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 Vipassana Centres in India …..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…?

aging

“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 !

images

 

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…..

 

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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.

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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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Shiva: Man, Myth or Divine?

Introduction

The following article has been reproduced from the Isha Blog, authored by Sadhguru. Although much more could be said on the topic, nevertheless, the wonderfully concise article forces one into deep introspection and inner dialogue. It echoes my core beliefs that Shiva resides within the quantum world, in the world of large objects, and in the spaces in between and beyond. Everything is Shiva. Nothing is Shiva. Nothing is not Shiva. Since Shiva is everything and nothing, therefore concepts cannot be rationalised by human brain. The totality of this understanding comes only thru personal experience of the term Shiva. By extension, an individual is everything. An individual is nothing as well. An individual is Shivansh – a sliver of Shiva.

http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/yoga-meditation/history-of-yoga/who-is-shiva-meaning/

Who is Shiva? Many stories and legends surround this figure. Is he a god? Or a construct of collective imagination? Or is there a deeper meaning to Shiva, revealed only to those who seek?


Who is Shiva? Many stories and legends surround this most prominent figure of Indian spiritual traditions. Is he a god? Or a myth constructed from Hindu culture’s collective imagination? Or is there a deeper meaning to Shiva, revealed only to those who seek?

 

Sadhguru: When we say “Shiva,” there are two fundamental aspects that we are referring to. The word “Shiva” means literally, “that which is not.” On another level, when we say “Shiva,” we are referring to a certain yogi, the Adiyogi or the first yogi, and also the Adi Guru, the first Guru.

So Shiva is described as a non-being, not as a being. Shiva is not described as light, but as darkness. Humanity has gone about eulogizing light only because of the nature of the visual apparatus that they carry. Otherwise, the only thing that is always, is darkness. Light is a limited happening in the sense that any source of light – whether a light bulb or the sun – will eventually lose its ability to give out light. Light is not eternal. It is always a limited possibility because it happens and it ends. Darkness is a much bigger possibility than light. Nothing needs to burn, it is always – it is eternal. Darkness is everywhere. It is the only thing that is all pervading.

But if I say “divine darkness,” people think I am a devil worshiper or something. In fact, in some places in the West it is being propagated that Shiva is a demon! But if you look at it as a concept, there isn’t a more intelligent concept on the planet about the whole process of creation and how it has happened. I have been talking about this in scientific terms without using the word “Shiva” to scientists around the world, and they are amazed, “Is this so? This was known? When?” We have known this for thousands of years. Almost every peasant in India knows about it unconsciously. He talks about it without even knowing the science behind it.

The First Yogi

On another level, when we say “Shiva,” we are referring to a certain yogi, the Adiyogi or the first yogi, and also the Adi Guru, the first Guru, who is the basis of what we know as the yogic science today. Yoga does not mean standing on your head or holding your breath. Yoga is the science and technology to know the essential nature of how this life is created and how it can be taken to its ultimate possibility.

Sadhguru at Kanti Sarovar

This first transmission of yogic sciences happened on the banks of Kanti Sarovar, a glacial lake a few miles beyond Kedarnath in the Himalayas, where Adiyogi began a systematic exposition of this inner technology to his first seven disciples, celebrated today as the Sapta Rishis. This predates all religion. Before people devised divisive ways of fracturing humanity to a point where it seems almost impossible to fix, the most powerful tools necessary to raise human consciousness were realized and propagated.

One and the Same

So “Shiva” refers to both “that which is not,” and Adiyogi, because in many ways, they are synonymous. This being, who is a yogi, and that non-being, which is the basis of the existence, are the same, because to call someone a yogi means he has experienced the existence as himself. If you have to contain the existence within you even for a moment as an experience, you have to be that nothingness. Only nothingness can hold everything. Something can never hold everything. A vessel cannot hold an ocean. This planet can hold an ocean, but it cannot hold the solar system. The solar system can hold these few planets and the sun, but it cannot hold the rest of the galaxy. If you go progressively like this, ultimately you will see it is only nothingness that can hold everything. The word “yoga” means “union.” A yogi is one who has experienced the union. That means, at least for one moment, he has been absolute nothingness.

When we talk about Shiva as “that which is not,” and Shiva as a yogi, in a way they are synonymous, yet they are two different aspects. Because India is a dialectical culture, we shift from this to that and that to this effortlessly. One moment we talk about Shiva as the ultimate, the next moment we talk about Shiva as the man who gave us this whole process of yoga.

Who Shiva is Not!

Unfortunately, most people today have been introduced to Shiva only through Indian calendar art. They have made him a chubby-cheeked, blue-colored man because the calendar artist has only one face. If you ask for Krishna, he will put a flute in his hand. If you ask for Rama, he will put a bow in his hand. If you ask for Shiva, he will put a moon on his head, and that’s it!

Shiva, sculpture at the entrance of Adiyogi Alayam

Every time I see these calendars, I always decide to never ever sit in front of a painter. Photographs are all right – they capture you whichever way you are. If you look like a devil, you look like a devil. Why would a yogi like Shiva look chubby-cheeked? If you showed him skinny it would be okay, but a chubby-cheek Shiva – how is that?

In the yogic culture, Shiva is not seen as a God. He was a being who walked this land and lived in the Himalayan region. As the very source of the yogic traditions, his contribution in the making of human consciousness is too phenomenal to be ignored. Every possible way in which you could approach and transform the human mechanism into an ultimate possibility was explored thousands years ago. The sophistication of it is unbelievable. The question of whether people were so sophisticated at that time is irrelevant because this did not come from a certain civilization or thought process. This came from an inner realization. This had nothing to do with what was happening around him. It was just an outpouring of himself. In great detail, he gave a meaning and a possibility of what you could do with every point in the human mechanism. You cannot change a single thing even today because he said everything that could be said in such beautiful and intelligent ways. You can only spend your lifetime trying to decipher it.

Shiva & Shakti shrines from 8-12 century AD

In this country, in ancient times, temples were built mostly for Shiva, no one else. It was only in the last 1000 or so years that other temples came up. The word “Shiva” literally means “that which is not.” So the temple was built for “that which is not.” “That which is” is physical manifestation; “that which is not” is that which is beyond the physical. A temple is a hole through which you enter into a space which is not. There are thousands of Shiva temples in the country, and most of them don’t have any form as such. They just have a representative form and generally it is a linga

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Mindfulness Is. . .

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The Underappreciated Mooladhara…..

Image result for Muladhara

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.

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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.

Posted in Christchurch, Counseling, Creativity, Expressions, New Zealand, Psychology, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My quest for the god…

“My  quest for the god” – The title isn’t grammatically incorrect – I specifically made it the way it is. I put in the word “the” there, and de-emphasised the word “god”.  Since all religions claim monopoly on the god – not god, therefore the term the is more appropriate.

But today I want to discuss my personal god, not a generic god, nor someone else’s god. And given the plurality of gods, and the fact that existence of god has not been scientifically proven yet, at this time, the term “god” represents a common noun, not a proper noun. Hence I removed the capital G. If the capital G is necessitated because I must show my respect for the god – well the respect is a matter of personal relationship between me and my god. Respect is not defined by, or as, a capital letter. Capital letter represents a human definition of “respect” – and I would hope that my god is beyond  requiring an outward, consensual sign of respect from me. In fact I will say that my god is beyond needing my respect for him. Any respect that I offer, is for my benefit. My god doesn’t care about such human practices. So I don’t honestly care about making a big deal about “respecting god” the way others do.  My respect is internalised. I don’t need to offer outwardly proof.

I believe in god. I do. Not in the way religious people do, but as a universal creative force, something that created, creates and sustains us. If being religious entails being aligned to supporting the sustenance of the universe, I think in that sense I am more religious than anyone else I personally know, or have known, even though I may not outwardly appear to be dogmatically religious. So we have a question here – what constitutes religiosity? And can religiosity be universally defined, or is the definition personal as well, in the way the definition of god is personal.

I’m not sure what the god would looks or feels like, but then, this writing is precisely in service of such a quest – an attempt to sort out the entangled web of confusion that often overpowers me as various god images descend into my consciousness during the depth of my meditations.

At various points during my meditative states, I see fleeting images of gods. Miraculously, these images are almost always of Hindu gods. The gods of my ancestors.  There have been a few others sporadically, but prominent among them has been Shiva.

I am from Kashmir, and I recently found out that Kashmir had a line of Shaivite descendants. So my collective conscience must be replete with Shaivism. Shiva makes sense. Shiva empowers me. The power of Shiva is formidable. It brings forth tears to my eyes to think that I am be protected by Shiva. Shiva then is seems to be an outward projection of my need to be protected. It seems like a psychic solution of that need. Despite the kick ass bravado, somewhere down there, I must be afraid of being alone. Somewhere deep down inside my charade of invincibility crumbles and I know myself as insecure, vulnerable. Somewhere deep down, I am terrified of having to bear the burden of responsibility for my existence all alone. And hence I put up psychic defenses to survive that existential terror.  I conjure up an invisible powerful friend that creates in me an illusion of safety.

Shiva may actually be a god in some shape and form somewhere out there. I don’t deny his existence at all. What I am saying is that the entity inside of me, that comes to me during my meditations, is a structured psychic response to my need for comfort and power. With Shiva, I feel powerful, and certain. My confidence is based on predictive validity. Without Shiva, I become acutely aware of my nothingness, my powerlessness, of the existential uncertainty and chaos. Shiva is the father who I assume protects me.

Does the god exist in the form of Shiva? Is Shiva really the God. Is there more to the God than Shiva? These questions are beyond the realm of my discussion. What exists out there, I don’t know. I don’t want to make someone else’s truth as mine. I don’t like to parrot the scriptures without personal experiences of their teachings. What exists within is all I can safely discuss as I have personally experienced it.

If the internal Shiva a psychic image, then it follows that the inner Shiva is also a manifestation of Maya? The power of Shiva may be indisputably existent, but the form is a manifestation of Maya – a veil of name/form (naam roop) is thrown upon the true character of the God, which now appears to me as Shiva.  I am sure some scripture somewhere explains this logic and reasoning as well, and those may be more detailed, more philosophical, or more explanatory – but that is not my truth, it has not been experienced by me. Personal experience – or as Buddha puts it – swayam ki anubhuti – is always more superior, and authentic, to reciting something from rote.

If the form is a manifestation of Maya, then the name/form of Shiva does not – cannot – fully capture the divine. Manifestations are limited in their abilities, the limitations being imposed by the limitations of human existence. We can see only a fraction of the universe, we can hear only a fraction of the universe…and so on. . .and so the universe that we see and know and feel is not the true representation of the universe out there. Is this the hologram we live in? Is this universe as solid as it appears to me, or is it just a probability, Schrodinger’s wave that collapses unless someone is watching? My universe appears solid, 3 dimensional. What it actually is, is beyond my experiences.

So the Shiva of my dreams, visions and manifestations is a HUMAN aspect of god. A 3 dimensional aspect of the god. Or, we can say that it is a simplified aspect that  presents itself to me, to keep me going – in the same way I would present a toy gun to a child, to make him feel powerful.

Did I just disrespect Shiva? No – not at all. I removed the veil of illusion from the physical manifestation of Shiva that I am asked to worship. The Shiva of my dreams/visions. My experiences of the universe, of oneness, of oblivion, of nothingness are also experiences of Shiva. But either the image of Shiva in my psyche doesn’t represent those experiences, or those experiences are somehow dissociated with the image of Shiva in my psyche – which is the fault of our religious upbringing. The image of a stilted personification is extremely limited.

I always had problems with Bhakti Yoga. I just did not know what my problems were. This is it. How can something personified as a human create an experience of the divine? How can one believe without an experience? How long must faith without experience go on, and how blindly can we continue for how long? People do. More power to them. I can’t. I have a fully functional brain.

This problem of limitation arises because we ascribe certain un-god-like qualities to our gods. Our scriptures declare the god to be all-gracious,  all-kind, all-blissful, all-loving, almighty. These are our needs, our expectations, our desires. We look for these qualities because with all the sufferings we go thru, and in ways that we struggle thru life, we would like to be under the umbrella of someone kind, blissful, loving, and powerful.

But – and its a very powerful but – these words are human constructs, they are products of our language, which again is a human achievement. The words are meaningless in the language of the universe. For example, what does kindness and love mean in context of the big bang? In the context of galactic infrastructure? In the context of formation of a star, or a black-hole? Do you see where I am going with that? To limit a god to earthly requirements, and limit him by bestowing on him human virtues, is ridiculous. We humans are an anomaly, not the norm.

The only entity that bestows grace, kindness, bliss, love and power on us, is ourselves. We are most in need of mercy, grace and love, and only we can grant ourselves mercy, grace and love. If an external god could bestow these, there would not be so many devoid of god’s grace, mercy and love in the world. Or perhaps god’s grace passes thru the Karmic filters. Perhaps that limits the grace. But a benevolent, kind, loving god would bestow grace and forgiveness on everyone, regardless – no? Anyway, regardless of god’s grace, we ourselves have the power to be merciful, graceful, and loving towards ourselves – and such virtues do NOT have to pass thru the filters of karma. So in that sense, we are more powerful in some ways than god.

This is where I grapple with the construct of power. Perhaps god is powerful. Or perhaps his powers are limited. The power of god doesn’t seem to be random – for he seems to follows laws.

Scriptures state that god is powerful because he has the power of maya below him. This seems to be untrue. The power of Maya is not below him, he does not control Maya.  The power of Maya is within us. And to the extent that Maya can be controlled, it is conrolled by us. Maya lives within humans – the limitations of human capabilities represents Maya. My inability to see the quantum world, and my inability to see the infrared, and ultra violate spectrum of light, or my inability to see beyond a certain distances, or my inability to experience the 11 ( or 100) dimensions of the universe represents Maya. My need to have names for shapes represents Maya. My inability to see how we are all connected, or to understand the mysteries of the universe, represents Maya. Maya is not out there. Maya is a consequence of the lack of our human infrastructure, limitations of the contraptions given to our bodies. Maya is thus within us. Or shall we say Maya is an attribute of our humanity, just like spin is an attribute of an elementary particle.

Maya is personal because the measure of our ignorance is personal. Those that are more enlightened, have overpowered Maya to a certain extent,  science attempts to unveils Maya. Those that live a more worldly materialistic life, are strongly gripped by Maya. A child’s imagination encompasses Maya. But Maya overpowers each one of us to some extent at least. Being human, is being in the grip of Maya. Humanity cannot extinguish Maya. It represents a limitation on humanity, Maya is a metaphor for and a symptom of our human-ness. To be human, is to live in a maya-jaal (web of deceit).

God is also labelled as omnipresent. This adjective depends on how god is defined. If god is defined as the consciousness that binds us and flows thru every elementary particle that forms the basic building black of this creation – whether animate or inanimate – then god is omnipresent. If god is defined as an observer, observed, or as a creator, created, and creation – then god is a obviously in every particle, and therefore omnipresent. But does such an omnipresent god have the ability to break the laws of creation? In other words – is he really all powerful? I would think not. Such a god’s powers would be limited in the same way the powers of a President are limited. Any change would be passed thru a string of parliamentary boards – a will to exercise authority would have to pass thru the rigors of the rules of creation – or chaos would result.

On questions of gender – is god a male or a female? This is again a redundant question. Most of the creation is inanimate, and genderless. Gender is a human construct. It is not a thing that exists in nature. Certain elements of the creation have a certain way of reproducing themselves. They use genital organs. Other elements of creation are enabled with asexual reproduction. Still other elements have other ways of reproducing themselves – like atoms for example – which allows electrons in its outer rings to be “gifted” or “stolen” from other atoms. It is a different method of reproduction than the semen exchange. But it is a exchange nevertheless that leads to “reproduction”.  We humans just perceive  such reproduction differently, and conceptualize and label it differently.

Since everything we have is in the image of god, a universal god wouldn’t really be gendered if such an entity has the ability to bring forth sexual, asexual and atomic reproductions as well. The genders are subsumed in the “it-ness” of god. The god is beyond gender.

The god-property I most value, and that which seems realistic, are the the nirakar, which means formless God. This is the true property of the god. A god that morphs into all shapes and forms – kinda like plastercine. The shapes and forms are projections of my psyche. The shapes are based on my needs, my requirements. The shapes are thus inside of me.

The property of nirgun – virtueless is a strange one. All virtues of the universe are subsumed, because the term virtue is a human construct as well. What virtue can one ascribe to Pluto? Or to Andromeda, or to a Black Hole, or to an electron ? Or perhaps we can construct millions of virtues for each of these. But all such virtues would be constructed, they are contextual, they are a consequence of evolution of language. They are a product of Maya. In of itself, the term virtue is an oxymoron, it has no meaning.

Can we then agree that when one loses language, one loses Maya ?  Can we establish the supremacy of experience over thought, over intellect? Can we agree that intellect creates Maya, or can we say that intellect demolishes Maya? Perhaps both statements are true. Too much of intellect creates delusions. Too little leaves us ignorant.

The problem with this – and such philosophical debates is that they don’t really go anywhere. They’re just represent a diahorrea of words, and constipation of ideas. The debates themselves are endless.

So – how about we use drop all  arguments, and counter arguments, and just say the god simply “is”. Period. The simplest definition of god then becomes this : the god is my experience of myself.

The argument arises – which myself? Is god the experience of myself when I was 5 or when I was 20, or when Am now 55? Well, we can go a step forward and say that the definition of god is my experience of myself in the here and now. In this moment.

This definition makes god multifaceted, limitless, and full of potential and potentialities as the scriptures espouse. What the scriptures espouse, I can never understand until I experience it. Hence such a definition allows me to experience the god in his/her/it’s fullest. And it allows my experience of the god to improve with my ability to experience. It allows endless unfoldings that align with my own growth. And since I change every minute, my experience of god is never static. Since I am a reflection, and the reflected, and the reflector, I can figuratively see myself in every which way like in a 3 way mirror, in a 3 dimensional manner – which is all I am capable of seeing anyway. The rest is beyond me.

Since that which lies beyond my experience of myself, cannot be experienced by me, therefore my experience of god that is beyond my personal experience is not possible, and therefore irrelevant. It is mere speculation. It will be a child like imagination. If there is something that exists beyond me, it represents the unknowable, something I will never understand, and thus should not concern myself with. If I can just understand that which is given to me, that is enough.

I don’t think I answered all the questions that I started with. Perhaps there are no answers. Or perhaps the answers are a few million years or a few million miles, or a few million dimensions away from humanity.

If everything about everything is known, would that make god redundant or would it establish the need for god or would it establish the existence of god? I don’t know. But I know that the next time I see an image of Shiva arising in my meditations, I can understand this image better than I did before today, because i will be linking it to my personal experience of myself in that moment – which is also the experience of fullness of god.

My argument can extend to any god or deity like Jesus, Prophet Mohammad etc. In the end, there is no truth, except for the experience of here and now.  Hence it is best that we follow this absolute truth – and see things as they are, at that moment, not as we want them to be in some other time and place.

With metta to all.

 

Posted in Christchurch | 3 Comments

Of pimps and (a)dharmic men….

!Image result for cheerharan

What prompted me to write today is a look at the signature on my email account, a dream sequence of Draupdi’s cheerharan, and an altercation with the dharmic police (in reverse order).

