Tag Archives: Living in the present moment

Knowing and Happiness

I was standing on the balcony in the 11th floor of my office building. It wasn’t raining yet there, but I could see the rain advancing towards us from far off (see the red arrow in the picture). I estimated the rain to reach us  in about of 10 minutes. In a moment my mind was busy with several thoughts.

Rains are never welcome in Bangalore as it makes the ever chaotic traffic more messy. I was debating whether to leave quickly before the rain arrives. But then I had something to finish; would it be good idea to do it tomorrow?  Or should I wait till the rain is over? What happens if the rain is going to last long?

My attention was then drawn to some loud cheer from below. There were people playing football in a ground (see the red circle in the picture). They couldn’t see the rain coming and were completely involved in the game.

Rain

Rain

I was disturbed, because from that height I could see the rain coming and I was already planning what to do. But the footballers, who had no idea that it was coming, were least affected.

The rain arrived shortly and the footballers did what is needed to do when it rains – took shelter. And I was back to my desk and back to my work. I had to wait because I had work to finish and all that planning was of no use to me.

It’s generally believed that strategic thinking, higher perspectives, ability to perceive risks in advance etc are very important qualities that make us successful and need to be cultivated. But seldom we realize that they simply take away the fun from the present moment. We are definitely capable of doing what is needed in any situation. Knowing things in advance only feeds the stupid planning mind. 

No wonder CJ Jung was extremely jealous when he met those native american tribes. They were extremely happy, though they had nothing in their possession.

A moment in ‘Presence’

The comment from Yogi brought to my mind an incident that happened few months back. It may be interesting for those who are trying to cultivate ‘mindfulness’. Many a times we aren’t aware of what lies in there for us.

 I had been practicing ‘mindfulness’ to some extend and developed a liking for it. Sometime later, I decided to go deeper and experience what it means to live completely in the ‘present moment’. I started becoming aware of my body, thoughts, movements and activities, emotions, things around, how the mind is reacting etc. And in few days, I was almost living in present moment (or at least that’s what it looked like). Mind was very clear and there were hardly any thoughts. I could more clearly see how the mind operates.

But this also had some adverse effects. One area that was severely affected was my memory. I started misplacing things and even lost a few of them. Even if I met someone and talked something, I did not recollect it later. And what is worst, even when I came to know that I had lost something, there was no feeling, no sense of loss. Work was another area that was affected, because the typical motivation factors like ‘proving’, appreciation etc did not have a place in the ‘present moment’.

But, it was a very creative state. There were lot of insights.

This particular incident happened on a Saturday. I was intensely in the present the whole day. Mind was almost blank. In the evening I went to a mediation session (I attend a weekly meditation session called the Sudarshana Kriya taught by The Art Of Living).This usually has an immediate and profound effect on the mind. On that day, after the Sudarshana Kriya, I became even more present. I was blank, no thoughts in the mind, but I was perfectly aware of everything around. I didn’t want to move and felt like being in that state forever.

After we finished the session we sat there as the Teacher was talking to us. She observed that many people weren’t coming regular and she asked if any of us could suggest something to motivate them.

 All of a sudden I got up, walked up to her, took the mike and started talking. It was as if someone was making me do this, It seemed as if I had no control ( I would have never done such a thing in my normal state of mind) I talked about being in knowledge etc and the words did not come from me, it was as if they came from somewhere through me. It was few minutes later that I realized what was happening and came to my normal state of mind. I did manage to cover it up somehow, I guess.

It was a profound experience that altered my whole understanding about myself. Later I stopped practicing mindfulness so intensely; I chose just to be aware. But when I looked back I think I was fortunate to have done it there; what would have happened if I walked up the CEO and told him he was not doing a good job?

 It’s perfectly possible. Because no logic operates there. You are just what you are, nothing more and nothing less

Logic

It is commonly believed these days that ‘logic’ is what prevents one from thinking creatively. Strangely, if you were to ask a spiritual master what is the obstacle on the way to freedom or realization, you might get the same answer. We have a villain and since ‘logic’ is an abstract concept, it is easy to blame it. I too have made fun of the ‘logical mind’ in several posts in this blog.

But one level deeper, do we really understand what exactly is this demon called ‘logic’? How does it influence our thinking? How to get over it? Or are we too busy inventing techniques to overcome ‘logic’? (It is like the concept of ‘sin’ in some religions. Once you can make people buy in to this belief, it’s easy to create a whole industry out of it)

Here is an insight that came along on this.

 The mind made up of thoughts. In the absence of thoughts, there is ‘space’ which the mind is uncomfortable with. Therefore the mind needs something to be going on continuously. In order to achieve this, mind has devised a mechanism which consists of two distinct things:

  1. There is a process that keeps dumping thoughts continuously in to the mind (to the next empty space to be really precise)
  2. There is an ‘algorithm’ that chooses what will go in to that space from a choice of millions of possibilities These two together keeps the mind engaged and active.

The second one follows and supports the first. And the second one is what is called the logic.

Contrary to what many say, the ‘logic’ might actually be good. The issue comes from the fact that at some point both the above acts become unconscious. This is where the problem lies. Even before you see something fully, you have already named it, categorized it and may be made an opinion on it, because in the little space that follows the act of seeing, the mind fills the details from your past experience.

When we talk of a creative thought, we are actually talking of that one which is unconditioned by your experience, memory, perceptions etc. It’s almost like the thought is not yours. And just because of the fact that it comes not from the conditioned mind, it can be anything – a new insight, a new poem, a new solution, a new dimension, a new potential or may be God himself.

In order to go beyond logic or transcend thought, there are two ways. One is to look in to the second act – to see how the logic can be refined to produce the best output. This is what most of the creative and innovation techniques try to do. There try to define frameworks and techniques which can orient the mind in a particular direction. This definitely might produce thinking that’s superior to normal, but then you aren’t really talking of that idea that’s born beyond the mind.

