Saturday, April 8, 2017

Enhancing goal oriented productivity

The amount of geothermal energy within the earth’s crust is several thousand times that of accessible fossil fuel reserves. The energy from the sun’s rays is even greater. These forms of energy such as wind, solar and geothermal, although relatively expensive to use compared to fossil fuels, are inexhaustible. Despite this abundance, wars are have been fought over access to the known reserves of “cheap” but polluting fossil fuel to meet the world’s ever growing needs. However, as we further develop technologies to power our energy grids with renewable energy, the earth would be cleaner and tensions over ever diminishing finite resources we currently depend upon will end. The mind may be thought of as a microcosmic reflection of an inexhaustible source of energy such as the sun. Our daily struggles would be a forgotten thing of the past if we become skilled at harnessing the mind’s immense potential. Even without tapping into the depths of the mind, if the surface current is better organized and channeled, our day to day lives would  dramatically change for the better. We mostly use the mind to generate misery for ourselves and for others. That can easily be turned around and the same power may be directed towards uncovering inexhaustible wells of happiness within ourselves. There isn’t enough resources in the material world to make everyone happy, but with self generated happiness, there is more than enough capacity within every individual to share with the entire world.

The mind may be considered as the most precious resource we have, it is accessible to everyone anytime of the day or night. It’s reserves of energy cannot be quantified, and is many times what we may use during the course of our lifetime. Developing the mind’s potential requires determination and self application. This wealth, the mind’s capacity to create, cannot be taken away or stolen. The night sky remains unaffected and unchanged even if a billion people simultaneously consumed the light of the stars through their eyes. Similarly, the light of knowledge that comes from the mind will not diminish regardless of how many people draw upon it. All the advancements that have changed the world have been brought about by the mind’s capacity to create and manifest ideas.

Although the size of a container determines the amount of the content it may hold, it is not just the capacity to hold information that makes the mind a “supermind”. The capacity of the mind to hold information is infinite. Each thought holds so much information and thousands pass by everyday, each uniquely different from the other. It is how we participate with our thoughts that makes the difference. The main question is, are we actively aware of who we are in relation to our thoughts? When we are passive participants in the mind, our awareness is captured by the varying “gravity” of different thoughts and is pulled into an orbit around individual thoughts. This makes our thoughts stronger than us, just as the sun’s gravity is so much greater than that of earth. But if our awareness is free and powerful, it can break limitations imposed by individual thoughts and can help coalesce their combined potential. This turns an ordinary, disruptive and distracted mind into a highly charged and specialized supermind.

The X-factor in turning an ordinary mind into a supermind is developing an intuitive stream by which there is freshness and spontaneity in how everything is perceived. “Dust” from old conditioning is a highly corrosive contaminant that greatly limits the mind. It is only when the “old” is let go, do fresh insights crop up. An apple falling from a tree may be an ordinary occurrence for most people even today, but for Sir Isaac Newton, the profound truth about the phenomenon of gravity was reflected in that. There are not many such seismic moments in the field of science. It all came about only through a perspective never seen before, all triggered by an everyday event. A mind devoid of conditioning becomes highly sensitive and perceptive. Any task, big or small will be approached from fresh perspectives and not carried out not through ordinary habit channels. By that great insight is gained and there will be something new to learn from each experience.  

The mind can create only when the freedom of the moment, our awareness of it and the power of the mind come together. The depth of all three is unfathomable. Limitations are mainly brought about through the conditioning of the past. Conditioning sets arbitrary and limited boundaries and our awareness is trapped within those boundaries. The quantum of mind’s energies that is available to us is distributed amongst thoughts that span those dimensions.
When we depend less on the lens of the past, the capacity and capabilities of what the mind can achieve in the present increases exponentially. In this very moment, we may resigned to the fact that “this is how we should be”. This is an example of conditioning which limits our capabilities. The “is how” represents what we may have learnt in the past, and “we should be” represents the limitations of isolated individual consciousness. If we take out these two phrases, we are left with “this”, which represents the infinite potential of the moment. When we leave the moment “open”, there are innumerable possibilities with what can be done with it and and a much greater amount of the mind’s energy is available to fulfill any of those possibilities. But most of us “close” and limit the potential of the moment. When used as a habit making machine, the mind’s immense capacity for processing information churning out new ideas isn’t fully tapped.

