Category Archives: Mind

The joy of nothingness

As a small child, I used to enjoy watching the rain drops fall from the roof top in to the collecting water, make small bubbles that burst with a small ‘pop’, making concentric circles that travel outward to collide with countless others before disappearing in to the water. By then, several new drops arrive and the process goes on and on without an interruption.

As I simply watch this for a while, something strange used to happen. There was a strange feeling of peace and joy and there was nothing but the continuous birth and death of water bubbles, countless circles and the distinct ‘pop’ sound.

There used to be several small black ants that are caught up the sudden downpour, frantically swimming away to safety. The ant was definitely not enjoying this as I did. That thought made me feel different to be watching the whole thing as is, not affected by it. Strangely, watching these rain drops used to bring a sense of detachment in me; that I did not really bother to rescue the ants.

There was something serene and divine about this. If there was someone above who was watching over us, the humans, running around stressed, fighting, cheating, trying to find happiness, chasing fulfillment… wouldn’t he also have the same sense of detachment that I had?

After a very long time, I was in my hometown last month sitting in the verandah and watching the falling raindrops. At first it brought back the strong memories from my childhood and soon I lost myself again in it. Quite some time should have passed, when it occurred to me that it must have been very long that I indulged in something so trivial and useless; thanks to the industry that I am part of and the fast world that I live in.

The serenity was there, the peace was there and I was lost.

It was a message on impermanence from the heavens. It was pure perception – me, the bubbles- nothing more, nothing less

It was zen

Rain drops

Rain drops

I remembered this today as I watched this TED video the_world_s_most_boring_television_and_why_it_s_hilariously_addictive. This is about the world’s most boring television show and the concept of slow TV. This talk was delivered by Norwegian television producer Thomas Hellum who is behind some of famous ‘boring’ programs aired by the NRK Television. They did shows around very trivial things such as a live telecast of a 7hr train journey (three cameras –one at the front and one each at each side – There was no story, no commentary, just whatever the camera saw and heard), an18 hr fishing expedition and a 5.5day ferry voyage. The Norwegian president appears in the video stating that he has been glued to his chair for 5.5 days (btw, he is 82).Thomas Hellum says that they are planning to live telecast many such trivial things such as knitting, cooking etc etc.

There is something very beautiful about this. They are showing things as is and you see something as is, real time, with nothing to expect, nothing to logically process. If you can overcome the initial barrier of judgment and rejection, something wonderful happens. You begin to thoroughly enjoy and at some point all the noise in the head begins to settle down.

And every great religion has told you how nice it feels when that damn noise stops.

This is like a new age zen and I believe increasingly there is an absolute need for people to fully engage in something that is trivial, of no use as such, logically unconvincing…This might probably be the next booming industry, a technology powered zen at a very large scale.

This will be the new religion and spirituality of the world.

afterthought: I watched the film PK over the weekend. If you compare to all the great ‘alien’ films, this alien was terrible. The alien here looks like any of us, talked Bhojpuri Hindi, ate Samosa’s, feel jealous when he learns that heroine was in love with someone else..The film is one of the biggest hits in the history of Bollywood, I think primarily because there is not much of logic in there. Once the great burden to ‘understand’ is not there, there is real enjoyment.

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Behind a dream

I had a strange dream last night. There was this girl in the dream who was possessed and I was there to exorcise the spirit. The dream was set in a kind of somewhat unfamiliar environment – there was a building with many houses in a row and we were doing this in one of the rooms on the first floor. I remember having done the exorcism (with some reluctance); but cannot recollect anything post that as the dream ended somewhere there.

A friend of mine had rung me up in the evening – he had wanted me to talk to his 7th standard daughter, who seemed to have become uninterested in anything. I advised him to take her to a child psychologist – but he pressed me to have a conversation with her first. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this – at the same time I could not refuse his request.

Reflecting on the dream, it was evident that this incident was what lead to it.

But what I could not figure out was the part with exorcism- where did that come from?. As I was pondering about it during my drive back home in the evening, the whole thing dawned on me and I couldn’t but be amused at what’s going deep inside the mind.

