Saturday, December 31, 2011

Meditation To Calm Wall Street Jitters

Liked this talk for its simplicity. Rasanath Das, the Wall Street investment banker turned monk speaks on being true to yourself, as a balm for work life anxiety.


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Friday, December 30, 2011

An Example of Being in The Present

This story is about detachment, about living in the moment. It is convenient to attach to and detach from situations as our need. Being always attached to anything, always carrying it in the mind is a handicap- a dependency.

Two Zen monks were on a pilgrimage. On the way, they came upon a rapid stream. They were about to wade through when they saw a beautiful woman in distress, by the bank of the stream. One of the monks went up to her and enquired about her problem.

She wanted to cross the stream to go to her village. But she was too afraid to step into the rapid waters and the slippery rocks. 

"Is that all?" He said, "I'll carry you across."

And he lifted the woman on to his shoulders, and waded across the stream.

The other monk, who had listened to this exchange stood dumb, looking on at the duo. After a while, he too crossed the stream.

The woman thanked the monk and went on her way.

The monks completed the rest of the day's walk in silence, without the philosophical chat they used to have on long treks.

In the evening, they reached a village, and stopped to rest there.

"I just can’t believe what you did today!" the second monk finally blurted to his companion.

"About what?" asked the monk who had helped the lady.

"You have broken the sacred vows-we monks are not supposed to even look at women or speak to them. You spoke to her, and even touched her! Sacrilegious!" the rant continued.

"Oh, her! My friend, I left her at the stream. But you're still carrying her!"
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Wouldn't it be nice for you to have a collection of Zen stories on paper back at your bed side ? Paul Reps' Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, has a large collection of Zen stories classified under various desirable qualities. A really good read. To order, click the following image:

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Believe

Magnificent video, originally made by BBC One - Planet Earth :
http://www.andiesisle.com/creation/magnificent.html
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hope For The Suicide-Prone: Perspectives From The Other Side

It may be difficult to find individuals who have not contemplated suicide at some point in their lives.
Suicide is not an easy, forever escape from the problems of life. At least that is what documented studies of suicide NDEs (Near Death Experiences) report.
This the true story of a woman who was so disgusted with life that she tried to put an end to it-- not once but two times-on successive days:
http://www.near-death.com/experiences/suicide03.html
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Power of One

Do you have such a lot of ideas and goals that you find it hard to manage them all? This article could be of use to you in that case. It is for people who have too many plans on hand that they are left confused, not finishing any thing.

I collect books of all sorts-from Self help to Massage therapy, Yoga to Software development. And it has happened many times that I did not complete the ones I bought before buying the next one. Perhaps it is a disorder or a bad habit-finding release in shopping for books- Biblioholism?

Those entrepreneurs who ambitiously aim for a number of goals at the same time, find that it drains their energy. It discourages, for they can't see any measurable results, as they are firing off in all directions-writing books, developing software, learning languages, starting charities...

Harnessing the Power of One can help us overcome this roadblock and set us moving forward once again.

So what is the Power of One here?
  • You unleash the Power of One when you take only one thing off your task list at a time.
  • No matter how many other tasks you have, focus only on the one task at hand.
  • The Power of One is a natural outcome of practicing being in the Here and Now.
For example, if you are on the phone with your partner at 3:00 and you have a sales presentation at 4:00, you'd have a nice time if you just forget the presentation while talking on the phone. And when you hang up, what next? Switch off the conversation from the mind as well, and focus on the presentation.

"Banal, and I already know that", could be your reaction. However, few people actually try to focus on one thing at a time. Otherwise, we wouldn't have so many road fatalities. Studies show that using mobile phones while driving greatly increases the risk of accidents. See this. And this. The second article is about plane crashes happening because pilots tried to combine flying with drinking.

So, welcome the Power of One into your life, to lead a safer, saner, and successful life. One at a time.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happiness Metaphors

We all do things for a common reason: happiness.

Perhaps we do not realize it: Nobody does actions that (he/she believes) bring unhappiness to them. Paradoxically though, most people stumble through life not knowing why they're doing something in the first place: it's for happiness. Whether its sex, eating out, reading, having a conversation, holding a job, building a house,...down to the minutest actions like scratching an itch and blinking--all are for attaining happiness.

Happiness may not be the right word that you prefer: perhaps it is satisfaction, fulfillment, joy, or bliss...

But what are the results we are getting? Are we searching in the right place ? Are we getting the final beatitude -the ONE experience that ends our endless quest?

Consider: we set out on our sensual pursuits-again and again. Each time we have a vague notion: this is it. I'm going to do my favorite thing now. And I will be happy-forever. Or I am going to have a relationship with that wonderful person and my life is going to bloom into bliss-forever.

The growing rate of marriage failures and re-marriages illustrate the above fact. My last partner was not the right one for me, so it did not work out. Let me find the right one, and it will be perfect, for ever after.

Are we missing something here? We'll try to see in the coming paras.

I'd like to share with you some anecdotes that point out mankind's (elusive) search for happiness.
These stories come from all over the world: the Indian subcontinent, the middle-east, the far east, and the west and the far west. They are also from different religious paths: Hindu, Buddhist, Judaism, Christian, Islam, ...
These stories and examples  illustrate why our actions do not yield the happiness that we crave- and offer a hint as to where we need to look.

The first example is about an old lady who has lost her sewing needle and is searching for it. It appears in the Mullah Nasrudin stories.

Looking in the right place?
An old lady was busy searching for something under the street lamp at a junction. A bystander got curious, and asked her what she was looking for. She replied she had lost her sewing needle at home.

