Refining the senses

To develop each sense, I believe we need to separate them from the others so that the mind can fully concentrate on that one sense. In our daily life, we have an executive mind, the 7th sense which monitors and keeps flitting between inputs received at all the other senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, proprioception and our thoughts(6th sense).

To isolate each sense, we could use 2 methods:
1. This is the fair and square method where you use lots of will power and direct the executive mind to a specific sense and stay there irrespective of what input you get from the others.
2. You can help this process by physically blocking input from other senses. For e.g.:

  • You could tie a band on your eyes,
  • Use ear plugs for your ears
  • Taste is generally neutral unless you have had just eaten something
  • Smell is also usually neutral or we get used to it

Even great thinkers like Leonardo da vinci recommend such stuff to sharpen the senses because they are the very instruments you use to perceive the world. The quality of these sense instruments is of paramount importance.

Writing a reverie

You can develop aesthetic detachment and distill the aspects/concepts or things that you really want from the situation/event/person using this technique. For example, say you have a relationship with someone, assuming it did not work out later you guys broke up. On retrospect you would realize that you have a lot of residue and associations of that person inside you.

Depending upon the length of the relationship and depth, these residues could be scattered and attached/associated to lots of memories. So when you look at the world around you, you would literally see them everywhere, in a lot of things. Its like there is a prom song “You are everything and everything is you” – by stylistics. The title makes no sense to the rational mind at first glance, but it has deep meaning in the metaphorical sense. “You are everything” stands for all the memories and associations(situation, feelings, places, contexts etc) related to that person.

So assuming the relationship ended in a fairly good note or even if it did not assuming you have reached the break even point and are neutral, you could begin to write a reverie which focuses on all POSITIVE memories and associations. It could be in a story form or you could just write down whatever you can brainstorm or remember. Basically, you filter out all the positive associations and memories and re-visualize those before putting them into words. You need to be very objective about this. Like a good memory may be immediately associated by a bad argument that happened after that. But you have to pinpoint your attention to the time when it was good, moment by moment. This strengthens those memories and makes you feel really good overall. By Amplifying those memories you create a much more positive disposition for yourself, improve your mood and the impact of all the negative memories is loosened and reduced. So now when the thought of the person comes, you’ll be mostly reminded of points in the reverie and start feeling good. Assuming you remember this person many times in a day, many many times in a week and so on, its a great investment to shift your focus and enjoy each moment you think of them. Reality at all moments is infinite, we can be aware of everything and yet we possess this power of focus. We can focus on whatever gives us maximum reward.

Here’s a link that explains a related concept: http://www.yourdailylifecoach.com/disassociation.html

Taste in your mouth as a microcosm

When it comes to insights about the different feelings/sensations we experience in the body, the easiest way I found to understand concepts regarding them was to use the taste in the mouth analogy.

The taste in your mouth is kind of like a microcosm of what happens at the global level in terms of sensations in the body. We have so so many different types of taste we experience, there have been words coined for some of them but most of us would just use a limited vocab of around 6-7 words to describe – maybe bitter, salty, sour, astringent, sweet, pungent, and meaty. Wine Testers have got a HUGE range of taste parameters in comparison. Probably 50 times the level of detail we ordinarily use. But still you may probably also notice the fact that the words we use are just an abstraction and do not indicate the real taste. Language itself is an abstraction. We have evolved and intellectuals etc maybe use vocabulary covering very subtle aspects but it is still some abstraction of infinity.

Another aspect to taste is that we usually have a neutral taste in our mouth. This is technically not fully neutral since sometimes the after taste of what we have eaten lingers. This taste is also influenced by our general body health. Thus there is like so much variation in even the term neutral taste. 2 people may claim their taste is neutral but if we chemically analyze it, we might find them to be quite different.

When we eat some really great food(subjective) we get intense pleasure from our taste buds. The reward is felt. It is probably the most direct form of reward and the most fleeting too. We would get bored of the taste if we eat the same thing for many many days.

We are most of the time unaware of this taste sense unless there is some activity there that is particularly interesting. This is so true even in our daily lives wrt sensations. We are mostly involved in our mental worlds and we pay attention only when the pain and pleasure exceed a threshold. Depressed people reduce their consciousness level and live in a more gross plane because they have a lot of stored pain. In other words, they start feeling only when the pain or pleasure is high. We should ideally strive to become maximally sensitive.

We also crave for certain foods the same way in life we crave for certain experiences that make us feel better. We cannot really describe, imagine or recreate this feeling precisely but the impression of the magnitude of reward is stored somewhere.

I could go on and on :). In this way, you could even observe you sense of taste to acquire insights about your overall feelings. They follow similar patterns and its much easier to start of with taste for understanding.

