Tag Archives: Present Moment

Mind and uncertainty

Over lunch today, my friend Dileep narrated to me an interesting incident.
Yesterday, he had been to a Cake Exhibition in Bangalore with his family. While he was standing in the queue for purchasing tickets, a board that said ‘Tender exact change’ caught his attention. The ticket was priced at 49 Rupees. He had two 1000 Rupee notes and one 500 Rupee note in his purse. He needed to buy 4 tickets, which would cost him 4X49 = 196 rupees. He would naturally would have given the 500 Rupee note for purchasing the tickets, which meant he had to get 304 Rupees back.

The board made irritated a bit when he thought of the 4 rupees. Was it something logical to expect everyone to carry exact change? Wasn’t the authorities responsible to keep enough change with them? Then he wondered whether they would give him the 4 rupees back or round the amount to 200 rupees. That would be very likely, but quite unfair. What was he supposed to do? Demand four rupees back? Will he look silly making a scene for just 4 rupees? He should make it clear that it was an issue of professional dealings and nothing to do with that insignificant amount…..

In no time his mind was caught up these thoughts going back and forth. The uncertainity was unbearable. Once at the ticket counter, he gave the 500 Rupee note and purchased 4 tickets. Unable to hold back any more, he asked the lady at the counter –‘Aren’t you going to give me the change’. ‘Yes’ she said and gave him four rupees back.

What a relief, the uncertainty that had gripped the mind for few long minutes suddenly ended.

It was only the today morning, when he checked his purse, did he realize that he had forgotten to collect the remaining 300 rupees at the counter yesterday. He was so caught up with the 4 rupees that everything else did not seem to matter.

Not that it was a goody story (at least for him), but I liked it immensely for the deep meaning. This is a snapshot of what keeps happening in our lives. The mind does not like uncertainity.The objective of all that thinking, planning, aggression, action and logic is to make life as certain as possible in the future. Therefore even the slightest uncertainity poses a threat that the mind need to fight with all its might. It pushes everything to the background and takes possession of thinking, however trivial the uncertainity is. No wonder we never hear the birds sing, feel the breeze, sees the sun splashing the evening sky with magnificient colours. They are all not important; will the next meeting, next task, next investment go as anticipated. That all that matters.

The famous philospoher Jiddu Krishnamurthy was asked, just before his death, what was the secret of his happiness. While the audience waited with a bated breath to hear that great secret from Jiddu, he simply said ‘ I don’t mind what happens’.

Knowing and Happiness

I was standing on the balcony in the 11th floor of my office building. It wasn’t raining yet there, but I could see the rain advancing towards us from far off (see the red arrow in the picture). I estimated the rain to reach us  in about of 10 minutes. In a moment my mind was busy with several thoughts.

Rains are never welcome in Bangalore as it makes the ever chaotic traffic more messy. I was debating whether to leave quickly before the rain arrives. But then I had something to finish; would it be good idea to do it tomorrow?  Or should I wait till the rain is over? What happens if the rain is going to last long?

My attention was then drawn to some loud cheer from below. There were people playing football in a ground (see the red circle in the picture). They couldn’t see the rain coming and were completely involved in the game.

Rain

Rain

I was disturbed, because from that height I could see the rain coming and I was already planning what to do. But the footballers, who had no idea that it was coming, were least affected.

The rain arrived shortly and the footballers did what is needed to do when it rains – took shelter. And I was back to my desk and back to my work. I had to wait because I had work to finish and all that planning was of no use to me.

It’s generally believed that strategic thinking, higher perspectives, ability to perceive risks in advance etc are very important qualities that make us successful and need to be cultivated. But seldom we realize that they simply take away the fun from the present moment. We are definitely capable of doing what is needed in any situation. Knowing things in advance only feeds the stupid planning mind. 

No wonder CJ Jung was extremely jealous when he met those native american tribes. They were extremely happy, though they had nothing in their possession.

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.

Mosquitoes and a lesson on Surrender

I was few minutes in to my evening mediation, when I felt that familiar prick on my hand.

I was away for a few days. The windows of the room were left open by mistake and apparently many mosquitoes (they are very common in Bangalore) had found their way in. And I did not realize this until I sat down to meditate.

I had had a very disturbed weekend and was looking forward to a deep mediation to set my mind right. And it was then the distraction came in the form of a mosquito. The moment it bit me, there was this deep reflex to raise my hand and kill it. But one of the first rules in meditation is to keep the body absolutely still. I decided to ignore the discomfort, but in a meditative state the pain (and the irritation) was disproportionately high.

