Category Archives: Brain

On dreams again

I had this dream today early in the  morning. I was living in Germany. In the street where I was staying, pillars were being erected for a flyover or overhead railway line. I was enquiring with someone if the prize of the apartment I was staying would go up if the construction was complete. There were two small restaurants nearby and I vividly remember choosing between them and picking some specific stuff like juice from one of them. Then there was a room, where there were two Indians apparently changing their cloths. I had picked up some conversation with them, but can’t recollect. I woke by then and was out of the dream.

 Though it looks like one of those common strange dreams, I was amused by the complexity of it. Last night I was watching a film depicting the struggle between an Indian King and the Britishers. There were many English men in the film and only when my wife pointed out, it occurred to me that this had probably triggered the dream. The last time I was in Germany was 2004, but the memories were still intact. The image of the pillar erection comes from Bangalore itself, where the metro rail project is going on. Yesterday afternoon, I had been to a shop right outside the office campus. The place was extremely crowded as I waited in anticipation for the shop keeper’s attention. The shop that I saw in the dream, resembled this shop (the way it was designed). The place I met the two Indians probably (this I am not really sure) came from a movie I watched last week where two Indian medical students turn in to serial killers in the US. They were staying in a similar room in the film.

 All these events had taken place at different points of time and seemingly not related at all. Why the mind tried to connect them in to a dream? Was it just a trial and error going on in the mind to see if it made any sense? Or is there an underlying connection between all these things?

 My experience is that mostly the dreams are triggered by something very recent; something that’s caught the attention. But then what is the mind doing with it during sleep? Is some sense making process going on? And can’t the mind do any sense making without connecting those things together?

How does the mind choose what memory to be recalled in connection with a particular trigger?  Is there a logic that the mind uses or is it just random firing of neurons? Is the mind trying to resolve something? So in reality what is unresolved? The current trigger or some thing unresolved in the memory? In other words is the mind trying to make sense of the current trigger using stuff in memory or is it the other way?

 I happened to catch the dream because I woke up in the middle. But I am sure this must have been happening several times during the night, just that I wasn’t aware or I cannot remember. Is there a result out of these dreams, something like a conclusion, understanding etc, that gets stored in to the mind. In that case it’s very likely that the mind is being programmed without our awareness.

 In the east they say, in deep sleep activities are absorbed in the root ignorance. Probably there is a point.

Positive Affirmations

I was reading an article on Positive Affirmations. Positive Affirmations is a popular (somewhat) technique used to create a strong subconscious (or unconscious) beliefs by repetition. This is touted as a method to create favorable unconscious patterns and also to remove unwanted patterns from the subconscious mind. The method is something like this. If you want to become wealthy, you spend some time everyday repeating something like “I am very wealthy” or something similar. The results are better if combined with visualization. For e.g in this case you also visualize yourself living in a palatial mansion or driving an expensive car or at your dream holiday spot. It’s said that when you create such a positive affirmation in your unconscious mind, it’s bound to happen almost automatically.

 The method had been long used in the ‘mantra’ tradition of the eastern cultures. A ‘mantra’ is a short phrase with or without a meaning and one is required to chant the mantra regularly for a long period. What happens is after a while the conscious mind loses all its interest in the mantra and then it sinks in to your unconscious mind. The unconscious mind understands ‘sound’ and the mantra is typically made of chosen words or syllables which can produce a certain effect. In Hindu tradition, there are mantras for all kind of things: like aquiring intelligence, acquiring money, removing obstacles etc.

 Coming back to the Positive Affirmations. The principle used is the same. When I read it for the first time, it looked pretty logical. But when I thought about it more, I see a catch. What one is trying to do here is to change/create one habit pattern keeping the rest intact. And if this happens, perhaps few other patterns will change unconsciously. It’s something like this. I put an affirmation in to my mind that I want to be wealthy and it becomes my nature. Then I figure out that if I need to be wealthy, it’s going to be at the expense of lot of other things, things that I enjoy doing, time with my family, interests of other people etc. But then I don’t have a choice because the drive to become wealthy is now an unconscious drive in me. Will I have done something good or bad?

