Category Archives: Thinking

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?

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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.

Intelligence

I had stopped at this small roadside shop for a coffee and a smoke. As I was waiting after placing the order, my attention was drawn to a gentle nudge on my right leg. It was very distinct, but also very gentle. I looked down to face a dog with its eyes fixed on my face intently. It was silently telling me ‘buy me something to eat’. It was a very clear communication and there was no mistaking. I bought a packet of biscuits and offered him. He ate them briskly, gave me a look of ‘thanks’ and moved on to another person.

Intelligent Dog

Intelligent Dog

I have seen trained dogs do all kinds of things like picking newspapers and even do some shopping. But they are always doing something repeatedly and I never thought there was so much of intelligence in it. But here was a stray dog, healthy (you know why) and it had learned exactly how to communicate with humans. Did someone teach it ? very unlikely. My best guess was that it saw some children persuade their parents to buy them something.

Do we choose the good or the bad?

The results of the assembly elections in the state of Karnataka (the state in India where I live) was announced today. The ruling party was voted out of power and a party that was not in power for more than a decade emerged victorious with an absolute majority. This is very typical in India. Any party that comes to power gets embroiled in corruption, scams, scandals and in-party power struggles and by the time of next elections people are fed up and look for a change. While it seems as if people chose a party to win, the truth is the reverse. People choose that a party should not win.

Last week, I met a friend of mine. Both of us had gotten out of our cars and were walking towards the lift. He told me that he was planning to change his car and asked me how my car was. I told him that it was good and it was the power (128 BHP is pretty high for Indian standards) that I really liked. He had not made up his mind as to which car to buy. So we had a short discussion around the topic while we were in the elevator.

‘Why don’t you look at Renault Duster’, I said. Renault has recently launched this SUV that was doing pretty well in the market.
‘Duster does not have the third row seats’, he told me.’So it is not really worth the money’
‘Ertiga (from Suzuki) is selling well’, I observed.
‘I am not happy with Ertiga’ he said ‘the third row is cramped and the interior is very plasticky’
‘You can have a look at Honda Amaze’, I said. Amaze is the first diesel car from Honda recently launched in India.
‘The engine is quite noisy’. he told me.
It was time for me to step out of the elevator and we had to end the conversation. I told him that there would be many more new models in the market by the time he decides to buy and wished him good luck in finding a good one.

As I was walking to my apartment, I was thinking about this conversation. I was really amazed by the fact that his choice was not really based on what is good, but rather what is bad.

It makes perfect sense logically. In a given set of choices, it we go on eliminating the ones based on bad qualities, we would ideally end up with the best. But then the problem is most of the good and bad are in fact pure perceptions that we carry in our head.

This process of elimination works in every aspect of our lives in India, from choosing a government to choosing a life partner.

While it might seem that we all tend to choose the best things in life, it could be far from truth. Our minds are actually choosing the bad ones to avoid.

Or is it that we do not know what we really want?

Grass root Innovation

In India, kids enjoy a long summer vacation; typically for the whole of May and June. This is the time the kids and their mothers go to their native place leaving the husbands alone in Bangalore.
While some people find this forced solitary life unbearable, I find this very interesting. The most interesting part is that I get a glimpse of a life with ‘no strings attached’. Usually this is also the time I do lot of introspection and sometimes simply space out.
When I am alone, there are few daily chores that I need to attend to. This involves some amount of exploration around the house, especially in the kitchen. And it is when I come across some simple innovative ideas that amuse me. For e.g,
1)our washing machine is in the work area and that’s where naturally the washing powder is kept. But then you don’t always wash in the washing machine, sometimes you wash certain things (like socks) in the bath room. To your pleasant surprise, you find washing powder is also kept (though in smaller bottles) to cater to such needs. This eliminates the need to walk to the work area just to get the washing powder.
2)Things in the kitchen cabinet are arranged in such a way that all those things that are used frequently (sugar, salt, tea powder etc) are ketp in the cabinet that is closest to the stove.

Working in large corporations, we generally tend to look down upon our wives as the ones who mechanically do the same things over and over again. But I am afraid that’s far from truth. If you aren’t convince yet, here is a simple illustration.
I had put the cloths in the washing machine yesterday. Since in a tropical hot climate like in India, the collars and cuffs become dirty and they need to brushed once before washing in the washing machine. I looked around for the brush and found something interesting. My wife had affixed a small piece of soap on the other side of the brush.
Washing Brush
Now, imagine the situation. The cloths are in the washing machine, and one needs to pick some of them, apply soap to the collars and cuffs (and some other places where there is extra dirt) and then brush them. If you were to use a soap and brush separately, it will involve lot of work to pick the soap, apply it, keep it back, pick the brush and brush it. All this extra effort is eliminated by this simple solution. All you need to do is just reverse the brush to apply the soap and turn it around to brush..
Washing Brush
I do not know if such a brush is available in the market, if not it is a good idea..

I think to see real practical innovations, one need to go not to the corporates (with all complex techniques for Systematic problem solving), but in to homes (more in to the kitchens) and you will simply be amazed at how the housewives have optimized everything possible.

No wonder you get your bedcoffee, breakfast, ironed cloths etc on time everytime.. They have optimized better than any CMM 5 companies..