Each thought is a conductor of varying amounts of energy. The amount of energy that is drawn into a thought is proportional to the degree of awareness of it. Greater our awareness of a thought, the more energy that is drawn in. But to maximize the power of awareness and be able to direct that power, it must be kept generic and universal, and not enslaved by specific thoughts. When awareness is trapped and becomes embedded into thoughts it is rendered unidimensional. The perception of each moment proceeds from the perspective of the contents of the thoughts that arise at that given moment. Hence, everyone has his or her unique perspective of any given situation, which based on thoughts that carry their power of awareness. Since awareness has the capability to drawing on the mind’s energy, trapped awareness can potentially drain the mind’s energies into thoughts that may not be productive or positive. Take anger for example. One thought may trigger an avalanche of emotions which then turns into a destructive outburst we call anger. Within a fraction of a second, anger grows into very large proportions and every bit of the mind’s energy is sucked into thoughts that in an attitude of supplication to anger. Negative thought, emotions and a supply of mental energy form a combustible mixture. It is no wonder that we feel so drained and exhausted after such episodes.

Thoughts by themselves are neutral and exert no power over us unless we lend them our power of awareness. Furthermore, negative thoughts don’t necessarily have more power than positive thoughts. It is our heightened awareness of their negative contents that gives such thoughts power. That negativity is part of us and is reflected through thoughts. But the ego makes us believe those negative contents do not originate from within but are imposed upon us from the outside. In this regard, when we look outside for answers the search never ends and the blame game never stops. Only when we back down and say to ourselves the buck stops with us, does the ego begin to crumble and with it the source of the negativity we may feel will be revealed.

Just as an oil tanker has the capacity to transport tens of millions of gallons of petroleum products, but an average car can only hold under 20 gallons, each thought carries a fraction of the mind’s energy. Distributed over thousands of thoughts everyday, traveling in different directions, the mind’s energy is scattered. If those thoughts are beaded together for a unified goal even for a day a year in every human being, the combined creative output could bring a rapid change in our way of life. The higher “energy state” of a mind with unified thoughts tends to seek more noble pursuits. The lower “energy state” of a mind with scattered thoughts falls towards more prosaic concerns at best, but mostly towards negative tendencies.

Positive thoughts have an expansive effect on the mind. They act as reflectors, rather than absorbers of the mind’s energies. More light an object absorbs, the darker it appears, conversely, lighter the object more light is reflected. Thoughts are painted “dark and negative” or “light and positive” based on whether they absorb or reflect energy. When positive thoughts reflect the mind’s energies, it can be directed to a specific purpose. This convergence of energy lends thoughts even greater power. When cycle is repeated we gain constructive insight instead of a destructive outburst.

With positive thoughts, expansion is primarily inward and secondarily outward. The opposite is true of negative thoughts. These are primarily directed outwards, mostly due to the work of the ego. It acts as a protective barrier, and limits the immediate inner damage. But it does not have the power to prevent long term adverse effects that come about from a negative state of thought. When positivity expands inwardly, the capacity of the mind and its capabilities grow. This growth is a byproduct and when accepted gratefully and not made the primary goal, the mind will become the foundation for even greater achievements.

Every human achievement big or small, is a manifestation of thought. Thoughts are the seeds, without which we cannot create anything in the world. The mind constantly produces thought seeds, as evidenced by an impressive array of thoughts numbering in the tens of thousands that are produced daily. For the level of productivity occurring in the mind, it would seem logical that there should be more successful people in the world. But only a small fraction of the human population has leveraged the mind’s prolific productivity and turned it into significant material success. This encompasses not just wealth creation but also inventions and scientific breakthroughs that have and are changing the way we live. Without these advances, many of the things we take for granted such as computers and telecommunications would have remained improbable dreams. The difference between successful people and the rest is their thought patterns. Even in sport, especially at the elite levels, it is mostly about the mind. Athletes who compete at that level generally have similar physical prowess, but the ones that make it to the top have mastered the mental game. This does not happen by chance or luck. Self driven effort is required.