"But then why are you searching here? You should be looking for it at your home." he asked.
"That's fine. But there is no lamp there and its dark. So I am searching here".

The next one is famous. It is about how travellers are deceived by the mirage in the deserts.

Seemingly so, but not really
When travelers in the desert run out of water, they become desperate and frantically search for it. They may see mirages and mistake them for water. The hot desert air produces mirages. (You can see mirages on a hot day on a tarred road too). The mirage is the hot air's reflection in the distance which gives the appearance of rippling water. Not realizing this, the travellers go after it,... of course they will never reach it.

Just like this, man pursues sense pleasures in the hope that they will give lasting happiness. If only we looked within our minds, we would find it.

The promise of lasting joy draws people forward on the path of sense-enjoyment
A donkey pulls a cart. The driver uses a trick to get the donkey moving, without using a whip.
He sits in the cart, ties a carrot to a long stick, and holds it in front of the donkey. The donkey moves forward, trying to get the dangling carrot. As he moves forward, he pulls the cart and the driver forward, along with the carrot. However much he tries the donkey cannot get the carrot.

Isn't humanity repeating the same actions forever, hoping to get  happiness out of them?

Searching for Joy, but in the wrong place again
This one is based on another animal, the Musk deer. The Musk deer exudes the fragrance of musk. The musk fragrance is extracted from its glandular secretions (I realized this just now, from a Wikipedia search. Till then I had thought this was another folk tale.)
The animal does not however, realize this fact. It is enchanted by the fragrance and goes around in search of its origin. Alas, if it had only looked at itself, it could realize this fact, and stop the wandering.

Isn't this story pointing at us humans who search all over the world for happiness, which is actually within us?
Would you like to see how choices affect our happiness? It is here: The Choice Quandary
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Neurology of Awakening

I found this slide show by Rick Hanson on slideshare.net. It starts with an analysis of thought, lists out the prerequisites of meditation, and nicely tells how to go about it. There are also research findings on meditation, if you're interested. However, if you need just to know about practice, you can skip those slides


The Neurology of Awakening: Using the New Brain Research to Steady Your Mind
http://www.slideshare.net/drrickhanson/the-neurology-of-awakening-using-the-new-brain-research-to-steady-your-mind


Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom  and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s taught at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and in meditation centers worldwide. His blog – Just One Thing – has nearly 30,000 subscribers.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Your Twin Wings to Success


Dream vision and baby steps-your twin wings to success


Lets look at two critical items most people need to reach success. We will call them as Dream vision and Baby steps. Self-help authors call them by different names- however, you get the idea: broadly, it is making use of (1) the conscious mind (baby steps) and (2) the unconscious mind (dream vision).

Unfortunately, most self-help systems emphasize only one of them-using the unconscious mind. Some people tend to expect miracles just by feeding some suggestions or affirmations into their subconscious mind. This does work-at a fast pace for prepared minds and for others, at a slower pace. We will see how both methods are essential to manifesting your ideal life.

Dream vision

This is actually the end goal that you want to reach: a magnificent career, a desired amount of money, owning a magnificent mansion or other possessions, getting the desired life partner etc. It is contrary to daily goals, it must be huge that is something people say the stuff dreams are made of.

Dream visions give spring to our steps, put energy into our efforts. They give us joy while beholding the promise even though it may be in the distant future. Athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs derive energy from periodically visualizing their dream goals. It makes our daily chores interesting, and inspire us to persist.

In short, having a long term dream vision:

  • Generates ideas from the subconscious
  • Helps notice opportunities conducive to our goals
  • Inspires while performing routine tasks
  • Energizes us when we feel worn out

This is not necessarily a long term one; in fact your dream goals may manifest in a short period of time, if you have mastered the flow of thoughts in your mind. Now mastering the flow of thoughts to turn them in your desired direction at will, requires commitment and consistent practice. If you are already able to do that, you probably acquired it earlier. For the rest of us, that is the majority; it is an eye opener to discover the state of our own self-mastery. We realize who is the real master: we or our minds?


How to generate and feed your long term dreams
People generally use one or more of these exercises:
  • Affirmations (writing and saying)
  • Visualization
  • Auto suggestion
  • Using a vision board

Besides these, there are many more exercises that you can find on the Internet. Just google.

The Secret (Movie and book) elaborates on the subconscious aspect of manifesting your ideal life.

Waiting for Dreams to become real

However, dream goals may not manifest overnight. Expecting that can lead to frustration. So how do we carry our day to day life activities?

It is helpful to break down our long term dream visions into small, achievable daily chunks that you are sure to reach. For instance, if I were to achieve a high level of expertise in a foreign language so as to be an instructor, it might seem a far-off goal. However, if I memorize a few words/ grammar rules daily, I will be sure of achieving it, through repeated efforts. This also gives me the satisfaction of having achieved something. It is a baby step that I take towards my dream goal.

Baby steps are the actual conscious steps to reach your dream
You can say these are the solid steps that you take on a daily basis towards your dream. Thus, if you aspire to be a writer, five minutes of grammar review everyday would be one of the baby steps towards that goal. One needs to identify the skill sets required to reach a goal and spend some time every day developing them.

Baby steps help us be not overwhelmed by the enormity of the dream. To think of how to be a best-selling author may be bewildering. It may be disheartening to discover how your current performance bears in relation to your goal. At the same time, following a small step at a time enables to build confidence, establish a habit and a liking for the path, and keeps us centered. Another important benefit is that you will be better able to receive hints from the subconscious that will speed you up towards the final goal.


If  you are not sure of what steps to take, start with the first part (Affirmations/Visualizations/...)-the subconscious will reveal to you what to do.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What the Bleep do We Know ?