My email signature is an ancient Indian proverb “Yatra Naryastu Pujyanta, Ramate Tatra Devata” – literally meaning, where women are worshiped/respected, divinity resides there.  Such a profound statement from the ancient world is passed on to me like a heirloom by my ancestors. It carries with it a privilege associated with feminity. But it is such an alien thought in the eastern as well as the western culture today. The Bengaluru rapes and refusal of the educated and religious men to condemn it in a meaningful way, poses a question for every Indian – is this what dharma is? The religious police was quick to kill a muslim man under suspicions of being a beef eater in Dadri. However, no religious police has come forward with a condemnation of the Bengaluru rapes. The only statements we have from the religious community is one in which Maata Mahadevi blames women for the rape. Does beef eating, cow slaughter, Hindutva – the burning issues that inspire so the called religious Hindus  of India today – take precedence over respect for women?

I love India. I am a devoted Indian. And sadly India today has a rape culture which parallels that of Saudi Arabia, and which is progressively getting worse. India swarms with men who threaten, harass, eve tease, molest, expose to, rape and kidnap children, girls and women. These men come from all spheres of society, and are of all ages. Rich/poor, teenagers, adults, middle aged, and even lecherous old men. Growing up in India was an experience I was happy to escape. Streets were unsafe. College was unsafe. Workplace was unsafe. Travelling in autos, taxi’s and buses was unsafe. Elevators were unsafe. Looking at any guy was unsafe for the guy was sure to follow you home. India remains so.  I have been away for over 35 years. I would not mind returning now, only because I surmise that I am significantly older, and hence do not look pretty enough to attract attention. But I would still be afraid. One never knows what the lecher acing you fancies. It was almost a crime to be a beautiful women growing up in India, a crime for which I was punished by men and women alike. I hear the situation is worse now.

Denial of this fact constitutes dishonesty. Much as I love India, I cannot go around claiming that India is a safe country for women. It would be a lie.

If the harassment wasn’t traumatic enough, its the accusations from society, as well as one’s own family and friends that dwarfs the trauma imposed by wayward men. A woman can do nothing right. A man can do nothing wrong. Its just a regressive mindset. And so it was with Nirbhaya a few years ago, and so it was in Bengaluru.

When women raise their voices against rape, they’re told they too deserve being raped. This is the story of keepers of our religion.   Hinduism apparently belongs to these individuals, and needs to be “kept” – in the same way that whores are “kept” by pimps – for exploitation and personal gains. As if Hinduism may not survive but for their (miserable) efforts. Stupid is as stupid does.

Do I hope to change the world by my writings ? No, not at all. The world unfortunately seems to have become unredeemable. But for all those undergoing similar life challenges as mine, it may provide an insight into the nature of their own problems, and perhaps give them strength to endure.

So here’s how the story unfolds…

I know this gentleman called Satish Sharma. Long ago, on facebook, he sent me a friend request, which I accepted. Sharmaji is a renown figure in UK, where he heads numerous Sanatan Dharma outfits. A religious bigwig, or so i am told.

Yesterday a discussion started on Sharmaji’s wall regarding women’s rights in religious texts like Ramayana. Sharmaji is a religious fanatic, and also happens to be a man who believes that Ram’s acts towards Sita were justified, that Sita got what she deserved, which, by inference includes that she deserved to be traumatized, abandoned, and deserved to die.

Image result for sita going into earth

As happens in many of these discussions, when the person who is discussing, fails to make a headway, he calls for “troops” to “put out” the person who is making a wining argument against him. I have been called as a troop many times by various people. Only once did I respond. Realising the lynch mob mentality, I refused participation thereafter.
So yesterday, the first round of people who jumped in to lynch me, seemed to be little more educated than the lynch mob I generally encounter, so I took the bait. Unfortunately they could not present any arguments to defend their point of view. They denied Ramayana had happened the way it as depicted. They said Sita was not helpless, she was a warrior, she did not die the way it is depicted. In other words, Sita was never traumatized, she was never abandoned, and she never committed suicide, and it is all a lie. So here we have, denial of history, of the atrocities committed on Sita, and on millions of women since Sita in the name of religion. For thousands of years women have been beaten into submission under the guise of religious validation for Ram’s behavior. Now we have a bunch of men claiming that was all for nothing?
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So my next point was, even if all that were true, how does the real story matter ? The consensus accepts Ramayana as it is. It accepts Ram’s treatment of his wife as legitimate behavior. Brides are burnt everyday in India because of immoral, greedy parents who scheme to kill their daughters -in-law, often burning the bride alive – so they can marry their son off to another woman and seek another set of dowry. All this, because men are taught to be unwaiveringly obedient and the society finds religious validity in their acts of violence against women.

In Ramayana, Ram exiles his pregnant queen – the wife who made him famous, and turned him into a god like figure, a wife who sacrificed royal life to accompany him to 14 years of exile. She did not have to, but she did,out of love and devotion. After 14 years, Ram becomes a king and betrays her by throwing her out of the palace when she is pregnant. He wants to be a popular king..Thats it. Thats the only reason Ram kicks out his devoted wife of 15 years.  Did his brain malfunction? Apparently, for he is unable to think ethically. No questions of loyalty, duty,  responsibility hound him as he orders her thrown out of the palace. No sense of dharma awakens within him towards his unborn children.  Such an absolute disrespect of the feminine.

This is the role model that Indian men are expected to follow. No wonder India’s divorce rate is rising faster than speed of light. No wonder a woman is raped every minute. No wonder bride burning has become family entertainment.

Continuing with the story, Sita – the former princess, and queen,  lives in a forest, brings up the children as a single parent, in an ashram. When the children turn into teenagers, Ram, who has by then been denounced by his subjects for such betrayal of his wife, is now desperate to appear “just” in the eyes of his subjects. So again for his own popularity and publicity, he now orders Sita to return to him. Claiming property rights – eh?  Which self respecting woman would like to return to a husband like Ram? You can guess what happens next. Sita spurns him. But he’s a king and can’t take NO for an answer.(And so, Indian men even today will never take NO for an answer).  So Sita jumps into an abyss and commits suicide to escape from a dysfunctional marriage rather than return to it, and him.  Wise decision, I would say, as would any woman since Sita.

In Mahabharata, Arjuna – one of the 5 pandava brothers -is ordered by his mother to share his wife with 4 of his brothers. And he does. Draupadi thus has 5 husbands. Does Arjuna’s brain malfunction?  Is he incapable of thinking for himself?  No, of course not. Does he think a woman, a wife, is meant to be shared ? Yes, because mommy said so.  A great warrior, an intelligent being in his own right, turns into a blubbering idiot in the hands of his erring mother.

As if her woes were not enough, the wife shared by 5 brothers is wagered in a game of checkers by the eldest son – Yudhistra. Duryodhan – a cousin of the pandavas – wins the game. Thus a piece of property that Arjuna had shared with his brothers, is passed on to Duryodhana. To do with her as he pleases. African slaves probably had more rights. And these are our gods, our role models. Duryodhana, eager to ‘see” and “show” his newly acquired property, begins disrobing her in public, while the elders of the clan, including grandfather Bhishm Pitamah, and other  “gods” silently watch. This act, of disrobing is declared adharma by the Pandavas and by Hindus. What about wagering a wife? Nope. Thats not adharma, according to Hinduism. Talk about situational ethics !

It is the oft repeated story in Indian legends. Our hero, our God, turns into a  blundering idiot, has a brain malfunction when it comes to his wife. Our hero will fight an army of demons to save a cow because it wins him accolades. But wife? What does helping a wife get him? Nothing. So why should he do anything for women? Wife has a lower status then a cow. Sound familiar? Yes. Where is even an ounce of dharma in all these men?

These men are expected to be role models for our children, teenagers, and men in general?

Yes, these men showed valor in war.  But when it came to women, their brains always malfunctioned. In a parallel world, Indian men are great achievers even today. Microsoft, Google, Intel – you name it, intelligent Indian men are everywhere. But when it comes to women, their brains continue to malfunction since Ram, Arjuna, Yadhustra.  Like Jung’s definition of a complex, there is a hole in the psyche of men, that attracts all evil towards itself repetitively since antiquity, energizing itself, sucking all light and creating blackness, and bleakness in the world of women – like a black hole.

Many argue that the history has been twisted, that it was not so. Others justify the reasons for the actions of our heros. We’re told the women endured torture for a good cause. Who cares?  And who decides whether women should or should not endure torture for a good cause? These men with malfunctioning brains? Will women ever have a say in whats good for them? Will women ever have control over their own bodies? Sound familiar? Yes, its the same argument that also spans the pro choice v pro life debate. Who controls women’s bodies? Men? State ? God? Or women themselves?

Regardless of what actually happened 8000 years ago, and what their reasons were, the point is, these men are wrong role models for man-woman relationships. No one copies Zeus. Or Apollo. Or Ares. They are made irrelevant because their behavior is considered inappropriate for modern times. And so must these Hindu gods become irrelevant in context of relationships. Bhakti cult carries blame for a lot of evils in Indian society.

So here’s how the argument got abusive and disrespecful.

In my argument with Sharmaji and the first batch of the mob,  I suggested that we must concentrate our social activism on promoting and protection of women and children. Caring about Ram Setu bridge, cow protection and beef related issues – I felt – was secondary to women’s right and respect. If societal evils were taken care of, if molestation, sex abuse,disrespect of women were outlawed by the religious police, Hinduism would automatically flourish.  Woman shaming by religious policemust be replaced by stringent measures against men. Currently it seems rape is the women’s fault, and men everywhere start chanting “woman’ fault” “woman’s fault” “woman’s fault”….tota bolo Ram Ram. Tota says Ram Ram. As history dictates, a man’s brain WILL malfunction when it is used in service of women’s rights.

Yatra Naryatu Pujyante, Tatra Ramayte Devata. Hinduism would be protected and would flourish thru protection and respect of women. That is what the efforts should be directed towards instead of the bullshit about inanimate Ram Setu bridges, Jattakulli bull sports, Hanuman’s hill, Sanjeevni booti…blah blah blah…

When no argument could be presented against this, Sharmaji accused me of being abusive towards the lynch mob. I informed him that he was following a well trodden path. It was the most common argument used to silence women since antiquity. A woman complains against rape, she is called “loose.” A woman complaints about societal/religious evils, she is called “angry” “ranting” or even “psychotic”. Men use such strategy to minimize a woman’s voice, silence her, or render her arguments irrelevant. An angry woman’s argument does not have substance – right? Well, this one woman is different maybe. I don’t honestly care what the world judges me as. My self worth is not tied to what others think of me. I remain true to my own self, to my own calling. I told him so.

When that did not work, a “bulldozer” called Prahlad Kemmara, was presumably called in to protect the face of Hinduism I guess. An uneducated, unintelligent, uninformed, uncivilized, uncouth man who had not read a single text he was ranting about, Prahalad Kemmara began bullying the two of us – me and another woman who jumped in to protect me (almost like Krishna intervenes to help Draupdi).

The expression “Tota bolo Ram Ram” (parrot saying Ram Ram) and “all brawn, no brain” aptly described Prahalad Kemmara.  He had a diarrhea of words and constipation of ideas. He  googled up arguments which others leaders of the time make in context of other discussions.Not a single word, or thought vomited by him, was original. He did not know what psychoanalysis was ,but used the word psychoanalysis repeatedly. He had never read Rajiv Malhotra, but quoted Rajiv Malhotra’s you tube videos. He attached pictures of a book on holocaust, but had never read the book. He did not understand what I wrote in english, but argued incessantly about what I had, in fact, not written.

This nutjob used profanity to bulldoze us right away.He started with calling us bimbos, drunken women, permissive, promoting free sex, falling on top of men; According to him, I was bitter because I did not have a man in my life etc. Apparently women cannot be single, and are not allowed to drink (I prefer being single, and don’t consume alcohol, but will defend the right of a woman to do whatever she pleases !). Apparently, Hinduism does not permit all I stood for. What I stood for – he had no clue.

But lets just admit, for simplicity, that I was guilty as alleged – guilty of nakedness, drinking, perversity. Shiva promoted Tantra – a sexual cult, our goddesses are depicted as scantily clad, Kamasutra is an ancient religious texts that promotes sexual enjoyment. Where does our culture say human beings should be celibate and women are to be clothed from head to toe?  Ooops. It appears he has no clue about our culture when he argues that WE, women, chattels, property, are required to be covered from head to toe, walk 2 steps behind our men, and sacrifice ourselves, committing suicide over some sleazy man who would not honor us,or respect us?  Which Hinduism are you talking about? Not mine.

What he was actually inferring thru his rabid rants was that he lacks the ability to control his penis.  So he has a problem – his rocket launcher penis is out of control. And he feels entitled to demand that the entire species of women change their way of living – in order to assist him with his disability. I’d say get it castrated, you will be free of desire,and the women will be free of you ! True dharma – right?

Everyone in that group – including Sharmaji, the dharmic godman, watched, while this man abused us – me and my fellow kindred. Tota bolo Ram Ram. And he was reciting Ram Ram by rote, without using his brain. Just like men from ISIS say Allah – o- Akbar, without using their brain. Just like Ram, Arjun, before him and all people in between had forgotten that they had a functional brain.

As for Prahalad Kemmara, I have not looked him up, (to me he is like an irrelevant dirty fly, I flicked him off by blocking him) but I am told that the guy has a profile which shows him with a rocket, with phallic representation of a penis. Oh my ! I am impressed by such chavunistic symbolism. Burhan Wani would hold his AK41 and Muslim girls of Kashmir would swoon over it/him. Talk about an original idea…

This is a religious man befriended and supported by Satish Sharma ?!  A rabid man with a rocket for a penis ?!  And this is the depth of deprivation Hinduism has sunk to ?  I rest my case.

Shame on all of those who support bullying under the guise of religious discipline. Shame for falling to such low levels of hooliganism towards genuine voices that question the misogyny in Ramayana – a book written by men, for men to promote a world of male supremacy. If misogyny was defensible, Sharmaji’s arguments would have sufficed. He would not have to seek “strongmen” to silence women in this day and age.

This is how low Hinduism has sunk? How are these people different from Islamists and ISIS then? This is what I asked him, and others there, before blocking off his rabid and perverted rants.

I was traumatized by the exchange, but had a dream in the night which made complete sense. It was a message from my higher self, my atmas, my animus, my soul. It helped me heal and put things in perspective. The dream was about Draupdi’s cheerharan  – the disrobing of Draupdi by Duryodhana after the latter wins her in a game of checkers.
 The similarities are uncanny. When a educated, religious man, a man of power, summons, or even allows “his people” to “disrobe” a woman in “his court” – he has crossed the line, he is not practicing dharma. In fact, Kaurav’s had to face repercussions for their act, even though many religious heavyweights were on their side. In so many ways,the cheerharan was a metaphor for yesterday’s altercation. My psyche – the divine self – recognized it and brought forth the analogy.  It has, after all, become an archetype.
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Mahabharata is not what happened thousands of years ago. In the psychic world, time does not exist. Mahabharata is what happens everyday in this world. Everyday lecherous men disrobe women with their gaze. Everyday, women are silenced,  abused – disrobed –  in groups for voicing their opinion while the group members cheer. Every Duryodhana wins for want of a Krishna to support the women. Sita dies a million deaths every day. Draupudi is disrobed million times each day.

And shame on dharmic people who venerate Sita’s death as noble, fair, and just.  It is an apology of a man – like Ram – who would expect his wife to sacrifice herself. Shame on people who find nothing wrong with a man who wagers his wife in gambling. It is one of Jung’s complexes – which grows bigger and bigger with time, draws everything into itself and if unchecked, has the potential of swallowing the entire existence in itself.

Ram is an archetype of a self centred man. Sita is an archetype for a woman who is betrayed, used and abused. Men and women of today are attracted to these archetypes…and behave predictably.And if religious texts permit such behaviors, then religious texts need to be banned,burned or buried – take your pick – whichever religion that may be. One cannot throw stones at others if one is living in a glass house, and so Hinduism cannot profess to be any better than Islam, if all it does is mimic Islam’s extremism and misogyny. Prahalad Kemmara believed his penis is a rocket. How much worse can one get in the name of religion ?

I don’t profess to be very dharmic. But even I know that reciting religious texts by rote does not constitute dharma. Marketing and selling religion does not constitute dharma. Promoting misogyny, is not dharma. Calling goons to terrorize women and silencing them by bullying them, calling them bimbos, loose, drunken and deserving to be raped, does not constitute dharma. It is our *actions* – in the here and now – which constitute dharma.

Not a word was said to contain the miscreant who went on a rampage yesterday for over 5 hours. Like Bhishm Pitamah, Sharmaji was a silent spectator of this disrobing. If this is Sanatan Dharma, Satishji – then it is better you unleash this Sanatan Dharma only on your wife and daughters – your chattels – please spare the rest of us women.We deserve something better.

This morning, one of the members from that group, came to my wall and attempted to argue Sharmaji’s role in yesterday’s events.  Someone else argued that maybe Sharmaji had NOT been watching. Firstly, I find her behavior an uncalled for intrusion into my privacy, and told her so. Secondly, a leader is always vicariously responsible for his followers’ actions and words. Although Bhishm Pitamah did not personally disrobe Draudi, he contributed to the crime thru his silence. He erred in not stopping Duryodhana. And in this case, at the very least, Sharmaji was guilty by association. He sure must have read the exchange. I have not had an apology till date. So presumably, Prhalad Kemmari’s behavior was ok in his opinion.  Thirdly, in the facebook world, the owner of the wall is ultimately responsible for the contents, and the arguments, on their wall. Again one sees absolutely no repercussions for the miscreant’s misconduct.So one has to assume that the event was orchestrated, and planned to unfold the way it did. The only thing that had not been foreseen was my resistance, and my ability to document these behaviors on the web.

As I suggested on your wall, people who legitimize rape, symbolise penal superiority need to be forcibly castrated to protect our Hindu gene-pool. Forcibly sterilizing him would be dharmic act, an act of compassion, for the seed does not fall far from the tree, and it will greatly help the cause of Hinduism.

In this case, I await the karmic intervention for yet another metaphoric cheerharan. Time will tell.

If this kind of behavior is sanctioned by Sanatan Dharma, I dont’ even want to know it, let alone adopt it as my religion, for it fills me with shame.  Swami Vivekananda was an Arya Samaji. He did not support the blind (and I mean blind) bhakti.  People like Vivekananda are the ideals that I cherish. Ideals that do not make me hang my head in shame. Buddhist teachings are my favorites too. Buddhism teaches one to be in the here and now. What happened thousands of years ago, doesn’t matter. What matters is how we make a difference in this world.

Hinduism – especially Sanatan Dharma – will never progress until adherants reject the misogyny inherent in our texts. The misogyny is its nemesis. Our failure to reject misogyny makes us no different from Islam. Sanatan Dharma will never flourish until women are given their due respect and freedom. This is the curse of the feminine. And it holds power.

I am a Buddhist, I celebrates Christmas, and I still profess to be a Hindu – just not the Hindu that Sanatana Dharma seems to favor. I am not the one to roll over and become a doormat so that egotistic men can walk over me.  I can find courage of womanhood from within.I am powerful because I am a woman, not in spite of being a woman. I am powerful in spite of self proclaimed “keepers” of our religion – the religious pimps.

