Tag Archives: Patterns

Familiarity

Yesterday, my wife asked me to visit a particular shop to pick up some special things on my way back home. So after my office I was at the shop with a friend of mine. After we finished our purchase and were returning to my car, my friend remarked, “you seem to know that shop keeper very well”

“What makes you think so?” I asked.

“The way you both were interacting; it seemed as though he knows you well”.

I am not a regular customer at the shop and was not really familiar with the shop keeper. But then I also realized that we were interacting as if we had known each other quite well.

Several, probably hundreds of, people visit the shop on a daily basis. How would a shop keeper remember them? It would really be tough. But a shop keeper definitely had to remember his key customers, because they make his business flourish. So he will need to some way of figuring out who were his regular customers. When one walks in to the shop, there is a moment when the shop keeper is looking for some signs of familiarity, like a friendly smile. If that’s there, he assumes that the person is a familiar customer and then behaves as though he knew him well. He is not faking but is really genuine. So all that one needs to do is offer that first sign of familiarity nothing like a genuine smile.

This was the explanation I gave my friend about this. I happened to be in a good mood that day and probably he had ‘mis-read’ my expression for familiarity.

But as I was writing this post, I was thinking about it again. Will it be possible that the people we meet at the street or office also have this problem? I decided to check it out at office. I walked around the office today with a smile (as genuine as possible) and to my surprise several people I happen to meet on the corridors reciprocated with a smile, a wish or many a times with a ‘how are you’. We must have crossed each other several times in the past, ignoring. But I think unconsciously everyone is looking for that first sign of ‘familiarity’.

This is perhaps an instinct built within us to differentiate between friends and enemies. But what’s also interesting is that everyone looks for that sign during an encounter. No wonder I have so many whom I do not like!

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.

Accomplishments and Freedom

A huge screen was put up in our office cafeteria yesterday for employees to watch the much hyped India- Pak Cricket match live. I am not a big fan of cricket; but went there on time just for the heck of it. I was just on time lucky enough to grab one of the few available chairs there and soon the cafeteria was fully crowded and most had to remain standing.

After a while, I wanted to take a break for a smoke. But then it occurred to me that if I get up, I would lose my chair. The match was expected to go on for another good 3 hrs or so and I intended to watch it throughout.

But then, I also wanted to take a break.

As I sat there with these conflicting thoughts in mind, a strange realization occurred. While I was battling with this silly dilemma, I could see that the people who were standing had all the freedom. They could take a break, go and come back later or simply decide to leave without a second thought. They had nothing to lose; didn’t have to hold on to the chair as they had none. But the people who were sitting did not have the freedom, because of the fear of losing the chair. The brief period where I thought I was lucky to get a seat had already lost its charm.

Isn’t the same with every other thing in life? Aren’t we confined and limited by all our possessions, achievements, positions – everything that we had struggled hard to achieve. After the brief interlude of happiness, they actually instill a fear about losing them. And this fear is limiting. So in a way, when you don’t have something, you are not bound by it and you have all the freedom.

After my short break, I was back watching the match, now standing. I was still following the same thread in my mind.

Now, it was interesting. If I was looking for someone to get up so that I can occupy a chair, I am again without the freedom; I might lose my chance if I was not attentive. On the other hand, if I accepted the situation and did not look forward to sitting, I was free. So restrictions don’t just come from what we have, but also with what we wish to possess.

Now comes the most interesting part. Many left as the match progressed (OK, India was little disappointing) and there were many chairs empty. But there were also many standing then, not bothering to sit down. When what is desired is easily available, the interest is lost.

Though this is such a trivial incident, it represents a pattern that fundamentally makes our lives so problematic. Be it looking for a seat, be it buying a BMW, be it becoming a billionaire or be it getting out of a miserable situation, it is the same mind and mental pattern at work!

The real beauty of this whole thing is that the whole drama happens just in the mind; in reality, there is no drama. It is just a situation as it is.

Buddha saw this whole drama some 2500 years ago, when he said “desire is the cause of all suffering”

Mind and Impressions

Most of us have the delusion that our thinking is conscious and intentional. But this might be far from truth. I think we have no clue what the mind does with the magnitude of information and sense perceptions that we receive every day. Even things that you don’t notice, are picked up by the subconscious mind and processed. Here is an interesting experience that shows how subtle this is.