This is what had happened behind this dream:

In the evening, I had watched some part of a film called ‘Resident Evil- Part 2 apocalypse’ on the television for about half an hour while I was on the treadmill. I saw the part where the character Alice escapes from the ‘Hive’ and is caught again and to the point where ‘Operation Alice is activated’. I didn’t quite get the whole story, but sort of figured out that Alice was being programmed to be evil – something like that. Alice’s daughter appears in multiple scenes and there was this scene where she asks Alice if she would be alright again.

Now in the dream I connected these two together. And what was the connecting link ? – The child, that was common between the incident and the dream.

And why these two specific incidents – because both of them were sort of incomplete. In the case of my friend’s daughter I was in a dilemma whether to do it or not and in the case of the film, I did not understand the story.

Imagine something like this – everyday while you are asleep, all the unresolved / incomplete things precipitate in to the unconscious mind (who obviously do not like anything unresolved) and it tries to make sense of them.

If that’s what dreams are made of, then what’s it that this world is made of?

Naughty Children Meditation

Compulsive thinkers have a tough time meditating. Better you are at thinking, harder it is to let go off it.

I have had this problem ever since I started meditating. What typically happens is something like this: I sit down to meditate and watch my thoughts. There are thoughts running and as I watch them, I come across that brief interval between them. For a moment, it looks like I am getting it. Wrong. Unobserved, there is this voice at the back of my head that says ‘It’s working, the gap is there’. Then there is another part of the mind that’s watching this and he says ‘Not yet, that’s a thought there’. Now there is another part that is analyzing the whole situation and says something like this – this isn’t working for you.

Then I remember something I read about meditation in a book and a part of my mind commenting that it’s not all that correct. Then I realize that I am again caught up in thinking. I let go off thinking again and again get back to being the ‘watcher’. And the struggle goes on and on, with some success after few iterations.

They say during meditation, you have to be like a gatekeeper. Watching every thought that comes in. But I realized that my mind was something like a house with several doors and windows. While I am watching the front door, there were thoughts entering through the backdoor and windows. They just needed that split second where my attention was elsewhere. While these sessions did help me get some insight in to the working of the mind, it has always been a challenge to be free of thoughts.

In olden days, people had not-so-much complicated minds as we do and it would have been easier for them to watch the mind as a single entity. But people like us whose primary occupation is thinking, have much more complex minds with several distinct faculties. Most of our lives are made of thinking and it’s hard to drop it – it’s like dying.

Over a period of time, I could see that these thoughts were not just random, but had some specific purposes behind them. For example, some thoughts were about planning, somewhere concerned about making sense of something happening in life, somewhere concerned about some dreams in the future etc. So it was like there were some little entities in the mind with certain purpose/objectives and they were responsible for specific thought patterns. They together made up the mind.

So if I were to really watch my mind, I should be watching each of these entities first and when each of them becomes quiet, I would be a step closer to a silent mind.

But how do we do this? I devised this meditation technique – Naughty Children Meditation- which is an improvised version of existing technique of watching the thought stream.

The first challenge was to identify all those little entities. I listed them down and gave them unique names so that I could identify them easily. Here is the list with names and some descriptions for you to easy understand

Thinker – One who keeps thinking, random thoughts, who keeps the thinking process going

Commenter – One who makes those subtle commentaries in the head as you carry on with your daily chores (e.g.’I am cutting this pasting it here..)

Planner – One who plans the next activities (e.g. ‘Oh, I have to send a mail to my manager’)

Reactor– One who reacts to situations, people (e.g. How can he behave like that)

Watcher– One who is watching what is happening in the mind (e.g. My mind is very clouded)

Analyzer – One who is analyzing what is going on in the mind, in a life situation and in your whole life (e.g. if the situation continues like this, I will be stuck in this job)

Rememberer – One who remembers events, people, traces of memory, something you forgot to do etc. (e.g. remembering a conversation with a friend this morning)

Dreamer – One who dreams about the future, situations (e.g. riding a Porsche or becoming famous)

Worrier– One who is worrying about things, situations either at the moment or in the future (e.g. what to do with my irresponsible son?)

