Tag Archives: positive thinking

Attitude

I was reading about some thing called ‘Lojong’ in Tibetan Buddhism (which involves refining and purifying one’s intent and way of thinking through a set of proverbs) when I came across this short story about a teacher called Atisha, the originator of this concept. This happened when Atisha was planning to move to Tibet to teach there; the story is reproduced below from Wikipedia:

 A story is told of Atisha that when he heard that the inhabitants of Tibet were very pleasant and easy to get along with, instead of being delighted, he was concerned that he would not have enough negative emotion to work with in his Lojong practice. So he brought along his ill-tempered Bengali servant-boy, who would criticize him incessantly and was awful to spend time with. Tibetan teachers then like to joke that when Atisha arrived in Tibet, he realized that there was no need after all.

 Though the story brought out an instant smile, the depth was touching. How many people really think of the possibility of negativity around for his/own self development?

 This reminded me of an article I read long ago. This was written by a person called Siddique (a film director from our state) about a person called Father Abel, the founder of an institution called Cochin Kalabhavan  (this is group of performing artists with lots of emphasis on humor). Siddique recalled this incident about Father Abel, when the latter passed away .

 When Siddique was a small boy, he along with his friends used to play football in a ground adjacent to the church. Father Abel used to walk  to the church from his residence and back, along the road next to the ground. The children used to make fun of him, call him names and tease him, whenever he walked past. But he would never respond and would walk away walk away calmly as if nothing happened. Many years later, Siddique joined Cochin  Kalabhavan as  an artist and during a conversation asked Father Abel why he refused to react when the children made fun of him. Father replied with a smile: “ When we were in Rome for the priesthood training, people are employed to stand on roadside to insult us. This was done to increase patience and tolerance. When you boys were giving me that training free of cost, why should I get angry at all?”

In the corporate world, I have heard the ‘whether the glass is half empty or  half full’ stuff more than a dozen times, and whenever people use that to talk of attitude, you could tell how empty the statements were. But to practice it to the  extend where everything is simply a means to help you on the path, needs something more profound.

May be that’s why god need to exist…

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Doubt, Negativity and the level of Prana

There are times when our minds become doubtful. All of a sudden, things look different. We start doubting people, situations, and intentions and finally start doubting ourselves (our capabilities, qualities, achievements etc). Sometimes this passes quickly, but at times it gets lodged firmly in the mind, difficult to shake off. When prolonged, this leads to psychosomatic disorders.

But where does all this doubt come from? It’s interesting to see that you were perfectly at peace with some situation till one fine day where you begin to ‘sense’ something wrong. A doubting mind soon develops negative tendencies and the negativity feeds on to doubt back. This could also lead to depression.

Typically we attribute ‘doubting’ to personality traits, thinking problems or even certain situations. But it’s interesting to see the point of view of Yoga. Yoga suggests that mind becomes doubtful when the Prana level goes down. Prana is what’s called the life force (or mental energy) which is alive in everyone. When your prana levels are low, that is when you feel down, disinterested in things, lethargic and develop a negative attitude in life.

So Yoga suggests that to keep doubts and negativity away, all you need to do is to keep your Prana levels high.

How do you do that? According to Yoga, there are four sources of energy: Food, Sleep, Breath and Meditation. Paying attention to them (if not all, at least one or two) will help you keep your energy.

Here is a brief overview of the four:

  • Food – According to Yoga, there are three types of food
    • Sattwik – Whole some food E.g Fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, cereals. They give lot of energy (greener the vegetable, more the prana)
    • Rajasik – This group causes lot of agitation in the mind. E.g Tea/Coffee, Spicy foods
    • Tamasik – That depletes energy and makes you dull and lethargic. E.g Alcohol, mushrooms, non vegetarian food, garlic, fried food, frozen food, refrigerated food etc.

If you are eating Tamasik food regularly, it can make you become very lethargic. Change your diet a bit and go for Satwik food. 

