On Menopause – Part I

Menopause – a grossly misunderstood period of a woman’s life in the modern world.

Lynne Andrews, the shamic healer, calls it the “Wise blood.”

Indeed, “what a beautiful expression, exquisite in its richness of life, dignity and promise,”.

“Wise blood, the time in every woman’s life when she has lived long enough and experienced more than enough to become “one who knows,” a woman who has gone through the gateway of Changing Woman and stepped into her own sacred self. It is the time when a woman is finally free to explore the vision that has been living on the edge of her awareness, for change of life is but the rebirth into new responsibilities, new mirrors and new power in life.”

Once upon a time, long long ago, during her periods a woman was believed to hold the power of creation, wisdom and deep spirituality. During this time, women were encouraged to listen to their inner voice and her tribe would look to her for advice and guidance. Many rituals from Taoists to the Ancient Egyptians involved the consumption of menstrual blood mixed with red wine. This was believed to increase spiritual power. In Ancient Greece, menstrual blood was used to help support crops grow and was buried into the earth during fertility festivals in the Spring.

Women’s bleeding cycles are connected to the cycles of the moon and the tides. In fact, the word menstruation comes from the Greek word, menus which translates to moon, power and month. Women would often bleed together on the new moon and ovulate together at full moon.

“The connection with the moon’s cycle was later distorted and the connection between the wisdom of women and the tides denigrated. The word “lunacy” is the result of this denigration.” (Menopause Mayhem, Marleen M Quint). 

Suddenly, with advent of Christianity and Islam, matriarchical societies were replaced with patriarchy, and women were labelled as unclean. They were forced to separate themselves from men during this period. The menstruating woman was considered “impure” and was not fit to enter churches, prepare food or have sex. Menstruation was relegated to a disease, and “treatments” developed to “cure”  “lunacy.”

Image result for seven dwarfs of menopause

Implanted in women’s mind during the Victorian era, till date, majority of women in the West consider mensuration as a curse. These ideas have been implanted in them by the denigrating patriarchy. Under the influence, they block their creativity, refusing to honor their womanhood. The East, having been aping the West for decades now, has adopted similar attitudes towards menstruation. Sadly enough, cartoons like the one presented above, have sprung up to belittle the gift of the divine.

As I struggle to simplify my writing, I realise that I cannot do justice to the topic in one sitting. Menopause sits at the junction of medical, evolutionary,  religious, spiritual, and psychological cross roads, linked to the byroads of  language and metaphors.  To be able to undertake an exploration of this phenomenon at a deeper level, one has to address each of these areas.

The result of this exploration may not be a definitive answer that satisfied a direct question, but a journey thru time and relationships that provides pointers to assist the reader in their understanding of their own experience. I hope to merely facilitate individual and unique interpretations, for ultimately, the meaning that we ascribe to any external or internal phenomenon is best understood and assimilated by cognition when it arises of, and is shaped by our private experiences.  Only such meaning is valid, because it is based on certitude.

No exploration of menopause is possible without the general exploration of womanhood. Therefore, here too, aspects of femininity, womanhood and menopause will be explored together.

The exploration is broken up into several subparts. To start with, we explore the medical and evolutionary model and the meaning these ascribe to menopause. Though these meanings cannot be denied, they underplay the essence of womanhood. Because of their elitist and patriarchal nature and background, the medical models are severely limiting and oppressive, and we will explore how and why this is so.

We then explore the meaning various religions and spiritual traditions of the world ascribe to menopause. The psychological aspects, and the symbolism of menopause will be addressed subsequently, and the summary, and amalgamation of all these different concepts. At the time I promised to undertake this work, I had no idea how complex the topic really was, and how vast the exploration, but I am glad to have the opportunity to attempt this exploration. At this point, I am not sure how many separate weblogs will be taken up, and I would like to stay with the here and now.

Before we go deeper into it, I’d like to narrate a little story from my childhood as it relates to the concept of purity and innocence.

Pure As A Child!

Ever since I remember, my mother – a highly educated and a progressive, moderately religious woman of her time – used to observe several fasts every month. During these fasts, she would meticulously avoid any impurity because she felt that she needed to be pure for at least a day, so she could offer prayers to the purest. Her thinking was strange, as we are essentially Shaivites from Kashmir, and we believe everything is Shiva, including the impure, unloved, and negative aspects of creation…..but I digress.

To initiate the piety on the day of her fast, she would wake up at 4:00 AM, and wash every inch of the kitchen, cooktop, countertop, and shelves from one end to another. Everything would be scrubbed x 5 until it sparkled. The figure 5 is not an exaggeration, she actually scrubbed everything 5 times over. All utensils etc – still impure – were lumped into a corner, not to be approached on the day.

Having finished with the kitchen she would then carry downstairs to the garden all metallic cooking utensils – mostly copper and steel dishes, spoons, pots and pans etc that she intended to use on that day (ceramics were prohibited!). There,  near the garden tap, she would scrub them x 5 for over an hour using dirt (chemical detergents were prohibited), until they sparkled.  She would then carry them back upstairs where our kitchen was, and place them on counters that had just been scrubbed. Since walls had not been scrubbed, the walls were off limits.

 

These above pictures are not of my mother, being random pictures from the internet – yet they provide an believable imagery of her chores. However, given that we lived in Kashmir, where year round temperatures range between -5 degrees Celsius during winters (below freezing point), to 20 degree Celsius during summers, and water temperature is generally below freezing point all the year round, her acts of washing dishes with cold water at 4:00 AM several times per month were nothing short of heroic. I tried to help her a few times, but within seconds my eyes would water with pain, and I would try to hurry thru the washings, which she did not approve of. So she accomplished these tasks alone, refusing to accept any help because she did not trust us enough to do a good enough “purification” job. She feared that our ignorance, oversight, laziness or all of the above may incur the wrath of the gods she was planning to worship on that day.

Having accomplished this, she would shower, and don freshly laundered “pure” clothes. Thereafter we could not touch her, and for the whole day, none of us was allowed to set foot inside the “purified” kitchen. She would cook her meals for the day, offer them to her deities. Each time she left the kitchen, even for a minute, even to peep out of the window, she would scrub x 5 her hands and feet before she re-entered the kitchen.  If she accidentally touched the wall of the kitchen or any other wall, or the curtains in any room, she would scrub x 5 times her hands.

She offered prayers in the late afternoon, and following these prayers, she would eat one permissible meal of that day. When it was time for her to eat, in a secluded corner of the living room she would  first lay down on the carpeted floor a stack of freshly laundered table cloths. The stack was to ensure the “impure floor” was as far away from the topmost layer of the tablecloth. Sometimes she would use freshly washed bedcovers so as to make that pile thicker.  She did not trust us to help her in this either, as she worried we would not scrub our hands as meticulously as she did (and she was right, we didn’t!)

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Then she would return to the kitchen (after scrubbing x 5 hands and feet), and serve herself a meal which she would carry to this spot on the floor. If there were curtains along the way, one of us would have to stand at the door, and sweep the curtains to the side, so she could pass without touching the curtains. There in the living room, she would put down her plate on the freshly laundered stack of table covers or bedcovers, she would sit cross legged, and eat her meal. She would not get up during the meal, as only ONE meal was allowed, and to get up midway, even to fetch seconds, would constitute of two separate meals. So she would serve enough, or more than enough. Technically, one of us could serve her seconds, but her distrust of our cleanliness prevented her from ever allowing us to serve her.

The whole process was undertaken several times a month, and as children, we were perennially terrified of her fasts – fearing that we may end up doing something that would somehow make her fast “impure.”

Amidst all these rigid rituals, and such high threshold of purity, she did a strange thing one day that brought forth the compassion and love of her so-oh-so demanding deity.

On that day,  I had returned home to find her eating her one meal of the fast in the secluded corner of the living room as usual. Even though I was terribly hungry, I knew I could not touch anything in the kitchen until she finished her meal, for she may need seconds. So I sat there, waiting for her to finish, while she mumbled sanskrit shlokas under her breath,and slowly began eating her food.

The food looked and smelled really really good, and I waited anxiously for her to finish. I told her I was hungry and the nice aroma made my stomach churn.

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Upon hearing that I was hungry, she simply scooped up from her plate some rice and curry between her forefingers, and held together by her thumb, she offered it to me. She offered to feed me out of her own squeaky clean plate, with her squeaky clean hands ! She offered to shove the morsels into my mouth with her bare hands ! What could be more impure, for every time she withdrew her fingers from my lips, a part of my saliva mixed with the next morsel of rice that she either ate herself, or offered to me.

punjabi-4-625_625x350_41439359797Imagine my shock – after ALL the lengths she had gone to maintain the purity of her prayers and her fast ! After all that untoucheability….!

When I asked her how she could allow this, she said “children are the face of god because they are pure. Eating your “jhootha” food is like eating god’s “jhootha”. It is a “prasad,” it doesn’t make me impure in the least!”   She then alternated between feeding me thus, and feeding herself out of her plate.

Ironically, when I offered to serve her seconds (since I had eaten half her food), she refused, stating she would rather remain hungry, as she herself couldnt fetch the seconds, and she could not trust me – or anyone else – to wash our hands and feet well enough to maintain the standard of piety and purity. She hurried to emphasize that my dirty hands and feet could be impure, but my “essence” was pure, and feeding me did not undermine her austerity in the least.

The symbolism of her actions was potent. Their bodies may become dirty, and messy, but the essence of childhood is “purity”.  In that sense, childhood represents godhood.

Definitions of Piety

This definition and characterisation of childhood arises due to lack of sexual impulses, sexual actions, sexual drives in children, and consequential lack of pregnancy and lack of mensuration. Freud’s interpretations of course set these assumptions about childhood topsy turvey, but we must remember that Freud has been largely disenfranchised and corrected by his successors by Jung, and others, and the Freudian sexual fantasies associated with childhood, Oedipal Complex etc are regarding as merely symbolic even by modern psychoanalysts.  I certainly do not seek to undermine the phenomenal role Oedipal Complex plays in the formation of culture, civilization, being the basis for language and metaphor, as Lacan and Jung both agree, but the very meaning ascribed to these fantasies, and what Oedipal Complex refers to, and how Oedipal Complex is understood today,  has drastically changed. This issue is far more complex, and not really relevant to the current topic, hence I will leave it here. Let it suffice to say that the innocence of childhood, and consequential purity associated with childhood has been restored in the post fraud era by likes of Jung etc.

Another confusion about the term “pure” and “impure” arise from cultural issues. In the India of her times, and to some extent even now, children in India generally are celibate. Almost 99.99% of men and women in her times, and mine, were celibate till they married thru arranged marriages. Thereafter, the advent of internet exposed India to Western norms, and dating before marriage became a little more common. However, even today, this change in social values  is observed in the urban elite, and the educated affluent section of society. Sex before marriage, and feminine masturbation are still more or less rare phenomenon with social taboos.  In rural India, which forms 80% of the population, and even in the urban middle class and poor, arranged marriage is still the norm, bringing with itself the requirement that both the groom and the bride be virgins. Losing virginity, or to be found masturbating before marriage may still be a cause of significant social trauma.

That the society has actively controlled women thru sexual manipulation in such societies is a given fact in these traditional societies, woman’s sexuality representing a potent threat to the patriarchy. Purity, under such definition, is associated with the absence of sex, sexual drives, and sexual acts. But why is sex considered “bad” and how and when did it become bad ? We will explore the history and position of sex in different societies under the section on religion and spirituality.

In the context of above discussions, we must explore what the onset of mensuration  means, and what  menopause symbolizes.  The meaning and symbolism often varies across cultures and civilizations. The answers to these questions are partially answered by the very reasons why women menstruate.

The Medical Model of Mensuration – Why We Mensurate

Our menstrual cycle helps the body prepare for pregnancy every month.

Women have 2 ovaries, and each holds a bunch of eggs. During the menstrual cycle, our hormones mature the eggs, so it can be fertilized by a sperm cell.  These hormones also thicken the lining of the uterus so that the fertilized egg can attach to this nutrient rich lining made from tissue and blood. This attachment of the fertilized egg heralds the start of the pregnancy.

During the menstrual cycle, the hormones request ovaries to release the matured egg – a process called ovulation. This egg travels thru the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If pregnancy fails to take place, this thick lining of tissue and blood becomes redundant. Therefore this paraphernalia is dismantled every month, and presents itself in the form of periods. This intriguing cycle takes place month after month after month, as the body keeps anticipating and preparing itself for pregnancy – over and over again.

The periods gradually stop sometime between 45 – 55, the process being called menopause. It is not possible to get pregnant once the periods have stopped.

Often, these changes are accompanied with physical symptoms, which includes itchiness, hot flashes, a sense of feeling bloated (some women actually put on weight), intense sleepiness, forgetfulness, and mood swings  – as represented by the 7 dwarfs of menopause.  A feeling of depression is often reported. These changes are attributed to harmonal imbalances much like the harmonal changes during teenage years, which cause similar symptoms in teenagers at the onset of puberty. However, the chemical changes in the body cannot be disassociated with psychological changes and symbolism that marks this right of passage.

In 1966, Dr Robert Wilson, author of the book Feminine forever: The amazing new breakthrough in the sex life of women and founder of the Wilson Foundation, received a $1.3 million endorsement from the pharmaceutical industry by stating that menopause is a deficiency disease that can be ‘cured’ by oestrogen. Wilson’s writings were crucial to the large-scale, routine administration of oestrogen replacement therapy (ERT).
Suddenly, women all over the world demanded hormone replacement therapy (HRT). As some physicians campaigned for HRT, there were those who warned against it. Throughout the late 1960s and the early 1970s, Wilson’s book was quoted widely in women’s journals and more than 300 articles promoting ERT.  Prominent medical authors in the early 1990s continued to define menopause as a disease in need of therapy. Menopause was now viewed in the same category as chronic diseases. According to these authors, numerous other diseases were caused by menopause, and it was believed that if a woman would take HRT, these conditions would be rectified (Murtagh & Hepworth 2007:277).  Further medical issues related to mensuration can be easily secured from portals like WebMD and related sites, therefore are not explored here. Let it suffice to say that the image of menopause is interlineked with the image of aging and sentience. The medical and pharmaceutical industry benefits from porteaying both as terminal, and bleak. In Europe, psychiatrists like Freud “treated” women for the weakness of flesh and spirit, for lunacy, and turned psychotherapy into a multi billion dollar industry for psychologists.
What does medical model really infer about womanhood  in general, and menopause in particular? How did the current perceptions arise and why? How does gender  inequality and power differentials affect our worldview of menopause? We will examine this in the next of the series. Along with these questions, we will also look at menopause thru the following lenses:

Evolutionary Theories of Menopause 

Various theories have sprung up to explain menopause from the perspective of evolution and the selective advantage, and menopause as a consequence of the increase in longevity.  These theories provide some very very interesting arguments that help us in understanding the almost sadomasochistic nature of motherhood, helping to explain women’s self sacrificing nature, and our unparalleled sense of devotion to children. Menopause seems to bring an end to these evolutionary, self destructive strivings, for good reason. The evolutionary theories argue menopause in terms of increased survival rates for the species, but fail to highlight the individual benefits.