Mental potential, which is limitless, isn’t the purview of a few. The mind is the “software”, which accompanies the “hardware” of the body. It is not preprogrammed at birth. How that is done is left to us. Several factors play a role. The main factor is encouragement and motivation. It is rare to find selfless wellwishers. Even if we cannot achieve something great by ourselves, it would be an enormous contribution to the world if we ceaselessly make efforts to recognize talents in others and encourage them. When talent meets motivation and positive energy, it is a combustible mixture that can shatter self imposed fears and limitations. A single negative thought can undo this cascade just as a long and complicated computer code may not work if a single line is wrongly written

Every thought we engage with, creates a subtle change in the mental programming. Conditions and limitations imposed on the mind are part of that programming and come about as a net result of working with thousands of thoughts which work along those lines. Just as every seed a tree disperses may grow into another similar tree given the right conditions, the energy behind every thought has great potential. This potential needs a guide and motivator. Just as when a mentor lacks focus the person being mentored will be lost, our ability to guide and motivate our own thoughts is degraded when we constantly shift the focus of our awareness. We then go from being a leader amongst thoughts to that of a follower, subject to whatever thoughts bring our way.

We may have advanced training in various fields of study, but one vital area where we fall short is the self study of the mind. Unlike the body, a picture of the mind cannot be captured by an imaging scanner. We cannot stop the mind from functioning in order for us to “dissect” and study it. A deeper understanding of how the mind operates can only happen in real time. We can roll back the past and relive parts of it in the mind, but it does not teach us how the mind functions. In fact, the past only serves as a major distraction. Immersed in the events of the past our awareness become as small and insignificant as a swimmer fighting the waves of a vast ocean. Only if we are able to keep a certain distance between our awareness and the mind, can we hope to study it. We are not the mind in the same vein as a carpenter’s wood plane is not the carpenter. For any instrument or tool, there must be someone to wield it. In our case, the mind can be used as a tool if our awareness has grown and can be kept independent of the mind.  

As awareness is developed and groomed to stand independently of the mind, it may be used to direct the energy of thoughts towards our goals. Not being enslaved by thought is the real secret behind mind power. In all probability, thoughts share a common energy source. The sun may be one, but it can be reflected in multiple pots of water. When seen in individual pots, it may appear that there are many suns, but the source of those reflections are one. Each thought appears to be distinct and individual. But when seen as reflections, one can then start the search for the light from which they are reflected. Thoughts do not have an external skin, they are transparent. If the contents of the thoughts fade away, then we are left with emptiness that has great potential. In that “empowered” emptiness, our awareness becomes free to sketch and create new forms of thought that become the seeds for subsequent materialization through our actions.

Even before we get to the state of “empowered” emptiness, we can experience a “lite” version by actively focusing our awareness on thoughts that are representative of our goals and aspirations. The more alike thoughts are to one another, greater is their synergy and hence mental power. That power, when directed towards a goal will result in a much greater chance of success. The herd behavior of similar thoughts drives away incongruous ones and such clusters of thoughts become enveloped by a buffer of emptiness which helps us concentrate our awareness on them. In any large organization, if all or most members remain focused on one major goal, success is very likely assured. But if each one wants to take it in his or her direction, progress will be halted. The key player that determines our success, the mind, must “buy” into any goal otherwise our goals may never be realized. All of us have goals, big or small. For most people, something is lost in translation between the setting a goal and its manifestation in the external world. The operational manual of inner transformation need not run into thousands of pages. A few easy steps may do just as well and it starts with aligning thoughts with one another.  

