Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sitting Still

Of all things that teach us something about ourselves, sitting still is probably the most revealing. Two simple words, when practiced may bring about profound transformation within ourselves. It is easy to lose oneself in movement. The mind is constantly on the move, and we have become accustomed to the ever changing scenery of thoughts. We see security in the mind, and its movement brings comfort when it is gentle. Life seems ideal when this changing scenery is at just the right pace, too slow and we slip into boredom and lethargy, too fast and it makes us restless and anxious. Motion is a characteristic of everything around us, from the spin of electrons around an atom’s nucleus to that of the galaxies. To this extent, the mind is in harmony with material creation. Thoughts are constantly on the move. At any given moment, our awareness is divided amongst thousands of thought forms moving at different speeds and in various directions. But when we narrow the focus of our awareness consciously or unconsciously, thoughts collapse into certain predictable patterns from which experiences are created. These may be positive or negative. Thoughts may move in one direction and create a sense of ease in the mind. These same thoughts in the opposite direction may create uneasiness in the mind. It all depends on the perspective from which we interact with them. Stillness, not just of the body but also of the mind, frees our awareness to probe deeper realms beyond that of thoughts.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A void filled: On finding life's purpose - 3

There are two aspects to our being. One is the participatory part and the other is the witnessing component. The former is involved in worldly interactions or objectivity which requires the axis of the mind, body, senses and objects. The mind is well accustomed to the participatory part. The seamless interactions we have with our thoughts that take us on soaring flights of fancy or those that bring us to a grinding halt attest to our participatory role. This creates polarity such as the individual and the world, the phenomenon of the observer and the observable. The invisible line between the two can conceivably be drawn at the level of the body, at the mind or the consciousness which underlies both. One could argue that both the body and the contents of the mind are observable, hence the true observer lies beyond the two. Our true nature may be uncovered by a line of enquiry that leads us towards the real observer within. It is a subjective process and can only only be done individually, it cannot be projected on a screen or understood from a book. A neutral witnessing state gives room for this inner enquiry to grow.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A void filled: On finding life's purpose - 2

The prevailing theory of our universe is one of cosmic expansion. According to this theory, popularly known as the Big Bang, at a finite time in the past, the universe as we know it today was of infinite density and temperature. The expansion of space that resulted in the universe we live in today, did not however originate from a single point as would be the case with a conventional explosion. This may be illustrated by the example of blowing an air bubble. As the bubble expands each point on the surface of the bubble moves away from other points on the bubble as it fills with air. There is no particular center from which the surface of the air bubble expands. Relative to any particular point on the surface of the air bubble, all other points appear to moving away as the size of the bubble grows. Those points on surface of the air bubble may be thought of as galaxies; and as the three dimensional universe expands, each galaxy moves away from other galaxies. No matter where we are in the universe, it appears that we are at the center of that expanding universe due to the fact that other objects are moving away from us. We have a similar experience in the mind where each thought can appear to be at the center of an ever expanding mind.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A void filled: On finding life's purpose

In the last 200 years, every generation has been a witness to dramatic changes in connectivity with trains, cars, planes and advances in communication bringing us closer together than ever before. Our generation is not unique in that respect. The big change that our generation has witnessed is the proliferation of the internet and how it has changed our lives. Many of us may be old enough to remember a time before the internet was widely available. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the internet was used mainly by the people in academia as a means of connecting with one another. Now it has proliferated to such a large extent that it has virtually become an “utility” like water and electricity. In such an interconnected world, it is hard to imagine life without the internet. In some sectors of the economy, the internet is threatening to make humans obsolete. Driverless cars are just the start of that next big revolution. Succeeding generations will need to contend with those advances. When it comes to communication, a crack has now widened to a large chasm, it is becoming harder to have one foot in the old world of paper and personal touches, and the other in the new world of digital avatars. One or the other will have to be embraced in times to come. Brick and mortar operations will slowly become a thing of the past in many sectors of the economy. Just as ancient tribes may have gathered around a fireplace every evening, the modern day tribe of humanity gathers around the internet not once a day but 24/7. The internet has become our celebratory “bonfire” which is gradually melting interpersonal contact and also an important connection with our inner being hidden beyond the mind. No doubt, the internet has filled a big void, but it is leaving an even bigger void in its wake. The cumulative knowledge of mankind may easily be available on one’s fingertips through the internet, but it cannot show us life’s true meaning and purpose.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Eating on a full mind