The other approach is to tackle the process of filling the mind with thoughts. This is what many spiritual traditions attempt to. This is done by the simple technique of being comfortable with space or nothingness. And the moment you are comfortable with the space, the need for the logic is gone. Space where there is neither thinking nor the need for thinking exists.

 Then in this space might arise that new insight or the thought that is not stained by the logic..

Presence

We are familiar with the term ‘presence of mind’. We often use this term to describe an intelligent action by someone especially in a moment of crisis. This implies that the person neither was carried away by the situation nor did not react emotionally, but rather came up with something unexpected and deeply powerful. If you ask them later (someone whose presence of mind saved him/her from a life threatening situation) they wouldn’t be able to tell you how they could act the way they did.

This is the most common form of presence most of us know. What really happens here? If you closely observe such a situation of presence, you will observe that for a moment there was no thinking but there was perfect alertness. This is the state of presence ;a state of intense awareness and the key to present moment. When thoughts stop, there is a higher form of intelligence that suddenly charge.Many acts of bravery happen in this state. There is a perfect flow to what you do without any planning, rehearsal or even thinking.

But what has this got to do with creativity? Most of have heard of the “Aha” moment, where people get solutions for a problem that has been bothering them for long, simply out of the blue. Those “Aha’ moments are infact the states of intense presence. It is not a coincidence that the most of the Aha moments come during activities where one concentrate intently like shaving, waiting under the shower for those first droplets to touch your skin, being with the nature, engaging in some form of dangerous sports etc. If there is a problem that is really bothering you and is not solvable how much ever you attempt, it is very very likely that during one of the next ‘present’ moments, the solution will simply occur to you, because during those moments there is a greater intelligence in command.

The other way to put this is : Suppose an event happens and you already have a mental pattern corresponding to that event in the mind. Now you do not let the pattern execute. So you just have the event, as it is. And you do this not by force, but by gentle watching. And watching the thoughts is the simple way to overcome the patterns and is the key to ‘presence’.

But those who have attempted to watch your thoughts will tell you how hard it is. The mind is so tricky and before you know, there is something already going on there. So in many ancient traditions people figured out several methods that can workaround without confronting the mind.. A most common example is paying attention to breath, since breath is something that happens in presence moment. This is the basis of the vipasana meditation in Buddhism.

In the book ‘The seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen R Covey describes an incident where he comes across a book which had a paragraph that powerfully influenced the rest of his life. “I read the paragraph over and over again. It basically contained the simple idea that there is a gap or space between stimulus and response, and the key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space”, he writes.

What he describes here is the state of presence. It is about creating or bringing space. At an external level, it is about bringing space between an event and response, or around a situation. Deep inside it is about recognizing space between one’s thoughts. By bringing space, it means that there is a gap of no-thinking, a moment of intense alertness. It is like someone watching your thoughts.

And during this space, there is a superior form of “thinking” heppening, which is different to thinking the way we know and it does not use language. And most importantly, it does not use the logic.And this is the creative intelligence.

When you see something for the first time, there is no pattern existing that the mind can immediately associate. So there is a space; and this is where you experience wonder, beauty or curiosity. Shortly afterwards mind (mind immediately pitches in and try to understand what this new thing is all about) forms a pattern and you see it the next time, the space isn’t there. Mind quickly jumps in with the pattern and says : ‘Oh! I know what this is’

This is what kills creativity because it is in the space where creativity blossoms. Observe small children, every thing amuses them, they are curious, they can watch a cartoon film over and over a 100 times without getting bored (we can’t do it because once we know what happens next, we lose the interest). In the Zen Buddhism there is a principle – any activity you do, do it as if you are doing it for the first time. When something does not interest you, or you don’t wonder, you are not amused or you are not curious, it is a good indication that you have lost the ‘space of creativity’

While most of had this space of creativity as children, we have lost it some where on the way. This is also a space of immense joy and most of us cherish a longing for it deep within. But it is possible to create that space again, which is something worth attempting to. Because it is a journey inward and is immensely rewarding.

We will continue the discussion in the next post…

Living in the present moment

Over the weekend, I spend some time cleaning up my laptop. That’s when I found this mindmap that I had done probably a year or so back. These were my thoughts on Living in the Present Moment(For those who do not know, Mindmap is a tool that is used to visually represent your thinking). This was around the time I got hooked to the concept and wanted to figure out what it meant to live in the present moment. I listed down things and questions which when done or answered would lead me eventually to a state of present moment !

Fortunately I dropped this approach after a while without pushing really hard.

The reason why I wanted to put this up here is to show the stupid, humane error that all of us make. We think we are intelligent and rational human beings and we can intellectually understand any concept and also work backwards to create a plan/approach to reach there. But how true is this belief?

If you don’t believe me, just consider this. Try putting up a process/ methodology for falling in love and executing it with your great logical mind versus just falling in love totally unexpected. I don’t think you will need another illustration than this.

While many great things in life are like this, they just happen when the time is ripe. But the Mind and the Ego likes the intellectual gymnastics. The more intellectually you try to understand the truth, you are actually creating concepts with which the mind and ego plays around. (That’s when someone who is ‘being with himself’ looks so stiff and depressed)

I think the truth works the other way round. When the right moment comes (and we don’t decide it, the nature (or whatever you call) knows it) you just fall in to it and all that change needed just happens spontaneously. All that we need to do is to wait patiently for the moment to come. Drop the resistance and be there.

But how do we convince our dear logical mind to stop the noise-making activity called thinking?

LIPM1LIPM2

See also : Conflicts are not resolved by our logical mind