Tag Archives: Wisdom

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.

What does the ego want?

My wife informed me that my daughter got down from her school bus crying. She told me the reason too, but I wanted to hear what my daughter had to say.

In the evening, I picked up a conversation with her on this. I asked her why she had cried in the bus.

“Papa, you know it was Suneethi’s (another girl in the bus) b’day today. She distributed chocolates to everyone in the bus and she didn’t give me”

 “So, why did you cry?” I asked.

“Because she didn’t give me”

 “OK fine, she didn’t give you. But why did you cry?” She looked little puzzled.

“It is a bad behavior, right?”

 “May be, but then why did you cry” I asked gently.

There was a pause. I repeated the question again.

“Because I wanted them to feel sorry..?” she said hesitantly and then quickly changed the topic to something else. I guess she saw the point.

This is what the ego always does. It thinks by reacting (emotionally) it can change a situation favorably or at least make someone guilty about it.  It’s easy to see how this works in children, their egos are still developing. But as adults look at the amount of messages we sent out by reacting to the world every moment. We are constantly saying to the world “I am right, you better change”.We all have a need to be in constant conflict with one or the other thing.

Aldous Huxley once said “I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” But will the ego agree?

Purposelessness

There is a person I respect a lot; someone living in knowledge. We will call him V, to protect his identity. I first heard of him through a friend who narrated the following incident to me. Once V had been to the US Consulate in Chennai for a visa interview. The place was crowded as usual, and people were impatiently and nervously waiting for their turn. The US Consulate had the reputation of declining Visa without giving any reason. And it was an ordeal for most till they finished the ‘interview’.

There was a coffee shop around where people drank coffee and left the empty cups on the side walls and tables. Then V began to do something strange. He started picking up those cups and deposited them in to the dustbins. No word spoken. More people came and left more cups around. And V continued this till he was called in for the interview. He went inside with not a trace of nervousness.

 This story was the main motivation for me to meet V about 8 years back.

This incident came to mind recently when ‘purposelessness’ came in to a conversation. As the logical mind becomes stronger, it becomes extremely difficult to do something that does not make sense. ‘Let me understand’ is our common reaction especially to new things. And we discard many things in life because they make no sense.

But actually doing something that is ‘purposeless’ can be a profound experience. There is a joy concealed behind them. Ability to do something ‘purposeless’ is a sign of wisdom. This can help someone step out of the logical mind. But it is extremely difficult to do it as the mind will do everything to talk you out of this.

 Here is a simple exercise. When you meet someone either in the office corridor or on the street, just tell them a sentence (for e.g “it is better to be a vegetarian”). Nothing more, nothing less. No introduction, no waiting for a response. Just move on and may be tell the next person too…

Have fun!

Spontaneity in Children

My daughter’s school opens next week. The bus will pick her up at 6.50AM, and to make it she will need to rise by 6.00AM.  My wife is extremely tensed about this because she thinks this is impossible and also because she will need to rise by 5.30 or so.

We were discussing this last week over dinner when I suggested to my wife – why don’t we practice getting up early for next few days so that we can get accustomed?

It was my daughter who responded – why should we practice? can’t we just get up when we want?

I had no answer. It left me again thinking about the complex adult mind. As our logical minds become more and more dominant, we tend to do any thing twice. First in the mind and if that goes well then externally. The problem here is that at the mind level there are numerous reasons why something should be / can be / cannot be done, depending upon how complex one’s thinking is. Where as in reality, there may be very few options: for e.g something is done or not done.

More logical we are, the more we are caught up in the process of analysis, judging, processing, rehearsing etc. But for children it;s really simple. They do something or don’t do something. And for either, that might not have a reason. And more importantly they do not create an issue out of it.

Someone said, when a bird flies from one branch of a tree to another, it does not go though a thinking process evaluating different options. It simply flies, because it is part of it’s being.

Time

My 6 year old daughter was in the living room watching television. I was reading something in my room; when I heard my wife asking her what the time was. My wife was in the kitchen and the clock was on the living room wall.

 I could not resist paying attention to, because my daughter had not yet learnt how to find out the time. Few moments pass by, me waiting.

