The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Last Classes, New Ideas :)

Happy summer holiday 2013!!!

Happy summer holiday 2013!!!


This school year is rapidly drawing to a close, so I will take this opportunity to wish you all a very peaceful summer and to reassure you that the ELB is going to still benefit from new thoughts in the summer, just like before. After all, life’s lessons never seem to go on holiday like we do. They are always there, for us to take our pick and share. 🙂

I am writing this post below, to share some thoughts with you, yes, as I have been known to do,  on prejudice and intolerance, the lack of which will help us maintain and cultivate broad-mindedness. Or open-mindedness, if you will. 🙂 Now, what is different about this post is that, in truth, it hasn’t happened yet, by which I mean that the activities I will describe and the links I am about to recommend below are going to be put to work with the students in one of my adult learners groups later today for the first time. Imagine their surprise when I will disclose to them the existence of this article at the end of the class. 🙂 I will be back with impressions in a little while, so hang on.

“Things Should Be as I Think


I Know Best About This (Whatever This Might Be)”


The first two activities I have come up with sprang from a dialog I witnessed at a class one week ago between two of my students. The general topic of the dialogue was good manners around the world, and the more specific aspect discussed was ways of spending Christmas in Poland. I was surprised to discover how certain one of these students was about THE way of spending Christmas in Poland, the one and only PROPER way. The discussion turned out to be very insightful, as it showed that even open-minded people can have strict ideas and views on certain topics. There is, or there may be prejudice, my dears, even in areas we least expect it to appear. The good part is that once exposed hovering around some ideas in our minds, it can easily go out in a splash, like a candle blown out by a kid at bedtime.



– that you were offered an all-inclusive opportunity to travel to an area in your country or to an area that you have never visited beforein a poor country. What would you choose and why? 

– that you were living in a slum (a poor urban area in a big city, sometimes found in  developing countries). How would you feel? What would your celebrations/ anniversaries look like? Would you miss anything?

– that you are a CNN reporter who is given an assignment to interview one of the following people: a trainer from India, an Australian writer or a famous person in your country. Who would you choose to interview and why?


Use the words below to frame or express your own idea about your outlook on the world, on personal success, values and lifestyle:

passion           (a sense of)  purpose             humour              the voice within                   generations                

inhibitions                failures                 disabilities                         problems                          

(passing on) legacies                  (ways of )speaking                  sensitivity (to various issues)                   

Would you cross out any of these words as unnecessary? How about adding anything else to the ones you selected? Explain.


Watch the recently published TED video below (one of the 29,409 vids currently on the TEDx Youtube channel), in which the stand-up Indian comedian from Bangalore, Sandeep Rao, uses the concepts in Activity 2 above, to shape his own view of life and living. 

Do his views differ from yours? In what ways?


This is another video to watch and analyse, which is the second part in a CNN series called Talk Asia. It is a very special video to me, because it is a brief, 9-minute guided tour of the Indian universe described in one of my favourite books, Shantaram, a tour given by the author himself, the Australian-born,  controversial and very charming Gregory David Roberts.

There are a zillion questions I could think of asking after watching this video, but the ones that I would probably go for at my class, a few hours from now, are:

  • Can Christians, Muslims and Hindus celebrate together? Can people, in other words, celebrate together if their beliefs, background, and outlooks are very different?
  • Would you like to be able to be “adopted” by a society that is very different from the one you were born in?
  • Do you think you would be able to “adopt” someone who comes from a society very different from yours? How would you welcome them into your world as you know it?
  • How long do you think a society can last? Can societies disappear completely or do they change into something else? What can they change into, if they do and how are these changes possible?

* * * 

Enjoy and be back for extras!

Good day to you all!

 Alina Alens

Filed under: 0►TRUST, 1►LISTEN▼, 1►TO DO, 2►READ, 3►SPEAK▼, 4►LIFE, ■ Celebrations, ■ Christmas, ■ Compassion, ■ Empathy, ■ Gregory David Roberts, ■ Inspiration, ■ Meet my friends, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ The Path of Metaphor, ■ The Voice Within, ■ Travel, ■ Voice Matters, ■ Writers, ►META PHORS▼

Conversation Topic: Compassion

Be Happy* 

Be happy in the morning with what you have. Be happy in the evening with what you are. Be happy. Don’t complain. Who complains? The blind beggar in you. When you complain, you dance in the mire of ignorance-condition. When you don’t complain, all conditions of the world are at your feet, and God gives you a new name: aspiration. Aspiration is the supreme wealth in the world of light and delight.