This movie can change the way you look at yourself and your world. The visuals really take off from 3:38 onwards. Its a bit archaic till then.
For an introduction, see :http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/what-the-bleep-do-we-know/



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Monday, November 14, 2011

Are You Discussing or Arguing ?

Most of us wouldn't pass up the chance to tout our favorites- be it beliefs on religion, politics, career, lifestyle or anything within societal norms. We would say it is a discussion. But it doesn't take long to see that most discussions are crusades to win others over to one's own point of view.

Isn't this the dreaded fear of being outnumbered ?

If anybody dared challenge our favorite dogma or belief, how many of us are willing to hear out their side of the argument, impartially, weigh its pros and cons, and take an unbiased decision?

Life and its numberless issues are too complex to be disposed of with blind, one-sided arguments.

So each time we try to bulldoze others' opinions, we lose a chance to gain a fresh perspective, and probably a closer approach to the truth.

There is even a book in the market titled :" How to argue and win every time".
It may be useful for debaters and lawyers and others of like professions.

However, when people try to adopt the same approach in their relationships, one can imagine the damage wreaked. This is normal, considering that arguments are from the head (intellect), whereas an open discussion requires us to be considerate of others (this is an aspect of the heart, that is, feelings).

The intellect cuts and separates, while the heart unifies (stitches together). (This is a quote from Mata Amritanandamayi,  a world famous mystic).

The intellect analyses, and the heart synthesizes. We do need both, in their relevant places.

So the next time you get into an argument, try to listen and consider the other person's point of view. Thank you for considering this!
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Law of Karma: Is It True ?

Even though there are unanswerable questions like the ones posed here :Have you been born before?, which strongly support the existence of the law of Karma, there are also questions which cannot be answered by the Law of Karma. For example: what was the first action that set off the Karmic cycle?

But either way, we only stand to gain: both-the existence as well as the non-existence of the Law of Karma offer a tremendous opportunity for us.

The benefits if the Law of Karma is true:

We never need grudge our fate again. All that we are going through is the result of our own actions, words, and thoughts. So nobody can be blamed for our experiences. We only need to cultivate the subtlety of intellect to discern the causes. We can alter our karma by suitable good actions and spiritual practices.

The benefits if the Law of Karma is not true:

If our past actions will not rebound on us, we will not be held accountable for our actions (except by human law). There are no unseen elements from the past which hold sway over us. Which means our life is totally in our control. We have absolute freedom of will, not dictated by our past. This means our future is entirely in our hands.

So it is a thumbs-up either way.
One can question Karmic law, however, evidence is overwhelmingly in its favor. See here. (The same article linked at the top of this article)
The fact remains that to get the true picture of Karma and existence, one has to rise above Karma, beyond the pairs of opposites. A vision unbiased by our past.

The School of Medicine at the University of Virginia has several resources on documented reincarnation.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Happiness Experience -II

Click here for The Happiness Experience - I

According to Yoga* and Vedanta**, happiness or bliss is within us. It is our intrinsic nature. This is why the sages of India called truth as SAT-CHIT-ANANDA (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss). They asserted that everything contains this Truth. You and me, too.


Proof that happiness is within us is in the fact that we in our most blissful moments, we close our eyes, we are no longer conscious of the external world. This happens in the fraction of a second, that we may not detect it. If you observe people in the pinnacle of any form of extreme pleasure or ecstasy, you will notice this fact: closed eyes. Even if the eyes are open, they will be blank, indrawn, not seeing outside.


We can see further proof of this fact in deep sleep. Everybody enjoys deep sleep. It is an indescribable experience. After a bout of the deepest sleep, we feel as if we have drunk some divine elixir, from deep within us. As soon as our mind is ruffled by desires and thoughts of the everyday world, this bliss fades away.


Which points us to how this happiness is experienced.


We experience real happiness in stillness. When a desire is fulfilled, there is a temporary lull in the ever rippling mental lake. This infinitesimal stillness enables us to catch a tiny glimpse of the bliss within us. We can experience this bliss by short-circuiting the process. That is, by avoiding having a desire, and developing stillness of mind.


Mind you, this is a wakeful stillness. It is experiencing the bliss of deep sleep while being wide awake. It is stillness achieved through constant, focused action and meditation. It has nothing to do with inaction.


*Cognitive meditation is accompanied by reasoning, discrimination, bliss and the sense of 'I am.'-The Yogasutras of Patanjali, 1.17. , translated by BonGiovanni.
**I am indeed, that eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness- Atma Shatakam by Sri Sankara.
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Happiness Experience-I

What is it that you really enjoy doing? What gives you true happiness ?

For most people, it is a fun activity-like football, baseball, tennis, swimming, camping, or any other sport. For others, it is enjoying delectable delicacies at their favorite restaurant. It may be reading their favorite authors for some others. Movies, sex, sightseeing, hanging out with friends, conversing with your partner, playing with kids, indulging your hobbies, immersing in the work which you love-favorite activities for happiness are many.

Then there are the extreme, not necessarily wholesome ones like alcohol, drugs, other intoxicants, porn,...

There is also the minority which derives their happiness from perversions-and other serious disorders...

You may protest at grouping all of these together-enjoying a game of cards is not in the same league as that of pedophilia.

I agree, but all of these have a common denominator-happiness. It is what all of us seek-perverts included. Aren't there people who derive happiness by teasing and taunting? In fact, the pursuit of happiness is such a complex, deep domain that lack of clarity about it can lead to hazardous habits, often self-destructive.

Lets try to analyse how we experience happiness. As a sample, we will take food. Many people try to drown their frustrations and sorrows by binging.

