Simona Rich

Self Improvement Blogger, Simona Rich

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Does living in harmony with nature make you grow as a person?

When I lived in UK I met many creative people interested in self improvement, spirituality and natural living. They were people from the cities, either London or cities abroad.

When I moved to India, I witnessed some breath-taking locations untouched by the Westernization bug. However in those locations people were all about blindly following religion and culture, without much independent thought.

Even to this day I wonder why generally people who are most in touch with nature are least interested in spiritual and mental growth.

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    Aug 30 2013: Perhaps you have confused least interested in spiritual and mental growth with the "opportunity for growth". Say you live on a island with only your family. As a family you would share the known, participate in the growth of food, fishing, building, and be limited to your spiritual and mental growth. But you are limited in the pool of knowledge available.

    IMO, to grow we must have some interaction .... that offers the opportunity to develop / grow. There are those among us who refuse to grow even when the opportunity is present. A farmer who refuses to rotate crops has depleted the soil and will "lose the farm" when better methods are available.

    If I tell you that my way is the only way ... and I will kill you if you refuse to do "my way" .... you have seen that I have killed those who disagree. Slowly but surly by generations everyone will do "my way". Learning and growth will be limited to "my way". We have seen this in many forms. Again the opportunity to grow has been eliminated. The necessary interaction is not present.

    Living in harmony with nature neither makes you grow nor denies you growth. I can be in tune with Central Park and still grow .... or not.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Aug 17 2013: Hi Simona,
    Although I have not lived in a place outside the US for as long as 2 years, I have visited less developed, rural, isolated places in our world, and have experienced something that seems to be the opposite of what you describe. It feels a little bit like you are trying to elevate yourself by judging who is more or less mentally and spiritually developed in our world?

    It seems to me, that people in less developed areas are MORE connected with the earth and their place in nature, and understand that we are all part of nature, as has been pointed out in this comment thread.

    I am curious to know what your perception/interpretation of "least developed mentally and spiritually" is, because you say "they were all about blindly following religion and culture without any independent thought".

    Spirituality/spiritualism, even by accepted definition, is often connected with religion, rather than with nature. There are some religious and cultural beliefs that recognize our interconnectedness with all of nature, and there are some religious, cultural beliefs that put humans above (better then) the rest of the natural world.

    I believe living in harmony with nature is a great opportunity to grow and evolve as an individual, while contributing to the whole, and it doesn't feel very useful to try to separate and generalize people in a particular country, because they/we are all part of the same natural world. Some people may have different beliefs, and we/they are all still part of the whole.

    P.S.
    I just looked at your profile Simona, in which you write...
    "I aim to inform, inspire and empower people to change their lives".
    I wonder if your experience is also an opportunity to change your perceptions as well?
    "BE" what you want to "SEE".
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      Aug 29 2013: Thank you for your response, Colleen. As you have not lived outside of the US and have not lived in a different culture, your views can only be gotten from short exposures to the culture which may sometimes be superficial.

      When you actually live in a different culture day in and out, that's when you can truly experience the culture and make conclusions about it. Otherwise it's just an opinion, no matter how well thought-out it is.

      Yes, when I just moved to India I also thought all people are lovely and everything is great. Yet there's a layer beyond that. In fact, many layers! People are nice, yet the religion restricts their development.

      I try to change my perceptions whenever I see them wrong. This conversation, for example, made me change my views about how nature impacts the development of the people, yet the views about the culture that I gained from the experience remained unchanged.! I wish there would be more people with the actual exposure to the Indian culture; it would be interesting to converse with them.
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        Aug 30 2013: Thanks for your response as well Simona.

        I wrote..." I have not lived in a place outside the US for as long as 2 years". I have, however, spent time in several different rural, isolated villages with different cultures on a daily basis, and I did not experience the people as "superficial" at all. So, I think/feel I can make some conclusions, which are opinions....just like yours:>)

        I did not experience everyone as "lovely", and everything "great". I observed and interacted with people as people. I wrote, in my previous comment..." it doesn't feel very useful to try to separate and generalize people in a particular country, because they/we are all part of the same natural world. Some people may have different beliefs, and we/they are all still part of the whole."

        I agree Simona that there are more and more layers to discover in all of us, including ourselves:>)
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          Aug 30 2013: Thanks for your comment and clarifying your take on this issue! Of course I agree that no matter how different we are, we are part of the whole.
  • Aug 31 2013: You are more than important to me, you are vital. Each person must know this of themselves. This is the answer to the question of living in harmony.

    There is a concept called "spirit of the times." That recognition is one path to search upon for coherence of oneself, for integrity.

    Far in another land of immense vistas, and greater distance among humans, there is a tradition in which the people, the Dine' or Navajo, teach and remind themselves to experience Beauty. They chant and travel forever the Beauty Way. They have social and private Ways of cleansing their minds and spirits of the difficult, confused, conflicting thoughts and issues that one might experience. It is good to know more about them.

    To different degrees these peoples I mention, as the Haenyeo you met, do not avoid what is to be found among other humans, and even though they suffer from many ills, some of very divorced-from-spiritual activities in the world they know, some resultant health problems from practices imposed by environmentally unhealthy actions, and yet other sources, they can hold traditions that are ways of retaining contact with our nature, and the nature of all that we perceive.

    I believe you pursue an important trail, in explaining to others that we are not truly apart from nature. Not every member of a culture understands some of their traditions, and that failure leads to what we can call superstition. Also, a rigidity of withdrawal from other cultures by an individual, can lead to the same breakdown of understanding - first with one's own nature or spirit, then with others.

    Tell us more.
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    Aug 17 2013: Simona Hi, Your observation establishes this fact that.....

    Harmony between body , mind and soul of an individual is of utmost importance for the growth of a person,

    rather than external environment.

