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How to be Mindful?


I have asked this question to others and others have asked it to me. Along this journey, I have some answers.

Mindfulness traditional definition is non judgmental present moment awareness. We understand the meaning of the words on some level. But you understand it whole lot differently when you experience it once.

Do you exercise? If yes, how many of you exercise with a set goal in mind? To lose weight? To gain muscles? To look a certain way, or not to look a certain way? To regain health? To reduce blood pressure or diabetes? Whatever.

For me it was allure of a certain self image. I loved the idea of me looking very buff and muscular. I had that self image of how I was supposed to look. I found a sense of self worth, a sense of emotional security in that self image. I strived towards it without questioning the validity of that self image.

As long as I was working for that self image, I was enjoying exercise in an indirect way. The exercise itself was painful, because I was pushing myself, lifting more weights and running more miles. But I liked the thought that I am making progress towards the revered self image.

Then one day I was mindful of this whole game. I decided to let go of the self image. I had to face the insecurity that came with the thought that “I will not look that way”. But it was far easier to deal with this insecurity than I thought.

I started focusing on immediate reality and my sensations. I started lifting weights just enough that made me feel food. Made my muscles feel stretched and exercised. I ran just fast enough for me to enjoy running. I felt the runner’s high. The flood of good feeling endorphins running through my body. And I loved exercise in that very present moment. There was no goal except to enjoy the very moment.

As I practiced it, I settled into much lighter but enjoyable exercise routine. I started to look forward to going to the gym. My ‘calories burned’ went down, but my attendance to the gym got far more regular. I am nowhere closer to my buff and muscular image. But I am healthy and happy.

We all have this images of happy and secure life. They include a certain type of job, relationship, social status, appearance, possessions. What if we let these images go? And focus on being in this very moment?

Well, “what is a man without ambition?”, you might say.  Would human beings have reached the moon if they did not have ambitions and goals and strived towards it?

The real important question is not whether humans would have reached moon. The real important question is are you at peace right now?

If you are not, and are striving for being happy in a certain point of time in future, there is a good chance that even if you were to reach your goal, you will not be mentally present to enjoy that achievement. You will be working harder to achieve some next future goal. Because you are cultivating a habit of working towards future happiness than finding present happiness.

So you get the picture.

Anyway, here is what you can do to being mindfulness in your life.

  1. Meditate – Cliche. But important. Can’t find time for meditation? That challange will only last for six months. First six months you make time for meditation. For rest of the life, meditation will make time for you. With the increased focus, clarity, you will drop the counterproductive pursuits, unimportant crusades and will find yourself more lighter and free. Download “insight meditation” app on your phone. That will help you get in routine.
  2. Listen – There are plenty of good talks on mindfulness. Search Youtube and podcasts by Joseph Goldstein, John Kabat Zinn. Listen to them while walking ,traveling, relaxing. Read books if you are more into reading. There are plenty of blogs.
  3. Plan for mindful moments – May be set a reminder or two on your phone every day? All you do in that moment come back to your immediate sensations. How does it feel? Is it cold? Hot? Fan or A/c blowing? Are there any sensations of sights, sounds? physical sensations? Try not to judge. Just let them be there.

My Brain In Meditation


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A few days back, I was doing meditation. And I had one very interesting experience.

My eyes closed. My mind still busy, but slowing down. Random images were flowing, morphing in front of my eyes. A dance inside  my brain.

And then I could just feel something. I could feel activity in two parts of my brain. Two distinct parts, which were playing equal role in creating the internal experience. One part was busy creating the images, other part was busy sensing the images. For a very brief period time, there was sensation of two distinct activities and my mind rapidly switching between them.

As soon as I realized the dual mode of my mind, there was that characteristic zap. Suddenly both parts went silent and my brain felt more peaceful. I could feel the drop in brain activity.

This made me think of the whole nature of experience. Is it always like that? Every time there is an experience, there is an “experiencer” and “experiencee” in my brain?

If every experience has such dual neural activity nature, then why did I feel the zap and why after the zap I felt just one single unified peaceful experience? Is the dual neural activity only limited to internal experience? Is this something what neurologists call REM (Rapid Eye Movement) intrusion?

On the philosophical level, is this how my ego works? Just a virtual center of neural activity of all the experiencer parts of my brain? Interesting, because this reminds me of a quote by Alan Watts (not exact words, but mostly right).

” The statement ‘I think, therefore I am’, gave rise to perhaps biggest folly in Western Philosophy, to assign ownership of experience to the ego, which in fact, just another experience. The ‘I’, the very notion of thinker, is nothing but a just thought.”