Anatomy of the happiness experience
Suppose you have a friend who likes Chocolate ice-cream very much. He is always ready for a cup. But how many cups can he take? At the most 3 or 4. Beyond that, if you keep on feeding him ice-creams (free of course!), he will reach a point where he will vomit, if he eats any more of it.

Here, the same ice-cream which gave him happiness, is now giving pain. How can the same object give pleasure as well as pain? Would that be possible, if it really were the source of happiness?

Lets consider another scenario, when a person is sad because of some personal tragedy. He will be in no mood to take ice creams. If you were not in the mood, you wouldn't be able to enjoy your favorite dishes. Would we try to comfort a bereaved adult by feeding him tasty food? That would be childish. It would cause him more pain.

Objects like ice-cream are unable to give happiness, all the time. Our mental condition has to support the enjoyment.

Now a third situation: I've some friends who can't stand the smell of ice-cream. They're averse to all milk products. You may know somebody like that too. How come the same object gives happiness to some and unhappiness to others? That shows again that ice-cream is not the source of happiness.

If so, why do people enjoy ice-cream?

Ice-cream entertains you only if you have a desire for it. The desire is like a ripple in the mind. When that desire is satisfied, the ripple disappears. The person experiences stillness of mind, for perhaps a nano second. This stillness or 'captivation of the mind' is the actual source of happiness.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Addictions: To Overcome or Not?

Most of our lives, we try to satisfy the demands of our senses. We go sight seeing and watching movies, gorge on foods and drinks, fragrances, and a myriad other entertainments-treats for the eyes, ears, tongue, skin, nose, and the sex organ not the least. Often, we find ourselves indulging-even when we know deep inside that this is not good for us-or for our goals. Our senses take command over us and nudge us forward...enjoy it once more..just this one more time.

I've been fooled by this 'just once more ' argument many times-be it that tempting slice of chocolate cake, or while getting up early, or while skipping a TV program for a more productive use of time. It was as if the sense organ takes control over me, convincing me with its rationalizations. That is, until recently, when I started listening to the inner dialogue of the senses:

I realized they had only one voice: more..... more...... more.......Remember the creature Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy ?

It was just a never ending "more..........". The senses just want you to indulge till you drop down fatigued, till you are satiated to redundancy or exhaustion. Obviously then one cannot indulge anymore. It seems as if apparent wisdom awakes in the person within as he looks with some detachment towards indulgence. But this is only for a short while. As soon as the energy levels are restored, again the clamor starts:
"more.....more....more...."

This is to say that the arguments the mind advances in favor of enjoyment are just fallacies with which the person fools himself.


I recently lost a relative to alcoholism. He was a nice man within, eager and ready to help everybody. However, he did not try to face the issues within him which made him take relief in alcohol. He was too proud to accept help either. Each time he gave in to the temptation, he would say: "this is just one more time that  I will drink...I can stop whenever I want...you see?".

Hardly past 50, he suffered multiple organ failure: failure of the lungs and kidneys, dipping blood pressure and high blood sugar-a tragic testimony to the tyranny of the senses. The dance of desires is the dance of death- I remembered what I had read somewhere.

If we could enjoy pleasures without it being the other way-pleasures enjoying us-we can avert such tragedies. It is wise to take precaution and start spiritual practices at the earliest.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Humbling Lesson

Today while searching for my blog in Google, I found a post labeled Inspiration by another blogger named Sudhir. Intrigued. It was a moving story, which was also humbling. The upshot was that I decided to make amends with my mother, against whom I'd been cribbing for giving me a heavily restricted childhood. Here is the story for you:

A story on appreciation - Inspirations by Sudhir Krishnan


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Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Visitor from the Skies

It was when I opened the gate that I noticed the strange bird on the ground. I had wanted to fill the water bowl for the stray puppies.


On closer scrutiny it was found to be an eagle. It was trying to reach the water bowl. It sought rest and a little water, but was unable to even drink from the water bowl. It seemed to have been crippled by heat stroke. Delhi's heat in May spared neither humans nor animals.


Badly hurt, it couldn’t even stand straight on its legs. But that didn’t seem to mellow its ferocity even a bit. When I came too near, it flapped its wings violently and reared up, baring big, sharp beaks.

It was in stark contrast to the zealous display of friendship with which the stray puppies  greeted. The eagle was of an entirely different character. Perhaps it had no acquaintance of humans, being a bird of prey.

We (my wife and I) felt it needed to be kept in a safe place until it heals.There were large dogs in the compound which could harm it. Also the heat was there.

But the bird didn’t seem to appreciate the idea: it reared up on its hind legs, beaks flashing, wings flapping- a picture of menace.

It looked up with its black dotted golden eyes. There was no hatred, though there seemed to be some distrust. 

Cautiously I tried to grab it from behind, but it beat its wings fiercely. It was unnerving, but then it fell back down the next moment, head lolling.

I stealthily moved up my hands from behind and grabbed it with both hands.

It was built a make-shift shelter to shelter from the merciless sun and also from the dogs. 

For three days it rested, not moving, except to drink water, to which we added turmeric. We felt turmeric being medicinal, would help to heal its inner wounds if any.

It drank the water without any protest, allowing us to feed it in teaspoonfuls. But the wariness was always there, never allowing humans to become too friendly.

Occasionally it would gaze intently into our eyes as if trying to say thanks. But it had an air of ferocity about it always. Perhaps it was asserting its independence.

We were not sure it'd become better, for it was really weak. But on the third day it hopped out a few meters outside, and then collapsed. This photo was taken at that time.

I coaxed it to allow me to take it back to the shelter.

