Category Archives: Meditation

An Interpreter’s Extra-Curricular Adventure


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It was November 14, 2004.  A blustery winter evening in New York.  The sun had gone down and the wind was gusting hard. My stomach rumbled relentlessly and I shivered in spite of my down parka. I sprinted briskly along West 63 St., to reach my destination near Carnegie Hall,  at 25-C, the apartment/ashram of Yogi Gupta, my spiritual preceptor,  as quickly as possible.

I had traveled to  Manhattan from Miami primarily to do my work as a simultaneous interpreter at a board of directors meeting for a large multinational client, but I wanted to get a spiritual boost by going to the center as I didn’t often have the opportunity to attend.  I had finished a 30 Day Purification Diet that day and  made the mistake of going to a Thai restaurant in the city with my colleagues to celebrate a job well done and break the fast.  As I greedily wolfed down my curry dish, with chicken no less, I dimly remembered  Guruji’s warning that spicy foods were not good for you.  But I was dying to eat something tasty after watermelon, leaves and herbs for thirty days and when someone suggested this place, I jumped at it.   Not a good idea. That is what happens when we block out our inner voice thinking , “this time” I know better.

Sure enough, my body was so de-toxed that although I had specified that I wanted the spice level to be mild, eating the dish was similar to receiving a kick in the gut.

Thinking Outside the Box

Upon arrival at 25-C, I asked Swami Prabathanand, who was manning the front desk, to recommend an herb to put an end to my misery and bought some E+ to assuage the intestinal flora.  It was ultimately very good but that night I had to pay for my rashness. Guruji was in India at the time but one of his senior disciples was offering a Psychic Development technique class and a Sound Meditation scheduled  to start at 7:00 p.m., for which I promptly signed up. It wasn’t the Guru personally but it was the next best thing.  His teachings through an experienced disciple. I am usually very organized and from my shorthand training as an interpreter, whenever I attend lectures I take down the discourse in my own diary so that I can subsequently internalize the learning by reviewing it. However by then, the food poisoning from lunch had set in.  It was all I could do to try to concentrate on what the teacher was saying and I had to make a brave showing as I was the only one in attendance.

I distantly heard the instructor talk about a mythical Temple of Colors in Lemuria, a lost continent located where Japan is now, inhabited by  a colony of women priestesses who were able to simply look at the astral body of supplicants, determine what colors were missing and replace them to cure problems. He spoke about the Psychic  Development technique, in which I was receiving instruction, as being more powerful than Ayurveda, in that it teaches us how to communicate with the Masters, who are here to help the world advance.  They are the ones who end wars and shift resources around the earth as needed.  If we communicate with them our life will become much easier.  In order to do the technique correctly, we need to build up prana/primal energy and not let it leak out via our thoughts.  We waste time trying to mentally figure out who we are through the senses which give us wrong information.  By tuning in to the Masters and through meditation, we get to the truth.   It is always better to meditate in the presence of a teacher he said, because his mind is more settled and will still the restless thoughts of our “monkey brain.”

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

In spite of my stomach woes, I had a great sound meditation with a gong, which I had not been exposed to before.  But alas, it was time to get up and go home.  I knew from the way I was feeling I would never be able to walk back the 15 minutes to the hotel.  It was 9 o’clock and there were no taxi stands anywhere in the vicinity.  I dreaded having to walk to Broadway to attempt to hail a cab for a short ride, but dragged myself to the revolving front door and stepped out.  I had stood there in the biting cold only long enough to get my bearings when a taxi drove up right in front of me to drop off someone at the building.   I was astounded at this “coincidence” and weakly fell into the back seat  muttering “Thank you Guruji” under my breath.

The following day I was slightly better but still in significant discomfort, having been unable to sleep the night before.  I took a cab instead of the shuttle to La Guardia, to board a full flight to Miami. I cringed  contemplating the three hour trip in a middle seat. I had been unable to upgrade to an aisle seat to be closer to the restroom because the flight was oversold.  I wouldn’t even be able to rest my head against the window to grab some shuteye. My only consolation was that I had to be burning a lot of karma with how badly I felt!

