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)

Introspection..

I think most of what people do is related to acquiring the 4 A’s – acceptance, approval, admiration, adoration; and respect from society. I feel this overpowering influence in my life too. Generally speaking, am I really doing what I want to do?Why am I doing whatever I’m doing?What are my motivations?Are they real ones? You could think of fairly plausible answers even as you look at these questions but if you question these further and further, you see through some of your habits and motivations.

In my case I noticed:

1. A large part of my self is defined on how others view me. I might form my self view based on the weighted average of people’s views about me. I might assign much greater weights to people I care about like family, certain friends, people whom I dated etc.

2. I get frequently lost in philosophical thoughts and totally lose touch with all the activities that a person in my context would typically do. It is some form of dissociation which keeps coming back.

3. I have a ton of other preoccupations related to very diverse interests that can suck me into a state of flow pretty easily. Even in this case I lose all awareness of the expectations I am to meet.

Like I had 11 days holidays here. I’m sure most of the students here would have done a decent amount of studying, homework or something related to bettering their chance of survival. In my case, I just got lost in my preoccupations and interests and lost all awareness of all these practical concerns.

Sometimes I feel this is some form of rebellion inside me. I am resisting all these conventions and I want to be free.

Then I question myself,
1. Why do I want a good job? – to get good money, to buy luxuries, to lead a comfortable life, to make a difference

2. Why do I want money, luxuries, security, making a difference – Because I think they can give me satisfaction and happiness

3. You would not have enough time to enjoy the money, how does it still do it? – Because society would accept, approve, admire or maybe even adore me for it. So yea by repeated questioning I once again hit upon the 4A’s.

I also hit upon these 4A’s when I look at my other activities. Like why do I flirt(besides the physicality part)?Why am I looking for romantic interests?Why am I looking for close friends?

Some of the questions to ponder about:

Why do I want society to accept, approve etc?Is it really so important?Is it conditioning?Upbringing?Why is society such a major force controlling our actions?Is this really the optimal way?What is the real truth behind it?Why do we seek these?

Aesthetic detachment

This is a very interesting concept I came across.

Here’s a part from an extract:

A special attitude with which to approach art, nature, and other objects. First, it differs from a practical attitude and has no concern with practical (sensual, intellectual, or moral) utilities. An aesthetic attitude takes nature or a work of art “for its own sake.” In this sense it is “disinterested,” as Kant emphasized in his Critique of Judgment. Secondly, it does not involve personal desires, motives, or feelings in dealing with an object. This freedom from desire or emotion is called “aesthetic distance” or “aesthetic detachment.” Thirdly, in contrast to a cognitive or scientific attitude, it is indifferent to the real existence, the content or the meaning of a thing. It does not appreciate an object through bringing it under concepts. Instead it is a pure appreciation or contemplation of the perceptual qualities of an object as an object of sensation. It is claimed that in this way we can live in the work of art as an embodiment of our feeling. Schopenhauer and Heidegger ascribe a metaphysical importance to the aesthetic attitude by saying that it can reveal the essence of reality more profoundly than conceptualization.

I think having this artistic attitude is liberating in a way. For example if you’ve just had a breakup with someone whom you invested a ton of emotions, you could write all the feelings and impressions down and thereby detach yourself from your experience. It helps you see the reality – good and bad of the relationship, all the different perspectives in a much clearer manner.

It reminds me of a story I had read about a great French impressionist painter Matisse. A visitor to his studio pointed to some unholy pictures hanging on the wall and asked Matisse: “Don’t you think these have a demoralizing effect on people?” The artist calmly replied, “My dear man, it is not a woman, it is only a picture.” An artist sees only a picture in a woman, whereas an ordinary man sees a woman in a picture–this is the difference between the two. This does not of course mean that all artists are holy sages. But in them the creative urge becomes so strong that it produces a certain degree of detachment–aesthetic detachment as it is called.

Of course this is very rare even among artists but it kind of demonstrates the concept. The artist basically creates a kind of psychical distance. The connection between the images in his mind and his impulses are supported by his will. Thus, if he detaches the will the connection can be broken in theory. It is a very challenging endeavor though.

Movies as a portal

Movies are a sort of portal for you to get into someone else’s shoes and experience the world from their eyes. Though how much you can get into the characters depends upon how much resonance the events and nature of the character create in you. Its kind of like music. If you hear a totally classical song when you’re in the mood to hear something fast and jumpy you are not going to have that level of engagement. So even while choosing movies its good to watch one that matches your mood and interest at that point of time for maximum involvement. Watching late night helps in creating the uninterrupted environment and low background light level. Another advantage is that, late in the night as we approach our sleeping time we are naturally drifting towards the alpha state. Alpha state is a great state to be in and an involving movie usually deepens this state. You can observe your reactions to the different events occurring in the movie and its a great way to analyze yourself.