    Harmony with external environment do help but only after there is peace with in.
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      Aug 29 2013: Very true, Adesh! Thanks for your input.
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      Aug 30 2013: I wholeheartedly agree Adesh.....before we can experience peace and contentment with others and our environment, we need to recognize and experience it in our "self".
  • Aug 2 2013: My Dear, You ARE nature. You are not separate from it. Disharmony is caused by this most fundamental misperception.
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    Aug 1 2013: Your observation may not be related to living in harmony with nature. Rather, people who are isolated from different ways of thinking and learning, regardless of the beauty of their natural surroundings, may not be as aware of the potential of independent thought and action as those who live in settings of regular exposure to diversity of cultures, ideas, and points of view. Creativity is most noticeable where cultures connect. Steven Johnson's TED talk is one that takes up this issue about the relationship between contact with different ways of thinking and creative breakthrough.
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      Aug 1 2013: Thank you Fritzie, your answer makes perfect sense.

      From my own experience, however, I can tell that some communities, even exposed to the foreign cultures, still remain exactly the same. Such a case, for example, is Kerala, India, where I lived for two years. Some people don't seem to be affected by foreign cultures, even when they deal with them almost on a daily basis.
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        Aug 2 2013: I understand this, Simona. Some people believe that all the wisdom on Earth resides in them or within a tight community of like-minded people and that they have nothing at all to learn from interaction with or or observation of those with different experience or perspectives. They believe that they can get no benefit from considering ideas other than their own or questioning what they already do and think.

        I find it remarkable, actually, when people are proud not to reflect on their own beliefs or consider questions others may raise about them.

        That attitude is such a huge impediment to learning and personal growth!
      • Aug 30 2013: I wanted to share this story with you......a TED member posted it in another conversation.

        An investment banker stood at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow-fin tuna.

        The banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

        The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”

        The banker then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

        The banker then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
        The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

        con't........
      • Aug 30 2013: 'con't.....

        The investor scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. “

        The investor continued, “And instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would then sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution! You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

        The fisherman asked, “But how long will this all take?”

        To which the banker replied, “Perhaps 15 to 20 years.”

        “But what then?” asked the fisherman.

        The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”

        “Millions. Okay, then what?” wondered the fisherman.

        To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

        Sometimes a simple life is a sign of great wisdom and discernment and insight........

        I feel that perhaps you are generalizing too much, and do not have a rounded view of life......yet :)
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          Aug 31 2013: Interesting story. When I watch the TEDTalks about how robots will eliminate work, people often complain, because all they have been trained to do is work at a job. They don't know how to sleep late, fish a little, play with their kids, take siestas with their wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where they could sip wine with your amigos.

          This is an issue for those that retire as well. They are defined by their job, with few other interests.
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    Sep 1 2013: It might also be the fact that in the western world the promise that you can be whatever you want it's sold to us in all forms and from many directions; and how nice to believe that you can really be whatever you want to be.. all it takes is to buy this book, or join a workshop, or watch a video... In India and especially in the remote locations close to nature people live a realistic life of challenges, they have goals related to survival (to feed the family, to get a good job...) But even there people seek perfection and enlightenment trough mediation and a pure life style.
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    Sep 1 2013: Mind + Body + Spirit
    We are made up of these three parts.
    All three parts require nurture for us to grow.

    So the answer to your excellent question is yes.
    Living in harmony with nature does make us grow as a person.
    Harmony with nature is big. It means staying connected to our core self.
  • Sep 1 2013: Living in harmony with nature does make you grow as a person.But , whereas spiritual and mental growth , and religion is concerned, these are three different things. Spirituality is not Religion. Spirituality is independent of any religion present in the world.Spirituality does helps in mental growth . But,religion does not .
  • Sep 1 2013: Hi Dear Simona Rich.I am supposed that's the phenomenon among our general humanbeing:we often ignore what we have but we do insist on seeking what we don't have.I found sometimes I have been in this situation too.

    I observe we humanbeing is such a freak species:sometimes we know what we should do but we just don't want to do so.
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    Aug 31 2013: Spiritual growth is essential in life and nature is the best teacher !
    Nature offers with an alternative perspective, it somehow makes us think and reflect on our life. The moment we reflect on our life , we grow better and better each time we learn from the past ! Yes living in harmony with nature makes you grow as a person.


    Read the complete works of Swami Vivekananda philosophy.
  • Aug 31 2013: Perhaps the people in those locations in India do not need or want spiritual and mental growth.

    Perhaps they have already achieved what you seem to be pursuing.

    To me, your question and explanation seem to be full of assumptions. You seem so certain about matters that I consider to be incomprehensible.

    How can you possibly determine whether or not someone else is experiencing spiritual and mental growth?

    What is spiritual and mental growth? I have witnessed people pursue spiritual and mental growth, and in the end, they seem no better, no more peaceful, no more confident of their values and endeavors, than when they started their pursuit. People change continually, and some people believe that these changes are growth. In my experience, that growth is actually just change, and often is not particularly positive in the end.

    How do you judge what is the better path for someone else? Blindly following a culture could possibly be a very positive path.

    When civilization eventually collapses, it will be the most technologically backward of cultures that will manage to perpetuate the human species (if there are any left). Those cultures are possible because of the "brainwashing" of the young. So how can we be so certain that independent thought is a positive cultural trait?
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    Aug 31 2013: Excellent Question.

    I started a new diet four months ago. It is the no processed sugar diet, mostly raw vegetables, fruits and nuts. The results are fantastic. Almost every medical complaint I had went away. My mind cleared up to crystal clarity. I can think again. Thinking is a big thing for me because I tend to be extremely curious and question everything. This brain function was starting to decline in my 62 year old brain. Now, I feel like a young man again.

    Because I limited my food intake to fresh, unprocessed foods, I've been taken with a desire to grow more of my own and become more of a naturalist in life. While I still like to hang on to my technological edge, I have reduce my dependence on computers and other technologies, resorting to using a notebook to store readily accessible, personal information. It appears to help me stay better organized. At least my handwriting is improving.