Please join me in making your voice heard against such religious radicalism. Our scriptures and the teachings that they impart have been contaminated by the goons,bullies, and pimps who call themselves religious.

I must thank the friends who gave me courage to disclose the dream publicly.

In the end, all this post attempts to convey is – religion is a personal preference. Clothing is a personal preference. What role models one chooses is also a personal preference. What a woman does with her body, is a woman’s decision. When a religion,culture, or society attempts to impose limitation on the freedom of individuals, one must assume that the religion, culture, or society is already decaying, or already decayed. It is in the grip of fanatics because it has repeatedly been rejected by the mainstream, hencethelast ditch attempt by the goons to spread it thru intimidation. In the end, the righteous people fighting for freedom will always win, sooner or later. And history will show the shameful misdeeds of those that intimidate and oppress. The comments of these miscreants – that women are responsible for their rapes – will not be forgotten, nor forgiven. They will resonate in the hallways of feministic philosophy and literature. Women represent the face of Shakti in this world, and will win.

Tathastu. Metta. May God be with you.

 

PS: Today incidentally is Simone de Beauvoir’s birthday. Happy Birthday Ms de Beauvoir. May your legacy cut across cultures and religions and flourish in the name of humanity, equality and justice.

 

Posted in Counseling and Psychotherapy, Expressions, Fresno, New Zealand, Psychology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Great Mother

On the occasion of Navaratras, the 9 days of the Mother, I reblog this with reverence. May the Godess bless and keep us all.

Madhu Sameer

After playing with the developmental aspects of our physical, ego bound existence briefly over the last few weeks, the intuition spontaneously drives to exploring the archetypal, the collective and the symbolic aspects of the mother and the father in greater depth. These writings that follow are not my own ( cited the author at the end), but the selection of these has an autonomous quality to itself, and based on this exploration, its a guess that the next few writings will be dedicated to myths and legends about mother and father from various cultures.

Today, I was drawn to Kali – the Divine Mother. And one can see how the feminine, even in this contemporary society, exists in various facets of the Divine Mother. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Certain level of preliminary knowledge of Hindu deities may be helpful… 🙂

When the gods lay exhausted…

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The Human, the God and the Space Between….

Something I wrote eons ago….sharing now, as it seems less threatening…

 

 

Long ago, in 1993 or thereabouts, I worked as a CIO at Sharjah Airport in UAE. One late evening , everyone had left as it was around 7:00pm. Being an IT professional, I – as IT professionals often do – often worked late, so I believed I was the only person in the in the whole building apart from the operations and nighttime crew that is part of an international airport and works in a restricted area. I saw a light in my bosses office, and wondering what was going on, I walked in to his office. My boss – the CEO of the airport – was only a couple of years older than me, and we shared a great rapport. It was the evening prior to Christmas eve, ie it was on the late evening on 23rd december. As I entered the room, I saw him hunched up at the head a of his very very loooooooong T shaped table. There was a foot high pile of documents on his table, and he was patiently ploughing thru them one by one.  I was shocked to see him work so late, and so asked him if he intended spending this festive evening at work. He pointed at the papers, and said “If I don’t finish them today, you won’t get paid. And its Christmas, you and everyone else need to be paid !”  My heart went out to him, and I muttered, “I wish I could help! It seems so lonely at the top!” He had smiled at me – a sad smile of acknowledgement, before he returned to his pile, ignoring my presence. I quietly and unobtrusively crept out of his office. There is nothing I could do, so like everyone else, I walked away.  But that memory has become etched in my mind, and even after over 25 years, I still remember it as if were yesterday. He was the loneliest man I have ever seen in any professional setup ! Such is the destiny of gods.

The CAMFT Conference was a beautiful event.  I was expecting an audience of around 30-40 for my lecture and almost had a stage fright when I heard the number of people who had signed up. But such a large audience oddly charged me up  after a few minutes. My apologies for running out of handouts. I was asked to put the presentation up on CAMFT website. For reasons of professional and personal ethics, I am reluctant but I would be happy to email them to those who feel the need for it.

My topic was “Symbolic Quest for the Father.” A significantly more detailed and better version of what I had posted under a blogpost of the same name a few months ago.  Although I m unable to post the paper here due to reasons of professional ethics and mandated requirements of the Board of Behavioral Sciences, I will briefly discuss the contents as they formed the base from which emerged a question of god and deity that I wish to explore today.

I had used the Jungian and Lacanian Psychoanalytic approach for conceptual model that defined the framework of a father’s role.  As Lacan has said, the “Name of the Father” or the “Law of the Father” defines the character of the child in so many ways.  And during the making of that presentation my mind would often wonder to the role of God, the symbolic and universal father, of which the biological father is but a representation, in forming the character of humanity.  And the explorations into the realm of god were meaningful and profound for me, because I could see how the world is what it is today. I could also relate to the profound sense of power, coupled with isolation and sense of loneliness that gods of our world must experience – the gods that are heads of the world institutions that shape the future, the politicians of the world, the celebrities and all those that are in positions of authority.

Kalinich and Taylor discuss Michalangelo’s creation of God and Adam. In it, we see man and God lying facing each other, both pointing their index fingers at one another. A very small but visible space separates both fingers. The authors posit that this space is of extreme importance, forbidding any fusion between god and man, and compelling us to think of discontinuities between the deity and humanity, but also between people that belong to the different social and hierarchical structures.  What does this separation entail, what is the outcome of the separation, and why is it necessary?

I wonder if god is aware of the power he/she/they/it wields on human beings. And I mean to talk about emotional power, not just the physical power. We humans grow up revering the gods, we carry their images in our hearts, we fantasize about them, we dream about them, we write about them, we imitate them and we yearn and strive to become like them. I often wonder if Dante had ended up marrying Beatrice, would he have ever been able to create The Divine Comedy ? She was his guide in paradiso, a guide that enabled his encounter with god.  And so, it seems, this distance between the gods and the deities is necessary for psychological growth.

If that distance is bridged, if the gods become human, or if the humans attempt to manifest their godliness, all that is sacred becomes mundane, profane, with dire consequences.

Incidentally, this is the philosophy between prohibition of therapist-client dual relationship, and such relationships are a great metaphor for a relationship between deity and humans. The deity wields enormous psychological power on the mortals. The mortals, no matter how strong, resilient and powerful, are always vulnerable to the power of the deity – physical, emotional, political, social power.  As long as the mandated distance is maintained, the two remain in the mutually enhancing relationship, for the deity needs a mortal to worship him, and the mortal needs a role model to worship and emulate. But in the realm of the gods, the deity is aware of his personal power on humans, and depending on the culture one is exploring, the gods are either benevolent, or spoilt, malevolent and punitive in their superiority over man.

The deity like person, on the other hand, is usually blissfully unaware of the power he wields. And this lack of awareness can be compounded by his need for connection, which makes him step down from his assigned role, the cross of success, and attempt to mingle with the common man. In that step down is humbleness, and need that is almost human, but not quite. The experience of his divinity stays with the person, regardless, of his attempts to bridge the gap.

From a very personal experience, I can vouch that the bridging of the distance has extremely, extremely negative repercussions. Long ago, I was in long term psychotherapy, and like every client in a psychotherapeutic relationship, I revered my psychologist. I believed we had a good rapport, which is a necessary requirement in psychotherapy. Unbeknown to myself, he was attracted to me. Which in itself is not a bad or a negative thing, as long as the psychologist can maintain the boundaries, and does not let the client know about it. Unfortunately this one did let me know, and a proposition followed. The sense of betrayal was so intensely traumatic for me, that it debilitated me for almost 3 years thereafter even though I had stopped my therapy. During this time I suffered physically thru severe sickness, emotionally thru depression, and financially due to inability to work due to illness caused by boundary violations. The psyche is incapable of distinguishing between emotional and physical acts. Something that is experienced, causing suffering. That experience could be physical, or mental. It is not uncommon to see people die of emotional shock. And all emotional betrayal of this kind is experienced as an incensuous relationships – as traumatic as a sexual relationship with a father. A god. A deity. (Buddha was right on with his teaching of RIGHT THOUGHT).

A god had dared to transgress into my personal space, and bridged the psychological distance between us. The ideal that I had nourished, and that which nourished me in turn was reduced to mundane in that moment. The heaven of that sacred psychological space was revealed to as ugly, as fallible as the earth. There was nothing to aspire to. I had nowhere left to go for healing. In that moment I realised there were no real gods. I was alone. I had only myself to depend upon.  The issue that perhaps my psychologist saw as being carelessly local between me and him, became universal as I projected this incident on the world and the universe around me in a struggle to understand myself, these debilitating emotions, and the universe. Why was my body failing, breaking down? Because all dreams, all illusions I had – about life, about relationships, about humanity, about everything –  were shattered, and had to be recreated. The words trust, faith, integrity, needed to be reassessed. Everything, each and everything needed to be redefined in the context of lack of ideal. New ideals needed to be set up. It is a HUGE and stupendous task. The sickness, and the low point that my life reached were actually a demolition of my conditioned thinking. Now I knew the reality of a god. A new world, based on reality, and new ideals, new relationships, had to be constructed before I could step into it. My relationships my surroundings had to be redefined in the light of this incident. I could either grow, or I could shrivel and die. I chose growth. But such growth has its disadvantages. It reveals true picture of the world, it robs one of innocence. If we have had a decent upbringing where our caregivers have been nice and loving, our psyche is protected from these true pictures of the world. But a faultline like this shatters those illusions of safety. I would not wish it on anyone.

That I ultimately grew from the experience is obvious. But it took every ounce of courage to remain rooted. I directed all my energy to self exploration and discovery – without which I would have scattered, and it would have been impossible to collect myself together.

Since then, this picture has held a great significance for me, and a sense of personal space has assumed importance that it never had. Because no one had ever breached that personal space, I had been impervious to it, I did not even notice it. But subsequently,  the scarred psyche, terrified forever, now defends that space with a vengeance, constructing barriers to intimacy. Such adaptations of the psyche are in service of healing, caution and preservation of life – they are preventive. These adaptations are honorable and must be honored. However, they are irreversible.

It is different than a normal rape. In an episode of rape, if the perpetrator is a person that is unknown or despised by the victim, the psychological harm is still intense, but the fact that someone you trusted would do this to you, adds layers and layers of intensity and untold misery to the already traumatic event.

I often wonder how people who impose emotional, physical or financial hardship on others are able to look themselves in the mirror for the rest of their lives.  I often wonder what kind of defenses they build to prevent themselves from dissolving in their own shame. The same barriers that people who molest their children build up to keep on keeping on. Some kind of justification that I did nothing wrong, that it was nothing that it did not affect her or him, I was just joking….and lastly – she is weird/mentally unstable….or the children brought it onto themselves, the children did not refuse, or protest….(I even heard one parent I know say – “the children still like me!” Duh! ) Blaming the victim is not uncommon in these circumstances… ….I guess I will never know how a perpetrator feels….mercifully, thankfully, I will never know…I don’t want to know……and thank god I will never know…

Personal spaces are created for a reason. They are meant to protect you from psychological harm. It is imperative that we each revere our personal space, and guard it with vengeance, that we allow no one, not even a god, to cross into that space. For this sacred space is the space within which trust, faith, confidence as well as the intellect grows. The distance and the stretch actually enhances the internal space where imagination and all symbols foster and make themselves felt. Breach this space, and the chance that you have of growing, is lost forever. What was an asset, becomes a liability. It is equally important that no matter how lonely, and isolated we feel within our own world, we must remain aware of the personal space of others, and always respect and honor that space – no matter what the emotional cost to us. For in that space, they are nurturing their trust, faith and confidence. They are stretching the wings of their imagination and reaching out to heavens. It is best that heaven always remain out of reach. The real world is an uncertain, nasty, ugly place, its people are liars, cheats, thugs, rapists, murderers. So dream about perfection are a necessity to create a compensatory balance. It is important that we dream about perfection, about beauty. About faith and trust. About certainty. It is necessary that we trust. Something, someone. Absolutely. For it is that trust which we then assimilate within, and that which allows us to trust humans despite the fact that humans are essentially untrustworthy. The beauty and allure of the gods, and the heavens is preserved by the fact that these are ideals, they inspire human beings to strive, they are absolutes, never to be achieved, never to be attained. In our imaginations, they are incapable of ugliness that we see around it. As Jung would say – we are healed by believing in something greater than ourselves. And so, attaining the unattainable, mingling with gods is a violation of the personal space. It reduces them in stature, they become of this world. As imperfect, as fragile. Such a movement is disillusioning. It causes the fear of certainty as the ideal is now demolished, and we know for sure that the god is fallible. What will we now believe in? How will our faith be restored? Who will protect us? Who will guide and inspire us? What is lost, can never be restored, there is no going back. Such violation of space may bring temporary sexual relief to one party, or even to both, but often the costs associated with such violations are horrendous. Especially for the aspiring mortal. The one lower in the hierarchy. For the one higher in the hierarchy, they are debilitating in that they breed narcissism, sociopathy, and a sense of false victory.

So here is to someone whose ideals have let them down – build new ideals that are realistic, and that are based on your internal strength. Thou Art That. You are the god. You do not need external ideals.

And here’s to all those who step into the personal space of others – pick someone your own size, pick another god, someone who is not emotionally vulnerable to you and does not hold you in awe. Isolation and loneliness is not a reason to transgress someone else’s space. Remember the story of Apollo and Daphne. Times have changed. The malevolent gods of the Greek rape culture died a well deserved death long long ago. Even Yehweh did not survive and was replaced by a more compassionate and just Jesus Christ. And so, it is incumbent on you to be aware and sensitive about personal spaces of others and no matter how hard it is to remain rooted in a personal sense of ethics, that is what you must do to prevent harm to others, and to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be the Change…

There has been a lot of controversy lately about the role of Gandhi in the liberation of India. Regardless, Gandhi’s contributions, along with his quotes, reverberate and resonate across the world even now, decades after his death.

be_the_change_you_wish_to_see_in_the_world_by_mylittleponygal-d74n64z

One of the quotes that I often meditate on, and which has guided me in my personal life, is the quote “Be the change that you want to see in the world”. The quote has a fundamental mesmerising quality to it, a quality that allows you go to as deep into it, as you would like to. At various stages of my life I have looked at it differently, only to return to it later, and find that the words conveyed a totally different meaning. Under each situation, at each stage of life, the phrase took on a new and deeper meaning. So it was only my intelligence (or lack of it) that limited me, or guided me in my understanding, applicability and the vastness of these few words strung together and thrown carelessly around. During my teenage years, the phrase motivated me to fight for my rights on behalf of all the women of the world. In my twilight years now, it inspires me to a holistic life that includes environmental concerns and a simpler way of living. The phrase is much like a koan, in that the quest for meaning behind it is endless. But in its very limitlessness lies its existential inspiration and obligation. We – as intelligent human beings – can never give up on it, we can never have enough, we can never achieve it fully and completely. Like the heavens, it represents an ideal we can only strive towards. The ideal always remains beyond our human grasp. But we cannot ignore it, we cannot not act on it. The expression represents a moral, ethical – indeed an existential – obligation imposed on each and every human being by life itself.

We breathe, and then we are born. And we grow, and grow and grow. Physically, psychologically, intellectually – we grow. We are constantly evolving as individuals, as a community, as a species, as a universe. The change and chaos that evolution begets is the manifestation of that evolution. We never stop breathing. We never stop growing. We never, not for a moment, stop changing. We may not be aware of all this, but the fact remains – that we change moment by moment. Our body cells die, and regenerate moment by moment. The chemicals constituting our body, and brain, are constantly changing – the change in them leads us to function. If they did not change every moment, we would not be able to function. The world around us changes moment by moment. Someone somewhere – everyone everywhere – in this world is doing something that is enabling the world to change. The electrons are zipping around, the atoms are moving, the photons dash around colliding with each other and enter the retinas to create vision. The rich man in Beverly Hills steps into his lamborghini, and dirty little beggar child in Kolkata extends her hand to seek alms, the thief in Turkish bazaar swindles the buyer, in Washington DC Obama plans another strike on the Syrian rebels…it is all related to how the world evolves and becomes what it does. Each and every action undertaken by each and every person on the planet at each and every moment, is a decision point that affects the way the world will turn, is turning, evolving. If the beggar girl did not beg for alms that day it would affect her family, or the grocery shop that sells grocery to her family. If the rich man in lamborghini stayed home on that day, it would affect the gas his car consumes, or the quality of time between he and his loved one. If Obama fell sick and was not attend the meeting on that day – the world would be different. In all these cases the world would not be the same. So even the most mundane and seemingly harmless actions of ours affects the way the world turns out as a consequence of our day to day actions.

If the universe is so full of activity, how does it matter what I do?  There are 6 billion people in the world, what does it matter if I am not perfect?

The seemingly calm, quiet and placid empty space that surrounds us and puts a sense of interpersonal distance between you and me, is actually like a frothy, violent river of tiny strings, elementary particles, atoms and molecules. The solid stuff that we see around us – like tables, chairs, walls – on the other hand, is mostly empty spaces being guarded by electromagnetic forces which prevent our hands from slicing thru the hard material. On a larger scale, the universe is speeding along, the planets are buzzing with activity, the sun is spewing fire  – everything is changing every moment. If we could see and feel all this, we would not be able to handle the chaos, and would be dead in an instant. Mercifully, the human limits imposed on our bodies limit and protect us from the overwhelming universal chaos.Even if we are not aware of such activity, even if we are not paying any attention to it, we are part of that particular atomic, molecular, chemical activity. Ask any astrologer and he will tell you that our mere existence influences gravity, that affects the interplanetary relationships. Even the tiny elementary particles are doing their bit to help evolve the world. Each entity has a sphere of influence that can affect the state of the world. Each entity is contributing to the evolution of the universe according to its dharma, according to its nature, the way it is supposed to.

Another way of looking at it is to imagine the universe like an onion (thank you Shrek!). Each successive layer of the onion is exactly the same as the one above, except smaller. Outer layers were inner layers before they became stronger and more pronounced, and characteristic of onion. The outer layers build, protect and shield on inner layers while growing as a whole, and as a species. In a similar manner, the outer layers, which are synonyms for adults, society and culture, protect the newborns, who in turn grow up to be the characteristic of the species that we profess to be. So our contribution to the species is mirrored in the vegetable world, if only we take time to understand the workings of the universe. We protect and nourish our children, and who we are, and what we do, and how we wish to be perceived, we propagate thru our progeny, and those thoughts, actions, deeds characterise and defines us. If we stand firm on our virtues and values, we radiate such behavior outwards. If we ourselves fall short on virtus like honesty and integrity, then that is the kind of society – inner layers – we promote. Our society gets characterised and defined by that lack. Either way, we have contributed in the evolutionary forces.