Some time pass by and the urge in me to lift mind hand and strike it was so overpowering and finally unable to hold it any further, I finally raised my hand and struck it. As I went back my meditation, to my horror I found there were many of them now. I was in a deep fix. They were biting me on my back, hands, legs and every other exposed place. And having given once in to the urge to move, I didn’t want to move.

Perhaps I should just accept it was my next thought. I could see that my mind was not too occupied with the problem. I was thinking about it and also concerned that my meditation would now be a failure. The more I thought about it, the more intense was the problem and more intense was the urge to open my eyes and kill all of them.

OK. Let me just accept it fully, I said to myself. I paid complete attention to the pain and irritation of the mosquito bite and dropped any thinking about it. (At some point I even tried to imagine that I was loving the bite, which I think did not work well). It was somewhat tricky at the beginning. As I brought my attention to a point of bite, they would fly and settle at another spot. But then after a while, I was able to simply pay attention to the bites and was not thinking about them. The pain seemed much exaggerated, but that didn’t matter.

I had a really wonderful meditation.

After I was done, while driving to the restaurent for dinner I was thinking about it. There is this deep urge in us to run away from unpleasant experiences. This is what makes many of us leave jobs, leave partners or pick up quarrels of trivial issues. True, there is this strong unconscious reactive pattern that triggers an emotional response to unpleasant situations. But what happens if that is ignored? The mind picks it and start making a story about it. The objective of the story is to convince you not to be foolish by not reacting.

An emotion is actually very short lived. But what gives it a life in time is the thinking. If the emotion is just accepted as it is without any thinking around it, it’s great feeling. There is nothing personal about it (good/bad, acceptable/unacceptable) it’s just a feeling that would vanish as quickly as it came.

This is what the Buddhist’s call surrender.

(Note: After the session, I did kill all those mosquitoes I could lay my hands on. Probably compassion is still farther on the path)

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.

Patterns and mental commentaries

Driving in Indian cities is tough. Ever since I started driving in Bangalore, it had been an extremely stressful thing to do. I would get irritated when people overtake from left, honk unnecessarily, drive rash etc. In an earlier job, I used to drive about 15 kilometers during peak hours and would reach office almost out of my mind. I remember, it used to take me at least half an hour to be back to my senses. My strategy at that time was to avoid the traffic by changing my timings.

The intensity of the problem gradually reduced as years went by, probably because I was becoming more aware. But still the problem existed. Driving was stressful. I would get tensed up at the slightest wrong doing or provocation on the road (they are plenty in India).

But why is this such a problem? The answer came accidentally sometime last year. I developed this habit of listening to audio books / tapes when I drive. I used to listen to them intently. Then I observed that whenever something went wrong during driving (which I did not approve), I missed a brief part of the talk  I was listening. It was not much, may be one or two sentences,  but it was as if I closed my ears for a while.

I began to further analyze this. I found that during those small intervals, there was a quick brief dialogue going on deep in the mind. It was so quick that it was hard to see what it is. But over sometime, it became clearer.

This is what was happening. Whenever there was something unacceptable happening, there is a short mental commentary going on in the sub conscious mind. The commentary is something like “it is his fault”, “why is he driving like this”, “can’t you see the red signal” etc. But they were not clear like a thought, but were like a fast-forwarded tape, almost imperceptible.

Then the question was, what were these commentaries doing?

They were subconsciously feeding and strengthening my perception about driving. They were feeding the resistance and also in way feeding my belief that I was right. But since it happened so subtly and over a period of time, it was almost impossible to see such a thing happened unconsciously.

Like all other subconscious patterns, the moment I caught it and started to watch it, it lost its grip and slowly began to fade away.

This is what happens in the case of any subconscious patterns in our mind. Every time people smoke, there is a subtle commentary feeding in to the subconscious mind and over a period of time, the habit becomes so strong to break. The same thing happens with the ego. When ever one says “I have done it” or “I don’t like it” or “it is mine” etc, there is an unconscious strengthening of the sense of “I”. This is built gradually over years and it hard to break it.

The key is always to catch it and watch it without resisting. The mental patterns will soon disintegrate and then there is no more need for the commentaries.

There is an old saying – what comes in the way is the way

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?