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

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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