Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Bilingual Brain

Reading Girl 1During the last year at graduate school, a delicate young lady lived across the door to my room. At late night and early morning, I heard that she read aloud in a language I didn’t understand at all. One evening, I knocked her door open, asking her why I could not understand her English a little bit.

She said, “I am a Doctorate candidate for Medicine. There are a lot of long difficult Biological and Medical terms and abstract academic content to memorize. I am almost 30, unable to memorize things easily in a foreign language, so I translate them into my native language Romanian first, recite over again to commit to memory, and then I can learn and remember them in English.” I looked at her textbooks, scared by all the hard long words. I guess she spent twice more time than an average student did.

During some sleepless nights, I heard she read loudly and drearily in Romanian, feeling frustrated and bored by school life. I believed I could never get a Ph.D.

Actually, I also had trouble thinking clearly and memorizing text in English during my school years. I felt my native language flew freely from my right brain, but English was stuck in my left brain broken into vague pieces.

The human brain functions complexly. If our mind is in the clouds, we still can muddle along with our study and work in our native language. However, it requires more mental energy, focus and inner peace to think, memorize and analyze in a foreign language. If there is no harmony inside us, it is very hard for us to study and work efficiently with a second language.

According to a research, bilingual people have an advantage: the structure of the human brain is altered by the experience of acquiring a second language - the bilingual brain develops more densely, giving it an advantage in various abilities and skills.

Some US researchers theorize that speaking two languages may increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain and keep nerve connections healthy—factors thought to help ward off dementia. Being bilingual may help to keep the brain sharper for longer.

The brain can be thought of as the command centre of the human nervous system. The more we stimulate our brain with thinking activities and movement the more it will reward us. How well we nourish our brain determine how well our brain functions. We have to eat right and sleep sound to maintain our vigor, vitality and creativity at a high level.

I don't remember the lady's name, but she ever told me she could speak several European languages a little, such as French, German and Czech. She is more than bilingual. And her parents passed away.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pain is Wealth of Life

火凤凰"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials." – Confucius

We all would like to live a comfortable and pleasant life, but sometimes adversities and pains are unavoidable. Thinking positively, adversities and pains provide a training ground to refine our character and to strengthen our abilities - they are actually wealth of life.

I ever met the trickiest and the most vexing person, who stepped on my nerve and tormented me, making me unable to have peace of mind day and night. However, after that, I have become emotionally strong, able to keep calm and peaceful with any difficult people. I was hurt so much; no one can hurt me anymore.

Likewise, after you reach the bottom of a valley, every another step is uphill. After the worst scenario, every another day is better and brighter. Tough situations smooth and refine us into valuable and virtuous beings. Pain is blessing in disguise.

Pain is the touchstone of character. Character cannot be developed in ease and effortlessness. Hardships and afflictions provide us opportunity to practice endurance and fortitude, to cultivate morals and virtues, and to refine our personality. With firm and unshakable determination, we can undergo any pain and overcome any obstacle. Hardships cripple the weak, but toughen the strong.

Pain is the first light of wisdom. When a conscientious person feels pain, he will probe deeply into the way and wherefore of the situation, thus obtains patience and insight and gives rise to wisdom. Pain is the best lesson to train us to become mature, wise and strong. Moral improvement and wisdom gain will save us a great deal of trouble in the future.

Pain is medicine to the soul. If something goes wrong, not one side can be 100% right. Even if we are 5% at fault, we reflect ourselves, know our faults and correct them, we are close to have a virtuous and pure mind. When we contemplate earnestly, examine our motives and feelings from a sincere and honest mind, we can uncover our true nature and purify our soul.

Pain is the ladder to success. If we give up when we encounter a small unpleasantness, we can achieve nothing. The key to success lies in patience and persistence. Adversities and pains exercise our mind, fortify our character, build up our wisdom, purify our soul and prepare us for an important mission. Pain is the necessary step stone and ladder to success.

If you already encountered hardship, you should feel grateful. You have been already bestowed a great chance to learn important lessons, to get mature and wise, and to obtain a gentle but strong heart. The earlier the hardship comes, the earlier you can benefit from it.