What is compassion?

Definition: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is striken by misfortune/ in a difficult situation, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering (improve that situation).


– kindness, benevolence, consideration, humanity, empathy, mercy, charity, fellow feeling, grace, tenderness/ softness, tenderheartedness/ softheartedness, sorrow

– non-discrimination, fairness, tolerance, impartiality, self-sacrifice, openmindedness;


– cruelty, hatred, indiference, meanness, merciless, tyranny, antipathy, animosity, enmity,

–  discrimination, inequity, injustice, intolerance, partiality, prejudice, bias, narrowmindedness.

Topics for Discussion

1. You are a very successful person, who, at the end of 2011 has made considerable profit. What kind of charitable act, fund, foundation or institution, would you choose to invest the extra money in?

2. Read or listen to these stories and make comments about compassion and the compassionate nature of the characters. 


The moon cannot be stolen

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the thief, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and went away in shame.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”


The Ideal of Forgiveness

From Gopal’s Eternal Brother And Other Stories for Children

by Sri Chinmoy

Once there was a great king named Vishwamitra. One day he learned that there was a saint in his kingdom whom everybody adored. The name of this saint was Vashishtha, and everyone gladly touched his feet. Now, although Vishwamitra was a very great king, nobody used to come and touch his feet. People were afraid of him, and they would tremble before him. But with Vashishtha it was different. People gladly touched Vashishtha’s feet with deepest appreciation and admiration. So Vishwamitra was extremely jealous of Vashishtha. Vashishtha was a very great saint. After praying to God for many, many years, Vashishtha had realised God and could speak to God face to face. Vishwamitra knew that this was the reason why everybody was adoring Vashishtha instead of him, so he too started praying to God. He prayed to God for a couple of years very seriously, often fasting but still he did not realise God. Then he became impatient. He went to Vashishtha and said, “You have realised God, but I have not been able to. I wish you to tell the world that I have also realised God, like you.”

Vashista replied, “How can I say that?” “You can say it,” the king insisted. “If you tell people, everybody will believe you, because you yourself have realised God. You know who God is, you speak to God. Tell everyone that I have realised God. Otherwise I shall kill your children!” Vashishtha said, “You can kill my children, but I cannot tell a lie.” Vishwamitra was a most powerful king. One by one he had the hundred sons of Vashishtha killed. The hundred sons were very well educated, kind and spiritual. They had studied the Vedas, the Upanishads and other religious and sacred books. Nevertheless, the notorious king killed them all. Even after doing this Vishwamitra was not satisfied because Vashishtha still refused to announce that he had realised God. After a few months he thought, “This time he has to tell the world that I have realised God, or I shall kill him!” With this idea in his mind he went to Vashishtha’s small cottage. Before knocking at the door he stood outside quietly listening to the conversation inside. Arundhati, one of Vashishtha’s wives, was saying to her husband, “My lord, why don’t you say that Vishwamitra has realised God? If you had said it I would still have all my children. They were such nice, kind, devoted children. They were all jewels. But just because you wouldn’t say that he has realised God, he has killed all my children, and who knows what he will do next!” Vashishtha said, “How can you ask me to do that? I love him. He has not realised God. How can I tell people that he has realised God? I love him and that is why I cannot tell a lie.” Even though Vishwamitra had killed the hundred sons of Vashishtha, the father could still say that he loved him! When Vishwamitra heard what Vashishtha said, he came running in and touched Vashishtha’s feet, crying, “Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me, my lord. I never knew that anyone on earth could love a person who had killed all his children.” Vashishtha placed his hand on Vishwamitra’s head and blessed him. He said, “Today you have realised God, because today you know what love is, what truth is. God is all forgiveness. I am forgiving you because the God in me is forgiving you. Today you have realised God.” What do we learn from this story? We learn that the ideal of forgiveness is the supreme ideal. When we pray to God we see God’s qualities: love and forgiveness. When we receive love and forgiveness from God we can behave like God towards other people. Vashishtha’s hundred sons were killed, yet even then he loved Vishwamitra. Then, when Vishwamitra begged for forgiveness, Vashishtha gave it immediately, as well as giving him his inner Light, Joy and Power. Like Vashishtha, we always have to forgive people when they do wrong things. In this way we give them our Light, our Truth, our Joy. From this story we also learn the importance of associating with holy men. When we are in the company of a spiritual person, even for a second, what transformation takes place in our life! Our life is changed in the twinkling of an eye.