“9.45” shouts my daughter

 “9.45?…where is the small needle?” asks my wife from the kitchen

“it is pointing to 9” replies my kid

“is it above or below 9?”

 “below”

“so, what time is it?”

 “…8.45?…”

 “very good”

Looks like my wife has been training her to figure the time out looking at a clock. But I was overcome by a strange guilty feeling. I was witnessing one of the biggest crimes that every parent does to their children – to teach them what time means. Till about the age of 5 or so, children don’t much understand what time is. They can’t figure out what it means “to be getting late”, because they are there where they are. That’s the reason why children are happy, energetic and creative.

 And we teach them what time is and this is something that takes away pretty much all the joy in their lives.

It took me so many years to find out that one of the biggest problems in my life was that I was always separated from ‘my self’ by what is called time.

I don’t know if the kids can escape from this bondage. May be not. That’s needed for surviving in this world.

But hopefully, one day they will also learn to step out of it….

May be “time” needs to be there to glorify that moment…

The beauty of contradictions

Last week, I was in a session discussing about TRIZ (For those who do not know, TRIZ is an inventiveproblem solving methodology which has 40 principles. This is an easy way to solve a problem using these principles : phrase your problem in to a contradiction (there is a parameter that’s improving and there is another one that is suffering) and then using a matrix, you can identify the correct principles to be applied)

That left me thinking a bit about contradictions. Have you wondered what happens in the mind when there is a contradiction? Why is contradiction an important aspect in problem solving?

I think this is because holding two contradictory thoughts in the mind simultaneously, makes the mind bit confused, and there is a moment of uncertainly and stillness. This stillness is where mind is receptive to new ideas, looking beyond the patterns.

Now when I think of it, all the religions used this brilliantly to convey their teachings. The “Bhagawat Geetha“, one of the most popular books in Hinduism begins with illustrating a contradiction. It starts with Krishna telling Arjuna : You are mourning for those not worthy of sorrow; yet speaking like one knowledgeable. The learnt neither laments for the dead or the living. (Chapter 2, verse 11 – This is where the great Shankara starts his interpretation of Geetha). Geetha is conveyed in to the stillness created by this contradiction.

Incidentally Geetha also ends with a contradiction. Towards the end, after the message is conveyed, Krishna contradicts whatever he said in the verse : Relinquishing all the ideas of righteousness, surrender un to Me exclusively, I will deliver you from all sinful reactions, do not despair.(Chapter 18, Verse 66)

Many sayings of Jesus has this contradiction in them. This is a good example: “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

This is what happens here: there is an immediate compulsive tendency for the mind to respond and this is based on patterns or conditioning. But when there is a contradiction, mind waits for a moment, not sure which pattern to execute. And this is a moment of awareness where you are open to newer possibilities.

I think for the contradictions to really become effective and bring about a new dimension to problems, it needs to be felt by the heart and not the head.

It’s just the difference between acting and reacting

A change is always tough. Most of us are sure that there are certain things that need to change in our lives. But when we attempt to change, there are all kinds of problems; uneasiness, fear, agony and depression. Even if we are able to change some thing (like a habit), there is a high probability of relapse after a period of uncertainty. I have wondered about it; often triggered by my attempts to stop smoking. When I did quit finally (rather easily), it gave me a new perception about the issue.

I think the problem is fundamentally with the point of change. Here is the theory : The difference between success and failure (or misery and happiness) is a simple choice between acting and reacting. Look at the picture below:

Action and Reaction

Say you are at the point Z and need to take a decision. You have two choices. One is to go by the patterns (or mind) which is usually the reactive path. The moment you align your mind in this way, mind starts further strengthening and reinforcing the point of view. You are then lead in one direction as indicated by the green line (the lines around it indicate the reinforcing mind patterns). There is another choice. That’s not to go by the patterns (mind), but to be aware or listen to your consciousness. This is the path of action, indicated by the red line. Even here, the mind does strengthen and reinforce the thinking.

Every moment in life we are actually at the point Z. If we can be aware and not get carried away by the mind, perhaps we can take right decisions for the future. This is rather simple.