About three days back I was in conversation with a colleague on Salary benchmarking. During the discussion he told me that at “Oceanus Builders” (this is a construction company in India), this is what they pay for a 15 year experienced engineer. We continued the conversation and I forgot all about it.

Yesterday night we were in a restaurant for a team outing and one I had a person called Navjit sitting next to me. We were there for about talking and eating.

During my sleep yesterday night I had a dream. In one part of the dream, I was walking with Navjit and he pointed to me an area (there was something like a communication tower there) and told me that ‘Oceanus Builders’ were planning to construct a building there, but it did not go forward because of a technical flaw. I asked him if it is something like a design error and by then the frame of the dream changed.

I remember the dream clearly because at some point, we climbed on a rooftop and I fell from there and I woke with a start. What is also interesting is that this person Navjit is recently purchased an apartment and of late I saw him (and heard him) discussing issues related to it with people over phone.

So in my dream, I actually connected three things and tried to put them in to a meaningful incident. What is surprising is also that in this case, I woke up and caught the dream. So we could be seeing hundreds of such dreams in our sleep and do not remember them at all.

Is it that the mind is trying to do some organizing during sleep of all the information that comes in, to make some sense or is it that some neurons just misfired?

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.

Stories and Associations

We have already discussed in depth how associations lead to creativity. Like most of the other mind structures, association happen at several layers right from connecting two thoughts/memories (in the process called thinking) to connecting to unrelated concepts.

One of the interesting expressions of the power of association can be seen in stories. You must have seen people who have a story or an anecdote for any situation which entirely captures the essence of it, but comes from totally different plane altogether.

I would like to illustrate two incidents that happened yesterday in office, each of them show how powerful the capacity of the mind to process things is.

1) As some of us sat chatting over a coffee in the evening, the conversation drifted to the recruitment drive that was on. Someone (he has recently joined the organization) remarked : “What is the need to recruit so many people like this, I do not see any need”. Some one else responded to this with the below story : Someone was trying to get in to a train. The compartment  was already full, so the passengers were ‘physically’ resisting anyone who was trying to get in. But our man somehow forces his way in to the compartment much to the displeasure of other passengers.

 “Don’t worry, I will also join you from the next stop” he tell them.

 “What for” asks an irate passenger.

 “To prevent anyone else from getting in to the train.”

2)  Any conversation these days ends up in us discussing about this particular manager, his manners, approach etc.  And when this happened for the umpteenth time, some one stood up in the bay to narrate this story :

 “Once upon a time, there was this small  boy preparing for an examination. He was expecting  an essay on coconut tree (the story is in Indian context, this is one of the common topics for essay  in primary schools..) and prepared a good one. But he was asked to write an essay on Cow instead. The boy had only prepared for the essay on Coconut tree. So he began “Cow is a very useful animal which gives us milk. A cow is normally tied to a coconut tree. A coconut tree…” He continued the essay with what he prepared about the coconut tree.

Later, when it was time for the next exam, he was sure that the topic would be coconut tree this time. But unfortunately the topic was Hen. He began: “Hen is a very useful bird that gives us egg and meat. Hen is not usually tied to a coconut tree. A coconut tree…” He continued the rest of the essay with what he had prepared about the coconut tree.

I believe that anything in the mind exists in several layers some in abstract form and others expressed in languages. If you see the incidents and the stories above, you can see that they are connected at a higher level. It’s a marvel how the mind is able to pick these two incidents, extract a pattern from them and connect them in a manner that makes sense for others.

Perhaps, this is the same quality that enables the mind to see patterns.

Thoughts and Arrangements

The way thoughts connect/ associate with each other is the basis for how the human mind functions. It may be interesting to see that this is reflected (mostly in a subtle way) in the way things around us are progressing. Especially the technology. A good example is the ‘tags’ which is popular on the net; in fact the human mind uses something like tags to connect  two thoughts/memory (‘all those painful events in my life’ for e.g).

I was in a Supermarket yesterday. I haven’t been there for quite long and in the meantime the shop had undergone significant restructuring and reorganization. Earlier they had four floors with dedicated space for apparels, grocery, electronics etc. Now they have reduced to 2 floors (got rid of some things like furniture in the process) and the arrangement looked little bit haphazard.