Note: Here, to realise means to bring the existence of God into your daily, practical understanding and, as a result let it influence you life.


Sympathetic Oneness 

From Garden of the Soul by Sri Chinmoy,

published by Health Communications

A father and son were walking together, enjoying the early morning breeze. They had covered a good distance when the father stopped suddenly and said, “Son, stop!”

The son said, “What’s wrong?”

The father said, “Nothing in particular, but let’s not walk any farther on this road.”

“Why not?” asked the son.

“Do you see that elderly man coming toward us?” the father asked, pointing down the road.

“Yes, I see him,” replied the son.

“He’s a friend of mine,” said the father. “He borrowed money from me and can’t pay it back. Each time he sees me he tells me he’ll borrow the money from someone else and give it to me. This has been going on for a long time, and I don’t want to embarrass him anymore.”

The son said, “Father, if you don’t want to embarrass him, why don’t you tell him that the money is a gift and you don’t want it back?”

“I’ve already told him that,” said the father. “When I said, ‘I don’t want it back; it’s a gift,’ he got mad. He said, ‘I’m not a beggar. I’m your friend. When I was in need, you gave me money, and when I can, I’ll give it back. I want to remain your friend, not become a beggar.’ Now I don’t want to embarrass him, and I don’t want to be embarrassed myself. So let’s take another road.”

The son said, “Father, you are truly good. I’m very proud of you. it’s usually the borrower who tries to avoid the lender. It’s usually the receiver who is embarrassed, not the giver. But you want to spare him embarrassment. What I have learned from you is a sympathetic oneness.”

The Three Hosts 

From Garden of the Soul by Sri Chinmoy,

published by Health Communications

One day a king and his minister went out for a walk incognito. The king said to the minister, “I want to give a reward to anyone who is hospitable to us during our walk.”

The king and the minister went up to one man and said, “We are travelers. This is a fine town and we would like to spend the night here. Could we stay at your house as guests?”

The man insulted them, saying, “How do I know you’re not criminals?”

Then the king and the minister went up and knocked on somebody else’s door. When the man opened the door they asked, “Can we can spend the night here? We are travelers and it’s getting dark.”

The man said, “First tell me how many of you there are. Then I’ll decide.”

The king said, “You see that we are only two. We don’t have much money, but if you allow us to stay with you, before we leave tomorrow morning we’ll pay you what we can.”

Then the king said, “It is still somewhat light out, and your country is very beautiful. We’ll walk around and come back in an hour or so.”

So the king and minister continued walking. They approached another house and knocked on the door. The king said, “We’re travelers. It’s getting dark. Could we spend the night at your house?”

The man said, “Certainly! just tell me how many of you there are.”

The king said, “You can see we are only two.” The king told that person also that they would come back in a while. Then they went back to the palace.

The minister had taken down the address of each person to whom they had spoken, and the following day the king summoned all three to the palace. To the one who had insulted him the king said, “I don’t need you in my kingdom. When travelers come from a different kingdom, we must offer them shelter. You could see we were respectable. It was obvious we weren’t thieves.” And the king threw the man out of his kingdom.

To the second man the king gave a large sum of money. To the third one, who immediately offered shelter and only afterwards asked how many were in their party, the king gave his crown.

He told the man, “In this kingdom we need the kind of people who offer everything without hesitation and only then seek to determine how much is necessary. When we approached you, you didn’t ask how many were in our party. You just said, ‘Come, come!’ The other man first asked how many we had. If we had more people, he might not have agreed to shelter us. We need more people like you.”

So the third man received the crown from the king and took it home as his most treasured possession.


About Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy is an Indian-born poet, writer, musician, artist and spritual teacher who lived in New York, US from 1964 until his passing in 2007. (See the blog entry on Sri Chinmoy’s passing.)

Sri Chinmoy was born in 1931 in Shakpura, Chittagong in what was then British India, and now Bangladesh. At the age of 12 he moved with the rest of his family, to the Sri Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry, south India. Here Sri Chinmoy practised many spiritual disciplines, which led to a profound state of Self-Realisation. As well as spending many hours in meditation, the philosophy of the Sri Aurobindo ashram encouraged an active outer life. This philosophy is known as integral yoga, the idea being to bring spirituality into all aspects of one’s life. In the ashram Sri Chinmoy proved to be an excellent athlete and also he began his first attempts at poetry.