 The fundamental question is- is it sufficient to change one thing at a time or is the change holistic? There is definitely a difference between the way eastern traditions and western philosophy approach change. In the western approach one tries to create positive habit patterns and remove the negative habit patterns. They lead to success and well-being in the future. But in the eastern tradition, the idea is not to classify patterns in to good and bad, but to step out of them completely. And the well-being that results in now and here.

Strange Dreams

Like everybody, I do get dreams. Though I must be getting several of them, I don’t remember many when I wake up. Though most them are just trivial or too cluttered, there are a few that are really interesting. These occur when my mind moves between different stages. It’s rather strange, but my mind keeps going around compulsive thinking, deep awareness and presence. These dreams are interesting because they seem very familiar, and are either to do with a distant past (that I don’t remember) or something in the future (that has happened later).

Last Friday night, I had such a dream. I was just recovering from a bad state of mind. I saw a colleague of mine in the dream. We, together with a group of people (who looked like students/tourists) were climbing up a winding pathway. We stopped twice on the way before we climbed up to the highest point. Then apparently for no reason, she just jumped down and died. I could not figure out what happened. It wasn’t clear whether she did jump herself, or was it an accident or someone pushed her. From where I stood, I could see a tall building with a garden (I think so) in front of it.

For whatever reason I believe in re-births and also strongly feel that some of these dreams are to do with some previous lives. But that’s completely illogical too if I had to substantiate it. So I deliberated on whether I should share this dream with my colleague.

 Today, I narrated my dream to her over a coffee. She seemed amused. After a pause she told me something interesting. Even now, apparently she is afraid of heights and whenever she stands at height, she is suddenly overcome by a fear of someone pushing her from behind.

Wow! That was interesting. People who believe in re-birth and past lives, suggest that many unknown elements in our personality such a fear, violent emotions etc are the result of past life experience. And the idea of Past Life Regression is that when you see it yourself, the problem vanishes.

“Was it the past or the future that you saw?” she asked me earnestly.

I had not thought about it earlier. But then it occurred to me that whenever the dreams were about the past, the person’s visual image was not clear. I just knew that it was somebody, but I couldn’t see them or I couldn’t recognize them visually. And I think (this I am not sure) there was no sound. But whenever the dreams were of something in future, I could see the visuals and also hear sound.

 “It was probably in the past” I said.

But I don’t know if there is any logic in this. Perhaps time to read “The Interpretation of Dreams”. I had purchased the book long back, but found it extremely difficult to read. But at least I am going to make an attempt now!

A Nonsense story and Creativity in Children

 “Papa, I have something interesting for you”. My daughter said and I could see that mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

“I will ask you some questions first”, she said

Do I have a choice?.

“Who is your favorite actor?”

“Amir Khan”

“Who is your favorite actress?”

“Kareena Kapoor”

“Choose a number between 0 and 10”

“3”

“Which your favorite pet”

“Dog”

After a short pause, she tell me the following story. “One day, Amir Khan and Kareena Kapoor comes to your home. You ask them how many children they have. They say three. Then you ask them how do they look. And they tell you that they look like dogs”

The way she told me this, she was thoroughly enjoying and looked quite satisfied. Though it looked too silly (and nonsense), I had to pretend that I enjoyed it.

Later as I think of this, it conveys something profound. There has been several studies done on creativity in children. But what prevents us (grown-ups) from being creative like them? In this world we are taught to make sense in what we say and do. Things need to be logical and needs to convey something etc. We are concerned about what others think of what we do or say. And it is this ‘need to make sense’ that doesn’t allow us to be creative..

If we just stop making sense (at least for sometime), perhaps we can get a glimpse of what a creative state is. But that may not be easy. Just try cooking up a story that absolutely makes no sense and telling it to someone, you will be surprised to see how tough that is.

Sleep like a baby

One of our coffee time conversations last week was about sleep. My colleague told me that she was having disturbed sleep these days that makes her drowsy during the day. I suggested her some techniques to for getting a sound sleep. Then it occurred to me that there could be many who would actually benefit from this and hence this post. A sound sleep for me is very important, without which my cognitive abilities do not function properly. A good sleep is also important for a good memory because the data transfer from the temporary memory to the permanent memory is done during sleep (this is called memory consolidation and that’s the reason why people under the influence of alcohol do not remember what happened on the previous night. An alcohol induced sleep is of poor quality and hence the memory transfer does not take place).