A few more days of rest, during which it drank only water. It was risky to try feeding it solid food. Sick animals have the instinct to know when to end the fast. Also, we had once found a small bird's dead body, with the stomach split open, and inside there were a lot of food grains.

The day it left, I was preparing to leave for some work outside.

I needed to open the gate-but was startled to see the eagle perched on top of the gate, in all its majestic grandeur, gazing intently. It was then that I saw its full size, about two feet long, and with a wingspan of three feet end-to-end.

It didn't move when I approached.

Ok buddy, you stay here... I will be back. I very gently opened the gate; the eagle just sat there, not scared, not trying to fly off. It was still there while I took out the car and closed the gate.

All the while it gazed, as if expecting something, but I couldn't get it. Anyway it could fend for itself.

By the time I returned home, it had left.

It continued to visit us for a few weeks afterwards. It’d announce its presence by noisily flitting about on the Neem trees in the frontyard.

This encounter was memorable for the awe this bird inspired, and the dignity with which it carried itself.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Which is Easier-Enlightenment or Riches?

Enlightenment is available to all. All that you have to do is open yourself to life and train your mind to observe. This requires sustained practice. When your inner gaze is steady and undeviating to passing attractions, you see the Truth of yourself as it is. However, few people seek enlightenment.

Worldly riches, on the other hand, are sought by vast numbers of the human population. Here the prevailing beliefs are that the toughest competitors, the ones who can blow their trumpets the loudest, win the trophies. This triggers a sort of unhealthy rat race as can be seen in web sites' trying to gain no1 Google search rank by loading themselves with key words. This sometimes can create content unusable to human beings.

This is also what advertisements are continually prompting us to do. However, this form of success is short lived and does not give satisfaction. Enduring success can be built through honest and hard work.

After all, worldly success is not a permanent companion. Your mental training and character are.
The point is, it is more worthwhile to strive for permanent benefits (spiritual development) while at the same time, make a living by providing honest service. It is sure to become a lasting support for you. You will build up your reputation and success with peace of mind, enjoying your work, while at the same time you develop yourself spiritually.
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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

How to Write Without Judging Yourself:Invisible SOC Writing

You might need this tool if you are a writer who uses SOC (stream of consciousness) writing. Stream of Consciousness writing requires you to not judge your writing, so that you can write non stop, letting your subconscious speak.

The best way for this to work is to make your writing invisible to you. You can do this in the following way:
  1. Download the Dark Room software from CNET. It's free.
  2. You can keep the Dark Room  app on your desktop (no installation needed).
  3. Run it by double-clicking.
  4. If the app runs full screen, reduce it by pressing Esc.
  5. Click Edit, and then, Preferences. A dialog box opens (see Figure below).
  6. The Preferences dialog box
  7. You need to change the font color to the same color as the background. Here the default font color is green (Marked in red in the figure above).
  8. Click on the color tab (green here). A color palette opens.
  9. The Color Palette
  10. Select the black color and click OK (because the background is also black).
  11. Start writing SOC.
  12. When you have finished, remember to save the file.
  13. To view what you have written, either copy and paste to Microsoft Word (or any other text editor), or change the font color back to the default green.
That's it! No Rocket science.
You'll be writing in a screen looking like this:
    Darkroom invisible writing 
    If these instructions are not clear, do let me know. I shall be glad to post more screenshots.

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    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    Why Meditate?

    Meditation has become a buzzword. People have accepted it as a normal activity. Perhaps it is because of the mass trends, or because of celebrities taking it up.

    But at one point, we may ask ourselves, on some uninspired day, when we place ourselves on the meditation seat: What am I doing ? Why am I spending time on this? Couldn't I just chill out and watch TV?
    It is a good WIIFM (What's In It For Me) question.

    For one thing, people are pushing themselves hard today. The frantic pace of life blurs our objective thinking, reducing our choices. We follow along with the herd's rush, and are less likely to look for innovation. It is a bit difficult to stand apart and have your own stand, not to be swept off in the crowd's pull.

    Meditation has a hundred (or thousand?) other benefits, but this one strikes me as most important now: being able to find your feet and take your stand. Be level headed. With practice, you learn to be level headed in the face of adversity also.

    Life is about making choices. Your choices each moment determine which direction your life goes-choices in the matter of thoughts, words, and actions. (inaction too).

    We are all subject to the tyranny of the thought process, it goes on all the time, whether we like it or not. Our thoughts determine our reactions to stimuli from the outer world too. And this is what the world expects. You are to follow the pack. Don't think for yourself.

    This may not be in our best interests all the time.For example, consider a recovered alcoholic diagnosed with damaged liver. His old drinking companions want him to continue drinking. Why? Because they don't want to change. When someone known to them changes, it forces them to look at themselves and shows the difference. It makes them uncomfortable.

    Meditation frees you from struggling with the thoughts. In it, you focus on the breath (or some other medium like a prayer). It lets you watch your thoughts like an observer, like you watch traffic from your balcony.

    When you cease to identify with your thoughts, you're free. You feel calm, relaxed and full of power. You don't feel the need to conform to the crowd. You truly feel you are the maker of your destiny.

    Note: Sudden changes in life habits are not recommended. It is better to first gather strength through regularly meditating and educating ourselves about wholesome living. Selftalk and constant engagement in activity also help to stem the mind's turbulence.

    Sustained practice helps build up your spiritual power. Here, the following adage is all the more relevant:
    Have patience with all things, but most of all, with Yourself.
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    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    They Gave and Got Rich: Andrew Carnegie

    Andrew Carnegie, the steel tycoon, had such riches that he offered the people of Philippines $20 million, if they wished to buy their freedom from the United States. This was the price for which the United States bought the island nation from the Spanish.