But when it comes to change, the problem is more complex. The decision point is actually somewhere in the past and we have say taken a reactive approach and proceeded in one direction. Assume, it has taken us to Y. Now we want to change. We want to be at X. So we take a decision and convince ourselves to be at X. But this is just temporary. Soon the old patterns become dominant and you are mercilessly dragged to Y. When that happens the reinforcement is further strengthened and you are more convinced that you cannot change.

So where is the problem? You should actually be first moving to Z (and not X). This will demand that you work through the conditioning of the mind slowly and remove them. When you are at the point Z, look at the decision again. With the correct mindset or awareness, you can take the right decision and take the path towards X. Since the conditioning has been taken care of, they don’t trouble you hard and in no time new patterns are formed.

 Let’s understand this with an example. Take smoking. Assume you are a smoker (because at some point in your life, you decided to try it apparently for no reason) and you are trying to quit now. You are at Y, and have lot of stuff built already around it in the mind like – Smoking helps me relax, It reduces my stress, it’s difficult to stop this etc. You also want to escape and you want to be, say at X ,where you are free from the habit.

Action and Reaction eg

Now you project yourself to be at X (whatever method you use – Cold turkey, cutting down etc). For a day or two, you are better off (at X), but soon the patterns become active (and there are things going on in the mind like – perhaps this is not the right time, I should actually cut down etc..)  and you feel miserable. And soon you are pulled back to point Y (you relapse). The more this happens, you are even more convinced that you can never escape, because every failure reinforces your conviction that you cannot quit.

Why this happens? You were at the point Z, several times in your life; say whenever you are smoking or whenever you tried to resist the temptation. And when you decided to smoke, you actually said: This is enjoying and relaxing. This has taken you in one direction and all the conditioning is built around it. Even if you are successful with this approach to quit, you are likely to be depressed and miserable, because the basic decision is in question.

So in order to really escape, you need to go back to the point Z and rephrase the mindset. An example could be : “ This has been a dreadful disease that’s taken control of me, I am now stepping out. It feels so great to be free”.

Now there are three elements. You, Smoking and the act of Quitting (or not doing it). So at the point Z you have to use these three to construct a direction statement. You know what most smokers do? They construct it something like this : “ Though smoking helps me to relax, now because of my bad health, I have to somehow stop it. I am going to try it real hard. I am not sure if I will succeed, I have failed many times before. But I will try it hard this time”. This takes them straight to the path of misery. 

But if you can construct a direction statement like “ I am escaping from this dreadful disease, it is so great. I do not need to do this again”. You take the other direction.

It’s not just a simple affirmation statement in the mind. You need to use awareness (and reflection) to go deeper and deeper till you find the basic decision making point and make the change. And this change will be easy and permanent.

This might rather look simple, but if you understand it, it is the key to change.

Be creative like a child..

‘Be creative like a child” – I have heard people say this at least a dozen times (and the variations too: let’s think like a child, let’s be playful etc etc) during various sessions. This is a popular approach to overcome the logical barrier while Ideating (i.e. when you try to come up with new ideas, the logical mind says ‘shut up, that’s a stupid thing to say’. Children don’t’ seem to suffer from this, because probably they haven’t learnt enough). The moment the facilitator says “C’mon guys, be like a child’, there is definitely a change in the environment. And you see some interesting and sometimes foolish-looking ideas do come up.

But I have always felt that such sessions lacked something; probably some liveliness… Though the ‘children’ symbol seems to help, it was sort of forced and artificial. And I believe this is the reason we do not get quality ideas many times.

A simple incident yesterday showed me what the problem was. You could behave like a child externally, but can you adopt that peace, love and simplicity too? They bring the grace, beauty and creativity to children spontaneously.

Here is the story:

Yesterday, when I was going out, my little daughter wanted me to get her a chocolate, her favorite one.

 When I was back home (of course with the chocolate), she was playing with her friend in the living room. The moment I entered, she ran up to me demanding the chocolate. But because the other girl was not supposed to eat chocolates, I didn’t want to give it. I told her – see I cannot give you the chocolate now. When you have finished playing and your friend goes back, you can have it. Not now. I proceeded to my room for freshening up, ignoring her protests.