When most of the mind’s thought production is kept for internal consumption, the precious energy that is captured within thoughts melts away in fueling dreams, passions, memories and desires. This internal show can be elevating or burdensome. But the end result is that the mind’s energies are scattered in many directions. If much of the mind’s power is lost in this manner, the power of thoughts to manifest is diminished to that extent, resulting in unrealized goals and unfulfilled aspirations.

We are creatures of habit, the mind is both the source and the storehouse of them. Habit is a form of consistency. With any given habit whether good or bad, our thought, speech and action are in line with one another. If there is inconsistency in any one of these three, the habit falls apart. Success can also be made a habit. To make striving for success a habit requires active participation on our part; we have to think success, speak “success” and our actions must be geared toward the goal. Thinking “success” involves creating positive thoughts which align with our goals. It is much like putting a team together in a Silicon Valley start up. Successful start ups share these common following traits; a great idea, the right team and proper execution of the idea. Many great ideas don’t come to fruition for lack of a proper team and/or poor execution. Once a goal is instilled in the mind, the entire mental setup may be approached with the same energy and determination that goes into any startup. A core team members of this “mental startup” are our awareness and will power. Awareness builds teamwork amongst thoughts and will power helps in turning thoughts into actions.  

In the early stages of a startup, the key members of the team must be willing to take on many roles. In such a small and tightknit group, it is virtually impossible to have regimented silos which are opaque to one another. The “room” must be open to hear a common message. Awareness that can stand apart from thoughts is like a microphone can amplify the speaker’s voice and reach every corner of a large room. Through such awareness, a message, goal or an intention can be greatly amplified and can be communicated to large swathes of the mind and the thoughts that sweep through it every minute. When awareness is coupled with the twin keys of persistence and consistency, success in any endeavor becomes easily attainable.

Along with developing awareness, the mind must also be cleaned and reorganized on a regular basis much like a large filing cabinet that is frequently accessed not just for storage but also for retrieval of important papers. If a filing cabinet is poorly organized and randomly stuffed with bits and pieces of paper, retrieving a document ends up becoming a very difficult task. The entire cabinet may have to be emptied out. Although the mind functions like a filing cabinet, it is infinitely bigger than the average one in our homes and offices. Every experience is filed away in the mind, whether we consider them useful or not. Once the conscious mind is full, it’s contents are shifted elsewhere, likely the subconscious mind. This part of the mind is a storage area where information may potentially be lost forever. However well developed our memory might be, as a retrieval tool it is limited. The amount of data that needs to be organized daily in the conscious mind can be overwhelming, let alone trying to access what is stored in the subconscious mind.

There is another benefit to developing awareness. Every experience becomes a conscious process, this has the added benefit of slowing the mind down. In contrast, when there is lack of awareness, experiences are gulped down just as we would glasses of water on a hot sunny day. With increasing awareness, those same experiences are slowly chewed on. A piece of broccoli cannot be swallowed whole. It must be chewed and broken down into tiny bits in the mouth before it can be comfortably swallowed. Moreover, just as slowly chewing food aids the process of digestion by giving the enzymes present in saliva a chance to work, maintaining awareness as we go through various life experiences helps process them in the conscious mind. Otherwise chunks information sourced through the five senses are sent unattended deeper into the mind, where we have no control over what happens to them. When awareness is wholly maintained with one experience at a time, there is no room for stray information to get in. Unattended information that enters the deeper layers of the mind may later surface back as dreams, desires, faint memories etc. Those pieces are almost impossible to put back together to recreate the original experience. Fragmented data is difficult to understand and it may be a waste of time to do so. Sleep helps clear up those fragments so that the mind is fresh the following day

When we fall asleep, the data in the conscious mind is purged and transferred into the subconscious mind. Some of the raw data may be spun into dreams, but most of it is “lost” in the depths of the mind. Sleep functions as a form of a self cleaning mechanism. But the extent to which the mind is cleaned and freshened up is limited. It does not produce lasting effects, it is more of a temporary fix, especially when we are fatigued. We may have experienced transient emptiness of the mind upon waking up in the morning. It lasts all but a few seconds. Before long, thoughts once again crowd the mind. Expanding our awareness is a more efficient and lasting method of “crowd control” within the mind. As our awareness expands, thoughts thin out. In the space that is created, there are fewer distractions. Naturally, our our focus and clarity, two essentials for enhancing productivity, greatly improve.