The problem with movie watching though is that its too passive. And its difficult to reach a state of high concentration because of the continuous orientation responses it invokes in us – panning, zooming and constant movements of the image on screen. So its difficult for your mind to settle down and get truly involved. It tunnels your awareness onto certain aspects that are highlighted by the cinematography and that is stifling in a way.

I think future technologies might explore possibilities such as:
1. Fly around and watch the same scene from any angle you wish
2. Maybe, the whole TV could be 3D
3. A Holographic room
4. A headgear like device similar to Johnny quest
5. A device that gives you that 1.5hr dream in the correct sleep phase
6. Something that directly manipulates the electrical activity of the brain itself to recreate those experiences

Techniques to reduce sugar craving

Eating desserts after having the meal has 2 main advantages:

1. The blood sugar spike is minimized since in your meal, your consuming complex carbohydrates which only gradually increase blood sugar levels. After that the consumption of the sweet relatively does not cause such a big spike.

2. Eating desserts on an empty stomach/when fully hungry causes a much greater craving for those items. Eating them on a full stomach comparatively causes much lower craving.

Another way suggested to reduce sugar craving is to frequently keep consuming small amounts of food.

Thoughts about jobs and future

I think we are still living in the ‘Industrial Revolution’ era. Machines and technology have dramatically increased productivity and quality of products but the overall mindset is still the same.

The business domain still thinks in a similar fashion:
1. Create better products, reduce cost, more efficiently utilize existing technology, look for technology that would improve efficiency and cost etc, expand the business by:
– increasing quantity of production and expanding
– Expand by creating new products itself
2. The office/work system of having work hours and responsibilities has not changed much too.

In other words it is about constantly re-evaluating the balance between Cost, Quality, Technology utilization and expansion with the ultimate driving factor being profit. (some may include value added to society)

Why do we have the system of work in the first place?
If you truly did what you wanted to do all the time that wouldn’t be called work. Isn’t that closer to what we might want?

One might expect the daily work hours to reduce to 4-5hrs a day by now ‘2010’ but on the contrary, it is still 9-10hrs average in most countries. Why has this not decreased in spite of all the faster and superior technology available?

I think in the future there might be a fundamental shift away from this mindset. There would be a re-evaluation of what truly matters. I think in the future all the jobs that we do today will be done by machines and we could freely relive or experience anything we want either in the real or virtual form. Technology would enable us to connect far deeper with other humans and all of us could live self actualized lives. This would be some sort of paradise.

Observations in America

Capitalism is so ingrained in the American culture. Underlying it is the theory of the survival of the fittest, which sets competition as the basic driving force of life. The importance of success and winning is reinforced with an obsession with competitive sports, and their glorification of the best athletes and the richest people in the world. Even getting into the political system involves offering and selling ourselves as candidates, by publicizing how much better we are than our rivals for office. “Selling yourself” is like the mantra you would find everywhere.

It appears that most local people have embraced this culture. In general I have not observed much rebelling tendencies. People tend to be totally tame and seem to accept the system with their heart too. Almost everyone follows rules in all forms, be it traffic rules, standing in queues or waiting for people to pass by. People seem to be highly courteous. I witnessed almost a true “Dignity of Labor” concept here where people from all spheres are equally respected including blue collar workers. Maybe all this is related to the maturity level of the economy. Back in India, fat people were usually rich and thin people were mostly poor. Here, the economy seems to have already passed through that stage. Rich people here seem to have greater awareness about fitness and maintain themselves and conversely the poor people are the ones who tend to neglect the quantity and quality of food consumed and tend to become overweight.

The credit system in the US also seems to be quite convenient for consumers. The credit handling companies are in the middle of everything. The consumer, mall owners etc are all related to these companies. So the person selling the product to you does not really lose much even if you fail to pay your bill by credit because he would have a tie up with the credit companies. (The credit card companies would in such a case impact your credit history and privileges and through your SSN). The helpers in the store are paid on an hourly basis. So going to a store for window shopping is quite pleasant and the helpers are very friendly and do not appear to have any vested interest in you buying the product.

The amount of disposable income around here is crazy. This might be aided by the credit system too since people buy most things on credit. There are so many commodities and varieties, its staggering. Owning a private boat here isn’t uncommon and there’s a huge variety for that too. Everything is laid out in a platter with all the variety well sorted according to category,quality and price. The variety is especially surprising in the recreation, arts and music sections. E.g.: Huge variety in archery sets, other hobbies like building remote control toy cars etc

You tend to wonder, where did all this come from? and are there really so many people here buying all of these? The shop doesn’t seem so crowded? How do these guys make money? How do they handle the logistics part? How can such systems exist?

