Tag Archives: Mindfulness

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.

Concepts

What you see in the picture is a dust cover of a book lying on the floor of my living room.

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It’s such a trivial thing to attach any importance to. Even I did not, until this evening, which was the third day that it had been lying there. It caught my attention when I returned from work. The irritation I felt lasted only a brief moment and gave way to amusement as the complexity of what lead to it unfolded in my mind.

I should give you a bit of background first. My wife, my 10-year-old daughter and I live in this apartment. A very clear division of responsibilities exist in our house, which has evolved over a period of time. My wife takes care of all matters at home (though with lot of complaining). I take care of my office work and things outside of home. My daughter lives in her own world of books, games and TV, never crossing her self-drawn boundaries.

My daughter and I are extremely unorganised. We love to scatter things around and literally litter the house. My wife loves to keep the house neat and tidy and we now take it for granted that it is her responsibility to put things in order. This works most of the time, except on few occasions where she feels she has had enough.

My daughter and I are voracious readers. I keep buying books for both us and the result is an overflowing library at home. My wife thinks I am wasting money buying books and keeps gives me a nasty look whenever I do.

Now back to the dust cover lying on the floor. It had been removed from a book and kept in the book shelf.  It must have fallen down (most probably) when my daughter was taking a book out of the shelf. She must have never bothered to put it back, for she considered it was mother’s job to put things in order. My wife must have had enough of this and decided to leave it where it was (books belong to father and daughter and they better learn to take care of it). I come home in the evening and notice the dust cover lying on the floor, but do nothing about it (who ever let it fall should put it back).

No questions asked, no words spoken. All of us went about with our regular affairs; except that none seems to take notice of the dust cover lying on the floor. The next morning I left to office and my daughter to her school. When I return in the evening, the cover was lying there still. Our maid servant was on leave for a few days and I assumed that the house wasn’t vacuumed or mopped.

Another night passed with the dust cover still lying there. I think each of us now where expecting someone else to lose their patience and do something about it.

On the third day I returned home to find the dust cover still lying there and I also saw that it was deliberately left there (the floor was vacuumed and mopped !).

It was when the whole drama dawned on me and I couldn’t help being amused at the complexity of it. I picked up the dust cover and put it back in to the book shelf.

Everything around us, whether important or trivial, in order or out-of-order, on time or delayed, isn’t there or there without a reason. They have complex human egos with hundreds of concepts, playing elaborate games behind the scene.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, said Prospero in Tempest. But I am sure our lives are made up of such concepts that we are not even aware of.

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!

Positive Affirmations

I was reading an article on Positive Affirmations. Positive Affirmations is a popular (somewhat) technique used to create a strong subconscious (or unconscious) beliefs by repetition. This is touted as a method to create favorable unconscious patterns and also to remove unwanted patterns from the subconscious mind. The method is something like this. If you want to become wealthy, you spend some time everyday repeating something like “I am very wealthy” or something similar. The results are better if combined with visualization. For e.g in this case you also visualize yourself living in a palatial mansion or driving an expensive car or at your dream holiday spot. It’s said that when you create such a positive affirmation in your unconscious mind, it’s bound to happen almost automatically.

 The method had been long used in the ‘mantra’ tradition of the eastern cultures. A ‘mantra’ is a short phrase with or without a meaning and one is required to chant the mantra regularly for a long period. What happens is after a while the conscious mind loses all its interest in the mantra and then it sinks in to your unconscious mind. The unconscious mind understands ‘sound’ and the mantra is typically made of chosen words or syllables which can produce a certain effect. In Hindu tradition, there are mantras for all kind of things: like aquiring intelligence, acquiring money, removing obstacles etc.

 Coming back to the Positive Affirmations. The principle used is the same. When I read it for the first time, it looked pretty logical. But when I thought about it more, I see a catch. What one is trying to do here is to change/create one habit pattern keeping the rest intact. And if this happens, perhaps few other patterns will change unconsciously. It’s something like this. I put an affirmation in to my mind that I want to be wealthy and it becomes my nature. Then I figure out that if I need to be wealthy, it’s going to be at the expense of lot of other things, things that I enjoy doing, time with my family, interests of other people etc. But then I don’t have a choice because the drive to become wealthy is now an unconscious drive in me. Will I have done something good or bad?