Wanter – One who wants things or thinking of desires, things to be achieved, pleasures etc. (e.g. beautiful house, I want to live in such a one or I need to have a coffee now)

Whiner – One who is complaining about situations, people (e.g. why is that I am held responsible every time)

Competitor – One who is competing with others, comparing, wanting to be better than others (e.g. he thinks he knows everything, let me show him)

Sensor– One who senses or feels (e.g. he is being aggressive)

Fearer – One who is afraid, fearful thoughts, anxieties (e.g. what happens if he shouts at me)

The Bear – This is an odd one in the lot. This is that entity that tightens your body when unobserved.

The first thing to do is to familiarize with each of these entities. Each of them have a specific purpose and all the thoughts that arise can be traced to one of these. (It’s likely that you may want to add your own entities in to the list – like Regretter – One who regrets some actions in the past.

This is how the meditation can be done

Imagine that each of these entities are like little naughty children in a class room. They are sitting in front of you (visualize), and you are simply watching them. They are so naughty that they will talk the moment your attention is not on them. But if you catch them, they remain silent. At the same time, they are small little children and if they are caught, you are not going to punish them. You are going to simply laugh (or chuckle or smile) when you catch them talking.

So this is what you do. Sit in your favorite meditation posture and imagine that you are watching these little naughty children, who are sitting in front of you. Now when a thought comes, identify the naughty entity behind it (compare it with children taking). For e.g. if the thought is regarding something that you need to do, then it comes from the planner. Notice it (look at him) and laugh (or smile). The next thought, say is a commentary about what just happened in the mind. You know it is from the Commenter. Just watch him and laugh and leave.

Just keep doing this. When you look at them, they become quite.

You might also sense some tightness in the body – this is the work of The Bear. Just watch him and smile and he will let go off his grip.

Very soon, a these naughty children will become quite while your attention is placed on who is ‘talking’.

Then something profound happens, the whole mind stops or vanishes and you transcend the mind, so to say.

Meditation is supposed to be effortless, while there is some effort involved here. But that effort is only meant to overcome the initial difficulty that you face. You are watching the mind not as a single entity, but as different entities that does different things. This helps because then the thoughts cannot enter through the backdoor, unnoticed. Once a these entities are silent, the whole mind is silent and then onwards it is effortless.

Remember, playfulness is the key here. Visualizing these entities as little naughty children is extremely important; it’s like a game that you are paying with them. And you do not react, you smile at their naughtiness. Laughter or Chuckle or Smile creates that little gap that you need not to get caught up in the thinking, but to be able to watch it.

One problem that you might find is to identify these entities precisely. Do not worry about it, start with a few that you can figure out. Read through the list carefully again and you should get it. It does not really matter if you make a mistake, the whole objective of meditation is to transcend the mind and it does not matter what the content of the thoughts are and where they come from. Let this not deter you from making an attempt.

Initially you will need to do some sitting practice. Once you get a hang of it, you will catch those little ones in your daily lives. When you get angry at someone in traffic you will know that the ‘Reactor’ is talking and that awareness is enough to silence him and that smile is enough to transcend it.

Try it for yourselves. God bless.

Concepts

What you see in the picture is a dust cover of a book lying on the floor of my living room.

IMG769

It’s such a trivial thing to attach any importance to. Even I did not, until this evening, which was the third day that it had been lying there. It caught my attention when I returned from work. The irritation I felt lasted only a brief moment and gave way to amusement as the complexity of what lead to it unfolded in my mind.

I should give you a bit of background first. My wife, my 10-year-old daughter and I live in this apartment. A very clear division of responsibilities exist in our house, which has evolved over a period of time. My wife takes care of all matters at home (though with lot of complaining). I take care of my office work and things outside of home. My daughter lives in her own world of books, games and TV, never crossing her self-drawn boundaries.