Here is a brilliant technique that I have come across for getting a sound sleep. This is practiced by the ancient sages in India and suits people who lead a very stressful existence.

When you retire to bed, lie on your back, relax you body and close your eyes. Now trace all the events of the day backwards from the point of closing your eyes. Just watch yourself going through the activities in the reverse order. Recollect as much of detail as you can including what was going on in your mind. Continue this till the point of waking up in the morning (most of us won’t make it past the evening, we would already be asleep)

Try this. You will sleep like a baby.

This is not a technique to get a good sleep alone. The real purpose is to remove the subconscious impressions in the mind that are caused by the days activities. After few days of practicing this, you will find your mind very lighter. So if you have lots of emotional stress in your life, you know what to do.

Perception with no mind

We are often so caught up with what is going on inside us that we pay very little attention to what’s around us. Scientists say the human mind looks for some basic details to figure out what the object is and usually we are trained to notice differences. May be in the compulsive need to label / understand the object, we compromise on the quality of perception.

I am reading a book titled “Krishnamurti’s Notebook”. This is a diary written by Jiddu Krishnamurti (the famous philosopher, popularly known as K) in the sixties. K is said to have had a mind which was thoughtless. The depth and richness of the perception has an indescribable beauty and majesty. If you ever want to get a feel of what it means to perceive without the mind (without thinking) look at the one page I am reproducing below:

November 17th

The earth was the colour of the sky; the hills, the green, ripening rice fields, the trees and the dry, sandy river-bed were the colour of the sky; every rock on the hills, the big boulders, were the clouds and they were the rocks. Heaven was the earth and the earth heaven; the setting sun had transformed everything. The sky was blazing fire, bursting in every streak of cloud, in every stone, in every blade of grass, in every grain of sand. The sky was ablaze with green, purple, violet, indigo, with the fury of flame. Over that hill it was a vast sweep of purple and gold; over the southern hills a burning delicate green and fading blues; to the east there was a counter sunset as splendid in cardinal red and burnt ochre, magenta and fading violet. The counter sunset was exploding in splendor as in the west; a few clouds had gathered themselves around the setting sun and they were pure, smokeless fire which would never die. The vastness of this fire and its intensity penetrated everything and entered the earth. The earth was the heavens and the heavens the earth. And everything was alive and bursting with colour and the colour was god, not the god of man. The hills became transparent, every rock and boulder was without weight, floating in colour and the distant hills were blue, the blue of all the seas and the sky of every clime. The ripening rice fields were intense pink and green, a stretch of immediate attention. And the road that crossed the valley was purple and white, so alive that it was one of the rays that raced across the sky. You were of that light, burning, furious, exploding, without shadow, without root and word. And as the sun went down further down, every colour became more violent, more intense and you were completely lost, past all recalling. It was an evening that had no memory.

How dreams are constructed

Last night I was travelling back to Bangalore in a bus.

 I had a dream. I was sitting in what looked like a coach and there was someone sitting in front of me. Some people were walking towards the train and some of them tied some kind of shining bracelets on his (the person sitting in front of me) arm which was held out through the window. I was just sitting there watching this.

 Suddenly, I was distracted by the crowing of a rooster and as I turned around, I saw few roosters and hens standing nearby.

At this moment the dream ended and I woke up. But I could still hear the rooster crowing, but now more clearly. For few moments, I wasn’t sure if I was still dreaming or awake! As I came to my senses, things became clear. It was nearly day break and the bus had stopped by a roadside tea shop. And there was a cock standing by the road and crowing! And this was the one that I heard in my dream too. There was such a perfect continuity in the crowing between dreaming and wakeful states. But during the dream, the rooster was very much part of the dream (I actually saw it). So either the subconscious mind heard the sound and integrated it nicely in to the dream. Or the other possibility could be that the crowing of the rooster (heard subconsciously) triggered a dream around it.