More questions, but ironically, more peace.

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Near Life Experience


Back to blogging after a long time. Several things have happened in this much time that have given me a new perspective on life.

I just want to share one of the experiences I had recently. Kind of spiritual.

It was one quiet moment at an airport. I was waiting for flight. I had to wait for a while. It was getting late night. The flight traffic was winding down as well.

I had nothing to do. So I just sat there. Mindfully. Trying not to think of something in the past of future. Just taking in and savoring the present moment. Not judging, not sorting, not analyzing. Just experiencing.

Sometimes I can do it. Sometimes I can’t. When I can do it, it kind of feels like the boat with the engine turned off. Your mind still goes ahead with activity for a while, but then it starts winding down slowly.

This time it happened rather fast. And zap. Something just happened in my brain and it dawned to  me. The whole life that was passing by by me was temporal. I had heard Alan Watts talking about it in his seminars. But right now it just hit me. Everything around me was going up and down, left and right, fluctuating on its own frequency. A big portion of what I was experiencing in the moment was this superimposed temporal waves of sensations. Like a Fourier series in mathematics can express a any  straight line (or any curve for that matter) in a given span as a sum of temporal fluctuating curves, this whole life is temporal. There is no point in trying to fix it, modify it, control it, direct it, in order to keep only part of that tempo that we like. There will always be the other side, the correction, the coming back to root. It’s just built in.

And if you read this, and are proceeding without pausing, you understood it, but it has not hit you. If you want this to hit you, to be unseparable part of your worldview, you need to something like visualize up and down of some particular temporal event hundreds of times. Till your mind is bored and realizes that in good events of today, lie the seeds of disasters tomorrow and the catastrophes of tomorrow, open up the possibilities of most joyful events day after tomorrow.

A leaf of a tree will be scared of autumn only if it wants to hang on to being the same exact leaf. If it is willing to change the way nature wants it to change, autumn and spring are just two sides of the same coin. There is no reason to love spring more than autumn.

We all struggle with this. We all are so fixed on being we, and remaining “we”, we resist this tempo. A large amount of our suffering is born out of this resistance, stopping nature from taking its course, being overly fixated on our identity. Because we believe that this struggle is what will bring us lasting peace. However, ironically our identity remains a tempo as well.

There is an experience beyond being me, beyond looking at this world as an entity to be manipulated so that I can survive. That new experience is a very simple and peaceful sensation, and additionally perhaps a mild sense of curiosity and wonder.

May be that’s real life. Not the everyday struggle.

So it was my real life experience.

Movie Of Life – A Thought Experiment


I am listening to some Alan Watts seminars lately. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he is perhaps the best interpreter of Eastern philosophy I have ever come across, and my pool of comparison includes many people from the East itself. He was an authority on comparative religion and gave many seminars explaining Eastern philosophies to Western world. He was an authority of Buddhism and Hinduism.

Watts is especially master of thought experiments and analogies. While listening to him, I thought of an thought experiment myself to understand the perpetual future driven life we all are living.

Imagine you go to a movie theater. You see many many queues. You don’t understand which queue to stand in. But many people are arriving. So you take a quick guess and pick one. It turns out that that is not the queue for the movie ticket, but that is queue just to get a ticket to stand in some other queue. You convince yourself that that other queue must be the movie ticket queue. So you get your ticket and go to the next queue. But that is not the movie queue either.

So all day you keep on standing in queues, only to get a ticket to stand in some other queue. You keep cursing yourself that only if you stood in the correct queue, you would get to the movie quicker. And you have been told that it’s a great movie.

At the end of the day you realize that this whole thing itself was a movie and you were part of it. You had a chance at every moment to make the movie more interesting. To stop standing in queues and to do something real. But you had convinced yourself that the movie is out there somewhere, and your role is passive one, of that of just a watcher.

You also convinced yourself that only thing you need to do to get good entertainment was to figure out which line to stand into. But instead it turns out you had to just start acting.

Or what if you didn’t even realize by the end of the day that your life itself was a movie and you were just blaming yourself for getting bored the whole day just because you could not figure out the “perfect” queue to stand in.

Don’t we all live life like that? Just waiting for another day, another event, another person, another job, another house, another car, to make us happy? Instead shouldn’t we realize that happiness is something to be “done”, an active process, rather than to be “received”, a passive process?

Alan Watts – Conversation With Myself


Here is Video 1,

Video 2,

and Video 3