Category Archives: 2014

Thank you Ms Julie Bishop for welcoming me to the Parliament Buildings in Canberra

I had the great joy of meeting the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Australia, Ms Julie Bishop on 2nd September, 2014.

She remembered her visit to Asha earlier in the year with much fondness and was filled with admiration for the work and for what the students had achieved. She was delighted, when I presented her with a group photo of herself with a group of Asha university students and gave it pride of place on her photo wall right next to a picture of herself and Barack Obama.

Ms Julie Bishop

She promised continued help and support for Asha as well as for Friends of Asha Australia in the times to come. She also promised to wear the stole that I draped around her, especially at Indian events. She is a lovely human being filled with warmth and kindness.

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A lovely interaction with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, UK

It was a matter of great joy and delight for me to meet Mr Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, UK on Monday 25 August 2014.

My team and I welcomed him to an Asha slum community called Kanak Durga colony. What a wonderful engagement we had!

The atmosphere was charged with energy and enthusiasm and he showed great interest in the work of Asha.

Mr Edward Davey

Here is a short clip of the minister’s comment from his visit:

He played a lot of cricket with some of our university students, hit a few sixes and finally got bowled.

Thank you Minister Davey for visiting us!

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A wonderful interaction with Mr L.K Advani

Recently, I had the privilege of once again meeting Hon. Mr LK Advani, Senior Leader, BJP Parliamentary Party along with my team members and Asha students.

It is sheer joy to see how he has always opened his doors for these bright students from Asha communities. The students were thrilled beyond words as Mr Advani welcomed them to his residence and listened to the stories of their accomplishments and impediments they faced.

LK Advani congratulates new university entrants from Asha slum communities

LK Advani congratulates new university entrants from Asha slum communities

I feel humbled to share such a wonderful relationship with Mr Advani, who has visited Asha communities and chaired various Asha events in the past. His commitment towards Asha is a source of inspiration and encouragement for not only the communities we work with, but also for me and my team on a personal level.

As the new leadership of the country begins their work, I can only hope and pray they would continue to support Asha as we strive to assist the urban poor transform their lives.

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On Affirmation

I have recently been reflecting on the wonderful value of Affirmation. It is quite closely linked to one of Asha’s most important values, that of Gratitude. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘to affirm’ means: to state or assert positively, to maintain as true. It also stands for giving a person a heightened sense of value through the experience of something emotionally or spiritually uplifting. When we affirm people, we affirm the work God is doing in their lives. We point out His reflection in the people He has knit together in His image.

It is a standard practice at all Asha meetings to affirm and appreciate one another in a safe and loving environment. Everyone present is affirmed, demonstrating the love, appreciation, and respect all team members have for each other. However, our declaration of something in a person that is true requires a genuine knowing of the other. This happens when we take time to build relationships with one another, pay attention to each other’s strengths, recognize and appreciate the gifts of others, and genuinely express that recognition to one another. We can then speak the truth with conviction and knowledge, to what we know about the other. Our affirmation can be authentic, and completely devoid of flattery and manipulation.

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Everyday, I see the amazing effects of affirmations on my team as well as on hundreds of slum college students, children, and others in the communities. I have seen these affirmations bring to life their capabilities, strengths, talents, and skills. Their effects penetrate so deeply that the person’s entire attitude, behaviour, and actions are affected. They change the way people experience events, and they completely alter the emotional climate of relationships. The word ‘encourage’ means ‘ to inspire courage’. Words of encouragement and affirmation lead to courage, and a sense of security. This brings about a vibrant expression of latent potential within us, and causes us to flourish in all the dimensions of our lives. There is no room for judgmental or guilt inducing, condemning, critical words that lead to a feeling of rejection.

There is no room for loudness or harshness. The tone and manner in which we speak is exceedingly important. People are deeply influenced by those who affirm them, and listen to them. Being affirmed does wonders for the other person’s sense of hearing. In addition, behaviours that are rewarded and celebrated, are more likely to be repeated. Affirmation in the presence of others is also key. This means that we are giving public honour and respect for a person’s gifts, abilities, and qualities.