    The biggest bug to touch non-western countries appears to be fast food, processed food and processed sugar. I read that health issues, usually found in western societies, are starting to become as numerous in modernizing societies, especially if they consume our sugary sweet fast food and more meat in their diet.

    When you eat to please your body, you don't feel hungry anymore and have more endurance for tasks throughout the day. You breath better, and have a sense of calm. It makes you feel more in tune with life and nature.

    My desires for mental growth are combined with just a touch of spiritual curiosity. I can't explain everything with science so I like to leave the door open for new ideas. I guess I'm more agnostic than atheistic. But, above all, more trusting with nature and science.
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    Aug 31 2013: Every experience can contribute to growth if we choose to grow in such a way. Depends on perspective and most of the time society/culture has much to do with it if we allow it to shape our perspectives.
  • Aug 31 2013: India is the large country with nearly 1.2 billion population.India has very high diversity in terms of religion,customs,ways of living,languages and culture.So the experience you are pointing out here might be constructed out from one small part of India.

    Specifically talking about the kind of place you have mentioned here,many people in such places are too busy to earn their livelihood.And in terms of their relation with religion and spirituality many might be just following their religion customs without much of rationalizing their belief,just because they might not find the need to do so and might be happy to live as they do.And sometimes social constructs might also be hindering their independent thoughts.
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    Aug 31 2013: Re: living in harmony with nature


    Is nature all that harmonious? Consider this example about the first group of baboons that Robert Saplosky started observing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4UMyTnlaMY
    • Aug 31 2013: From below........"This is an issue for those that retire as well. They are defined by their job, with few other interests."

      I very much agree with this.

      It is a shame when we confuse life with work/job.

      Your comment reminded me of a short video someone posted on a conversation a while back where kids are "molded" into this kind of factory lifestyle........in and out of school.....in and out of university.....in and out of a 9-5 job............then-----retirement. But by then, if we were not careful, we could have lost touch with who we really were............our passions, or just the simple everyday things that could bring us joy.

      I think this topic would make a wonderful conversation.
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    Aug 30 2013: Aren't those breathtaking locations breathtaking BECAUSE they are untouched by the Westernisation bug? Is there some truth in the notion that the Westernisation of traditional cultures and tourism is corrosive of what we consider "breathtaking" - but at the same time what traditional culture sees as their own routine normality? Do we not destroy what we love to see?

    It's difficult to unpick the complex mechanisms and interactions going on in the meeting of cultures, but I'm pretty sure that the myriad differences in ingrained perceptions of "normality" has something to do with it. I also think that the idea of spiritual and mental growth in the West is far different to the idea of what it is in a traditional culture. In other words, we would tend to endow every culture, no matter how they have evolved over thousands of years, with aspirational Western sensibilities, and our somewhat arrogant ideas of what spiritual and mental "growth" actually is.

    Growth is by nature energy hungry, and what feeds that growth has to be sustained somewhere, somehow. If the thing feeding the growth has reached equilibrium, sometimes it's best to stay comfortably still - and blindly follow religion and culture without much independent thought.

    Could it be the "equilibrium" of people, culture and landscape in balance that we find so breathtaking?

    It's interesting that Western culture has the potential to be a potent contaminant of traditional cultures - never the other way round.
  • Aug 30 2013: Your comments Simona are very surprising coming from a "Personal Development Coach".

    As the last paragraph you state "Even to this day I wonder"...is a vast over-generalization, again something I would not expect from a development coach. One stand of thought that you need to work on as wondering wont answer the question, nor will most here, unless they have thought about it, and equally lived in the 3rd world for an extended amount of time.

    So since your there, it seems that your best position to answer this question yourself, or at least research it. It might take a long time for you to understand why it may "seem" this way... I wish you luck in finding that answer and indirectly the personal development it brings.
  • Aug 30 2013: This is an intriguing topic. Where I am from (Vermont, USA), there is a diverse mix of people in the very rural areas. There are people that do what their parents taught them which is: work hard, be a christian, rinse and repeat. Others like my wife's parents, move to rural areas to go 'back to the woods' there are mildly reclusive artists, that are always trying to do good for themselves or others. They have found spiritual growth being deep in the woods and a new appreciation for the little things. It is an inspiring way to live, but in the United States there are a lot of obstacles that prevent people from doing that. People want to develop their minds, so they go to college, even though they can't afford it, and come out with crippling debt, a bad job, and no health care. So they end up, sick, poor, and discontented.
    Citizens of the United States have forgotten how to truly protest for change.
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    Aug 30 2013: Hi Simona Rich,
    You ask: "why generally people who are most in touch with nature are least interested in spiritual and mental growth." You mean here people you met in India, etc.

    As for now, I see 2 possible answers:

    1. Those people do not feel the need for spirituality as we do when we run our rushy or hasty modern life, because they might be already immersed in it (spirituality) unknowingly. Perhaps they are not aware of their situation or not aware of the need for spiritual life as you feel, but it does not mean they are not spiritual at their core, let it be even sub-consciously.

    2. As materialistically they need to struggle far more to make their living, compared to the Western world, they might not have the time, energy and mind setup to dedicate themselves to higher spiritual aspirations. I am talking about the general majority. There are ofcourse many examples when great spiritualists emerged from the very poors.

