Thursday, September 18, 2014

SIR HALFORD MACKINDER, EURASIA AND UKRAINE


Below is an article by Swedish geopolitician Bertil Haggman on the growing importance of the geopolitical thinking of Sir Halford Mackinder.


The London Times in 2009 claimed, rightly so, that the Edwardian Scottish geographer Sir Halford Mackinder, (1861 – 1947) Oxford professor and Member of Parliament, is ruling the world of ideas. He was the intellectual architect of modern geopolitics founded by Swedish Uppsala professor and conservative member of the Swedish Riksdag Rudolf Kjellén. Mackinder also put the idea of “the Heartland” at the centre of global diplomacy,“


In the twentyfirst century he is more relevant than ever. Mackinder’s realpolitik is back. Few may recall his name but the world’s foreign policy is played out today according to his geopolitical rules, together with a few other geopoliticians.


Mackinder’s fame came from a  lecture delivered in London in 1904, entitled The Geographical Pivot of History. His proposition number one: the globalised world — crisscrossed by steam, telegram and train — was a closed system. The world was now a unitary space with every strategic advance by one nation necessitating a rival power to retreat. Diplomacy was a zero-sum game and geopolitics meant successfully squaring political power with geographical setting.


Also the key to world power lay in “the Heartland of the Old World”, the Eurasian land mass. This vast land mass included the Iranian upland in the southwest and part of the Mongolian upland in the southeast. The core constituted, however, the Russian Empire. In centuries past this terrain had been the pivot of world history as the Huns, the Mongols and the Magyars swept into Europe. Ranged against this “Heartland” were the sea powers — Great Britain, the United States and Japan. And what geopolitics came down to was an ongoing struggle between the Heartland and the sea powers. Mackinder was worried that an expansionist Russia would act to the detriment of British imperial interests.


Mackinder’s geopolitics was further explored during the 1919 Versailles peace conference in his most significant work, Democratic Ideals and Reality (republished in 2009 under the Faber Find imprint of Lost Classics). Mackinder argued that the First World War victors should base the new world order not on lofty ideals but the hard geopolitical realities underlying history. The most pressing of those realities was the threat posed by a united Russia and Germany. Mackinder’s thesis was simple: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; who rules the World Island commands the world.”


To prevent the land powers to take over he advocated a cordon sanitaire of independent states in Eastern Europe — Ukraine, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary — to act as a bulwark between Germany and Russia.


Sir Halford warned that a protective measure was needed in Eastern Europe from the Adriatic and Black Sea to the Baltic Sea: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and the other states of the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. Mackinder after World War I met with a number of leading politicians (especially Anton Denikin) whom he tried to persuade to recognize the newly created states in Eastern Europe. An anti-Bolshevik coalition was needed. Mackinder’s plan was turned down by the British government. It was also rejected by the War Secretary Winston Churchill.


Mackinder now came out of retirement and warned that “the territory of the USSR is equivalent to the Heartland” and that “if the Soviet Union emerges from this war as conqueror of Germany, she must rank as the greatest land power on the globe”. To secure the maritime democracies from Eurasian aggression, Mackinder proposed a North Atlantic alliance to provide a “bridgehead in France, a moated aerodrome in Britain, and a reserve of trained manpower, agriculture and industries in the eastern United States and Canada”.


Mackinder’s vision of geopolitics contributed greatly to American postwar defense strategy.


At the time the Yale international relations expert Nicholas Spykman wrote that Mackinder’s influence was palpable in US plans to counter Soviet expansion — from the establishment of Nato to the Marshall Plan to intervention in Turkey, Malaya, even Korea :


The policy of containment or encirclement of the USSR was evolved as a direct response to the threat seen to arise from Soviet domination of the Heartland”.


Mackinder later, however, fell out of fashion. During the era of the Vietnam War geopolitics was regarded as a bloody and arguably amoral approach. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan suddenly geopolitics and geography was back. President Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski — raised on the northern edges of the Heartland in Poland — had studied Mackinder. Brzezinski had a reputation for controversial methods.


 In the 1980s Mackinder’s belief in reality over idealism continued to hold sway in Washington and London as both administrations dropped détente to confront head-on the “Evil Empire”. President Reagan’s nuclear proliferation adviser, Colin Gray, was himself a leading scholar of Mackinder.