In 1964 Sri Chinmoy felt an inner inspiration to travel to the West to offer the wisdom of Indian spirituality to western seekers. Since arriving in the West, Sri Chinmoy offered many lectures, meditation classes and soulful concerts of meditative music. Sri Chinmoy also serves as a spiritual guide to seekers from around the world. There are now Sri Chinmoy Centres in many different countries in Europe, America, Asia and Australasia . For 37 years Sri Chinmoy offered prayers and meditations at the United Nations in an attempt to foster greater world harmony.

Sri Chinmoy’s teachings advocate a balanced life based on inner spiritual disciplines like meditation and prayer. Sri Chinmoy was also a firm believer in the benefits of physical exercise and completed many marathons and ultra marathons himself. Related to the concept of physical exercise, an important aspect of Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy is self transcendence – the concept of reaching beyond the limitations of the mind to discover your hidden possibilities.

Sri Chinmoy was a prolific author having written almost 1,500 books at the time of his passing, with more unpublished writings still to emerge in the coming years. These are mainly on spiritual themes and include many volumes of poetry. […]

More on Sri Chinmoy on the official complete source here.

This is the main website for Sri Chinmoy. It offers selected writings on spirituality, these include both poetry, questions and answers and talks by Sri Chinmoy. There is also a section called Kind Words. These are pages on Sri Chinmoy’s conversations with prominent world leaders and humanitarians, plus a selection of the tributes that came pouring in from all over the world following his passing. It includes Pope  John Paul II and Pope Paul VI, Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Extra info – by courtesy of musician Atma Anur

Sri Chinmoy was the guru of John McLaughlin, the leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and one of the founders of the music style called „fusion”, who played with Miles Davis and other jazz legends and is still performing today. Sri Chinmoy was also the guru of Narada Michael Walden (and actually gave him that name, Narada) – the producer of Aretha Franklin, Withney Houston or Mariah Carrey, as well as the guru of Carlos Santana.


*Another featured aphorism on Sri Chinmoy’s site:

My ultimate goal is for the power of love
To replace the love of power
Within each individual.
My ultimate goal is for the whole world
To walk together in peace and oneness.
–Sri Chinmoy

Definition of aphorism: short, significant statement of an evident truth concerned with life or nature; distinguished from the axiom because its truths cannot be subjected to scientific demonstration. (Hippocrates was the first to use the term for his Aphorisms, briefly stated medical principles. Note his famous opening sentence: „Life is short, art is long, opportunity fleeting, experimenting dangerous, reasoning difficult.”)

Filed under: 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Atma Anur, ■ Compassion, ■ Compassion - Sri Chinmoy, ■ Sri Chinmoy, TOPICS▼

The Day Has Arrived for Our Century’s Royal Wedding

My favourite quotes of the wedding day come from the speech given by Lord Bishop of London, Right Reverend Dr Richard Chartres, during the royal ceremony. Of many words that have been said at and about the wedding, these are surely words to keep and nourish on at this time and in times to come. It is my pleasure to rewrite some of them below, to remember.

“This is a a joyful day! It is good that people in every continents are able to share in these celebrations. This is, as every wedding day should be: a day of Hope. In a sense, every wedding is a royal wedding, with the bride and the groom as  King and Queenof Creation, making a new life together, so that Life can flow through them, into the future.

“Spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life, in which we discover this:

the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul,

the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves, and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed.

In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.”

“We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely the power that  has been given to us through the discoveries of our last century.  We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence for life, for the earth, and for one another.

Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another a work of art. It is possible to transform, so long as we don’t harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coertion if the spirit is afloat; each must give the other the space and freedom.”

“As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relationships alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We’re all incomplete, we all need the love that is secure, rather than oppressive, we all need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive, but as we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us, and can increasingly fill our life with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which  the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit whose fruits are love and joy and peace.”

God, our Father, we thank You for our families, for the love that we share, and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day, keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life, and help us be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer.

We ask this in the spirit of Jesus Christ,

and we all say ‘Amen!'”

Filed under: 9►EXTRA, ■ Celebrations, ■ Compassion, ■ Leadership, ■ Richard Chartres, ■ Royal Wedding 2012

Call for Compassion

What is the role of  compassion in our lives? The call for compassion bellow was made through the Charter for Compassion initiative.

Filed under: 9►EXTRA, ■ Compassion

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