Yet another way to look at it to study our environment of signs of how the universe works. Just like with onions, the universe reproduces and mirrors its mechanism and functionality in the functioning of our own human world. As above, so below. Take for example a production line in a factory which has several thousand workers doing their bit, to produce a piece of a giant machinery like a nuclear reactor. Or even an ordinary truck. Let us say there is an employee who puts in place a tiny screw on the finished product. In a machine that has millions of screws, and complicated pieces of machinery spread over miles and miles of production line, that one last tiny screw doesn’t seem much important – does it?  Lets just say the employee screws it, but does not tighten the screw. But if even that one seemingly unimportant worker on an industrial assembly line who bolts a tiny screw fails to tighten it, the screw will fall off sooner or later. Therefore the product is not going to be as it was designed to be, or as it was meant to be. In some way or the other, it is going to fail – in quality functionality, guarantee – depending upon how critical the tightening of that screw was. Thus the failure of the worker to tighten the screw he had been responsible for, affects the quality of the product. The product will definitely, in some form or other, not be as complete and perfect as it was designed to be, as the manufacturers claimed it would be. If the quality is affected, then the brand image will be affected. It also affects the health and safety of the consumers that use the good being put forth by the company. So if it is a nuclear reactor, or a space probe, or a medical equipment – one can immediately hypothesize the consequences of the failure. But even if it is not of such importance, the quality and durability of the product is affected nevertheless. If the employee regularly fails to tighten the screw, the entire product line is tainted. If the item is being exported, the failure to tighten the screw may affect the company and national image. So on and so forth. Indeed, a minor lapse may create a national disaster, or a nuclear war. If a whole section of the production line is lax, the failure is magnified and the fault more severe, affecting a larger population, and the consequences much more severe for product, company, society which lives on the employment thru the company (remember Flint and Detroit?) and the nation.

Thus, every individual is responsible and accountable. He or she is. I AM. In some shape or form, I am absolutely responsible and accountable for the status of the world today. And only thru changing myself, my thoughts, actions and deeds can I become entitled to dreaming about a better world. As long as my actions are incongruent with the dreams that I have of a better, more honest, ethical, just and equal world, the changes that I desire remain absolutely unattainable. Even if the whole world changed for the better, I would still need to clean up my act. Why be the last one?

These examples are relevant and connected. The phrase “be the change…” goads you to experience the change within, and then work towards it. The ability to experience is an evolutionary phenomenon, it is a manifestation of psychic growth. It also requires courage to be. To be different than the masses. To be unique. To be alone. To be a creative thinker, with the abilities to think outside the box, outside of conventional thinking imposed upon us by the system, and as a consequence of that thinking, to be able to follow thru with acting on that creative thought.

SOcial Justice

Psychologist Kohut maintains that growing up is a consequence of the movement of the psyche from selfobject relating to object relations. In the selfobject relating mode, we believe that we are the centre of the universe, and the universe exists to take care of our needs. We believe that the universe is an extension of ourselves, and hence, like our own body, we can use it in whatever way we like. He claims that selfobject thinking is a child’s way of thinking – every child treats its environment and its mother like a selfobject – an extension of its own body. A child does not understand that the mother is separate from it, or that the mother may have limited resources to take care of him/her, or may have other important things to attend to. Selfobject relating creates a sense of entitlement, a narcissistic incessant demand on the other, a taking without any realisation or obligation of giving back.  Thru the sufferings and trauma imposed by repeated failure of the mother to be perfect, a realisation of being “alone” and “an individual” arises, and leads to a realisation of the “otherness” of the mother. The failure of mother to be perfect causes trauma, but is also growth enhancing as it leads to an maturing of mutually fulfilling relationships. However, such evolution is optional, it is does not happen as a lifestage, but is a consequence of the experiences that are imposed upon the child. In cultures where the woman is subjugated and subservient to, the man does not go thru experience of loss, remaining cathected to the mother, and treating her as a selfobject without any regard to her own independent existence. Evolution to object relations is an outcome of recognizing the existential alone-ness of the self, letting go of the mother, and treating her with equality and otherness – (see my blog Othering of the Mother).  This relationship of equality earned with the mother is then projected on others as in the environment, and community, which then are treated with mutual respect and concern. In object relations way of relating, we become conscious of, and acknowledge the other as separate from ourselves, and are willing to concede that the other’s need may be different, even in contradiction to ours, that they are entitled to acting to enhance their wellbeing, and that we are obligated to assist them in their welfare. When under the influence of mature object relationships, we engage in mutually fulfilling relationships.

For eons, humans existed in a symbiotic relationship with the universe. We unrepentantly pillaged the earth, without any awareness of the separateness of earth, or the limit of its resourcefulness, or the effect of our relentless scavenging. As ancient religions, cultures, and civilizations evolved and acquired maturity, we see a subtle shift in their acknowledgement of the otherness of the earth, of people, of the environment. Product of millions of years of human evolution, these religions, cultures and civilizations did not seek to impose their own way of life on nature. Instead, they acknowledged the differences and mutual interests of each entity. Operating from relational principles, the ancients honored and preserved the otherness of the other – be those others animate or inanimate objects. We see emphasis on interaction and engagement with environment, nature, and objects  in all ancient (pagan) cultures, religions and civilizations.

The ancient cultures, civilizations and religions were overpowered within this millennium by newer cultures and religions that lacked such depth, wisdom, and maturity needed to grow in an interdependent manner. With childlike narcissism, the actions of the new religious minded revolved around their own needs, and the needs of their own congregation. The essence of relationship with the mother has a more broader implication – a societal implication – than is actually acknowledged by any of these newer religions. In all these cultures, one sees that the the symbolic separation from the mother is never completed. The otherness of the (m)other is never established. In their way of thinking (M)other is forever enslaved into subjugation, as an essential part of their own bodies, to be treated as they would treat their own bodies, to be controlled as they would control their own bodies. These unresolved and exploitative relationships with their own mother were then projected onto the environment.

The pagan culture of the American Native Indians, Aborigines of Australia, The Maori of New Zealand, the Yezdi of Middle East, the Zoroastrians of Persia, the Hindus of India and most vanquished indigenous people of all lands, engaged with nature in a mutually respectful manner. However, with the exception of Hinduism, all these cultures have practically been wiped out.We now live and breathe in an environment that is based on selfobject relating.  Fundamentalist faction of society from Middle East battle with the doctrines of materialistic greed flaunted by the West for world dominance – the environmentally beneficent cultures and religions are not even in the race. The idea of either side winning this war is a frightening thought. Both sides spell disaster for the world and environment – what kind of disaster it should be, is the only variable disputed by the warring factions.

We today stand at the historical crossroads that will shape our future generations. The violent, corrupted and contaminated world which we live in, scares most of us who have the ability to dream of a better world. A large majority today believe that lack of honesty, and integrity is a new threshold of human character. Deceit in relationships is a norm rather than an exception. In such a world, it becomes easy to forget who we are, what we ought to strive for. We experience helplessness associated with being a miniscule part of the world, and doubt our own potential, and ability to make any difference. So why bother with values when we do not have a say in the evolution of the world. We do not believe that we matter. We do not believe that we can be the change that we dream about. But these flawed beliefs are a consequence of only a sense of overwhelm we feel upon being confronted with the massiveness of humanity. Since when have sheer numbers discounted individual human potential? Majority of humanity does not utilize even 10% of their potential.  Look at it this way – if Bill Gates and all the others did not, and do not feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, then change by individual action must be possible. Would you feel so powerless in your own home? In your neighborhood? In your community? You did not feel powerless when you had to provide for your wife and kids. Why would you feel powerless to be the change that has a potential of affecting your loved ones, and the world that they will inherit from yhttps://www.facebook.com/ou ?  Is dishonesty, corruption, apathy a legacy that you would leave behind for your children?

You are not powerless in affecting change. You may be apathetic, but not powerless. Passion is the first step to change. Passion is invincible. If you think you are powerless, it is only because you lack passion for change, you lack belief in your own abilities, and the courage to venture out of comfort zone – and as a consequence,  you place self imposed limits on your existence and your potential. You lack the courage of being who you truly are – the divine child of immortality with powers to match.

My last post was about the divinity within, taken from a religious Indian online newsletter. I found it to be a potent message. We are divinity itself. We are the offsprings of immortality. We are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. We come thru humans, our parent, but we come not from them. We are within the world, yet we do not belong to the world – we are more than mere human bodies. We are children of immortality. We are unending. We are timeless. We are born, we craft a world by and thru our actions, we die but the world that is created and affected by us, lives on. And it is for us to decide what kind of world we want to leave behind for our children. Should it be a safe and secure world, or should we leave behind a world full of apathy, corruption, evil and ill will?  Would you willingly send your child to a school that was unsafe, apathetic, even evil and dangerous? Would you willingly live in a neighborhood which was dangerous? Would you willingly do anything to endanger the life of your child and/or harm them? Would you be apathetic about leaving behind an ancestral home for your child that was unsafe and dangerous to live in ? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then why would you want to contribute towards creating a world that would be harmful to your children?

Living in this world, and constantly being exposed to its failures, we fall into disrepute with our psyche. We start off with proper ideals, but as we grow, we conform, we lie, we cheat, we steal, we lose our integrity, our passion, our dreams. Happens even to the best among us. But it is our ethical obligation to pick ourselves back up, and put ourselves back onto the track. A track that will leave the world at least as beautiful as we found it when we inherited it from our parents. A track that will leave footprints that our children would be proud to follow. We are constantly leaving footprints. If we are not careful, we leave the wrong kind of footprints/examples for our children to follow. And follow they do, which is why our careless treads have led the world to a precipice. This is the world our children have inherited from us. And we owe it to them to clean it up. Therefore, what we do, and how we do it, and what we are and how we are seen by our children, is important. We have to be what we want them to be. We have to be the change that we want the world to be. There is no other way.

Our actions have consequences. The consequences are manifest in the world itself, and they do not end when we die. Since a part of us lives on in our progeny and in the legacies of art and narrative, and even in the memories we leave behind, therefore it is only our ignorance that makes us believe that we die when the breath ceases. John Locke, and Gandhi died decades ago, Jesus died over 2000 years ago – but are they really dead? Each and every action of ours had a consequence that affect us and our progeny into perpetuity, into infinity, even after we do not exist as mortals. And so, thru our actions, we affect the future. We cannot escape the consequences of our actions – even in death. This is the law of Karma.We are reborn and we continue to craft the world thru our actions and deeds. We are the creators, we are the created, we are the creation.  That is our dharma, the nature of our existence. And in that ceaseless, timeless existence, we affect our children, and indeed the world thru our actions. We affect evolution. Our actions cause and contribute to success as well as the downfall of civilizations.

Some of these above are the paraphrased words of Vivekananda, and Khalil Gibran. Gibran further states “The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might, that His arrows may go swift and far.” Thus we are the archers, we are the bows, and we are the arrows that the archer sets forth, and we – as human – are also the targets that the arrow is intended for. Gibran ends with “Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.” So let our actions, our personalities, and our behaviors create an environment that is commendable.  It behooves us to remain stable, to remain rooted in our integrity, in our honesty, in our compassion, in our care and concern for our environment, in object relational way of interaction. It behoves us to be passionate about our dreams. It behooves us to put forth actions and deeds anchored by our dreams, so that those actions and deeds, powered by the strength of our passion – like arrows – will go far, and make a mark. It also becomes our ethical and moral responsibility to lead our sons, daughters and youth by example. They will, or can only follow our own models to fuel their inspiration, and they in turn will birth sons and daughters with the same passionate dreams and inspirational values to further spread honesty, integrity, compassion, and concern for others and the environment. The world needs role models. Who can be a better role model than you? There is no limit to what can be achieved. One only needs passion, and the ability to dream.

The change that we want in the world starts from the grassroots. It starts from a thought, an act, a deed, and yes, a person. And if each person forgets about changing the rest of the world, and only focuses on changing himself or herself, and becomes that change, and creates a micro environment around him – in and thru his own family influences – which manifests that desired change, the world will change. One person, one family, one neighborhood at a time. Without that first thought, first deed, first action, first person, no change is possible.

So find out what you are passionate about. And use that passion as a fuel to create a better version of yourself. And see “betterment” radiate outward in the world. You do have the ability and the power. Yes, you do.

A pastor once asked me how how much money I donated every month in charitable contribution to make the world a better place. I told him that my contribution to the world is much much more than mere financial. I was created to have integrity, I am honest, and I have a passion for justice and equality. I have lived by those ideals all my life. I have been the creation. I have created two beautiful and perfect specimens of human species, who don’t lie, cheat, fight, who are honest, ethical and hardworking citizens of the world, with a remarkable passion for justice, fairness, equality and environment. Such a contribution to creation dwarfs any financial contribution I may have ever made.

I believed in being the change, and in and thru years of being that change, I influenced my young ones, and the change that I had become, has grown and multiplied over the years. The change will continue growing thru them, and thru their children – it influences the world in many different ways and contributes to the destiny that lies ahead. I made a difference. So can you.

So, come and join me. Embrace Gandhi’s words, become passionate about them, act on them. Begin NOW, in this moment.

 

changing-the-world

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The Divinity Within Us

According to an old Hindu legend, there was a time when all human beings were gods, but they abused their divinity. So, Brahma, the chief god, decided to take the divinity away from them and hide it somewhere they could never find it.

Brahma called a council of the gods to help him decide where to hide the divinity. “Let’s bury it deep in the earth,” said the gods. But Brahma answered, “Humans will dig into the earth and find it.” Some gods suggested, “Let’s sink it in the deepest ocean.” But Brahma said, “No, Human will learn to dive into the ocean and will find it.” Then some gods suggested, “Let’s take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there.” Brahma replied, “Human will eventually climb every mountain and take up their divinity.” Then all the gods gave up and said, “We do not know where to hide it, because it seems that there is no place on earth or ocean that human beings will not eventually reach.”

Brahma thought for a long time said, “We will hide their divinity deep into the center of their own being, Humans will search for it here and there but they wont look for the divinity inside their true selves”

All the gods agreed that this was the perfect hiding place, and the deed was done. And since then, humans have been going up and down the earth, digging, diving, climbing, and exploring, searching for something, which already lies within themselves.

“Divinity lies within us all”

 

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Early winter morning

It is cold here, most days are overcast. Often it rains. But the showers are intense and quick to end, and the sunshine returns within minutes. That is the kind of rain I like. It rejuvinates without overwhelming. The days are getting longer and warmer. The winter ebbs, yielding to the early spring. All is as should be.

I’m up too early, its getting to morning, and its cold. I prepare tea and cup the mug in my hands, seeking temporary warmth. For lack of something better to do so early on a Saturday morning, I stare out of the glass panels. The ground is wet, as is the grass. Grass always seems greener to me when it is wet. The sun is weak as a newborn. The winter-shorn trees, rooted in the same soil as azhealeas, camillias and rhododendrons, feel anachronistic, their bareness in stark contrast with the  zeal of the magnificent displays put forth by the latter.  My neighbor has a cherry blossom. I experience cherry-blossom envy. A giant, pink magnolia is in full bloom on my side of the fence, as if to mitigate my feelings of deprivation.  Just looking at the magnificence of it fills me with undescribable pleasure. I try to remember the transience of this rented accomodation. I long to be in the backyard of my own home, knowing I will never be able to afford a home of my own again. The mind struggles against acknowledging the inevitabilty and permanence of homelessness, my long time friend – the desperate ego – conjuring defenses in order to protect me from associated grief. Defenselessly, I observe the psychic defenses. “Que sera sera,” I softly speak the words aloud, as if to a child, in a attempt to comfort and calm the desperation felt by the ego. She knows me so well, and tries so hard. Too hard sometimes.

My gaze wanders to a supine deciduous tree standing next to the tall camilia bush. It is bare, and wiry, stripped off its dignity, its leaves. I don’t know what kind of tree it is – the absence of leaves makes the tree remarkably unremarkable. Yet the contrast calls for attention. Again and again, the word “rooted” cycles thru my mind and the word is filled with an unsavory taste. If the deciduous tree could move itself, and hibernate in a burrow like a rabbit, or a bear does,  I could be free to enjoy the blooms without the juxtaposed starkness of the bare tree.

The azheleas are already showing signs of wearing out. The camillias have more lasting power, but both the camillias and the rhodedendrons will be gone by the time the tree gets its leaves back and assumes a presentable personna. Magnolias ? They’re magnifient right now- but only for 2 weeks or so in a year. My mind experiences the trauma of the inevitable limitation – the blooms are and will remain staggered. That I will never see all the beauty of this garden at the same time. I feel helplessly impotent in the face of  the flow.

Rooted and stark, juxtaposed against the beauty of rhodadendrons ! Staggered beauty. Isn’t that life though? Spikes of happiness in a sea of suffering called existance ? If only we could move all our sufferings to a burrow, and peek in once in a while, we would not be faced with them on a daily basis ! If only everything could work out – all at once – so we could be without even a single worry for some time at least. We could then be free to enjoy the beauty of our lives to the fullest.

Instead, life blooms in bits and pieces. As does misery and suffering. Coexisting. While I pine for unspoilt perfection.

I can’t wait for the trees to leaf. Perhaps the burdens imposed by the starkess of the tree will lift, or beome lighter, then. And leaf they will. And just as surely, the blossoms will end for the season. The bare deprivation of the tree is as transient as the abundance of the blooms on the shrubs.

The inetnsity of cold finally crosses the threshold of my tolerance. I walk over, and turn the heat pump on.

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Memory Trace and its Discontents

Memory Traces have been implicated under psychoanalytic theories, and are designated as the root cause of psychopathology, and behavioral issues.

I have been thinking about about memory traces over the last few days, trying to conceptualise them, define them, and understand what the term entails. Finally, after several hours of thinking thru, and reading, I decided to define and conceptualise them.

“A memory trace is the neural change that accompanies a mental experience at one time (time 1) whose retention, modification or otherwise, allows the individual later (at time t2) to have mental experiences of the kind that would not have been possible in the absence of the trace.” (Endel Tulving)

Even though it may be an impoverished record of the past and an unreliable guide into the future, the memory trace isn’t a mere residue in the brain, for it carried within itself a recipe, or a prescription for the future (Tulving)

What this means, is that when we define memory trace as a change process, it is no longer an entity but a relationship that defines the differences between two physical entities – the brain states at time t1 and at time t2, separated in time. The difference does not exist anywhere other than in our minds.

Being an electrical engineer thru education, I am tempted to define the term memory trace in terms of an electrical circuit.  Imagine two electrical voltages standing side by side, at d1 and d2, separated by distance d. When the circuit is closed, there exists a voltage difference between this plates, represented by V2-V1 (where V2 > V1). Th emagnitude of this voltage differnece determines the intensity and magnitude of the current that flows thru the circuit between teh plates.  The space between the plates represents a resistance. The greater teh resistance, the more intense would be the flow of electricity. If the space between the electrodes is connected by a low resistance wire, the electricity will flow easily.

The scenario can now be transferred to psychic reality. Imagine the brain – with all its neural conectivity, and brain state, at time T1. Now imagine the same brain after a passage of time, at time T2. The difference between brain state at time T1, and at time T2 is analogous to the electrodes. Except in teh case of brain, the electrodes (brain states actually) are separated not in distance, but in time.

Just like voltage difference exists between the plates separated by a distance D, the memory trace exists in time between two mental states separated in time by time T.

Just like its electrical counterpoint, where the magnitude of voltage difference is dependent on the difference between the individual voltage of each plate separated from each other in space d1 and d2, the strength of the memory trace is contingent on the differences between the mental states separated by time t1 and t2.

