Tag Archives: Compulsive thinking

Pappus Flower Meditation

Pappus is a tropical plant that disperses its seeds with the help of wind. The seeds have fine hairy structures around them that help them drift in the wind and are contained in pods till they are ready. Once the seeds are mature, the pods burst open exposing the seeds to the wind. The wind then carries these seeds to far off places. Watching Pappus flowers drift gently in the air and chasing them has been a n activity that I loved as a child. There was some gentleness to the whole affair and the pappus flowers probably reminded my young mind of ‘freedom’.
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Here is a short video on that shows the pods opening and the flowers being gently carried away by the wind. I recommend you take a look at this, so that you understand the context of this post.

I was on my way back to Bangalore last Sunday. As the bus was passing through the Bandipur wildlife sanctuary, we pulled up the window shutters in anticipation of sighting wild animals. A strong current of air was gushing in through the open window and hitting me all over the face.

Some time passed like this, me just watching out of the window and the constant gush of air against my face. But that was not all. All of a sudden I became aware of my thinking and I realized that I was actually caught up in very deep unconscious thinking. For some time I simply watched the thought stream; there were thoughts coming in one after another.

So now here I was sitting by the window, the wind and thoughts popping out from somewhere deep within. I thought – what if the wind just blows away the thoughts as they surface?

Precisely at that moment the Pappus flower came up in my mind; I saw the pods opening and the flowers are gently let out in to the wind.

I closed my eyes and imagined that the wind was actually rushing over my mind and was carrying away my thoughts as and when they appear. This was easy to imagine because of the strong gush of wind against my face (now against my mind). I let go off all thoughts one by one and any new thought came up, it was immediately carried away by the wind..

..…till the point there was nothing left. There was only the wind. Not even ‘me’

The purpose of every meditation is to transcend the mind and that happens when the mind is still. There are hundreds of techniques, practiced by several spiritual traditions all over the world that help one to go beyond thinking. I have personally practiced several of them and have had mixed results. I think the problem many times is that the ‘real’ feel is missing. The only reason why letting wind carry away my thoughts worked was because the feeling of the wind was very real. Then it was easy to just let go.

So we have a new meditation – I will call it Pappus Flower Meditation.

Back in Bangalore I tried to do this again. I tried to imagine that there was a strong gush of wind agaist my face and my thoughts were blown away. That didn’t work. To keep that feeling, probably I had to exert some effort that made the letting go difficult. For this to work, the feeling of the wind has to be very real. I then used a table fan to simulate the gush of wind and that worked perfectly well.

So here is the recoomednation for you to practice this at home
Sit in any meditative posture with eyes closed, facing a table fan. The fan must be running at good speed for the wind to hit your face with some force. Imagine the wind gushing over your mind and blowing away your thoughts (you can use the Pappus symbol if that helps. Imagine your mind like a pappus plant with the thoughts like the flowers gently coming out of the pods). Don’t get caught up in thoughts, just let them be gently carried away by the wind.
Just be witness to this whole thing. No strain, no force. The wind is blowing so strong that it naturally blows away your thoughts; there is no effort from your side required. Just let go.

Then, once the whole clutter clears, you will simply be there as the watcher!
have fun!

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Gibberish

 Long ago there lived a Sufi mystic, called Jabbar. He never spoke anything meaningful, but always talked gibberish. When people asked him something, he would just make some sound that didn’t make any sense. Initially people took him to be insane. But slowly they figured out that there was a great sense of peace in his presence and he had a very large following. And throughout his life, he never spoke anything that made sense…

We all have a compulsive need to keep talking – to make sense, to convey, to be right etc. What happens if we drop all these and just start talking whatever came to our mind? This is a form of meditation and is called the Gibberish meditation (This was popularized by the Indian philosopher, Osho). This is how the meditation is done.

Just start talking loud. There are two conditions. One is not to talk in any language that you know already and the other is to keep talking continuously without pauses. You could even make noises if that’s convenient to you. But just be spontaneous and keep making the noises without any gaps. After a while, just lie down and relax. You will be completely at peace. You will experience the state called ‘no mind’.

Many a times in our lives, we get caught up in compulsive thinking. When we get stuck with some serious problems, the mind clings to it so hard that it’s almost impossible to stop thinking. This is very prominent when people become stressed. Not only that it prevents you from getting to sleep, but many a times it happens that you wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking. Gibberish meditation is extremely handy to free your mind from this compulsive thinking. Just before you go to bed, practice it for some time and then go to bed. You will have a very sound sleep.

Perhaps, the more you don’t try to make sense of anything, the more peaceful you are. As they say, ignorance may be bliss.

Need for continuity

For most of us, a large part of our thinking is unconscious and compulsive, in the sense that we aren’t even aware that we are thinking. But even then the mind is able to go on and on with thoughts to the extent that even if we wanted to, they wouldn’t stop. I have always wondered why the mind has to do this, because this is what leads to compulsive thinking and stress.

Even if the thinking is unconscious, there exists a continuity existing between thoughts. Which means there is ‘something’ that facilitates the connection of one thought to the next. This does not happen just in the case of compulsive thinking but also with day dreaming. Once the thinking can have it’s own continuity, it tends to act like an independent function and does not need the thinker to intervene as much as possible. This is the state of no awareness. In the state of no awareness the ‘unconsciousness’ spreads to other aspects of life, like decision-making, performing some routine tasks, reacting to situations…

It may be interesting to look at if this continuity issue arises at a thought level and spreads to other aspects of life or it is the other way around?