 The fundamental question is- is it sufficient to change one thing at a time or is the change holistic? There is definitely a difference between the way eastern traditions and western philosophy approach change. In the western approach one tries to create positive habit patterns and remove the negative habit patterns. They lead to success and well-being in the future. But in the eastern tradition, the idea is not to classify patterns in to good and bad, but to step out of them completely. And the well-being that results in now and here.

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.

death

I was talking to a friend yesterday morning about death. We were sitting outside the Intensive Care Unit in a Hospital (my father is not well and is admitted there) and yesterday morning the patient in the adjacent bed passed away.

Our conversation drifted off in to what happens when we die. Nowadays scientists are beginning to discover that death may not be as bad a painful experience as we think. There are some studies (there is a program called AWARE) done on people who have head near death experiences. A typical case is of drowning when someone is rescued after being almost drowned (the life lingers on for about 2 minutes after breathing stops) and then rescued. Many of them report that it was not a scary experience, but rather there was complete peace. Studies are also done on patients who have survived on operation tables, wherein they report that they could see themselves lying below, as if they were near the ceiling, being operated upon. Scientists are now validating this by placing certain signs near the roof which are not visible in the lying position and asking such people if they have seen it.

While I told all this to my friend, he narrated to me a near-death experience he had some time back. He was on a bike entering the main road from a pocket road. As he briefly paused for a moment to judge the traffic, a loaded truck that was parked on the side He was on a bike entering the main road from a pocket road. As he briefly paused for a moment to judge the traffic, a loaded truck that was parked on the side began to move back. The truck hit the bike and he fell down on the road and the driver unaware of this moved the truck further back. Some bye standers saw this and alerted the driver who stopped the truck just in time to save my friend who was just few inches away from the rear wheel.

He explained to me what went in his mind during the incident. As he was lying there on the road watching the rear wheels of the truck coming slowly towards him, he was blank. He could have moved away quickly, but instead he just lied there resigned and serene. He told me that for that moment, there were no thoughts in his mind, he did not think of his parents or wife or kids. There was no fear too. He was serene and peaceful.

According to Hindu (also other eastern traditions), everyone is born with a blank mind without any conditioning. Throughout one’s life , one adds conditioning which builds up his identity and again at the time of death, the mind returns to the original unconditioned state. Most of the spiritual practices are trying to get the mind (or consciousness) in to that ‘unconditioned’ state.

But I am not sure if there is something as ‘near death experience’. I thought it was binary- death or no death, or is there something between?

Fear

I had my first roller coaster experience in Disneyland, Paris almost 10 years back. I had never been on a roller coaster till then and had really no clue how it really felt. It was drizzling and my wife and I took shelter near a dome like structure. I then suggested to my wife – anyway we are waiting here, why don’t we check what is inside. So we went inside and were ushered to a boat like structure and until the seat belts were fastened I really had no idea what we were getting in to. The boat slowly moved through the mouth of a canon and moved back, and I said – this is cool. And then suddenly it shot in to darkness, making rounds after rounds at unimaginable speed. I was not breathing (I think so) and closed my eyes and if I recall my mind was blank. I could hear people screaming and I remember once or twice I stretched my arm to check if my wife was still there. After while the boat came to a halt and I opened my eyes to see stars and moon right in front (This ordeal is called Space adventure or something like that). What a relief, and I gave a sigh of relief. But that didn’t last long. It all started again (we had to come back to earth, right?) and we were again in the dark making rounds. We were so much shaken by it that when we were literally trembling as our train to Paris began to move. I was so sure that I could never do it again, and if I do, I would simply be dead. For almost 10 years, I have never attempted it again (also similar stuff like Giant wheels..)

Few months back we were in a theme park near Bangalore where we had passes for all the rides. There was a roller coaster, a smaller one though, and my little daughter wanted to have a ride. I was sure I couldn’t do it and I tried to persuade her to talk he out. No way, she was very adamant and also extremely enthusiastic. After lot of deliberation, I finally decided to let her take a ride. But there was a bigger problem, I couldn’t send her alone. So reluctantly I decided to accompany her.

 As I stood in the queue, there was a battle in my mind. Against all my reasoning ( it was anyway a small one, it was free etc..) there was FEAR. I could feel fear building in me like a lump and something in my said – DON’T. I tried to calm my mind, but the fear was there taking over me. I wanted to run away. I was sure something would happen to me if I take the ride? What happens if I had a heart attack? By then we were boarding the roller coaster. I was completely out of my mind. I was watching the other people getting in and my mind said – here is the last chance to escape. All my reasoning had evaporated and the fear had completely possessed me. I finally managed to put my hand up to tell the operator that I am getting down and the precisely at the moment the roller coaster moved forward.