No pains, no gains. More pains, more gains. Some struggles are what we need to grow fully in life.

If you like this article, you also like this: Pearl - Pain and Shine

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother - Life and Love

The British Council ever asked over 7,000 learners in 46 countries what they considered to be the most beautiful words in the English language. Mother came the top of poll. According to the survey, the top ten most beautiful words in English language are as follows:

  1. Mother;

  2. Passion;

  3. Smile;

  4. Love;

  5. Eternity;

  6. Fantastic;

  7. Destiny;

  8. Freedom;

  9. Liberty;

  10. Tranquility.

Birth is an amazing biological process and a necessity for continuance of society, forming a chain of life. The mother-child relationship is the most beautiful human relationship in the world. Mother is God to her little child.

It is believed all preborn babies possess a soul from the moment of their conception. During the time of pregnancy, the mother is the custodian of the physical and spiritual components of the preborn child in her womb. The quantity of nerve-cells is determined by the nutrition in the womb and the size of nerve-cells is determined by the nutrition after birth.

During infancy, the baby obtains nourishment and pleasure from sucking at the mother's breast. Security and comfort from mother’s care at the early stage play an important role in shaping the child’s behavior pattern in later relationships. An infant feels secure and loved has more chance to become a confident grown-up.

Mother is the first teacher to her child. Her love, care, personality, life style and habits shape her child’s personality, character, intelligence and health. A child receives more influence from the mother than the teachers. Mother’s hands rock the cradle and rock the world as well.

Francis Newman ever said, “All mothers are greater than Pope and more selfless than a saint.” Mother always gives never asking for return. A mother’s love is pure, unselfish and forever. Mother’s love is the greatest love in the world; we should love back unconditionally.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Master Our Emotion

I read this story from a book for kids, but I think the wisdom is deep enough for any adult. In the African prairie, an intrepid wild horse can often be killed by a tiny bat. When a bat attacks a horse, it attaches to a leg of the horse, and then pricks into the horse skin with its sharp teeth and sucks blood from the horse. However hard the horse runs and jumps, it cannot get rid of the bat. The horse can be exhausted to death by raging, running and bleeding. Scientists analyzed the situation and concluded that the small volume of blood loss can’t kill a horse; actually, the horse dies of its uncontrolled fury and wild running.

Usually, we allow the outside events to take charge of our emotions, to stifle our wisdom and to control our reactions. We are not hurt by the other people, but by our own anger, hatred, anxiety or fear. If we lose tempers, we lose our concentration and wisdom; hence, we can’t judge well and react properly. Our uncontrolled emotion can eat us alive. We had better master our emotions and keep calm in any situation so that we can protect ourselves unharmed.

Some researchers believe spiritual living can lead to emotional freedom. Likewise, in Buddhism, as you reach the realm of enlightenment, you can be unmoved by eight kinds of circumstances: - fortune, misfortune, slander, honor, insult, praise, hardship and happiness. If you don’t have right control of your emotion, the good situations can make you go wild with joy and the bad situations can make you feel infuriated or mortified, and then you will become vulnerable. Either good or bad situations can become hindrances.

Slander and insults are most intolerable things for most people. Zen advises people not to dispute or debate when slandered. Being slandered or insulted is helping you eliminate your karmic obstacles and slanderers are collecting their own negative karma. The more you are insulted, the more you are blessed. To remain unmoved by slander is deep concentration and is the revelation of wisdom. It may not be enjoyable, but it is helpful. I think it works sometimes, but you have the right to fight back by resorting to law to get just dues.

As my understanding, to control our emotion means to keep our peace of mind undisturbed and to stick with our principle and belief system at any circumstance. Some people can be mean-spirited and narrow-minded, we can still be kind and fair; some people can be spiteful and slanderous, we can still be warm-hearted and reasonable; some people can play tricks, we can still be generous and graceful.

If we can maintain an undisturbed mind and be our true self unconditionally, we are close to emotional freedom. An emotional mature and strong person is reliable and likable. As James Allen said, “The strong, calm man is always loved and revered. He is like a shade-giving tree in a thirsty land, or a sheltering rock in a storm.”