  •  Sleep : It’s important to have sufficient amount to quality uninterrupted sleep. If you have sleeping problems, sort it out. (See the post Tips for a good nights’ sleep )
  • Breath :  Look at your breath. Is it deep or shallow, is it long or short. A bad breathing pattern will fail to reenergize your body and mind as required. If you are badly down, completely devoid of energy, get on to some Pranayama practices. Things will turn around quickly. (Suryanamaskara is also a profound technique) Or try some aerobics. Paying attention to breath also brings some amount of present moment awarensss. 
  •  Meditation: A great source of energy. Needs some practice but can keep you really charged. There are several schools and techniques, choose what you find suitable for you.

Putting attention in these four sources for a few days, you will have a better prana level and even if you have been down for longh, you can see that in few days mind turns around.

H.H Sri Sri Ravishankar says in a talk – Doubt is always about positivity. When someone says “I love you”, you ask “really?”. But when someone says I hate you, you don’t question that. You don’t doubt your anger or depression, but you doubt all the positive qualities in you….

Also see Doubt and conditioning of the mind for the worse

Leave your bed as soon as you are awake

Ever wondered where all that negativity gets reinforced deep in the mind? I think here is one to watch out for.

Say there is a compulsive thought that you are trying to shake off. You do some reflection in the evening or try some distractions to free your mind. As you go to bed, it looks like you are successful and calm. The next morning, you are awake (at least partially) but you still remain in your bed. As you lie tossing between sleep and waking state, all that suppressed thoughts take over. You are not really awake, so you watch helplessly as the mind start playing those ‘video clips’. By the time you are really awake and decide to step out of the bed, all that negative thoughts would have reinforced in the mind.

Some time back, a friend of mine mentioned to me that he has all the negative thinking in the morning. I didn’t have this answer for him, then. But now from my own experience, I think this is true.

People who have undergone severe stress in life would tell you that they find themselves awake in the middle of the night to find those compulsive thoughts taking over the mind. You would also have noticed that when you have spent lot of time in bed in the morning (say on a holiday), you are much less cheerful and positive.

So, the solution? Leave your bed the moment you are awake in the morning. Not very easy, try it. Your mind will not let you. It will tempt you with ‘that extra bit of wonderful sleep’. But if you can resist that, you are more likely to start the day with a positive note.

Try it.

Helplessness, Fear, Resistance and Stress

It is a common misapprehension that overworking leads to stress. While I agree that any demanding prolonged activity of the mind or body will lead to some sort of fatigue, I do not believe that this is what causes stress. Such a fatigue can be overcome (unless it is very prolonged and neglected) by breaks, some discipline in life or any activities that help you unwind.

What cause stress? When does it become a real serious issue? How do we know we are getting in to it? How do we overcome it? Here are some thoughts.

 Stress is caused by the mind and ego taking over an issue, typically in a relationship where there is some kind of hierarchy. A work place is a typical example; and that will be the focus here. Let’s see some common scenarios.

 To start with you have certain expectations on something or someone. You strongly believe that something needs to be done in a particular way and of course, you have your reasons.  Now you are asked by your boss to go ahead in a totally different way. You try to protest, but finally have to yield. This creates a conflict in the mind. The ego takes over and you feel wronged. You go ahead with the task but every mind your mind is churning out reasons why it wouldn’t work. Your ego really wants it to fail so that you can have your boss suffer for the wrong decision. Slowly the thought becomes obsessive. You wake up in the middle of the night and before you realize, the battle is already on in your mind. If you are a drinker or a smoker, you tend to over abuse, which aggravates the issue. You vent your frustration to your friends and they readily sympathize with you, which reinforces your feeling of misery. You don’t feel like going to office and secretly nurture a feeling of vengeance in not turning up for work. Before you realize, the stress catches up with your body and mind. And one fine day you wake up with a thumping heart and lump in your throat to realize that you lost the battle badly.