    His net worth was estimated at $290 billion. He spent more than $350 million in charitable works.

    Andrew Carnegie's philanthropic works:

    • Established 3,000 public libraries in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, and Fiji.
    • Donated £50,000 to set up the University of Birmingham
    • Ardently supported the Spelling reform movement to promote the English language
    • Founded the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT), Pittsburgh (now part of the Carnegie Mellon University)
    • Founded the Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C.
    • Set up the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
    • Set up the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust
    • Established pension funds for his employees at Homestead
    • Pension funds for college professors in the U.S.
    • Funded 7,000 church organs in the US..
    • Built the Carnegie Hall in New York City
    • Was a large benefactor of the Tuskegee Institute for African-American education
    • Helped Booker T. Washington create the National Negro Business League.
    • Founded the Carnegie Hero Fund for the USA, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Germany. It recognizes deeds of heroism in these countries.
    • Contributed $1.5 million for the Peace Palace, The Hague
    • Donated $150,000 for a Pan-American Palace in Washington for the International Bureau of American Republics.
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    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    They Gave and Got Rich: Rockefeller

    We start with arguably the wealthiest man in recent history: John_D._Rockefeller.

    Rockefeller accumulated about $1.4 billion by the time he died in 1937. This was 1.5% of the GDP of the United States ($92 billion) at that time.

    Rockefeller founded Standard Oil which became ExxonMobil, the petroleum giant.

    From the beginning of his career as an assistant bookkeeper at age 16, he used to tithe regularly: 6% of his income to charity. Later he increased this to 10%. His salary was 50 cents a day at the time.

    He was a staunch believer in the motto " gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can" (attributed to John Wesley, Christian theologian). Rockefeller believed his staunch belief in God and philanthropy were the sources of his success.

    Rockefeller's Contributions:

    • The University of Chicago
    • The Rockefeller University, New York (earlier named the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. 23 Nobel laureates are associated with it )
    • Major funding for the Spelman College, Atlanta (America's first college for African-American women)
    • Founded the General education Board, for providing education at all levels in the U.S.
    • Financial support to the Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Brown, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley and Vassar Universities
    • Founded the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission (research conducted here eradicated the hookworm disease that plagued Africa)
    • Assisted in developing the Peking Union Medical College (now known as the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences )
    • Provided World War I relief
    Rockefeller gave away a total of $550 million in his life time.

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    The Real Secret of Getting Rich: Giving

    Online statistics reveal that there are at least 5 million queries every month, globally, about making money quick. Searchers also want to know how to become a millionaire, billionaire, trillionaire etc. Obviously, people are after money in a big way.

    However, there is a quirky turn to the science of getting rich. It is a characteristic shared by many rich people-they did just the opposite of getting riches: they gave away riches. In the rush of getting rich fast, this facet has been largely ignored: giving to others.

    Inspiration Bonanza features a list of people who gave and got rich: They gave and got rich.
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    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Benefits of Stream of Consciousness Writing, with Example

    Stream of Consciousness writing, or Free writing as it is called in this article, has many health benefits. People have waxed eloquent about it being a source of creative ideas. I have not experimented deeply in that terrain. But I can vouch for its therapeutic effect.

    To understand this, we need to first appreciate the amount of repression that an individual is subjected to while growing up, and later forced to conform to as an adult. All expressions of spontaneity are actively discouraged- you cannot laugh unless the occasion warrants it, out of fear of offending others. Those who do may be labeled a peculiar type among many things. Similarly, other expressions of emotion are also discouraged-no crying, no show of warmth unless the occasion sanctions, you can’t express anger, sometimes you even have to swallow your indignation and appear pleasing and happy.

    "Children start out emotionally honest. They express their true feelings freely and spontaneously. But the training to be emotionally dishonest begins at an early age. Parents and teachers frequently encourage or even demand that children speak or act in ways which are inconsistent with the child's true feelings. The child is told to smile when actually she is sad. She is told to apologize when she feels no regret. She is told to say "thank you," when she feels no appreciation. She is told to "stop complaining" when she feels mistreated. She may be told to kiss people good night when she would never do so voluntarily. She may be told it is "rude" and "selfish" to protest being forced to act in ways which go against her feeling....more here ".

    I remember the cancer patient (recuperating from chemo) who was interviewing for a sales post. The interview went well, and the manager enthusiastically clapped him on the back. The poor man, nearly doubled over with pain, for he was not fully healed. His face turned deathly pale, and he struggled to keep balance-that is until he noticed the manager watching him with growing consternation. To regain his footing, he put on his best smile and shouted,” I’m loving it! I’m loving it!” this made the manager even more skeptical. He was not selected. (Incident mentioned in A Funny thing happened at the interview by Gregory F Farrell*).

    So you see the mindless repression arising from people following long established, unquestioned beliefs and practices, without using their independent judgments. It prohibits us from all forms of expression which are not in sync with established, accepted norms. Another example is when people of opposing races or religions fall in love or get married: they may face persecution.

    Children are most charming, for they are not encumbered with these societal norms. The emotions pass through them freely-when they’re sad they cry, when happy they laugh, when angry they show it-it does not stay in them.  It passes through. And this keeps them emotionally healthy and so refreshingly innocent that adults crave their company. This innocence lasts until the child is forced to learn society’s adult ways to conform, for society has a mortal fear of spontaneity.

    All this makes the individual lose esteem in himself or herself. What I inherently am, is of no value, I have to conform to what is imposed from outside. Children are silenced immediately when they speak up or express an idea or opinion. This happens in most families except the few progressive ones, where parents are introspective.