The voltage difference is not a physical entity – but simply a number that designates difference in voltage. In the same way memory trace is not a physical entity. It can be simply envisioned as a psychic relationship between the two brain states that designates their physical states across time.

The higher the voltage difference, the greater the flow of electrons (current) between the plates. Similarly, the magnitude of the difference in the mental states at time t1, and t2, also must dictate the intensity of the memory traces. If the brain states at t2 is not very different from the brain state at time t1, then the memory traces would be weak, plastic and easily modifiable. However, if there exists some trauma that makes the mental state at time t2 to be very dissimilar to mental state at time t1, then the memory traces of such a change would be etched in the psyche, and would guide all future action.

Heisenberg’s Uncertainity principle applies to the electrons carrying information across the plates, and it must apply to the electrons making up the neural transmission that creates specific brain states across time.

What is most interesting, and I will not dwell on it for too long, is that if past present and future actually co-exist, and it is only our humanity that prevents us from “seeing” them co-exist, then the memory traces are the link between the past and the present, and possibly into the future, and are therefore much much much more like the paths created by voltage differences.  Imagining such a path brings a whole new meaning and context to developmental psychology !

Nature doesn’t have a lot of cards to play, does it ? It has a few melodies that it repeats, leading to such an array of enchanting melodies, which leads us into an illusion of a vast variety.

Perhaps I will touch on the mediating role played by trauma across time, which causes the memory traces to increase in intensity, much like the high voltage transformers we use at transmission towers, which transmit energy from the turbines thru the grid. The trauma  or mental pain as it may be called – is like the flow of current thru the plates of the brain states at time t2 and t2.  The intensity and magnitude of trauma determines the severity of memory traits, and may become the cause of all psychopathology.

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Dualism & Opposites

Many years ago,  one day, out of the blue, I suddenly awakened to the world of opposites, of dualism. I had comfortably existed as an undifferentiated part of the universe, without any special awareness of the nature of the universe, or my part in it. Either I was an extension of the universe, or the universe was an extension of me. I was part and parcel of Jung’s oroboros, the womb of the world. A prelogical experience of the primitive state of mind. Like a baby in the mother’s womb, safe, secure, undifferentiated, a mindless experience of being one with the symbolic mother.

And then,  one fine day, there I was, rudely thrown out of the secure confines of this undifferentiated existence. I am still not sure what it was that caused it. Perhaps my meditative practice, perhaps my age, perhaps my education, or perhaps some combination of all these. I remember being ungrounded, and completely disoriented with the experience for several months. In psychoanalytic therapy at the time with Dr Shaffer, I remember telling him that it felt as if the ground had been pulled off from under my feet, and the sky did not exist, as if the north and south were no longer the extremes, and neither were the east and the west. The space around me stretched out boundlessly into infinity. Everything appeared limitless.  I could not even find any limits to my reasons, or my mind. Right and wrong became meaningless terms, as did past and present, justice and injustice. these expressions seemed so hollow, devoid of any inherentmeaning. I felt I existed in a limitless universe, where nothing really was as it had previously seemed to me. I could intuitively feel it was meant to be a positive experience, a growth, but at the time, it was really, really disorienting as well.

Human beings are crafted by, and survive within the dualistic universe. We are created by two, and two becomes a part and parcel of our existence. So oblivious are we to this inherent dualism of human existence, that we tend not even to notice it.  But there is one, and there is two. The rest does not exist, it is an illusion. The numbering system itself is redundant, because the binary is capable of defining the entire mathematics.  The decimal system is actually constructed to simplify logic. To simplify our understanding, lets agree that the entire structure, length, breadth, and weight of mathematics rests on the numbers zero and one. (As anyone who works with circuit board and silicon chips will tell you, everything electronic rests on “yes” and “no”, “true” and “false”, is and is not, presence and absence [take your pick]). We exist, or we do not. We mate, or we do not. We reproduce, or we do not. And this repeats overand over again. This phenomenon can be seen repeated at all levels – from the life of quantum strings, electrons, or humans. So the universe presents itself in ones and twos. One represents unity, and uniting, and two represents separation, diversity, cleavage, dissociation. (Interestingly enough, Buddha reduced human existance to two as well – craving being symbolic of unity, merger, turning towards something,  and aversion being symbolic of duality, division, turning away from something).

We believe there is day, and the opposite of that is night. We believe humans are good, or evil. Just or unjust. divine or human. White or black. There’s light, or there is darkness. Hot or cold. Happy or sad, and so on and on and on. The wiser among us know that there are various shades of grey, and that happiness and sadness is not digital. One can exist in between the continuum. But wherever one exists, he or she is surrounded by opposites in everything that one encounters. We acknowledge the extremes in the opposites, and the in-between. The middle path, as Buddha posited, is preferred. Moderation is wise. But that middle path is bound by a limit on either side, an extremity.

But what if those extremes fall away, what then ? We would get a glimpse of what lies beyond. Or at least we would intuitively feel that there was something beyond the extremes. But human minds are incapable of such imaginations  because we are born *within* the dualism. We are *of* the dualistic world. We are not created out of nothing, we are born from two, birthed by the other, we *separate* from our mothers, and enter into the world as individuals. The one of the womb, becomes two. Years later, we drop the mother, and go along as individuals, only to unite with a partner to become two, till we become one again. No matter what, we cannot go beyond the two. That is our limit. No matter what, we cannot see beyond the light spectrum, even though the universe is full of other forms of energy frequencies. What *would* a world look like if we could see ALL the frequencies of energy ? I guess we cannot even imagine such a world. We can only imagine what lies within the confined limits that are recognized by our anatomy, and the praphenalia that is provided to us by virtue of our existence – our bodies. Our imagination does not go beyond the limits imposed upon us by our bodies.  Perhaps our bodies will evolve, but such rate of evolution, as everyone knows, slooooow.  Hot/cold, and temperate. Those are the milits we are confined to. If we tried to go beyond, I guess we would come up with the word “hotter”, or “colder” or even “hottest”…but those words themselves impose limits. What can we perceive beyond “hottest” ?  What is it that lies beyond the hottest, and the coldest ? Such a reality is unimaginable. But what we *can* imagine, and deduce from encountering these limitations, is that the word “hot” or “hottest” are constructed. They are not innate. They dont’ represent universal truth. They are representative of the limitations of human existance. The words embody and establish our ignorance, and the encumberour capabilitis with limits.

Jaques Lacan the famous French philosopher/psychologist, has famously stated that human psyche is shaped like a language.  Language is a constructed phenomenon. It uses symbols and signifiers, that point to the signified. There is a famous expression : “The finger wagging at the moon is not the moon.” Words are like the finger that points (signifies) at something.  If there is no word, nothing is pointed out. Language thus provides us with a way of differentiation. If there was no language, we would not be able to differentiate ourself from the universe. And the evolution of the language therefore represents the evolution of man. Or vice versa ? Who cares – as long as there is evolution. Perhaps it goes hand in hand. And the struggle we face is due to the fact that no language is evolved enough to take us beyond the “hottest”. What lies beyond the word “hottest” is unspoken. There is no word to decreibe it. So essentially, for human psyche it does not exist. Therefore the psyche is not structured to see it, or experience what lies beyond the word “hottest”. We hit a barrier that prevents us from discriminating and differentiating ourselves further, and prevents us from nderstanding anything beyond “hottest”.

In so many medieval Indian languages, there is no corresponding word for “vagina”. There is a word for womb, but no word for vagina.  In ancient India, sanskrit was the spoken language. And Kamasutra recognized and celebrated women’s sexuality. However, with the Moghal invasions, and the subsequent represssion of women’s sexuality, the word “vagina” slowly became extinct from the spoken language, except as an insult. The consequence of such traversity of language was that women’s sexuality became a taboo subject,  a subject that has been non existant in Indian culture for centuries. If spoken at all, it is with derision and distaste. Woman, as a sexual person, is harassed to no end in India till this date. Woman as a mother is worshipped. Thus, language has shaped our society, devalued sexuality, and forced woman to become procreators. It has shaped women’s rights, women’s mental as well as physical health. With the advent of English as a language with words that celebrate women’s sexuality, Indian women are now begining to find their rightful place in the sexual world. The women’s sexual revolution has just begun in India and provides an excellen example of how a language shapes the psyche of human beings.

What would it be like to transcend beyond the duality of sex, or no sex, perversity or ascetism ? Jung talks about the transcendent function, but such a function mediates and brings about the unity/reconciliation of the opposites. It is not truly transcendent. It does not go “beyond” the extremes, to examine what lies after the meaning of the term “hottest” has been exhausted. It simply helps the psyche find a reconciliation between “hot” and “cold” so to say….a meeting of the unconscious and conscious mind.

I have only questions. No answers. What I experienced, was the disintegration of the extremes. What lay beyond those extremes,  I could not verbalise, as language is not evolved enough. The word that comes closest to my experience is “void”…there was a void beyond the extremes. But the experience of the void could be because my mind, or body were incapable of experiencing the “real thing” that lay beyond. Hence the experience of “nothingness”. Perhaps that is the zone of neti neti (not this, not this), the function of negation. I have since created more flexible extremes to help me navigate the world becasue it was impossible to live in a world without limits, without accepting andembracing and becoming a part of two extremes. But such extremes, and such dualism is situational, and self constructed, and can be adjusted situationally by choice. The extremes are self constructed, and therefore flexible, movable, and not rigid, certain, and permanent. I grew from the knowledge about the existence of the beyond, even if  my human body prevented me from experiencing the true nature of that beyond.

The term Uroboros or Oroboros actually refers to the ancient, prelogical symbol of a serpent eating its tail. It has been used sice antiquity, in various civilizations including Greek, Egyptian, Nordic cultures. The alchemists used it to signify the ending of human sufferings embodied in the circle of life and death. Jung said thefollowing about it :

The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which […] unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.”

In most cultures, the serpent devouring its own tail, represents the cyclical nature of existence, and of the universe. I remember asking my physics professor once “what would I see if I could see thru space into eternity?” and his response was “your gaze would circle back and you’d see the backside of your head”. That truth feels absolutely unmaginable. I expected to see distant galaxies, and limitlessness of the universe. I expected to see the edge of the universe as it was expanding dynamically. Ah, but I now know that the edge of the universe too represents a limit. The truly limitless is unimaginable. And the symbol of the serpent, an archetype of the psyche, is a signifier that ultimately points back at (signfies) me.

The ponderings take me back to the teachings in Bhagvad Gita, where Lord Krishna opens his mouth, and Arjuna can see the entire universe within him. Perhaps each one of us is a complete universe in itself. Perhaps the opposites, and the inherent dualism creates a sense of space outside of us. A space that really doesn’t exist outside of us. What exists is unknown. But if the opposites fell away, perhaps ultimately everything would point back at us. For according to Advaita, each one of us is the creator, the created, and the creation itself.

Perhaps such ultimate transcendence lies beyond *human* existence. I often think if human existence actually confines us to the realm defined by the opposites, would that yoke be lifted in our death ? What happens when we die ? Does the spirit drop these limits and soar in the limitless world ?I struggle to imagine such a world, and the nature of my existance in it.  A part that is simultaneously united, as well as differentiated with the universe. A world where past present future co-exist, where existence deamands self awareness and comprehension of truth, the real truth, the ultimate truth…………? Perhaps the expression oneness is part of such a universe, where each one of us, is a part of the other. What would such a universe be like ?

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Confessions of a Sociopath

For some reason, believe it or not, the blogpost on my website that gets the most hits is about Sociopathic Men. My Anorexia blog had earlier become very popular, but for a year or so now, the Sociopath has been the query of choice.

The popularity of this particular topic intrigues me. Perhaps we have many undiagnosed sociopaths amongst us, and we can’t wrap our minds around how and why they do what they do. Or perhaps some of us are terrorised by Sociopaths on a daily basis and scour the internet, looking for meaning to their senseless behavior, simply in an effort to organise our traumatic experiences. Often the actions of a Sociopath defy logic and human (and humane) reasoning. I certainly know quite a few who would qualify for that diagnosis and get classified in that category, if only they sought treatment. In my personal opinion, every professional must have a licensing procedure that involves identifying and excluding such people. Others procedures, in my opinion, must enable some kind of behavioral intervention.

Tragically, there is little done to contain this disorder. Most people with such traits, or disorders, remain free to wreck havoc in and on the society and its constituents. The cost of such freedom is extremely high. Most of them are successful,  pretending to be normal, even likeable, but with an abominable internal core. And after having personal and client experiences of such kind, I have come to a sad conclusion that there is nothing that can enable a change in them. Such clients I normally refer out. In personal life, when I encounter one, I run for the exit as fast as my legs will carry me. Emotions, as I wrote before, are needed for change. An emotionless person can only be malevolent, and I now lean towards self protect. The memory traces that could lead them back to humanity, the building block of change, are missing from the repertoire of experiences of such people. Therapy is absolutely useless. I mean, what would you say to Ted Bundy to make him change ? The woes of left brain functioning, its taking over, cannot be undone. Such a person is disconnected from the universe,and exists in a self created isolation. Developmentally, one can say that at the core, such a person is forever, irrevocably isolated, and alienated from the other. He or she cannot *feel* any other. I am reminded of a bat – it is so different from other animals, that it is difficult for us to understand what a bat is, and its difficult perhaps for a bat to understand what and how other creatures experience. Click on this link to see Thomas Nigel’s landmark philosophical discussion on a bat’s existence.

Anyways, I read this article on Psychology Today website, and thought I’d share it with all those who come to my website looking for an explanation for the terrible behavior of a fellow specimen. Its usually someone they know. It doesn’t make sense.

Upon researching further, I was amazed to see that sociopathy is quite in demand, and there are websites extolling the virtues of being a sociopath. Pretty interesting,I must say. Here is one.  Appears that sociopathy is even marketable. If you click on the link, you’ll see that they’re celebrating their sociopathy, and are selling T-Shits too ! I personally found it sick. What is the most heineous classification of man/woman, what qualifies for sickness, is extolled in this day and age. Surely a sign of our turbulent times. Perhaps sickly amusing is how low our standards have fallen. Am I being judgmental ? You bet. As someone said, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything. But, on the other hand, they have helpful advice for people. For example, How to Break Up with a Sociopath is an extremely helpful article for those of us who are trying  to get out of the grip. So perhaps there is some good that has come out of glorifying sociopathy as an acceptable way of life?

The following article, and the related/associated website above, is illustrative of a sociopathic mind, and how it functions….or malfunctions. I think we must remember that these are personal experiences, and therefore subjective. And sociopathy is on a continuum. It is not a binary feature of human psyche. There is no such thing as a 100% sociopath who exhibits sociopathic traits 100% of the time. It exists in parts, in clusters within the psyche, temporally variable. Usually comorbid with other mental disorders like narcissism, schizoid personality disorder and a few others. Its difficult to extract one personality disorder from another as they are almost never mutually exclusive. Although DSM classifications are specific, in my experience, they seem to be on the continuum of Autism and Psychotic Disorders, but thats just my own opinon. Certain situations evoke more psychopathy in such a person, others evoke less, and the actual combination of these behaviors and disorders in a person is unique, and very subjective – almost like a fingerprint. So for example, when the author says that all Sociopath love devotedly, and are loyal, perhaps that may be true of her own experiences. Besides, what she claims to be loyalty, may be also something that can be perceived as a “Till Death Do Us Part” obsession that prevents a gullible person who finds himself in their grip, from ever being safe from them. The movie Fatal Attraction was made of this. So hope you read and enjoy the article, as I did, but I also hope you read it responsibly, because Sociopaths are not fun people, as the author claims to be. They are, at the very core, severely mentally disordered people, with extensive manipulative powers which they remorselessly use to trap individuals, even though they may appear outwardly normal. You would not normally believe they are capable of dastardly acts that they perform. Contrary to what the author states, true sociopaths are definitely not people you would want to bring home to your mom, or let around your children, if you really understood them well and could see thru their seduction.
I don’t know the author of this article, or her disability, or inability, and anything I write is not about her, but about my own experiences with Sociopathic/Psychopathic personalities. 

Confessions of a Sociopath

Inside the mind of a manipulator. Plus: Why a psychopath is so hard to identify, how the ruthless take advantage, and the lessons we might learn from cold-blooded personalities.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201305/confessions-sociopath/confessions-sociopath

She’s a successful law professor and a Sunday school teacher, with a host of family and friends. But her interpersonal calculus centers on how to manipulate and outmaneuver the many people in her life. Welcome to a world of ruthless cost-benefit analysis, charm, and grandiosity.

By M.E. Thomas, published on May 07, 2013 – last reviewed on May 06, 2013

Image: Two female faces with broken puzzle piecesI have never killed anyone, but I have certainly wanted to. I may have a disorder, but I am not crazy. In a world filled with gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race, people are attracted to my exceptionalism like moths to a flame. This is my story.

Once while visiting Washington, D.C., I used an escalator that was closed, and a Metro worker tried to shame me about it.

Him: “Didn’t you see the yellow gate?”

Me: “Yellow gate?”

Him: “I just put the gate up, and you were supposed to walk around it!”

Me: [Silence. My face was blank.]

Him: “That’s trespassing! It’s wrong to trespass! The escalator is closed, you broke the law!”

Me: [I stare at him silently.]

Him: [Visibly rattled by my lack of reaction] “Well, next time, you don’t trespass, okay?”

It was not okay. In explaining their horrible actions, people often say that they “just snapped.” I know that feeling. I stood there for a moment, letting my rage reach that decision-making part of my brain, and I suddenly became filled with a sense of calm purpose. I blinked my eyes and set my jaw. I started following him. Adrenaline started flowing; my mouth tasted metallic. I fought to keep my peripheral vision in focus, hyperaware of everything around me, trying to predict the movement of the crowd. I was hoping that he would walk into a deserted hallway where I would find him alone. I felt so sure of myself, so focused on this one thing I had to do. An image sprang to mind: my hands wrapped around his neck, my thumbs digging deep into his throat, his life slipping away under my unrelenting grasp. How right that would feel. But I know I had been caught in a megalomaniacal fantasy. And in the end it didn’t matter; I lost sight of him.

I Am a Sociopath

Remorse is alien to me. I have a penchant for deceit. I am generally free of entangling and irrational emotions. I am strategic and canny, intelligent and confident, but I also struggle to react appropriately to other people’s confusing and emotion-driven social cues.

I was not a victim of child abuse, and I am not a murderer or a criminal. I have never skulked behind prison walls; I prefer mine to be covered in ivy. I am an accomplished attorney and law professor, a well-respected young academic who regularly writes for law journals and advances legal theories. I donate 10 percent of my income to charity and teach Sunday school for the Mormon Church. I have a close circle of family and friends whom I love and who very much love me. Does this sound like you? Recent estimates say that one in every 25 people is a sociopath. But you’re not a serial killer, never imprisoned? Most of us aren’t. Only 20 percent of male and female prison inmates are sociopaths, although we are probably responsible for about half of all serious crimes committed. Nor are most sociopaths incarcerated. In fact, the silent majority of sociopaths live freely and anonymously, holding down jobs, getting married, having children. We are legion and diverse.