 

The Social Construction of Womanhood & Menopause

The social construction of menopausal phenomenon is closely associated with the medical model, and is represents construction of womanhood as a sexual object, or a breeding entity.  These two “uses” of women lead to the modern definition of menopause, which simply is a effort to promote patriarchy with its regressive concepts of male superiority. The spread of Christianity, and Islam helped establish and entrench these concepts in our society.

It is therefore useful to use a constructivist lens to deconstruct this regressive model of womanhood and mensuration, and proceed with new, personal and progressive constructs. The emergence of radical Feminism and Womanism in the West, has accomplished significant changes, and attempted to reconstruct the phenomenon in the past two decades. We will explore the deconstruction of the patriarchal models, and visit new constructions that attempt to redefine the core of womanhood, thereby hopefully arriving at new  and more appropriate social constructions of menopause.

Lifcycle, Stages of Life

We will explore several different models of human development.  To me, models – like the Indian model of Human Development,– are selectively progressive, and promising, offering significant psychological benefits of aging.  By bringing other developmental models or historical antecedents together, one can choose to create one’s own definition, and structure, and explore the transition thru the lenses of their own experiences.  Eventually, our perceptions are always clouded by our understanding, and our beliefs. These perceptions further guide our mental and psychological stability. The choice of which model of human development to believe in, is left entirely to the individual. However, it is obvious that if choose to believe in something that is positive, and empowering, we will feel positive, and empowered in our life.

Womanhood & Menopause Through the Religious/Spiritual Lens

The ancient religions and spiritual practices – like the aztecs and shamanic writings –  have always understood mensuration cycles in terms with  lunar cycles.  In ancient cultures – like the Aborginal Australians, Native Indians of Americas, Hindu Indians, Maori New Zealanders, and even Zoroastrians and Ysediz of Middle East, menopause is deeply linked with spirituality.

Western patriarchy impinged upon these traditional ancient rites, and imposed a sense of “badness” on menopause in the process of intimidating, oppressing and generally denying women their elevated place in social hierarchy.

In a quest to understand the totality of menopause, we may explore the history these societies, and the religious and spiritual symbolism associated with menopause at different times in different cultures, to arrive at our individual meaning.

The Philosophy & Psychology of Womanhood & Menopause

Menopause greets us at the crossroads where most women are asserting their independence, individuality, and taking control of their own power. This psychological phenomenon of “coming of age” and taking control may be a consequence of menopause, or menopause may itself be a consequence of such psychological changes. The problem resembles Catch 22, or the chicken and an egg. In this section, we will simply explore the philosophy of menopause, and the psychological components of the meaning ascribed to menopause by various leading writers of the time. We will explore how women prepare for menopause, and what psychological changes lead to and arise of the stage of life.

Other Aspects 

The path to discover and define something as nebulous is always fraught with diversions, distractions and new discoveries and explorations. On a subject as vast as this, I am quite sure that a host of related questions, beliefs, ideas will spring up and would need to be explored – dream symbolism being just one aspect.

In my next blog, we will explore why medical and evolutionary theories are limited and restrictive, and will also cover the developmental theories of human lifecycle – both modern and traditional – with an eye for developing an understanding on how this phenomenon was viewed over the centuries by different societies.

Till then, to all you menopausal women out there, kick back the patriarchy, and feel great about leaving behind the sexual symbolism of womanhood. The model has been created by the selfish, oppressive patriarchy. Menopause symbolises freedom and wisdom. Enjoy your freedom and the wisdom arising of such freedom. You are no longer a breeding machine in the evolutionary heirarchy.

In menopause, you have finally arrived at the beginning of your transcendental journey. Celebrate your freedom, and the wisdom derived from such freedom. The process is no lesser than nirvana.

With Metta to All.

 

 

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The Matrix Of The Mind (Part III)

A few days ago, while contemplating on how best to verbalize this last of the trilogy, I synchronistically came across this video clip.  It is a video clip of the debate between Sadhguru, the spiritual mystic, and Javed Akhtar, a rationalist poet, writer from Bollywood. For the reader, it will be insightful to hear their contrasting – seemingly irreconcilable – points of views before we proceed further on the topic of the mind.

 

On the face of it, these two seem to be rationally opposite in their argument. But as we go deeper in my writing, you will see that the two are simply saying the same things, but because of the difference in their vantage points, they are using a different language to describe the same phenomenon. It is amazing how language, and difference in vantage points create a perception of division – even where division does not exists.

The highlight of this argument is Javed Akhtar’s tantalizing offer to Sadhguru, conceding to irrationality. He accepts that his poetry is irrational, and it comes from the unconscious mind. But Sadhguru fails to pick that argument for irrationality as the basis of spirituality, and to run with the notion of unconscious as being the Higher Self.  Each remains locked in their individual silo of perceptual distortions. I saw this clip with great great regret, because I am a fan of Sadhguru’s spirituality, as well as a fan of Javed ji’s poetry, and had been hoping to see some intelligent convergence of ideas.

What Is Mind, Really?

In these writings, I have used the understanding that the brain is the hardware – the cells, the neurons, the blood, bones and tissue – and the mind is the software that arises from the functioning of the brain. Mind represents the manifestation and the outcome of the work that is done by the brain. However, the terms may be used interchangeably here, as we are simply exploring the mind….

All of us have heard of the expression that humans use only 10% of their mind (or 30% of their mind, or an x% of their mind).  There are two obvious sets of questions that arise from such purported facts.  First set – why do we use only 10% of our brain? Why not all of it? If we can’t use it, then why have it at all?   And second set – what would happen if we could use all of our brains? Would we be superhumans with outstanding Herculean or Superman capacities, X Ray vision et al ?

To answer the first question – I believe the expression that we use only 10% of our mind, is a myth. All of us use all of our mind, or at least most of our mind, all the time. If we did not use it, it would atrophy and shrivel. If one doesn’t use it, one loses it – that is how nature evolves. The utilization statistics for the rest of our mind – the 90% of it –  remains beyond our current perceptions. This understanding or the lack of it is the reason for the divergence in the argument between Sadhguru, and Javed Akhtar.

Sadhguru asks his disciples to ignore the 10% (or x%) of the mind (used to live the existing life), and impels his disciples to explore the 90% (or (100-x)%  of the mind that appears  to be “unused”.

Javed Akhtar on the other hand, cannot seem to overcome the barrier that his humanity has imposed on him – he cannot think beyond the 10% (or x%). He is intelligent, so if the situation were explained to him, he would definitely concede  to the existence of the 90%.

Javed Akhtar says that he was informed by some Sadhu that to experience divinity, he had to give up his mind entirely. This is absolutely silly – and if someone told me this, I too would balk.  People with a modicum of intelligence need intelligent answers, and solutions. We don’t like stupid, we don’t do stupid. What the Swamiji may have actually meant, was that Javed Akhtar must ignore the rational part of his mind – the ego – so he can experience the rest of his mind. However, his refusal to consider this invitation is acceptable as well.  Not everyone wants to engage in research, PhD, intellectualism. Some seek Master’s degrees, such degrees being oriented towards vocation, practical work and earning money – aspects of living in this world.

Sadhguru’s charm lies in his intelligence, and his ability to package the irrational as technical and rational. I adore his abilities, his intelligence, and see him as a mentor in the truest sense of the word. He is far far far removed from the fuzzy, vague irrationality of the traditional, illiterate gurus. He is the guru of a new generation – the articulate, educated, literate generation. He is the leader of the times. Hence his failure to make a headway in this discourse was disappointing to me.

The psyche – and the mind – is boundless, timeless, unknown and unknowable. Limits are imposed on our cognition to enable us to survive. We would not be able to survive if every time we opened our eyes we could see millions of electrons, protons, and other particles floating around, if every time we looked in the mirror, we could see gazillions of cells, blood, mucus. But the fact that we cannot see it, doesn’t mean all this doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean that our minds do not conceptualize and manage these. It just means it is hidden away from sight, sound and cognition.

If our minds were not involved with the reality of the outer world, we would not be able to perceive it, or “find” it, or “discover” it.  Human minds are incapable of  “inventing that which is not within.  See an article I wrote many moons ago on “How We Are Able To See Others” – it is the same way we are able to see any thing – whether human or other – at all. Whatever is not “in” the human mind, is unknowable, inaccessible to human imagination.  No amount of science can get it for us. So the rest of the mind/psyche/brain – that we are not purportedly using – are being used to manage these un-cognizable, unrecognizable parts of the ultimate reality, and manage our relationship with the real world – even if that real world may lie beyond our perceptions.

So if there is a god – and I am not saying there is, or there isn’t – the remaining part of our mind/brain is being used to manage our knowledge of and relationship with that god. If there is rebirth – and I am not saying there is or is not – then the part of our mind/brain is being used to manage that. It is involved in managing the 10, or 23, or 500 dimensions of existence that string theory posits, the gravity waves that we know exist, but have no proof of. Our relationship with time, our travels thru time – not yet a part of our perceptual knowledge – whatever there is about this universe that we are cognitively, or perceptually unaware of – aliens, radio signals, cosmic waves, unnamed, unidentified particles coming at us at unknown speeds, spirits, ghosts, deities time travels……….whatever is possible, whatever is real, and is not part of our understanding knowledge or experience due to the limitations of our human paraphernalia – the rest of our brain/mind is engaged with that aspect of reality. So we know it all, the entire universe and its knowledge is encoded within us. It is part of us. We are part of this humongous knowledge. If we did not have it within us, Vedas and other scriptures would not exist, Buddha would not have been enlightened.

Most of us simply have no need to unlock this code. The process of enlightenment allows this unconscious material to come into consciousness. That is all enlightenment is. Nothing religious. Nothing divine. A simple neurologically enabled process that removes the metaphorical membranes that inhibit this information – locked in deep recesses of our memory system – from becoming available to the conscious part of our brain.

Such secrecy is in the service of human well being – it would not be in the best interest of humanity and evolution if this information were to be perpetually available to humans. It would impede human functioning  (See my post on Mooladhara for details on why Kundalini is purposefully difficult to activate).

We do not know what dark matter does, or why it exists, but are now aware that dark matter comprises of 80% of the matter of the universe. Similarly, 90% or (100-x)% of the mind is dealing with matters we know nothing about. To say that that part of the brain does not work, is essentially wrong.  Would it feel more scientific if I worded it as :  90% of our mind is engaged with the dark matter of the universe  ? 

So where as Javed Akhtar is a rationalist for thinking that this is all there is, Sadhguru’s spirituality springs from his belief that this is not all there is. Both are right. They’re just not using the right language for their communications.

The above discussion will be relevant as we go deeper into the Matrix Of The Mind.

Recap

The gist of what I wrote in my last post (Part II) of the trilogy was this –  the ability to think arose in humans as a response of human need to alleviate existential anxiety – the anxiety of mortality, of death, dying, lack of continuity. If there is no existential anxiety, there is no need to think. Each and every thought we have,  is dedicated towards survival. This becomes exceedingly clear as we go deeper and deeper into meditation, and are able to observe the arising and passing away of each thought dispassionately, without getting involved in the drama of that thought.  Stripped of all emotionality, in meditation we are able to assess the causation and the reason for the existence of each thought.

Mind As A Container

Mind is endowed with tremendous responsibilities and obligations. It is given significant powers in line with these obligations and responsibilities. In that sense, it can be likened to a government that rules upon the nation, ensuring fairness and survival of the nation (body). Alternately, we can see the mind as a giant computer, with similar capacities, and similar ways of operating.

If we take the anology of a government, we concur that the mind follows a hierarchical structure,  and is divided into various departments. Each department is entrusted to perform certain functions to run the country as smoothly as possible. The department holds people, files, documents, and other subservient structures that in turn hold similar subservient “items”. If any one department takes over and becomes exceedingly powerful, it becomes a threat of the wellbeing of the nation. For example, in US there are always attempts to limit the power of CIA. In Pakistan, the army is too powerful, affecting the wellbeing of the entire nation.

The higher departments issue directions, and provide funding for lower departments. They have the ability to understand the work of the lower departments. The lower departments may or may not have the ability to understand or even know everything that is going on in the upper echelons of of the government.  They cannot survive on their own.

If we take the analogy of a computer, we would concur there is a root directory which contains subordinate directories. These subordinate directories each contains other subdiretories, files and programs, which subdirectories contain more of the same and so on and on. These are all used to run the computer and use the computer for what it was meant to do. Again, if one application usurps power, it may result in a rogue program which hogs all the memory, thereby affecting the functionality and performance of the computer.

Again, the programs in the lower directories may or may not have access to higher directories, but the higher ones always have access to lower ones.

There can be many other metaphors to illustrate the functioning of the mind. All metaphors are valid, because the metaphors and the situations they refer to , arise from the mind, and our external world is created from the inner world, and follows the structure of the inner world. Any other structure is inconceivable.

Essentially, any view that we take, requires us to look at the mind as a “container” which contains within itself lower structures, and/or the “items” that the structure was meant to create, and/or manage.

It can thus be deduced that one of the lower structures of the mind is the container that contains thoughts. One part of the brain/mind generates thoughts, another sustains thoughts, and third stores thoughts. But as we can now see, this is a very small part of the brain/mind – the responsibilities and obligations of the mind are far far far greater, and thoughts are meant to play a small part in aiding and abetting the mind in meeting these responsibilities and obligations.

Another part of the mind creates/generates/accepts images, edits them for conformity, and stores them.  Yet another part does this with sounds. Yet another with touch. Each of these functions is as important.

Thus each sense organ has a “department”, or “directory” where all functions related to its performance, are performed. The goal of this performance is to enable a human being to survive – to remain alive. This is the essence of Buddha’s first noble truth – that there is suffering. Humans are forever suffering just to be able to stay alive.

If there is a container for thoughts, then it must be possible to bypass the container of thoughts, and access other parts, departments, sub-directories? And it is possible to access the other – higher – parts of the mind only if one has the permission to do so, or one is accessing these from a higher organizational structure – ie, if one is accessing the unexplored, unseen part of mind from a vantage point which allows and permits such access.

This is the essence of the argument between Sadhguru and Javed Akhtar.

Sadhguru claims spirituality allows one to access those parts of the brain/mind that are otherwise inaccessible to ordinary humans. To ascend the ladder of heirarchy, one has to rise above the container of thoughts, and go into a directory which is above thoughts – where thoughts do not exist.