 We were to visit a friend of mine who had an 8 months old baby. We were looking for a gift to buy. We started with the toy section; but couldn’t find something interesting. Then my wife suggested we could alternatively look for a dress for the baby and we proceeded to the adjacent section where  they had dress for kids.

As usual, my attention was drifting off from shopping. And suddenly, something struck me. The toy section and the apparel section for kids are now arranged nearby, so that one would naturally move from one to the other. They had an apparel section elsewhere too. It looked like they have completely gotten rid of the dedicated space and rather decided to spread them. This was done very intelligently. For e.g one could move to the ‘children’s dress area’ either from the ‘main apparel area’ or from ‘toy section’ or from the ‘school stationary’ section. This also meant that there are different places where similar items were displayed, which is against the typical way the supermarkets are arranged.

I am not an expert in the way goods are arranged in supermarkets to attract customers; I know there are people who specialize in this. But you can find a similar trend in areas where spatial arrangement of objects is done.

I think, subconsciously human beings are imitating the way the mind functions  and how we typically organize our thoughts. The logic (or lack of it) the mind uses to connect thoughts can help to design more intelligent spaces that will best be used by humans.

Afterthought:

This is the concept of mind in the traditional Hindu philosophy. There is a universal/ all knowing mind (conciousness) which is not bound by time, space etc and is present in everyone and also is connected.This is the all knowing conciousness. But this consciousness expresses in every one as ‘mind’, which is like an extension of the universal mind and  through which we can (possibly) access the universal consciousness. I am just wondering – is this the way the world wide web is designed? Perhaps the popularity of the internet can be attributed to this grand design?

Finding Anil Joji

I had just started at the new office. As expected, there were lot of small things to be sorted out, like I wanted the handle of my chair removed and I wanted the AC vent to be partially closed etc. To get all these fixed, I had to interact with someone from the facilities department, called Anil Joji. We exchanged mails and at times we spoke over the phone;but never met in person (unfortunately at the new office, there wasn’t a site where one could look at the photos of employees)

For a strange reason, I became curious about who could this person be (perhaps the name had something catchy about it). We occupy three floors in the building and as we move around, we must have surely be passing by each other. This was a strange thought. But as it happened, I began (sub consciously) to scan people who passed by to spot someone who could potentially be Anil Joji.

Over the next couple of weeks, I had narrowed down the list of possible candidates to two. I was almost sure that one of them was “Anil Joji”. And last week I happened to have one of them close by, and managed to read his name on the identify card. And even to my own surprise, it was Anil Joji.

This was very strange. There was no way I could explain what happened. Till that point I had not realised that subconsciously I was doing this process of elimination.

Later, I tried to figure out how the mind could do such a thing. This is the possible explanation I could figure out.

The first thing that happened was that, as I began to interact, the mind began to identify some unique characteristics. Few that I can recollect:

–          The name suggested that he was from a particular state in India (and I have an idea how the people from that state typically look like)

–          The name also suggested that he was a Christian

–          He was part of the facilities team which meant that

  • He would be seen interacting with teams like admin
  • He would be seen moving around looking busy
  • He is seen around places where there is some problem ((In fact finally when I spotted him, he was in this situation, the lunch was delayed in the canteen and he was there standing)
  • Etcetc….

With these characteristics in mind, over the next few days, my mind was scanning people around trying to find a match and eliminating the others. It came to the point where the list narrowed down to just two.

Later, I narrated the entire event to a friend of mine. I ended with a comment that there is no way computers can match the intelligence of the human brain. In response, he narrated a very interesting incident to me:

Years back, the Deep Blue machine was developed to play chess with Kasprov. The machine was specially programmed to foresee millions of possibilities and moves ahead. As they went on to play, the machine won the first two games. But then Kasprov went on to win the next three games and the series.

Later people asked Kasprov, how he won over such an intelligent computer. And Kasprov said – Computers are programmed by humans and it cannot be more intelligent than them. After the first two games, Kasprov figured out that though the computer was extremely intelligent in one sense, it could not understand something like ‘sacrifice’, which is unique to humans. In the next games he used such approaches to confuse Deep Blue and win over.

Psychological Camouflage

I was attending a meeting today where many senior people of the company were also present. This was one that ‘we are expected to attend’ and like every such meeting, this was boring and dragged on and on. Most of them were uninterested, but as it is customary in India, no one expressed it.