Deep seated problems

I was to attend a Conference in Mumbai last week along with a colleague of mine. We were to catch a morning flight to Mumbai and decided to share the same taxi to the Airport. To confirm the plans, I rung her up the previous evening and told her that the taxi would pick me up at 6.00 AM and she should be ready by 6.15AM.
I was somewhat surprised when she asked me if we shouldn’t be leaving earlier than that( We had a 8.30 flight and the Airport was approximately 1 – 1.5 hrs. of drive from where we were. Considering all this, I had booked the taxi at 6.00AM which would give us some buffer in case the Bangalore traffic throws up some surprises). I told her that we would be there well in time and asked her why she felt we should leave earlier.
‘I want to check in my bag’ she told me
That was ridiculous. We would be in Mumbai for just two days, and in no way I could imagine that someone would carry a bag that couldn’t go in as cabin baggage. When I asked why she was carrying so much stuff just for two days, she clarified that it was because she wanted to carry some perfume in the bag. That sounded a good enough reason, as liquids more than 100ml wasn’t allowed in the cabin baggage. Not wanting to change the plans, I suggested that she either carry a small bottle or buy one after we land in Mumbai; in case she was very particular.
She agreed to this, though I couldn’t help feeling somewhat puzzled at this strange (at least for me) conversation.
So we were there at the Airport the next morning and were about to board the flight. While at the queue, she requested a help from me. Once we were inside, she wanted me to help her put her bag in the overhead lockers (She was very short and couldn’t reach the lockers herself). I was happy to help, but then another problem arose. As per our allotted seats, she had to use the front door and I had to use the rear door. While I was about to leave her towards the rear door, she quickly handed over to me her bag and told me that she would collect it when we reach Mumbai.
So here I was carrying two bags plus my laptop bag, trying not to look like a porter. I was a bit annoyed. While I was happy to be of any help, this was going beyond the limits. Any co-passenger would have helped her put the baggage in the lockers or she could have asked the air hostesses to help her.
That moment everything connected together in a flash. I understood the whole problem. As I had told, my colleague was very short and apparently was very conscious about it. I realized that that was the reason why she wanted to check in the baggage in the first place; to avoid being uncomfortable while trying to stove it in the overhead locker. That was also the reason for her almost impolite behavior of handling it over to me.
I have come across several such instances where people (including myself) act in strange ways to cover up such deep complexes and fears and also to fulfill deep desires. I remember when I had purchased my first car in 2004; my father was the proudest man on earth. He grew up in poverty and had to toil hard his entire life to make a living. I am sure a Car would have been beyond his dreams. We drove to the market in my car. The weather was very hot and I wanted to turn the a/c on. But my father suggested that we roll the windows down to get some fresh air. Soon I understood what was in his mind – he wanted everyone to see him travelling in his own car. I saw him beaming and smiling at friends and acquaintances throughout.
These deep desires, fears and complexes create our lives and influence the way we think, react and make decisions. And most of the time we don’t get to set them right because we constantly justify our behavior and put in all our efforts to ensure that they aren’t threatened.
Note: I am just setting up my website ( http://sajeevvk.com/) which exclusively will contain my thoughts on mind and its working. I welcome you there and would be grateful for any feedback and comments.

Our Shame

The New Year celebrations in India were dampened by the recent incident at New Delhi. A 23 year girl who was gang raped by 6 men in a moving bus, succumbed to the injuries on the 29th of Dec after a 10 day brave battle. No other crime in the recent past has caused so much of a public reaction and the nation’s capital has witnessed protests of unprecedented scale in the last few days. The protestors had called for a nationwide ‘Bandh’ today, perhaps the first of its kind for a crime. This incident was is not something the world’s biggest democracy would be proud of.

The crime against women has been on the rise steadily and post the Delhi incident, the public, politicians, film stars and other leaders are unanimous on the opinions that there needs to be more severe punishment for sexual offenders. At the moment the nation seems to be divided between gallows and castration for the Delhi crime accused. This demand obviously comes from the logic that the fear of punishment would discourage people from committing such crimes.

But how true is that? Even post the Delhi incident (which attracted so much of attention across the nation), there has been dozens of similar offenses reported every single day. There was even another attempt of rape in a moving bus in Delhi. Considering what happened after the Delhi incident, one would expect a decline in such crimes atleast for a few days or weeks.But that’s not the case; sexual crimes continue to be committed on every single day.

Once the crime is committed, it is easy to label and accuse the criminals and there is a strong judicial system to take care of them. But the real question is – were they not criminals prior to committing this crime? ? The answer is Yes, they were. The potential was with them. But unfortunately there is no way to know of it, unless the crime is actually committed. In fact there are millions and millions of people who carry the potential to commit such a heinous crime, given a chance. Some of them might get a chance (god forbid) while most may not get a chance. These people who carry the potential to commit a crime are actually the nation’s worry than the ones who have actually committed it (which is a very small percentage). They are just waiting for that moment in dark street corners, their own houses, class rooms, trains and every other place imaginable.

Will fear prevent them from doing it? I guess not. Because these crimes are actually done several times in the mind and when the opportunity comes their mind is completely taken over by the impulse.

India was the home for world’s most ancient civilizations and taught the world love and compassion. Contentment is the natural result of love and compassion. Those days and gone now and in this new era of information technology and globalization, greed has taken over the society. Greed is the motivator in a capitalistic country and is always accompanied by a perpetual and insatiable lack and desire. We have moved from a world where people believed one could be perfectly happy without any possessions to a world where one is unhappy even with every possible comfort. And all these potential criminals carry this insatiable need for fulfillment in them, waiting for the right opportunity to satisfy it.

May the victims soul rest rest in peace.