Dr Kiran with CHV's 23 Jan 2014 (56)

It is important that we affirm people on a consistent basis. Studies have found that consistent affirmation results in the muscles becoming stronger, and more active. On the other hand, the muscles tend to become weak and we feel a sense of fatigue in a negative environment.

Let us embrace affirmation as a value to be practiced everyday, and let us remember that our affirmations can have a profound impact on the lives of others. The way they experience life’s events, and relationships around them, can change forever.

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On Joy

The dictionary words for joy are – gladness, cheerfulness, exultation, rapture, pleasure, delight. However, the word joy has a far deeper meaning. It does not indicate a temporary feeling of pleasure or happiness, but rather a constant state of well being, a continuous journey of flourishing.

Joy can be experienced in so many ways, such as feeling the love and closeness of God, and of those we care for, feeling grateful for our current circumstances, feeling at peace, serene, and savouring those moments, or being inspired by great leaders. It is an emotion that opens us wonderfully, and changes the boundaries of our hearts and minds. It makes us more creative, more resilient, more trusting and more trusted. It helps us to look back on the past with gladness, look into the future with hope, and enjoy and cherish the present.

Joy must be cultivated practically on a daily basis. How do we do this?

We can engage with our life and and work in ways that absorb and inspire us. When we identify our greatest strengths, we can consciously engage in work and activities that make us feel most fulfilled, productive, and valuable.

We also flourish when we have a strong network of relationships around us, with family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, and other people in our lives. When we share our joy with those we love, we feel even more joy. We depend on the people around us to help us maintain balance in our lives. When we are alone, we lose perspective on the world, and we forget that others may be bearing greater burdens than our own. But when we let other people into our lives, we remember to give as well as take. When we belong to a community, we have a network of support around us, and we are part of it.

We are at our best when the work we do is consistent with our personal values. From day to day, if we believe our work is worthwhile, we experience a sense of well-being and confidence that we are using our time and our abilities in meaningful ways.

Dr Kiran with students

A sense of accomplishment is also a very important element of joy. To experience a sense of flourishing, we must look back on our lives, and feel that we have run the race well. This is possible only when we set ourselves tangible goals, and work towards them. We can then anticipate and build hope for the future. Past successes make us feel more confident and optimistic about future attempts. It is good to be proud of one’s accomplishments. We will then be motivated to work harder, and achieve more next time. We may even inspire the people around us to achieve their own goals.

What a wonderful vision of joy! May you live life to the fullest through the experience of joy.

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Types of Positive Emotions and core truths concerning them

There is a whole range of positive emotions. Of course there is the category of ‘ jump for joy’ positive emotions, but often those are the obvious ones that come to mind. Other positive emotions could be described as feeling grateful for our current circumstances, feeling completely in tune with our environment, at peace, serene, tranquil, and savoring that. Or sharing laughter with a loved one, a friend, and the lightness of that moment. Or being inspired by great leaders, feeling the love and closeness of people we care for.

All these positive emotions share in their core, two common truths. The first one is that they open us. They literally change the boundaries of our hearts and our minds, and change our outlook on our environments. They increase the expanse of our peripheral vision. Our world quite literally expands, and we can see more. The openness of our hearts and minds obey the warmth of positivity. It changes our ability to see our common humanity with others.

Dr Kiran in a slum

Because we see more, we see more possibilities, we come up with more ideas about what we might do next. We become more creative. We are more likely to be more resilient, and are able to bounce back quicker from adversity. Studies have demonstrated that children do better on a Math test if they think of a positive memory before the they take the test, so there is better academic performance. Research has also shown that physicians make better medical decisions, as they are better at integrating the complex information of an unsolved case.