Time passed, and slowly one person got up, muttering something to his cellphone (very visibly) and pretending as if he is attending a call, walked out of the room. The reason looked quiet genuine, and a few more received calls and excused themselves to take them. (The cellphones are muted, so there was no way to figure out if there was a call really)

I sat there, curiously watching what’s going on.

I have already written in one of the earlier posts that mind (logical mind) plays a key role in sense perceptions. For e.g though there are so many things around, one must be seeing only a few things. These few things are those stand out from the rest or that has changed from last time, because the mind acknowledges only difference (linear from a previous state or transverse from the surroundings). All the rest is classified as usual stuff that ‘the mind already knows’. This applies to all the physical things.

Most of us are aware of this and this is what makes us dress like the rest around us or behave the way we have been behaving so far. Then we aren’t noticed by others. (the converse is also true, people who love to be noticed try to be different from others)

Trying to be identical to the surroundings is a phenomenon called camouflage, which is used (more predominantly in the insect world) both to escape from a predator and to attack a prey unnoticed.

Human beings dressing up like others etc is also a camouflage; for whatever reason we do not want to look different from the rest. May be this comes from the tribal nature of ancient humans.

But as humans, things need to be more complex.The incident described at the beginning is a totally different dimension to this camouflaging, unique to humans- I will call this ‘psychological camouflage’ (I do not know why this name, but this is what came up in my mind). At the first level, we try to behave like (well almost) people around us and over a period of time we develop what is called the right behavior (note that right behavior is always with reference to a society). Till this point, it seems OK. But what also happens in the process, we develop ‘expectations’ – how someone should behave in a particular situation. This ‘expectation’ is purely a virtual thing, it only exists in the mind (and the mind projected future). Any behavior around that is in accordance with this ‘expectation’ is generally unnoticed. Because the brain says – It confirms to what is expected.

Now if someone acts different to this expectation, it gets noticed. May the brain fires a ‘mismatch’ trigger or something like that. Each one of us are aware and conscious about this and many a times in our lives we pretend to be doing / not doing something to conform to other’s expectation. We psychologically camouflage in the projected expectations of people around us.

 It may be interesting to explore how this works. In the example described above, there is a conflict going on in the mind of the person to begin with. One part of the mind says – get out of this place. And the other part says –No it will look odd. This goes on for a while till the first part wins and you decide to leave. But then you do not want to look different (the ‘expectation’ here is that everyone remains for the entire duration and any act different to this is likely to be noticed by others) and then your cunning mind comes up with this solution – pretend as if you have just received a call and walkout to attend it. This may be not the perfect solution, but the best mind can create. The attempt is to make the act look as natural as possible, so that it goes unnoticed by others. This is attempting to camouflage.

If look around, you will be surprised at the amount of camouflage we all do. We may be looking intently at a presenter simply because that’s what is expected. We might be frantically scribbling notes in a meeting (especially when you have nothing significant to do) so that it looks natural. Watch someone who jumps a queue to join a friend who is far ahead.

 Always point is that we try to camouflage with what the world expects (and the world consists of other people who do exactly the same thing ..!). But most of the situations where we try psychological camouflage are points of cognitive dissonance, which is also the key for Innovation.

Lord Ganesha and the Rat

In the last post, we discussed about the two qualities of thinking – focusing and expanding, and their role in creative thinking.  These two qualities in fact represent two movements in the mind. These movements are like channels through which the thoughts are channeled.

It is possible to make the mind experience this movement and hence train it. But it is not possible to do this when the logical mind is active and dominant. When the logical mind gets out of the way, the creative mind is exposed and it is then possible to experience this movement without the commentary. In some traditions of meditation they do this. One you are in deep meditative states (when the thoughts stop and the logical mind quiet) you can alternatively become aware of something very big (like a mountain) and something very small (like a grain of sand). If your meditation is deep enough, you can feel both the expansion and focusing of the mind. Note the term ‘aware’- in meditation we only become aware. It is the logical mind that thinks and the creative mind is just aware.

When the creative mind experiences this movement, it learns.

