Friday, December 19, 2014

Training the mind - 11

Shapes and shadows
Space is full of them
With room for everything
A star gazer is ever enthralled

We generally think of life as a circle. But the concept of time is not circular, it is more linear. We cannot go back to whatever may have happened in the past except through memories. And we can only travel into the future through fantasies. A lot of people unconsciously affirm to themselves that the present is boring, by dwelling either in the past or the future. Thus they create an imaginary circle that runs from the present to the past and the future and back to the present. Rather than being at the center of this imaginary circle, watching the play of thoughts do their thing, we allow ourselves to hitch a ride on this “time travel”.

Thoughts are very agile. Imagine one actor donning many roles, effortlessly morphing from one character to another. Now imagine this actor wearing a very colorful and intricate costume. A close up on any one part would appear very different from another. But when seen from a distance, the whole is seen and the intricate patterns seem to weave into one another. It no longer looks like an abstract design that is seen from up close, but a costume on an actor. Similarly looking at individual thoughts in isolation creates a pattern in the mind that may not be easily understood. But looking at the mind from a distance as a painting with many colors and patterns represented by the thoughts may give us a better perspective of it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dormant belief

Waters run deep
In the wells
Sustaining life
What we hold dear

Is protected by
Slippery walls promising
Much to those
Staying close

To these waters
Forgetting memories
Of great men
Appearing each generation

With bodies resembling ours
And minds like humane aliens
Reading a script wavering little
Unlike ebb and flow of civilizations past

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Raindrop in the mist

A cloudy descent
Casting a shroud
On grand maidens
Of nature, standing tall

Watching over the plains
Keeping cold winds at bay
Ragged peaks
Measuring up to the alpine

Way of life, a soul quenching
Trek above the tree line
Leaving the forests of thoughts
At the bases of mountains below

That cradle, the magic called life
Sprung from single celled
Ancestors, standing the test of time
Living in an invisible mist

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Wine in a paper cup

Miles roll by with time
Is there an end in sight?
If there is, what’s beyond?
There’s never an easy answer

If you ask of life
Where probing with words
Only pretends to plumb its depths
That is, if one isn’t afraid

Of what’s hidden
In the vineyards of the mind
Throwing up fruits
Ripening on the vine of life

The taste of which
Brings up surprises
Showing even robust plans as
Weak and shallow

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pixelated Faces

A crowded world
Watched over by galaxies
Spinning away
Pushing the boundaries

Of space
Not content with
A comforting status quo
That many would like life to be

Viewed from afar
Multihued pixels
Paint the mountains, plains
Oceans, deserts and ice

From a moving
Watchtower in the sky
Trailed by white vapor
Drawings, on the stratosphere

Where the useful directions
Are up or down
Much like minds that float
In the world below

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gems and germs

Gems and germs
Bring scourges
To the doorstep of innocents
Breaking through sentinel eyes

Distracted by sandstorms
Failing to stop the march
Of microbial dread
An archaic witness to the rise of man

And stones on a river bed
Picked by hands
That can no longer
Wave goodbye

Thankfully now
A fading sight
With a rallying cry
From horror stricken faces

Vast expanses
Bridged by invisible germs
Not wearing masks
And unresponsive to names

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A long view

Fireflies dance away
Flinging sparks of light
Rising after the sun
Bids farewell for the night

A luciferous vision
Dances with
The glint of wisdom
Behind the firefly’s flight

Under a frosted carpet
Rolled onto the night sky
Full of starry fires
Familiar cousins of the sun

The flight of light
To the protective edge
Of the frigid horizon
A sight to behold

For the wisdom seekers
In the night
Who are warmed
By the sparks that fly

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Training the mind - 10

Icy clouds sandwiched
Between a fiery sun
And a blazing cauldron underground
A tender balance between anger and love

The sliver of land that is the earth’s surface and home to life as we know it is sandwiched between two giant fires. One is the sun and the other is the earth’s core. Both of these are vital for the existence of life on earth. Recently, scientists using a new X-ray technique (1) were able to determine the exact melting point of iron at a pressure that is at 2.2 million times that of the earth’s surface at sea level. Extrapolating these findings to the earth’s core where the pressure is 3.3 million atmospheres, they estimate that the earth’s core is almost 1800 F hotter than previous estimates. This makes the temperature of the earth’s core similar to that of the surface of the sun. This heat along with the earth’s rotation on its axis creates the magnetic field that is so vital to the existence of life on earth. Birds and turtles take advantage of this magnetic field and use it during migration. Without this magnetic field, charged particles from the sun called the solar winds would strip away the ozone layer exposing life on earth to harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Training the mind - 9

Time is a slow burning fire
A conflagration that consumes civilizations
The future is windward, past is leeward
Wisdom lights a fire that time cannot