About people’s judgements and threads of core beliefs

People’s judgments about you are a prison too. Considering the tons of social interaction we have everyday, its easy to get lost and start believing that we are what all the people around think of us – stuff like – You cannot do this? You are not good enough and can never be. I wouldn’t want to entrust this important work to you. I don’t believe in you etc.

The real underlying truth is though, we have tremendous potential to change. We drastically underestimate this and limit ourselves. To realize this tremendous power we need to really observe our core beliefs. They are quite difficult to catch and are usually invisible like water is to a fish.We need to continuously observe ourselves like a hawk to start realizing these core beliefs. They may be more of feelings and we may feel them by our intuition, probably cannot be accurately conveyed using language.

We can identify them using a cycle of 2 steps:
1. Concentrate on the Real feeling
2. How we could translate it in language and concepts

The both can iterate with each other. That is part of my purpose of starting this blog too.
Its kind of like sketching in designing…where as the designer sketches….he starts getting more and more ideas…..the process itself is significant.

Another analogy that comes to my mind is that of the elephant(assuming it s a male) and the thread. When the elephant is very young he is tied to a thread. No matter how hard he tries it cannot free itself from this. So he gives up on it and starts believing that the thread can never be broken. Once the elephant grows to full size it can snap the thread in a fraction of a second. It is probably many many times stronger. But the limiting belief formed in childhood prevents it from even taking action.

So we need to build greater and greater awareness so that we can actually spot these threads and break them. Metaphorically the thread stands for core beliefs and the hold they have on us.

Suprising insights

Sometimes, it suddenly dawns on me that our mind is just creating a limited definition of self and maybe the self is something much beyond that. Maybe we are like leaves in a tree but all sharing the same source that is the root of the tree. We inhabit an integrated system filled with causality and relationships. But we are still interconnected everywhere and need to encompass all of that.

Analogy:
Lucid dreams recreate a world that is stunningly similar to the one that we see in our daily lives. Its unbelievable when your in one and realize the entire dream is created using your own memory. There’s this magical feeling. Its like your inside some fairy tale. You also feel floaty and high throughout the dream and the best part – semi or fully conscious of what is happening. The sudden realization that this is a dream and unreal is quite moving. Many spiritually advanced people have commented that the same realization occurs in the waking world once you wake up from the living dream. Even this normal dream – lucid dream transition needs to be experienced to see how dramatic this shift is.

Other ways to explain:
Say, a person decides to himself that he is just the thumb on his right hand and nothing else. He so strongly believes in this and has totally shielded himself from accepting anything more that. He has motivation to do that too since handling an entire body is 100 times the responsibility. And he also has a lot of thinking spells when he thinks the whole body is against him(the thumb) and develops lot of anger. But the truth might be the entire body could be unwell affecting the thumb in the process.

A mental image of an object or person is harmless by itself. It is the impulse the image triggers or associates with, that creates the problem.

Example for person: You look at a person you hate, or imagine it in your mind, it creates an impulse and soon after the chemicals related to hatred are released. So, I believe we can use our will and consciously break the connection between the image and the impulse so that we see ‘image as image’ and ‘impulse as impulse’.

Example for object: There is another link that can be broken here. When you look at an object, the act of seeing the object is harmless by itself. A memory associated with the object is usually triggered and this memory triggers pleasant or unpleasant feelings. This link can be observed and broken down if we put strong awareness on this fact when it occurs.

So, even from western science point of view it is interesting to study the science of perception and examine what links can we witness and then control.

Seeing/Hearing/touching/smelling/tasting – Mental image —trigger/associate—–Memories – emotional release(hormones and chemicals)

Problem of higher sensitivity

Leaving India has been a relief in many ways for me. There were so many things that would hit my self esteem, sense of control and knowledge of my own opinions. I would easily get manipulated by people around me and get influenced. Had to keep struggling to get my original self back each time. Here in the US, my old conditioning at all levels(people, family, environment) has been weakened and people here aren’t as judgemental and I feel a sense of freedom.

About the problem:
Examples:
1. A person is mostly pessimistic, keeps on whining and lives with a scarcity mentality. Also whines about reasonably medium term goals like getting done with studies, his social circle or about getting a job. So even if you are originally in a good mood, if you interact with this person your mood gets affected to an extent and loses its spark. If you concentrate and maintain high awareness on this fact then you can reduce the damage to a good extent. But the damage nevertheless still takes place. You can just intensely watch it to minimize its bad effects. This is about mood. Probably happens to many people who are reasonably sensitive to their environment.

2. Another issue is that of manipulation of opinions. This I think is not as common. Like if someone says “Ohh this color looks miserable, this design is miserable, this item is miserable, this particular job description is terrible, our lives are so terrible(when there is common context)” it generally distorts my view too and it takes me a while to recover. It affects me at a level beyond my intellect, maybe directly hits my subconscious. I tried to address this issue by reading more and more and getting a ton of knowledge, perspectives etc. But somehow, it did not make much difference. I would still get affected quite a lot. I think its not really the content but a direct transmutation of the emotion itself. Maybe its that person’s emotion that viscerally passes over to me. I somehow don’t seem to have much conscious control over it. All I can do is watch it intently and remind myself that I would get back my original thoughts soon.