Javed Akhtar feels that thoughts are all there is to mind. That can easily be proved to be flawed thinking.  But if a person has used his or her computer for playing computer games, or only for internet and emails, the person cannot comprehend complex spreadsheet functions, or that it can be used to solve mathematical equations that may make interstellar travel possible. To be able to imagine that, the person has to rise above the computer games. And the word rise above has been used here intentionally, because the hierarchy of the directories, and the hierarchy of the government departments is the best way to explain the nature of the uncharted, unexplored mind. It is only when one goes to a higher department, that the functioning of the lower ones becomes clear. One’s own role, responsibility and obligation in the lower department is always clearer to the manager than to oneself.

This is the essence of the meaning of the term “Higher Self”. I never ascribe any spiritual or religious meaning to the term Higher Self. Its just the right term to describe the relative positioning of our understanding of the Self in the hierarchies embodied in the mind.

Self isn’t a “thing” that can be found anywhere in the body. It is an understanding, a living process – like real time software – which enables one to progress thru life (and death, and rebirth). It may well be part of our psychic dna structure, parts that are not yet deciphered, parts that are create life as we know it. This definition of the Self allows a reconciliation between Buddhism (which does not believe that there is a Self or Atmaa) – and Hinduism (which believes that the essence of a life is Atmaa). Sophia, the intelligent robot doesn’t have a self, but she knows who she is, and even after it is dismantled, something of it remains, and can be reused.

Living In The Present

The answer to the second set of question – what would happen if we used up all of our brain – has probably been answered by now. We do use most of our brain, albeit unconsciously. However, if one were to live in the here and now, one would not get embroiled in the drama of these mental contents, one could actually observe the contents for what they are – just a functioning part of the brain/mind that exists to assist with survival. Then one can use the entire brain consciously. 

One can experience thoughts in two distinct ways. One is the way we do in our everyday lives – as if Thoughts R Us. A thought comes into our mind, and it brings with itself a series of emotions. We react and become part and parcel of that thought, and our actions arise and are dependent on thought.

The other way to experience a thought is like a neutral, disinterested observer who is observing a phenomenon, the thought being the phenomenon under observation. A virulent river doesn’t evoke any strong emotions in you, neither does a tree that is swaying in the wind. Similarly, a stream of thought flowing thru your mind is something worth observing dispassionately. If one can dissociate from it sufficiently, one can just watch it like one watches the kids playing on the street. With limited interest and curiosity. No matter how loud, or argumentative, or angry the kids may be, one is not really affected by their angst or anger.

 

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When one is able to see thoughts merely as contents streaming thru one’s mind, then one is able to remain contained, one is able to recognize their origin, their purpose, and their destination, or cessation. One can then also choose to not observe them, and focus on other aspects of life. This limits the thoughts – as one can choose to tend only to the meaningful ones  – remember, thoughts arise only because you are paying attention to them. Attention, thus is a generator of thoughts, as we discussed in the previous part of this series. If you pay attention to contents of your ear consciousness, or eye consciousness, for example, the thoughts will cease. Changing focus from thoughts, to ear or sight awareness is the act of living in the present – because unlike thoughts, sight and shearing does not have a past or future associations. These categories of consciousness occur in the here and now.  When the potency of thought is limited by dispassionate observance, one can pick and choose from among the thoughts, mold them to the way that is truly beneficial, and there is no danger that thoughts will malfunction like a rogue process, or a rogue department may malfunction.  Other contents of the mind are given their due share of participation in life.

This shifting of consciousness from thought to other types of consciousness also allows the mind to become empty of thoughtsIt allows mind to rest – which is the reason why meditators can get away with only 3-4 hours of sleep per day – the mind devoid of thoughts is less taxing, and the brain rejuvinates faster. The emptying of mind allows space for the unconscious materials  to enter into the realm of the conscious mind.

It is only the thoughts that go back and forth – from past to future. Other human faculties remain in the present, they allow the experience of the present to filter thru our mind, to suffuse us with everything that the present has to teach us. Other faculties do not have perceptions. They are not prone to distortions. For example, when there is a breeze blowing against your skin, you can only experience it – you cannot do anything other than experience – as long as you stay with the breeze in the here and now the thoughts will stay away from your mind. And if the thoughts are away, the breeze will teach you something of itself, of the environment, of the pleasures and its usefulness. All you have to do is observe it. There is a lifetime lived in every moment, to observe it and enjoy it.

Hence, my statement that when there is balanced participation of all senses, and when one rises above thoughts, there is scope for enormous enjoyment and wisdom. No longer are we trapped in an inner world of angst and suffering. We are not struggling to survive, but were are engaged in living.  Perceptions, and a contorted sense of  time do not control us. No longer do we rely on past learning to fill in the gaps – we are paying full attention to the present. Each moment is the moment of new learning, new experiences. Because the mind is free from the angst from the past, or from the anxieties of the future, it is truly free and empty. It becomes like a sponge, absorbing everything.

Unafraid, unburdened and unfettered.

This allows all that is coded within – the self knowledge, the knowledge of the universe – to slowly become conscious, and dawn into awareness. There is enough cache memory  (for computer literates) to allow for such download, as no cache is used up by rogue processes, no processing time is hogged up by heavy duty processes. The psyche, or the mind is truly free

In the absence of thoughts, we are experiencing every moment like it was meant to be experienced. Every moment brings ecstasy, joy. every moment is timeless, boundless. This is the experience of Sat-Chit-Anand – the perpetual rapture, a state of bliss, as described in Hindu scriptures. And knowledge unfolds from the “root” of our being. It is transmitted from the higher to the lower “directories” or “departments”. Conversely, we can also say that we ascend up the ladder to secure this information. We are “promoted” up the food chain, in the worldly sense.

The problem with scriptures is that they ascribe such a state of bliss, and the causation of it, to external divinity. But that is much like ascribing a sexual orgasm to something or someone outside of us.  What else is divinity but an inward journey of our own beings?  Within one own self resides the creation, the creator, and the created. Each one of us is fully capable of reaching these exalted states. The guru only shows the way.  A good guru will strip the glamour, and the glitz, and show it for what it is –  the potential of a human being to ascend the rungs of humanity which limit its potential and insight ,until it reaches a vantage point where everything is visible and accessible. Nothing is hidden (or unconscious).

Javed Akhtar ji – you are one of the most prolific poets and songwriters of Indian Cinema, churning irrational expressions of love that arise from the irrational unconscious. How can you be a committed rationalist when you accept the existence of the unconscious – the very epitome of irrationality and chaos. Nothing of what Sadhguru was attempting to explain is anything less than rational. All of it is a reasonable, possible experience of human potentiality. If you don’t believe him, come spend 10 days at the Vipassana Retreat with us in the beautiful Dhamma Mandini of New Zealand …..shut down your rogue thought processing unit, and allow the other senses, and other parts of your mind to take their rightful place in your life. No one will teach you anything, for ours is a silent retreat. There’s only an experience of one-ness with yourself. You grow in and with your own silence. You learn from your own infinite wisdom.

After that experience, you are free to analyze those experiences by using your rational thought process  – which is exactly what I am doing in writing this post.

I close with this clip Thich Nhat Hanh  on Science, Thought, and Non Duality

With Metta.

PS: This concludes the trilogy. I have three writing requests, which had to wait while I completed this work without getting distracted from the theme.  My apologies for delay to all those who had made these requests.  Next three will hopefully be about (in no particular order) Sahasrara, the thousand petaled Crown Chakra, Menopause, and Money.

 

 

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The Matrix of the Mind (Part II)

Danger: Mr Wallenda was finely poised above the surging waterfall which has taken many casualties in the past

Where I left off in my last post,  I was talking about the ability to remain in the here and now. I mentioned how the here and now had a very enlightening quality about it. Being in the here and now was the key to immense wisdom. I would find out within a few days how deep the wisdom runs in the here and now.

On 25th of September, I received a phone call from US that my uncle had passed away. He had been a successful surgeon, 71 yo. He had a heart attack, went into coma, and 5 days later – boom – he was dead.

I called to talk to his wife but she was busy, so I ended up talking to his niece. I asked where he was now and she said “the body is at the hospital, they will directly take it to the funeral home from the hospital”.

“IT”…the word shocked my tender sensibilities. Within a few moments, “he” – the successful surgeon, with a loving family, a high end home in the high end suburb of Virginia – had been reduced to the “body” that was an “it”.  And he wasn’t coming home to say goodbye. He was being sent directly to the funeral house. Everyone was done with the body,  the body was no longer him, but an “it,” while they mourned the “him.”

It struck me deep, this process of transformation that highlights the real and perceptual so well.  We believe we love the body. We relate to the body. We interact with the body. But obviously it is not the body that we hold dear, or else the body would not be discarded so quickly. What is it that we hold dear then? A soul that we can never see or experience? A consciousness that is dimmed and dumbed down by its mortality? What is it that attracts us to each other and attaches to us?

This 
gap, between what we think  is the recipient of our love and relationship, and what actually we relate to, is part of the illusion.  One can see it very clearly in the transformation of a human being from animate to inanimate, from living to dead, from an entity to a non entity, from being free to being carried around like a burden, from being cherished and protected, to be disposed off at the earliest opportunity by those who had so professed to love that body up until a few hours ago.

Transient. Impermanent. Destructible. Everything. Body. Relationships. Bonds. Loves. Attachments. All of them transient, impermanent

Up until a few hours ago, he himself would have been enormously attached to the body – decorating it,  accessorizing it, grooming it, to look his best. He would think this was all there was to his existence – his body.  And just like that, the body had become irrelevant.  In a moment.  No amount of thinking about the future had helped him in any way.

The only thing that was left behind, was how well he had spent the moments that he lived.

My post has nothing to do with my uncle or his family’s decision. It is an exercise in self reflection on our real and virtual identities, our stake in the universe, and this world of perceptions. Once again, we come full circle on matters related to death and dying. In fact, when are we really free of this reflection?  When is it a good time not to think about death and dying ? the answer is – never. It is not advisable to lose sight of this fact. As soon as we forget about death and dying, we become arrogant, and narcissistic.

It doesn’t matter when and how we die. What matters is how we have lived. But life cannot be lived well without a constant and conscious reflection on death and dying. If the ultimate is death, and death is certain, then it makes sense that death, and not birth, serve as a reference point against which we each must measure our ongoing travels thru life, and our achievements.

But strangely, we never do that. We measure our achievements with reference to our birth. We count years of our birth in context to the beginning, and celebrate the years that we have lived, as if birthdays begin from zero and stretch into infinity – without a conscious reflection that our life always moves between two points, that every year celebrated also brings us closer to death.  We determine our worth in context of our birth as in we came into this world with nothing, and therefore a measure of our success is how much we have amassed in terms of wealth, relationships, and….stuff.

Were we to use death as a reference point, we would remember that we will be leaving without any of our possessions, and hence, we would be forced to think in terms of how less we need to hold onto. So a spirit of renunciation would arise if we referenced and remembered death and dying. But sadly, for most of us, this spirit of renunciation does not arise. The desire, the anticipation, the need – and the greed – does not recede as we move forward towards death. And then suddenly – boom – we have a heart attack, or we have a stroke and we die. Everything that we have worked so hard for, becomes redundant, meaningless.  And those around us who witness our death, they shake their heads, and say “he had so much to live for…” or words to that effect.  Yes,  he had his “stuff” to live for.

But that is kind of like the tail wagging the dog.

All this is empty. It only reflects our desire to avoid reality. We’re too afraid to think of the second endpoint – death – that we are inching towards. We are too afraid to think that the stuff isn’t what will make our lives worthwhile. Each one of us behaves exactly like Gautama Buddha’s father did when he refused allow old age, death, sickness to enter the  his kingdom. He wanted to protect Buddha from these facts of life. In a similar manner, we force ourselves to remain oblivious of sickness, death, and dying. We don’t want to know, or think about these issues. But not thinking about them makes us live in an artificial reality. It doesn’t really make these issues go away – it simply prevents us from being pro-active in living our life to the fullest, and the best of our ability.  The reality remains, regardless of  how our attention acknowledges, accepts, avoids or denies the reality, regardless of how we construct our life around the reality. The facts eventually hit us one day, in the same way as they hit Buddha – suddenly and completely. And we are forced thus, to take notice.

So we like a trapeze artist, we must walk this tight-rope of life, balancing birth, and death at each step, constantly weighing how much we have lived and what we have gained, against how best to utilize the rest of our life, and how much we really need. And the the pivotal and important part of the process is where we stand and how we hold ourselves in the here and now. The trapeze artist puts all his energy in the here and now. He isnt resting on his laurels, nor is he concerned where he is going. Each step he takes, every effort that he makes, is dedicated to the present. A walk on the tight-rope is a perfect metaphor for a well lived life.

But how is it that our consciousness altogether avoids such a stark reality of here and now?

If the future is so frightful, the mind jumps to the past, by bypassing the here and now. But the past doesn’t hold us for long, and the morbid existential fears drag us to the future, only now we don’t look at the future as it is, but we conjures up images, or alternate realities that are unreal.  And so, we jump back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, from one unreality, to the next, being chased by non existent demons created by our own minds, much like Neo and everyone else in Morpheus’ team, in The Matrix.

Our minds have developed complicated and complex defense mechanisms to avoid existential reality,  the reality of death, because the reality informs us of our mortality. The fear related to this mortality is so immense that our mind conjures up tricks to evade self realization in the here and now. Our refusal to address the here and now leads to mindlessness…we’re always engrossed in something that was not, or is not, or even that which is never going to be. Being engrossed thus, the attention drifts away from that which is, in the present.

This drifting away into this unreality, into what is not, is made possible thru a mechanism called thoughts. Thoughts exist only to relieve us of this existential reality. They help us navigate the process, they help us navigate the unreal. There is no need for thoughts in the real world of our experiences. They arise only when we stop experiencing.  When we stop living in the real. The sensations are real. Our experiences – arising from our sensations – are real.  Thoughts arise to take us beyond sensations, and experiences – to take us to the la la lands of our imagination.

In the here and now, there is no need for thoughts, because it is the explicit experience of reality. One feels. One senses. One experiences. One doesn’t generate thoughts in the present. Thoughts only arise when we avoid the present and jump back and forth on the perceptual timeline – perceptual since there isn’t one that is real. Like the latitudes and longitudes around the earth, the timelines are constructs of human mind.

Lets take an example. I am looking out of the window and watch the giant leaf gently sway in the breeze. It gives rise to a very pleasant sensation – the scene is beautiful.

Simple action of witnessing the leaf and its dance in the breeze in the here and now. My eyes see, my ears hear the sounds of the wind, if any. The observation and experience ends there. As long as I can hold the attention on the sight, the sound, and the experience of the wind,, and whatever comes with it, that is great. This experience brings with it enormous amount of knowledge, if only I choose to accept this knowledge.