Many of those who worked in the Nixon and Reagan White Houses — Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney among them — brought their geopolitics back to bear as part of the Bush Administration in 2000. With hundreds of US military bases stretching from Iraq to Afghanistan to Kyrgyzstan, a bid for the Heartland underpinning much 21stcentury Pentagon thinking can be seen.


After 1991 geopolitics is now discussed in the Heartland itself. Russian securocrats have been working to block NATO and US expansion into the former Soviet republics. Putin has long been reaching for his Mackinder. In 2014 he wages war in Europe over Ukraine.


In 2000 Geopolitics: A Textbook was published in Moscow with much of Mackinder’s work translated into Russian for the first time. In Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, think-tanks and diplomats are now surprisingly studying Sir Halford’s geopolitical philosophy.


In Georgia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and even Iran, an overt and covert battle for the Heartland is again being fought.  As in the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s decision makers are once more in the twenty first century reading Mackinder.


Halford J. Mackinder’s Democratic Ideals and Reality has been published by Faber and Faber. For an introduction in Swedish to geopolitics see Bertil Haggman’s book Geopolitik – en introduktion (2009;in Swedish).

Conflicting Views of the President's Foreign Policy

Conflicting Views of the President's Foreign Policy
Laina Farhat-Holzman
Sentinel
September 13, 2014

Journalists often gang up on our presidents. Dwight Eisenhower was dismissed as an inarticulate golf-playing do-nothing by the political elites of his time. In reality, he adeptly handled the earlier years of the Cold War and set forth policies that saw us through a half century. Lyndon Johnson saddled himself with the Vietnam War and was reviled by journalists, academics, and the young, leaving office as a failure. Today, we realize what an astonishing president he was: an unlikely southerner who pushed through the first laws benefitting Black citizens since Lincoln.

Foreign policy has always been tricky for a nation protected by two oceans and unthreatening neighbors. Our earliest presidents warned us to not get entangled in Europe's wars. Then, until the issue of slavery was resolved by the Civil war, we remained isolationist. How could we represent democracy abroad when we had slaves at home? But once that war ended, we entered the international arena, flexing our muscles as an emerging great state. President Teddy Roosevelt received a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the end of a brief (and humiliating) war between the Russian and Japanese Empires.

We reluctantly entered World Wars I and II, neither of which could have ended satisfactorily without us. The Cold War was our longest conflict, an ideological conflict between the modern Western world and USSR's communist dictatorship. We won that one.

One thread characterizes American foreign policy: not permitting any one hegemon (power) to rule over the European and Asian continents. Germany, Japan, and Russia had the potential to become this kind of power. We fought them, leading alliances that were sharp and effective.

A second thread is protecting the global economy, freedom of the seas, and free flow of oil. This has involved us, whether we like it or not, in the Middle East, a region that, without our stabilizing influence, is nasty, contentious, and not a candidate for democratic rule of law. Rule of law, even under a dictator, is better than anarchy and religious factions.

This president sees that our involvement in the Middle East is less strategic now with our own flourishing energy independence. He annoys the chest-thumpers who always prefer a robust military response; instead, he carefully selects which bad actors to hit. His instinct is like Teddy Roosevelt's advice: walk softly but carry a big stick.

Unfortunately, the big stick is tired, thanks to overuse by his predecessor in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is using it as smartly as he can, despite a temporary absence of bipartisanism in our foreign policy and European allies who are (as always) timid in taking on bullies.

In Syria, which he correctly viewed as a tar pit, he refused to use air power to help remove dictator Assad. We now know there are worse things than dictators, such as anarchist Islamists and tribalism. Our intervention in Libya (goaded by France and Senator McCain) removed Gaddafi, but look what followed!

In Iraq and Afghanistan, he has withdrawn our troops when their so-called democratically-elected presidents refused to protect our forces from being subject to their law. Instead, he is using our power in a drone and shadow war against the Islamists rushing into the void. He nailed Osama bin Laden and is organizing international forces against the Islamist monster, ISIS. We have begun an air war there, giving heart to such opposition as the Kurds.

The US has been struggling with finding the right overall policy for the post-Cold War world. This requires thinking, not shooting from the hip. It also requires the support of Congress and war-weary citizens. The President will do this by producing a doctrine that is both thought out and deadly to our enemies.

It takes Machiavellian thinking to deal with Russia and the Ukraine without firing a shot, as it does in dealing with Iran, a master chess player, over their nuclear development. Chess is war by other means.