In Hindu spiritual tradition, symbols are used extensively to make such movements in the mind. It is also woven in to the daily living so as to help people think better. One such example is of Lord Ganesha. For those who do not know, Lord Ganesha is a fat, elephant-headed god with rat as his vehicle, who is worshipped to remove obstacles before an activity is undertaken (see a picture here)

See the brilliance of the people who designed this. When you pray to the lord, that is a moment where thoughts stop – which means the logic stops. Now the gross form of Ganesha gives you that expansion in the mind and the rat creates the movement of focus. And this is what you need when you begin any new activity – ability to think big and ability to pay attention to details.

It is in fact a great idea to use visuals (like statues or photos) to create these movements in the mind, because visuals are perceived by the creative mind.

Future, God and the Contradiction

Someone in the adjacent cubicle was getting a new car. As I reached office, there was a discussion going on if the registration number of the car was an auspicious one (for those who do not know, in India numbers 3,7 and 9 considered generally auspicious . Unlike lucky numbers  which are personal, these are ‘auspicious’ numbers generally for everyone. For bigger numbers, they need to add up to 9 or multiples of it)

Like all the other daily matters, gods play a key role in driving in India and the auspicious number is one of the numerous ‘grace’ invoking means.

As the discussion went on, someone presented an interesting statistics. It seems a study has revealed that the vehicles with auspicious numbers met more accidents that the rest. The most auspicious 9 (where the numbers added up to 9 or multiples of it) topped the list.

I was overhearing the conversation and this particular piece of statistics made me curious. I wondered if this info was right.

As I thought about it later, it looked quite possible that it could be true.

 Here is how it works:  It is those people who have an element of doubt in their ability (here in driving) who look forward to things that would provide them some form of assurance against things going wrong. So logically, the group with auspicious numbers ( more precisely the group who believe in auspicious numbers) are in fact less skilled than the rest. So the rate of accidents would be naturally higher in the first group.

This lead to another interesting thought. When one is actually performing an activity (driving here), the possibility of him doubting his ability is very thin; in reality all the doubts come up when one is thinking about it.  That’s to say only when you look forward to an activity in the future (in the mind) and insist that the outcome has to be something specific , then the doubt arises. And the doubt is rooted in the past – either his own past or the past of others that he has come to know.

Do animals have doubts? Unlikely. May be because animals do any activity in the present moment and in the present moment, there is no doubt. So animals do not need auspicious numbers, talismans, Laughing Buddha etc. All that’s needed only in the future which exists only in the human mind.

So, do animals need god? Also unlikely. Because you need god to help you with uncertainty which in exists only in the mind constructed future. Since animals don’t construct a future and seek security there, mostly they do not need faith and god too.

This leads to one of the greatest contradictions we face. It is only when we are thinking, we have a past and a future and that’s when we need god. But it’s when our thoughts stop, we are in the present moment and that’s the only place we get to know god.

You are what I think you should be…

At my new job,  I was supposed to meet someone for a discussion last week. Just to make sure that I make the right pitch, I enquired with a colleague how this person was. My colleague told me that he had never interacted with him, but from his appearance, he looked like a very irritable fellow. Soon I wasn’t the meeting with a person whose face exactly just said that –I am a very irritable person.

Like most of you, I too believed that someone’s face could tell a lot about his character; which means there is a cruel face, kind face, gentle face, dumb face etc. This incident made me think on this further. Why the hell there is a connection between how someone’s face looks and his character? Do we get it as a package? Or is it likely that one influences the other? Then what comes first? Does the character makes someone’s face the way it is (there are some people who think this way, especially when it comes to things like cruelty) or it is the other way round?

I found it hard to believe and as I thought about this a totally different dimension came to my mind.

There is already an association in the mind which maps different faces to different characters. We have learnt it from our elders, society and mainly films. That is to say, given a set of photos, most of the people would pick the same face for a particular expression.

Fine. Interestingly, this association in the mind forms a strong conditioning that influences our behavior.

 Typically our character has two components; one what we are truly made up of and the other what we develop in response to our environment.

Now assume that someone is born with a face that looks cruel (going by the normal conventions). He may not be aware of that to begin with, but the people around him react (unconsciously) to the way his face looks and this conditions their behavior. What they think of him is now ‘hidden’ in their interactions and his subconscious mind starts to react to this subtle message. If he is more of reactive nature, over a period of time and with many such interactions, he builds the character as conveyed by the people around.