    Generally speaking, please be careful not to impose your Western definitions upon other cultures or societies. For example, you say they follow blindly their religions. But in the East, at least by definition, religions are not dogmatic like the Western monotheistic religions are. Meaning, one can be very religious in the East (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc), but still be very tolerant to other religions too and even to modern science. So be careful not to interpret even their blind religious beliefs as if it means they are not spiritual by your Western definitions.
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      Aug 30 2013: "As materialistically they need to struggle far more to make their living, compared to the Western world, they might not have the time, energy and mind setup to dedicate themselves to higher spiritual aspirations. I am talking about the general majority." -- I completely agree with you here and I think you've answered my TED question. Thank you.
      • Aug 30 2013: Continued from my comment below:

        I guess there's no way to do justice to, or add fulfillingly in short comment, but here's some experience to add to Yubal's attempt to cross cultures.
        When with some beautiful Siberian tribes, we found a piece of cultural insight: For some it is a severe moral wrong to dig into the ground. Surprisingly this seemingly backward or primitive idea turns out to be compelling. In North America, especially on land used for the economic gain of colonisers, the immense crush to mine metals from gold to uranium, creates poisoned groundwater, concentrated tailings that destroy the health of those who depend upon natural waters and organisms for life. All species suffer.
        Many of us may not agree with religious beliefs that the Earth is a place of or for suffering. Such a concept is social in origin, perhaps having to do with competition as a culture. Perhaps it's a natural result of temporary population overbloom. THe latter certainly seems so, as living among small cultures not exceeding their ecosystem balance do not so strongly conceive of the concept personally.
        Back to direct spirituality: the original peoples of Australia explored their nonsocial selves in nature through "Walkabout." Here's another culture that temporarily abandons society for insight, respite, adventure, in the mysterious natural world. Notice that these people were the least possession-oriented, using their cultural skills to live, touching the recognition of all the Earth as alive, of all time being a place. Limited comment here only allows a start, hoping you will understand that spirit is contained in the possibilities of every cell, every material of this, our home.
        I spoke of Lakota and generally aboriginal people; in their histories are, above all things, relationship.
        Both within their social structures and in the wild alone, they experience relationship. No place is foreign, no place not alive with relationship. Deepening feeling of relationship is spirit.
  • Aug 30 2013: One can only grow as a person by connecting with nature in a purely non-theological fashion, that is, exploring the natural world with and open mind and the lust for new knowledge. Religion and certain cultures will ruin any society, regardless of whether or not said society is connected with nature.
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      Aug 30 2013: Thank you for your comment, it makes total sense. We can indeed learn a great deal from nature by being open-minded and not classifying things which tends to make us narrow-minded.
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    Aug 17 2013: @ Jhonny Atman: 'Perhaps this is just a melancholic reaction of the colonialist blueprint, and you could soon be re-invaded be England!'
    Maybe. But it appears to me the observation and conclusion are both too sweeping and in too little time. History goes through cycles. It is interesting observation that people only start growing spirituality when their basic needs are covered. That is why people of India were traditionally happy in their land and with their produce and, generally, as a group of adventurers, explorers or emissaries never invaded a foreign culture in known history, certainly not by ships or on horseback yielding swords. Those who did it to India did because in their lands they were not covered once. I don't wish that underdeveloped mental or spiritual mindset of these people changed by any external light, more particularly, because in few decades they will comprise one quarter of humanity.
    I am very uncomfortable with unsolicited help, the kind that 'white' men offered to Native Americans once, or in Australia or in New Zealand. I am more uncomfortable with the help offered in the name of spirituality as religion sneaks behind it as it did in Africa, in India or in Philippines.
    People who are most in touch with nature should be left with nature.
  • Aug 3 2013: Hmmm, an interesting observation about how those closer to nature are less spiritual. The fact is, those living in cities feel the distance between their lives and one of deeper spirituality more deeply because of the modern lifestyle which can be very unhealthy. So, they seek a better way, a deeper understanding. Those living a life of poverty or a life which does not allow time for the asking of questions about life because they need to eat often dream of being rich and not having to work. Those living in very traditional communities are brought up in such a way and don't ask questions either, afterall everyone says its true. India is still very poor and the traditionally brought up people in the country dream of having a better life of leisure or comfort, not having to worry how they will eat or survive. So, their concern is say a business to make more money not a need to philosophise or ask deep questions. Indeed, their parents say to them, go to school and study, go to university and become a doctor, engineer, businessman, dentist, basically anything which makes money but nothing that the child actually is passionate about (other than the aforementioned). The fact that china and india don't have a social system, ie no pensions means the parents need their children to make enough money so they can take care of them when they get old. Now, lets look at those native peoples who actually do live close to nature, e.g. the African bushmen or Australian aborigines. Most no longer live this way but even those who do must first find a way to survive, so even these people become pragmatic about nature, I can build a hut or shelter if I cut down this tree etc. So, even here there are few people who seek deeper answers, these people who do are driven by it, e.g. medicine men or priestesses etc. Nonetheless, these people also know how to live in closer harmony because nature is in their face every day, you cannot escape it.
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      Aug 3 2013: Completely agree with you, Frank. It was my own experience that once there's no need to think about the survival and you live in comfort, that's when the real spiritual growth can take place (unless you listen to you ego).

      However my spiritual growth started when I was in a situation I wanted to escape (working for someone else) and having a horrible relationship. I think this growth started at that point because I had faith in the spiritual side of life.

      For a long time I was in contact with people of lower castes of India, even the lowest. It's interesting to note that usually these people always have food (they know wonderful ways to make money), however the STANDARD of life is very low. So their survival needs are covered.

      When you see beggars in the streets of India, know that they are not alone. They are behind the organisation. They give their earnings to the "boss" and they receive food, shelter and protection for that. So it's a business really.