You would like me if you met me. I have the kind of smile that is common among television show characters and rare in real life, perfect in its sparkly teeth dimensions and ability to express pleasant invitation. I’m the sort of date you would love to take to your ex’s wedding—fun, exciting, the perfect office escort. And I’m just the right amount of successful so that your parents would be thrilled if you brought me home.

Image: Businessman face hidden

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of my confidence is the way I sustain eye contact. Some people have called it the “predator stare.” Sociopaths are unfazed by uninterrupted eye contact. Our failure to look away politely is also perceived as being aggressive or seductive. It can throw people off balance, but often in an exciting way that imitates the unsettling feeling of infatuation. Do you ever find yourself using charm and confidence to get people to do things for you that they otherwise wouldn’t? Some might call it manipulation, but I like to think I’m using what God gave me.

I was a perceptive child, but I couldn’t relate to people beyond amusing them, which was just another way for me to make them do what or behave how I wanted them to. I didn’t like to be touched and I rejected affection. The only physical contact I sought usually entailed violence. The father of a friend in grade school had to pull me aside and sternly ask me to stop beating his daughter. She was a skinny, stringy thing with a goofy laugh, as if she were asking to be slapped. I didn’t know that I was doing something bad. It didn’t even occur to me that it would hurt her or that she might not like it.

A Chaotic Breeding Ground

I was the middle child in a family with a violent father and an indifferent, sometimes hysterical, mother. I loathed my father. He was phenomenally unreliable as a breadwinner, and we often came home to find the power shut off because we were months behind in our electricity bill. He spent thousands of dollars on expensive hobbies, while we were bringing oranges from our backyard to school for lunch. The first recurring dream I can remember was about killing him with my bare hands. There was something thrilling about the violence of it, smashing a door into his head repeatedly, smirking as he fell motionless to the floor.

I didn’t mind arguing with him. I made it a point not to back down from our confrontations. Once in my early teens, we argued over the meaning of a movie we had watched. I told him, “You believe what you want,” then left him. I slipped into the bathroom at the top of the stairs, shutting and locking the door. I knew he hated that phrase (my mother had used it before), and that my repetition of it presented the specter of another generation of women in his house who refused to respect or appreciate him, and instead despised him. I also knew that he hated locked doors. I knew these things would damage him, which is what I wanted.

“Open up! Open up!” He knocked a hole in the door, and I could see that his hand was bloody and swollen. I wasn’t concerned about his hand, and I wasn’t glad that he was hurt either, because I knew that it gave him satisfaction to be stricken by such passion that he could disregard his own pain and suffering. He kept working at the jagged hole until it was big enough for him to stick his face through; he was smiling so widely that his teeth showed.

My parents ignored my blatant and awkward attempts to manipulate, deceive, and inveigle others. They neglected to notice that I associated with childhood acquaintances without really forming connections, never seeing them as anything more than moving objects. I lied all the time. I also stole things, but more often I would just trick kids into giving them to me. I envisioned the people in my life as robots that turned off when I wasn’t directly interacting with them. I snuck into people’s homes and rearranged their belongings. I broke things, burned things, and bruised people.

I did the minimum necessary to insinuate myself into everyone’s good graces so I could get what I needed: food when my family’s pantry was empty, rides home or to activities if my parents were MIA, invitations to parties, and the one thing I craved most, the fear I instilled in others. I knew I was the one in power.

Aggression, risk taking, and a lack of concern for one’s own health, or that of others, are hallmarks of sociopathy. When I was 8, I almost drowned in the ocean. My mother said that when the lifeguard fished me out of the water and breathed life into me, my first utterances were gasps of laughter. I learned that death could come at any moment, but I never developed a fear of it.

Before my 16th birthday, I got very sick. I usually kept these things to myself. I didn’t like involving others in my personal issues, because it presented an invitation to others to interfere with my life. But that day, I told my mother about the sharp pain below my sternum. After she expressed her usual exasperation, she gave me herbal medicine and told me to rest. I went back to school even though I was sick. Every day my parents had a new remedy; I carried a little baggy of medicine with me—Tums, Advil, homeopathic cure-alls.

But I was still in pain. All the energy that I usually used to blend in and charm others was redirected to controlling the pain. I stopped nodding and smiling; instead I stared at them with dead eyes. I had no filter for my secret thoughts; I told friends how ugly they were and that they deserved the bad things that happened to them. Without the stamina to calibrate my effect on people, I embraced my meanness.

My abdominal pain migrated to my back. At one point, I spent the afternoon sleeping in my brother’s car. Later, my dad looked at my torso and saw that something was wrong. Reluctantly, he said: “We’ll go to the doctor tomorrow.”

The next day, at the doctor’s office, the physician spoke in outraged tones. My mother receded into quiet, semi-catatonic disavowal, the state she retreated to when my father punched things. The doctor questioned:If you felt pain, what have you been doing for the last 10 days? Then I passed out. When I came to, I heard shouting and my father convincing the doctor not to call the ambulance. I could sense their mistrust of him.

I could see wild panic in my dad’s eyes. He and my mother let me suffer for over a week because, as I later discovered, our family’s medical insurance had lapsed. When I woke up after surgery, I saw my dad standing over me with tired anger. My appendix had perforated, toxins spewed in my gut, I became septic with infection, and my back muscles became gangrenous. “You could have died; the doctors are very angry,” my dad said, as if I should have apologized to everyone. I think my sociopathy was triggered largely because I never learned how to trust.

Why Trial Law Is a Sociopath’s Fancy

My father’s narcissism made him love me for my accomplishments because they reflected well on him, but it also made him hate me because I never bought into his self-image, which was all he cared about. I think I did a lot of the same things he did—played baseball, joined a band, attended law school—so that he would know that I was better.

I loved getting high marks in school; it meant I could get away with things other students couldn’t. When I was young, what thrilled me was the risk of figuring out just how little I could study and still pull off the A. It was the same for being an attorney. During the California bar exam, people were crying from the stress. The convention center where the exam took place looked like a disaster relief center; people made desperate attempts to recall everything they had memorized over the prior eight weeks—weeks that I spent vacationing in Mexico. Despite being woefully ill-prepared by many standards, I was able to maintain calm and focus enough to maximize the knowledge I did have. I passed while others failed.

Regardless of my laziness and general lack of interest, I was actually a great lawyer when I was trying. At one point, I worked as a prosecutor in the misdemeanor department of the district attorney’s office. My sociopathic traits make me a particularly excellent trial lawyer. I’m cool under pressure. I feel no guilt or compunction, which is handy in such a dirty business. Misdemeanor prosecutors almost always have to walk into a trial with cases they’ve never worked on before. All you can do is bluff and hope that you’ll be able to scramble through it. The thing with sociopaths is that we are largely unaffected by fear. Besides, the nature of the crime is of no moral concern to me; I am interested only in winning the legal game.

Image: Boy on chair face hidden

When I was at one law firm, I was assigned to work for a senior associate named Jane. I was based in one of the firm’s satellite offices, so I saw her once every few weeks. In law firms, you are supposed to treat your senior associate as if she is the ultimate authority, and Jane took this hierarchy seriously. You could tell that she never enjoyed such power in any other social sphere. Her pale skin mottled with age, poor diet, and middling hygiene was evidence of a lifetime spent outside the social elite. She wanted to wear her power well, but she was clumsy with it—heavy-handed in certain circumstances and a pushover in others. She was an entertaining blend of power and self-doubt.

I was not her best associate, and Jane believed that I was undeserving of all that I had accomplished. She put much effort into dressing appropriately, while I wore flip-flops and T-shirts at every semi-reasonable opportunity. While she billed as many hours as humanly possible, I exploited the nonexistent vacation policy by taking three-day weekends and weeks-long holidays.

One day we got into the elevator together. There were two tall, handsome men already inside. They both worked at the venture capital firm in the building. You could tell that they received multimillion dollar bonuses and likely arrived in one of the Maseratis regularly parked downstairs. The men were discussing the symphony that they had attended the night before—I also had attended it, though I didn’t normally go to the symphony. I casually asked them about it.

They lit up. “So lucky to have met you! Perhaps you can settle a disagreement; my friend thinks that it was Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto that was performed last night, but I think it was his third.” “It was his second.” It hardly mattered what the right answer was.

The men thanked me and left the elevator, leaving Jane and me to travel to her office in enough silence for her to contemplate the dimensions of my intellectual and social superiority. She was jittery by the time we got to her office where we were supposed to talk about our work project. Instead, we talked about her life choices from the age of 18, her worries and insecurities about her job and her body, her attraction to women despite her being engaged to a man.

After that, I knew that whenever she saw me, her heart would flutter; she would worry about the secret vulnerabilities she had exposed to me, and she would wonder what it would be like to undress me or to slap me across the face. I know that for a long time I haunted her dreams. Power is its own reward, but with this particular dynamic established, I leveraged a brief cancer scare and outpatient procedure into a three-week paid vacation—another form of reward.

A Love Triangle of My Making

I like to imagine that I have “ruined people” or seduced someone to the point of being irreparably mine. I dated Cass for a while, but I ultimately lost interest. He, though, did not lose interest. So I tried to find other uses for him. One night he and I went to a party where we met Lucy. She was striking, particularly in her similarity to me, which made me want to ruin her. I did the calculations—Lucy is smitten with Cass, Cass is smitten with me, I had unexpected power over Lucy. At my direction, Cass began pursuing Lucy. I found out everything I could about Lucy from her well-meaning friends: Lucy and I were born hours apart on the same day; we had the same predilections, the same pet peeves, and the same style of distracted, quasi-formal communication. In my mind she was my alter ego.

For as long as Lucy dated Cass, I kept him as my sidepiece: I would induce him to make and then break dates with her in favor of being with me. He knew I was using him to mess with her. When he started to feel pangs of conscience, I broke it off with him. I waited until he focused all his attention on Lucy, waited until she got her hopes up, then I called him again. I told him we were meant for each other and I was just testing him.

Lucy made things worse for herself—she had no sense of keeping personal things private, particularly from people like me who could use the information against her. Meanwhile, her friends sometimes thought I was her. Things could not have gone more perfectly.

The thing that kept it interesting was my genuine fondness for Lucy. I almost wanted to be a true friend. Just thinking about this makes me salivate. But when she became a dessert too rich, I began to avoid her. I made Cass break it off with her for good.

What did I actually do to Lucy? Nothing. She grabbed a boy and kissed him. She liked this boy. She saw him a couple of times a week, sometimes with his creepy friend—me. After a while, it didn’t work out. The end. I didn’t ruin anything about her. She’s married now and has a good job. The worst thing I did was propagate a romance that she believed was sincere, one that I staged (as best as I could) to break her heart. I know my heart is blacker and colder than most people’s; maybe that’s why it’s tempting to break theirs.

Image: Elderly lady, face hidden

What Is Evil, Really?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a sociopath’s dream. Mormons believe that everyone has the potential to be godlike—I believe this includes me. Every being is capable of salvation; my actions are what matters, not my ruthless thoughts, not my nefarious motivations. Everyone is a sinner, and I never felt that I was outside this norm.

When I attended Brigham Young—where students were even more trusting than the average Mormon—there were myriad opportunities for scamming. I stole from the lost and found, saying I lost a book, but then I would take the “found” book to the bookstore and sell it. Or, I’d take an unlocked bike that sat in the same place for days. Finders, keepers.

But I am functionally a good person—I bought a house for my closest friend, I gave my brother $10,000, and I am considered a helpful professor. I love my family and friends. Yet I am not motivated or constrained by the same things that most good people are.

I don’t mean to give the impression that you shouldn’t worry about sociopaths. Just because I’m high-functioning and nonviolent doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of stupid, uninhibited, or dangerous sociopaths out there. I myself try to escape people like that; after all, it’s not like all sociopaths give each other hall passes to avoid harassment.

Despite having imagined it many times, I’ve never slit anyone’s throat. I wonder, though, had I been raised in a more abusive home, whether I would have blood on my hands. People who commit heinous crimes—sociopath or empath—are not more damaged than everyone else, but they seem to have less to lose. It’s easy to imagine a 16-year-old version of myself being handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit. If I had no one to love or nothing to achieve, perhaps. It’s hard to say.

Diagnosed sociopath M.E. Thomas is an author, law professor, and founder of sociopathworld.com.

Adapted from Confessions of a Sociopath, Copyright 2013 by M.E. Thomas. To be published by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc., on May 14, 2013

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On Spiders and Bugs…

Lately, I have had neither time, nor the emotional strength to write much. I suppose when one is overwhelmed with stress (which I suppose is a short word for distress), the psyche tries to conserves all intellectual energies in service of survival. All creative endeavors, that would lead to optimal health, become secondary to survival instinct.

That’s where I have been in the past several years. Trying to survive the legal jungle and living thru the nightmares that the justice system imposes on hapless (and helpless) mothers who opt for divorce simply in an effort to escape exploitation and violence. The process has been an unending nightmare spanning 11 long years. Prior to that, my marriage of 18 years had been an unending nightmare. The trauma is relentless, ongoing, unending. I write this to let my former clients know that I haven’t forgotten them, nor abandoned them, but simply have been embroiled in my own struggles, that may be qualitatively, even perhaps quantitatively, similar to their own. We need, as Bob Dylan says in Tangled Up in Blues, to “keep on keeping on”

But that was not the issue I wanted to discuss. It simply flowed out, as my heart was brimmed with pain and trauma.  What prompted this discourse was a simple, almost automatic gesture that enabled self reflection this morning.

I lean heavily towards Buddhist teachings. Implicit and explicit in those teachings is self awareness, the awareness of the other, and compassion. Over years, I have fallen into a practice of gingerly picking up the bugs, roaches, even spiders that find their way inside my house, and leaving them outside in my backyard where they flourish with their really really large clan, other creatures. My garden looks exotic, and I don’t care how many insects, bugs, reptiles make their home there, as long as they do not interfere in my way of life. The garden continues looking exotic, regardless, or perhaps even because of.

Yesterday, as I filled up the tub for a bath, I saw a spider struggling against the onslought of hot water, and I led him to safety on the windowsill. It’s the same long legged spider that has been in the tub day after day, week after week. Every time he struggles, and every time I rescue him to safety. Afterthe bathwater is drained away, I assume he returns to the comfort of the tub. One would think he would have learnt my schedule by now, and would have migrated somewhere safer. But he does not. He stays, and depends on me for its safety and survival. Just like my children do.

And I was forced to think, despite my belligerent moods (I yelled at him once!), what is it in me that prevents me from letting it drown in those hot waters ? My thoughts immediately went to the scriptures. They espouse that the visitors to our home are representations of god himself, and it is mandated that we take care of all those that seek our protection and depend on us for their survival. My left brain, the brain of logic, reasoning and separation,  immediately pooh poohed such silly instinctual reasoning. Not wishing to engage the left and right brain in a conflicts and argument, I let it go….

This morning, there was a little bug that presumably had creeped in from outdoors while my backdoor was open. It had crawled in, and seemed struggling on the tiled floor, and seemed kinda lost, or at least I thought so. I passed him several times, as unobstrusively as possible so as not to scare him, taking care not to step on him, hoping he would crawl under the rug and save himself. But he just stood there, unmoving, conspicuous against the white of the marble floor, wanting to be seen. Eventually, I directed him onto a piece of paper and dropped him outside. I was a bit upset at him for intruding into my house, and then refusing to remain out of sight, so I dropped him from a height of 2 ft or so. He fell on his back, wiggled a bit, turned himself over and darted towards the door again. I quickly, (and guility!)  shut the door in his face.

Once inside I was forced to think about it again. What is it that guides me into these behaviors ? As usual my psyche insisted that it was my religious upbringing. The scriptures, the myths, the folklores and folktales in which god presented himself in the form of helpless animals. And my left brain made me shake my head vehemently – that is all bullshit, it said. But I knew both sides of my brain spoke the truth. They had different standpoints, different responsibilities, and different roles to play in creating and conserving my life, and the universe It is reasonable to expect that they had different perspectives on this situation

I wondered if I should let go of it again. But I know such heated debates in the mind, where two powerful conflicting forces collide in support of their respective ideologies, do not go away. They linger into perpetuity, dragging down the libidinal resources of body and mind. Jung says  “Whenever we give up, leave behind, and forget too much, there is always the danger that the things we have neglected will return with added force.” This is something I have grappled with for long. I know I will never be rid of this internal argument until I address it fully. In my past experience, writing has always settled such contradictions within the psyche.  For me, and for the way my mind is configured, it provides a more permanent way of letting go. The problems that I struggle with, no longer bother me once I put them down on paper. After writing them down analytically, I always feel as if I have handed over my problems to the universe. It feels as though my psychic conflicts have become part of the universe, and I am not the only one who has to grapple with them, or resolve them, that the creative energies of the universe will take care of the conflicts and contradictions. So I decided to push myself to write about it, despite the fact that writing, and music, seems to have disappeared from my life as a consequence of the trauma I am undergoing. (But see, I am, I was able to write, and passionately, so perhaps its all for the best).

So what was it that I struggled with ? In this seeming contradiction, my psyche, which I believe expresses itself thru the right hemisphere thinking, had expressed that my sense of morality is an heirloom handed over to me by my culture, and religion, and that I must do everything to preserve that heirloom of morality by weaving it into the fabric of my daily existence. This ancestral gift guides me in my everyday engagement with the world. Under the psychic advisement, all creativity, represented by aspects of, and units of creation, need to be protected – to be attacked and destroyed only, and ONLY in self protection and preservation. I am constantly reminded by my instinct, of myths, and folktales, that god – which for me is a universal creative force rather than a personification – presents itself thru these encounters, and that these encounters always carry personal gifts, that they are always beneficial in some way or another.  My right brain insists on this, repeatedly, thru repeated encounters of the kind, in an effort of bringing it to myconscious attention.

My ego, which I believe represents the left side of the brain, has evolved in response to my environment. It carries the enormous burden of defending my uniqueness, my existence, my life. It knows me as being separate from the universe, and it helps me, and only me – as an individual – to survive in this world. It strives to optimize my existence. It does whatever is needed, so that I, as an individual, survive and flourish. My ego is indifferent to the universe, and collective existence within the universe. It is this ego that says to me :  the ancient folklore – that these creatures are god representations – is all bullshit. The ego stresses my survival, it strives to make me street smart by  enabling the warrior instinct, which is a prime requirement for survival. The warrior instinct is what I have lacked in my relationships with the universe. I am not a street smart person, I am unselfish at the very core. These experiences of being exploited in the service of the other are etched as a warning in the psyche. The ego is wary of compassion, of selflessness. I have often disregarded it, in the service of the collective. The job of my ego then, is to ensure and optimize my survival, given my history, it is more than adequately concerned with my own survival. The ego is indifferent to the other, including the bugs, especially the insignificant bugs and spiders.

Together, the psyche, and the ego provide a balancing factor. The psyche cares for the other, (including the environment ) the ego cares for the individual. Working in sync, a synthesis of the psyche and ego hopefully enables my survival without unnecessarily taxing the resources of the universe. Which is what I instinctively have been doing – weaving the two hemispheres together. I did not listen to the right brain in its totality, and so I did not let the bug find a home inside my house. But I also did not kill it, as the left brain would have advised me to, had I let it. But, having said that, I believe – and this is my personal belief – that the psyche/right brain has a greater purpose, universal good at heart, and therefore the psyche commands a greater respect in my life. I suffer as a consequence of being more receptive to the dictates of my psyche, and allowing my instincts to dictate my life, but in that suffering, is also the knowledge that I am not antithetic to nature, the natural, and the universe. I am part of the creative life force, and subservient to it. I have no right to annhilate the other. That self awareness is compensation enough; it enables me to endure my sufferings gladly, to sublimate my individuality towards the collective benefit. I would not have it otherwise.