Look at another scenario. You are stuck in a situation where you are accountable but do not have power to solve it. A typical example from the Indian IT industry scenario is the role of a customer relationship manager. There is a fight going on between the customer and the offshore team and things have come in to a deadlock. There are big egos involved, which is obvious to you. But you cannot point this out. The management blames you for not resolving the issue. You are helpless and soon the stress gets it victim. The latter part of the story remains almost the same.

Another common scenario is responding to threat (not those obvious ones like – I will kill you, but those subtle ones). Typically many managers in India try to get work done by inducing subtle fear in the minds of team members. Your conscious mind may not realize this, but your subconscious mind reads the threat and you are preparing for a fight without realizing it. This also happens with intimidation – don’t try to act smart here, we know what to do. It leaves you badly hurt and because you cannot respond directly, you resort to playing those scripts in your mind.

In all the examples above, you can see helplessness, resistance and fear are common themes and I think our inability to deal with them gets us in to trouble. Sometimes we pull through, but to find us again in a fresh trap. It’s like a viral attack, every time the virus changes its structure and the body cannot find a permanent solution for it.

The trap is that we try to solve the issue always, and believe that everything will be peaceful after that. But the real problem is in our mind, which remains there as long as we understand.

So how do we tackle getting in to this mess? Here are some thoughts:

  • Speak out when needed. Even if it might be painful and your mind and ego will persuade you to avoid it.
  • Whatever be the case, if you cannot solve an issue and cannot escape from it, drop all your resistance and accept the situation
  • Don’t let issue based conflicts become people conflicts. Convey clearly to the person that you value him.
  • Seek help from someone whom you respect and who has a larger view of life. You are not helpless
  • If someone tries to instill fear in you, politely but firmly make it clear that you do not approve it
  • Do not respond emotionally to any issue, even if provoked. Stay calm not to feed the other person’s egoYour mind will tell you that the only way you can solve the issue is by getting out of the situation. Don’t believe this, unless you can really make that move. Otherwise, this creates a conditioning that makes you miserable.
  • Watch out for early signs, don’t neglect them. Typically the first symptoms are obsessive thoughts and disturbed sleep.
  • Finally, always have something that you really enjoy in life. May be a sports or some hobby, which will help you disconnect from the issue.

Escaping from such situations is not a long term solution, because you carry with you what really caused it – your mind and the ego. Stay firm and fight it out, and you have really learned something in your life.

Also Read:

  1. Surrender
  2. Why Cant we resolve our own issues by thinking?

Surrender

Surrender is a beautiful concept advocated by all the Indian religions. It is even placed superior to many of the spiritual practices.

But what does it mean really? What do one surrender? To whom? What happens after that?

I had my own problem understanding what surrender means. It is a tradition in India to offer your problems to a god, diety or a guru. This seemed to me the closest possible meaning of surrender, when I tried to undertsand this initially. 

This is how I experimented this.When I had a problem that I couldn’t solve or escape from, I said – God, I can’t handle this, I’m surrendering this to you. You take care. But it didn’t really work and soon it looked more like a ritual. I realized that such a surrender demanded complete faith (in whatever you surrender to), which was another abstract concept I needed to then understand. Without faith, the surrender was meaningless, because I doubted whether it would work or not and still continued pondering on it. Subconciously, I wished it would work, because my faith would grow then! So I had another chicken-egg situation. 

I dropped it for months till I became interested in  Mindfulness  and present moment. I decided to attempt to be ‘in the present moment’ for a week or so, just to feel it out ( I didn’t continue that for a reason; that’s for another post). As I became more and more mindful (in the present), surrender manifested all of a sudden! It was there in the present moment.

This brought about a totally diffrent meaning to Surrender. The real surrender is to drop all the resistance (to anything, may be after you failed to solve it or escape from) and just be in the situation. And the problem is no more there, simply because in present moment there are no problems.

Try it yourself. If there is a problem thats bothering you right now, just drop all your resistance to it, accept it fully and just be there. See what happens.(No cheating, be true to yourself, the acceptance has to be total and effortless)

I have tried this in some simple issues in my life and it works beautifully. But I think the challenge is to apply it to real serious issues (especially where ego is involved..)and that’s something I would like to start practicing.