      What I'm getting at is that usually their survival needs are covered. Such people have plenty of time to grow spiritually and mentally, but what they do most of the time is talk about mundane things, gossip, play games and so on.
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    Aug 2 2013: All form of our thoughts ( whether spiritual or scientific or philosophical ) evolved from our fore fathers who used to live in nature.... just look back in Ancient Greece , India or Arab . So the conclusion drawn in above post is questionable.
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    Sep 1 2013: what happened to the TED,I cant post my own conversations any more,can you ? Do you know why?
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    Sep 1 2013: "nature" is just a random collection of circumstances. living in harmony with a random surroundings can not possibly grow you as a person. it just makes you survivable. as our capabilities grow, we can disconnect ourselves from this random playground, and we can live a life we really want.

    there is a straight line from bacteria, through plankton, through primitive life forms, up to the most developed beings, and humans on top. living in "harmony with nature" is not a choice for a plankton. and it is a painful necessity for a primate. you can not ignore disease, you can not ignore hunger, or cold. you need to play by the rules set by nature. but it is not something to celebrate. defeating nature is something to celebrate. hunger, cholera, predators, cold and all these "gifts" of nature were defeated one by one. the way forward is to disconnect ourselves from nature even more. there is much work to do left. we still have to fight many diseases. we need to secure our food sources. we need to defend against disasters.

    and after all this is done, we can really go for a picnic in the woods, enjoying the sound of tree leaves in the summer breeze, breathing the rich odours of forest soil, feeling the sun's touch on our skins, knowing that we are safe, we came here as tourists, and will go home to comfort.

    shame to all that creates guilt in us for what we have achieved.
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      Sep 1 2013: True; in the straight line, from when we were that single-celled organism that pulled ourselves out of the primordial ooze, to fish, to ape, to Homonid, to Homo sapiens idaltu, to Homo sapiens sapiens -for 4.5 billion years now- we have been striving to become our best selves; human being.

      In order to get this far, we aligned ourselves with something bigger than ourselves, a leaf, a tree, a huge mountain, the moon, planets and stars in the sky......the universe. Some of us spent our whole lives aligning with nature ( Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Avicenna, DaVinci, Curie, Yonath, Barré-Sinoussi, Elion, etc.etc.etc.).

      Perhaps what made us grow, step by step, from our single-celled-great-grandparent, were those periods in which we strived for and gained mastery over the lower nature of ourselves and stepped into our higher self by defeating our lower self.

      Maybe what makes us stand above all other animals and life forms is not our ability to act from our reptilian brain (distrust and destroy) but our ability to appreciate the mathematics of our life in this universe, the rareness of its probability and how far we have come.. by using our two cerebral hemispheres.

      :)

      http://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_demos_the_13th_century_astrolabe.html
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo_da_Vinci
      http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hominidae_tree_01.png
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebral_hemisphere
      p.s I am proud of the good we have achieved..including the latest: landing a rover on Mars!!!!

      I hope you enjoy these fascinating Talks:
      http://www.ted.com/playlists/16/way_way_out_there.html
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    Aug 31 2013: Hello Simona,
    One reason that people in India are not that much into self-improvement (as in psychological and spiritual growth) but Westeners are, is due to religion.
    Westerners are still culturally shot through with the "Protestant Work Ethic" by which one gains brownie points with God through work, charity and becoming a better version of ourselves. Also the notion that we are 'fallen' (we disobeyed God and got kicked out of Paradise), and are therefore guilty and have to redeem ourselves adds impetus to this.
    By contrast, Indian culture is much more shot through with the notion of 'karma' where one accepts one's lot in life which is 'justified' by how previous incarnations have been lived. Reincarnation adds to the idea "well, there's always another round" and takes away motivation to "self-improve" in this life.
    Whether one lives in beautiful nature, or in a horrible city is irrelevant to all of this.

    A similar but less marked difference like this can be seen in differing attitudes between northern and southern European countries. The northern ones are (again) strongly Protestant Work Ethic. The southern countries are mainly culturally Catholic where the impetus to entrepreneurship (both in business, and personally) is not nearly as strong. (I'm an English person living in Portugal by the way).
  • Aug 31 2013: It´s as if you were talking about life in America before it was discovered. I've recently read a book called "Things fall apart" which depicts this issue to the extreme. Speaking personally, I am deeply respectful and attached to our mother earth but I am also interested in feeding my mind, but if you think of it, in order to do that you first need to be in contact with your surroundings, being it mountains and valleys or the sea. I dare say those kind of people are the most contented with life whereas others might end up their life still looking for fulfillment.
  • Aug 31 2013: i would think you might be observing your social environments subjectively, but there is and obvious connection between cities and rural areas and their respective education levels. since internal growth is internal, it is not easy to bojectively observe and one has the tendency to judge according to ones own standards, wht you think this internal growth should look like. ultimately i think none of us can make overly effective judges of others.
  • Aug 31 2013: I kinda like what Stan Tenen has to say about integrity being an inner/outer thing {I'd also like to break out of all dualisms}. Perhaps were stuck here in bodies for areason; maybe we're to find a balance. I've noticed some people like to collect angel figurines, and I wonder sometimes if that's actually a distraction for them!
    To tie this into the nature-thing, maybe First-worlders have had their nifty possessions in their face for so long, and have had enough free-time to wonder where nature went.
    -gotta go; may edit
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    Aug 31 2013: The human species is the only species that does not necessarily assume we are co-related. Julian Jaynes, and others, suggest that our unique "bicameral mind" is a double-camera. On the right, we are all united. In the newer left-hemisphere, the assumption turns into a hypothesis and our species becomes a horde of physicists and philosophers asking what feels like a devastatingly significant question.

    When I die, will all that is important to me about being part of this species, about sharing this planet at this time, die with me? Or, do I achieve the conclusion that I am not only a person with double-hemispheres but also synchronized hemispheres? Does what goes on inside my head "sync" what is in the environment so that "as without, so it is within" and vice-versa?

    Each normally gifted human individual, with sufficient maturity, has the freedom to make that choice--the hermit-isolated bicameral choice, or the synergetic bicameral choice. No individual of any other species appears to behave in a way that is consonant with the isolated choice, unless they are what we call "rabid."

    If we all were to wake up this morning and decide to make the synergetic choice: that we are all in this together, then:

    1. We would be surprised by the overwhelming scientific and mathematical, as well as theoretical evidence to support that assumption.

    2. We would find a lot of evidence to support that the opposite assumption is in fact irrational, with rabid effect on our planet.