My daughter and I are extremely unorganised. We love to scatter things around and literally litter the house. My wife loves to keep the house neat and tidy and we now take it for granted that it is her responsibility to put things in order. This works most of the time, except on few occasions where she feels she has had enough.

My daughter and I are voracious readers. I keep buying books for both us and the result is an overflowing library at home. My wife thinks I am wasting money buying books and keeps gives me a nasty look whenever I do.

Now back to the dust cover lying on the floor. It had been removed from a book and kept in the book shelf.  It must have fallen down (most probably) when my daughter was taking a book out of the shelf. She must have never bothered to put it back, for she considered it was mother’s job to put things in order. My wife must have had enough of this and decided to leave it where it was (books belong to father and daughter and they better learn to take care of it). I come home in the evening and notice the dust cover lying on the floor, but do nothing about it (who ever let it fall should put it back).

No questions asked, no words spoken. All of us went about with our regular affairs; except that none seems to take notice of the dust cover lying on the floor. The next morning I left to office and my daughter to her school. When I return in the evening, the cover was lying there still. Our maid servant was on leave for a few days and I assumed that the house wasn’t vacuumed or mopped.

Another night passed with the dust cover still lying there. I think each of us now where expecting someone else to lose their patience and do something about it.

On the third day I returned home to find the dust cover still lying there and I also saw that it was deliberately left there (the floor was vacuumed and mopped !).

It was when the whole drama dawned on me and I couldn’t help being amused at the complexity of it. I picked up the dust cover and put it back in to the book shelf.

Everything around us, whether important or trivial, in order or out-of-order, on time or delayed, isn’t there or there without a reason. They have complex human egos with hundreds of concepts, playing elaborate games behind the scene.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, said Prospero in Tempest. But I am sure our lives are made up of such concepts that we are not even aware of.

A lesson on creativity

Every day morning, I drive my daughter to the bus stop where she boards her school bus. This short drive and the subsequent wait at the bus stop is something I love because mostly what gets done or discussed does not make any sense (as far as adults are concerned).It is alwys amusing how simple these little children’s life is, yet so fulfilling.
This morning, I noticed in the car that she was holding a tube of glue in her hand. I suggested that she put it inside her bag; for she might spill it on her dress. “No dad, I will hold it”, she refused.
A while later, as we stood waiting for the bus, I make another attempt to persuade her to put the tube inside her bag. She refused again and then I decided not to push it further. Probably she wanted to show it off to her friends, I thought (which, I realized immediately may not true, because it was after all a tube of glue).

Girl holding a glue stick in her hand

Girl holding a glue stick in her hand


The bus was late today and as we stood waiting for the bus, I noticed that my daughter was holding the glue tube in her right hand like a mike and was silently singing. She was so involved in the act that I am sure she was singing somewhere on a grand stage to a very large audience.
Perhaps she wanted to play with it, I thought.

A while later when I looked at her, she had stopped singing and was holding the tube horizontal right in front of her right eye, like a binocular and looking around through it.

Something went shattering in me. What was a simple tube of glue that did not matter, had to be kept inside the bag because it might spill, as far as I was concerned was NOT a tube of glue at all for her. It was a mike that took her to some imaginary stage somewhere, it was a binocular (probably she was imagining her to be in army or so). And I am sure by the time she reached her school today; the glue tube would have assumed many other forms.

Here was I, the intelligent and rational, who is familiar with several techniques for creativity and Innovation and who is proud that he has understood the fundamental mechanism behind creative thinking. And here was this little girl, with all innocence, had the least idea about any of these concepts was simply creative.

The difference was striking. For her the world was not what it was, it was what she wanted it to be.
And this small difference explains why all the techiques for creative thinking simply does not work.