But for reason infinite, the experience doesn’t stay there. I complicate the experience by contaminating it with my conditioned learning, from the past.

The mind attempts to retrieve the name of the large leaf. There’s stress if I cannot remember the name of the tree. Perhaps its a fig tree. Or it is a maple? Once the leaf is identified, the mind doesn’t wish to dwell on it any more. It feels all information about the leaf is already in its repertoire of experience, why bother to get more? It drifts. If the leaf isn’t identified, one dwells on the process of  how best it could be identified it. So on, and on and on.  But really, what difference does the name make? Why an attempt to club this leaf with all others? Why not learn more about this leaf and how it interacts with you – your mind, your body – in the here and now?

In the same way, my ears begins assessing the sound, and I understand this is the sound of the wind. Once identified, the mind is not interested in exploring it further. It drifts, because it thinks it knows what the wind is, and how it feels. Why discount this experience of the wind?

Just as each fingerprint is different, and unique, and each person is different and unique, so is each experience different and unique. Why try to dumb down the experience ?

The brain is always measuring, calibrating, evaluating, and deciding.  It is constantly engaged in discerning pre-identified patterns. Much like object-oriented programming of the computers. The mind doesn’t create new experience, it just superimposes prior learning onto the new experience.

Can you imagine how stifling that is? Perhaps you can. Repetitive, stifling, imposing, dominating.  Lacking creativity. If people did not treat you as an individual, and they just stereotyped you into a class, or classes, what would that do to you? You would become invisible. And what isn’t visible, cannot grow – this is the law of nature.  That is exactly what it does to our learning abilities.

Because there is no new learning going on, the mind is idle, much like the electric wires are idle when there is no current passing thru them, or a toaster is idle when it is not plugged in.  Or much like the electrons, when no one is observing them.  The electrons in the wire, toaster, or generally, when there is no force guiding them, simply exist as possibilities and probabilities. As any student of physics will tell you, this state, is the state of chaos, of no orderly process, or disorder. In the same way, the human mind exists in a state of disorder, chaos, it dwells in a world of possibility and probability.

This disordered, chaotic state manifests itself as a thought.  It is a state where “electrons” – quite literally, for our synaptic transmission is based on electric currents – dwell in a haphazard manner. They are undirected.

Attention is the force that disciplines the chaotic existence, our thoughts,  much in the same way a voltage difference disciplines the flow of electrons. When the toaster is turned off, the electrons in ts wires are unfocussed, and are wandering around freely, and randomly.  When the toaster is swicthed on, the voltage differential created between the two points of the plus forced the electrons to flow thru the gadget/toaster as a current.

In the same way, when we focus our attention, or in other words, when we observe where our attention is, and we command it to remain there, or we direct it elsewhere, the electrons in our neural system become disciplines and directed.  We achieve focus.   The thoughts, and the related experiences become meaningful.

The difference in voltage between the points the electricity flows, is an indicator of the magnitude of the current flowing thru the wire. The more the voltage differential, the less will the electrons be distracted from their path, and the faster they will flow between the divide.  Similarly, the force, or magnitude of our attention is indicative of the intensity of our thought process.  Thus, where the attention is substantially forceful, we can experience significant intensity of thinking processes, our ability to access different parts of the brain is higher.  We experience breakthroughs quicker.

But this speed and intensity comes at the expense of attention. Attention is the currency we use to direct our thoughts. And in doing so, we spend this currency on cherry picking previous such experiences from the experiential warehouse,  we pick the patterns that would best fit the present situation. In other words, we forego new experiences. Because we forego experiences, there is no reason for attention to remain focussed, because we have decided that there is nothing new to learn.  We stay conditioned. We stifle creativity. We use attention inappropriately, for something it was not meant to be used.

One can say we abuse the gift of attention.

What would happen if we stayed in the here and now?   There would be no thought. Here and now is a thoughtless state. The entire attention is available to you, to do what you like with it. It is a phenomenal experience, it is the re-experience of infancy – when the world was unknown, and each moment was a learning experience. We are all told that children have immense ability to to learn, and they lose this ability as they grow older? This is not true. We teach them – and hence they teach themselves – not to use this ability. We get mad if they don’t remember and learn from previous experiences and use those previous experiences. So we condition them.

But this ability – to assimilate new experiences – lies dormant within every human being. The ability to live in the here and now, and to assimilate only that which is in the here and now. This requires us to accept that all the learned experiences from the past are to be left in the past. We would have to unlearn the past. To let go of everything from the past  – all that which is tainted with and by perception. That perception, which is only accessible thru thought.

We are not afraid of 3D spaces, we are not terrified every moment of what is ahead of us, or behind us (unless you are a bad driver like me and have to constantly worry about the cars ! LOL!)

The fear, the greed, the avarice, the attachments – they all arise from our inability to remain in the present. If I am alive right now, and I could not think of the future, or of the past, there would be no fear, no greed, no avarice, no sadness, no hate, no aversions.

Or, if I could see the future, and the past, I would be less anxious about it.  Because the future and the past is hidden from us, we are unable to evaluate it accurately ,and we have to make all kinds of conjectures – and the equipment that is used to arrive at these conjectures, constitutes the thought process.

What is, is. And that is all there is.  So it is our inability to remain in the here and now, that gives rise to thoughts, which become grounds for our attachments or aversions, and create a cycle of suffering.

So be smart. Don’t think of past. Don’t think of future. Don’t think how it will be, or how you want it to be. Just focus on the here and now.  Do your best to make sure this moment is well spent. That you are doing whatever you want to do, to the best of your ability. Every single moment. The attention thus directed, without being distracted by thoughts, and other chaotic processes, is immensely powerful. It has the power of divinity. It has the ability to secure for you what you are diverting it to. In these moments of clear and uninterrupted focus, you are the universe, and you have the power of the universe within you.

This, in summary, is also the teaching of Bhagvad Gita regarding Karma Yoga, the teaching that one should not worry about the fruit of one’s Karma, and do the Karma to the best of one’s volition and ability.

In the third of the trilogy, I would like to sum up my experiences in how the living in the here and now serves to enhance our problem solving skills, our knowledge and our wisdom.

 

 

 

 

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The Matrix of Our Mind (Part – I)

Namo Tassa Bagawato Arahato Sammasambuddhasa

Dedicated with gratitude, reverence and supplication to the meditations that have enabled the investigations and in-depth, personal experience of the matrix of my own mind.

When I first saw them at the turn of the century,  the Matrix trology left a very deep impression on my mind.  The Wachowski brothers incorporated several striking philosophical precedents for the Matrix trilogy. These include Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, Plato’s allegory of the cave, Socrates’ visit to the Oracle of Delphi, the work of Descartes, and certain aspects of Buddhism and Hinduism. The movie though has a real life component and this weblog is the first in the trilogy where I will attempt to explore my understanding of the nature of mind, the interconnection between the mind and matter, and how that enables us to live in an illusionary Matrix.

That we live in a Matrix may seem a very laughable and far fetched idea unless we attempt to become aware the nature of reality. I am not a very learned person, or an expert on anything. This series is my attempt to sort out the cobwebs of my own mind, and to organize my own experiences, and confusions into rational thought that can possibly form the basis on which further learning can cohere. The writings are based on my own experiences, inferences, and deductions from insights gleaned in deep meditative states. I do not profess to know much about theories Buddhism, or Hinduism, and the writings do not support or oppose any particular ideology or religion.

The fundamental question of the movie remains valid in life – Do you know what is happening to you in the here and now? Can you make out what the state of your body, and mind is at this very moment?  Would it come as a surprise if I said most of us don’t have a clue about what is going on with us at any given time.

There is a rational ground to assert a hypothesis that our minds are slowly losing the capacity to exist in a real world. We are increasingly losing the capacity to discern between the real and the illusory. All our education, technology, knowhow and so called evolution, instead of removing, or even decreasing our ignorance, is creating a veil of maya that makes us more and more ignorant, dumb and stupid.  This statement may seem strange and unrealistic, but bear with me for now.

Before the discussions goes further,  you, the reader, will need a contextual personal experience for reference. So lets do a small experiment. Read the next few paragraphs, and follow the instructions. Then go to the next section.

Thought Experiment

In this experiment, we examine a 5 minute slice of your mind. Just close your eyes for 5 minutes and observe the contents of your mind. Then write down the thoughts that arise in your mind to the best of your ability. There is no right or wrong thought.

  1. Get a few blank sheets of paper,  a pen, and two markers – one yellow, and one pink (colored pens or pencils would also do).
  2. On your cellphone, set two alarms 5 minute apart.
  3. Having set up these two alarms, close your eyes, and wait for the first alarm to go off.
  4. When the first alarm goes off, try to witness what thoughts arise in your mind. Don’t try to think of anything particular, just be a silent, unobtrusive witness who is merely watching what passes by.
  5. All thoughts are ok.  It is all right if you think no thought, have one thought, or have many thoughts, or if your mind jumps from thought to another thought. We’re not trying to discipline your mind, we’re simply trying to make an inquiry into the mind processes, and to observe the contents of the mind. Whatever is in the mind, or wherever mind goes, just go with it, and remember.
  6. Five minutes is not a long time in a lived life, but it can seem quite a lot when your eyes are closed. But don’t be stressed out trying to remember – just make a general mental note of what you are thinking while you are thinking it.
  7. When the second alarm goes off, stop thinking, and write down the thoughts that you were thinking during this time using a black pen.  Again, you may not remember everything, but thats ok, just write whatever your can remember.
  8. Read aloud what you have written to crystalize the thoughts.
  9. Now highlight with yellow all thoughts related to the events that are in the past.
  10. Highlight with pink all thoughts related to future.
  11. Underline those parts of the writing that represents your thoughts of the present moment.

By the end of the above exercise, all the thoughts must be either highlighted, or underlined. Be careful in your selections.  Some thoughts may seem to be of present but may actually belong to the past, or to the future.

So as an example of your thinking patterns, you may remember that your daughter wanted something at the last moment, which made you late for work this morning, and then your thoughts may turn to the meeting at office, working lunch, the food that you spilled on your dress during lunch and how your mom always told you to chew your food and never gulp your food down. And your thoughts fondly turn to your mom. You feel sad that she passed away when she did. Suddenly you experience a sense of loss and you miss her….etc etc etc.

However, the thoughts about the past do not occur in isolation. Thoughts about the future arise intermittently. There is rarely any chronological sequence to thought processes. In between these thoughts about the past there will arise thoughts about future – which include thoughts like :

what am I going to cook today

I have to call the plumber to get that leak fixed

I wish the traffic would move faster”

“My son was disrespectful to me this morning, I need to talk to him”  

I hope the neighbor’s dog has not pee’d in my garden today

“I am looking forward to our vacation to Italy next month”

“Next year, we must plan to trip to Rome”

Or if you are like me who loves her phantasy world, you may imagine yourself in a sailboat, and will almost be feeling the ecstasy of the cool breeze that sweeps your face. Or you may remind yourself to meditate more, or exercise more, or feel guilty about not meditating enough, or exercising enough. Etcetra, etcetra.

Some of these thoughts appear to be of the present – like “I wish the traffic would move faster” – but it is actually not based on the present reality. It is simply a wish about the next few moments. So it belongs to the classification “future”.

Only the thoughts like “My head is hurting right now”…or “I am hungry right now”….or “I am unable to see clearly” are rooted in the present moment. These are thoughts of the present.

If you peruse your sheet of paper, you will see that over 90% of your thoughts are highlighted in yellow or pink, being about the past or about the future. A very small proportion will represent thoughts pertaining to the present – if any at all.  In a rare case, someone may have something cooking on the stove and may suddenly become conscious of the smell, or someone may feel a sudden shiver of cold, someone else may experience a sudden jolt of pain, but barring these extremely strong physical interventions, all thoughts you may have written would be either related to the past – of time that has gone by – or of future – of time that has not yet come.

The Matrix : Past Is Unreal

The thoughts of time that has gone by are perceptive thoughts. They do not represent reality. The past does not exist anymore, and further, our thoughts about past are mostly based on our perception of reality, and in that sense these thoughts point to an illusion of reality. Someone else witnessing the same events may not reach the same conclusions about the facts that we are thinking about.

So when you are in these thoughts of the past, you are in a dream like state, you are living in a dream where the world you are engrossed in, and are experiencing, is not real. It does not exist anymore. In these 5 minutes you have clung to, and given so much importance to something that simply does not exist.

Further, even your memories of the past are not true representation of facts, being clouded and colored by your perception of events. Hence, even your memories are deceptive. You have no way of knowing what it really was like.  You simply attempt to grasp at the truth.

In this way, thoughts about the past are merely pointers to an illusion.  This is the first set of experience of emptiness, or shunya.

Further, the thoughts of the past allow we to experience a continuity of life. If we existed in the past, and if we exist in the present, then the psyche assumes we will exist in the future. This increases the predictive validity, thereby reducing the existential anxiety. Our survival in the future, seems to be more assured if we can remember that we successfully negotiated our past. Again, this is an illusion. Just because we survived the last moment is not really indicative of our ability to survive the current or the next moment.

The Matrix :  Future Is An Illusion

And those thoughts about the future, those instructions to yourself how you are going to handle things tomorrow, those hopes, dreams, wants, desires for next moment, or tomorrow, or next year – those are second sets of experiences of emptiness or shunya as well, because we all know future is a non existent entity.  It only exist in our imagination.

The part of mind that images the future,  is part of mind that is psychotic portion in its functioning.  Children’s imagination is unbounded and unburdened by reality. As children mature and grow, they learn to adhere to the rules of the society and attempt to ascribe some rational basis for their imaginations, hopes and dreams. Their failure to ascribe to structured imagination is labelled as psychosis. You see – a sane person is not that different from a schizophrenic. There is a schizophrenic in each one of one, we just have learnt to hide that schizophrenic well but the veneer sometimes breaks down. The flashes of temper, acts of domestic violence, narcissism – all represent these psychotic breaks. (For more details, click  here ). What is acceptable, and what is labelled as a disorder, is simply a consensus of the  majority. In one society, venturing out without wearing clothes in the body may not be acceptable, and a person who does that would be labelled as psychotic. In another society, it may be perfectly acceptable to paint your body and venture around wearing only a loin cloth. A person who refuses to do that, could be labelled as being disordered.

Even if we leave mental disorders aside, what people can and cannot imagine is guided by a set of rules that are arrived at by consensus or by people who are in power.  In one society, a woman may be able to imagine that she has certain rights, while in another society the permission to imagine those women’s rights may be severely restricted by consensus. The consensus changes with time as well. For example, my grandmother may not have been able to imagine women could work, whereas with passage of time, I cannot imagine not being able to work. Women could not dream of equality 200 years ago. Today women cannot dream of being unequal.