I could distinctly hear the two girls talking. Though I couldn’t well hear, I could sense that my daughter was trying to persuade her friend to leave, which she was not willing to. There was silence after a while.

I had just begun to shave; my daughter appeared at the door, and stood leaning on the doorframe. I gave her a questioning look.

She tells: “I know a secret” (trying hard to make it sound interesting)

I smile.

 “But I will tell you only if you give me the chocolate

I give her another smile.

 Few moments pass. She says almost in a whispering tone : “ The secret is about you

She should have been looking at me intently trying to sense if I am ready for the deal.

 I looked at her and gave a ‘don’t try these tricks with me’ grin.

Few more moments pass.

She says: “The secret has something good about you…

At this point, I burst out laughing (If I had not, she might have kept building on the story further to lure me). I gave her the chocolate and had to convince her friend to settle for a candy.

The beauty of the incident touched me deeply and made me feel so light. The creativity was so spantaneous and had a grace and profound simplicity. There was no technique, process, gimmik, frills, just pure creativity. 

This is what was going wrong in ‘becoming creative like a child’. What we do not adopt is the beauty that lies within – the peace, the simplicity, love and purity. In this world, we are just concerned about the ends, not means.

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.

Rajinikanth and Sharukh Khan

Before you get carried away by the title, let me make my point. I believe that people who have had phenominal sucess in life, do have certain ‘special qualities’  which are not very obvious or noticeable. I think these qualities have helped them (over and above the accepted traits such as hardwork, perseverence, committment and luck) reach unimaginable heights and stay there for long. Let me give you two of my observations:

I was reading a review on the book The Name Is Rajinikanth ( I haven’t read the book) in a magazine last year ( For those who do not know, Rajinikanth is a south Indian actor who is famous for his style and commands a popularity that no other actor in India can ever imagine). There was something I found very interesting about him in the article; that’s his ability to detach from what’s going around. There was an incident mentioned where he goes to a director to return the advance payment and to tell him that he is going to the Himalayas in search of the truth. The article mentions that Rajini often gets this ‘problem’ where he can detach from life and look at it as a third person.  This is the essence of what is called Sakshi Bhava (The art of witnessing) which even great sages would die to achieve.

Look at another example. During a flight , I watched an interview with Shahrukh Khan   ( For those who do not know, he is the ‘King Khan’, who rules the Hindi film industry of India). There was something interesting that caught my attention. Shahrukh talks of a special character of him, which describes as – Every place looks new to me, even if I have visited it several times. I forget people and places. When I’am there the next time, I can’t recollect if I had been there earlier. When I’m there, I am just there. (My interpretation of what he said, not verbatim). This is what every one who is trying to ‘be ‘mindful’ or ‘live in the present moment’ strive to achive.

The point I am trying to make here, these simple (but profound) characteristics in these people have definitely helped them to be what they are, but without being feverish about it. They may not get noticed easily, because I think they came to them naturally and effortlessly.

Who knows, there muct be such a quality in each of us, lying neglected because we don’t really recognise its significance..

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?

Surrender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long way…

What does the ego want?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is that I do not enjoy something fully?

My daughter loves story books. Everyday I read her a story book before she goes to bed. She has a huge pile of children’s magazines that we subscribe and she picks one at random and I have to read it cover to cover – that’s the procedure.

Few days back I was reading a book for her. There was a poem which I read out. The poem was so meaningless and when I finished, I couldn’t make head or tale of it. What was he trying to convey? It was really that stupid.

So I ask my daughter-‘ Did you like it?’

‘Great’ she says

‘What did you understand?’

She just gave me a grin and said ‘next one’

In a flash, I understood what was happening. For her a poem meant the pictures, colors, rhythm, rhyming and the fact that I was reading it to her. Whether it made sense or not, whether it conveyed something or not – all that was secondary. For her the whole experience is what mattered. And she never even felt the need to explain it. 

And here was I, the stupid logical brainer, caught up with the meaning of the poem…And I just missed the whole thing.

As I went to bed with a disturbed mind, I was thinking of the time when I was a kid and my father used to read story books for me. I would have enjoyed it the way my daughter does now. And what has it taken for me to get this stage where I am stuck with judging and conceptualizing everything around.