But the right brain had pointed out to me that creatures are god representations. I wondered in what way this little bug been a god representation in my life ? What gifts had he brought to my life in return for sparing him his life? How did I benefit from the encounter ?

My pondering forced me to become conscious about the process itself.  It was a gift of consciousness. The fact that I am aware of this, am thinking about this, and am interpreting this in the way I am, is a gift. So in return for his life, he gave me the gift of light, of consciousness. I haven’t written for over 7 months. I am writing this. The ability to write with such passion, and insight, is a gift. I wondered if the little fellow had  a purposeful place in my life, was placed there by providence, or universe, or synchronicity, to create specific meaning, as an agency of consciousness ? I also wondered if all objects, animate and inanimate, represent agents to enable consciousness, if only we let them ?

I also pondered on religion. Why did the image of scriptures arise in consciousness when I questioned myself ?  Why was I taken to folklore, folktales, mythology, religion and culture ? Perhaps because all these serve as the Superego. The are embedded in the psyche as structural defenses that guide us towards (or away) from certain acts and beliefs that are antithetic to life, and universe. In that sense, the Structural defenses are akin to symbolic fathers. Our biological fathers are entrusted with the responsibility to point us towards right and away from wrong. Father are creators and builders of our moral consciousness, they lay down the memory traces that lead to foundations of the Superego, our internal moral compass. When Fathers are no longer there to help us, guide us, or when we grow out of our our Fathers, we look towards larger symbols of fatherhood – towards religion, ethical codes, codes of conduct, law, ideologies etc to help us navigate the murky waters of lived life. These become our symbolic fathers. Religion, then contributes to and lays the groundwork of moral consciousness. My instinctual behavior that protects the bugs, has to have a cause, a motive, an inspiration. It doesn’t arise from vacuum, out of nothingness. The psyche reads off from a script. That script is like a psychic DNA passed onto us intergenerationally – what Jung calls collective consciousness and Hindus call samskaras – thru our religion, culture, folktales, mythology. What we call instinct, is basically the psyche autonomously reading off of that script which is etched into us thru years of cultural and religious evolution, without our conscious knowledge.  So when I don’t know what I am doing, or why I am doing it, or if I do something instinctively, it simply means that there are deeper scripts that advise my psyche and determine the course of my action. A violent past, or a violent religion, or mythology, will prompt its people to promote violence. A corrupt past, a corrupt religion or mythology will promote corruption. Peaceful and compassionate past, religion, mythology, will lead its people towards peaceful and compassionate action.

So in these encounters with the spider in my tub, and the bug in my living room, and other encounters like these, I am forced to encounter creative energies of the universe, and our interdependence. That encounter is like an encounter with god. It is enlightening, it is consciousnessness oriented, it leaves one fulfilled, and wiser. What else would god representation be like, what else would it achieve ? Since the universe is simply a large pot of potentialities, and our existence and growth within it, is simply a probability and possibility at each stage of the decision tree, these creative energies had something to impart to me, if, and if only I chose to actualize the potential embedded within them.  How I choose to actualize that potential, is entirely determined by my samskaras, my background, my psychic dna, and of course my choice, guided by my consciousness. In that sense, it was god who knocked on my door (or my bathtub and on my floor). I chose to offer protection,  and in return for sparing the life of those creations of the creator, I was given the gift of consciousness and self awareness, and the ability to express myself yet again. I could make meaning and organize that meaning for betterment. Had I chosen to kill the creation of the creator, had I continued on the path of separation, had I allowed the ego – left brain – to dominate and dictate my behavior and  actions – nothing good would have come out of it, and I would have continued on the path of ignorance and self unawareness; and I would have nothing specific to write about.  In exchange for a conscious choice to protect the creation of the creator, I was showered with these gifts.

The self doubt that I encountered in all this, is the following:  If there was no benefit, if there were no myths, and the promised gifts that those myths could lure me with – would I still be compassionate ? The hard part for me is to accept that I don’t know. The ego has the responsibility of ensuring survival. The job is so very difficult that the ego almost always seeks predictive validity. It looks to the past for reassurance in service of survival. If the action has been beneficial in the past, then the ego will allow repetition. Uncertain outcomes are like chess moves – the ego has to estimate the reasonableness of the action, it has to work ahead to see if the action will enable, even optimize survival. All this computation and what if scenarios represent hard work. Outcome of killing the bugs is easy to figure out. It definitely ensures survival because the danger to the self will be wiped out, and this outcome is achieved thru minimum computation and working ahead, so it becomes the chosen strategy of the ego. Myths have a way of influencing the ego, by offering bribes  of predictive validity to the ego/left brain. In the myths, it is the good one who always wins in the end. Thus they establish predictability. Although rationally I happen to know that the universe is amoral, the only way I can be made to follow a moral path is by being lured to a path which promises a win with minimum effort. And myths, and religion, by always rewarding the righteous in their myths and stories, have a way of ensuring survival by promising a win for moral attitude and actions – predictive validity – with minimum effort.

Thus the notion of  exchange, of gifts to the self in return for an action, is something that the ego demands in the service of survival, to establish predictive validity. To quieten the ego would be sure death, as we would not be able to protect ourselves, or separate ourselves from the universal collective. Such merger could only result in self harm. And religion, and myths, seem to circumvent that problem. They offer a promise of safety and wellbeing to the ego, in exchange for its co-operation for a greater cause.  The ego is freed from the dilemma posed by uncertainty, and consequential terror of annhilation, and continues with its function of protecting and preserving human life.  The psychic dictates of preservation of universe, a right brain function, can then safely be met and performed by promoting compassion.

In creating these myths, and religions, and religious scriptures, and in their storytelling, our ancestors were much more wiser than we give them credit for. They weaved the left and right hemispheres together much more effectively than we do.

I continue being amazed at the wisdom that is embodied in the scriptures and religious and other myths, and am humbled by the generations that have gone before us, ancestors that have refined, and re-refined the wisdom that continues to be passed on to me in the form of religious teachings and myths and stories associated with those teachings.

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Senselogic

 

In his lecture On Melancholy and an essay entitled Melancholy and the Act, Slavoj Zizek claims that melancholia occurs not when we lose the object, but rather when the object is still here although we no longer desire it. According to Zizek, melancholia as Freud defines it in Mourning and Melancholia, shouldn’t be interpreted as if it is a product of the failure of mourning, but rather as the premature mourning for an object before it is lost. According to the orthodox interpretation of Freud’s essay, the work of mourning is to symbolize the loss and transcend it, so that one can go on with one’s life as usual. Melancholia takes over the subject if the work of mourning fails in rendering the subject capable of accepting the loss. A melancholic is s/he who cannot come to terms with the loss and turns the lost object into an…

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Dark Emotions : The nature of Fear

Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger and flee from it or fight, also known as the Fight or Flight response. Some psychologists such as John B. Watson, Robert Plutchik, and Paul Ekman have suggested that fear belongs to a small set of basic or innate emotions. This set also includes such emotions as joy, sadness, and anger. Fear should be distinguished from the related emotional state of anxiety, which typically occurs without any external threat. Additionally, fear is related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats which are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.[1] Worth noting is that fear almost always relates to future events, such as worsening of a situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable. Fear could also be an instant reaction to something presently happening. (Wikipaedia)

I have been pretty much fearless all my life. It is as if the button that triggerd fear was missing from my psyche. It was an alien emotion to me. And as long as I could keep it that way, I could achieve remarkable feats. And I did achieve success at an early age, simply because I did not fear failures.

Then, a strange incident a few years ago changed me.  At a Vipassana course, in North Fork, during an intense meditational sessions, I experienced fear of old age, and death. It was in the form of chilling image that suddenly arose from the depth of my consciousness, and presented itself to me in a flash – a grey and wiry shrivelled up body, deathlike in its existence. The image was a symbol that represented death, decay, rotting, and opened the floodgates of a deep debilitating fear. These emotions completely gripped me for a moment. The whole incident must have lasted a fraction of a second, but its felt impact was profound, and I was left sobbing uncontrollably. There were no words to define the terror that I felt. I suppose it is the way the gods of death make their presence felt.

Later, when I returned from the retreat, I realized that like other emotions that define my mind, a good amount of fear – not just of old age – had become integrated into my life,  It was a new feeling. My descends into the unconscious were easier. I eagerly began to observe it in an attempt to understand it at a deeper level.

Because of this incident, I was forced to contemplate on the meaning of life,  aging, and death. On a mundane level, I had encountered Kal, the Hindu God of Time, and I was forced to notice my own aging body. I had always taken my body for granted, and it too seemed to be doing just fine without my conscious intervention. However, the fear induced me to take care of my health. As would later turn out, the above incident was a message, an instruction from my unconscious to my conscious mind. It was a premonition, a message about shape of things to come if I did not take better care of my health. A few months later, I suffered a mild stroke (no damage), and in the years that followed, I was diagnosed with beginnings of Oesteoarthritis, and Herniated Disk. Both these problems were age related.  The fearless Madhu had been chastised by Thanatos himself ! These health related issues made me further reflect on the nature of fear.

I realized that when this debilitating emotion arose in my psyche, there was a blackness that enveloped me. The color of fear was steel grey, black. And it was eternal, stretching beyond infinity. The word ashen arose in my consciousness when I tried to define it. I also observed that I repressed the fear thru my denial about aging, and then had to maintain that repression thru several denials. I spent a significant amount of time in pretending to myself that I was not aging. I wore makeup to hide my age, I wore clothes that appeared to disguise my age, I fantasized about plastic surgery and boob jobs. I took my family and my friends for granted – behaving as if I would be with them forever.  I was intensely attached to my loved one, and in every way behaved as if my time on this earth was unlimited, that there would be no end to anything. This is how I battled with the fear of aging, and death. And the more I battled against it, the more it debilitated me in the unconscious, and to compensate and control it, I was upped the ante on my defenses.

Ultimately, I realized that instead of battling with it on a moment to moment basis,  and spending most of my life in behaviors that avoid the realization of aging and dying,  if I sit quietly for an hour, and let the fear wash over me, it slowly spent itself, decreased in intensity, until finally it was negligible enough to be managed autonomously.  In other words, if I learnt to tolerate the shower of  fear without offerings my customary resistances to such seemingly unwanted, undesirable emotion, I would be almost cleansed after each washing, and ready for insights about the nature of such emotions. It did not debilitate me anymore, I was no longer afraid. The acceptance of aging, and death as legitimate, even desirable, states of existence brought its own rewards. I could welcome my golden years in ways that were more wisdom oriented and allowed for expansion of consciousness. Whereas I had previously been in denial, whereas I had mocked death and dying thru my lack of acceptance, and had clung to youthfulness, my encounter with Thanatos left me feeling that I was part of a cosmic cycle, and that age, and death too, were desirable states of existence. The human soul was divine in all its forms. I realised that Kaal, and Thanatos were  elements of my own intrapsychic landscape, and they were infinitely more powerful  than my conscious mind. I had been arrogant, inflated in my perception, ignorant and foolish in my beliefs. An encounter with these latent parts of myself, and a living experience of them  transformed me into being more respectful of nature and the cosmic cycles. And I believe that when we respects the divine nature of all objects – even the objects of contemplation – those very objects will reciprocate in their respectfulness, and will help us into a better, wisdom oriented life. Life is harmonized and becomes a part of the cosmic symphony.

Subsequent to this incident, I was more able to live in the moment and cherished each moment because I had developed a capacity accede to the supremacy of the divine, and to be afraid of the cosmic powers. Between each sitting, my capacity to pack everything into this moment, and enjoy this very moment, increased. Life became much more vivid, colorful, intense. Every moment was palpable; I could feel it live and breathe exquisitely, pulsating like a heartbeat, with rhythm, and rhyme, vibrating to the energies of one more offering from life itself.  What I had experienced as intense and palpable before, in retrospect seemed like a flatland, a desert without colors that define life more profusely.

By observing these changes in myself, I deduced that the fear of death is a necessity  that promotes the love of life. It is much like a vaccine that helps boost our immune system. It leads to increased sensitivity and greater variety in the emotional repertoire. The psyche sends us fear in order to force our conscious mind out of its stupor, and inertia, forcing it to strengthen our compensatory defenses. Fear handled well, will make us strong, it makes life more vivid, more meaningful, more purposeful. The incident provided a context, a frame, to my understanding of life. I suddenly found energy to do things that I had been putting off. I was more passionate, and compassionate, in my work, in my likes and dislikes.  I was more discerning. Prior to this, there had always been “later, tomorrow, next year”. I became more capable, and had greater energy to expend on things that I considered unworthy before, or too mundane.  I was given the freedom to be authentic, and selfless. Meditation has somehow allowed “me” – or at least the Center of my Subjectivity – to bypass the psychic defenses and barriers.  Since the repressed fear no longer needed to be repressed, the energies used up in repressing the emotions from my consciousness were freed up. I subsequently developed a superior level of concentration, passions, zest for life that had been absent before. I was blessed by Eros. By integrating fear into my life, by letting in a little bit of darkness into my conscious life,  I had developed a greater awareness, sensibility, and sensitivity towards life’s offerings – I could taste and sense life at a deeper level. My capacity to experience various shades and nuances of life, to flirt with the dark and the light, good and bad, aesthetic and ugly – had dramatically increased. I could almost sense these these were not desirable or undesirable aspects of our lives, but simply shades of existence. I may prefer red color over black color for instance, or daylight over night. I may even choose to shut these off from my perception, pretending these don’t exist. But black, and night so exist, and they play a very important role in the cycles of the universe.  Life, as I know it, and love it, would be impossible without the color black or the night. In fact it is the lack espoused by the night that gave daylight its meaning, the absence of color in black that shapes the significance of color red in my perception. Its the dark side that gives meaning to the bright side.

I can now tolerate, even let in, a larger range of emotional diversity, and intensity.

The above had a profound effect not only on my character, but on my vocation/career as well. Because I can experience more of my psychic life, I can also experience the same about the other. I can go to places with them which had previously been alien to me. There is a saying in the psychological arena, that an analyst/therapist can only take the patient to where he has been in his/his own psychological journeys, not beyond. By integrating my own fears into my own daily life, and tolerating the uncertainty, trauma, and other debilitating emotions that accompany fear, I am made familiar of the process, and am able to contain the fears of my clients, and would hope that I am able to help them to an increased tolerance and acceptance of such dark emotions of life, and to use these debilitating emotions as a pathway to greater awareness, and to enriching their lives.

Fear is given to us so that we may develop skills that would compensate for it. It enables the archetype of Warrior to emerge from the depth of our psyche – an archetypal energy that promotes success, and enables us to be protectors of our Selves, and those that depend on us. Handled appropriately, fear enables the protective masculine within. Feelings of fear are thus gifts from the deepest recesses of the soul, gifts that are brought from our unconscious to the conscious. In their character, and their goals, they are akin to the Planet Saturn in astrological charts. It would be very appropriate to use Saturn as a metaphor that provides an better understanding of dark emotions.

In Vedic astrology Saturn and Jupiter are considered natural neutrals, but under closer relations become enemies. Similarly, Saturn is considered cold (slow) and dry (separate) whereas Jupiter is considered warm (speedy) and moist (inclusive). Where there is light Saturn brings darkness, where there is heat Saturn brings cold, where there is joy Saturn brings sadness, where there is life Saturn brings death, where there is luck Saturn brings misfortune (and sometimes heavy consequences for bad judgment or mistakes), where there is unity Saturn brings isolation, where there is knowledge Saturn brings fear, where there is hope Saturn brings skepticism and stalling. However these effects are not always negative. Saturn’s properties of contraction and “crystallization” are said to create solidness in the world and give lasting form to everything physical and principle. . .

Death, particular in old age, has been associated with Saturn since ancient times. At times the freedoms created by the other planets are abused so that remorse follows. Saturn’s color is black. The element associated with Saturn is lead.

Saturn often stands for the father in the natal chart, as does the Sun, however with Saturn it usually indicates problems with the father. Saturn indicates a tyrannical, domineering parent who seeks to mold his children in his own image and force them to live by his standards. Children often become “swallowed up” by such domination. Saturn’s connection with agriculture suggests the nature of time. The Golden Years is a term used to describe the retirement years and Saturn rules old age.

Both, the dark emotions, and the Planet Saturn, are taskmasters that are dedicated to the goal of strengthening us. They goal is to help us become tough, and face life’s challenges with the courage of an adult rather than a whimper of a child.

The process of managing fear, and preventing it from debilitating the psyche and destroying one’s psychic life, is an art that needs training, contemplation, and constant efforts. It is only when we shirk our responsibilities as an adult, and refuse to rise to the challenges posed by these – or any other – dark emotions , that these emotions can become overwhelming and debilitating.  But if you learn the dance, and can dance well in partnership, seeking neither to overpower them, nor to undermine them, then the gifts of such encounters with the dark side are numerous, and life enriching. I must go out on a limb to say that dark emotions form the essence of life. They give meaning to life, and help shape our character. They attempt to raise us to our higher potential, and bring us closer to God.

So the next time you feel threatened by a dark emotion, dance to the tune of Observer and the Observed, switching roles back and forth until you are able to extract the essence of the messages from the unconscious that they have brought for you.

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Schrodinger’s Cat : Not This, Not That

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”   – Isaac Asimov

Here is a post I wrote up a little while ago, but had forgotten to make visible. I had initially jotted down these ideas in order to prepare a paper for the Consciousness Conference in Tucson, but eventually did not present at the conference. These are my thoughts on the subject – the thought-energy arises in my super-curious material mind, travelling outwards, to hopefully stimulate and affect your material mind…….a perfect example of wave transmission…

The expression “Not This Not That” has been taken from the Buddhist and Hindu expression of Neti Neti, which literally translates to “Not This, Not That” in English. When these two philosophies try to explain the experience of objective reality, word symbols fail to describe the experience. This failure to explain occurs because language has been crafted in response to the duality inherent in the material world. Language and all word symbols belong to the material world which is relativistic in our perception. It is said that any Transcendent Experience – that in which one overcomes the duality and experiences one-ness with the universe – can only be described by negating the experiences of this world of inherent duality – hence the expression “Not This, Not That.” Quantum world is something like that – unimaginable, unfathomable, we can only reach it thru our mathematical equations, but such understanding is disconnected from our own experience. It is not like our experience of the world, but it is not not like our experience of the world either. Not this, not that.

They say never plan ahead, go with the flow, live in the present, yada yada yada. So true. I deadheaded almost 250 rosebushes in the last few days. My friend Karin once said that picking  fruit from the trees or vines takes one into a zen like state.  One tends to the external world mechanically, while the mind tends to the internal. Deadheading roses does that to me too. After my previous blog about gardening, I had wanted to write about my philosophical associations with the phenomenon of deadheading. However, life rarely flows according to our plans, and Dr Schrodinger has returned into my life again with his cat, and he takes me to contemplative places that are entirely different from the zen-like places that deadheading takes me to. Whereas deadheading is contemplative, and forces one to recede into interiority, Schrodinger and his cat invite conscious explorations of the external world.