    Bound up as we are in this hopeless mesh, we still have a ray of hope-to be ourselves as we were born. A child does not doubt itself nor the world. Free Writing (Stream Of Consciousness writing) offers some hope so that we can regain some of our spontaneity.

    In Free Writing, we just write- we just move the pen. We do not think. We do not judge. And we do not stop until the timer is up. We don’t bother about spelling, grammar, logic, punctuation, meaning, coherence, commonsense, taboos, nothing. That is it. It does not have to make any sense. We are not even to think of sense. We only have to keep moving the pen. Or keep typing on the keyboard. It isn’t important to keep the i dots and t crosses and other marks correctly, either.

    When we stop judging the subconscious, it develops trust in us, and slowly reveals more of its treasures. You have accepted the subconscious, this gives an increased sense of self-esteem from deep within, as the subconscious is also part of your being.

    Free Writing provides a sympathetic listener who will not judge you for your thoughts and feelings. You can write whatever you want, about whomsoever you want, in whatever way you want, and as for whatever length you like. You can’t be that open with humans, of course.

    In the beginning the onrush of repressed feelings can be a bit intimidating. It may be like a dam about to burst. Please read the following para carefully:

    CAUTION: It is likely that unpleasant thoughts and feelings that have been repressed for long come forcefully to the surface. If you find that some unpleasant thought recurs in your free writing, you can write “Why am I writing this way ?” again and again. You may or may not get the answer. But it has a sobering effect that calms the turmoil. (Dr. James.W.Pennebaker, who has researched this topic in detail, advises to consult a psychotherapist if the obsession persists. He has authored the book “Opening up: The Healing power of expressing emotions**”. Most likely, if you detach yourself from your thoughts (because you are not them), and keep writing the question calmly, you’ll be able to come through any turmoil that may arise.

    Because we give ourselves unconditional, non-judgmental attention, (heck that’s why we freewrite  everything that we think, right?) our craving for attention is reduced. This attention seeking has caused more problems than one can imagine.

    It is quite likely that miraculous results are produced, over time, because the subconscious is a treasure house. Many important discoveries happened when the logical mind was not working. The best example that comes to mind is of  August Kekule who discovered the molecular structure of Benzene. He had thought deeply about it prior to that, and the alternating double bond structure was revealed to him in a dream.

    I’ve also found that when I’ve something important to do (a meeting or decision-making), a session of free writing (say 5-15 mins) clears up my thinking, and I can get through the task smoothly.


    A Stream of Consciousness Writing Sample
    There are lots of Stream Of Consciousness writing samples on the net, however they contain very few errors, and few logical contradictions. And no trace of taboo topics. These are items that are very likely to surface when you take away the dos and donts of writing. Seriously leads one to believe that these samples have been edited, which makes them non SOC. So here is one of my SOC samples, just in case, anyone is wondering what it might really look like:

    "if yiu ahve ever wondered what youa re going to do in the event of a manually powered recesssion, i can only tell you that it is but an imopossible mandream for the big biibs of istrionics calim that ather is notheing sucha s a manually powered recession. To top oit all, you have to check out once in every while to see if you have been triccking yourself into  fourteen year okld recession. it is in the interests of the netehr lands ther htha you have to et used to a manually powered recession in the event of ewhich you will find yourself nbeinf anonymously prooeeled foerward into a big pithoe that will only laugh at the stupiditieds of what you ahve don in your whole lifetime of aesthetic perfection."

    This one does not contain profanities, but if it did, they'd be marked something like *&^#$@. No need to show you the dirt!

    Note: Keep your SOC writing private. People who are ignorant about this process can misinterpret you.

          Core Catharsis: A New And Radical Approach For Resolving Anxiety, Fully Accepting All Your Experience, And Engaging Impulses

    Why People Don't Reap the Rewards of Stream of Consciousness Writing
    Here I've to differ from the notion that Stream of Consciousness Writing is writing your thoughts as they occur. It would be, if we did that. However, from the examples available, we can see that people are not really writing down their thoughts. They do, so long as they are agreeable thoughts. When an unpleasant memory rears it head, we recoil, and divert ourselves to some other topic. We may even pretend that such a thought did not arise.

    People do not like to relive the memories of traumas like disease, abuse, rape, bereavement, and others. Because they also give rise to associated feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and so on. If these issues have been addressed through therapy, it may be easier.

    But it is possible to face these unpleasant thoughts and memories, if we remember these points:
    • Express the trauma a few times in writing.
    • If they become repetitive, use the technique mentioned in the para labelled CAUTION above.
    • Remember that our thoughts or actions are not us.
    By far, this is one of the most exhaustive resources I found on Stream of Consciousness writing:
    http://www.letterstomyabusers.com/article_frombecomingwhole.html

    You may also want to read Turning Garbage into Gold: How to Write Well with Stream of Consciousness

    Is the fear of failure sabotaging your attempts at personal transformation? Find out: How to overcome the fear of failure
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    Catharsis in Regression Hypnotherapy: Transcripts of TransformationWitnessing The Field Of The MindFinding BalanceBeyond the Breath: Extraordinary Mindfulness Through Whole-Body Vipassana Meditation

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Do We Need to Change?

    For a while, I thought I was obsessed with Anger management ( Overcoming Resentment and Other Negative Feelings: Part 2 and Part 1). Do human beings really need to do something about their violent behavior ?


    The statistics gravely say : Yes.
    These are the approximate figures of the death toll because of wars and anthropogenic (man made) disasters in human history:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic_disasters_by_death_toll


    That is, humans have killed approximately 4-5 billion from their own race. The actual figure will be much higher, if we consider individual crimes.