No president before him saw Pakistan as more enemy than ally. Obama shrewdly refused to notify Pakistan when he sent the SEALS to kill Osama Bin Laden. Many historians think better of him than do the chattering classes.

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Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.

This Is No Longer Your Grandfathers' Army

This Is No Longer Your Grandfathers' Army
Laina Farhat-Holzman
Pajaronian
September 20, 2014

If we are talking softly but carrying a big stick, as President Teddy Roosevelt advised, we need a big stick. Americans divide themselves into hawks who believe freedom requires defense and doves who believe that if we are nice, others will be too.

The hawks are certainly right that a nation without a good military is vulnerable to the world's bullies. The majority of Western European countries are doves, a position they are permitted because since the end of World War II, the United States has been their protector. But the doves need to learn that niceness does not work with violence-prone immigrants, many of whom are not only not nice to their women or each other, but also bite the hand of their benefactors. Internal terror attacks have made that clear. This is no time to cut our military budgets either.

The American armed forces are, without question, the best that the world has ever seen. They are as competent as the ancient Roman armies, but far less violent. The American forces that defeated the Nazis and Japanese empires and occupied both were undoubtedly more decent than other occupying armies have been. Compare them to the Nazis, Japanese, Soviets, or the horrible ISIS in Iraq, for example.

Warfare among pre-Columbus Native American tribes reaped a death toll of 25 percent. Today, even in the Iraq and Afghan wars it is miniscule when compared with the global population. Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker notes that today the world is relatively more peaceful than at any time in history, largely because of Western science, technology, and a standard of global order provided and protected by American power. This includes the role of our military.

Armies are not only about violence.  Armies play a major role in creating nations. During World Wars I and II, the American armed forces brought together young men (and women) from all parts of what was a very regionally distinctive country. Texans and New Yorkers bunked, trained, and fought together, an experience that forged a nation with a common culture when the wars were over. We sometimes forget how mobile our society now is; we can live comfortably anywhere in this country. The Army deserves credit for this.

Israel created a unified country out of immigrants as diverse as professional European Jews and holocaust survivors, Jews from the Muslim world, and villagers from Yemen and Ethiopia. The army, essential for defense in a hostile neighborhood, was also the teacher of a common culture in a generation young enough to learn new things. That both young men and women must serve in the army for a period after high school has helped create a modern, vibrant country.

American foreign policy has long included military training in countries that never had really professional armies. This training includes discipline and self-discipline, identity with the nation rather than the tribe or religious sect, and officer training that teaches critical thinking and modern human rights law. When we have enough time to do this, we create armies as good as those of Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and much of Latin America.

Places where this training has not worked include Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which have far too many recruits who are illiterate and far too many officers who are there by virtue of tribe, ethnicity, or family connections. Our military trainers tried, but really needed several more generations of modernization. But ISIS has no chance of creating a modern army either. They don't even have a common language.

Civil law and order does not take place in a vacuum. Even a less-than-stellar military force is better than anarchy. Imagine trying to create a country with the likes of Boka Haram or ISIL! The combination of force and ignorance is no formula for a stable, modern state.

Today's voluntary military forces are much smaller than our conscript armies of the past, yet they keep us safe and are one of the best hopes for the rest of the world. This is certainly not your grandfather's army, but it is our big stick.

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Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.    

Monday, September 1, 2014

Laina At the Movies

Laina At the Movies
By Laina Farhat-Holzman
August 2014


The Hundred-Foot Journey

Another foodie movie has cheered us all, in sheer contrast with the catastrophe films that mark every summer. Perhaps life is not coming to an end after all.

Oprah Winfrey and Steven Speilberg cooked this one up for us, and it was delicious. The story takes place in a French town near the Swiss border, breathtakingly beautiful. A restaurant rated with one star by the bible of French cuisine, the Michelin Guide, run by a classically trained owner, Madame Malory (played by Helen Mirren), is challenged by a new restaurant across the road from hers, run by immigrants from India. She initially assumes that, distasteful as it is, the restaurant will only be a fast food joint and will not compete for her clientele.

What she does not know is that the newcomers are also classical chefs: restaurant owners for generations in India. The two restaurants engage in a huffy war, each doing what they can to annoy the other, such as going early to the farmers' market and buying up all the good produce, or complaining to the town's mayor about violations of stuffy French food laws.

