to try my hand at everything, I had to figure out all that I was able to do. This spiralled out of control during my later teens and early twenties when I no longer needed parental permission. I was a full time student, held down a job, gym freak, did some modelling, entered beauty competitions, practiced meditation and yoga, tried classes in everything from painting to pole dancing. Whatever was going, I had to try it. Then I got married, moved country, ran a well-being practice, started an international business, completed numerous educational programs, read philosophy, science, metaphysics. When finally my health suffered and my energy reserves were low, the full effect of my existential angst was unleashed. The question that I was hiding from came to the forefront. “What is the point of life?”

I withdrew from the world. Plagued by anomie and nihilism, I had a deep need for isolation. I am not sure if it’s blasphemous to liken my feelings and emotions during this period to those described by a saint. But St. Therese of Lisieux seems to have captured my feelings and subsequent realisation.

“If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into!…I don’t believe in eternal life; I think that after this life there is nothing. Everything has disappeared on me, and I am left with love alone.”
St. Therese of Lisieux

Letters written by Mother Theresa, published after her death and coincidentally at the same time as my crisis, described her experience of being plunged in darkness for decades. This filled me with anxiety, as I did not think I could endure this dread for much longer. If Mother Teresa took that long to resolve her darkness what hope was there for me?

Inspired by Viktor Frankl who seemed to have emerged hopeful after being captive in Auschwitz (in his book Mans Search for Meaning), I decided that “only I” could give my life meaning and transcend the darkness. The only meaning worth having was personal meaning.

While the collective writings of the french existential philosophers seem dire, a central theme of hope emerged for me. In Albert Camus’ book, The Myth of Sisyphus, Sisyphus has to push a rock up a mountain every day, only to have it roll down again every evening. Day in and out he had to repeat this process. To me this epitomized the Buddhist tenet “Life is suffering”. But rather then escape this life, the existentialists hint that we need to find a way to go on. Discover “What makes it all worthwhile for you?”

Take a few minutes to make a list of the 3 things that make life wonderful for you?                                                    Refer to this whenever you feel despondent. 

For me, it’s the early morning sky at sunrise. When the flecks of pinky, orange illume my horizon. That golden ball of glowing sun, brightening my world, warming my heart. It’s the swan gliding gracefully along the River Ouse. It’s the cows that calmly observe my every move with their big kind eyes as I run along their field. It’s the horse that comes bounding across the pasture to lick my hand even though I have nothing to offer. It is those moments when strangers do something so spontaneous and generous that your heart expands constricting your throat and forcing tears to your eyes. It’s those times of despair and disaster when humans sacrifice themselves to help others, to save children Ja, you will find that sticking to just 3 things that make life worthwhile is difficult, theres just so much. And like St Therese may we be left with love, love of nature, love of humanity.

Yes I do have many conflicting views, I become so angry with myself for not living up to my ideals, I grow angry at humans for being so cruel, for destroying nature, for not respecting this world. But I still believe in us. I believe in humanity, the human potential to meet challenges, to overcome obstacles, to change for the better. I also believe that the only way I am able to find meaning in my life is by devoting it to developing this potential. Hence this is the focus of my on-going research.


The second person that ignited my passion for self-development was the much despised Nietzsche.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a german scholar and writer,  introduced the philosophical concept of the ubermench – the superhuman or overhuman. This word was adopted by the Nazi Party to describe the superior race and has since become associated with genocide. Ubermench therefore has negative connotations for many. Yet the creation of a superior race was far from Nietzsche’s intention. For starters he talked of the ubermench as an individual, never a group or a collective. He proclaimed the ubermench to be the meaning of the earth, the reason humanity exists, the method for humanity to develop. He warns that we need be wary of those who proclaim other-worldly hopes and create a higher being that is superior to humanity. A superior being who is lorded with all humanities ideals. He says that these concepts draws one away from life on earth, from the here and now, from what man has the potential to be.

Dissatisfaction with life causes one to create another world in which those who have wronged in this life are tormented and where good deeds unnoticed in this life are rewarded. Nietzsche’s ubermench-superhuman does not need to escape this world. He does not need a diversion from his life, but accepts it, finds meaning in it, appreciates it all – good and bad. I believe that the ubermench is also an ideal for anyone who is creative and strong enough to master the whole spectrum of his human potential, good and evil, physical and mental, rational and emotional, factual knowledge and intuitive perception, cognitive ability and bodily awareness, objective and subjective investigation, compassion and survival. The ubermench is the ideal of anyone who wants to live fully, to develop themselves, to strive for their highest ideals.

The concept of the ubermench has been developed and expanded by many others, including the psychologists Abraham Maslow – who described the individualised person –  and Carl Rogers’ – fully functioning person. Preceding Nietzsche was Gautama Buddha’s ideal of Buddhahood – to live fully, unconditionally –  plus the Vedic texts and Patanjali’s shutras describe Samadhi –  the ability to connect with ones highest ideal.