    3. The fact that everyone else has made the same assumption is a delightfully self-fulfilling prophecy.

    4. Now our Universe meets William Thurston's geometric definition of a "Unique Universe." Oversimplifying just a tad, because neither of us has all day:

    We have just closed Pandora's Metaphysical Box; we have just opened Schumacher's 8-possible geometric Universe, in 4 dimensions, where P=NP becomes Yang=Yin, becomes Left-Camera=Right Camera, Exterior Lens + Interior Lens. All is analogy.
  • Aug 31 2013: Ma'am Will you please elaborate it briefly?
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    Aug 31 2013: Spiritual growth, I feel, is proportionate to one's knowledge and understanding of "nearby " humans growth. Not just flora and fauna's nature, but human nature as well. What makes the Londoner tick has to be different In India. The growth now is how the two can coexist in an increasingly "smaller world". I would say the fundamentally religious Indian is more aware than you think. There is a quote by Francis Bacon that is, "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." it seems to me the western world commands but does little to obey and the religious obeys but concedes to command.
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    Aug 30 2013: Absolutely! It's too easy to forget what came first. This isn't a chicken/egg argument: we are products of nature, not nurture, yet we've nurtured ourselves into an unnatural disaster. We're the only things (living or not) that can choose to deny the natural process. That said, when we do choose to allow our own nature to shine, connect with the living environment around us and go forward in integrity, we can accomplish anything.
    I do believe that at this point in time, we're reaching a critical crossroads. The status quo is going to lead to our own demise. Returning to nature isn't optional for survival; we can only kid ourselves for so long, and that time is drawing near to an end.
    Speaking on a personal level, to answer the question simply: yes. My first book was the byproduct of spending a lot of time in nature. It's the place I can go to have guaranteed cliarity. Insights flood my mind, and I'm able to sort out everything that I need in order to move forward in the best direction for me. Meditating in nature is nonpareil for human development. Education is a very good thing, but it's often held to a much higher regard than simply being. The balance is necessary. Music without silence in between songs is just continuous and jumbled noise, and our minds won't have a chance to process the information properly. The silence nature offers 24/7 does the same thing. Cheers!
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    Aug 30 2013: we kind lost our touch with nature and we see nature is just source of raw material and money, but that is unfair even for our self , we must see the other side of the nature , the spiritual one ,and also we can learn a lot from just meditation and thinking of it .
    in old eras they are in deep connection with nature and the idea of respecting the nature in order to live and get lived from it . Now our thought its infected just like our universe . and if we want to be better persons in this life we must try to think in the nature . in the nature you can find all king of animals living in harmony even the predator of them they know their limited , but we can't get enough and we doesn't know to to living in peace with each other and you say we are the smarts species in this world , i don't think so right now.
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    Aug 30 2013: Hi again Simona Rich,

    I have read more of your and others' comments in this conversation and find your & their views over decisive. Generally speaking, you take it for granted that being multi-cultured, with many connections, means being spiritual, etc. I don't have enough time to go too deep into that now. But just look back into your own Western history and you will see that with all the connections, the Europeans had fought horrible wars with each other for generations, with the climax the 2 World wars. With all their ambitions to know more and to get in touch with others, the West has created mass-destruction weapons and used them, putting the entire world on the brink of total annihilation. With all the scientific development and the technological applications coming mostly from West, together with West's reckless consuming habit, the world is again under the peril of environmental and then humanity destruction.

    In the East the Core of traditional teachings and their highest philosophy is Self-observation. The real spiritual growth can come ONLY from looking inside yourself, with the use of external experience and guide. So, only accumulating worldwide experiences, and interconnecting with as much as possible people will not lead anywhere, if it is not accompanied with self-observation, self-criticism, etc.