One serious strain in this otherwise lighthearted film is about why the Indian  family, the Kadams,  emigrated from India. Their restaurant had been torched during a Hindu pogrom against them (they were Muslim, although secular Indians). They had run for their lives, taking only with them their life's savings, chef knives and special chest of Indian spices.

Madame Malory's war against the newcomers gets the unwanted support when the usual French bigots who inhabit the lower levels of French life torch the Indian restaurant. The war ends with Madame Malory's shame and her attempt to make amends.

The foodie delight of this movie centers on the Kadam family's young chef, a youth who from childhood exhibited the talent of the world's best chefs, perfect sense of taste (like perfect pitch for musicians). Hassan Kadam (played by the charming Manish Dayal), apprentices at Madame Malory's restaurant and his extraordinary gifts win the restaurant another Michelin star and launches him into a big-time career.

One can almost taste the refined French sauces modernized by Indian spices! The budding relationship between the starchy Madame Malory and the prickly Kadam papa (played by Om Puri) is almost as delicious.  Bon Appetit!

The Giver

The theme of how utopias morph into dystopias is popular, particularly with summer-released movies. It appears that vacation entertainment must include close calls (or warnings) with social engineering. The Giver is one of the better versions of this genre.

Many of these films open with survivors of some sort of global catastrophe, in which mankind's nastier characteristics have brought apocalyptic ruin. In this film the survivors create what they think will be a perfect, safe, and sane community built on an absolutely flat plateau, high enough to look down on a cloud-shrouded world. Modeled on Plato's Republic and Thomas More's Utopia, wise elders establish the rules for the community's survival. The same problems are identified and eliminated: inequality of wealth, which they see as giving rise to envy and ultimately crime and warfare.

This society, like that of Brave New World, has also eliminated biological family. Young women give birth, but the babies are allotted to foster families to rear. This utopia, like Plato's, humanely destroy babies born with handicaps or mental deficiencies. They also help the elderly to to to the “elsewhere,” which is achieved by an injection that “puts them to sleep.”

The community recognizes some diversity of human capabilities, for which it provides a range of jobs which are assigned to graduates of high school by these wise elders who have watched these children since birth.

Human ceremonial desires are addressed by special services when children turn nine (they are given bicycles), 18 (graduation and career assignments), and memorials for those elders who have gone to the “elsewhere.”

Everyone lives in identical housing (sterile but efficient); everyone wears the same sort of clothing; all have access to the same foods; there is no opportunity for envy. And to eliminate the slightest possibility of aggression, each person self-injects at the start of each day with something that keeps their emotions stable. This results in a culture which is cheerful, amiable, law-abiding, respectful of their governance by the wise elders, and has only the side effect that they see no color. Everything is in shades of black and white.

One elder is assigned to be the caretaker of human history: a library. One youngster from each generation is selected to apprentice to the Giver (history custodian) as a Receiver who will one day be the next Giver.  In this film, we follow the career of one young receiver, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), and one Giver (Jeff Bridges), both of whom go beyond what the elders want. The chief elder is played by Meryl Streep with complete reasonableness, a true believer that human beings must be kept from their worst instincts.

Think about Clockwork Orange, a movie that posited the notion that when you get rid of criminality you may also be getting rid of genius. A society that is only in black and white has not only cut off human horrors, but also human glories.

As utopias go, this film is not as well designed as Plato's or More's, but it shares a lot with Huxley's Brave New World. It is worth seeing and thinking about. (I  wonder if they will show it in Singapore.)

When The Game Stands Tall

I have confessed before that in all my years of schooling, I have never seen a sports event, not even football. In spite of this, my once Stanford baseball coach husband married me. Happily, we have other things in common.

However, despite my dislike for professional or even college sports, I do like many sports movies. When the Game Stands Tall is one that I liked very much!
Inspired by a true story, this film follows the football team of De La Salle High School in Concord, California, which had a winning streak of 151 straight victories over the course of 12 years---until they lost.

Their extraordinary coach, Bob Ladouceur, did what so many coaches do not: he remembered that the purpose of high school sports are to help boys grow into responsible men “who can be counted on.” School sports were begun in Victorian England with the same aim: training young men for leadership and responsibility in their communities and country.

Although I do not understand the rules and plays in football, I do understand war, and it is obvious that the elements required of warriors from the beginning of human society are the same for that substitute for the battlefield, sports. The key to both as effective forces is a keen sense of brotherhood rather than individual glory-seeking.