Therefore the imaginations, dreams, aspirations, plans, strategies, schedules, and any and all thoughts of acts that have not happened yet, and may happen in future, are also unreal.

Further, the future may never unfold the way we envisage it. All these thoughts about the future are based on the basic, fundamental assumption that we will live thru this moment, and that there will be a next moment, and that we will live thru the next moment. In other words, the thoughts about the future, our imagination, also seeks predictive validity so that the existential anxiety may be reduced. But the underlying fact remains that thoughts point to a link that does not exist. The thoughts are empty, shunya. The future is empty yet we grasp and cling.

So when you are in these thoughts of the future, you are again in a dream like state of mind, you are living in a dream where the world you are engrossed in, and are experiencing, is not real. It hasnt unfolded yet and it may never unfold the way you envisaged it. In these 5 minutes you have been grasping at, or grasping for something that does not exist.

So in thinking about your future, just like in thinking about past, you spent part of your 5 minutes on thoughts that were not representative of reality, thinking about something that does not exist.

Present As the Only Reality

It may be appropriate to say that until we engage our minds consciously, and train ourselves to pay attention to the present moment, our mind simply randomly jumps between delusions (since they are non existent), spending most of our resources on contemplating these two unreal, non existent times periods.

The present – here and now – is the only concrete reality there is. And isn’t it interesting that most of the thoughts that you thought in the 5 minute experiment, were unrelated to this reality? How remarkable that actually, events in this moment, and in this moment only, are real, and happening, but we close off our awareness of this moment, and instead engage our minds with the unreal, the delusion, the illusionary !

This jumping between two non-existent illusionary realities was the theme of the Matrix trilogy. In reality, humans existed merely as a heat source embodied in a capsule, but they were blissfully unaware of their real existence and were forced to imagine themselves as part of one illusion – the Matrix, or another illusion – the perceived real world, which itself was an illusion. It wasn’t till the end of the movie that one came to the realisation along with Neo that both the worlds were an illusion anyway.

This Gap Is Ignorance

As we see, most of us do not really knows what is going on in the present. Few really witness the here and now – the moment in time zero M(t).  And when this moment passes away, everyone just imagines what “most likely must have happened” (perception) and stores that experience as a memory of the past, the Moment in time zero minus 1, M(t-1). Not only is that memory non existent state of mind, it is also perceptually tainted. And yet we roll in thoughts of past.

Then, based on that (flawed/tainted) memory, everyone also assumes what is “most likely to happen” in time zero plus 1, M(t+1), and rolls in these thoughts about the future, gets transported into the future, and bases their prospective decisions on such (flawed/tainted) anticipation of future.

Due to our inattention to the present, we are never able to have a true picture of our world as it is. Instead we see it as we want to see it (future), or as we remember it (past). Further, because each one of us is a unique individual with a unique upbringing and background (samskara), our perceptions – based on our upbringing – further cloud our understanding of the real world.

This difference – the gap between that what is, and that what we perceive and remember and base our understanding of future on – constitutes human ignorance. It is the proverbial veil that Maya casts over us.

Some people – thru training, education, culture or other reasons – are more attuned to reality than others. On the other end of the spectrum there are people who are unaware that the gap even exists. They believe their lives – lived jumping back and forth between the past and the future – are all that there is to life. The veil of Maya is strongest when the gap is larger.

This gap, between what is, and what we perceive to be – is responsible for lack of true knowledge in the world. It creates our lack of understanding of the reality, the nature of being, and creates differences between justified belief and opinion. This gap, and its causal influences leads to difference of opinions,  epistemology, ontology.  It would not be wrong to say that the gap – our ignorance of ultimate truth – forms the basis for all learning, knowledge, of which divergent sciences, scientific theories, competing philosophical thought and discourse arise.

I used to wonder why ancient cultures had so much wisdom, acquired such precise knowledge that exceeds the current, and how they did it without any advances that we see today, and how that wisdom ceased to exist in this day and age. It was only in deep reflective stated of meditation that I realised the importance of living in the moment. It frees the mind from the gap, and allows knowledge – that is inherently contained within a human mind – to unfold. They did not need much. They only needed to learn how to calm the monkey mind, and focus on the present. The knowledge and wisdom naturally unfolded.

 

Origins of Thought

It is this flaw – in how the real world is, versus how we perceive the world – that gives rise to mental contents, or what is called “thought.”  Thought is a bridge between the past and the future. As evolution unfolded, and human minds became more and more disconnected from the reality of the present, there arose a need to permit passage between these unreal states – just the way the machines of matrix perceived there was a need for the Matrix. The origin and nature of thought is the subject of the next weblog in the series. Watch this space.

With metta to all.  May all the ignorance in the world reduce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Christchurch, Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Counseling in Christchurch, Creativity, Expressions, Fresno, india, Kundalini, Meditation, New Zealand, philosophy, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Religion, Religious, Shiva, Third Eye, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why is Graceful Aging becoming such a passe…?

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“The knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor.”                                                                                                      (Aldous Huxley)

I drafted this article a few years ago, but out of respect for the privacy of individuals, I did not make the post public. Here it is, now, as the uncomfortable situation it would have created, has been left behind in the shadows cast by father time.

At the time, a few years ago, I had met a very nice gentleman. He was around 65 years old, or so he insisted. It was difficult to ascertain his age, as he had undergone plastic surgeries and face lifts.  He indicated that he had lived, and loved gracefully, and achieved all he had wanted to achieve in life. He had three beautiful children, successfully placed and married to good people. He had wonderful grandchildren, or so he said. He had a beautiful home, in an upmarket area of Los Angeles. He had been terribly in love with his wife of more than 35 years who had succumbed to cancer about two years before this incident. According to him, he was done grieving  and he strove to prove that by undergoing plastic surgery, by taking flying lessons, by bungee jumping, and what was most disconcerting to me, by hooking up with a string of women half his age, from across the world and offering to marry each one of them

At the time I met him, I myself had confronted loss, and have had myself been dealing with issues related to death and dying. Meeting him at the time was synchronistic, as if the psyche had placed a mirror before me, to bring to my attention my own zombie state of dissociation, my flight from the necessary mourning process, my refusal to live thru the dark night of the soul, the negredo state of Jungian psychology.  I never went to such extremes as him, and I sure took nature’s hint and started looking hard at myself, but staying on the topic, I began to struggle to understand what could possibly be underlying such behaviors. The ancients used to say that nothing in life is random. One meets people who have something to teach. And so this chance encounter was of immense personal value to me.

This exercise is undertaken not to demonise his behaviors. Rather, it is a compassionate exploration into the psyche of a man exposed to the harsh reality of his existence, a man so traumatised and fearful of death, dying, and loss, that he is not able to face the truth inherent in his situation. The truth appears so devastating to the psyche that his psyche has to bail him out with crutches of these dissociative strategies that are meant to take the heat away from the reality of the situation. It is the process of aging I am interested in, not the person himself because the aging process seemed to have been arrested by human manouvers and manipulative behaviors – at least in his perception.

It is useful to take a few moments to define the word aging, as it is used in the context of this exploration.  Defining it is not so straightforward as it may seem because we have been coached and conditioned to dislike the aging process. Here are the various definitions of aging I captured from websites :

“aging can simply refer to the passage of time and can have a positive connotation as in “aging wine.”

Generally, the term “aging” refers to the biological process of growing older in a deleterious sense, as in “senescence.”

Aging can also be defined as a progressive functional decline, or a gradual deterioration of physiological function with age, including a decrease in fecundity 

the incidence of a number of pathologies increases with age

1) an exponential increase in mortality with age; 2) physiological changes that typically lead to a functional decline with age; 3) increased susceptibility to certain diseases with age. So, I define aging as a progressive deterioration of physiological function, an intrinsic age-related process of loss of viability and increase in vulnerability.

A number of characteristic ageing symptoms are experienced by a majority or by a significant proportion of humans during their lifetimes.

  • Teenagers lose the young child’s ability to hear high-frequency sounds above 20 kHz.[13]
  • Cognitive decline begins in the mid-20s.
  • Wrinkles develop mainly due to photoageing, particularly affecting sun-exposed areas (face).[16]
  • After peaking in the mid-20s, female fertility declines.
  • People over 35 years of age are at risk for developing presbyopia. and most people benefit from reading glasses by age 45–50.The cause is lens hardening by decreasing levels of α-crystallin, a process which may be sped up by higher temperatures.[20][21]
  • Around age 50, hair turns greyPattern hair loss by the age of 50 affects about half of males and a quarter of females.
  • Menopause typically occurs between 49 and 52 years of age.
  • In the 60–64 age cohort, the incidence of osteoarthritis rises to 53%. Only 20% however report disabling osteoarthritis at this age.
  • Almost half of people older than 75 have hearing loss inhibiting spoken communication.
  • By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.
  • Frailty, defined as loss of muscle mass and mobility, affects 25% of those over 85. Atherosclerosis is classified as an ageing disease.  It leads to cardiovascular disease (for example stroke and heart attack) which globally is the most common cause of death.
  • The maximum human lifespan is suggested to be 115 years “for the foreseeable future”. The oldest reliably recorded human was Jeanne Calment who attained 122 years and died in 1997.

Do you see what is wrong in these definitions of aging that are scattered all over the web? They are fear inducing. They make one feel terrible about aging. None of these definitions discuss the benefits of aging.

The definition, and the enormous body of research, is funded by the pharmaceutical, medical, and anti aging, and beauty products industry, which would be harmed if you stopped being terrified of aging. Hence their efforts to describe as aging as something terribly bad. And their efforts to justify the tax dollars and your savings being channelled into their pockets. It is a business based on promoting fear. They can reap wealth as long as they can keep you terrified of age, aging, death and dying, and keep giving you hope that they will arrest your aging process, if only you keep paying them….

But can aging really be arrested? Cognitively we all know it cannot. Time and tide stops for none, as they say. Everything that begins, has to end. Even life. And yet, what is it that keeps us tethered to the ambrosia of youth? And why? And images (1)what is the impact of such an arrest on the aging body and mind of the person, and the body and mind of the children of such a person, and of the society in general. Why do we want to eliminate all conscious thought about the process of aging? What meaning does age have for us as a society today? And has the perception of aging changed over the years? How and why? As usual, until I reach the very core of all such phenomenon, my mind does not rest ! The blog may end, by the thirst for answers is unending.

What would an alternate, more constructive definition of aging be? The ability to be independent, empowered, free of responsibilities, accountability, wise, compassionate, spiritual (hopefully), evolved, respected…the list is endless. But essentially the core of aging process constitutes of liberty, and wisdom. There – if I repeat this as much as the dark things about aging are repeated, would you really be as terrified of aging, death and dying? I wonder how I grew up to this definition of aging?

I come from a small town in the Himalayas called Kashmir. With literacy rates of 100%, and financial independence, women had unlimited powers. My great grandmother was a headmistress of a school in a small village, a feminist as far back as mid to late 1800s. My grandfather was born in 1910, just around the WWI timeframe. I grew up with him, and saw my grandmother wield a kind of feminine power that even I – 50-100 years later – cannot dream of.  As far back as I can remember, in our familial setting – age was an asset. Children and adults gave into the wishes of older adults. The older you were, the more you were respected, and pampered, listened to, respected. Adolescence and young adulthood carried with itself absolutely no power of persuation and freedom, for we were tethered to the wishes of those who were older than us.  As a kid I remember thinking “I would love to be in her shoes!” and looking forward to becoming older. Women were especially powerful in our community, because they owned the obedience and powers of their sons. Mothers were goddesses in power and prestige, although such a position came with all the roles and responsibilities of a benign and benevolent goddess.

I was smug in the knowledge that one day I would inherit that kingdom from my grandmothers and my mothers ! Age was good. Age made you powerful. This is all I had seen, and knew, for I knew no other way of life.

Correlated to such thinking, disease in our family was more an exception than a rule. Men and women had relatively healthy lives and usually died, with all their faculties intact, in their mid nineties. My grandfather, for example, who passed away a few years ago, was 95, sharp as a button, very wilfull, aware, on his toes, and quite a handful till the very end.

Growing up, I had never heard anyone unhappy with their age. There was no one – including young girls, or women, who expressed the desire to “remain young.”  Age was such a non issue.  Perhaps ours was an exceptional community, or perhaps I lived during exceptional times which exist no more. We lacked awareness, or desire for plastic surgery. Women who did that were a butt of jokes – they were assumed to be unintelligent, lacking in self confidence, desperate for male attention which probably was not forthcoming unless they made great efforts at becoming externally beautiful.  There was no desire to overdress, or under-dress, to over or underexpose, to pile on too much makeup simply to look younger, or older. Women – and men – accepted their age, with grace and hoped to grow in wisdom.  Their clothing, lifestyle, makeup etc automatically evolved to reflect their change of life-stage. There were no big bashes at 30, 40, 50. No one mourned the passage from 40-50 or from 50 – 60 or beyond. We were simple people with simple needs and desires. And we were very healthy and happy bunch of people too !

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Given that background, and upbringing,  I have never been able to look at age as a liability, or as something one has to hide, or dislike, or be wary of.

Age is. It simply is. It remains as is. What increases and evolves, with time, is the mind. The consciousness. The ability of a person to think, to analyse, to understand, to marvel, to wonder, to become more and more curious of everything around, and hence, to hopefully unite with the universe. And each passing day that unfolds, brings with it the promise of wisdom, grace and expansion of consciousness.

I first became aware of this dissonance between myself and the outer world during my MSW. My class was primarily dominated by 20 and 30 year olds. For some reasons, 29 is deemed perfect age by a lot of women. They say it is a magical number for age. Not too young, and just short of 30 – which some think is too old.  Somehow, most of the women in my class were 29.  Or so they said.

A 29 year old girl/child/woman in my class argued that when she thought of age, she thought of disease, incapacitated thinking, old fashioned way of life. She never wanted to grow old, she said. And while she was saying it, she looked at me – as if to apologise for her “inconsiderate statements” and “harsh truths” as she later said they were. I was in my mid 40s at the time, and had never thought of myself as “old”. I didn’t even think my grandfather – 80 at the time – was old. I simply did not relate human aches and pains with age. I was unafraid. And I remain so till date – despite the aches and pains.

So her words came as a shock to me.

And as if on cue, the instructor looked at me for my response because I was, as it was perceived,  on the “wrong side of life” (ha!).

I looked at the 29 year old apologetically, excused myself for what I was going to say, and said that I loved my age, that I would dislike being 29 now that I had tasted my 40s, that I looked forward to growing older and wiser.

There was a dramatic pause as people attempted to digest this strange fact from a person who was purportedly looking at sickeness and decay, and should have been terrified of it. I was asked to explain myself.