Long way…

What does the ego want?

This is an interesting question. What does the ego want? A friend on mine asked this question few weeks ago, as we were driving home. Though we didn’t really have an answer then, the question has been lingering in the mind for a while now.

Generally we label people as an egoist based on their external behavior. In my opinion, we mistake arrogance for ego. I think ego is much more subtle and difficult to catch. Even if we are able to keep in concealed externally, I think it’s waiting deep inside for opportunities to get what it needs. 

Let me narrate to you something that happened two days back. As usual, I was driving to office in the morning. There was a mother and a small child walking along the side of the road. The child was walking on the edge of the road and the mother wasn’t holding his hand. I honk to warn them. She doesn’t acknowledge and they continue walking. Now I am angry. I honk again. Again no response and I continue driving.

What followed immediately after was interesting. A short clip played in my mind :

As I am driving, I see the child and the mother and honk. They don’t respond. All of a sudden the child moves close to my car. I slam my brakes. I get down, console the child and then give a good dressing-down to the mother for her carelessness. As she stands there speechless, I get in to the car and drive away.

The whole thing just took may be few seconds and the above clip had finished playing even before I realized it. It’s amazing how ego gets what it wants.

But I also think, ego is not just about winning. Look at this incident.

I went  to se a doctor yesterday. There were many patients waiting and when I got my token, I was told that it would take about 45 minutes for my turn to come. I decided not to wait there, but go home and return for my appointment. I was back in about 45 minutes and the receptionist announced that I could go in next. There were many people still waiting there and some of them I am sure have been waiting for a long time. When the receptionist announced that next would be me (who just came in..) I could feel people where looking at me as an offender. As I settle in to a chair, the following clip is played in my mind.

My turn comes and as I just get up to enter the doctor’s room, another person interrupts me. He says: “I have been waiting here for such a long time and it is not right that you go in before me”. I give him a smile (the best one) and say “ No issues, if you can’t wait, please go in. I have no problem waiting for a while”. He is taken by surprise, clearly he had expected a different response. As he goes in to the doctor’s room, I settle back in to the chair, calm and totally unperturbed.

Again here the clip played completely in a fraction of a second, and by the time I caught it, ego has already got what it wants.

In both cases, the mind didn’t accept the reality as it is and had a compelling need to twist it to satsfy my ego. And as you can see, it really didn’t matter whether the incident happened in reality or not.

There are definitely numerous similar instances, many I haven’t even noticed.Why does this happen? I think the first issue is the problem with Me and Mine. We connect everything to ourselves and this puts a blind on our perceptual of the reality as it is. The second problem I think is the lack of awareness. Looks like the ego snatches the mind for a short while, does what it wants, and returns back? May be because we were not watching the mind?

Or is it something else that I haven’t realized yet.

It is going to be a while before I will find the right answer….

Tips to beat depression

There are times when one gets depressed; often due to a sudden change in life. Quitting smoking is one such. In my previous attempts to quit smoking, I was depressed for weeks and didn’t know what to do. I tried to get medical help, but couldn’t tolerate those anti-deps. As a result, I relapsed and was again in the trap.
So before I finally quit, I tried to find out things that could help me fight depression. Here is a list of what I found working for me. If you are trying to fight depression, you will find them useful. You may not want to do all of them; pick what suits your kind of personality:

