Tag Archives: Mindful observation

Perception with no mind

We are often so caught up with what is going on inside us that we pay very little attention to what’s around us. Scientists say the human mind looks for some basic details to figure out what the object is and usually we are trained to notice differences. May be in the compulsive need to label / understand the object, we compromise on the quality of perception.

I am reading a book titled “Krishnamurti’s Notebook”. This is a diary written by Jiddu Krishnamurti (the famous philosopher, popularly known as K) in the sixties. K is said to have had a mind which was thoughtless. The depth and richness of the perception has an indescribable beauty and majesty. If you ever want to get a feel of what it means to perceive without the mind (without thinking) look at the one page I am reproducing below:

November 17th

The earth was the colour of the sky; the hills, the green, ripening rice fields, the trees and the dry, sandy river-bed were the colour of the sky; every rock on the hills, the big boulders, were the clouds and they were the rocks. Heaven was the earth and the earth heaven; the setting sun had transformed everything. The sky was blazing fire, bursting in every streak of cloud, in every stone, in every blade of grass, in every grain of sand. The sky was ablaze with green, purple, violet, indigo, with the fury of flame. Over that hill it was a vast sweep of purple and gold; over the southern hills a burning delicate green and fading blues; to the east there was a counter sunset as splendid in cardinal red and burnt ochre, magenta and fading violet. The counter sunset was exploding in splendor as in the west; a few clouds had gathered themselves around the setting sun and they were pure, smokeless fire which would never die. The vastness of this fire and its intensity penetrated everything and entered the earth. The earth was the heavens and the heavens the earth. And everything was alive and bursting with colour and the colour was god, not the god of man. The hills became transparent, every rock and boulder was without weight, floating in colour and the distant hills were blue, the blue of all the seas and the sky of every clime. The ripening rice fields were intense pink and green, a stretch of immediate attention. And the road that crossed the valley was purple and white, so alive that it was one of the rays that raced across the sky. You were of that light, burning, furious, exploding, without shadow, without root and word. And as the sun went down further down, every colour became more violent, more intense and you were completely lost, past all recalling. It was an evening that had no memory.

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Patterns and Creativity

We had discussed about how the mind responds to a trigger in the posts Problem solving – what happens in the mind and Responding to a trigger – what happens in the mind.

How one thinks is determined by how his thoughts connect to one another or how a  new thought is formed in response to trigger.  And a subtle difference between different connections can produce drastically different outputs. This can differentiate between creative and normal thinking.

It is said that every neuron has a choice of 5000 – 6000 connections to choose from, which can tell you the amount of complexity involved in connecting thoughts. Try imagining the situation  where every time you think, you have to pause after every thought and choose from over 5000 thoughts to connect. It might look ridiculous, but in reality I think the brain can do such wonders. But the intelligent mind (logical) tackles this problem by forming patterns, based on past experiences. When a new trigger arrives, mind prompts you to behave in a particular way; the prompting depending upon your past experience. If you oblige, the patterns are strengthened and stronger the patterns lesser one has control on it. (By pattern, I mean the sequence of connecting thoughts – please refer to the post The problem of ‘interpretation’ for a sample)

The way patterns work is interesting. In a scenario where a pattern consists of a set of thoughts that are triggered by a particular event, the mind is only aware of  the beginning and the end of the pattern and not what happens in between. In this way, the processing is pretty fast, but the disadvantage is that thinking becomes almost unconscious. And the more patterns we form in the mind, more unconscious our thinking becomes.

Look at small children; they are still forming the patterns. They can still look at a ‘flower’ without really labeling it, classifying it, trying to name it or even wanting to know where the plant was purchased from. But then there is  a loving father or a teacher  who tells him/her what that flower is called, why is the color this way, what is the biological name etc..Great, a new pattern forms and the next time the child sees the same flower, the mind is most likely  busy trying to recollect the botanical name of the plant..

Creativity experts argue that ‘logical mind’ is the most prominent block for creativity. Though this is true at a surface level, what can you do with the logical mind? You telling yourself to drop all logic simply doesn’t work. The real block  is actually the ‘patterns’ or how a single new thought connect to an existing thought (or memory)  or create another new thought.

For most of us, this is a completely involuntary activity (this by itself  is a problem which later manifests as compulsive thinking and reactive mind patterns when someone is stressed etc), which means we have no idea what is happening during a thought processing.

Now simply imagine that we have some say or control over how one thought connects to another. Or at least there is a small delay in the connection process, so that it is not a completely unconscious process. Can you imagine what would happen to our thinking? How will our perceptions change?

This is actually the key to creative thinking. I would put it this way: the first step to creative thinking is to make thinking ‘conscious’. And this is something that can be learnt by practice. We will continue the discussion. In the next post we will discuss about ‘Presence’, which is the key to making thinking conscious.