Tag Archives: Meditation

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.

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.

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’.
IMG489
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!

Bandh

Today we had a ‘forced holiday’ throughout India.a Bandh. The opposition parties had called for a Bandh (Bandh means a General strike. The word literally means ‘a tying up’ in Hindi) to protest against the recent steep hike on petrol prices.

Bandh is a big affair in India. Shops remain closed, offices do not function, roads deserted and people pretty much stay indoors. The severity depends on the party that has called for Bandh. The communists are notorious for making Bandh a big success and the Communist ruled states in India enjoy at least one such ‘forced holiday’ every month.

Are Bandhs the right way to protest or are they simply causing damage to the nation’s progress by losing millions of hours of productive work? It’s hard to say. On one side is the right of every man to protest against what he thinks is unjust and on the other side is the huge losses incurred by Corporations and the economy in general (Not to mention about people unable to reach hospitals on time, marriages postponed, people stranded in Railway stations etc. and the inconvenience caused. They don’t matter much; it’s at the personal level and people will need to sort it out themselves) I leave the question here for your to ponder, that’s not the point here.

 There is another side to it. Bandh has an un-seen spiritual significance. It’s a sort of meditation at a grand scale.

On any normal day, this is what you see in Indian cities: People running around because they are late to work or some other important appointments, people making frantic calls demanding updates, giving instructions, people honking restlessly at traffic signals, vehicles trying to squeeze through the almost-standstill traffic, people trying to pile in to elevators, follow-up meetings, midnight con-calls…..

 The message that everyone is conveying: I am someone important, I need to be somewhere at this point in time, otherwise something is going to go wrong. What I need to do is important.So I need to rush. Hurry.

People are always running; because they are important, what they need to do is important, time is important, commitments are most important.

 And then comes the Bandh. Everything comes to s stand still. No office, no tasks, no commitments, you don’t need to be anywhere. No one cares.

And nothing happens.

What is the message?: Relax, even if no one does anything here for the whole day, NOTHING happens.

The Bandh makes a mockery of our ‘inflated self-esteem’ and reminds us how insignificant we are.

 We try to pretend otherwise. The next day Newspapers give the estimated loss caused by the Bandh and that’s somewhat satisfying – we are important. Aren’t we?

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.

What does yoga offer for right-left brain coordination?

Adding a note to my earlier post Right brain or the left brain? Does it really matter?.

The ancient sages of India had explored literally everything that could influence the mind and conciousness positively. Looks like they were aware of the importance of coordinating the right and left brains for better functioning of the mind and better awareness.

There is a simple technique called Yoni Mudra (A mudra is a  posture  that is used to channel energy to a specific part of the body) which is used in meditation, to achive this. Externally this is meant to balance the energies between right hand and the left hand. But interally this helps to balance the right and left parts of the brain. Yoni mudra is performed using the hands as shown below in the picture.

Yoni Mudra

How the mudra meditation done?

Just sit cross legged with the spine erect, hold your hands in yoni mudra (thumbs are facing the ceiling and the hands below your navel with elbows bent outwards) and take deep, joyful ujjai breaths. Do few rounds. This can be integrated with other yoga practices, or can be done alone. Typically a mudra is practiced after raising the enrgy level in the body through yoga or pranayama or even a physical activity like jogging

When do you want to balance your left and right brains? When one of them is really dominant. That is either you are too logical and lack creativity or you are too sensitive and emotional and can’t approach things logically.

Note: In some texts, yoni mudra refers to a different posture. I think just a termonilogy issue.

Also see the post on story telling to make the brain more creative