I took my seat, stowed my carry-on with the help of another passenger because I felt so fatigued, and waited for the boarding process to finish.  Imagine my surprise when twenty minutes later, the stewardess started reading the safety precautions and no one had come to claim the other two seats in my row, in spite of the fact that there were no other empty seats on the plane.  I knew then, as I spread out, that without a doubt, what Yogi Gupta always said: “Nothing happens as a bolt from the blue”,  or “A mouse doesn’t suddenly jump out of a cupboard” (meaning there are no coincidences in life), is true. The Guru knew I was making an effort to go to 25-C and although he was not there in the flesh, his spirit was there, as he often promised. We can always maintain a psychic connection with him he told us, because  “neither time nor distance are an obstacle”. By going, I was endeavoring to connect with him and his teachings, so he was taking care of me in an extraordinary way because I was actively seeking the company of the Wise Man.

This was further confirmed when after arriving on my night flight, tired and bedraggled, I tried to secure a luggage cart at  MIA baggage claim. I needed to take a trunk with sound equipment that I had brought back with me, to the taxi stand.  Since I was one of the last people to get off a full flight, by the time I picked up my box, there were no carts available, nor any skycaps to assist me.  Nonetheless, in a matter of two minutes, before I could cry from exhaustion and chagrin, a lady three carrousels away from mine,  spotted me, approached me spontaneously  and   offered me hers.

I was thusly reminded of what Guruji once said to me : “If you continue to make spiritual efforts, God’s and Guru’s help will never be lacking. God helps those who make efforts to help themselves to the best of their ability”.

Takewaway

I have always found this advice to be very practical because whenever you improve yourself spiritually it affects your physical and emotional bodies as well as your mind,  which in turn influences your work and everyday life.  In this particular case, the purification diet in question was enervating. Our bodies are like machines that after working non-stop for a period of time, need a break for rest, cleaning and overhauling. Even if we are eating the right foods, our digestive systems can use an opportunity to burn toxins or excess fat, clearing small problems before they become big ones.  In addition to losing weight, this practice makes me feel so much lighter; it  increases both my energy and concentration which are primary staples for interpreting of any type.

Meditation is also extremely beneficial as it allows us to detach from the constant barrage of sensory input that we receive, especially in our business, facilitating a direct connection with our consciousness that generates relaxation and lets us harness our resources more efficiently to both lead our lives and carry out our work  in a better way.

To see a more comprehensive explanation of the benefits of meditation, watch this video:

Share your “coincidences” with me.  We have all had those experiences where we are in the “zone”, doing something we love or care about. They are nature’s way of telling us to pay attention to what we are doing because it resonates with us and points us towards what we could be doing to improve our lives.

Am I Making the Right Decision?


imagesThis question is not the exclusive purview of philosophers and mental health practitioners. It has always been a hot topic and many of us chew our nails to the nubs while making decisions that involve a major issue in our life such as relationships, health care, family problems, the purchase of a house, etc. After we reach a conclusion, we oftentimes continue to second-guess it, especially when as now, circumstances are aggravated by difficult economic times that have a bearing on many of these situations.

In the T&I profession there are key decisions as well, that impact our lifestyle and need to be confronted. Among others, they include questions such as educational choices, what work aspect of language to focus on, what is best for me, a freelancer or employee position?  What remuneration should I seek? Is there value in volunteering my services to a trade association, etc.

Being a rational MBA and a long-time spiritual seeker, I have one foot planted firmly in both of these camps, and I follow a balanced procedure I devised that I would like to share with you as it has proven invaluable to me over the years. Start out by not believing everything you think prior to undergoing the process.