This is a wonderful, engrossing movie, and worth seeing and thinking about.

The November Man

When the San Francisco Chronicle hates a movie and the Santa Cruz Sentinel loves it, I go see it for myself. It is not difficult to watch Pierce Brosnan, a one-time James Bond, play a retired CIA assassin called back into action to help rescue an endangered mole planted in the Russian government.

It is also wonderful to see the good old Russians returning as excellent villains, a mirror of Putin's current brave new world of dirty tricks. Russian villains are far more satisfying than the flat-earth ignoramuses of the Middle East (ISIS and other monsters).

Since spy thrillers are also travelogues of a sort, we are treated to Serbia's Belgrade, former home of one of the worst villains around, Slobodan Milosevic, who considered rape camps and genocide a terrific way to wage war.

This is a thriller, and a very bloody one at that.  Don't expect much more than entertainment, but do consider an amazing proposal made by one of the villains. His suggestion for the world has some merit.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Yoga Life Column by Ashok Malhotra

Yoga Life Column (June 2014)
Meditation in Action

Janaka was a famous king of India who had mastered the art of meditation in action. Having perfected a number of meditation skills, a monk boasted that he was as good as King Janaka. To test his special capabilities, the monk approached the king and said, "I have mastered the art of meditation in action and am as good as you. If you want proof of my mastery, put me through a test." After listening to the monk intently, the king replied, "I am delighted that you have mastered the art of meditation in action. There is a simple way to check it out. Here is a task for you. Take this wine goblet filled to its brim. Walk through every nook and corner of the palace and come back to me without spilling a single drop."

As the monk picked up the wine goblet, he told himself that he would fix his attention only on the goblet and would not let anything to distract him. With this determination, he walked through the entire palace, watching very carefully his every step so that not a single drop of wine spilled on the ground. Since he was successful in his concentration, he came back to the king and boasted that no one on this earth was equal to him in meditation.

After listening to the monk, the king said, "I am impressed with your power of concentration. You have proved your skills but there is another part to the test. Now take the goblet of wine and walk through the entire palace, make stops to talk to the guards, watch the dancers, look at the paintings and chandeliers, observe the cooks preparing a delicious meal, watch the royal children learning their lessons in the school, smell the flowers in the garden, talk to the ministers, and hold discussion with the justice of the peace. While you are enjoying the panorama of royal life within the boundaries of the palace, see to it that not a single drop of wine spills. If you can accomplish this simple feat then you have perfected the art of meditation in action."

Moral: Live your daily life as meditation in action!

Yoga Life Column by Ashok Malhotra

Yoga Life Column (July 2014)

What is the real meaning of the Yoga, which is so popular in the West? This question was asked by a student who was taking my course on the Philosophy and Psychology of Yoga. He offered me an opportunity to go beyond the philosophical definition of yoga to present a more general understanding of the concept. I started thinking about how to talk about this very important concept in the most genuine way while still keeping its profundity intact.
The word "yoga" comes from the root "Yuj", which means union, harmony or balance. Yoga can be understood as the union of the ordinary-day-today (socially constructed) self with the real self. It can also be grasped as harmony in the three parts of the human being consisting of the bodily, emotional and mental self. Furthermore, it can also be construed as the balance brought about through the physical postures, harmony in the emotions through the breathing exercises and serenity of the mind through the meditation exercises.

Balance is a simple as well as a complex concept. It is simple because it means bringing together different parts so that once they are joined together, they will not topple. This concept becomes complex when it means harmony, togetherness, fitting into each other diverse parts and much more.
Let's look at it in a simple way first. When yoga uses the term balance, it means the fitting together of diverse parts.

For yoga, a human being is a complex creature. It is made up of three parts of the body, heart, and mind. All of these make up one's day to day ordinary self. But there is also another aspect of a human being, which is one's silent self. This silent self is called variously as one's essence, one's soul, one's mind or one's spirit. The three parts of the body, heart and mind make up the psycho-physical aspect or ordinary self of a human being. However, the silent self is the spirit or conscience part of a human being.

The goal of yoga is to bring harmony in the person by offering physical exercises (asanas) to form good habits of the body, breathing exercises (pranayama) to form good habits of the heart and meditation exercises (dhyana) to form good habits of the mind. Once these superior habits of the body, heart and mind are formed, the entire person will be able to achieve a sense of balance. This harmony in the diverse parts of a human being creates a perfect balance in the physical and psychological organism. In the yogic terminology, this perfection in the psychophysical self makes the body and the mind a perfect mirror to express the silent self, which is our conscience or spiritual self.