 In a flash, I went blank and as we made laps (not that bad as the earlier one of course), I suddenly realized there was no fear. We did one more round and by the then I was screaming with my kid and actually was enjoying it.

Recently we were discussing about fear and I used this incident to ask the question – Where is fear?

 Where is fear? Fear is only in the mind. The mind forms a rigid ‘concept’ or an ‘idea’ based mostly on a past experience and it tries to avoid it. Normally it is not that bad because you can choose to avoid such situations in the future ( and I think this is essential for survival). But what happens when the undesirable situation is eminent and unavoidable? This is a torture, fear builds up and the mind tries to tell you that you need to get away to avoid the danger. The more severe the danger is and the more close you are to it, more the trauma. You can even sense fear as a physical sensation, you start to perspire, heartbeat goes up and your breath rapidly. If you observe the mind in such a situation (very unlikely though), you can see mind rattling out warnings and reasons why should be avoiding it. It is also trying to suggest different ways to get out of the situation and end the trauma.

In the above incident, my daughter never had any of these problems, because she was excitedly waiting for our turn to board the rollercoaster. It was something she was eagerly looking forward to. And even for me, there was no fear when I was actually on the rollercoaster.

Fear lives on anticipation. And only when you think about it.

I think all animals too have fear in certain situations.But since for humans the things and events also exist virtually in the mind, fear also exists virtually.

Spontaneity in Children

My daughter’s school opens next week. The bus will pick her up at 6.50AM, and to make it she will need to rise by 6.00AM.  My wife is extremely tensed about this because she thinks this is impossible and also because she will need to rise by 5.30 or so.

We were discussing this last week over dinner when I suggested to my wife – why don’t we practice getting up early for next few days so that we can get accustomed?

It was my daughter who responded – why should we practice? can’t we just get up when we want?

I had no answer. It left me again thinking about the complex adult mind. As our logical minds become more and more dominant, we tend to do any thing twice. First in the mind and if that goes well then externally. The problem here is that at the mind level there are numerous reasons why something should be / can be / cannot be done, depending upon how complex one’s thinking is. Where as in reality, there may be very few options: for e.g something is done or not done.

More logical we are, the more we are caught up in the process of analysis, judging, processing, rehearsing etc. But for children it;s really simple. They do something or don’t do something. And for either, that might not have a reason. And more importantly they do not create an issue out of it.

Someone said, when a bird flies from one branch of a tree to another, it does not go though a thinking process evaluating different options. It simply flies, because it is part of it’s being.

The voice of the gods

Most of the temples and other such religious places in India traditionally have Oracles who are considered to be representatives of the gods.(See the pictures http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3235/2396067808_2e3cc10f71.jpg and http://www.wiki.indianfolklore.org/images/thumb/3/3a/NilaMarch2009_195.jpg/250px-NilaMarch2009_195.jpg ) I can vividly remember, as a child watching them with fear and awe as they would dance in trance.

The oracles participate in special rituals in the temples in their special costume ( red dress, anklets, bells, sword) accompanied by drums. The ritual normally consists of some kind of dance, walking barefoot on fire and wounding themselves on the forehead with the swords. As the rhythm of the drums progresses, they enter in to a trance and what they talk in that state is supposed to be coming from the gods. Even today, these oracles command lot of respect in the villages.

It was only after the incident described below, did I realize the brilliance of this whole thing. Anything that typically comes from the human mind is conditioned and limited by the logic. A true revelation or insight comes from a dimension beyond the logic.

 But for this to come, the logical mind need to be silenced, which is extremely difficult. But then the ancient people have invented lots of methods by which the logical mind can be temporarily gotten out of the way and in that gap an unconditioned thought can arise.

One such method is ‘pain’. When you can consciously endure pain, it brings the mind to the present moment, which means the mind stops, which means suddenly you enter the realm of unconditioned space. This is what happens here. The Oracles walk on fire and wound themselves and when they do this consciously, they come to the present moment. The other paraphernalia and the drums just set the atmosphere for this.

And once they are completely drawn to the present moment, what they say comes from beyond and has a quality that’s beyond the logical human mind.