The experience of a meal starts well before energy in an edible form we call food hits the senses, primarily that of taste and smell and ends when it leaves the mouth. Food is a significant part of the pursuit of happiness, and the sensations it evokes within has become a powerful surrogate for a happy state of existence. Cultural ties that are linked to food have been forged over centuries, braving both war and famine. These unique regional cuisines have solidified down the ages. So much so, that UNESCO has a list of intangible cultural treasures which includes traditional cuisines such as Mexican, Japanese, French etc. Of course any one is free to indulge in any particular cuisine far from its place of origin, and there isn’t any royalty exchanged in the process. Certain cuisines have an air of exoticness and sophistication around them. Other types of food are commonplace and are considered comfort food. With such a wide variety of treats from all over the world to choose from, it almost seems unfair that our stomachs are only the size of one’s fist. At that size, it has room for samplers and water. However, it is able to expand to many times its original size and therein lies one of the keys to the obesity epidemic. Left to its own devices, the body has enough checks and balances to prevent overloading of the stomach and the digestive machinery. But the safety mechanisms of body are easily overpowered by the mind. When it comes to food, the mind is a paradox. There is conscious awareness of what we want to eat, but during the actual act of eating, the mind is someplace else. Food has become a fuel to a wandering mind.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Life in numbers

Life may be measured qualitatively or quantitatively. We can choose to look at the passage of time in terms of minutes, hours, days, months or decades. In critical situations we are forced to mark the passage of time in terms of seconds and minutes. However, for the most past, we push the thought of time into the background as if the the steady loss of this precious resource is a faraway fantasy. By looking at life qualitatively, the importance of time becomes real in every moment, not just when its finitude becomes apparent through circumstances beyond one’s control. Life is numbered from day zero of our existence and we have the freedom to spend our time joyfully or riddled with fear and anxiety. Time does not treat anyone preferentially based on how one uses that valuable resource. In the eyes of time, all are equal. This very moment runs concurrently for everyone whether or not we are aware of it; and whether one is awake, sleeping or dreaming.

Indian Independence

It has now been 70 years since India attained her independence from British rule. At that time, many small kingdoms had to be brought under one umbrella for the nation to take shape. It can be said that the heart of India was born when independence was achieved in 1947. But the soul of India has been in existence for thousands of years, since the ancient Vedic times. Indian culture has always espoused unity amidst diversity. Every living creature lives in and shares a heavenly space between the earth and the sky. Why is this space heavenly? It is because it nurtures and sustains all life forms without preference for one over another. Beyond the sky, outer space is hostile to life as we know it. We are indeed very lucky that we have this rare chance of being witness to the wonders of the universe from such a comfortable and beautiful place we call earth.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Mind: Full of preservatives

The origins of modern day “instant” digital photography are buried in antiquity. The earliest forms employed a pinhole camera, also called camera obscura (Latin for dark room). A basic pinhole camera is a box with a tiny aperture that lets in light, which falls on the opposite wall creating an inverted image of the object that was illuminated. Later, glass lenses replaced the pinholes. The 10th century Arab physicist, Ibn al-Haytham is credited with the invention of the world’s first pinhole camera. The principles of camera obscura were initially described by the ancient Greeks and the Chinese. In the 1820s, Nicéphore Niépce employed the phenomenon of camera obscura and captured the world’s first photographic record. The next big revolution was color photography and more recently digital photography. The first photograph took several several days of exposure. These days, we can take several photographs in a fraction of a second using our smart phones. Our eyes are the best examples of pinhole cameras. In fact, camera obscura was the model for the human eye as described by Leonardo Da Vinci.  René Descartes extended this to the eye and the mind. Although the human eye is a prototypical pinhole camera bringing in information to the brain, the other four senses also bring in “images” of the world around us in the form of sensory input that can be analysed and interpreted by the mind.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Coping with death

Death is not a generational event confined to humans. There is life and death embedded in every moment, the death of one is the birth of another. Life is strung out along a string of infinite moments, each one could be the last, no one can be sure. Death is implied when we are born. But when it happens, it can be an emotionally explosive powder keg for those left behind. Death has a long fuse that is lit the moment we are born. Time burns down that fuse. Life is a transition between birth and death, we cannot remember the former and tend to forget the latter. But death does not forget us. We get a sampling of it every night in deep sleep where we are unaware of anything. No doubt, there is a great sense of loss when we lose a loved one. This event cannot be avoided by anyone and only time can eat our grief. How do we hasten this process of healing and see the darkness that death brings in a new light?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The body is an interface