The first step in achieving any goal is to articulate it clearly in the mind. The next step is visualizing it in as much detail as possible. Articulation requires clarity and visualization needs focus. Both these are best done slowly, methodically and precisely just as an architect makes a detailed blueprint. Construction of a building cannot proceed unless every detail is mapped out on paper and signed off. Once all the relevant details are on paper, following them becomes easy. Constructing success and achieving our goals is a similar process. Only then will the mind take us seriously. Thoughts will fall into line and the power of our awareness will then be able to freely travel within the mind as a “motivational speaker”. This will enliven and motivate other complementary thoughts that may be lying dormant. We commonly articulate and visualize negative thoughts in great detail. One negative thought can infect the entire mind. In the same vein, positive thoughts and emotions such as unconditional love can transform the mind.

A major limitation that keeps us from realizing the mind’s potential is that our awareness is trapped within thoughts. Awareness may be freed in three steps. Once freed, it can direct and focus the mind to achieve any goal.

  1. Observation. Awareness is an integral part of the life experience. The first step in recognizing that awareness can exist independent of the mind is to observe it in activities that interest us deeply. Most people have a favorite hobby they may like to pursue in their free time. This could be watching a movie, reading a book, a sport or any other activity that creates a relaxed mental atmosphere. The relaxed feeling comes not just from the activity, but more importantly it is the paucity of other thoughts during that time that creates that sense of ease. In all probability most people have experienced this, but  may have failed to recognize the relatively thought free phase they pass through during their favorite pastimes. Adding in an additional layer of witnessing this process from a third person viewpoint will help us identify the energy of awareness. Just as a child is given toys or a piece of candy, hobbies and other activities function to pacify the mind. When the mind is pacified, it becomes easier to study it.

Thoughts tell us what they contain and nothing more, but the emptiness around thoughts may teach us much more. When we create space between thoughts, we learn perhaps for the first time that the energy of awareness is present not just with the contents of a thought but also in the empty space all around. Thoughts become porous membranes through which that energy passes. The contents come alive after encountering that energy. We are that awareness and its energy. That understanding can only come with observation. In the first step, we are merely observing, as the energy of our awareness dances in step with thoughts. Activities that interest us act as props to keep awareness locked with certain thoughts. By doing so, we let the mind settle and clear up just as muddy water slowly clears up as the muddy residue settles to the bottom. Our focus in this step is observation of what has been going on naturally without adding adding in active participation to change the mind’s direction.

  1. Setting direction. Once the mind settles through observation, the next step involves introducing an element of active focus and redirection. With a sufficiently developed power of observation or witnessing from a third person perspective that comes from the practice detailed in Step 1, this becomes more meaningful. Both work and worship are examples of active focus. To be successful at work, and to attain peace of mind from the practice of worship of any kind requires active focus and participation on our part. Sleeping on the job or sleeping on the pews will not get us any closer to success or peace of mind. Active focus involves nudging the mind in one direction and making gentle course corrections to keep it on track. Music and stimulants such as caffeine are commonly used to aid and to maintain focus. These may be useful as crutches but to go deeper within ourselves, these aids will eventually have to be given up. They act as buoys that keep us close to the surface.

While maintain an active focus, the power of awareness is being directed to specific areas. As this step builds on the first one, observation from a third person perspective ought to continue. This helps keep a layer of separation from the mind’s activities. Visualization of the mind in the following manner may help us observe the happenings of the mind.

