sudesh kannan, ph.d.
For over a decade, Dr. K has been training people to achieve happiness using his simple three step process to cultivate joy, peace and energy. He has been a regular practitioner of meditation and mindfulness for over 20 years. He’s authored more than 25 publications and is co-author of the book “How to Beat the Heart Disease Epidemic among South Asians”. During his leisure time, Dr K has enjoyed and completed several marathons and long distance bike rides. He has a Doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Virginia and a Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to being a teacher and an author, Dr. K is also a business and technical sales consultant.
On Peace Cranes and Meditation!
by Sudesh Kannan (July 2015)
Some of you may know of the pleasure I get from making and giving away Origami "Peace Cranes". This article is from July 2015 <3
My eleven year son sits on the floor of our carpeted living room aka his art studio, surrounded by crumpled pieces of colored paper, he folds a six inch square blue craft origami paper, sky blue on one side, white on the other . . .fold , , unfold .. . . create a crease, his deft fingers pressing, shaping and allowing paper to form its magic. He works patiently on his art form, no hurry in his steps, complete and calm attention to the task at hand, the ancient Japanese art of origami, creations of beauty with paper.
As a teenager, I sat in hot, sweaty mandatory yoga classes with a Buddhist saffron clad teacher, short hair with a widow’s peak that earned him the moniker “Peninsula”, Peninsula intoned instructions in his boring voice, my mind often drifting outside the classroom. The class was in our library, dusty shelves lined with books, high windows to prevent book thieves from reaching out for books through open windows, the floor was hard and dirty and I hated to get my trousers dirty. I detested this class, given my inability to twist and contort my body. Heck! I could not even touch my toes.
All that changed one day, when "Peninsula", introduced us to shavasana, the corpse pose. Eyes closed, laying down, head, torso and legs perfectly flat on the floor, relaxed body, relaxed feet, arms, hands, shoulders, neck. He gently focused our awareness on our body and breath. He guided us to a beautiful valley, our funeral pyre on the banks of a long winding river, the sun witnessing our gradual dissolution of our physical bodies, our free spirits encompassing this great valley and beyond. We are left with nothing but our energies. I melt away into this sense of lightness, joy and absolute peace. I am aware of the restlessness of my class-mates, the chatter of students outside the classroom, the warmth of the room, the smells of sweat . . . and yet I could smell flagrant jasmine flowers, feel the gentle rain that cooled my spirit, the rustle of the wind as it swept through the valley. The dusty books on the shelves seem to act as walls of protection.
I look for ideas to share with my meditation students. Meditation and mindfulness practices are more than sitting cross-legged and chanting Om, it is about active love, compassion and caring for other human beings. My son continues to create his favorite – the Japanese White Crane, square becomes triangles, further folds and creasing the edges and finally an opening . . . the head and tail emerge, finally the wings. I show my son the video about a designer who gave away a thousand cranes to perfect strangers to show her love and compassion for them.
“Can you help me with this 1000 crane project?”
“Yes! Appa! I have about 500 sheets and there is a sale in Michael Craft Store 800 pages for $9.99”, and a “Oh! Another of Dad’s crazy ideas” smile . . . I recognize that smile, it is my fist pump and shout “Yay” at a great idea!
In my early 30s, I struggled with my doctoral program in engineering at University of Virginia, a tree lined campus, created by Thomas Jefferson in the shadow of his hill retreat Monticello, VA in 1819. Stress was palpable as the muggy, warm day, slow research work, fears of funding evaporating. As I returned a stack of books at the Thomas Jefferson Public Library, I found a green cover unassuming book “Where Ever You Go, There you are” by John Kabat Zinn stick out of a book shelf. I flipped through the pages and check out his simple exercises. The well-thumbed book had markings on breathing and body awareness activities, mental strengthening exercises that came back to me like old friends. They soothed my body, released my stresses, and gave me new energy and resilience to finish my doctoral research successfully. The Blue Ridge Mountains on the horizon, reminded me of my lost-now found valley of my high school days.
Mindfulness is the art of training your mind to be aware of the richness of your life, the love that permeates your very existence, your interconnectedness to everyone around you, the smells, the sights, the sounds, the feelings and sensations. You strengthen your mind for happiness, joy, compassion and resilience. It is the act of meditation, the act of kindness, the act of love that strengthens your brain.
My son folds a little nest for two cranes, cranes to be given to our friend’s five year old grand-daughter, . . . soon enough, the Great White Japanese Crane will deliver two baby paper cranes . . . reminding me that acts of kindness are as important for a happy and joyful mind as sitting down and meditating.