Humans have always aspired to push the limits of physical endurance. In ancient Greece, an endurance run bringing a message of victory at the conclusion of the battle of Marathon between the Greeks and the Persians is commemorated even today. The marathon, a race that covers roughly the distance from Marathon to Athens, Greece is named after that ancient run. Now there are other feats that surpass the marathon in terms of pushing the limits of the physical body. These include officially sanctioned races such as ultra marathons covering over 100 kilometers, ironman triathlons etc. The Tour de France, an epic bike race around France, is another example of the test of not just physical capacity, but also mental strength. The “longest hour” in cycling is not the last hour of a three week race around France, but an hour long race against the clock. It is the farthest distance that can be covered in one hour on a bicycle. In 1972, Eddy Merckx, the Belgian bicycle racer, considered one of the all time greats in his sport set the hour record. He described that hour of riding as the “longest of my career”. Since that record setting feat, only three individuals have ridden further in an hour. Modern aerodynamic equipment was not available when Merckx set the bar, although he had the advantage of racing at high altitude in Mexico City where the aerodynamic drag is also less. He also said this about the longest hour, “Here it’s not possible to ease up, to change gears or the rhythm. The hour record demands a total effort, permanent and intense, one that’s not possible to compare to any other”.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

White sands

Thirty-two little
White tigers
Protect the tongue
Lest it should slip
From the grainy
Heavens of white sand
Home of the wistful clouds
Sought by misty eyed seekers
Retreating back
The tongue speaks
A patois of that land
Suffused with a calming silence
Understood by those
Whose toes have mingled
In those sands
Of a timeless desert

Friday, October 3, 2014

The shadow of joy

A long shadow
Cast over the skies
Brings respite
From busy sights
Thousands of strings
A puppeteer’s fest
Tug at the hearts
Of men busy at work
Day and night
Contrasting colors
Come again and again
A reminder to the armchair bound
Of the shadow of joy
That lights the world
Giving every little pursuit
That much value
The shadow of joy
That no worldly light can match
Survives till time’s last instant
And never too late to find

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Elephants on the prairie

A lonely proboscis leading the search
Supported by flat footed pillars
Across dust bowls of an alien land
Longing for a blade of grass

A stream of tears feed the crust
Around its eyes
As the blazing sun
Bakes it in

Its tusks now shaped
Into lifeless figurines on a dusty shelf
Leaving white stumps
Appearing like bleached fingernails

It is a long way from
A prior life
As a ceremonial elephant
Parading the streets of a temple town

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Training the mind - 8

Sweet or sour, the choices
When five fingers unite
Time resets these flavors
Unfettered by the mind’s instant recoil

Only a few people have succeeded in climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen. The first to do it solo and without oxygen was Reinhold Messner in 1980. On reaching the summit without oxygen, his thoughts were: "In my state of spiritual abstraction, I no longer belong to myself and to my eyesight. I am nothing more than a single narrow gasping lung, floating over the mists and summits." It is remarkable he was able to think, let alone express such profound thoughts at that oxygen depleted altitude. At heights above 25,000 ft., called the “death zone”, experienced climbers, even with supplemental oxygen expend great effort over 10-12 hours to traverse a single mile. Our physiology is most suited for terrestrial life close to sea level. From this perspective, humanity is an extremely reclusive member of the cosmos. Sheltered by the sky and dependent on air, we can only go where the lungs are fed oxygen.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Training the mind - 7

Scattered by the Sun at its zenith
Lengthening at night
Shadows of doubt, a paper tiger
Fighting its creator, light

Celestial events like the solar eclipse have captured human imagination since ancient times. Rise and fall of kingdoms, victory or defeat in battle and many other significant events of the time were thought to be influenced by the shadow cast by the moon as it passed between the sun and the earth. Highly imaginative folklore since ancient times have invoked various reasons for the predictable natural phenomena of solar and lunar eclipses. Greeks considered eclipses as a sign of anger amongst the Gods. The Mayans thought that a Jaguar ate the sun. The Chinese and East Indians invoked a mythical dragon that periodically devoured the sun. Scientific advances in the last century have obtained very useful information from eclipses. One such advance was confirming Einstein’s general theory of relativity by Eddington’s observations. The eclipse of May 29, 1919 provided the opportunity to measure the bending of light from stars by the strong gravitational field of the sun, as predicted by Einstein’s equations. His predictions were confirmed, and the Newtonian theory of the universe faded. This finding has had immense practical and scientific applications. For example, every day use of the GPS would not be possible affecting everything from satellites to cars on the street.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Training the mind - 6

Limestone trellis, support for a time
Awaiting seedlings vibrant with life
At a hill’s side, a lifetime’s siege
There is no ease, threatened by disease