Even if we say that the thinking is unconscious, it is not really so. Most of the time there is a theme or a topic or an objective and there is mostly an order. But within that space, at the level of thought, the continuity is unconscious. But we need this continuity to think, to produce results, to make sense etc.

The intelligent mind actually adopts many techniques to keep thoughts together and give continuity. Here are few examples:

  • Stories – stories make up the lives of most of us (I am like this, my achievements, my sufferings, my this and that..)
  • Reactive Mind Patterns , Conditioned behaviour
  • Anxiety and anticipation
  • Resistance – Past/ Future

 This continuity spreads to all aspects of our lives and ultimately results in us seeking continuity in our own lives. And for most of us, this is what drives our lives. It is what strengthens our sense of self  which thrives on seeking continuity and fulfillment. But most of the time the continuity is so well established as a habit that people have absolutely no say of what they think and how they think.

What happens when the continuity is broken? Assume that there is no compulsive need for a thought to connect the next what happens?

This is probably the state what most spiritual traditions call freedom. They say this is the state where there is no likes and dislikes, no desires, no remorse … you can look at something without thinking and you do not need to react to something….

So the revolution is to go deep to the thought level and eliminate the need for continuity. Then all the mind patterns, habits, concepts and identity will simply collapse. Because the root cause lies deep in the mind.

But is that the real freedom that we as human beings want? I do not know…

Do we get to choose in life?

It is rather strange. But it always looks like everyone else has a choice in life but not me. Things are thrust on me mercilessly. Why is life unfair to me?

There seems to be things to choose from all around, but strangely the moment I get to choose, the choices vanish and there is simply that one thing, the one thing that I do not like, left.

 The world is full of opposites, at least they way my mind sees it. Opposites to choose from;there is love-hatred, war-peace, joy-misery, chaos-order, beauty-ugliness, wellness-suffering. They tell me that I get to choose. They tell me that I am what I have chosen to be.

Do I really get to choose? Can I simply choose between being happy and being sad? If I can make that choice, will I need to make any other choice in life at all?

 Or have I made that choice already?

 Sometimes in our lives, we make choices. Either because we are not attached to the choices or there is a logic that overrules the feeling or we are utterly confused that the decision making becomes conscious. The choosing is unconscious mostly otherwise and in fact, there is no choice at all in the first place.

 Many a times when you attempt to change something (you make a conscious choice to do something or not to do something), panic sets in. There is so much of trauma, uncomfortable feeling, frustration, resistance and mostly after enduring the suffering for a while, we return back to the comfort of what we were.

Moreover, it does not occur to us that a current situation (mostly unpleasant) is in fact a consequence of a choice we have made some time back. Partly because our sense of cause and effect is limited both by time and physical space.

But most of us would agree that we do get to choose. Why then is it difficult to make choices?

The answer to this lies deep down in the mind. The truth is that most of the time, the mind does not see a choice at all in the first place. Because there is a pattern in the mind that will immediately trigger the irresistible urge to react in a particular way (pre-rehearsed or learnt from the past experience). So, for the mind it looks as if there is no choice. This is also why we feel others have got a choice, because the choice disappears only when we try to connect it to the sense of self.

We will be able to see the choices only if we can stop the urge to connect a thought trigger to an existing pattern in the mind. This happens in the present moment. See the representation in the post The act of mindful watching

 The moment we are able to bring space at this level of thought, choices simply will spring up. Most of the time making the right choice seems tough for most of us because we approach it upside-down. An abstract feeling becomes a thought, then an action and further a habit or behavior. And we try to make change at the level of habit / behavior. This doesn’t work. Also because at the level of habit or behavior the logical mind is also very dominant.

When the logic drops, patterns weaken one travels back to the thought and then the basic abstract feeling. There one makes a simple choice and a new dimension opens up. This is the choice of going back to a child’s mind of joy and creativity.

So there seems to be only one choice to make –whether to go back to the pre-thought state or not.

….hm, do we really have a choice?

Responding to a trigger – what happens in the mind

Continuing from the previous post, let’s look at what happens in the mind when you respond to an external trigger (an object or an event for e.g). Whether we acknowledge or not, in fact there is a subtle choice that we make with every trigger – Accept or Resist. Depending upon the trigger, we could accept/resist an event either in the past or the future. See the below representation of how a normal mind responds to an external trigger (For simplicity, I taking a very general case here to illustrate my point)

The path on the left side depicts normal thinking, where in every event or object is compared against a mental image (either of the past or of the future). Then one either accepts or resists the event(the categorization of the event as good/bad, right /wrong also happens here) Accepting strengthens the ‘sense of self’ and resisting creates a ‘threat to the self’. This resisting leads to compulsive thinking that is the root cause for most of the psychosomatic diseases.

So, is there a solution? Or an alterative? This is what is called ‘witnessing’ which is the essence of ‘mindfulness’(see the path on to the right in the picture). Here there is neither acceptance nor resistance. You see things as they are.

Typically we try to solve most of our issues at the lower layers (lower as in the picture). For e.g say I do not like apples. I could either avoid apples in my life or could substitute with some other fruit or convince myself to eat it. This is typically how we approach most of the problems. But in fact the real problem is not apple but  ‘my nature of disliking’ something. A fundamental transformation can happen only when the basic nature changes.

If we can make changes at the basic level (marked A in the diagram), the problems will simply vanish themselves. This is what many a spiritual traditions try to achieve and also the key to creative thinking.

But is that easy? We will continue the discussion in the coming posts…