The sport of diving is very easy to watch but a perfect dive is extremely difficult to execute. There is a lot of physics that is involved in executing a complicated dive with twists, turns and somersaults. It is easy to enjoy the aesthetics of a perfectly executed dive but the viewer may fail to think of the efforts that have led to that point or the dangers that are involved in the sport of diving. The risk to the diver rises as the height of the platform increases. All the energy for the dive that includes the flips and turns are harnessed before the diver leaves the platform or a springboard. Once airborne, one is committed. Everything that a diver does while on the board and in the air determines the entry into the water. A splashless entry is the ultimate objective besides the aesthetics of the flips and turns in the air. Life is like the sport of diving. A “quiet and splashless entry” into our deeper being depends on how we train and use our body. Those who can effortlessly dive into their being are few and far in between. It isn’t a gift, rather a culmination of many years or even a lifetime of effort. Everyone has the capability to slip beyond that dark core that we perceive with our eyes closed. But that raw ability has to be refined and sharpened with repeated practice. Just as a diver is the only one who can truly experience a splashless entry, only those who have mastered diving deep within themselves can experience lasting peace and bliss that everyone craves. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Eye of an ant and the body of an elephant

Living without the power of sight is hard to imagine. Those tiny apertures just a few millimeters across, are such a great gift, adding immense value to our lives. We take them for granted until sight starts to fail us. Our lives start in the darkness of the womb and ends when the curtain like eyelids close for the final time. In between we experience light, without which nothing would be visible. The opening and closing of this grand drama is not only played out over many years, but daily as well. When we sleep, we enter the womb of our own consciousness. The entryway is through darkness. Our consciousness is very much alive, but we are unaware of it. As soon as we awaken, that communion with our own consciousness within is instantly overpowered by light that reflects off the world of objects. That inner light emanating from our own consciousness is never seen, and thought to be non existent.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Self consciousness

From a very young age we are taught not to be self conscious. We are encouraged to project outward confidence. All the senses are geared to look externally and seek out the world. The mind is kept very busy through its constant engagement with the sense organs. Slowly over time, we conclude that reality is that which exists outside of us. We ignore what lurks within the darkness behind the visible part of the mind and what’s behind the functioning of each individual cell. On a physical level cells and organs are continuously functioning. We seldom pay attention to them until an illness strikes. The attention of the mind is quickly diverted from the external world to the illness within the body. Through the lens of illness, there is constant awareness of the living reality that the human body is. But this awareness is chained to the body and cannot go beyond it. Only when the body is rendered “invisible” through deeper introspection with constant awareness, self consciousness takes a positive turn. When limited to the body, it turns negative and is ultimately a dead end. The mind has convinced us that there is nothing beyond the body, which becomes a virtual starting point from which the mind pushes us outwards.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Heart and mind: Bridging the gap

A talk given in Sarasota, FL on April 14, 2016

There are three dimensions to the health of a human heart. They are the physical, the physiological and the psychological. Modern medicine is good at healing illnesses that affect the physical and physiological aspects of the heart. These two are unique to each individual. We cannot experience the joy and pain of another through the physical and physiological dimensions. We can share another being’s happiness or suffering only through the psychological window of the heart. That window is the link that can either unite us or divide us. Medicines cannot enhance or fix it. On the contrary, it may mask and suppresses the psychological aspect of the heart.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Judging, witnessing and awareness - II

Continued a from prior post (2-8-2016)

Understanding the mind and making it do our bidding may be seem like an impossible task at times. The mind occupies a central part of our lives and everything we do involves the mind directly or indirectly. Whatever happens in the mind is deeply is deeply intertwined with our external lives. So much so, that there perhaps isn’t one act that is done that does not involve the mind. If we aren’t conscious of something, it does not mean that the subconscious mind isn’t registering it. In sleep, we lose awareness of the mind, but does the mind completely shut down? That is very hard to tell. It seems paradoxical to remain awake and being witness to what happens when we are asleep. The mind has turned into a judge of everything, a potent force to be reckoned with. Through our inattention, it has turned into an autonomous entity within ourselves and has assumed a steering role in our lives. It holds us accountable, but there is nothing that seems to hold the mind accountable. It has occupied the driver’s seat.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Introvert and extrovert