 I do not know which is right. I have had this experience before. Sometimes when I have been woken up by people talking loud and if I happened to be dreaming, I used to first hear the conversations as a part of the dream woke up with perfect continuity. There is always a small interval which is very hazy, where I am not sure which state the mind is.

death

I was talking to a friend yesterday morning about death. We were sitting outside the Intensive Care Unit in a Hospital (my father is not well and is admitted there) and yesterday morning the patient in the adjacent bed passed away.

Our conversation drifted off in to what happens when we die. Nowadays scientists are beginning to discover that death may not be as bad a painful experience as we think. There are some studies (there is a program called AWARE) done on people who have head near death experiences. A typical case is of drowning when someone is rescued after being almost drowned (the life lingers on for about 2 minutes after breathing stops) and then rescued. Many of them report that it was not a scary experience, but rather there was complete peace. Studies are also done on patients who have survived on operation tables, wherein they report that they could see themselves lying below, as if they were near the ceiling, being operated upon. Scientists are now validating this by placing certain signs near the roof which are not visible in the lying position and asking such people if they have seen it.

While I told all this to my friend, he narrated to me a near-death experience he had some time back. He was on a bike entering the main road from a pocket road. As he briefly paused for a moment to judge the traffic, a loaded truck that was parked on the side He was on a bike entering the main road from a pocket road. As he briefly paused for a moment to judge the traffic, a loaded truck that was parked on the side began to move back. The truck hit the bike and he fell down on the road and the driver unaware of this moved the truck further back. Some bye standers saw this and alerted the driver who stopped the truck just in time to save my friend who was just few inches away from the rear wheel.

He explained to me what went in his mind during the incident. As he was lying there on the road watching the rear wheels of the truck coming slowly towards him, he was blank. He could have moved away quickly, but instead he just lied there resigned and serene. He told me that for that moment, there were no thoughts in his mind, he did not think of his parents or wife or kids. There was no fear too. He was serene and peaceful.

According to Hindu (also other eastern traditions), everyone is born with a blank mind without any conditioning. Throughout one’s life , one adds conditioning which builds up his identity and again at the time of death, the mind returns to the original unconditioned state. Most of the spiritual practices are trying to get the mind (or consciousness) in to that ‘unconditioned’ state.

But I am not sure if there is something as ‘near death experience’. I thought it was binary- death or no death, or is there something between?

Fear

I had my first roller coaster experience in Disneyland, Paris almost 10 years back. I had never been on a roller coaster till then and had really no clue how it really felt. It was drizzling and my wife and I took shelter near a dome like structure. I then suggested to my wife – anyway we are waiting here, why don’t we check what is inside. So we went inside and were ushered to a boat like structure and until the seat belts were fastened I really had no idea what we were getting in to. The boat slowly moved through the mouth of a canon and moved back, and I said – this is cool. And then suddenly it shot in to darkness, making rounds after rounds at unimaginable speed. I was not breathing (I think so) and closed my eyes and if I recall my mind was blank. I could hear people screaming and I remember once or twice I stretched my arm to check if my wife was still there. After while the boat came to a halt and I opened my eyes to see stars and moon right in front (This ordeal is called Space adventure or something like that). What a relief, and I gave a sigh of relief. But that didn’t last long. It all started again (we had to come back to earth, right?) and we were again in the dark making rounds. We were so much shaken by it that when we were literally trembling as our train to Paris began to move. I was so sure that I could never do it again, and if I do, I would simply be dead. For almost 10 years, I have never attempted it again (also similar stuff like Giant wheels..)

Few months back we were in a theme park near Bangalore where we had passes for all the rides. There was a roller coaster, a smaller one though, and my little daughter wanted to have a ride. I was sure I couldn’t do it and I tried to persuade her to talk he out. No way, she was very adamant and also extremely enthusiastic. After lot of deliberation, I finally decided to let her take a ride. But there was a bigger problem, I couldn’t send her alone. So reluctantly I decided to accompany her.

 As I stood in the queue, there was a battle in my mind. Against all my reasoning ( it was anyway a small one, it was free etc..) there was FEAR. I could feel fear building in me like a lump and something in my said – DON’T. I tried to calm my mind, but the fear was there taking over me. I wanted to run away. I was sure something would happen to me if I take the ride? What happens if I had a heart attack? By then we were boarding the roller coaster. I was completely out of my mind. I was watching the other people getting in and my mind said – here is the last chance to escape. All my reasoning had evaporated and the fear had completely possessed me. I finally managed to put my hand up to tell the operator that I am getting down and the precisely at the moment the roller coaster moved forward.

