Tag Archives: thoughts

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!

Map of the Mind

To understand the thinking better, I set out to create a 3D map of the mind. I picked the word ‘elephant’ and tried to represent all the thoughts that have come in my mind in the recent past with elephant as the starting point. I put this all in to the below representation. It looks interesting, though it can hardly represent the real complexity of the mind.

All the bubbles represent thoughts and the lines represent connections between thoughts. I have just started this, further I am going use this as the base to illustrate thinking, influencing factors, sense making etc.

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?

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.

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?

The act of watching

To know why the mind is normally unable to perceive something completely, let’s see how it works. Typically the thoughts (including the memory) are connected to each other and there is always a tendency for forming new connections and strengthening the old ones. Thoughts can hardly exist without being connected with an existing thought (we make use of this aspect while accessing the memory).

Any stimuli could potentially evoke a range of thoughts in the mind. Assume that these thoughts arise in a sequence. But then there is also a strong urge to connect the ‘first thought’ with an existing one in the mind. Normally this urge is very strong and beyond the control. So abandons the act of forming new thoughts and moves to connecting the thoughts.

The act of allowing as many responses to occur in response to a stimulus without the unconscious urge to form an association is the essence of ‘presence’.

Here is a representation of how the mind behaves while responding to a stimulus:

As soon as the first thought occurs (the first few..) there is an urge to form an association with thoughts in the memory. The association could be based on an event, appearence, place, person, emotion etc. The next thought again tend to form subsequent associations till either the thought links become weak or an exteranl trigger interrupts it or the mind suddenly becomes concious.

The relationship to creativity is simple. Creativity is about forming new thought associations and patterns is about sticking to old associations. The former is the creative way and the latter is the productive way- at deep down this is what differentiates creativity and productivity. You get to choose one, not both; at least simaltaneously.

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…

Problem solving – what happens in the mind

We all do enormous amount of activities with our minds: we think, we solve problems, we take decisions, we come up with new ideas. But for ,most of us the mind is like a blackbox. We just know that something has happened inside but do not know what and how and how long did it take.

Becoming aware of the thinking process is a key aspect of many meditation systems. I have tried to capture some examples on how thoughts connect in the posts: A thought formed….,How the mind associates thoughts…. and The problem of ‘interpretation’

 Last week I happened to come across a problem (reproduced below). As I looked at the problem, a solution came in to my mind. May be not the best solution, but I did something interesting. I tried to retrace what happened in my mind during the problem solving.

Reproducing the sequence here for you:

 Problem statement: (I think this is originally from www.systematic-innovation.comTRIZ is always encouraging us to think about designs with self-x capabilities. Below is a self-levelling picture frame. Nice concept, but terrible solution – who wants a system where they have to replace a battery!

The challenge here is to develop ideas for a much simpler – remember this is a low price consumer product – self-levelling picture frame.”

This is what happened in my mind:

As I finished reading the problem statement, the thing that caught my attention was the word “levelling”.

The word “levelling” reminded me of “balance” and there was suddenly a ‘sense of movement’ and ‘a pulley’ came to my mind.

 I could now see the picture frame hanging on a small pulley (and the pullye was attached to the nail)

But now I could see the wall too, it was a rough wall (it was not really visual, I could sort of feel the roughness) and I realised that the solution will not work on a rough wall. The frame should also be able to move on the surface.

Now I see a frame with four smoothe wheers on the back suspended on a pulley that is attached to the nail and this is my solution.

I do not know how long this whole sequence took to process in the mind. Perhaps few milli seconds, not sure. What is interesting to me is that the starting point (here the word ‘levelling’) often determines the nature and quality of the solution and perhaps this is what differs across people.

A careful observation will tell you that at each state, there is actually a connection made, which is like a choice from thousands of available options and these connections determine the quality of the solution. This is perhaps the reason why most of the systematic innovation techniques do not produce great outputs (some of you might disagree, fine), because they work at a concious level and muh of this happens much before the concious mind kicks in.

Is there anayway we can influence this subtle working of the mind? I think we will continue this in the next posts..

The problem of ‘interpretation’

Continuing the thoughts from the previous posts: A thought formed…. ,How the mind associates thoughts….

After a few more experiments with how the mind associates/connects different thoughts, I think I was not completely right in saying that our past experiences are interpreted and stored in the memory in ‘text like form’. I think it is slightly different. It is rather like the “interpretation” coming between you and the experience. These interpretations could be emotions (I like him, this is bad, horrible, I can’t take this pain…) or some priorities that we assign (I need to pay attention to this, there is an opportunity in here, this is what will make me successful…). During our thinking process, connections between thoughts are formed based on these ‘interpretations’

I tried to visually represent a thought train that I had. See below. This was a thought (thought train) that passed in my mind and I caught it after a while.