    The impression after reading yours and others comments hereby is that we all are living in a vast Facebook, and that what we just need to do, is to accumulate as much friends and connections as possible like in the Facebook.
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      Aug 30 2013: You said "Generally speaking, you take it for granted that being multi-cultured, with many connections, means being spiritual" -- where did I say that?? Spirituality has nothing to do with being multi-cultured and having many connections:))
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    Aug 30 2013: I don't think there's any connection between nature and making people like a person. I think "person" is a concept related to society. So I'd like to say living in harmony with your surroundings(including nature,people,.......)in the cultrural society makes people grow as a person. Even if you see the Indians following religion and culture, without much independent thought, I think they are growing in their way if they feel comfortable with their society.If one day they discover there's some better way to go, they can decide to change and grow in another way-maybe the way you prefer.
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      Aug 30 2013: "If one day they discover there's some better way to go, they can decide to change and grow in another way-maybe the way you prefer." -- Usually in traditional cultures being different means being an outcast, but I hope that will change.
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        Aug 31 2013: Thank you for your reply and I'm very glad to see your topic is just like a hot cake having attracted so many people's interest.:)
        I agree with what you said that usually in traditional cultures being different means being an outcast, but I also want to point out this is nothing to do with nature. It's the some characteristic of society,in well-developed societies, this also happens in the similar way: people have to follow their superior or boss's orders or follow the crowd closely connected to their life having much influence on the their life to get peace and safety etc. I think nature is powerful ,it can stimulate your morale in living as well as make you despair. In some undeveloped places, people may have very pure heart and be creative in making a living but they also have difficulties in dealing with some natural disasters or diseases, so they may invent some religions or superstitions to express their desires in life or show respect to the nature. These could be very interesting or not acceptable for the people coming outside of their society. But I think it's their process in developing. Maybe they need time. If there are any unharmonious things existing in their society(for example ,people think they cannot grow in the status of their society,they can choose to change it or not. They may launch wars or revolutions to make it more harmonious in their view and their way.If the bigger society ---some powers in the outside world want to change it , it's also possible for them to change, they should have to be in harmony with their outside society ,the bigger one then. I've visited an ancient Haenyeo village in Korea(I saw their traditional house with modern equipment),people outside the village succeeded in communicating with the village head, so they at last decided to change some of their living traditions and their lives became more comfortable ,meanwhile they are also continuing their traditional custom and passing on spirit in their village
    • Aug 30 2013: Too many wonderfully insightful comments exist here to properly place a response.
      We see Yubal's and Yoka Feng's and get a hint of both different cultural recognitions and the insight of Yoka Feng, so let's explore what we can from them. First, Yoka Feng:
      1. Yes! Person is a concept relating to society. We know that our language capacity is a social tool, or social organ. Should we look at the North American Plains Indians, we find a determined ritual of isolation called a vision quest (hanblechiya in Lakota), where a developing person remains isolated until their brain creates a sincere, comprehensive response to the exertion of will - the will to observe the nature around and intimate within, demanding of oneself to the point of refusing to act upon the brain's recognition of basic vital need. A fierce self-teaching, indeed, and perhaps the ultimate in disciplining oneself to merging what some call spirit with all nature. The vision is interpreted by the experienced, probing until the relationship of individual, time, and place is understood. THere is so much more, but this is just one illustration.
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        Aug 31 2013: I felt being flattered and encouraged by your comment. Thank you very much. I'm very lucky to be able to be here with you all discussing all kinds of things in our lives.
  • Aug 10 2013: Living in harmony IS growing as a person,
    and it is nature, it isn't with nature.
    As Scott Bell said below, " My Dear, You ARE nature. You are not separate from it. Disharmony is caused by this most fundamental misconception. "
    I don't believe in God but for the hell of it, let's say I was and I came back.
    First thing I would ask of you (humans) is, "Who told you you were separate from me (nature)?
    "You weren't, you aren't, you never were. What in hell is going on?"
    Just an extra thought.
    Maybe you and others are aware of the story of "two sets of footprints in the sand", yes?
    A god-believer talks to their god and asks why are there always two sets of footprints in the sand,
    except in those times when the person is in such great need and only sees one set? Meaning, they have
    been walking alone? The answer is their god tells them the reason is, "that is when I carried you."
    Well actually it means to me, that is when you are the most spiritual, if you believe in spirituality of some sort.
    I think one reason people don't continue to grow is many believe it is something one has to get done and be done with, instead of the fact it should continue for a lifetime.
    I think the real answer is in your question. When you said, "people who are ...... in touch........"
    One has to be in touch with something or else they are out of touch, split from what is.
    Since what is is so much greater than what (we) are, it can and will teach a person.
    It's not up to me or you or anyone else.
    Who are you to say what is mental and spiritual development?
    Who am I to? No one. Same as you. I wonder how the world would have turned out to this point in time
    if humans had kept themselves out of other peoples business and lives and not wreaked havoc and done all the damage they have done around the world simply for thinking they know better?
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    Aug 3 2013: "Poor people look at middle class, middle class looks at the rich and rich person is a blind person." This is very true, but it doesn't have to be so. There's a spiritual side of human beings too, and you can grow it and set example for others.
    • Aug 6 2013: a rich person is not a blind person i'm sorry that's simply wrong for a whole magnitude of reasons.

      as for your question the truth is the more in touch with nature a group of individuals are the least developed of a group they are and more likely to less educated as the people who truly are one with nature are those who live hand to mouth and because of this those of us living in comfort can never be one with nature and there's literally nothing at all wrong with that.
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    Aug 3 2013: What features of life on Earth do you consider to be other than "natural"? By "natural" do you mean untouched by, and existing apart from, human influence? If so , can you list some examples? If not, can you define your meaning?
  • Aug 3 2013: My view according to studying human history from 500 BC to the current years is that when, in ancient times, small group of people living in isolated pockets of land wouldn't have the oppotunity of finding other human groups in the faraway land. Two reasons; 1. Travelling was almost impossible from here to there where other groups lived. 2. Usually if a person left from his original group, he was usually intended to leave the former anway, thus would have lived with the new group and would never return. Therefore all the staying individuals were satisfied with the way they had lived all their life and feared of any radical changes. And even now there are still some isolated groups in the pacific and India, some of the village people are still living the way they are familiar with, for many years and refuse to adapt into any new social structure. Yes, even in the U. S., there are still small pockets of American Indians, and perhaps some groups of Eskimos in Alaska are maintaining their old life style with only slight changes.
    Since there have been some people from modern societies 'turn back" to living with nature, then it certainly shouldn't be illogical that some of these people choose to keep their ways of living with nature.
    There are also some practical reasons that these people who refuse to be integrated with the modern way of living. I recently read and joined a TED discussion authored by a fellow from India. He said that many of the "village people" have the tendency of having a large number of children, especially boys. The reason is that from their many sons, they are assured of financial support (mainly from farming) from their sons when they get old. So unless they are given a good retirement funding support, both of the parents and their sons are trapped in the rural area and living with nature in sub-stardard conditions. I believe that some of these folks are involuntarily trapped in the environment under which they have lived for all their lives.
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    Aug 2 2013: It could be city dwellers are seeking something they are missing, and those that dwell close to nature have a steady diet of nature and spirituality. Also some cultures openly question authority (including religious leaders) and others cultures do not. And I’m sure there are many other possible reasons.

    Also we all experience things differently, for example; 10 years ago I was DX with a major health issue, and decided to look inward and into the meaning of life type of questions. Others with the same health issue get stuck in asking “why ME!” never really looking for an answer or trying to figure out the lessons.

    We all are on our own unique paths, and need to except that other paths are just as meaningful even though they look different than the one we are on. Looking upon an old age wasting syndrome death likely looks like an ugly death to you, but you try to see it from their point you could see it as letting go of all earthly desires and like Buddha achieving enlightenment.

    personally i have learned it is best to accept and help others on their path and not lead them to my path?
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      Aug 3 2013: I agree, it's better not to try to change the ways of others. If people are ready to grow, they will seek out advice and if it's you they're asking, you can help then. But interfering with their growth by the suggestions from your own level of growth is not likely to change a thing in a person's life.
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    Aug 2 2013: well i guss the same things that made it beautiful untouched nature meant the people weren't touched by outside ideas. It's hard for me to answer your question, Simona, cause I've never been in those extremely primitive, untouched places.