Theory:
Its super uncomfortable when the people you interact with, polarize you into into their moods, opinions, frameworks, viewpoints etc. And somehow I cannot control this much even if I pay attention. I accept whatever they say or do at a subconscious level. This feels very creepy because the force of my will power and critical mind cannot easily stop this. I think distrusting myself has become a subconscious habit developed from childhood. Its like I have to violently rationalize with myself and even after that it takes some time for me to stabilize and get my original views back. While I’m in this internal battle, its like firefighting within and this is like a desperate attempt I make each time to not lose myself. I still cannot figure out why this happens to me. Whenever I read intellectual and insightful material i’m get pretty convinced and my views totally change. But if i don’t read any such material for long enough time, my opinions, behavior just goes back to its old conditioning and gets continuously affected by people with whom i interact with regularly. So I need to keep myself from moving into other people opinions, way of life and beliefs and totally lose myself in the process.

This internal struggle that I need to do to preserve my sense of self control and beliefs is like a virus makes your PC work at 1/4th the speed it could. I could be so much better as a person if I did not have this problem. Maybe I’m hyper sensitive to my environment and people’s emotions. I think there is a psychological term to explain this, don’t remember right now. On the brighter side of things, its not uncommon for gifted people to face such issues :). Their hypersensitivity gives them great advantages and some unusual problems. I’m working towards finding a solution for this.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/why-you-cant-help-believing-everything-you-read.php

Interesting comparison between IQ, EQ and SQ

I used to be a fan of IQ in my childhood until engineering. Then I started to notice that EQ is probably more important then IQ, because I read about and witnessed loads of successful people who had average IQ scores. Now, I’m wondering about what is SQ and what it really means.

An article I read explained this pretty well
Link: http://www.lifepositive.com/mind/evolution/iq-genius/intelligence.asp

Included below, is a part from the article:

Spiritual Quotient (or SQ) is the ultimate intelligence, they claim. This is the intelligence used to solve problems of meaning and value. “Is my job giving me the fulfillment I seek?” “Am I relating to the people in my life in a way that contributes to their happiness and mine?” Answers to these questions determine whether we will find happiness or not. IQ and EQ are inadequate in such issues. SQ is about being able to heal ourselves of all the resentment we carry. It is thinking of ourselves as an expression of a higher reality. It is also about how we look at the resources available to us.

The transformative power of SQ distinguishes it from IQ and EQ. IQ primarily solves logical problems. EQ allows us to judge the situation we are in and behave appropriately. SQ allows us to ask if we want to be in that situation in the first place. It might motivate us to create a new one. SQ has little connection to formal religion. Atheists and humanists may have high SQ while someone actively religious may not.

Future technology – more thoughts

Ultimate best friends:

Say, there is a system that contains all the imaginable knowledge, direct mind’s eye accounts, visualizations, impressions, opinions and thoughts from people’s brains all over the world, basically a much much larger version of what we see in Google.

When we into the system, the system would directly sense our visceral needs and alter our brain’s electrical pathways directly. There is no need to even translate it into language.

If such a system should exist it could become our ultimate best friends. It would generate the perfect conversations, perfect activities for us because it could use the entire world’s brain content to engage us through direct perception like the matrix concept.

1st concern: Immediate future tech and concentration:

I think technology today is creating an overload of information. There is just too much information thrown at you at every instant of time. Its enslaving us.

  • Like if you check out videos on youtube about conceptions for the future, you might see –
  • A coffee cup with a ton of information displayed on it.
  • Screens showing information everywhere measuring some phenomenon or the other.
  • And it might not just be textual, it might even be video information like buildings with screens throughout their exterior showing animated billboards and videos
  • Zillions of gadgets that you carry along with showing that keep buzzing you and interrupting your train of thought all the time.

This is actually the same problem with watching too much of television. The orientation response problem. We cannot reach the desirable brain wave states like

  • Alpha – a state similar to getting moderately drunk,
  • Theta – of reverie and fantasy, children are usually in this state
  • Gamma – state of super learning and highest sensitivity and perception. Children in their language learning stage show a lot of gamma activity

While continuously watching TV, due to continuous movements of the camera every 3-5secs – panning, zooming etc the orientation response is triggered. Orientation response is basically fight or flight.

To give an example: If a guy goes into a relaxed alpha state while playing his guitar in the forest hears a lion roar, he shows this orientation response and shifts his attention to the roar and decides whether to stay or run. He then moves into the beta state. This is a stressful and restless state.