  1. Awareness / Mindfulness :
    1.  There is an age old technique buddhist technique called Mindfulness. Extremely simple but profound. The crux of Mindfulness is not to fight depression, but to understand it. Find more details in Wikipedia. I would also advice you read a great practical book on Mindfulness – Mindfulness in Plain english http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html
    2. This will also help you become aware of those –ve thoughts that slowly pull you down
    3. If the depression is caused by a ceratin event / conflict, this will help you understand it better, from a different perspective
  2. Fall in love : Not for everyone. But a great way to get the needed High
  3. Deep breathing : Definitely helps. Do it periodically in between your daily chores. Also will help you stay mindful
    1. Try ujjai breathing
    2. Mudra pranayama
    3. Bhastrika pranayama
  4. Cultivate contentment and gratitude in life – When you are depressed, mind takes a negative attitude- you feel you have not made it, you feel life has been unfair to you. Learn to be content and feel grate ful to what you have
  5. Socialize – Take time out and have fun with your friends. Do not withdraw in to your own cocoon.
    1. Spend time with people you love/like/respect
    2. Avoid people whom you dislike / or you compete with / or who are in general negative
  6. Reclaim your creativity – When was the last time you did something very creative? If you had any such interest and you had abandoned it in your school, time to reclaim. This is probably the single most powerful technique to beat depression. It could be painting, sculpting, cartoons, poetry, stories, craft, landscaping; anything creative that you like. If there is nothing, find something new. Learning something new is also a great experience. (Note: I do not recommend things like reading, browsing, chatting…for creativity. Don’t fool yourselves)
  7. Roar like a lion – Simply get to a room and roar like a lion with all your might. Do few rounds, lie down on your back and relax with your eyes closed.
  8. Reciting Om and Gayathri Mantra – Ancient sages have learnt how to use sound to achieve great things. Just try chanting Om or Gayathri mantra few rounds a day.
  9. Talk to people who have a larger perspective of life – Sometimes the cause for depression is that you have a very narrow perspective of live and events confined by your small little mind. Talk to someone who can show you the bigger picture
  10. Dance – A simple but working method. You don’t have to be a classical dancer for this.When you are down, get in to a room, play some music (instrumental I would prefer..) and dance. Swing your body, let the music move through your body. About 5-6 minutes would do. Lie down and relax for few minutes with your eyes closed.
  11. Sing – Sing hum a tune that you love. See the difference
  12. Travel– Travel to new places, a good way to be fresh again.
  13. Watch hilarious movies – Nothing like a good laugh
  14. Jokes – Read some jokes. You find plenty on the net these days. Grab a Calvin and Hobbes book and keep at your desk. Avoid the kind of –ve ones that your mind can identify with.
  15. Exercise – work out regularly. Do graded weight training. Jog 2 miles in the morning. Will keep you fresh and fit
  16. Laugh – When you wake up in the morning, go to the mirror and just laugh. Laugh with your whole body and mind. Whoever has tried it will vouch for it.
  17. Be in the Sun – I have no clue how this works. But I have experienced this. Just stand in the sun for sometime (mornings better) and feel the difference
  18. Suryanamaskara – From perspective if yoga, depression happens due to low levels of ‘Prana’. There are several techniques in yoga to boost up your prana. One such ancient profound technique is Suryanamaskara. Easy to practice but very very effective..Do couple of rounds regularly
  19. Read articles on positivity – There is lot of stuff around. Pick some good stuff, I would recommend experiences of people who have overcome such difficulties in life
  20. Identify a purpose in life – Sometimes depression is also caused by a lack of purpose in life. Set small objectives and work towards it.
  21. Self talk– The most important ally in your fight against depression will be your mind. Talk to your mind (not self hypnotizing please…)Tell your mind that you do not want to be depressed and ask for help. Listen to your mind and your consciousness. You will get the direction.
  22. Have that great smile on your face – Fake it till you make it. You will soon.

Things to avoid:

–          Do not go around telling people that you are depressed. Tell it to only those who really need to know (may be your manager for e.g)

–          Avoid meditation – it will make you more introvert (also some yoga techniques like bramari, trataka..)

–          Be careful what you watch and what you read. There is lot of negative stuff all around, and it’s easy for your mind to respond to subtle clues. Even be careful with newspapers.

–          Avoid negative people – no second thoughts. If you feel someone is pulling you down, don’t think twice.

–          Don’t pack your day – Slow down, have enough time for you

Hope this helps. Let me know your experience.Good luck