Why would I want to be 29? I remember myself at that age. Full of myself, dumb and stupid – or at least unintelligent in the worldly ways, working 14 hours per day to earn more and more and more, unsatisfied, greedy, ambitious, lacking compassion, unaware of my true self, struggling to keep everyone happy but never being quite being able to do so, trying, trying, trying so hard to fit in, to be loved, to be accepted, to be an ideal – ideal mother, ideal wife, ideal daughter, ideal employee, struggling with kids, career, an inconsiderate husband, a demanding mother in law, a boss, several “close” friends who wanted more from me, a family who expected more………. and I – with no sense of boundaries, I – who had never learnt to say no, or enough, or go away…………………..

Oooooooffff…..never again. Why would I want to be that person again? I was infinitely less intelligent, less aware, less wise, less determined, less confident, less empowered, less capable, less satisfied and very less accepting of my life, my family, my body, my relationships, my status, my material and financial position in life, than I now am.

And that was not just me, every one at 29 is more or less the same. People sorta go thru a haze,  live on steroids, thrive on ups and downs, struggle, endure. Always striving. Always desperate. Trying. Yearning. Needing. A bundle of unending wants, unrealized ambitions, unfulfilled desires.

Fast forward to 40s and 50s. If a person has lived well, and has build a strong foundations of a well defined self in early life, and has completed each Eriksonian life stage well, aging would be a pleasure.  It would be wisdom oriented. Peaceful. A sense of completeness envelops the human being. Jung called this individuation. I call it coming into oneself. Coming of age in the real sense. This, is who I wanted to be. This, is who I was destined to be. And there is an acceptance of oneself. A certitude, of being. Of continuity of being. Not as a physical body – for yes, there is death – but as an entity, a spec of consciousness that transcends time and space. It has been. It is. It will remain. In some form or other.  It is transcendent.  29 again? You must be kidding !!!

This is the gift of my ancestors to me. It is a psychic dna I inherited from my forefathers.  It is irreplaceable. It is invaluable. It is the gift of aging process  – because I accept my age. My consciousness is free to bestow these gifts on me, because the mind is not turned into a pretzel trying to keep from my conscious mind, the awareness of aging, death and dying. I don’t seek to retrograde.

No longer do I dress to please others, or eat to remain shapely, or smile to endear myself. Everything I do, is for me. There’s an immense sense of freedom from being outside the societal bounds, and bonds. I exist – independent of others. It is an indescribable feeling one can only experience if one accepts their aging process. I am grateful, compassionate, willing but also determined. I have boundaries. I love my solitude. I am alone, never lonely. I have faith, hope, and dreams of a better tomorrow.  I enjoy my retirement.  Why would I want to hold onto being 20 and 30 ?

Holding on creates a basis for developmental arrest. A 15 year old behaving like a 5 year old is not a pleasant sight.  Neither is a  40 year old behaving like a 20 year old.  Why, then, is it ok for a 60 year old to think and feel like 40? Whats wrong with being 60? More important – why would you want to give up all the good things associated with aging, and remain develomentally arrested, tethered to an earlier stage of life ? Doesn’t make sense to me. One doesn’t stay in Kindergarten, or Primary School, or even in Middle or High School. Moving on is considered as progress, and enjoying each stage of life, for what it is, is progress oriented. It helps one grow, expand, evolve.

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But we get stuck at a particular age, and wish to be seen,  considered, acknowledged as being “young” or “younger than we actually are”. And unfortunately we may get what we desire – we get a developmental arrest!  Our mind stops growing as our reluctance to grow, to age, is transmitted to our psyche, and the psyche follows the heart’s desire. All growth stops. And where there is no growth, no movements, there is stagnation and rot.  Our refusal to grow prevents progress, impedes wisdom, and allows for rot.

This is exactly what had happened to the gentleman I mentioned at the beginning of my blog. A terrifying existential loneliness and isolation at his wife death possibly demolished the structures of certitude, and predictive validity. In his mind, nothing was certain. The continuity of the world as he knew it, was broken.

This could have been a growth oriented, evolutionary and enlightening experience if handled well, if he only could have let it be. Depression is when our psyche turns inwards and collects our internal resources so it can take the next big leap forward. Emerging from depression takes you multiple steps forward. But we have to have the courage, and ability to endure that depressive state.

For him, the encounter with and the inevitability of death, and the recognition of his own mortality should have created hope, faith, and a new awareness and understanding of the universe, if only he had let it.  He would have grown wiser, and more compassionate in acceptance, and his exploration of the meaning of death, dying.

Instead, he shut the doors on wisdom, and hid himself under mountains of ignorance. He chose the route of developmental arrest as a way of dealing with these difficult life situations and questions, thus taking backwards steps and undoing his own progress.  The lessons and the opportunities of life – the jewels of his life-stage – were wasted on him. He psychopathically retreated into the bottomless pit of terrifying helplessness.

When he emerged, he could only do by dissociating from the reality of existence, and retreating into a make believe world of “youngness”.   Facelift, bungee jumping, women, sex, and other stimulation “arrested”, or “frozen” in time his psychic development, even while his body moved forward in the aging process.

This is a big, big dissonance, which is correlated with and a causation of mental health problems as we age. These mental health problems manifest as physical sickness that aging is associated with. Peter Pan would be the most depressing, depressed and sick person on earth in my opinion.

I knew him for a substantial amount of time after this encounter. And he remained “young”. Where ever he is today, I hope he is well even though I very much doubt it. The increase in dissonance has its own disadvantages. It is almost as if you are pulling two parts of you apart. Something inside eventually tears irrevocably.  Did I tell you everyone in my family is healthy, and dies healthy? May be good genes, but may also be the lack of such dissonance.

Avoiding the issue of aging, refusing to grow up, is just escapism. It is not truth. It does not help us in any way. It prevents us from being smarter than our kids, and the young adults.  It impedes our development. It disables us from experiencing the benefits that age confers on us – the expansion of our consciousness and wisdom – which in turn – leave us stupid and ignorant.

Perhaps that is the reason for an anarchic world today. We are living longer, but that longevity is not supported by increase in wisdom and intelligence. Therefore, be careful what you wish for. The universe is receptive, it hears, and confers. Your wishes will always be granted. Please don’t wish for a developmental arrest.

Come, grow old along with me….life has been very beautiful so far…… but the best is yet to be…

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Posted in Aging, Christchurch, Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Counseling in Christchurch, Creativity, Expressions, Fresno, india, Marriage Counseling, Meditation, New Zealand, philosophy, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Religion, Therapy, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mindfulness Is…..

 

Image result for Mindfulness

I had heard references to a “mindful” state of being, but several years ago,  I wrote a thesis on Vipassana Meditation as a part of my MSW education. During that period, I happened to come across the term Mindfulness, as it is commercially used. A detailed research recently has really amazed me into how lucrative this industry has grown, along with the Yoga Industry, and the Meditation Industry, and perhaps even the Kundalini industry. The word Tantra, of course, is used by every prostitute one happens to meet, or read about.

But what does all this mean?

The word Mindfulness has been bastardized and abused by everyone, simply everyone, simply because it is intangible. At the very least, Yoga requires a mastery of acrobatics. A person claiming to be called a Yoga teacher has to make some level of effort. Meditation requires the ability to sit still for long periods of time, and the meditation instructor has to first acquire that skill at the very least, but mindfulness? It is a mind oriented phenomenon. There are no witnesses who can ascertain the veracity of anyone’s claims of mindfulness, and therefore every Tom, Dick and Harry can ascertain mastery over mindfulness. Hence there are several so called “gurus” and academicians who throw in the word Mindfulness into the repertoire of their purported skills, to rake in dollars by seeking grants, writing books, articles about it, giving lectures, and conducting classes. No one can understand the rampant fakeness of their claims because few end up experiencing real mindfulness. What one doesn’t know, one cannot pass a judgment on.

For over twelve years since I first got familiar with the term, I too was fooled by dozens of Mindfulness gurus. I bought and read several dozen books, I turned my psyche into a pretzel trying to be “mindful” the way all these gurus suggested, I patted myself on the back, congratulating myself on my purported “mindfulness.” Life was good. I was part of the new age group. Mindfulness, the buzzword, belonged to me, and I belonged to it.

…..until one day….not long ago….a series of events triggered an involuntary inherent transformation from within me. At first there were imperceptible changes in my sleeping patterns. Slowly but decisively everything about my life began to change -the way I interacted with others, the way I dressed, cooked, my daily living habits, and even my food habits. I became like a pregnant woman, with cravings for a certain kind of life. I craved all kinds of foods that I had not imagined myself to be capable of. Everything acquired a kind of hue, taste, color that had previously been missing. It was a gradual process, unfolding over a period which forced me to ponder on the sporadic flashes of absolute mindfulness. It is then that I understood, from experience, what mindfulness really was. I had been living in a world of delusions before. I am not mindful most of the time even now. But occasionally there are flashes of mindfulness that leave me astounded and grateful.

Without much ado – what is this real experience of mindfulness then? This so called – living in the moment experience? A little background may help.

Our bodies are controlled by our minds. How our minds control our bodies, is dependent on how much total energy is available to us, and how in turn that total available energy is distributed between functions that the mind performs.

Take an example of a computer. If one opens dozens of tabs in a computer, and attempts to run that computer for several days, eventually the computer will slow down and will need to be rebooted. The process of rebooting involves closing all the existing applications and processes, including the closing down of dead end processes, rogue processes that are a drain on the memory, cache, and the hard-drive. Rebooting also clears the cache and resets many other things.

Just like a computer, each of us is given a certain amount of energy which is available for us to live. That energy is distributed over the functions that our body needs to perform.

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Much like a pc that is never shut down, our minds are engaged in constant thought processes. These thought processes may be organized – like when we are problem solving or contemplating a particular situation or issue – or they may be randomized thoughts, like when we are not engaged in creating or generating a meaningful thought our minds are drifting around from thought to thought – as during driving. Both these kinds of thoughts are fueled by the “energy” of our mind.

In addition to these, the energy of the mind is also used up in maintaining repressions. In other words, at any given time, you want to think only what you want to think about. We need a clear space in the mind that allows us to live and move forward – much like cache. A cluttered cache would make computer operations impossible. Similarly, for us to function at all, all thoughts must be repressed so current situation may be processed.

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The economy of attachments is also substantial, our attachments in and to the world take up psychic energy. Both positive attached – striving for, love for, aspirations, desires, as well as negative attachments – our aversions to, avoidance of, dislikes etc – are resource intensive. This includes attachments to certain kinds of thoughts – thoughts of love, of hate, of desires, of aversions – that are rooted in our current lives. These are a drain on our psychic resources. Other thoughts – like our past, past hurts or betrayals – these are like deadweight that weighs us down. Our relationship with our thoughts is very strong. But in order to function effectively in life, we must keep these thoughts submerged, or in the background. They matter to us in many ways because we are, or have been affected by certain acts in the past. Our lives are a consequence of that past. So we hold onto these thoughts and images, refusing to let go. It is not the thought itself, but the maintenance of our attachment to these kind of thoughts that exhausts our energy resources. The stronger the attachment, the more potent the thought, the more energy it will consume if it is to remain “out of conscious mind” and allow us to function efficiently. Kinda like your Lombargini or your Bentley would be a larger drain on your financial resources than your ordinary bicycle would be. You may ignore and give up your broken bicycle after an accident, or when need arises, but you will fight tooth and nail if you have to give up your expensive car, or house, or jewellery. You are more attached to these items of luxury. The loves, possessions, attachments, hate, anger, slights, hurts, betrayals from the past are unfortunately like prized possessions that one desperately clings to. These attachments are resource intensive. This energy remains unavailable for other tasks.

In the same way, we desperately try to get away from certain existential feelings. We never think of existential isolation, death, of who we are, our purpose in life, and if we are fulfilling that purpose. We each know we are alone in this world, and that we have to

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die. But we surround ourselves with “friends” and behave as if we were immortal. These feelings are natural in human beings. They exist deep down inside. To keep these feelings from overwhelming our psyche requires energy. This aversion towards accepting the realities of life is also resource intensive. The mind has to ensure that these unpleasant thoughts are kept away from consciousness. The effort to keep repressed these existential fears exhausts the scarce energy resources of the mind.

Other thoughts – like memories from everyday life – are less potent, and they require very little energy to be pushed into the background.  However, the volume of these everyday memories is huge. All that we take in through our eyes, earns, noses etc on a daily basis, minute by minute, all that is stored up and available, but we generally don’t need it. So the volume of such data stored in our mind is quite alarmingly huge. Even if very little energy is needed to keep each of these memories repressed, the total amount of repressed memories requires a huge investment of energy.

Other processes that run in the background are automatic processes – like breathing, functions of our internal organs, reflexive actions, housekeeping functions over which we have no control. These require substantial amounts of energy as well.

There are many many, many, many more resource-intensive processes that are part and parcel of our existence.  Most of the available energy is taken up in maintaining these primarily unconscious processes of repression and existing.

Whatever is left after all this energy is distributed to maintain our unconscious processes, is made available to maintain consciousness and the currency of life. That little residual energy of the mind is distributed across various conscious processes which we can “feel” and “experience”. Therefore, the spectrum of conscious processes is extremely limited.

Nature offers unlimited stimulation. It is infinite in variety, and abundant in its offerings. It is only the limitations of human paraphernalia – the limitations of our sensing-feeling equipment that limits our experiences. But that limitation of our senses is further limited by the limitation of the energies that are associated, and available, to us. The five senses cannot experience life to their fullest because of the overwhelming demand of the unconscious mind.

The limitations on the energy available us for conscious living, inhibit the senses and prevent us from experiencing life fully. Therefore, our minds can only experience a fraction of the spectrum of the real world at any given time. It is akin to driving around in rain and snow, with your car batteries depleted by the awful road conditions of snow, hail, rain, frost and fog.  The car light will be insufficient to penetrate the fog. You can see only a few feet ahead. You would not be able to see the overall beauty of your surroundings. It is better to drive without these “distractions”.

In terms of the body too, it is better to drive without the distractions. One needs to get rid of the endless stream of mindless thoughts – chatter –  that arise from and as a consequence of these repressed memories. To give up the chatter one needs to give up one’s attachments, our addictions to the chatter.  You may be surprised to hear this, but human beings like to think. Any lack of mind-chatter constitutes “boredom”. However, only if we cease to expend our resources on this chatter, can this energy associated with the management of chatter, become available. When we renounce this addiction to chatter, and to our past, this energy – used up in maintaining such repressions, addictions, and chatter, becomes available for other purposes. This energy can then be used to experience life more fully, and completely.

But any Mindfulness guru can tell you this. I have constantly read this in several dozen, or several hundred books. I myself have repeated this before, because this is the principle behind psychodynamic psychotherapy as well. By making conscious the repressed unconscious, psychodynamic psychotherapy leads to release of the energy consumed in repressions. This energy can be utilized in living life fully.  So how is this weblog different? Firstly, I am not a guru. I don’t intend to drain your (or someone else’s) bank account when I give you this piece of information. Secondly,  there’s more…………….