  1.  The first step is to research the matter.  The most generalized search you will do will be probably be on Google but rather than typing in a simple phrase, learn the search conventions for advanced searches which are very simple to do and will save you a lot of time. Please note that there are similar tips for advanced searches on other platforms such as additional search engines, FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, etc.
  2. Make a short list of the pros and cons of each solution.  Remember that comparing options will increase your confidence.
  3. Identify a qualified friend as well as a devil’s advocate to discuss the alternatives. Remember that advice from others usually comes from the intellect.
  4. Listen to your gut/intuition to determine what feels comfortable and resonates with you.  Remember that in the end, you know better than anyone else what is best for you.
  5. Be aware that the world is in constant flux and you will be able to reassess many of your decisions should you decide they are not working for you in the future.
  6. Realize that experience is one of the main filters our brain uses to make decisions.  It therefore stands to reason that you focus on positive experiences and try to reduce or eliminate internalizing  negative ones so that your “database” is populated by optimistic, affirmative information.
  7. I cannot overstate the importance of a regular simple meditation practice of 15 minutes twice a day to clear the cobwebs.  It will help you immensely to analyze all of the above, in addition to having many other benefits.

Bear in mind that whatever you ultimately decide will be the best resolution you could have reached. It may not be completely apparent why in the short term, but in the end I can assure you that it will be an experience you had to undergo to fulfill some as yet possibly unidentified need in your path.  I am convinced that nothing in life is random.  It just may take a while to connect the dots but there is an Intelligence superior to ours guiding our steps and our prior understanding of all the details does not contribute to the desired outcome.

I hope you will agree that this is both a relevant and fascinating topic. I look forward  to seeing your comments and benefiting from your opinions and experiences.

Sobering News and Turbo-Charged Learnings


Dear readers:

My last post was October 22.  Since then, my life has involuntarily changed 180°. I have been diagnosed with a condition I didn’t even know existed, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, which is a preliminary stage to Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Conventional medicine is telling me that left unchecked I will not be alive a year from now and that the only “cure”, with no guarantees, is a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT).  Assuming we find a donor, which is a feat and that I survive the transplant which is an inordinate ordeal, there is no assurance it will take or not come back. So you are probably asking, why is she discussing a very private matter here on what is ostensibly an interpreting/translation blog?

The reason is that there are a lot of lessons to be learned for everyone, that because of my condition and my predisposition to learning and self-development, I am being taught at lightning-like speed. I hope I am up to the challenge of learning and  I am grateful to be learning. I want to tell you what some of the more apparent lessons have been, in case they may resonate with you.

I love the work that I did.  It is exciting, fun, challenging and interesting but it was only my work, not my life.  I am not my job, despite appearances, I am a much more versatile being.  More of a spirit dressed in a body, and now I am coming to terms with the fact that the body does not last forever, while the spirit does. We need to feed the latter which is what gives sustenance to the body and we have to arrange our lives to put this in perspective through our actions.  I am not saying that I worked myself into this situation altogether but it was definitely a factor and I am sure some of my colleagues are driven people, similar to me.  You have to look deep and hard into all the activities that you invest your time into and be discriminative when you decide which you will undertake and the reason why.  The more reasons you can connect to the welfare of others and your own spiritual development, the more on track you will tend to be.

Your relationships are another corollary. In the brief time since I was diagnosed, I have seen very positive changes in the family dynamics of both my immediate and extended family. Make sure that your house is in order and that you harbor happy/peaceful thoughts about everyone who is part of your life, to the degree that you can, and only you can manage that. Negative thoughts, be they feeling sorry for yourself or disapproving of  others, harm you more than those you find at fault. It is my belief that these emotions, feelings, desires, etc., percolate from your energy body to your physical body and manifest accordingly in due time and that incubation period varies from individual to individual. As a constructive step in this regard, I have for many years been receiving daily inspirational quotes from Ralph Marston at http://greatday.com/.  Someone did me the great favor of subscribing me and I will be forever grateful. The daily email that I receive and often forward to others serves to put my day in perspective and train my mind to follow positive paths. I also subscribe to “I Quote Wisdom” and “Tiny Buddha” on Twitter, which give you bite-sized chunks of insight that likewise help to mold your thoughts along the right lines.