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..

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…

Thoughts and possibilities

I was sitting over a cup of coffee with a friend of mine and he mentioned to me that he was leaving to Thirupathi that night (For those who do not know, Thirupathi is the abode of Lord Venkateswara and is the richest temple in the world). I didn’t feel like engaging in a conversation, so we just had some loose talk till we were done with the coffee. But interestingly, I could see that there were lots and lots of thoughts that came up in the mind in response to the topic of discussion.

As we walked back to the desk, I was thinking about this. Probably because I did not speak, the compulsive need to pursue a thread  wasn’t that significant, and this must have allowed all these different thoughts to come up in mind.

I tried to list some of these thoughts here:   (what is in the main bullet is the primary thought trigger and what is in the second level bullet is the secondary though trigger which comes from the primary)

  1. I haven’t been there yet, I would like to go
    • Is this the right time to go there? When is the rush less?
  2. Is this your first trip? Do you go often?
  3. It’s the richest temple, I read that there is a special ’chakra’ installed there to attract money
    • I read recently that the temple of Shirdi is the second richest temple
  4. I normally go to Sabarimala everyyear
  5. In Kerala, we do not worship Balaji
  6. Infact I have not been going anywhere for a long time
  7. I s it better to drive? I want to go when I get my new Car?
    • I will plan to get the new car in June
  8. Is it necessary to shave the head?
    • My sister had been to Palani recently to shave her daughter’s head
  9. It’s interesting that all the major temples of South India are on hill tops

 These different thoughts in fact stem from different aspects of our mind and personality. For e.g thoughts 3, 5, 9 come from the point that I want to show that I know these facts (probably this will enhance my sense of self as a ‘knowledgeable person’). Thought 7 is a dangerous one and can hit my self-esteem big time. Thoughts 4,5 justifies my not going there, so that my sense of self is not diminished etcetc.

 This is infact a practical illustration of the concept described in the post The act of mindful watching. In normal scenario we do not see so many thoughts for a single trigger. We probably have one or two. This depends on our personality, mood and state of mind. For e.g if at this moment I am nurturing a feeling that my life is a failure, the likely hood of me getting only thought 6 is very very high. And since each of these thoughts can take the conversation/further thinking in a totally different direction, we are most likely to take one of those thought paths than to look at more thoughts coming up.

Needless to say, more reactive the mind is lesser the options we see Many times there are those negative feelings within us waiting patiently to react to any thing that would engage them. This is the reason why everything looks negative when your mind is in a negative state.

As we discussed earlier, if we can overcome the compulsive  need to react to a trigger, more options simply arise and this is the most basic quality for a creative mind.

Commitment and Detachment

When I began to write about the two qualities of the mind, I never thought it would drag so long. I thought it was all done and today morning appears this thought. Looked like I had to write it.

In the previous post I have described some techniques to fine tune the two qualities of the mind. These have a profound effect on the mind and ones thinking. But it is easy to overdo one and get in to an imbalanced state. Especially when one is experimenting. If the expanding aspect is dominant, one feels relaxed, energetic, will have a holistic view of  things;but will have difficulty is doing task that demands continuity (an office job for example). If the focusing aspect is dominant, one becomes obsessed with tasks and end up chasing time always. Over and above the practice, there is one’s natural inclination to thinking that plays a role here.

It is very important to balance these two for the mind to work perfectly. This can be done by introducing a compensating element that can restore the balance.These compensating elements are the two virtues : Commitment and Detachment which one needs to cultivate.

When the mind is in an expanded state, one needs commitment to focus on work at hand and the goal in life etc. Otherwise he can become a day dreamer unable to focus the attention anywhere. Committment is bringing the focus to a specific point. And if you observe closely, this is an aspect of the logical mind (this is where self talks helps).

When the mind is only focused, the thinking can become extremely narrow and rigid, and the person becomes feverish about things. There seems to be very less possibilities.Feverishness is what gets people in to most of the psychosomatic diseases like stress. This is where one needs to master the art of ‘letting go’. And, this is not something the logical mind will or can do.

To have fine balance in thinking, both the aspects – focussing and expanding – needs to be fine-tuned. At the same time, one needs to cultivate these virtues – Commitment and Detachment which will serve as the levers to maintain the balance.

And to have Commitment and Detachment at the same time is yet another contradiction…