 In a flash, I went blank and as we made laps (not that bad as the earlier one of course), I suddenly realized there was no fear. We did one more round and by the then I was screaming with my kid and actually was enjoying it.

Recently we were discussing about fear and I used this incident to ask the question – Where is fear?

 Where is fear? Fear is only in the mind. The mind forms a rigid ‘concept’ or an ‘idea’ based mostly on a past experience and it tries to avoid it. Normally it is not that bad because you can choose to avoid such situations in the future ( and I think this is essential for survival). But what happens when the undesirable situation is eminent and unavoidable? This is a torture, fear builds up and the mind tries to tell you that you need to get away to avoid the danger. The more severe the danger is and the more close you are to it, more the trauma. You can even sense fear as a physical sensation, you start to perspire, heartbeat goes up and your breath rapidly. If you observe the mind in such a situation (very unlikely though), you can see mind rattling out warnings and reasons why should be avoiding it. It is also trying to suggest different ways to get out of the situation and end the trauma.

In the above incident, my daughter never had any of these problems, because she was excitedly waiting for our turn to board the rollercoaster. It was something she was eagerly looking forward to. And even for me, there was no fear when I was actually on the rollercoaster.

Fear lives on anticipation. And only when you think about it.

I think all animals too have fear in certain situations.But since for humans the things and events also exist virtually in the mind, fear also exists virtually.

Mind and Impressions

Most of us have the delusion that our thinking is conscious and intentional. But this might be far from truth. I think we have no clue what the mind does with the magnitude of information and sense perceptions that we receive every day. Even things that you don’t notice, are picked up by the subconscious mind and processed. Here is an interesting experience that shows how subtle this is.

About three days back I was in conversation with a colleague on Salary benchmarking. During the discussion he told me that at “Oceanus Builders” (this is a construction company in India), this is what they pay for a 15 year experienced engineer. We continued the conversation and I forgot all about it.

Yesterday night we were in a restaurant for a team outing and one I had a person called Navjit sitting next to me. We were there for about talking and eating.

During my sleep yesterday night I had a dream. In one part of the dream, I was walking with Navjit and he pointed to me an area (there was something like a communication tower there) and told me that ‘Oceanus Builders’ were planning to construct a building there, but it did not go forward because of a technical flaw. I asked him if it is something like a design error and by then the frame of the dream changed.

I remember the dream clearly because at some point, we climbed on a rooftop and I fell from there and I woke with a start. What is also interesting is that this person Navjit is recently purchased an apartment and of late I saw him (and heard him) discussing issues related to it with people over phone.

So in my dream, I actually connected three things and tried to put them in to a meaningful incident. What is surprising is also that in this case, I woke up and caught the dream. So we could be seeing hundreds of such dreams in our sleep and do not remember them at all.

Is it that the mind is trying to do some organizing during sleep of all the information that comes in, to make some sense or is it that some neurons just misfired?

Purposelessness

There is a person I respect a lot; someone living in knowledge. We will call him V, to protect his identity. I first heard of him through a friend who narrated the following incident to me. Once V had been to the US Consulate in Chennai for a visa interview. The place was crowded as usual, and people were impatiently and nervously waiting for their turn. The US Consulate had the reputation of declining Visa without giving any reason. And it was an ordeal for most till they finished the ‘interview’.

There was a coffee shop around where people drank coffee and left the empty cups on the side walls and tables. Then V began to do something strange. He started picking up those cups and deposited them in to the dustbins. No word spoken. More people came and left more cups around. And V continued this till he was called in for the interview. He went inside with not a trace of nervousness.

 This story was the main motivation for me to meet V about 8 years back.

This incident came to mind recently when ‘purposelessness’ came in to a conversation. As the logical mind becomes stronger, it becomes extremely difficult to do something that does not make sense. ‘Let me understand’ is our common reaction especially to new things. And we discard many things in life because they make no sense.

