Tag Archives: Reality

Action and Reaction

What’s the difference between acting and reacting? – This was our topic of conversation over the morning coffee yesterday. Do we ever act or we only react?  We tried to think of some activities where we were only ‘acting’ without responding to anything outside/inside. Here is an example how the discussion went:

 I drink water when I am thirsty. Obviously I am responding to the thirst. But if I am filling my water bottle so that I would be able to drink water whenever I am thirsty, is ‘filling the water bottle’ an action or reaction? Though at first sight it looks like an action, am I not reacting to the thought of ‘needing water’ in the future?

 Soon it became more and more obvious that there is actually nothing like pure ‘action’. Whatever we do is actually some sort of reaction; either to an external stimuli or to the stuff in the mind. The only difference I could think of is that there is an element of ‘choice’ that distinguishes between action and reaction. But then the choice was only influencing the quality; the basic idea of reacting still remains.

 Though it’s well known that most of our action are in fact reactions, it is really scary to think that we only react. Because in order to react, I need an ‘environment’ around me to react to and I need time that separate the two acts. My mind that reacts has also come in to existence as a result of reacting to the environment and time. So, if there was no environment to react to, there would be no mind, no action and no me. This means when I say I exist, that’s not completely true. It’s the environment that exist and I am just a byproduct of the reaction to it. If the environment does not exist, I too do not exist.

 Now shift your perspective a bit. The environment is not one entity, but is rather made of people, their thoughts, objects, events etc. Extending the same concept, each of these entities only exist because they react to their environment. For these entities I am also part of the environment.

 This now takes the problem to another dimension. This means that the environment also does not exist in reality; it’s also a byproduct of reacting to its environment . So everything exists through responding to everything else. Then in reality what exists?

 This is what the Indian mystics call Maya or the illusion…

 It may be far easier to imagine that we are actually ‘acting’ and not ‘reacting’ and live with that belief. It’s going to be an ‘action’ because I am going to choose it. Great me!


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?

Playing with Perceptions

We all form perceptions. We categorize and label people, situations, places and objects continuously, based on some cues that we pick and interpret. They are positive, negative or neutral and are generally harmless in most cases (except that it triggers a pre-conditioned approach or response). When we have formed a strong perception, we tend to avoid situations involving that anyway.

Why do we form perceptions in the first place? I think our minds are trained to logically analyze things around us and this ‘ability’ gets better as we grow. Lot of the work that we do demand this; be it analyzing a requirement or assessing a person. And before we know, it is our personality, and we conveniently label it as ‘sense making’. Even the tools that we use help us reinforce this behavior. Look at this blog itself; I have to categorize every post and add tags and build a meta-data around it.

When do perceptions become a problem? I think, in relationships which are egoistic and demanding in nature. The two most obvious are romance and work. The moment perceptions are taken over by mind and ego, there is trouble. Some times real serious trouble. I think in romance (marriage included) the impact is not that bad because there is some thing called ‘belongingness’ which at times can overrule all such negative tendencies.

So let’s look at work. Typically in Indian companies, managers are supposed to assess the employees not just based on the work done, but also the behavior, attitude and other soft skills. Perfect setting for forming perceptions, which are ‘professionally right’. I think this is one of the prime reasons for stress at workplace and people leaving jobs.

As I said, mostly perceptions are typically formed based on ‘cues’ and is not substantiated by evidences mostly. How the cues are interpreted depends on the person (and I think where is processed – ego or mind)

Look at this illustration that I think we all can relate to:

Alex is a manager in a company and Erich is a team member reporting in to him. There is another manager David who, Alex suspects to be working against him. All of a sudden, Alex finds that Erich and David are hanging out together often. He is curious but decides to wait and watch. Sometime later, in a meeting David brings up a particular point against Alex, one which Alex thinks is not possible for someone outside the team to know. Now Alex’s perception on David that he is working against him is reinforced, and Alex forms a new perception that Erich is actually bitching on him to David. (Alex’s ego takes over here). Alex gives a feedback to Erich that he is not seen at his desk often and has been taking too many breaks these days. Erich if offended. (His ego takes over). He is now wondering why Alex is trying to find fault with him, while he has been delivering what is expected on time. Erich forms a perception now that Alex is trying to intimidate him. (Why? May be my ideas are better than Alex’s).

