You already have what your looking for..

After having a huge cup of strong coffee( I’m very sensitive to even small amounts of caffeine since I have it once in 3months), on the way back from a snow resort, my alertness was shooting over the roof. My constant day dreams stopped and I started paying much more attention to all sensory inputs in the moment, people talking, the scenery etc. I was looking out of the window at the breathtaking scenery passing by. I could catch my awareness of my inner body slipping in and out. Whenever it slipped, I brought the awareness back and this created an integrative feeling. I started to feel that whatever I was chasing is already there with me. For example: I started thinking about what made that trip special. It dawned on me that I could ‘choose to be satisfied till I got an XYZ thing (a car, a trip to a very interesting location, pursuing particular hobbies, getting more money, meeting more people of common interests) or I could merely decide to accept myself completely at that moment itself. So maybe what I’m really searching for may be there at this moment itself. Its maybe just ignorance and lack of continuous awareness that prevents me from seeing the large picture.

That is, accept and ACUTELY observe the following at every moment:
Physical plane inputs:
Whatever input enters the 5 senses(sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste), proprioception(perception of boundaries of your body and inner body feelings) including feelings related to the 5 elements:
Fire – feeling of temperature in the body
Water – the feeling of water in the body
Solid – feeling the solidity in the body
Air – The airy feeling esp in the lungs area
Space – feeling of empty space

Mental plane inputs:
Mind’s eye – Images that you see in your mind, they can be quite fluid and fleeting, needs lots of attention to catch.
Talk – Voice inside your head that’s like the monologue we have. Our thinking mechanism primarily works by sub-vocalization.
Emotions – Related to paying attention to the hormones released when you have certain visual images with talk combined.

In this state, I can actually witness, how my mood is good until a fear is brought to surface by an image in the mind. First the water like fluid image forms – then a voice starts talking inside my head telling me about the fear in brief – Then there are these uncomfortable hormones and chemicals released usually in the chest area that makes it difficult to breathe.
Each of these phenomenon occur with a very small time gap. It is possible to be very alert and catch them.

Breathing:
The breathing usually has a special connection with mood. When some fear is invoked and the above process happens, you’ll instantly notice that your breathing is more strained and there is a mild chocked feeling, it isn’t smooth and effortless. When your mood is completely balanced, relaxed and in full intensity, breathing is absolutely smooth. This is easily noticeable even after drinking alcohol, of course that is due to other physiological changes too, but it can give you an idea about how it feels. If you notice the breathing pattern change and make it effortless again, you;ll notice your mood would not get affected as much and would thus recover faster.

Problem of sensitivity and distorted mental concepts:
The problem is that we notice things only when they reach a particular threshold of pain or pleasure. So this is what creates the unawareness. Classic example is breathing. Since it happens effortlessly most of the time, we dont pay any attention unless we start panting heavily due to physical exercise or if we hold our breath. We need to pay attention to subtlety to know the true nature of things. It should not depend upon whether it is less or more than say 3-4+/10 pleasure or pain etc. Insensitive people have much greater numbers. They would only notice sensory inputs that exceed a 6/10. Not only that, they mostly live by concepts in their brain and not real feelings. For eg: If I get that 1lakh $ per annum job my life would be great. This is pretty baseless because a great life depends on a TON of factors and having a low sensitivity robs them a lot of pleasure they could potentially avail of. That is a horrible illusion. Rich people may already know this truth because they are not in nirvana as they expected, and poor people escape by spending their entire life dreaming of being rich. Money is a useful tool for acquiring material possessions, comfort, social dynamic aspects, opportunities to learn and experience. But it is just potential, and there is a LOT LOT more in life besides that. Its just an obsession reinforced by media and society.

You need to visualize your fantasy and try to see the real feelings you are trying to attain by that. If you know what you are aiming for it also means you can generate a good amount of that feeling just by thinking about it, because the physical plane has nothing to do with your happiness anyway. The physical plane is perceived by non conceptual awareness, it is converted to concepts by the brain and then the thoughts generate the dopamine which makes us feel good. This transfer from bare perception to concept is VERY FAST. For example: Look at the light on top of you, it takes a fraction of a second before the word “light” pops up in the mind. Initially it is just an image with no label intrinsic. This phenomenon can be noticed with extreme alertness to gain insight.

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