    People kill for pride, vengeance, racial and religious bigotry. The modern world has invented newer reasons devoid of emotion: profit. Yes, wars mean profit for the arms dealers. The more wars, the merrier they are.


    In this world, one has to be extra careful about maintaining one's emotional balance. The sole reason for this malady of the world is that it has mistaken the goal of human existence. It thinks life is only for enjoying more and more pleasures, for accumulating more and more wealth. This is a fallacy. We are still running after the same pleasures that we sought decades ago-in the vain hope that the next experience will quench our thirst. At best, pleasure experiences can have but one benefit: they can teach us about their own emptiness.


    The spiritual masters and scriptures have declared the true purpose of human life: to know Oneself.
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    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Meditating Wonder Boy Transforms Village into Thriving Township in 10 Months!

    Anybody who has tried prolonged sitting meditation will have faced the rebellion of the body, the senses, and the mind. I find it quite a struggle to sit still and awake during meditation, even after having been at it for years.
    So I found this news astonishing. See the video: (Recorded by DISCOVERY TV)


    More on him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Bahadur_Bomjon


    Organisational web site:http://paldendorje.com/en/ (Contains the most current information, including talks given in 2010)
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    Thursday, July 07, 2011

    How to Come Out Smelling Like a Rose

    You might have experienced it. Your day was going along wonderfully, until that colleague made a cutting remark. Or you were having a fine time with your spouse when he or she made an unjust statement. Cut to the quick, we seethe inside. Caught unawares, we are confused as to how to react.

    Obviously, the person was really insensitive to say or think like that. Should we get even in the same way, hitting back? Should we distance ourselves from them?

    These are difficult questions, especially when the concerned person is your spouse, child, sibling, intimate friend or your buddy in your project team. The situation is very delicate.

    I won't make any comment now about how you deal with that person, mainly because there is somebody else who has to be handled before that. Who ? Me of course.

    Yes, we need to regain our composure and mental serenity, first. Lets get back our balance and equipoise first. We cant do this by struggling with our hurt feelings and anger. It'll be like taming a wild elephant.

    Instead, use your breath.

    Your breath is your ever present friend-and sometimes, it is the only one.

    Recently, a great spiritual teacher (Mata Amritanandamayi) said that the breath is divine. To watch the breath is to meditate on your innate divinity which is ever calm and blissful. Breath is the life-giver.

    It is mighty, it can heal-anything. All that we need to do is to be aware of it-as it moves in and out of our body. Gradually, one can feel the vice like grip of negativity loosening and falling away, leaving us in peace and freedom. We have overcome another wave of turbulence!

    Here, we are actually practicing being in the Here and Now. The NOW is where healing occurs. As Eckhart Tolle says: The NOW is the fresh smelling rose, the eternal present. It cant hold the unpleasant odors from the past. Nor the anxieties about the future.

    So when you come here, you are free of unwholesome feelings. The breath is an excellent key to come here.

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    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Having Fun in Learning Skills

    If you are a student, or if you are interested in acquiring more knowledge, you can gain inspiration from the game of Darts. Darts is a game similar to archery, only that you throw darts at a target. See the picture below:


    It is easy to train in Darts. Perhaps this is because it is a game (unlike serious academic study). The objectives are clearly defined. It is easy to evaluate yourself. You can see the results immediately. It is another matter if you give up, if you get discouraged when you dont hit the target. You may hit the target:
    a) most of the time
    b)only sometimes
    c)not at all

    If you keep yourself focused on the target, it is quite possible to hit the target a reasonable number of times. It's a guarantee. Perhaps the time for learning varies from person to person.

    This is a skill that you can learn.

    We all need many skills to move forward in life. Career skills, educational skills, social skills, relaxation skills, anger skills (to manage and use your anger constructively).

    People find it hard to train in learning skills and academic subjects. The reasons which would be obvious from the above Darts example are:
    • Objective is not clearly defined
    • Lack of sight of objective
    • Outcome not visible or measurable
    • Giving up too soon (lack of repetition)
    Based on the above, we could use a learning methodology for learning any subject with the least trouble, actually with fun. (We will consider an example later)

    This is the outline of the method:
    • Identify the skill to learn
    • Break it down into various objectives (sub skills)
    • Define ideal outcome for each sub skill
    • Learn the sub skills, one at a time.
    • Repeat, repeat, repeat.
    • Combined application of the learnt skills in more complex activities
    Example: Learning to Drive with Fun!
    We break down the composite skill of Driving into several components. Examples are: Gears, Starting the vehicle engine, Traffic signs etc.
    Now we break down these component skills into their sub skills:
    Sub skills:
    a)Gears:
    • Knowledge of gear positions
    • Practice shifting gear on a stationary car
    • Learning when gears are to be changed (e.g-1st gear is for bumpy road, uphill road, slow speeds,...)
    b)Shifting to 1st gear from neutral when the vehicle engine is running

    c)Starting the engine:
    • Turn gear to neutral
    • Turn ignition on
    • Change into 1st gear
    • Press Accelerator very slightly (for some cars)
    • Release the clutch gently (requires levering your foot on the heel, and controlling the force)
    Similarly, the rest of the skills for driving can be broken down into smaller sub skills. While actually starting to drive, we can use these skills, combined. 

    If we spent time learning specific skills, then it would be easier to recall them for their combined application, in actual situations. This can help avoid the terror and trauma involved in learning new skills. The trauma occurs because learners are expected to learn all skills at the same time, or in a very short time, with instructors having little patience. Most of us would have experienced this situation while learning how to drive, with an instructor.

    How was your experience of learning how to drive? Was it fun? Or was it traumatic like mine?
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