However, there is a big difference between expressing the ordinary or psycho-physical or talkative self, which is conditioned by the social norms and the silent self that is full of joy, happiness and contentment. The ordinary-talkative self is the stressed-out one, which is full worries and anxieties and is often confused, whereas the silent self is happy and joyful. It experiences the delight of the very fact of existing. In contrast to the ordinary-talkative stressed out self,  the silent self is content. The ordinary self represents imbalance whereas the silent self is the embodiment of balance. According to Yoga, a person who is balanced is together, is healed, is whole and thus is holy.

Exercise for this month:
Caution: This exercise is offered as a suggestion. If done correctly on a regular basis and for a long time, it might help.
Sit in the easy posture. Put your thumbs on the index fingers and place your hands on the knees. Close both of your eyes. Breathe in and out. Observe the flow of your breathing. It will feel good. As you breathe in, think about the sound SO. When you breathe out, think about the sound HUM. While you are breathing in SO and breathing out HUM become aware of the sounds around you. Notice these sounds but do not linger on them. Go back to breathing in SO and breathing out HUM. Continue with breathing in SO and breathing out HUM for a few minutes and then stop. Take a break for one minute. Then continue with breathing in SO and breathing out HUM for two more minutes. It will feel very good.
Start your day by doing this exercise every morning and end your day by doing this exercise every evening for five-six minutes. Power up the engine of your life with this simple exercise each day!

Yoga Life Column by Ashok Malhotra

Yoga Life Column (August 2014)

Students of yoga are usually curious about how to define or grasp the concept of health. In the West, the notion of health is intertwined with our emphasis on running, jogging and spending time on the tread mill. The goal is to bring the heart rate up by speeding the blood flow to different parts of the body so that they will be cleansed. However, the yoga system does not emphasize running or jogging or going on the jogging belt. Instead it offers very simple stretch exercises as a way to sound health.
The Western view lays stress on running and jogging. This points in the direction of vigorous exercise so that the heart keeps going. Whereas the yoga system emphasizes the slowing down of the entire process so that the inner changes in the body or the entire organism take place.
The two outlooks are based on similar concepts of health but offer different ways to refurbish it. Both in the West as well as in Yoga, the goal is to restore to the human being perfect health so that one could live a long life of contentment and joy.

However, there is a difference. The Western view is based on the idea that a human being is a unique entity that is set apart from the world. Its job is to understand the laws of the universe in order to control and lord over the external world. Using this model, the Western emphasis on running, jogging and walking on the treadmill to speed up the heart rate is understandable. By controlling one's metabolism, one controls one's body and health.

Whereas the idea behind the yoga system is that we are organically connected to this earth as well as to the entire universe. Thus we need to work with the external world by getting recharged with its energy to improve ourselves and others in harmony with nature. In contrast to the Western view, Yoga's emphasis is on the eco-logical balance rather than control of nature.
Yoga follows the view of health as understood by the ancient Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine. It believes in three doshas or humors that control our health and well-being. These three doshas are a combination of air and water; water and fire and a congealed form of air, water and fire. If there is an imbalance between and among any of the three doshas, it leads to disease and ill-health.
The goal of physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation exercises (dhyana) is to correct any imbalance among these three doshas so that a person stays healthy and strong and enjoys a long life of contentment and joy.

Note: We might devote some of the future columns on how to achieve physical balance through moderation in eating foods, emotional balance through breathing exercises and mental balance through the meditation exercises.

Exercise for this month:
Caution: This exercise is offered as a suggestion. If done correctly on a regular basis and for a long time, it might help.
Meditation on Sound and Silence: Sit in the easy posture. Keep your back, neck and head straight up. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out. Become aware of the sounds around you. Pay attention to the sounds followed by silence, followed by sounds, followed by silence and so on. Keep your mind on the rhythm of sound, silence, sound, silence and so on. After doing this for two minutes, go back to normal breathing.
When you are trying out this meditation exercise the first time, practice it for two minutes. Go back to your normal breathing for two minutes. During the first week, practice it for a total of ten minutes at each sitting with a break for 1-2 minutes of regular breathing. You can also do this meditation exercise while you lie down on your back or sitting in a chair. This exercise comes in handy when you are taking a long flight.