A thought train 

This is what happens. Because we have become dominantly logical people, the logical mind comes between us and the experience- judging, categorizing, analyzing. It is rather like trying to understand the ‘meaning’ of an experience, rather than the experience itself. Perhaps both the interpretation and the experience get to the memory, but our mind is more concerned about the ‘interpretation’. So, many a times, the experience fades away in memory and what remains is the ‘interpretation’.

But when it comes to the events that have not really happened (they exist only in the mind), the interpretation might have not yet happened. That’s why day dreaming still is an enjoyable thing to do..

But, why do we have to interpret things in an almost compulsive manner. This is because it is this interpretation that connects you to the world to create your sense of identity (of course a false one). We believe that our existence / identity depend on the world and what world thinks of us and there is a constant attempt to ‘prove’ to the world around who we are.

Most of the ancient religious traditions lay a great emphasis on ‘silence’. This is the key. Stop talking, and then the compulsion to express your feelings / experience as words will come down. And so the compulsion to interpret.

Another brilliant way to stop interpreting is to be with nature. As you might have observed, our need to interpret is much lesser when we are with nature, than with other human beings. Though there might still be some attempts like: what a lovely voice that bird has. But it is still infinitely better if you think of the complex process of interpretation that you need to undergo on meeting another human being…

When you were a child and probably you looked at a tree with wonder, not knowing what it is, your father told you – this is just a tree. And soon you learnt the trick. When you see a tree now, there is an immediate compulsive thought that comes up in the mind ‘that is just a tree’…

The Zen master, in the morning describes a dream that he had to his disciples.

The first disciple says ‘Master, hot water is ready; you can have your bath’.

The second says “Master, The meditation room is ready’.

 And the third asks “Master, What would you like for breakfast today?”

No one seems to pay any attention to the dream that the master described.

The master smiles: ‘If any of you had attempted to interpret my dream, I would have thrown you out of here’

How the mind associates thoughts….

Post my experience described in the previous post (A thought formed..), I successfully did ‘catch’ some of my thought trains and traced them back to the origin. I was basically curious to find out how a thought originates and  forms the first association (or connection) with the next one; which is the beginning of the thought train.

This wasn’t easy. I could do this only on handful of occasions. I wasn’t aware most of the other time and even when I was, it was not possible to trace the thought back to the origin.

But I found something interesting from the experience, on analyzing the first association. When an association is made between a new thought with one already in the memory (a past incident), the comparison is done rather ‘textually’ (like a string matching, sentence matching etc..) and not “visually”. But when the connection is done with something in the future (an imagination that is stored in the memory) it is ‘visual’.

                Another way to state this is to say that most of our past experiences are stored in the memory in ‘text’ form (when I say, text, don’t get carried away by text as we use in day to day world. I couldn’t find another appropriate word for it) and our imagination (anything that has not yet happened) is stored ‘visually’ (pictures static or moving).

                 You must have seen people who can associate two or more seemingly non-related things. (Btw, you must have also have done this yourself some times). Typically people who are found of story telling, have this ability. Given any incident, they will tell you a story, that is connected to the incident in a strange but uniquely strong way. I have been trying to find out how some people are able to do this, while others not. I think the answer lies here in what I described above. These are the people who can do a ‘visual’ association.               

                I think this is what is happening. When you have an experience (visual, auditory, emotion, conversation ….), the mind (the logical mind) has a compulsive need to interpret it and store in the form of language. This actually connects the ‘experience’ with you (the self or the ego or the identity whatever you call it). As you go along, you forget (or lose) the real experience and retain just the ‘interpretation’. Next time a similar experience occurs, it is first ‘interpreted’ and the interpretation is then compared with already stored interpretations in the memory to form the connection.

                Here is an example to understand this: You see a beautiful flower. The experience is “the beauty”, but say the interpretation is “Oh! I don’t have this in my garden”. Some days later, you see a good painting. The experience actually is the same: “the beauty”, but you are probably not able to relate this experience to seeing the flower because the connection is not happening at the level of experience. Now assume you see another beautiful flower, and the interpretation immediately is “Another one I want to have in my garden” and may be you connect the experience to the previous one.

                Since most of the events in life (perhaps with the exception of the time we were children) are interpreted and stored in the memory and this makes the associations to the past events slow and memory dependent. On the other hand, the future events (our imagination) has not yet been interpreted and they are stored in visual form.

                So if we need to form the right associations (with the past events of our life, what we have seen, heard, read, did…) we need to rather store the experience and not the interpretation. Then I think we will be able to do visual associations.When a new experience comes, immediately the association is made and this is effortless and fast.