On a more spiritual level, I began to meditate years ago and seriously started practicing yoga about seven years ago.  This has been an incredible moral support and tool for self-development throughout the years and especially in these circumstances.  If you have ever entertained the idea; to start, it is a great investment in your health.

This all begs the question, why did this happen if she followed this advice?

I daresay I did not start the process soon enough and I needed  to learn the lessons above now, among others, and thus a method has been initiated that I can either take advantage of or try to deny.  I am going for the first alternative and I ask all of you who believe, to keep me in your prayers.

In the meantime, I will continue my usual business-related posts as time and health permit and perhaps sneak in a philosophical reflection here and there that I feel may benefit others.

Interpreting Spurs the Monkey Mind


I am not a monkey…am I?
The monkey mind is a concept that was coined in the east.  It refers to a mind that does not focus on the present moment but is always flitting endlessly from one thought to another, in the same way that a monkey furiously jumps from branch to branch. Although it is done unconsciously, it automatically drains quite a lot of brain power that we could be using for productive purposes. Scientists have determined that human beings think an average of 65,000 thoughts a day and 95% are the same thoughts from the day before. (e.g. when is that client going to call me again, I need to create a glossary and study for that conference, I loved seeing the views of the city at night in “Midnight in Paris”, my clothes are ready to pick up at the dry cleaners, etc.)

These statistics forced me to ruminate on how many more thoughts an interpreter produces. In addition to our individual thoughts, when we interpret we hear the thoughts/words of others and however fleetingly, we have to figure out what they mean and turn it into another language, sometimes wondering along the way if we captured a specific thought accurately.

A few years ago when I was studying for my MBA, one of my teachers suggested we read Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, who leads Gallup’s workplace research and leadership consulting worldwide.  Based on more than 40 years of research, this book and test are a distillation of the insights gleaned in this research that has helped millions discover and develop their natural talents.

One would think that after having raised a family which entailed decades of wearing multifarious hats, e.g. being a mom, a short order cook, a makeshift vet, striving to be a femme fatale (definitely not my forte) and then being in business for many years, which brings its own line of bonnets: interpreter, boss, strong-armed collections clerk and miracle worker at-large, that I would know what my natural talents were. Neverthless, I was only aware that  I was good at communicating, I am an interpreter.  I knew I was hardworking because although I was born on a Caribbean island, my life has never been the relaxed tropical affair it should have been sans Fidel. I was raised in Connecticut and the Puritan work ethic is hardwired into my brain. I also knew I was responsible because everyone in my family is militarily responsible and there simply is no other way to be.  You don’t do just what is expected of you but more, and you do it the best way you know how, without cutting any corners. But all in all, I had never taken the time to  officially ponder what my strengths were, these were just things I knew intuitively.

I guess I always had a soft spot for Cheetah…

Rath’s book and accompanying test, which I enthusiastically recommend, taught me that among my  top 5 “themes” are  Input, which means that I have a craving to know more and that I love to collect and archive all kinds of information.  Another is Learner, which is reflective of the fact that I have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve, and that the process of learning, rather than the outcome, is exciting for me. Once it was pointed out to me by my scores, I knew without a doubt that this was all true and that I did indeed present symptoms of the “Monkey Mind”.  Whenever I have to study for a complex case or a conference that I am interpreting, it becomes a mission and the more I learn, the more I am prompted to research and regardless of how much I enjoy it, the downside is that I tend to go overboard and devote much more time to these pursuits than I should, and I have an unending number of files with materials that I may not ever need again.  These files are all taking up real-estate not only in my office and my apartment but in my brain. The more overarching problem is that this discipline is very ingrained in me and creates an avalanche of additional thoughts on a regular basis because I do it constantly. Now I hazard to think that I am not exceptional in this regard as this type of endeavor is something that comes with the territory.  If you are an interpreter and you want to do your job well, you have to prepare, there is no way around that and we often interpret for different industries that are constantly evolving so there is always something new to learn. If my hypothesis is correct then many interpreters must be suffering from MMS, the Monkey Mind Syndrome.  If we extrapolate from the figures above, the average interpreter’s thought load, in conservative terms, could be anywhere between 81,250 and 97,500 a day. This is all made worse by the fallacy of multi-tasking that our society promotes. Our brains can only handle one thing at a time but our thoughts take place so fast that they fool us into thinking that we are doing several things simultaneously.  In the end we are only delaying matters by engaging in multi-tasking because it takes us longer to divide our attention among several issues than if we handled each focusing exclusively on one at a time.