But actually doing something that is ‘purposeless’ can be a profound experience. There is a joy concealed behind them. Ability to do something ‘purposeless’ is a sign of wisdom. This can help someone step out of the logical mind. But it is extremely difficult to do it as the mind will do everything to talk you out of this.

 Here is a simple exercise. When you meet someone either in the office corridor or on the street, just tell them a sentence (for e.g “it is better to be a vegetarian”). Nothing more, nothing less. No introduction, no waiting for a response. Just move on and may be tell the next person too…

Have fun!

The waiting mind

Have you ever observed your mind when you are waiting?

I was in a Supermarket on Sunday with my family. I am not really found of shopping, so I prefer to just wait somewhere taking care of my kid and of course watching people. My wife appears with some goods in hand which goes in to the cart I am guarding and off she goes again. Normally there is a set time (sometimes not explicitly) after which normally I lose my patience. Either we stop the shopping at this point or I swear not to accompany her for another..

But last week I simply stood there watching what happening in the mind ( I am reading book on Mindfulness). As I became impatient, there was a tension building up in the mind. It was as if the flow of thoughts stopped or the thoughts got confined to smaller circles.  The tension in the mind was something similar to what a magnet has on some iron pieces strewn on a paper.

This is what happens in the mind normally when one waits. The thinking becomes unconscious; that’s why many lose temper when they wait. Next time when you are waiting for something and are about to lose your temper, for a moment watch your mind.

But the real revelation was something different. This explains why many of the ideating sessions we conduct in offices do not work. We are there waiting for the idea to come and this waiting makes the mind ‘tense’ which is a non creative state. An idea that arises effortlessly and spontaneously comes from the mind that is not waiting; but at rest. I think this is one of the biggest blocks for creativity; but hard to see because of the contradiction build in to it.

On Connections Again..

 The way mind connects thoughts and memories is something I have been interested in deeply. Perhaps it can throw some light on how the memory is organized and accessed. Since as adults we have consciously/unconsciously altered our thinking patterns and we are very reactive in nature, it is difficult to see the brilliance of the mind. On the other hand children can give you lot of such insights, because what’s in their mind comes out without much of logical interference. Here is an incident that happened today evening.

We were waiting for a doctor’s appointment; and I was chit-chatting with my 6-year-old daughter. Somehow the conversation strayed in to topic of me getting old.

 “Will you look after me when I am old?” I asked her

“Yes” she says

 “What will you give me?”

 “I will give you Orange, Apple….” She pauses here for a moment and suddenly asked..

“Papa, will you buy me those love birds that we saw in the market other day?”

As she went on to describe how many birds she would like to have and what color etc, I was wondering at the abrupt switch in the topic.

Though it seems like that the topic of conversation changed all of a sudden, it is not really so. The two topics are in fact connected.

If you didn’t get it, here is what probably happened. Last week when we were at the market, we saw some pairs of love birds for sale. My daughter was very much interested and we had watched them eating, drinking and merry-making. Probably when this incident is stored in her memory, she has also stored the meta data around it. One such meta data was ‘feeding’- this was something that caught her attention the most.

During our conversation, at the point when she was promising to give me orange, apple etc, it is ‘feeding’ that must have been at the back of her mind(as a feeling or as an experience, I do not know for sure). And immediately the mind connected this conversation to a memory which was also related to ‘feeding’

What makes this even more interesting in children is that the associations are not done through language. This is a common problems we adults face, because most of our experiences are stored as words and sentences and the associations we trend to form generally are derived through word comparisons. But in children, since the language is not yet developed fully, some of these experiences are stored in abstract forms.

 This is also reason why children can think creatively….

PS:I was reading an article on the evolution of language and the author suggests that it in language lies the root cause for schizophrenia. I agree. No wonder silence is so much glorified in this tradition.

Finding Anil Joji

I had just started at the new office. As expected, there were lot of small things to be sorted out, like I wanted the handle of my chair removed and I wanted the AC vent to be partially closed etc. To get all these fixed, I had to interact with someone from the facilities department, called Anil Joji. We exchanged mails and at times we spoke over the phone;but never met in person (unfortunately at the new office, there wasn’t a site where one could look at the photos of employees)

For a strange reason, I became curious about who could this person be (perhaps the name had something catchy about it). We occupy three floors in the building and as we move around, we must have surely be passing by each other. This was a strange thought. But as it happened, I began (sub consciously) to scan people who passed by to spot someone who could potentially be Anil Joji.