                 This I believe is the crux of Mindfulness or awareness. When we are aware , what gets stored to memory first is the experience; then the mind kicks in, to do the interpretating job and also stores the interpretation to the memory. When a new experience comes and you are aware, the experience is compared to prior experiences first and only if there is no association found, the interpretations are compared.

                You can experience this yourself, when you are intensely aware in a situation, you form many associations to your child hood events (probably the only time, we didn’t much interpret things, but rather experienced them).

                The two problems that cause this are the ‘language’ and ‘thinking’. We have a compulsive need to interpret, analyze, judge, categorize and label everything around us and connect them to ‘us’ to form our sense of identity.

An insight to making firm decisions

All of us make decisions in life. We decide to do something or we decide not to do something or change the way we do something. While we are successful sometimes, there are also quiet many failures. (By success I mean that we are able to stick to the decision and failure the opposite)

Have you ever wondered why we aren’t successful always? Even if we thought about it, we are most likely to attribute it to things like our will power. One reason why we are unable to see a pattern in our own decisions (and the success and failures) is that every time the decisions are different and look unique. It’s very rare we take the same decision over and over again.

 I had the great privilege of being a heavy smoker for many years. I had made numerous attempts to quit, and one important ritual in every attempt was my taking the decision ‘not to smoke ever in my life’. I failed repeatedly. Sometimes it was immediate; sometimes it took few hours, days or weeks before I succumbed to the temptation. Sometimes I was miserable and some other times happy.

When I analyzed these failures, I could see there were two separate aspects. One was the decision making itself and the other sustaining it through maintaining the mindset. If I made a good decision, that helped me have a great start. I could overcome the initial hurdle without serious problems. Similar to a rocket gaining the escape velocity to overcome the earth’s gravitational pull.But if the decision it self was weak, I failed almost immediately. Even when I made a good decision, my failure came from the second aspect – where could not sustain it.

So, when was it that I could take a good decision? I saw two scenarios:

  1. When I had done enough reflection and introspection (why am I doing this, what is it doing for me..etc)
  2. After an emotional outburst.

But still I couldn’t figure out why was my decisions were stronger in the above scenarios.

 Months later, I came across a technique from Yoga for making firm decisions. This is the technique:

Sit in with your eyes closed, spine erect. Take a deep breath and hold the breath inside. Now repeat the decision firmly and continuously in your mind. Keep holding the breath as long as you can. When you can’t hold any longer, breathe out completely. Now hold the breath outside and repeat the decision again in the mind. When you can’t any longer hold it out, breath in and hold and so on. Do this couple of times. And it seems, whatever decision you take like this, you wouldn’t be able to break even if you try to.

This was interesting. Holding breath is a stage in Pranayama called Kumbhaka. And what happens when you do Kumbhaka? – the mind stops (or the thoughts disappear). (Please do not attempt the above technique without guidance or knowledge)

Now the whole thing made sense. I could see a connection. I could see that in both the scenarios above, there was something interesting about the mind. In the first scenario, the deep reflection settled the mind (or the doubts) and the in the second mind just entered in to a void following an outburst. So in essence, I could see that the mind had to get out of the way if we have to take a firm decision. This is verified by the fact that there are times when I take a decision; I almost knew that it will not work. I could see that before even the decision is made, doubts arise in the mind and the decision is doomed even before it starts.

Based on this experience, I have formed a concept for making firm decisions:  If you have to make a firm decision, you need to first get the mind out of the way. Once the thoughts stop (mind doesn’t exist then – I like the analogy of mind and thoughts to forest and trees) take the decision. Allow it to sink deeply in to your self. You will find that the decision is successful, almost effortlessly.

So how to get the mind get out of your way? Here are few suggestions:

  1. Intense Mindfulness. Mindfulness literally kills your mind. When you are mindful, the decision making is good automatically, and you don’t need to do anything extra. But becoming mindful needs some preparation and effort
  2. Intense prayer and surrender – This also settles the mind, especially when there is fear about the decision or you feel helpless
  3. Deep reflection and introspection. In cases where your mind is cluttered about the decision. For e.g smoking, on one side you really want to stop and on the other side you fear that you will miss your friend. Do a deep reflection to get clarity, this will settle the mind and you can take a better decision.
  4. Certain techniques in yoga where you do breath retention (like Moorcha pranayama, Nadi Sodhana Pranayama with prolonged Kumbhaka or simply just holding the breath as mentioned above). They immediately result in a void, and this is the space where you actually take the decision. A void could also result by haphazard breathing for sometime. Techniques 2 or 3 followed by 4 will be your key to making firm decisions.

Sometimes, it is also possible that your mind becomes void or blank without any effort. If you are aware, you should be able to catch it (I have seen this happening ton me when I am physically exhausted)

But remember, taking decision is one of the aspects we need to master. Thoughts on sustaining that in another post.