    Are you sure they were blindly following their old ways, Simona? Maybe they had thought about it, and really liked their old ways. What is your evidence they were blindly following?
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      Aug 3 2013: They are blindly following. I lived with Indian families. I've been in close touch with the Indian culture for 2 years now.

      It's not that they thought over it and stuck to their old ways. The people from the lowest and middle castes in India don't question things. And if they did, the culture is structured in a way to suppress any different thought. If someone tries to be different, he/she becomes an outcast.

      The highest caste of India is changing, but they are mainly taking the worst culture traits of the West. I noticed that a Tiny part of the highest castes of India is starting to develop. That could be because they tasted the Western way of life, turned their backs to nature and they got the diseases of the West as a result (stress, depression, obesity, etc.). So that maybe made them think long and hard about what's happening, and that's when they found the spiritual side of life as well as improved their personalities.
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        Aug 3 2013: Simona, I think this is an extremely interesting conversation, but it's hard for me to comment because I've not been among these simple, close-to-nature people. I was trying to think how it would be to live among the hillbillies in America here, they are very rural people, maybe they'd be like you describe. I could possibly think that if they've found a lifestyle that works for them maybe they don't want to question it too much. But my experience has been that even the simplest people do somewhat question their life, examine it, they just might not question it in quite the way you or I would. It's somewhat depressing to think that to be close to nature you have to be a simpleton, perhaps some of what they were doing was sophisticated but you were not tuned into it?, it seems to me there are many kinds of sophistication and some might not be as obvious as others. I do find that I talk to people who are not as sophisticated to me and I can communicate very sophisticated ideas if I take it a little slower, use language that I think will work for them, ask some questions to make sure they're following me. What would you have liked to communicate to your Indian friends that you felt unable to?
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    Aug 2 2013: "When I moved to India, I witnessed some breath-taking locations untouched by the Westernization bug. However in those locations people were the least developed mentally and spiritually I've ever come across. They were all about blindly following religion and culture, without any independent thought. "

    How long are you living in India, if I may ask, please?
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      Aug 3 2013: 2 years.
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        Aug 4 2013: Thank you for replying :)
        Don't you think that's a rather short time to make a sweeping observation in the above quote? I want to assure you that I am not advocating for the spiritual and metal development of the people of a given country, just suggesting. After living in India for half a century, I don't feel confident to come up with a judgment like that.
        But I respect your right of free expression.
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          Aug 17 2013: Perhaps this is just a melancholic reaction of the colonialist blueprint, and you could soon be re-invaded be England!
  • Aug 2 2013: The place where I'm living now is surrounded by mother nature- mountain, trees, bird. I have not left my home town since I was born, so I did not notice nature's gift. Breathing in nature gives inspiration. I can feel that I'm not alone because all things embrace me. It makes me wake up and think that every moment is miracle:)
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    Aug 2 2013: .

    Yes!
    Basically it does
    with less invalid (harmful) happiness,
    which leads us to self-extinction.
    .
  • Aug 1 2013: I do not see living in harmony with nature as something that makes you grow as a person.

    I do think it helps you find peace in life.

    For some, increased personal and spiritual growth comes from study, communication, and meditation. However, one of the things they often seek, or that drives them to pursue answers, is the search for inner peace with life as they know it.

    Perhaps the folks that you came across in India were at peace with life as they know it, which includes living in harmony with nature.
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      Aug 2 2013: Hi Robert,

      Thank you for your response. Yes, some people were at peace, some were not, but due to their culture couldn't do anything about their situation. There are many rules and restrictions in traditional Hindu families and thus sometimes personal growth is very hard to achieve. The family always comes first, individual - second.
      • Aug 2 2013: "They were all about blindly following religion and culture, without any independent thought."

        Growing up in a deeply religious culture can retard your true personal growth as a result of being brainwashed at such an early age. The doctrine, practices, rules and restrictions become intertwined in your learning, your value system, and your personal moral code. You almost have to reject things from the start, or eventually rise above these restrictions to develop your own philosophy on life. Not all societies permit such an evolution to occur as the religious communities see it as a loss of power and control, therefore this way of thinking becomes a threat. Blind acceptance is desired, and through doctrine and teachings, interwoven with the definitions of 'right' and 'good', thus effecting how a person might feel about themselves should they choose to rebel with independent thought IN THIS AREA. Consequently, I agree with your statement about personal growth being hard to achieve in these societies, but I think I would be careful about an assumption about these folks being incapable of independent thought, even in the areas of religion and culture. If the controls of a religion or culture are set too tightly, there will be rebellion, defection, and emigration to other places where less control is being exerted.

        Selfless behavior, putting family ahead of self, or as Spock said "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one", is not necessarily a bad way to approach life provided it is balanced with your needs. Do not lose yourself in the process. You need to be in touch with what makes you and individual and your own personal philosophy of life to find personal happiness, which after survival, should be a high priority goal. You may choose to give up some of this happiness by adopting the values of others, but you need to always know the direction of happiness in order to be able to pursue it.
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          Aug 3 2013: What a beautiful answer. I would have to still affirm that people don't think independently in India. Yes, it might be that they are capable of thought outside of their culture, but then they are afraid to express such thoughts.

          Whenever I talk to anyone in India from lower or middle-class families, the questions are always the same. I'm sure many people who visited India even once can agree with this. And the questions that may be a bit different (like Indian women complaining about their husbands) are pointless because if you answer them in a way that doesn't agree with the culture, your answer will not register.

          I met one Indian girl (she was from a high caste family) that definitely thought independently. However she was unhappy because as a result of her independent outlook she had no friends and the family disowned her.

          I visited meditation places and ashrams where I witnessed some of the most brainwashed people I've ever come across. Blind following of leaders is definitely encouraged in India.