………mindfulness is a consequence, not the cause. It is a consequence of a courageous act – the courage to accept “boredom”. Can you remain thoughtless without feeling bored? Without getting anxious? Without remembering that you have to complete a million chores and that you’re wasting time? Mindfulness is the gift of the self, the property of the atman, the soul. Can your egotistic mind accept the intrusion of the self?  Can you allow the Self to emerge? Bear in mind, the emergence of the Self is an emergence of nothingness, a void. The emergence that negates all relationships except your relationship with Prakriti, the Universe, or – in layman’s terms – the nature.  This lets loose the repressed existential isolation. So can you accept that you are alone in the world? That you do not really matter? That this body will ultimately die and decay? That nothing is certain, or permanent, not even the illusionary world that you have careved around yourself ?  Can you accept the burdens such a revelation imposes? If you can, you’re free to be mindful. Until then,  the Self cannot be felt, and all efforts at true mindfulness will be futile.

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Mindfulness is a journey, a consequence of experiencing freedom, freedom from anything attached to this world. It is the consequence of awareness, of compassion, of certain kind of lifestyle choices where one overcomes addictive phenomenon of every kind in their life…etc etc etc. It is not the other way round. Mindfulness doesn’t cause anything, it is a state of mind.

So one cannot learn to be mindful  just like a child cannot  learn to be an adult. – adulthood is the outcome of our developmental process. It is a journey. It is an experience.

The absence of chatter in the mind does not guarantee mindfulness. On the contrary, mindfulness requires access to thoughts, images, experiences. – the right kind of thoughts, memories, and images from the psyche.  One needn’t dwell on those experience, but to be fully mindful, one must have experiential access to them.

Because Mindfulness is a consequence of energy release, therefore, a pre-requisite for mindfulness is ample energy resources within the human brain. Hence, mindfulness is generally enhanced with appropriate lifestyle choices – food, sleep habits, lifestyle choices that are associated with energy states.  When mindfulness begins to unfold, you will automatically crave certain kind of food, sleep patterns begin to change, because the unfolding requires energy, and the mind automatically gets drawn to certain kinds of food to fuel that energy – such knowledge being intuitive. Hence, my analogy of cravings of a pregnant woman.

A textbook definition of Mindfulness is: the ability to live life moment to moment. To be able to achieve complete awareness in the moment. To be able to fully comprehend and experience the truth of the moment that one currently lives in. It is said that during a mindful moment, there is nothing else, no past, no future, no other competing thought or experience to take away the fullness of the current moment. Complete mindfulness means that there is no repression….every ounce of your energy is available to you for utilization in that moment, and every experience from your past, is at your fingertip. In other words, full mindfulness occurs when all unconscious has become conscious. This is a very big achievement. Nirvana, and Moksha are defined the same way.

So a random guru, or a random book on mindfulness cannot really make you mindful.  It is an unfolding process. My sporadic experiences of mindfulness can explain what I mean.

I am drinking tea. I hold the cup, and move it towards my mouth…..

…and I take a sip. this purportedly takes a fraction of a second…but, it represents a profound experience of the moment….

…I savor this experience of my encounter with the tea (and the teacup) in the moment. Nothing else exists – the world disappears – only the taste of tea on my lips, in my mouth. The hotness, the flavor, the sweet and sour pain on my lips, the coldness of the ceramic bowl, the feel of the liquid on the wetness of my tongue, the light breeze that drifts by my lips while I sip, and how it enters my mouth along with the liquid cooling the liquid somewhat. Because there is no chatter to compete with this experience, I can experience the various aspects of the tea, of my lips, and of the miscrocosm around my lips – things that I could not have noticed if I had other processes going on in my mind. It can only be likened to a feeling of drowning in a sea of sensations and flavors. Everything is much more potent than it would otherwise be.

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But this is not where the awareness ends, because the moment of encounter – a fraction of a second – is really not so short. Like the Tardis,  the moment is small on the outside and big, very very big and magical on the inside. Any living entity experiences the lived moment as being of infinite duration –  our awareness of the moment is significantly much more than the duration of the short moment as it is measured by the clock.

So, if we allow it, our experience of a sip of tea can be infinite. The encounter encroaches my consciousness on all fronts – emotional, physical, psychical, metaphysical, psychological, religious, cultural, academics and so on. When I accept all that in the moment, it becomes a mindful state.

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The encounter encroaches my consciousness on all fronts – emotional, physical, psychical, metaphysical, psychological, religious, cultural, academics and so on. When I accept all that in the moment, it becomes a mindful state.

I taste the tea. I experience its qualities, the hotness, the flavor, the fragrance, the wetness, how it presents in my mouth, and how it is savored, and swirled and swallowed. have you ever actually experienced the tea in your mouth? The experience is infinite in its physicality.

But there is more than the tea itself.

There is “stuff” associated with the taste of the tea. The history and heritage of tea flashes before me – not sequentially, but in the form of a momentary intuition that would take an eternity to see, live and explain, and several hundred pages of prose to write. A conglomerate of images arises – of the tea gardens of India and Ceylon, greener than the green, the beauty, and perfection of tea estates, the beauty and perfection of nature. Images associated with the cultures and traditions of the tea growers.  Images of British oppression and loot associated with tea, the poverty, and exploitation of the workers.

Along with the physicality, an infinite weight – sadness – fills my experience of the sip. Images of my childhood, my adolescent, my adulthood – happy moments associated with tea, sad moments associated with tea assail me. I watch and experience all these sail by like one would watch a movie – unperturbed, unattached, knowing that all this is real, yet not real. A feeling of gratitude, plenitude, sorrow, compassion, abundance and joy is the part of that experience. I experience these, yet I don’t hold onto any of it, and  allow all to drift by.

The real experience of the tea – in that moment of time – fills me completely. I see (images), taste (flavor), hear (sound), experience (consciousness), touch (in my mouth). I have engaged all my senses in the service of that sip of tea. No competing thought, feeling, or image exists. The world does not exist at that moment.

I have attempted to describe the experience in words, but essentially, such experiences in their totality, are indescribable. And this happens in a flash – all of it. By the time my encounter with that single sip nears its end, I have experienced the taste of tea in totality. I am mindful of that sip of tea. Nothing else that exists in my psyche, relating to tea is left unexplored.

These mindful states are intuitive – they are inside out. I cannot compel my mind into doing this. The mind is incapable. These moments are the gifts of the self, the atman, the soul, as it strives to express itself. These moments are sheer,unparalleled bliss, they are poetry.  Only a relaxed, reflective mind can achieve these states.

I can only experience in the sip, the images, experiences, virtues and qualities that I have accumulated within. In that sense, we’re a complete universe to ourselves – a closed system that cannot exceed our own Self.  My compassion enables me to experience compassion as a quality of that sip. My innate knowledge imparts a certain “flavor” to that sip. My contemplative stance enables such living in the moment. These abilities and acts – compassion, knowledge, contemplation – in turn are a consequence of my lifestyle and of the choices I make. The “taste” of the tea varies with the properties of our own being. These experiences are unique to me. No one would taste tea quite the same way as I do.

What of this experience is mine, and what belongs to the tea, or the cup, or the environment becomes indistinguishable. These distinctions merge. The distinction is irrelevant anyway, all that matters is the essence of the moment – the experience of mindfulness. I become one with tea. The observer, and the observed are intermingled.

The ability to live in the moment – mindfulness – demands that we be able to condense all of ourselves into the smallest frame of time – also called this moment – and experience that tiny frame of time to its fullest. By such activity, we bypass the brain, the mind, and the illusionary world that exists around us. And just for that moment, we experience the Ultimate Truth.

Thus one may be able to figuratively live a whole lifetime in a moment, without a thought from the past, without a thought about the future. When lived thus, each moment becomes fulfilling, and the next one doesn’t really matter, because the next one would also be a total experience of life lived fully. And our whole life thus becomes a concatenated series of moments that each are filled with indistingushable, indescribable mixture of abundance, joy, plenitude, gratitude and more. Each moment is full of knowlege, learning. Each moment and the constituents of that moment  – the tea, the past, the present, the body, the environment – are acknowledged, and are prized.

Mindfulness, then, becomes a projection of my Self, and a consequence of my lifestyle choices. Mindfulness thus is the ability to engage all your senses into experiencing what presents itself to you in a particular moment.

In the absence of any of the above, the whole cup of tea would simply be mildly flavored hot water, with sugar thrown in, and we would gulp it down without any realization of its significance, or of ours. The tea itself, the moment, and the world at that moment, has limited value or no value at all. That is how most of our lives are lived – mindlessly, unappreciated, and unawares. Our brains – the ego – drives us, not the pure, unadulterated self.

Because the experience of mindfulness is intense, it is therefore sporadic. I would either have to be totally self realised, a person who had attained Nirvana, or Moksha, and has developed the ability to handle such intense moment to moment living where all of my unconscious stuff – accumulated over many lifetimes, or at least accumulated over this lifetimes, is flashing before me every moment. Since I am not such a person, I would go mad if I could experience the world fully, and intuitively all the time. But these sporadic moments – that connect little things around you with all of yourself, are extremely prized anyway.

This weblog is dedicate to all those on this path –

With Metta to All

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The Underappreciated Mooladhara…..

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The ancient man observed that human beings were equipped with varying potentialities and capabilities, and thru such observation, he came to understand that the variations in individual capabilities were created by a special energy that resided in each individual.  He found that each individual activated this energy differently, and therefore accessed the energy differently. Whereas the energy remains dormant in some people, in others it was evolving. In a very small minority, it was fully activated.

In Hinduism, the energy is called prana shakti. In tantric texts, it is called Kundalini. Kundalini is said to reside in the subtle body that envelops and exists in parallel with our physical bodies. Kundalini reposes in the subtle realm between the body and mind visible and invisible, between physical and divine, and between here and not here.

No evidence for the existence of Kundalini energy has been found by science so far, much in the same way as no causal evidence has been found for consciousness, mind, or life.

Today, when people talk of spirituality, the word Kundalini,  Serpent Fire, or the Dragon immediately springs to mind. Kundalini, the mysterious, latent energy powers the universe and its people. Kundalini, the primal, primordial energy  (shakti) is said to be located at the base of the spine.  Throughout antiquity and beyond, the ancients have used different terms like life force, élan vital, entelechy etc etc to refer to it. The shamans accept its existence, the Kabbalah refers to it as Secret Fire, and the Gnostics use Alchemy to achieve the same effects. The story of Adam and Eve is a symbol of awakening consciousness, an activation of Kundalini. In the Christian tradition, the terms ‘the Path of the Initiates’ and ‘the Stairway to Heaven’ used in the Bible, refer to Kundalini’s ascent*.  In Scandinavian, European, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries and many different civilizations of the world, the concept of the serpent power can be seen in their monuments and artifacts. Kundalini, in some shape or form, was known to people from all parts of the world in the past. Buddhism does not directly refer to Kundalini. In his focus on simplicity of life and his emphasis on eradication of suffering, Buddha shied away from any visible display of power that Kundalini can unfold. However, regardless of the lack of acknowledgement, and in spite of that lack, Buddhist meditation invariably unleashes the serpent power to bless the practitioners not only with the legendary Buddhist wisdom that is readily shared with the world, but also with the siddhis or mystical powers that the Buddhist monks and nuns are prohibited from acknowledging, displaying, or sharing. Almost every culture, tradition and religion speaks about a life force, or prana . . .something more than what is uncovered by contemporary science. Each one of us is born with this infinite power within our grasp. Most of us will go thru life without the ability, or need to wake up this dormant storehouse of energy, some of us – the blessed ones – thru luck,  perseverance, and divine grace, will enjoy the fruits of the divine gift Kundalini.

Image result for kundalini pictureKundalini is usually represented as a snake coiled three and a half times around, in the same way DNA strands are coiled. The three rotations of the serpent represent the first three levels of consciousness – unconscious, subconscious and conscious; and the half turn refers to the awakened super-consciousness.  The evolution of consciousness is connected with time, and the snake is also known as Kaal or time, which is also a synonym for death. Thus the winding of the snake also represents the past, present and future.

This serpent power symbolizes the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious in man. There are seven whirling energy centers in the body (chakras) that serve as entry points for life energy (or prana) into human body. These seven chakra centres in human body correspond to various organs and glands of the body based on their positions. The energy that they dissipate fertilizes the growth of not only the positive aspects of the person but the negative aspects as well. Hence before any work to awaken this latent energy is initiated, preparatory work to enhance purity of mind is emphasized.

Because the latent Kundalini energy is said to be located at the base of the spine, if we represent the human body as a tree, then the base of the spine would represent the root of the tree. It is a given that a healthy root is essential for a healthy tree.

The energy centre associated with the base of the spine is labelled as Mooladhara Chakra (Sanskrit: मूलाधार, IAST: Mūlādhāra, English: “root support”), or the Root Chakra. This area controls and energizes the whole physical body. The muscular system, the skeletal system, the spine, the quality of blood, the adrenal glands and the internal organs are all strengthened and controlled by the Mooladhara Chakra. It is believed that if the Mooladhara Chakra of a person is rightfully activated, the person will be robust and healthy.

Right above the Mooladhara Chakra lies the Swadhishtana Chakra, or the Sacral Chakra. Mooladhara Chakra exerts a very strong influence on the Swadhistana Chakra

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Swadhishtana Chakra, (Sacral Chakra is associated with the Jungian Eros, the energy and passion that is the hallmark of everyday human life. This encompasses passion, desire, aspirations, dreams, hopes, sexual life and our expectations of love and life. A malfunctioning Swadhishtana Chakra will manifest as problems related with Freudian libido in general viz lack of direction, goals, ambition, passion, conviction, energy, motivation and problems with the sexual drive itself.

Swadhistana Chakra is also said to be greatly influenced by Ajna (Third Eye) Chakra which is associated with intelligence, consciousness, sentience and knowledge, and Vishuddhi (Throat) Chakra, which is associated with speech and personal power. The association is readily understood, as our intellect and our personal power plays a significant part in maintaining, and controlling our erotic life – where the term erotic is defined as that ‘pertaining to eros’ – here eros being the Jungian Eros (not the Freudian Sex)

Therefore, Mooladhara Chakra – in and thru its control of Sadhistana Chakra, controls and influences extremely important aspects of human lives.

The Mooladhara Chakra is affiliated with the sense of smell. The activation of the Mooladhara Chakra can lead to a heightening of sensory perceptions, especially the refinement of the senses of smell and hearing. We often become aware of aromas and sounds that are not perceptible to others, or hear sounds that are not heard by others. We may smell aromas or hear sounds from different timelines, from the past, or from the future, which others are not able to.