Shiv Linga and Black Hole

Manesa, my friend today sent me some photographs from her visit to ‘Koti lingeswara temple‘, about 100 KM south of Bangalore. The literal meaning of the name”Koti lingeswara’ is the ‘lord of 1 crore shiva lingas’ and the temple boasts of the largest Sivalinga (108 feet) in Asia.
Shiva Linga
Shiva lingas are worshipped as representations of Lord Shiva and considered very sacred by the Hindus. The literal meaning of ‘linga’ is ‘phallus’, which has lead to some scholars attributing a sexual meaning to it and even referring to the Hindu civilization as ‘phallus worshippers’.
Like most Indians, I too had no idea what a Shiva lingam actually meant. In yoga, Siva (the masculine energy)is the epitome of consciouness and when the feminine energy (called the Kundalini) which resides at the base of the Spine rises and merges with Shiva, one transcends Time and Space. This is what is termed as Samadhi in yoga, a state of nothingness that every yogi tries to achieve.

Few months back, I was reading the masterpiece ‘A brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking. The chapter 6 gives a brief account of blackholes and even horizons. In simple terms, when a blackhole is formed, it does not even let light go out until a point where the light begins to bend. And here is the representation from the book.
Black_Hole
A blackhole represents the ‘void’ or ‘nothingness’ in Space. As I read this, I could not help wondering; if the human mind where to reach a state of ‘void’ (the state of Samadhi when one is merged with the higher consciousness or in simple words there exists nothing in the mind), how would the mind look like.

And the answer would be that it would look like a Shiva Linga.

There must be other explanations behind the shape of Shiva Linga. But I am inclined to believe that the ancient sages of India had experienced the state of ‘void’ and used the linga to represent it, and as there is no difference between what is inside and outside, the same representation holds good for blackholes too.

Bhhrrr……

I was in a meeting at my office yesterday. The mood of the discussions was somewhat tense as one of the teams involved was resisting a proposal the other was making. And there were also the usual undercurrents of perceptions playing. It came to a point where I thought the discussion was heading towards an abrupt end.The senior manager of one of the teams opened his mouth to make what seemed a final statement. There was a brief period of silence where we were all literally looking in to his mouth.

Before he could start, the pin drop silence was broken by a sharp ‘gluuup…’ sound.

A girl who was in the meeting had had a hiccup.

It was very odd; it was totally out of place in the midst of such an intense discussion. What added to the oddness was that the girl was very pretty.The helpless girl looked around with an expressionless face, while I could see that everyone what trying hard to pretend as if nothing had happened and conceal their smiles.

The manager paused for a moment to give her a menacing look, before he resumed making his point. The meeting continued and soon I noticed something interesting. The mood had now changed, the tension somewhat eased and the discussion was taking a constructive turn.
I couldn’t help wondering how such a seemingly trivial thing as a hiccup when correctly (or incorrectly to be more precise) placed, could have such an impact on the situation.
This reminded me of a wonderful story that I had read long back. This story was written by a great writer of my language Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. (He was an eccentric, Sufi, traveler, wrestler and a cook apart from being a writer) Most of his writings were based on his personal experience and were characterized by their simplicity and truthfulness.

This short little story was titled ‘Bhhrrr…’.

There was this house that Basheer used to frequent as a child. He was quite at home there and had all the freedom. But there was a problem. There was an extremely pretty girl (slightly elder to him) in that house whom Basheer admired and adored. And Basheer froze whenever he was in front of here. He was speechless. He could freely interact with everyone else except this girl.
Basheer used to sit in front of her, admiring her. She maintained an air of dignity and would also not engage in any conversation with him.
This went on for a long time, until one day the following incident took place. As usual Basheer was sitting silently in front of the girl admiring her and she refusing even to acknowledge his presence. Then all of a sudden she let a fart out. Both of them froze for a moment, completely blown by what just happened. Then Basheer broke in to a violent fit of laughter. It took him a moment to come back to his senses and face the girl with an apologizing look.
Then something unexpected took place. The girl smiled and soon broke in to a laughter; which Basheer immediately joined.
All the tension between them broke on that day and Basheer could interact with her normally from then on.

Though somewhat unacceptable to our cultured minds, it’s these simple statements of truth that makes some writings outstanding. A natural expression of this kind, when comes unexpected, could do more wonders than ‘Seven Habits”, “Emotional intelligence’ , ‘Getting things done, ‘Leadership 101’ all combined.