I think this is what happens. People subtly induce the character on to someone depending on a patterns (association) they have in their minds and most of the people have no option than to conform to it. When they approach that person, there is an unconscious message that gets conveyed.

So the problem really is to do with the face and the patters all of us carry in our heads…

If there is someone who’s face and his character does not match (like you think he is a rough guy but he is actually a funny guy..), he is most likely a very creative person. Because most likely he has resisted this massive brain washing that the society attempted on him by being simply what he is.  

Add on:

Once I had a manager who (I think) typically learnt most  skills from books (including parenting, he told me once). There was often a problem between us. When we were in an intense conversation, I would take eyes off his face and stare typically at a blank wall or out through the window. For me these were the moments of intense attention, but he would take it that I have tuned off.

For all these games to work, people should have learnt from the same books or be from the same culture.

Do we get to choose in life?

It is rather strange. But it always looks like everyone else has a choice in life but not me. Things are thrust on me mercilessly. Why is life unfair to me?

There seems to be things to choose from all around, but strangely the moment I get to choose, the choices vanish and there is simply that one thing, the one thing that I do not like, left.

 The world is full of opposites, at least they way my mind sees it. Opposites to choose from;there is love-hatred, war-peace, joy-misery, chaos-order, beauty-ugliness, wellness-suffering. They tell me that I get to choose. They tell me that I am what I have chosen to be.

Do I really get to choose? Can I simply choose between being happy and being sad? If I can make that choice, will I need to make any other choice in life at all?

 Or have I made that choice already?

 Sometimes in our lives, we make choices. Either because we are not attached to the choices or there is a logic that overrules the feeling or we are utterly confused that the decision making becomes conscious. The choosing is unconscious mostly otherwise and in fact, there is no choice at all in the first place.

 Many a times when you attempt to change something (you make a conscious choice to do something or not to do something), panic sets in. There is so much of trauma, uncomfortable feeling, frustration, resistance and mostly after enduring the suffering for a while, we return back to the comfort of what we were.

Moreover, it does not occur to us that a current situation (mostly unpleasant) is in fact a consequence of a choice we have made some time back. Partly because our sense of cause and effect is limited both by time and physical space.

But most of us would agree that we do get to choose. Why then is it difficult to make choices?

The answer to this lies deep down in the mind. The truth is that most of the time, the mind does not see a choice at all in the first place. Because there is a pattern in the mind that will immediately trigger the irresistible urge to react in a particular way (pre-rehearsed or learnt from the past experience). So, for the mind it looks as if there is no choice. This is also why we feel others have got a choice, because the choice disappears only when we try to connect it to the sense of self.

We will be able to see the choices only if we can stop the urge to connect a thought trigger to an existing pattern in the mind. This happens in the present moment. See the representation in the post The act of mindful watching

 The moment we are able to bring space at this level of thought, choices simply will spring up. Most of the time making the right choice seems tough for most of us because we approach it upside-down. An abstract feeling becomes a thought, then an action and further a habit or behavior. And we try to make change at the level of habit / behavior. This doesn’t work. Also because at the level of habit or behavior the logical mind is also very dominant.

When the logic drops, patterns weaken one travels back to the thought and then the basic abstract feeling. There one makes a simple choice and a new dimension opens up. This is the choice of going back to a child’s mind of joy and creativity.

So there seems to be only one choice to make –whether to go back to the pre-thought state or not.

….hm, do we really have a choice?

The act of mindful watching

Continuing from the previous post, here is a representation of what happens in mindful observation.

If you compare this with the normal watching, there is a simple but profound difference. Let’s concider an external stimulus to which the mind is reacting. The first thoughts are formed, but here there is no irresistible urge to form an association. So the next thought trigger is formed and so on (indicated as the primary thought triggers). After a while, after consideration of all the primary thoughts, the best possible connection is established with the mind (memory) and perhaps then there is no difference between this to the normal watching.

The urge to form an association with the memory comes from the act of trying to ‘understand’ something. The moment you drop the attempt to ‘understand’, the quality of the perception drastically changes.

The urge to form connection with an existing thoughtform is going the pattern way and choosing to form a new connection is the seed for creativity. This is actually achieved by introducing or rather letting space between the thoughts.

But then what is that quality of the mind which overcomes the urge to form a connection? Intelligence?