Being a “Learner” as per the above, I pondered on what the most efficient way was to quiet the Monkey Mind as its incessant chatter can sometimes exhaust you and you are not immune to it while working. I also know that the “chatter” is linked to my stress level.  The more stressed we are, the louder we hear our thoughts and the more negative they become.

Once again, I knew from experience that physical exercise had its place in this puzzle.  I had been a gym rat for years and I knew that when exercising or running, if you drive yourself hard enough, you release stress and feel a certain degree of relaxation and euphoria from the endorphins generated.  Sleep and rest are also good alternatives but none of these options do the full job.

The swing back through the trees to a relaxed and productive mind

According to yoga, which I practice regularly, stress is accumulated in the physical body, in our subconscious mind and in our emotional body.  We build up stress when the sum total of our positive thoughts is overwhelmed by a greater number of negative thoughts., which may even be imperceptible to us. Exercising only affects a portion of the stress in the physical body, whereas the culprits lie for the most part in the other two areas to which we do not have ready access by traditional means. Our negative thoughts come in part from our own subconscious mind which is operating 24X7. It does not switch off when we go to sleep. If we are negative thinkers or our immunity/energy level is depressed and generating negative thoughts, then the universal law of “like attracts like” will be working while we are asleep and unable to override it and will reinforce existing negative patterns.  We also pick up negative vibes from others.  We have all experienced this at one time or another.  Our minds are like radio tuners that pick up frequencies from the ether.  We do not even have to know the people whose frequencies we’re picking up. It doesn’t matter where they are located. If you are on the same wave/energy level you will get their “broadcasts”. Take a quick test, and peek at your wellbeing score, at the Twitter Tracker. See how you compare to the rest of the population. Nonetheless, there are tools to “clean out the closet”, digging deeper, helping us to live saner, more relaxed and therefore more productive lives.

These techniques, among others, are breathing methods. Our breath is directly connected to our thoughts.  The slower we breathe, the more calm our thoughts. Picture an interpreter who is agitated under stressful circumstances, unconsciously leaning forward, breathing shallowly and rapidly from the upper chest area. What kind of thoughts is she likely to be having? Are they conducive to doing our job properly? We can however, quickly and efficiently reverse those circumstances, while working, with proper breathing. Another technique to do this is meditation.  Meditation purges our “cache” memory which we humans don’t have a button to push to clear.  As those of us who work with computers know, clearing your cache can significantly improve the speed and performance of your browser/brain. An additional benefit to this simple technique is, that unlike the deal with psychotherapy, you do not have to relive anything you are consciously aware of that created stress in order to process it and remove it. Therapy, in any case, requires a very long, arduous effort. Meditation does the job automatically and also eliminates stresses you may not even be aware of.  Contrary to the myths that abound, it is an effortless and natural technique that our minds inherently enjoy and are drawn to, once we experience it properly.

If you are interested in these topics, there is an ancient maxim that says “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”.  You can start by looking into yoga studios in your area and inquiring if they offer breathing and meditation techniques.  If you are not familiar with local offerings, click here and do a search for programs in your area.  You can easily do research on these methods but they should be taught in person by a teacher that can guide you as needed.  Both are part of an oral tradition that has been handed down through many thousands of years, in addition to hatha yoga’s, poses or “asanas”, that we are most familiar with in the west.  Asanas also have their place in the stress “trifecta” of poses, breathings and meditation. Nonetheless, breathing and meditation are the more advanced techniques and unfortunately, many never forge ahead far enough beyond the exercises to experience their benefits. Don’t get left behind and please share any experiences you have had with either MMS or relief of same.

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