Tag Archives: Resistance

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

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Responding to a trigger – what happens in the mind

Continuing from the previous post, let’s look at what happens in the mind when you respond to an external trigger (an object or an event for e.g). Whether we acknowledge or not, in fact there is a subtle choice that we make with every trigger – Accept or Resist. Depending upon the trigger, we could accept/resist an event either in the past or the future. See the below representation of how a normal mind responds to an external trigger (For simplicity, I taking a very general case here to illustrate my point)

The path on the left side depicts normal thinking, where in every event or object is compared against a mental image (either of the past or of the future). Then one either accepts or resists the event(the categorization of the event as good/bad, right /wrong also happens here) Accepting strengthens the ‘sense of self’ and resisting creates a ‘threat to the self’. This resisting leads to compulsive thinking that is the root cause for most of the psychosomatic diseases.

So, is there a solution? Or an alterative? This is what is called ‘witnessing’ which is the essence of ‘mindfulness’(see the path on to the right in the picture). Here there is neither acceptance nor resistance. You see things as they are.

Typically we try to solve most of our issues at the lower layers (lower as in the picture). For e.g say I do not like apples. I could either avoid apples in my life or could substitute with some other fruit or convince myself to eat it. This is typically how we approach most of the problems. But in fact the real problem is not apple but  ‘my nature of disliking’ something. A fundamental transformation can happen only when the basic nature changes.

If we can make changes at the basic level (marked A in the diagram), the problems will simply vanish themselves. This is what many a spiritual traditions try to achieve and also the key to creative thinking.

But is that easy? We will continue the discussion in the coming posts…

Living in the present moment

Over the weekend, I spend some time cleaning up my laptop. That’s when I found this mindmap that I had done probably a year or so back. These were my thoughts on Living in the Present Moment(For those who do not know, Mindmap is a tool that is used to visually represent your thinking). This was around the time I got hooked to the concept and wanted to figure out what it meant to live in the present moment. I listed down things and questions which when done or answered would lead me eventually to a state of present moment !

Fortunately I dropped this approach after a while without pushing really hard.

The reason why I wanted to put this up here is to show the stupid, humane error that all of us make. We think we are intelligent and rational human beings and we can intellectually understand any concept and also work backwards to create a plan/approach to reach there. But how true is this belief?

If you don’t believe me, just consider this. Try putting up a process/ methodology for falling in love and executing it with your great logical mind versus just falling in love totally unexpected. I don’t think you will need another illustration than this.

While many great things in life are like this, they just happen when the time is ripe. But the Mind and the Ego likes the intellectual gymnastics. The more intellectually you try to understand the truth, you are actually creating concepts with which the mind and ego plays around. (That’s when someone who is ‘being with himself’ looks so stiff and depressed)

I think the truth works the other way round. When the right moment comes (and we don’t decide it, the nature (or whatever you call) knows it) you just fall in to it and all that change needed just happens spontaneously. All that we need to do is to wait patiently for the moment to come. Drop the resistance and be there.

But how do we convince our dear logical mind to stop the noise-making activity called thinking?

LIPM1LIPM2

See also : Conflicts are not resolved by our logical mind

Conflicts are not resolved by our logical mind

I was attending a 5 day meditation course at the Art Of Living Center  last year. This is residential course and we are in silence for most of it. This is when I faced this problem. There was a gentle man who was doing service in the dining hall (for those of you who do not know, it is a common practice in India for people to stay in ashrams (spiritual centers) for some duration and do some service) who (I don’t know for what) was making people sit in perfect order without leaving gaps in between (We take our lunch and squat on the floor on mats to eat it).

I have always had this problem. Whenever some one tells me to do some trivial things a particular way, I have an irresistible urge not to do it that way. I don’t like being told where to park my car for example by the security person. And here was this guy, who wouldn’t let me sit wherever I liked. I tried, but he didn’t let me. And I gave in partly because I wasn’t supposed to be rude and mainly because I was in silence.

This repeated couple of times. Every time I went to the Dining Hall, this resistance surfaced and disturbed me. My mind (ego) said – this stupid guy shouldn’t be here. Afterall we are here to relax and be with ourselves. Why is he doing this useless thing? The disturbance was felt more, because the mind was settling down and there was nothing else around me that was disturbing. There was nothing I could do about it, but I could feel the resistance and the disturbance.

 On the third day, I decided to tackle this problem. To begin with, I decided to just avoid him. But this wasn’t working as I became very very conscious when I tried it and it disturbed me still.By then I could also sense him getting disturbed slightly by my presence. I think every human being can sense resistance and hostility pretty quickly.

I then decided to drop the resistance completely. I went about observing what was happening in the mind, to begin with and shortly the problem almost ceased to exist.

Now we were on the last day of the course and out of silence. Mind was clear, thoughtless and centered. I walked in to the dining hall. This guy was right there, making people sit in perfect rows (still I don’t know why). I just walked to him straight and with a smile told him – tell me if I you will permit me to sit wherever I like, at least for once. Only then I will pick my lunch. He just smiled and in a moment we both realized the stupidity of the whole thing. We hugged each other and all that resistance just melted like a snowflake. Very rarely have I felt that level of belongingness. Mind was so clear.

I don’t think need to try resolving conflicts the hard way. They just don’t exist when mind is settled we drop all the resistance. That is when we feel true belongingness.

Can the logical mind and analytical thinking ever resolve a conflict?

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?