Tag Archives: Zen

The joy of nothingness

As a small child, I used to enjoy watching the rain drops fall from the roof top in to the collecting water, make small bubbles that burst with a small ‘pop’, making concentric circles that travel outward to collide with countless others before disappearing in to the water. By then, several new drops arrive and the process goes on and on without an interruption.

As I simply watch this for a while, something strange used to happen. There was a strange feeling of peace and joy and there was nothing but the continuous birth and death of water bubbles, countless circles and the distinct ‘pop’ sound.

There used to be several small black ants that are caught up the sudden downpour, frantically swimming away to safety. The ant was definitely not enjoying this as I did. That thought made me feel different to be watching the whole thing as is, not affected by it. Strangely, watching these rain drops used to bring a sense of detachment in me; that I did not really bother to rescue the ants.

There was something serene and divine about this. If there was someone above who was watching over us, the humans, running around stressed, fighting, cheating, trying to find happiness, chasing fulfillment… wouldn’t he also have the same sense of detachment that I had?

After a very long time, I was in my hometown last month sitting in the verandah and watching the falling raindrops. At first it brought back the strong memories from my childhood and soon I lost myself again in it. Quite some time should have passed, when it occurred to me that it must have been very long that I indulged in something so trivial and useless; thanks to the industry that I am part of and the fast world that I live in.

The serenity was there, the peace was there and I was lost.

It was a message on impermanence from the heavens. It was pure perception – me, the bubbles- nothing more, nothing less

It was zen

Rain drops

Rain drops

I remembered this today as I watched this TED video the_world_s_most_boring_television_and_why_it_s_hilariously_addictive. This is about the world’s most boring television show and the concept of slow TV. This talk was delivered by Norwegian television producer Thomas Hellum who is behind some of famous ‘boring’ programs aired by the NRK Television. They did shows around very trivial things such as a live telecast of a 7hr train journey (three cameras –one at the front and one each at each side – There was no story, no commentary, just whatever the camera saw and heard), an18 hr fishing expedition and a 5.5day ferry voyage. The Norwegian president appears in the video stating that he has been glued to his chair for 5.5 days (btw, he is 82).Thomas Hellum says that they are planning to live telecast many such trivial things such as knitting, cooking etc etc.

There is something very beautiful about this. They are showing things as is and you see something as is, real time, with nothing to expect, nothing to logically process. If you can overcome the initial barrier of judgment and rejection, something wonderful happens. You begin to thoroughly enjoy and at some point all the noise in the head begins to settle down.

And every great religion has told you how nice it feels when that damn noise stops.

This is like a new age zen and I believe increasingly there is an absolute need for people to fully engage in something that is trivial, of no use as such, logically unconvincing…This might probably be the next booming industry, a technology powered zen at a very large scale.

This will be the new religion and spirituality of the world.

afterthought: I watched the film PK over the weekend. If you compare to all the great ‘alien’ films, this alien was terrible. The alien here looks like any of us, talked Bhojpuri Hindi, ate Samosa’s, feel jealous when he learns that heroine was in love with someone else..The film is one of the biggest hits in the history of Bollywood, I think primarily because there is not much of logic in there. Once the great burden to ‘understand’ is not there, there is real enjoyment.

Games People Play

Somebody recently mentioned to me something interesting about the Japanese martial arts. He pointed out that the essence of the practice is actually to accept a blow from the opponent rather than defending it. He told me that when one accepts an attack so completely, he can’t be hurt.

 The Japanese martial arts are very spiritual, supposed to have been influenced by Buddhism.

But what really struck me was the simple beauty of the concept. It is somewhat difficult for us to digest this as we are all taught to defend ourselves and being defenseless is generally considered a weakness.

Let me narrate an incident. I once had a very very aggressive and dominant boss. Aggressive in the sense that he had to be always in conflict with someone. Perhaps he derived his sense of identity out of it. It used to happen that we would get in to some arguments where I would defend myself fiercely and these meetings left me totally down and drained.

This happened for a while, till I decided to take a close look and analyze what is happening. I could see a pattern which was something like this: My nature was to defend when accused and when I do that I became very emotional and lost my mind. I would then withdraw and sulk. My manager had figured this out (I assume). So what he would do is to begin with a very provoking accusation. The moment I became defensive, he would completely be in control and take me for a ride. I also sensed that there was some kind of gratification he for him out of this.

This was like a game. He was pulling me in to this and I was unconsciously consenting. So what would happen if I refuse to play the game? This is what I started to do. I went completely prepared for the next meeting. I sat there listening intently with calm (as much as I could) face, smiling. When he made some of those accusations, I calmly responded something like “that’s an interesting perception”. I am still smiling serenely. Suddenly something is wrong. The discussion continues and comes the next one and there I am smiling and saying ‘may be’. That was it. He was furious.

I simply remained there unperturbed like a Buddha. I made it clear that I refuse to be pulled in to the game.

The same thing happened in the next couple of meetings and by then both of us had understood it had lost all the charm. And we didn’t have many more such meetings.

This was a great lesson for me. We are always taught to defend us and prove us right. And all that it takes for someone to get us out of the mind is to just tell that we are wrong. But for a change, if we accepted it with a smile, you can see the entire story crumpling right in front.

May be Sensei is also the Zen master…

Training the mind to think better..

In the last few posts, we have been discussing about the two qualities of the mind:  focusing and expanding. May be it is interesting to look at some simple techniques that can train the mind on these. Though I hate to be prescriptive, I will take an exception here for these might be quiet useful for some of you. These are simple but very profound techniques.

When the “focussing’ aspect is weak, it is experienced as lack of concentration and poor memory. Fundamentally, there is a problem with continuity here, which disturbs a thought train. Here is a simple technique to strengthen this:

Sit quietly, close your eyes and count from 1 to 100 and then back, slowly. If you are distracted and lose your count gently bring the mind back and resume. Do it for few days and once you can do this comfortably, increase the count.

Children whose memory is poor and lack concentration can also use this. But regular practice is needed for few days or even weeks.

I do believe that memorizing things and reciting from memory also has a similar effect, but I haven’t really explored this much.

When the ‘expanding’ aspect is weak, people get too much trapped in thinking and this has an adverse effect on creativity. You can strengthen this by flooding the consciousness with sense perceptions.

Normally, your mind (thinking logical mind) plays a key role in sense perceptions such as seeing. That is why you selectively notice things around you and also miss out on details. But the moment you pay attention to every minute detail, movement etc, something opens up. Walk around seeing everything intently without trying to think, categorize, name, form opinion etc. The mind stops and the consciousness will be flooded with pure perceptions.

The same is true with sound – pay attention to all the sounds around and also the silent gaps between the sounds. Or touch – feel the body touching the cloths, the foot touching the floor, the breath touching your nostrils..

The technique of filling the consciousness with sense perceptions is a meditation technique used in many spiritual traditions.

There is also a ‘walking meditation’ practiced in Buddhist tradition where in one walks slowly, consciously with full awareness of each and every movement and perceptions. Become aware as the leg lifts, moves forwards, touches the floor, wait shifts etc..

As we have discussed, both these aspects need to be strengthened for better thinking. But too much emphasis on one will create an imbalance; one needs to balance the practice with his own natural inclination of thinking.

The only problem with these techniques is that they are too simple for the logical mind to accept and appreciate. It needs something more challenging and attractive.