Fun loving extroverts, playing mischief

In our minds, are thoughts, and will never lead us

To the shy introvert, called by many names

Any pseudonym will do, after all they are just sounds

Even when softly whispered, wrong words

Cause great damage, extroverted thoughts rarely forgive

We live and walk this great divide, the choice is ours

Who to follow? The introvert within or thoughts which promise

The world, the followers of the mind fall into a darker abyss

Than the one that hides the inner introvert

The choice isn’t hard, but is rarely made, disparate as fire and ice

Words can define, but can never reach, where a true introvert resides

Crowds and solitude

There is solitude only in the moment, not on mountain tops

Barren deserts, deserted beaches or lonesome forests

Crowds of thought quickly swarm those places, even if there is

No one around, like the sky they are always there, the whispering

Cannot be turned off, unless one learns, to listen, amidst the busy crowd

For elusive silence, everyone is gifted solitude, daily in the depths of sleep

If one can escape the charm of dreams, which provide a contrast

To the happenings of the day, even those crowds must be parted

It can only happen, there is solitude everywhere, just as there are crowds

Those moments of solitude must be prised open, not through effort

But by effortless patience, the crowds will thin and die out

Leaving solitude in its wake, which was always there

Color and colorless

Color represents who we are, infinite variations

Made from the same human mold, imagine a world without it

The tiny speck of color standing out in the backdrop of black

Would disappear, but for light, the source of it all

Chasing darkness is its hobby, the two can never meet

Where one is the other cannot live, the monotony

Of light is broken up, into colors, for our enjoyment

It slips even into dreams, the mind holds the pallette

While an inner light brings it out, the journey can be colorful

All the way to the end, beyond the reach of even light

It isn’t death, which is colorless, it cannot be seen or painted

Life is color, its shades are uncertain, but a picture may be painted

Seeker and the sought

A perennial chase, seeking the elusive, everyone’s in it

There’s always something more, as long as the mind

Has a say, traveling to the far ends of the world and back

Always in a flash, there are many things that are sought

Each weighed on a scale and discarded in time, never satisfied

The search lights are always on, hoping to strike gold

A sought after standard, cuts across language and culture

There are crowds of such seekers, forgetting even gold outlives all

Few like to journey alone, for those who do, there is only one road

Not many, leading to where the sought after has found refuge

If eyes can turn around, the search would end, when the seeker

Behind the gaze has left, it becomes apparent, the sought is the seeker

Thick and thin

As our civilization ages, thick forests give way to a balding landscape

Whose shifting sands are as fickle as the thin clouds above, we call

A permanent home, sandwiched between rock and dirt

Miles deep, a thick wall, impenetrable to the eye, its secrets

Can only be imagined, and air, that covers even the tallest mountains

Transparent as glass, and thin enough for our eyes to see the heavens

In every direction, life dances, its delicate threads pulled by our needs

And wants, which fray with time, our friend through thick and thin

Weaving an eventful life, for the grandest and the most insignificant

Amongst thoughts, they create a thick foundation, on which the thin

And delicate ego rests, unable to dig through the depths

Or see beyond the thick walls of the universe of its own making

Superficial and deep

A swamp that comes alive, each day

Living off a never ending procession, of thoughts

That come and go, neatly packed and thrown

Into the depths, we only see the buoyant ones

That make it to a wafer thin, superficial layer, of the mind

That has become our world, the road to heaven or hell

Starts and ends there, how many are brave enough to dive?

Into the depths of the mind, where exotic thoughts swim

Dangerously, and without knowing one’s mind

There will not be any stepping stone found, that can hold our weight

As we peer into the distance, hidden behind a wall, of silence

Everything comes into reach, and there are no unknowns

Success and failure

Attuned to the notion of success, leaping ahead

Of stepping stones, failure isn’t something the mind considers

As worthwhile, while the underpinning of evolution

Is failure first and success next, genes are let loose

The only loss is time, of which there is plenty

If one isn’t trapped in a human frame, the clock ticks

Differently for nature, as it tries various bloodlines until the right mix

Is achieved, more the failure, sweeter is the eventual success

Change is inevitable, success doesn’t last forever, and failure

Is also transitory, both ever more fleeting in the mind, why cling?