Imagine a clean room in the center of the mind surrounded by a glass wall. The subject of our active focus as well as the power of awareness that is lent to it, is inside that clean room. This interaction is being observed through the transparent glass partition. This exercise becomes successful is we are able to put aside our expectations of anything coming out this undertaking. In most of other activities, we are accustomed to an effort-reward principle. When expectation percolates into the realm of active focus, for example meditation or deep involvement in our work, there is friction created between two incompatible elements. One one hand, we are letting go and on the other is stretched out in the hopes of getting something. Expectation is in the “getting” camp, while meditation or deep involvement in work is in the “letting go” camp.  When this happens, the ability to passively observe the interaction of active focus with the power of awareness is quickly lost. This leads to loss of concentration and the mind returns to its prior state and our awareness gravitates to thoughts that randomly course through the mind. Our centering is lost when we hop from one thought to another. Before long we are back in the midst of familiar ground, a troublesome mind.

Activity can happen without the preconditioning of the mind, but expectation always stems from the mind. Selfless activities need not be limited to volunteering opportunities, mission trips and other such undertakings. We can practice being selfless even in the midst of our daily lives. The best place to start is with our family. Since those bonds have already been forged over the years, helping each other within the structure of a family without expecting anything in return becomes easy. From here, the same feeling can be expanded to the workplace and so on. Whenever there is no expectation, the mind is not “present”. Maintaining awareness during activity in which there is no expectation has a “deep cleaning” effect on the mind. When the mind is free of clutter, that is the best time to embed a goal.

  1. Unconditioned freedom. We become ready for the experience of unconditioned freedom once we master the ability to observe the interaction of our awareness with that point of focus. Unconditioned freedom is experienced when we are able to set our awareness free from the point of focus and the awareness and the observer of that awareness become one. When awareness can exist without the support of thoughts, it is a very high state of being. What was previously an ordinary mind turns into a supermind capable of great achievements. Activity then proceeds without expectation and interference of thoughts. The observer and the performer of the activity become one.

By repeatedly going through these three steps sequentially, we can slowly pry our power of awareness free from the clutches of thoughts. Free awareness can then unify thoughts and make them pliable to our goal. If water can cut through rock if there is sufficient force, the power of awareness that is not entangled with thought can certainly cut through many dense layers of mental conditioning.

Rather than go through these steps one by one on different days and at different times, it is best done sequentially. For example, a 1 hour routine may easily be adopted on a day to day basis. For maximum impact and to make the most use of the hour’s time spent, the ratio of 1:2:4 for steps 1, 2 and 3 respectively works the best. A sample routine would be 9 minutes for step 1, involving an activity that makes the mind calm and peaceful such as reading a book or any other favorite hobby. After step 1, spend 18 minutes in step 2. Any activity that requires an active focus ranging from meticulously cleaning a room, a full fledged sit down meditation, other prayer or worship would work. The key point is that the mind must be actively engaged and we continue to observe that active engagement. Then, comes step 3 wherein the awareness that is built on by actively focussing on step 2 is plugged into activity without expectation, all the while maintaining the same degree of awareness that is experienced in step 2. This must be continued for 36 minutes.

After approximately one hour, one cycle of this deep cleansing mental workout is complete. At the end of it, an intention or a goal may be thought of and that seed placed in the mind. The goal lives in the future, but activity is in the present. When the goal is clearly articulated and our awareness is fully in the present, an invisible bond between the two is established. The mind will reprogram itself and supply the necessary “thought” resources that can be translated to actions which take us closer and closer to our goal.

A more advanced option is examining everything we do on a daily basis, and taking the mind through steps 1-3 even as we carry out our daily responsibilities. Slowly, over time there will be boundless energy available to us, all generated from within. Happiness is a form of energy as is sorrow. Before mental energy turns into conditioned happiness or sorrow, we can tap into that inexhaustible source within. Just as the sun always shines and the the air currents never cease to move, that inner energy always flows. Experiencing its unobstructed flow is true bliss. Activity that springs from that bliss can always be guaranteed to be pure. Such pure activity is sure to spread far and wide and benefit many.