Now Erich is careful and but also uncomfortable that Alex is watching him continuously. In the months that follow, Alex is actually searching for cues to reinforce his perception, while Erich is behaving quiet unnaturally, careful not to give Alex any chance to intimidate him. Alex picks some simple ‘cues’; for e.g when Alex gives a smile to Erich when they meet on the corridor, Erich returns just ‘half a smile’ and turns his face away. Fine, Alex is at least confident that he isn’t wrong. The relationship between Alex and Erich becomes very formal and uncomfortable and Erich is now avoiding Alex as far as possible. Alex is also watching who Erich is talking to in the team, subconsciously looking for any changes in their attitude also.

Now Erich talks to David about this and seeks his guidance and in the process David’s perception on Alex, that he is a man on mean thinking, is reinforced. Talking to David reinforces Erich’s perception on the situation that he is being victimized.

 In the next feedback cycle, Alex gives a comment that Erich is ‘spreading negative energy’. Erich is furious and offended (ego is hurt badly) and wants to now prove that Alex has a malicious intention to corner him. His mind is now sucked totally in to this and is completely disturbed. A week later, they meet up to discuss the feedback and Erich couldn’t hold his emotion back and vents out his frustration on Alex. This reinforces Alex’s perception and now he is more the sure that he was right. Alex tries to portray that he is helping Erich ‘improve’ by pointing out a ‘hidden’ problem and expects Erich to thank him for that. Now Erich’s perception is reinforced that Alex has some malicious motive in trying to find fault with him and brand him. Alex also sense that Erich is forming a perception on him, and this reinforces his perception on Erich further.

It’s easy to assume where this is heading to. But the sad part is that we get in to this trap often in life and it sucks all the creative energy in us and makes our lives miserable. What everyone missed in the above example that there could be a genuine positive reason for the connection between Erich and David. And the existing perception of Alex on David, prevented him from seeing it that way or trying to find it out.

One of the most important outcomes of letting perceptions rule relationships is that it creates ‘false identities’ for us. When someone has formed a perception that you are ‘moody’ (and you know it) you will automatically tend to be moody in his presence.

While I do not think that it’s not possible (and not needed too) to completely stop forming perceptions, I definitely think we can stop it from ruining our lives and the others around.

Here are some thoughts and suggestions:

  • I think the first thing is to see situations and people as they are, without the frills around it. Rather easy said than done. But you we are more mindful and understand how ego and mind works, I think you will be able to do this
  • Drop the notion that people are out there to get you. This arises out of fear, and leads to the wrong assumptions we make.
  • Even if you form perceptions, don’t let your ego latch on to it. Without the ‘ego’ playing our side, you will be able to solve it through discussions.
  • Whether you have formed a perception or fighting one, don’t go around discussing with people. It feeds your ego and further reinforces the perception. Seek help if needed from someone who can help.
  • If you are discussing with someone on a perception issue between the two, don’t let your emotions to take over. That will further aggravate the issue. Stay calm and don’t lose your balance
  • If you try are trying to change a perception someone has formed on you and it doesn’t work, just drop it. Understand that it is his problem and let him deal with it. Stay away.
  • Drop the conditioning that everyone has to have good and right perceptions on you. Try to resolve it only if it has any relevance to you. Don’t let your ego chase it.


After all perceptions are transient, they are bound to change. No one is going to hold on to a particular perception on forever.

Why is that I do not enjoy something fully? – II

Continuing the thought from the previous post Why is that I do not enjoy something fully?, here is another perspective on the same question.

For most of us the enjoyment is either in the past (our  own heroics, success, victory, luck) or in the future (hoping for sucess, win, prosperity etc). Both are virtual because they don’t realy exist except in the mind.

When we enjoy something in the present, it is not the mind that’ enjoying it. It is something above that; call it your conciousness or self or whatever you want. This comes from a total acceptance, which I believe is possible only in the present moment.

Difficult to belive? Try this. Pick a task/activity that you don’t enjoy (better something that you have been pushing aside for long), and do it today with total involvement. No judging. No analysing. Enjoy doing it. If your mind is trying to pull you away, just smile at it.

See what happens. So where is the genuine enjoyment? Is it in the mind or in the present moment?

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