Tag Archives: Mindfulness

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.

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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.