For those unfortunate people living in present day conflict zones, the principles of disease prevention is a luxury they can ill afford. They are more preoccupied with existential thoughts. Faced with the immediate threat of atrocities committed by minds that are the breeding grounds of hatred, intolerance and violence, survival mechanisms kick into high gear. For the lucky ones living in relative comfort in safer areas of the world, preventive measures against ill health are more of a necessity, to combat the fear of disease which could easily cut into their otherwise happy lives. In both these scenarios, the common theme is fear, the former group of people fearing outer enemies and the later living in fear of an inner enemy. In each of the two instances, the mind is the common area where the conflict originates. The outcome of this fear is a restless mind. A restless mind is ill equipped to deal to with the ever changing world. It clings to a concept of permanence that is as illusory as the spokes of a wheel giving the appearance of being stationary while the wheel is in motion.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Training the mind - 5

Emerging from a watery world
Disappearing into a dusty grave
Battles conceived in mountainous lairs
Winners and losers, mirages on low ground

The apostles of peace in the last hundred years, including Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi and The Dalai Lama all stood for one principle, non-violence. Gandhi defeated colonialism through the power of restraint, not religion or rockets. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for social justice through words, not weapons. The Dalai Lama continues his fight for the independence of his people though the power of love and moderation and not missiles. All three of them are human beings just like everyone else. Their greatness lies in how they used their minds. They expected nothing for themselves, yet they gave a lot despite their hands being empty of wealth and power.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Training the mind - 4

A sticky glue
Trapping invisible ink
Seeking heaven and shunning hell
Scripting a journey by roll of dice

Life is one long sticky road. The mind is stuck with either the notion of happiness or unhappiness. Just as the evening sky morphs into the night sky, which in turn changes in the the morning, there is no period of time when a sense of happiness or unhappiness is absent from the mind. Just as light from the sun changes the color of the sky, thoughts can change the prevailing mood in the mind. The sky does not change, and the intensity of sunlight does not change, but it is the movement of the two relative to each other that changes. The interaction of mind and thought may be considered similarly. The subconscious mind is an infinite storehouse of thought and an endless chain of thoughts from the subconscious travels into the conscious realm. Each thought in the subconscious mind has a 50-50 probability of nudging us toward a more happy or a less happy state. Faced with this uncertainty in the quest for happiness, the conscious part of the mind tries to increase the odds of success by turning to the outside world. Through the senses, experiences are selectively sought to enhance the sense of happiness. This approach would work if the mind is satisfied with one object and that object remains unchanged with time. However, the mind is never satisfied with one object and everything external is subject to change.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Training the mind - 3

An unwritten code
Written in the land of the free
Sliding down a helical staircase
Leaving its impression on every door

Life starts when one door closes and another opens. When the door of the womb shuts, door of the mind opens letting in the light of the world. Like a brand new computer with a basic operating system, the brain is the “hardware” and the mind is the “software”. Computers may be programmed by a binary code of 1s and 0s. The human body is programmed by the genetic code. This is a quaternary code consisting of the letters A (for adenine), G (for guanine), C (for cytosine) and T (thymine). These four letters standing for nucleobases in DNA arranged in innumerable combinations create the blueprint for the entire human body.  Every cell in the body is given this genetic blueprint based on which all cellular processes go on.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Training the mind - 2

Five figurines stacked on one another
Their beauty hidden by a smokescreen
Conjured by a magician exemplar
Whose grandmaster lives beyond rivulets of desire
Wearable optics such as the Google Glass are now in vogue. Information that used to be available at fingertips can now be had at the blink of an eye. The modern mind is quickly adapting to these “synthetic senses” in addition to the five natural senses. But this “heads up display” of information has always been an inbuilt feature of mind. Anywhere we look, the sensory information processed by the eyes is interpreted in real time by the mind. A constant stream of thoughts guides us based on new information as well as older information already stored in the mind. Unlike the internet, the information bank in our minds is sequestered for only our private access. Or is it? Perhaps, it may be possible to explore the deeper roots and connections our minds may have if we are able to sufficiently quieten the surface mental activity.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Training the mind - 1

Not many sports can evoke such nationalistic fervor as soccer does. A ball being thrashed around a grassy field can raise or drop hopes of millions. The intense emotional scrutiny of screaming fans juxtaposed on the what goes on in the minds of the players as they attack or defend their positions more than makes up for the paucity of goals scored compared to other “high scoring” games. The psychology of the striker and the goalkeeper are very different as they come face to face separated by a ball in motion, the biggest prize on this moving chess board. The mind has millions of “thought balls” that are being kicked around between the conscious and subconscious minds. At any given moment, the mind is shuffling between an attacking and defensive mode, driven by the reward of objective gratification in the outer world. Like trapped air forming the core of a soccer ball, trapped energy forms the core of bundles of thoughts. If a soccer ball is deflated, the game stops, and similarly if the energy supplied to thoughts run out, the mind vanishes. In deep sleep, consciousness is withdrawn closer to the core of ourselves beyond the thoughts and the senses. Deprived of its fuel, the mind goes dark. Like a well timed geyser, consciousness erupts into the mind on waking up and the waking drama starts where it was left off.