It almost seems like a melting point of all the best items manufactured in the world. This combined with all the variety laid out in a platter showing you everything from the lowest quality – lowest price to the highest quality – highest price creates a high motivation to be rich thus strengthening and keeping the system alive.

About Enlightenment

Most self help books and websites address all the problems at the level of the mind, but when you talk about enlightenment, you need to transcend the mind itself. I read that Buddhism does not encourage the use of the intellect at all. I thought to myself “Oh, how can that be, are all those guys dumb or live life’s that are highly under stimulated and simplified etc, Why would someone agree to that, the greatest gift we have is our thinking ability”. But then, I later realized that their idea was to transcend the mind itself. Their logic is like “the only way to win the game is to not play at all”. The fundamental nature of the mind is the “wanting state”. No matter what you do, what you accomplish etc you would always remain in that state. So you need to sort of move into a higher dimension. Their lives were kept simple, abstaining from sexual activity etc but this was not exactly a total sacrifice. The reason for that was: Sex is one of the most powerful attractive forces at the level of the mind. So in order to transcend it, you would rather not have this powerful force tightly holding you”. And about the simplicity of their life, the reason for that is, we erect our whole sense of self from memory. If this is too rich and complicated filled with varied likes/dislikes/passions/aversions it becomes difficult to transcend it. When you minimize your likes/dislikes/wants etc. your self is fairly simple and it makes the transcending part much easier. Generally if you completely overcome the fear of death, you would overcome all fears since death is the root for all fears.

Another question asked is that, does an enlightenment person ever suffer? The question of suffering/pleasure is a qualitative judgment at the level of the mind. When you go beyond that, the question almost becomes irrelevant. Enlightened people are in contact with the instrument of life force itself. They would always be like light and pass through any situation seamlessly including death. They would be aware of the mind and its conceptualization but they have the choice to turn the mind off. The consciousness force with them is like an iron ox and even death would not scare them.

Free your consciousness…

I think when we are just born, all we have is consciousness in its full volume. There is no preference for anything. In fact it is said that even the sense of self is after the age of 4. Below that, a child cannot clearly distinguish how it is separate from the environment. For the memory to start functioning, first we need to have a well established sense of self. That is why it is difficult or almost impossible to recall anything that happened before the age of 3-4. But unfortunately, this memory system is what deprives us of the consciousness. Initially we have this ball of consciousness with us which is like the sun – radiates it in all directions. Now so many complex entities control this consciousness. Beliefs, thoughts, opinions and your own sense of who you are formed from all of that. This sense of self prevents us from seeing the real picture of who we are. That is why it is commonly referred to as a prison. The consciousness is who we are. We are not the body or even the mind. Now, this might sound ridiculous or just impossible to conceive. Actually it is possible. Anything that you observe cannot be you because the very act of observation separates the observer, observed and the act of observation. We can observe our entire body and our every thought. So we cannot be any of that. It takes some resolve and practice to reach this stage where you can clearly see that when you observe something intently enough so that you are separate from what you observe. After reaching this stage, you realize, so many things are just controlling you. You think you are all those things but you are actually none of that. Its kind of like imagine you could only walk on the ground and suddenly someone takes you on helicopter ride. And you’re like, I don’t need to do what i do all the time, I’m not restricted, the prison is in my mind. Of course these aha moments are short lived initially and you get pulled into your thoughts and ego quite fast.

The thinking mind creates a game with a whole new set of rules and goals when what you are is none of that. Society has its own rewards and games and prevents you from seeing the real truth. Another thing that prevents us from even thinking in those directions is the huge investment we have made in creating our whole self esteem and concept of self. Creating a parallel road and walking on that is very scary and requires a fundamental shift. All you need to do is totally trust yourself and be absolutely honest with your feelings from moment to moment. You don’t need to play that game at all. You are free. It should kind of feel like matrix or a dream that you have woken up from once this realization gets strong. Work hard now and you’ll live a smooth life later is the biggest myth. Its just a pain avoidance behavior and that behavior will only be strengthened in future. The only way to increase happiness to to continuous be that way. You know yourself the best just like the taste in your mouth. No matter how many words you use, or how articulate you may be, only you will know your absolute truth inside you. There is another difficulty in realizing this truth. It is habits, past conditioning and our huge storehouse of memories reside in our subconscious mind. We have invested such a lot in creating those and we so identify with our life stories and experiences. So the shift is quite radical. It is simply observing all of the above and dis-identifying yourself from them because you are none of those. This is extremely liberating even as a concept or imagination. Its even more radical than any heaven you can imagine because you are complete at every moment. Having a dream is a sign that your current state is not as good as what you dreamt of.