The color assigned to the Mooladhara Chakra is red, the color of vitality and passion. It points to a strong, dense energy connected to the earth. Our existence has its roots in the earth and therefore the earth element or bhoomi tatva is assigned to the Mooladhara Chakra.

Mooladhara Chakra is further represented by the inverted triangle indicating the beginning of our spiritual development; the broadside upwards and outwards represent the direction of the developing consciousness. The sound of the Mooladhara is Lam. Invocation of Lam perturbs status quo, and agitates the Chakra into activation. The Chakra is blocked by accumulation of eons of unconscious material. Activation involves release of this suppressed unconscious material. All of it must rise to the surface and dissolve, before the latent energy underneath can become available for processing. Therefore, there is a emphasis on “letting go” of known and unknown hurts, slights, trauma and related negative emotions thru meditation and forgiveness. Hence activation of the Mooladhara Chakra may initially bring to surface unpleasant memories, feelings, or episodes which must be laid to rest before the energies can be beneficially utilized. If these issues are not dealt with, and release of energy is forced, the suppressed problems are amplified, and may result in increased depression, anxiety, anger, feelings of vengeance, even psychosis. Therefore, it is to individual’s advantage that the progress be steady, and monitored. A successful activation of Mooladhar Chakra will brings forth freedom from repressed traumatic memories from the past, and the psychic energy used up in maintaining such memories, and their repression, also becomes available to a individual.

Someone asked me a very interesting question the other day – why does Kundalini repose in the Mooladhara Chakra, and not in the Ajna (Third Eye), or Sahasrara (Corwn – Brain/Mind and beyond). Its a fair question to ask – after all, these two Chakras – Ajna and Sahasrara – are of the highest order, and represent the loftiest virtues of humankind where as Mooladhara controls our basest instincts. Why would an intelligent god depend on the lowly Mooladhara rather than the virtuous Ajna, or Sahasrara to guard this divine energy?  Indeed, all aspirants and devotees of Kundalini hope for an opening of the Ajna Chakra, which is also referred to as Third Eye Awakening. The Third Eye is the legendary all seeing eye of Shiva, located between the brows. It is said that the awakening of Ajna Chakra unleashes wisdom and knowledge about the universeand enables siddhis, or mystical powers, including but not limited to the powers to see the past, present and future.

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The answer to this question is quite simple – this is the most optimum design of the world that could be. Lets see how that is so.

Humans are born with latent Kundalini reposed at the base of the spine instead of an dynamically active Kundalini spinning its power in the Ajna or Sahasrara Chakra. This is designed to enable the world and its cycles to be what they are. This moment is a seed for the next moment. A mother and child relationships is a metaphor for time. The next moment that will be born of this moment – the child – will inherit the psychic dna of this moment, it will inherit the fundamental characteristics of this moment.  That is all there is to life – our moment to moment existence, each moment building on itself, to create the complexity and the cycle called life, death and rebirth; much in the same way the 0’s and 1’s build on each other to create complex mathematics; much like the seven notes creates a complex compilation of music and sound that we call songs. And so on. When we perform calculus operations, or when we hear Bach or Beethoven, we don’t see or pay attention to the basic 0’s and 1’s, or the underlying notes of music. When we look at a chair, a desk, a building, or a mountain, we don’t see atoms, electrons or protons. In the same way, our lived life moves too fast for us to track individual moments. But these moments are the building stones of our lives, the building blocks for propagation of life. We just are too distracted, unmindful – ignorant – to see how the moments all add up.

It is the very flaw in how this moment is lived by us, which defines the salient characteristics of the next moment, which in turn defines the next one and next one and so on. The unfinished business of this moment is transmitted to the next moment, and we are given an opportunity to complete it in the next moment, and next, and next and so on.

At the time of death, the imperfection of our life lived in that last moment represents our unfinished business in this world. These imperfections create a residual moment – a child moment that arises of those imperfections. The residual moment carries in its womb, our Karma from the past moment, acting like a bridge that spawns across the divide between the life ending moment, and the following moment in which rebirth occurs. Thus the imperfections in our moment of death necessitate a rebirth (so we may complete our unfinished business in the next life). These imperfections, unfinished business, or past Karma, are carried into a new body on rebirth.

If the moment of death was perfectly lived, there would be no baggage attached to us and hence no need for that baggage to be parked anywhere – into a rebirth. A person would attain Moksha or Nirvana. But it is we ourselves, unknowingly, cause ourselves to perpetuate an endless cycle, by living imperfectly in these current moments. We set off a chain of events that only we can break.

Hence, it is our Karma, unfinished business in this world, the imperfections in our life – that propagate the cycle of birth and death.  Thus our sloth, and our innocence – which can also be called our ignorance –  creates the basis for propagation of life as we know it, keeping us trapped in the unending eternal cycle of life and death. The sooner we complete the unfinished business, the sooner we can exit out of this cycle.

The story of Adam and Eve is a metaphor for human existence, the fruit from the tree of knowledge being the metaphor for Kundalini.  This world represents the Garden of Eden, and Maya, or our inability to know ourselves and our inability to see how things really are, represents the ignorance and the innocence of Adam and Eve.

So long as Adam and Eve had not tasted the fruit from the tree of knowledge, they were blissfully unaware of the real world, and were insanely happy in Paradise. They were unconscious and ignorant about the universe itself, the nature of life, or their part in the universe. They carried no responsibility  or accountability for their actions, being controlled by the Will of God. In their ignorance,  they enjoyed their life in an unaware manner, roaming naked in the Garden of Eden, Paradise being the only place they knew of. Their knowledge and intellect was severely curtailed by their bondage to the Will of God. It is metaphorically significant that it was a serpent that led them to their awareness.

Image result for adam and eve

Likewise, we humans, their descendants, are as innocent, and unaware of the significance of the fruits from the tree of knowledge – guarded by our very own serpent power. The Kundalini lies dormant, at the base of our spine, as accessible to us as the apple was to Adam and Eve, but we go thru lives being zombies, attached to our current, earthly, materialistic existence, without really being conscious of, or having any knowledge or understanding of the universe, our role in it, and the nature of life represented by the cycle of life and death, afraid to be courageous enough to take a bite of the proverbial Apple.

Kundalini thus represents our highest unrealized potential. Only we ourselves can unlock this potential.

Once they took a bite of the Apple, Adam and Eve acquired consciousness. They could never go back to their earlier state and thus were forced to leave the symbolic paradise. They matured into responsible and accountable humans, with intellect, knowledge, wisdom and consciousness by experiencing the fullness of life in their ability to realize themselves. It was the taste of the forbidden fruit which unveiled their ignorance forever. There was no going back.

Much in the same way, Kundalini pierces the veil of Maya, and allows us to see the world as it is. There is no going back to ignorance.

The longing to return to the Garden of Eden is symbolically the longing for return to the womb. It represents our wish for a simpler, uncomplicated life. Our wish to avoid our responsibilities as an adult. It arises when we find ourselves unable to meet the challenges that life throws in our way. It is a psychic response to the existential isolation. There is no womb there that can take us back – we have to reconcile to the fact, and carry the loads of existence on our shoulders, enduring cycle after cycle after cycle of this existential suffering  – until we can find a way to break the cycle. The tool and technique to break this cycle is given to us, in the form of Kundalini.  It lets us experience the Absolute Truth, and the Truth sets us free.

We experience time in moments, days, months, years, eons. We read about such time in books, but such knowledge is not ours, it is merely someone else’s truth. We read about the universe, but we have no experience of the universe. Our lives remain limited to that of paradise earth, and we shirk responsibility for our own growth. We are conditioned to live in ignorance by the Will of God. We live in a grip of Maya. That is how the world is. That is how Life propagates. The world as we know it, exists because of our aspirations, dreams, wishes, wants, wishes, desires, love, and sex. These are fuels that propagate life. These are the possessions of Mooladhara, and Swadhishtana Chakra. These are divine gifts to ordinary humans. They sustain and maintain our existence in this realm if that is what we would like. The world is meant to go on, in exactly the same way because we will it to be so.

For those who want a different kind of world, Kundalini is meant to provide an option to exit.

Buddha’s Middle Path is said to enable the attainment of Nirvana  – freedom from the cycle of life and death. When Buddha attained enlightenment,  he entered into a dialogue with god and is said to have exclaimed : I have cut the cords that you had used to bind me in the cycle of life and death. Living life mindfully enables a practitioner of Buddhism to create perfection in the existing moment. The moment of death too becomes such a perfect moment, and therefore that moment cannot create a child as there is nothing to propagate, or transmit. This cuts open the cycle of birth and death.

The crowning glory of Kundalini – the awakening of the Sahasrara Chakra or Crown Chakra too professes to enable Moksha, freedom from the cycle of birth and death. One  achieves Moksha by activating the Sahasrara Chakra, which is the last chakra. It can be successfully activated only after all other chakras have been activated, ie only after a person has rid himself or herself of the unconscious materials and no Karma accumulates to create more material. Thereafter, there is no rebirth, and there is no unfinished business left, nothing to carry over into next life.

But consider for a moment what would happen if every human being was born with a dynamic, awakened Kundalini residing at the Ajna, or Sahasrara Chakra. The imperfection inherent in human life creates the need for the seed of time at the moment of death. It is the infirmity and the flaw of that moment of death, which creates the need for the next moment. If the moment of death is flawless, the life force will have no baggage, or Karma to carry forward. Past karma is the building block for rebirth. If the building block is missing, a new life cannot spawn. The cord that propagates the cycle, is cut. Every individual will achieve Nirvana. No life can spawn, no children would be born, no world would exist.

Or – if activating Sahasrara Chakra was relatively easy, every human being would be enlightened, every human being would be able to pierce the veil of Maya, every human being would be able to look into past present and future, and take appropriate actions for his or her benefit, and last by not the least – every human being would be able to break away from the eternal cycle of life and death. Again, the life flow would cease. There could be no life created from life. The world would not, could not go on. Each human created would attain Nirvana. No children would be born. The world, as we know it, would not exist.

Therefore, to quote Albert Einstein “God doesn’t play dice.” The world, and humans, are creations of an intelligent design. We exist, because a latent passive Kundalini in the Mooladhara Chakra is the most optimum manner in which this world could exist. Any other design would be flawed. A design where every human is born with an active Kundalini reposed in the Ajna or Sahasrara Chakra would be a nihilistic design. It would not be self sustaining.

We continue to exist, and our world continues to exist only because we lead imperfect lives. We therefore choose to be in this perpetual cycle. And so get what we want. We get to live in this Paradise, this Garden of Eden, much like Adam and Eve did. Choosing to activate the Kundalini would be akin to taking a bite of the proverbial Apple, we would initiate the process of exiting the cycle.

For this reason, the importance of Mooldhara Chakra cannot be emphasized enough. It is one of the most under appreciated Chakra of the system, and yet the most important in creating and sustaining our existence, and our world.  All of us aspire to Ajna, and Sahasrara awakening, but it is Mooladhara Chakra that must be credited and thanked for maintaining our health, safety, relationships, passions, motivations, hopes, aspirations, dreams, and effort which make life what it is – liveable. As the name says – it is the root chakra, the most important of the lot, on which the human existence in this labyrinth of the Mayajaal depends.

Therefore, it is Mooladhar Chakra (and not Ajna or Sahasrara Chakras) that houses and protects Kundalini, which lies passive at the base of our spine, like a genie in a bottle – waiting to be awakened and released, promising to do your bidding. It is an option we have always had. Activating Kundalini is a conscious choice we will make when we have had enough of this Paradise.

Those of us who are fortunate enough, will hear its call, and respond in ways that will realize this power within us. It will then hopefully enable us to rise to our fullest potential, also referred to as self realization, which is synonymous with god realization. Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi are examples that fully realized Kundalini can bring forth.

Others less fortunate will continue to frolic around on this paradise called earth, enjoying its material benefits, shying away from the fruit from the proverbial tree of knowledge and wisdom. They will spend their life shirking responsibility for self realization, and will remain engaged in the grip of the vicious cycle of life and death until they choose responsibility.

The energy release is symbolically called the awakening, since it also brings forth an expansion of consciousness, and an honest and true experience of the self. This awakening is not often easy on some as it burns away the unconscious material from the past that is stored in the psyche. Much like psychotherapy, it is often a very painful and long drawn process. Many authors write about the perils and hardships faced during such a Spiritual Emergency.  This leads one to wonder if it would be better to allow the unconscious to remain latent. Yes, that is a choice. One has a choice not to enter into psychotherapy much like one has a choice not to opt for an operation to remove a tumor. Free Will allows us to choose what we want to do with our lives. Kundalini experience is not for the faint hearted, but a seeker of lofty fruits such as eternal freedom from the bondage of life and death is required to have courage and resilience. One has to work for it.

Kundalini is simply an energy of a certain kind, much like nuclear power is an energy of a certain kind. Kundalini energy itself is not a positive, negative, good or bad any more than nuclear power is positive, negative, good or bad. How we harness this energy, and what we use it for, is personal and individual. Once activated, Kundalini simply enhances us in every way. If we are weak, that weakness is amplified in us. If we have inherent negative traits, those negative traits are magnified in us.  If our minds are fraught with confusion and chaos, that confusion and chaos will be magnified in us. If we seek to do good, it will enable us the same way it will enable us if  we seek to be evil.

In order to ensure that one’s Kundalini experience is positive, it is imperative that the body and mind be well prepared for such an experience. A calm and quiet mind will receive this energy quickly, peacefully and will be able to integrate it with the psyche. If a mind is cluttered with thoughts – being depression, anger, envy, panic anxiety, greed, desire, sex  etc –  the energy would only magnify those unwholesome thoughts.

Sometimes people complain of suffering neurological illness, or even psychosis, as a consequence of Kundalini activation.  Such crisis occurs only when the unprepared body is forced to become the receptor of Kundalini energy. If there is excessive chatter in the mind, there is no figurative space for Kundalini energy, and sickness may result. Spiritual development occurs only when every thought, every image that we have amassed,  has been processed, and all obstacles that could get in the way of an energy transfer, are removed.  Clarity and quietude is the precondition of Kundalini. Much like one would not allow a child to play with a nuclear button, in the same way, one may not allow an immature mind, an un-meditative mind, an unquiet mind to receive this energy.

To all those who are actively involved in this journey, I wish you all the best.

Metta to all.

* The ascent of Kundalini and ultimately, the descent of spiritual grace, are symbolized by the cross. This is why Christians make the sign of the cross at Ajna, Anahata and Vishuddhi chakras, for Ajna is the center where the ascending consciousness is transcended and Anahata is where the descending grace is made manifest to the world.

Note: The images used in this blog are not mine, having been borrowed from the internet. They are not being used for commercial purposes to generate any income. My thanks to people who created these images, and apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you object to the use of any particular image, please write to me on madhu.bambroo@gmail.com and I will remove it.

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