Over the next couple of weeks, I had narrowed down the list of possible candidates to two. I was almost sure that one of them was “Anil Joji”. And last week I happened to have one of them close by, and managed to read his name on the identify card. And even to my own surprise, it was Anil Joji.

This was very strange. There was no way I could explain what happened. Till that point I had not realised that subconsciously I was doing this process of elimination.

Later, I tried to figure out how the mind could do such a thing. This is the possible explanation I could figure out.

The first thing that happened was that, as I began to interact, the mind began to identify some unique characteristics. Few that I can recollect:

–          The name suggested that he was from a particular state in India (and I have an idea how the people from that state typically look like)

–          The name also suggested that he was a Christian

–          He was part of the facilities team which meant that

  • He would be seen interacting with teams like admin
  • He would be seen moving around looking busy
  • He is seen around places where there is some problem ((In fact finally when I spotted him, he was in this situation, the lunch was delayed in the canteen and he was there standing)
  • Etcetc….

With these characteristics in mind, over the next few days, my mind was scanning people around trying to find a match and eliminating the others. It came to the point where the list narrowed down to just two.

Later, I narrated the entire event to a friend of mine. I ended with a comment that there is no way computers can match the intelligence of the human brain. In response, he narrated a very interesting incident to me:

Years back, the Deep Blue machine was developed to play chess with Kasprov. The machine was specially programmed to foresee millions of possibilities and moves ahead. As they went on to play, the machine won the first two games. But then Kasprov went on to win the next three games and the series.

Later people asked Kasprov, how he won over such an intelligent computer. And Kasprov said – Computers are programmed by humans and it cannot be more intelligent than them. After the first two games, Kasprov figured out that though the computer was extremely intelligent in one sense, it could not understand something like ‘sacrifice’, which is unique to humans. In the next games he used such approaches to confuse Deep Blue and win over.

Training the mind to think better..

In the last few posts, we have been discussing about the two qualities of the mind:  focusing and expanding. May be it is interesting to look at some simple techniques that can train the mind on these. Though I hate to be prescriptive, I will take an exception here for these might be quiet useful for some of you. These are simple but very profound techniques.

When the “focussing’ aspect is weak, it is experienced as lack of concentration and poor memory. Fundamentally, there is a problem with continuity here, which disturbs a thought train. Here is a simple technique to strengthen this:

Sit quietly, close your eyes and count from 1 to 100 and then back, slowly. If you are distracted and lose your count gently bring the mind back and resume. Do it for few days and once you can do this comfortably, increase the count.

Children whose memory is poor and lack concentration can also use this. But regular practice is needed for few days or even weeks.

I do believe that memorizing things and reciting from memory also has a similar effect, but I haven’t really explored this much.

When the ‘expanding’ aspect is weak, people get too much trapped in thinking and this has an adverse effect on creativity. You can strengthen this by flooding the consciousness with sense perceptions.

Normally, your mind (thinking logical mind) plays a key role in sense perceptions such as seeing. That is why you selectively notice things around you and also miss out on details. But the moment you pay attention to every minute detail, movement etc, something opens up. Walk around seeing everything intently without trying to think, categorize, name, form opinion etc. The mind stops and the consciousness will be flooded with pure perceptions.

The same is true with sound – pay attention to all the sounds around and also the silent gaps between the sounds. Or touch – feel the body touching the cloths, the foot touching the floor, the breath touching your nostrils..

The technique of filling the consciousness with sense perceptions is a meditation technique used in many spiritual traditions.

There is also a ‘walking meditation’ practiced in Buddhist tradition where in one walks slowly, consciously with full awareness of each and every movement and perceptions. Become aware as the leg lifts, moves forwards, touches the floor, wait shifts etc..

As we have discussed, both these aspects need to be strengthened for better thinking. But too much emphasis on one will create an imbalance; one needs to balance the practice with his own natural inclination of thinking.

The only problem with these techniques is that they are too simple for the logical mind to accept and appreciate. It needs something more challenging and attractive.