God Is dead Yellow Edited


Fit is the New Rich

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“I would rather be fit than rich” has been my lifelong motto. Although often used as an excuse to get out of doing things that I was not interested in, it is something I truly believe. Hence the latest fitness craze excites me. Its wonderful to see so many people joining gyms, beginning running programs, forming sports clubs. Getting lean and strong is definitely on the mind. So whether you are a “dumbbell darling” – women who love to lift or “mamil” – middle-aged man in lycra, fitness is the new status symbol.

But lets hope this trend is here to stay. We have seen fitness fads come and go too often. I remember the late 80’s (yes, I’m that old) when hightops, sports gear and headbands were the height of fashion, only to be lost in the power dressing, Gucci flashing of the 90’s.

Fashion seems to repeat itself…

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I want to be the best I can be. I will sacrifice all that prevents me from improving myself.  What do I mean by this?

This idea, desire was stimulated by a few of my favourite people. Renaissance philosophers were fascinated by the concept of Umo Universalis or universal man. And a person that seemed to personify the universal man concept was Leonardo da Vinci. He was a polymath, an inventor, engineer, sculptor, anatomist, biologist, zoologist and also an artist. What seemed to have set Leonardo apart from his illustrious contemporaries – Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael – was his versatility. He continuously tried new things, experimented, improved older work from his new learning. His true brilliance came from the vigour in which he seems to have thrown himself into each new pursuit. He was constantly re-inventing his methods, re-defining himself, searching for a very personal ideal.

Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is truly amazing. This volume of work shows his dedication to his art, his dexterity as a painter. Yet it is the physical challenges that he had to endure to achieve this work that fills us with awe, not the actual paintings. Yes they are beautiful and luminous, but they don’t grip you at the heart, grab your attention and haunt your memories like Mona Lisa does.

Mona Lisa’s allure lies in her ambiguity. Her half-smile, hermaphroditic physical features, unconventional persona. Leonardo’s extensive experience and eccentricity may have resulted in Mona Lisa’s mystique. She held a secret that even he struggled to understand. I believe that the reason he kept this painting, till the day he died, was because he was trying to figure out what she represented, what she was trying to convey, what her smile meant? I believe that Leonardo had developed a technique of reflecting what he perceived without intellectual categorisation diluting that perception. Only after it was painted did Leonardo try to define the meaning. And maybe this is what the universal man is – one who perceives without any limitations or restrictions. One who is able to separate preconceived notions from current awareness. After all is this also not the ideal of the Buddha? Is this not what “sat-chit-ananda” is? Sat-cit-ananda = Eternal-conscious-bliss


Atheist or Satanist

The word atheism seems to conjure images of devil worship, demonic sacrifice and cannibalism even if it’s just some sort of metaphysical cannibalism. Metaphysical cannibals do not prey on the life-blood but the magic, spirit and wonder of humanity.

Just to clarify, atheists generally deny the existence of any conscious being or force that acts outside natural progression, whether this outside force is called God or Satan. Hence religious folk are more likely to believe in the devil than atheists. Those who do choose to worship the perceived dark spirit as opposed to the holy spirit are called satanists. To some, Satanism is a religion.

With regards to sacrifice, I am certain that like all humans’ atheists make many sacrifices. However their sacrifices are not to appease, honour, pleasure any metaphysical being. I am not saying that all atheists are paragons of selflessness and that all their sacrifices are for the greater good. As humans we all have the potential for altruism and selfishness, compassion and cruelty, generosity and callousness, openness and constriction, flexibility and rigidity. The choice it entirely yours, “what are you willing to sacrifice?” and “what do you want to gain?”

With regards to cannibalism, metaphysical or otherwise, atheism as a philosophical standpoint does not set out to destroy humanity. Atheists too revere unexplainable phenomena, appreciate intangible (spiritual) experiences and marvel at the natural world. However they believe that when one looks into things deeply, when one really tries to understand then this awe-inspired wonder is multiplied. This is contrary to simply defining incredible natural phenomena just as magic, miracles, grace.

This and my previous posts are not intended to be blasphemous or proselytise atheism, rather my aim was to clarify a point of view that engenders such irrational anger, irritation and venom. In this age of freedom, why do we still persecute alternative viewpoints? If religion is supposed to teach tolerance, then why are the religious so intolerant of contrary philosophical positions?

I greatly admire Richard Dawkins intellect, work and commitment to the Humanist Society. However I am not driven to be a militant atheist. Frankly that is because the beliefs of society, friends and family don’t really matter to me, as long as those beliefs are not imposed on me.

My choice is to sacrifice everything that prevents me from being the best human being that I can be. I choose to honour the human spirit as opposed to dark or holy for humans can transcend this duality.