The TV does this to us every 3-5 secs. How can we ever hope to reach the more desirable states? Huge amounts of information thrown to us all the time by work and technology is doing something similar in my opinion. As it is many many people have major stress issues and cant truly relax. All these extra inventions would only exacerbate their situation. And with all the medical improvements available, they would keep getting temporarily cured and be stuck in this cycle and live in delusion.

2nd concern: If each person decides to live in a tailor made virtual world like the matrix, will we ever find common purpose again among human beings?

The issue of not getting bored

This is a funny question which has been in my mind for ages:
How on earth do people get bored?
And usually you would expect that such people would try to keep looking for fun things to do all the time. You would presume that they have very low sensitivity towards the stimulation they receive from environment and relationships.

What fascinates me is the case of workaholics. Their boredom actually pushes them to pursue commercial money making activities like taking up plenty of part time jobs or working extra hard in their full time job. They earn a lot of money in the process and also gain respect from society which thinks of them as intelligent, diligent and productive people.

In my case, it is very hard for me to get bored. I have tons and tons of things I want to do. It keeps changing everyday too. So its like a flowing dynamic and even in a period where its more or less static I can only fulfill 20-30% of what I had planned/wish to do. The interests only keep broadening with time. And the prospect of me getting bored is getting weaker and weaker.

I even attended a meditation camp once. Sat for 10 days there, 10 hrs of meditation everyday, followed an oath of not talking or even communicating to anyone during this period, just slept for 5hrs everyday, little food and no dinner at night for all the days. Can it get worse than this? and yet I never really got bored, and definitely did not go crazy.
Am I at absolute peace with myself or what?

The problem for me is that I too desire society’s acclaim, praise, respect. But the actions I need to get all of those are just too steep and I find it quite hard to get motivated to do those. Simply because, I desire plenty of other things which are instantly gratifying. So in the equation the delayed gratification variables get much lower priority.

I also think of other angles to it. Like take the case of a drug addict. If you give deep enough thought and research ‘why people get so terrifically addicted to drugs’, you would realize that drugs make you feel tremendously high. You become a much better person and feel so good. Reaching this kind of state, fair and square in life following the typical path set by society may just be impossible. You would get 1/20th the reward and it would take 100 times the effort. So slowly no action starts making sense to them because the reward is nothing comparable. So in my case it could mean I got high sensitivity and so many preoccupations and thoughts that they form a very rich internal world which keeps me entertained all the time. So I do not see any big motivation to really channel my activities in a way that makes me APPEAR productive to society.

I thought getting bored would give me motivation to start pursuing those kinds of activities. But bored is actually an unpleasant state, I should not desire that. I’m confused. Its a peculiar dilemma. I don’t know if I live in a highly enviable state? Should I feel good about it and continue this way?

Sometimes its difficult, when you totally follow your heart, it takes actions which totally do not align with what society might accept, approve, admire etc. Maybe that is the truth. It just comes to the point where you ask yourself “Do I have the courage to accept the real truth, stay with it and follow it?”

Analogy for studying in US vs India

Driving in US is like studying in India and driving in India is like studying in US.

Driving in US:

1. US has fixed rules for driving(course expectations and deliverables).
2. Everyone follows them(everyone follows the same fixed course structure).
3. There is a feeling of security and you could do a lot even while driving – like talking on the phone etc(Before the final exams there is a lot of free time with little pressure)
4. You mostly have a GPS which shows you the road map(since everyone has the same course structure and expected to deliver the same things the map is fairly clear – your seniors have done almost the same thing, you could borrow their notes and analysis).
5. The road are mostly at right angles, have a defined structure and fairly simplified compared to the complex shortcuts you could use in Indian roads(like you have limited options, you cannot do an independent study, take courses from other departments. Basically very little customization).
6. You have speed limits which everyone follows(Like you need to submit the assignment on that specific day, you cannot give it anytime before that).

Driving in India:
1. You need to be alert(Continuous flood of information in all fronts – course related(smaller picture), career related(larger picture))
2. Continuously aware of the road(You need to evaluate, time manage and keep making choices all the time)
3. Keep minutely making course corrections(Due to such a lot of customization, you are always making corrections)
4. No GPS(People here cannot really provide a road map, notes for you. They would keep asking you to look inside yourself, find your passion and then move in that direction. Even your friends cannot help you much because assignments have to be original, your classmates may not be constant because of course choices)
5. No speed limits: People can submit assignments anytime before the due date based on their time management strategy. Even in the assignments the standard expected is not fixed, it is upto the student. (The student could either spend an inordinate amount of time and generate an excellent one or could just spend enough time to get done with it with decent quality.)
6. The roads are most of the time not in right angles, they could curve at any angle and there are tons of narrow roads and shortcuts for reaching the destination.(Since there are so many options to customize, you have myriad paths to choose from)