Positive emotions also allow us to look past racial and cultural differences, to recognize the uniqueness of individuals, and to see towards oneness. People are more trusting, people come to better win-win solutions and negotiations. At a very fundamental level, we are able to see larger systems, larger forms of interconnection that can make a huge difference when we are trying to address some really entangled problems that we face.

The second core truth about positive emotions is that they transform us for the better. They bring out the best in us. Everyday, new cells are being born within us. Scientists tell us that on all body systems, we replace 1% of our body cells each day, which means we will on average replace 30% by next month, 100% by the next season. We are turning over a lot. The latest science suggests that the pace of cell renewal does not just follow some predetermined DNA script, but that our emotions affect the level of cellular change. This is an idea that is completely consistent with the broader lesson that positive emotions change who we are.

Dr Kiran with Children

Therefore if we increase our daily diet of positive emotions, we change who we are, we change our ways of being in the world. However, changing our traits to develop positive emotions is not easy. It is akin to a lifestyle change, and requires continual reinforcement and effort. It takes as much will power as does lowering our cholesterol or losing weight.

All human beings can either languish, barely holding onto life, or flourish, becoming ripe with beauty and possibility, and remarkably resilient to hard times.The degree to which we experience positive emotions in our lives will predict whether we are languishing or flourishing. We can let positive emotions light our way to the path of flourishing.

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On Simplicity

Dear friends,

As I savour some of the beautiful moments in 2013, and look forward with gratitude to another New Year I have had the privilege of entering into, the word that I have been dwelling on is ‘Simplicity’.

A simple life, it seems to me, is one where we are clear of our purpose and our priorities, and we can painlessly discard whatever does not support them. It is essential to free ourselves from the complexities of life, and not fritter it away by too much trivial detail. There is a great need for us to do all we can to bring some order into the chaos that we might find ourselves in. When we embrace simplicity, we are constantly thankful that our basic needs are met, and we then experience the joy of satisfaction. The possession of many things and of great wealth creates so many complex possible choices and decisions to be made everyday that it can become a nervous strain.

Dr Kiran in Zakhira 040

Voluntarily choosing a life of simplicity means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, and avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of our lives. It means ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves deliberate organization of our life for a purpose. The men who tried to climb Mount Everest concentrated their thoughts and energies on planning their expedition for several years, and in the actual attempt, discarded every ounce of equipment not surely needed for that one purpose.

Observance of simplicity is a recognition of the fact that we are all greatly influenced by our surroundings and their subtle implications. The power of our environment modifies us. We will therefore be wise to select and create deliberately such an immediate environment as will influence our character in the direction that we deem most important, and that will make it easier for us to live in the way we believe wisest. Simplicity gives us freedom and clearness of vision. The athlete, in order to win the race, strips off the non essentials of clothing, is careful of what he eats and simplifies his life in a number of ways. Great achievements of the mind will also require similar discriminations and disciplines.

Dr Kiran_seelampur 031

Simplicity also provides us with the capacity for friendship, for fellowship, for entering imaginatively into the lives of others. Our sensitiveness to other important human relationships is not clogged or dulled, but rather increases our capacity to exercise love, and form deeply satisfying and enduring bonds with others.

Here are some ways in which we can cultivate simplicity. We can direct our imagination towards the new desires that we would like to replace some of our existing desires with, dwelling on them in spare moments, just before going to bed, and just after awakening. We can read books and articles dealing with them. I find it very enjoyable to be in the company of others who have ideas and values similar to the ones I wish to cultivate. This way, I can provide as many stimuli as possible for my line of thought and conduct. To stay away from a ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ attitude, which I believe leads to complexity of living and exaggerated individualism, is key. We will help ourselves towards simplicity by cultivating a strong and constant feeling of human unity. The strength to resist the pressure of group opinion, and the ability to withstand unfavourable comment again must be cultivated.

May the New Year be a year where we learn to live with child like simplicity, moving towards our goals with singleness of purpose, persistence, endurance and strength.

I am truly grateful for your utmost kindness towards the work of Asha.

Kiran Martin

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