To one or the other, both are tiny pieces in a larger puzzle

That may be solved, when the focus is the effort, not success or failure

Peaks and valleys

The mind is no desert, its lush peaks and valleys

Make it a playground no one wants to leave

There are clouds and rain, bright sunshine and dark skies

The ever changing canopy keeps the senses sharp and honed

Inequality rules, in the mind, crowds of thought

Live in its valleys, the privileged amongst them rule the peaks

There is no level ground, for them to meet

Blustering winds and storms of discontent don’t follow

An almanac’s predictions, life’s unpredictable, only in the mind

There is no escape for those on the peaks, the valleys will claim them

It’s inevitable, the view from the top may be nice, but there isn’t freedom

When rivers can leave the peaks and valleys behind, why can’t we?

Sea and land

Worlds apart, life on sea and land, the balance kept in check

By nature, through its emissaries, big and small, except mankind

Seeking to rule over laws, nature has evolved, not just for us

But all life, what have we gained by tilting scales, in our favor?

Greed remains unsated, unpredictable skies open up

Without warning, parched lips are made to suffer, another season

Nature’s natural barriers are hard to transcend, without the aid

Of our inventions, those are of little use, in parting the waters

Keeping our mind afloat, the boundaries are distinct

Like that between sea and land, the inner waters will remain untouched

As long as we cling on to our creations, they help us rule on land,

Not in the sea that matters, where only those naked as fish can swim

Spiritual and material

The mind is the seed for the material, and the body

The seed for the spiritual, the stem of individuality

Common to both, growing out of these, life comes alive

The material takes the formless into the form

And the spiritual takes the form into the formless

The meeting point, as one melts into the other

Is humanity, without that sea, there would be no one to see

Miracles unfolding in front of our eyes, the dance of the atoms

Hidden in an unmoving tree, a serious mountain or a carefree wave

We are both spiritual and material, the spiritual fosters freedom

From the ego, turning all into one, the material needs

Freedom of the ego to build and create, making one stand tall amongst many

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Belief and disbelief

Disbelievers are not heretics, they are questioners

Beliefs as answers cannot quench their thirst

Both believers and disbelievers are seekers, of flavors

They may not agree, living on the same plate

Their fights have stood the test of time, the baton passed

From one to another, their food is hardly shared

Yet they grow on the same sun baked soil

Their bodies clamor togetherness like the herds in the wild

Minds have long parted ways, there is little time to journey back

To the time of dawn, when thoughts were as soft as dew

When life was an experience, missed by both believers and disbelievers

Lost in an endless struggle, they fail to see the way, even a child can see

Science and miracles

Science explains and extends, boundaries of the knowable

Insights gleaned can come only from the depths

It isn’t printed on water, rocks or clouds

They may seem ordinary, they are miracles, that sustain us

Coming into existence through rearrangement, of atoms

Which are named, but cannot be seen, all we see are reflections

Call it science or miracles, one takes the road of logic

The other, of faith, but the source begins where roads end

The miracle of existence can not be explained

But it can be lived, a better life is what science seeks

That life isn’t meant for one but for all, if every mind concurs

It would be the miracle that science would not need to explain

Conscious and unconscious

The journey is long, or short, it depends

Whether one treads consciously or unconsciously

The body needs a box full of clothes and the mind

Cannot do without this bag of bones, comforts are few

Otherwise the travellers would permanently rest

Moments are just moments when one isn’t conscious of them

Each one of them can last an eternity for those who aren’t unconscious

It isn’t enough to empty one’s wardrobe putting the body through more pain

One would not go very far, in this world, what to speak of the beyond

Living consciously, there are no lines drawn, nothing is emptied

Or filled, what’s taken is what’s needed, the rest is shared

Only the unconscious carry a heavy load, enveloped by greed and not need

East and west

There are no directions in space, east or west

Created by an interstellar dance, the gulf is enormous

Between humans, welcoming the morning sun

At different times, minds wake sequentially

There is beauty in that non uniformity, if all get up and go

Instantaneously without warning, there will be no one left

To pack up and throw away what’s left behind, a universe

With billions of suns, each with the power to create

What we are seeking to destroy, nature could shift its focus

In a heartbeat, to those distant specks, seen by telescopes

With radios for eyes, it is time to unite, this cycle of waking

And sleeping will go on, east or west, it does not exist on the inner map