Schrodinger was a pioneer in the world of Quantum Physics. He is credited with the famous   wave function equation, a mathematical representation that brings the bizarre behavior of quantum world into light. He explained the nature of reality with a hypothetical experiment  involving a (his) cat – Schrodinger’s Cat Experiment. The inference from the experiment about the nature of reality at quantum level blows my mind away every time. It is also deeply insightful of human behavior. I have always felt that if Mathematics is the language of God, then Quantum World is the abode of Shiva where he performs the dance of duality and non duality, union and separation, unconscious-ness and conscious-ness. I think everyone MUST study quantum physics, for it bridges the divide between Religion , Science, Philosophy, Metaphysics and the Occult. It provides clarity, and understanding of ourselves, as conglomerate of elementary particles whose behavior is in some ways the same as those of the particles, yet, the outcome is more than the sum of particles.  This principle is also the fundamental, underlying principle in the fast developing area in science, philosophy, art called Emergence, which originally derived from systems theory, but now has become a fundamental theory in itself. Perhaps one day in the not so distant future, Quantum Physics will be compulsory subject in elementary and middle school, like letters and alphabets, and sentence building, and addition and subtraction – it will be a basic building block of our understanding of our worldly existence !!!

The tiny electron (or any elementary particle for that matter)  is multifaceted. It has the ability to behave like a wave, as well as like a particle. The duality is inherent in its nature. Try dropping a stone in still water. The water gets disturbed, and a wave travel outwards from the center of the disturbance. Except, there is nothing material that travels really, there is no movement of water molecules, but there is a movement of energy. The water molecules simply stay where they are, and move up and down with varying intensity.  So the wave is simply how energy moves and transmits. So what does it mean when we say that the electron behaves like a wave ? No one really knows, except that the equations that we have come up to describe the nature of the electron follow the rules of wave transmission.

The particle nature of the elementary particle is more reassuring, and readily understood by human cognition. When we say it behaves like a particle, we mean to say that it follows the classical laws of motion. Just like a billiard ball does. The mathematical equations that represent laws of motion, are applicable to the elementary particle as well (with minor adjustments because of its minuteness).

So the dual particle nature means that under certain conditions, the electron behaves like a wave, and follows the physical and mathematical representations of wave transmission (only energy transmitted, the particle itself remains stationary) and under certain conditions the electron behaves like a particle (the particle follows the same principle that a billiard ball follows). The choice of strategy is purely situational – it seems to have intelligence built in to figure out which mode of transmission to use under which situations.

Electrons – and all other particles – also follow a law called the Uncertainty Principle, which states that it is impossible for us to accurately simultaneously predict the position and the momentum of an electron/photon. Normally the electrons that populate our world, are always moving around randomly, doing whatever they want. And the equations predict that they do some pretty bizarre stuff that is beyond human experience, and understanding – we are reduced to conjectures and can only infer. Their behavior, when they are undetected, unobserved, cannot be ascertained. But when they are being watched by us, or our measuring instruments, they become well behaved and follow our laws of physics. But even so, we are prevented from knowing how fast it is moving AND where it is going.  Its the fundamental quality of the electron that it either it will let you know its momentum, or it will let you know its  location. This inability to calculate both is not because of any shortcomings of our measuring instruments. It is simply the fundamental nature of electron! The electron seems very protective of its privacy – as if it does not want us to get to know him too intimately.

Thus the mere act of looking at an electron will somehow alter the wave function of the electron and makes it an observable particle which follows the laws of motion. In other words, as soon as an electron “knows” that you (or your instruments) are looking at it, it will relinquish its wave-like nature, give up its bizarre behavior, its symbiotic existence, its being-ness and unity with the universe, and it will start dutifully obeying the laws of motion, and will start behaving predictably like a billiard ball would.  It begins to behave in a way that is comprehensible, predictable, and amenable to human cognition and experience, it follows the rules of the material world. It is as if the observation (visual, or thru experiments) forces the electron to change its behavior, and the same electron will now go from a being mode – where it is one with nature, and denies us any direct insight into an experience of that oneness – into a doing mode in which it will let us observe and understand it thru experiments.  Immediately upon being observed, the bizarre behavior – its wave function – collapses, it becomes an obedient particle of the material world, and begins to follow the laws of physics. Like little kids behave perfectly while their mothers watching them, but follow their instinct when the mother happens to look away. It is also somewhat allegorical of human behavior sans law and legal consequences, or religious codes, or social mores, or our innate moral codes – brought into consciousness through the organizing functions of the ego/superego.

If our psychological structures – ego, superego – had not developed the way they do, our id functions will take over and there would be no civilization, consciousness, language. Unpredictability and chaos would rein. According to Lacan, the required interaction with the father, dubbed as the Law of the Father,  forces the child to relinquish its symbiotic unity with the mother, and thru this sacrifice, the infant/child is  forced into an organized, conscious, symbolic world, a world of rules, a world that imposes moral, ethical and social codes (see Quest for the Symbolic Father).  In the absence of the Law of the father, there would be chaos, unpredictability.  Much before him, Freud too had postulated the existence of a primordial primordial tribe, with no taboos. According to him, it was the Taboo that led to a conscious, organized, civilized  world, and psychologically healthy human beings.

Jung has stated the same thing in a different way – he believed that it was the masculine principle, the animus that extracted the developing psyche from the symbiotic depths of the feminine principle (replete with irrationality and chaos), leading to evolution and consciousness.

Sankhya, am ancient Hindu philosophy, espouses that it is the active element, the Purusha –  that impregnates and acts on passivity of the Prakriti, and the interaction leads to evolution (of consciousness?).

Thus consciousness, in religion and mythology, seems to arise as a consequence of forced relinquishing of the symbiotic unity. It is a child-like product of interaction between the passive and the active/dynamic, the masculine and the feminine principles, of forced surrender of unity; it seems to be a product of separation, and duality. In the psychological realm separation is associated with trauma, and expansion of consciousness is a by product of psychic trauma. Evolution of consciousness, or expansion of consciousness is also a byproduct of the interaction between the conscious and the unconscious psyche.

Here we see a confluence in psychotherapy, religion and Quantum Physics. If the predictable, material existence – which appears to be synonymous with the particle nature of the electron –  arises as a consequence of being forced from chaos to order, after being forced from a passive (being) mode, into a dynamic (doing) mode; forced from potentiality to actuality, then we can see this as a universal pattern that applies everywhere, including in our psychic reality. The social codes that force into organizing us into a civilization, are of course contingent on, and a consequence of the psychological structures of people who inhabit the society. Does the psychology of human behavior arise from the atomic constitution of our material bodies ? Is our external organization being driven by the nature of electrons ? The behavior of fundamental particles of nature  create an ever evolving, ever widening pattern that originates in the particle, and shapes the psyche and spreads outward into societies and culture – sort of like a wave. What would then be the cause of the modern day chaos if understood in terms of the nature of the fundamental particles ?

Organization, predictability, consciousness seems to be a condition that emerges when an entity is forced into conformance and is subjected to the rules of the environment. The act of being observed forces the elementary particle into conforming to conscious behavior and manipulation, into predictability, and conformity to the expectations of the material world. Consciousness thus seems to be an outcome of being observed.  In psychotherapy too, the therapist is deemed to be a witness, under whose observation, the client chooses to relive their unconscious experiences, and then re-organizes them differently in their conscious mind.  In his book “Vision and Separation between Mother and Baby,” author Kenneth Wright emphasizes a similar notion. He states that whatever is observed by the mother, becomes conscious, the rest is repressed into the unconscious. Being observed, thus, seems to be a fundamental necessity for consciousness to arise and evolve. Perhaps consciousness and particle nature of the electron need to be studied as two aspects of the same reality. Perhaps the two are synonyms.

This leads us to something that we must ponder on – if the electron conforms to the rules of our world, and to our intentions, and given the subjective nature of our intentions – our subjectivity must be participant in the shaping of our reality! This deduction has enormous implication…

Thus it appears that the fundamental property/ability of an elementary particle – to abandon its wave function, and all properties associated with the function under observation –  holds enormous meaning in the manifest world.

It means that an observer is necessary for an electron (and by inference, also necessary for a material entity) to manifest. The necessity to be observed in order to exist in a material world provides an excellent rationale for the existence of god. According to this particular hypothesis of Quantum Physics, if there was no one observing us, we would not exist. Therefore a watchful god must exist !

The nature of an electron seems to be associated with the nature of the conscious and unconscious mind. Looking, and comprehending, is associated with consciousness. As long as the particles are not looked at, they behave differently, irrationally, chaotically, in bizarre ways. Their behavior undergoes a significant change as soon as they are observed. When observed, they relinquish their ways, and are forced into following an established set of rules that define and organize our environment.

Which made me think – what happens to the soul when we die ? It is not being observed in the material world, so if it exists, it must exist in the cosmic uroboros, and follow the tenets of the same existence……..but returning to the particle, all particles simply seem to have two ways of behaving –

1)       the symbiotic modes where they exist in relationship with each other, lead an unknown, chaotic life that has not been fathomed (as yet), they do not follow the material laws that rule this world – in fact they defy the rules of physics. When they are not being observed, it is as if the particles have a secret life of their own. This life has nothing in common with the life as we know. Eg the particles seem to exist everywhere simultaneously and yet do not have a presence that may be called real, or physical. So an electron may exist in your palm, and on a distant galaxy, and everywhere else imaginably, at the same time !!!! Two particles have the ability to affect each other, and communicate with each other across spacetime continuum  (called Quantum Entanglement). Hypothetically speaking, if you attempt to paint the electron held in your palm, the one on Mars will get automatically and immediately painted as well. It is as if the spacetime continuum does not exist for unobserved particles.

The elementary particle seem to *know* what is being done to them before we humans begin our observation process. As a consequence of that knowing, they change their behaviors in response to the experiment

2)     the observable mode, where they know they are being looked at, and they “relinquish” their unity with the universe, or “decide,” or “choose”, or are “forced” to behave like material particles of nature that follow the laws of this world. When they are not being observed, they seem to be devolved of these special powers vested in them during their symbiotic state. The particle will now honor all physical laws etc.

I am blown away by the similarity of the world body with the human body. And yet, why should it come as a surprise? Nature has only a few patterns that it repeats over and over again, to form the diversity of life.A few musical notes – the melodies are endless. A few fractal patterns, with literally unending, and endless combination of art forms.

Our unconscious has its own way of behaving. It is irrational, choatic, and unfathomable.  It follows its own rules, and is known to communicate across spacetime. The unconscious has enormous potential, and powers. the Self is equated with God in many religions, and religious philosophies of the world – esp of the East. Experiments in intentionality, clairvoiance, ESP etc are currently being conducted to understand such “paranormal” phenomenon. But it is fundamental property of the elementary particle, and we are composed of those particles. Granted that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, but perhaps the whole retains some of those properties – that we have not scientifically understood yet – in some shape or form.

Human beings are mere bodies, affected and limited by the laws of nature that apply to all material bodies. We cannot move faster than our bodies enable, or the laws of physical world enable us to move. We stay where we are, or move sluggishly, like the observed electron, but energy that we possess in many forms, perhaps travels outwards from us like waves, perhaps at speeds of light, or beyond the speed of light, affecting everything that those energy waves encounter. Perhaps energies from other sources, people, objects affect us in a similar manner. We may sometimes get caught in entanglements of the Quantum Entanglement kind, those that are beyond our understanding at present except at the quantum levels. The butterfly effect is a perfect example of that transmission of energy.

Thoughts, and intentions, are also a form of energy. They can possibly radiate outwards from us, and towards us from outside sources. This is the basis of Buddhist thought, that pays homage to Right Thought, Right Intention. A series of experiments, called the Intention Experiments, conducted by Lynne McTaggart has attempted to measure the power of intentional energy.  Dean Radin, another experimenter and researcher, has also conducted what is now famously known as a Chocolate Experiment, to document this power of intentionality, and its ability to transmit and affect the lives of people.

When anything from the unconscious is made conscious, it goes thru the filters of cognitive  understanding, and becomes conscious in this world, it becomes of this world. It is subjected to the rules of this world, and becomes the basis of change of human behavior. Because we now know it, we can never go back to being who we were before this piece of cognitive understanding had changed our consciousness. The expansion of consciousness is irreversible. This is the fundamental principle of psychotherapy generally. This is especially true of Jungian psychotherapy. Jung recognized the archetypical dimensions of the psyche. The unconscious psyche carries within itself information on the archetypes, and this information is transmitted to the conscious mind and informs our everyday behaviors.  Psychopathology represents the undesired distortion of these messages as they travel from the unconscious to the conscious mind, and/or the refusal of the conscious psyche to accept these instructions.

And so psychotherapy seems to be a bridge that deliberately, and intentionally connects the unconscious with the conscious, and this translation must always function as smoothly as the transition from wave to particle nature occurs – seamlessly. Psychotherapy seems to be much like the experiments of the scientific world that seek to understand the quantum world. In the process of observing the quantum world, scientists are also making conscious all that which is unconscious. Could the quantum world be called the unconscious of the universe ? After all, most of the universe is unconscious, much like most of the human psyche is unconscious.  This statement reminds me of the book that has been sitting on my bookcase for several years, waiting to be read – The Living Universe. The name of the author eludes me at this time. Perhaps I need to go back and go thru that.

There are other properties of the quantum world that have parallels in the human psyche. Jung talks about the opposites – the modern physics follows the concept of Supersymmetry which holds that every particle in nature has an antiparticle, every object has an antiobject. This poses intensely contemplative questions on the nature of Good and Evil and such.

Jung also talks about transcendence and transcendent function. Physics discusses the residuals that make up the material world after the antimatter destroyed all matter.  Matter transcended the opposites, and the annhilating duality of matter and antimatter. Perhaps the capacity for a transcendent function arises of this underlying ability of consciousness/matter to sustain itself after the opposites have exhausted/annhilated each other.

The list of similarities goes on and on and on.

Physics -any science – appears simply as a metaphor for human existence. Our quest for knowledge of the external arises in response to the quest for Self Realization.  Science thus appears to represents a tool that may help us to understand the Self. The explorations of science would then represent externalized explorations of the Self.

Our ancestors understood our external worlds thru an understanding of the Self, but we are focused on understanding the external, and only the external, forgetting that the external is merely a perceptual representation of the internal – of the psyche and the Self. We could not understand the external if we did not have the correlates, memory traces within. And hence our understanding of the external will never be thorough, and complete unless we correlate and support that exploration with the exploration of our interiority. And perhaps that is why there is so much uncertainty related to the validity of our scientific achievements – because there is uncertainty, or ignorance about our knowledge of our Selves.

Stuff that is worth reflecting on….

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ADHD – The how, what and why….and what now?

I am told that September has been nominated as an Autism and ADHD month. My blog is an offering to those unfortunate children whose anxiety is demonised because of ignorance about this so called “disorder”.

Thousands of kids in US are labelled  as ADHD kids everyday. Their lives are torn apart by the diagnosis that teachers, parents, doctors impose on them. The stigma will carry with them throughout life. 90% of the world production of Ritalin is consumed in US, which often leads me to wonder if US kids are somehow more disabled and diseased than the kids in the rest of the world? That assumption doesn’t seem right, so then, is there something wrong with parents, teachers, doctors in this country that mercilessly subject the innocence of childhood to such extreme measures?

US has essentially been a youthful state, as well as a state that worships youthfulness. One has to take a look at statistics related to plastic surgery, and it will be clear that growing old doesn’t seem to have the allure that it has in other parts of the world. Old is bad.

I don’t think its the age that is a matter of derision in this society. It is the helplessness, weakness, incapacity and related vulnerability associated with age that is the cause of derision. It is not ok to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is not tolerated, in fact anything vulnerable is attacked and annhilated. US is a state where only the fittest will survive and thrive. The old, and the kids, are vulnerable. So childhood seems to be a distinctive disease here. So bad is this disease that the state has to pass laws to protect the children! Without the laws, the children would be in danger !

According to Lacan, it is the repressed that gives rise to the unconscious, the incestuous which gives rise to the taboo, and it is the underlying aggression, and derision felt against age, and childhood, that gives rise to our laws which protect the children, and the old. On its own, the society would annhilate these extremities of life.

ADHD is a typical “disorder” that lends credence to my assertion. There is no such thing as ADHD.  ADHD is a hollow construct. It is a name given to a condition that does not really exist the way it is understood and treated. My opinions may seem extreme to some of my readers, but bear with me as we explore the developmental origins of this “disorder” and uncover the problems that lead to this adjustment problem encountered by many a tender psyche.

Before we start discussing the origins of this problem, lets discuss some statistics that will help throw some more light on the nature of this “disorder.” I grew up in India and lived there till I was 26. I then lived in Dubai for the next 9 years and then moved to Australia in 1995. We moved to US in late 1998.

Up until 1995, I had never heard the term ADHD. After 1995, I heard the term in passing, but it didnt really concern me until I moved to US in 1998 where it was the buzzword everyone was using. It wasn’t that there were no naughty kids in India or in Dubai. But out of 1000s of acquaintances, friends, and  a very very large extended family on both sides of my marriage, when I look back I can see two kids who could have qualified for this diagnosis.  At that time, though, the mothers of both children had accepted the flaws in their mothering, and attempted to change their behaviors. One of them invited her parents more often so the kids could be looked after the grandparents who had much more patience. The other one, realizing her own inadequacies, had sent her son to a boarding school. No other kid I have met in the last 50 years of my life over the two continents, has exhibited any signs of ADHD.  Australia was pretty much the same, although the prevalence of ADHD, and diagnosis was a little more common there.

US, though, was a different ballgame altogether. I found here kids who were clearly much more hyperactive, and more often than I would like it, they were diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin. I was amazed to read that 90% of the world’s Ritalin was consumed by the kids in US, which didn’t really make them any better because the “disorder” though muted by medication, raised its ugly head in other areas of their life.  This different in the nature of children, almost the difference in “quality” of childhood shocked me to no end, and I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what was going on beneath the rampant diagnosis of these ADHD kids, their diagnosis and their medications. Along this time, I had some ADHD kids as clients as well, and my work with them and their parents shed some light on the phenomenon called ADHD. My son’s best friend is labelled with ADHD and is doused with medication. His mother revealed that he was more focussed with medication, and was able to get good grades. Here are my thoughts and my own analysis of the malaise that seems to threaten the future of our kids, and hence the future of United States.

United States is a capitilistic country where financial and material dreams come true. People have opportunities of making a lot of money. A LOT. The stars in their eyes induce them to work like crazy. US may be the only country in the entire world where an annual leave of 10 days a year is the norm.  In addition to such a atrocious policy on annual leave, maternity leave is 45 days! This is absolutely horrific and shameful. Everywhere in the world, maternity leave is usually from 3-8 months, and then father’s can get paternity  leave for another 3-8 months. The family structures in the rest of the world are much more cohesive than in US.  In India, for example, our extended family comes in to help. The grandparents on either side of the family will live with the couple, and will take turns to care for the baby/grandchild till the baby is at least 2 years old. As all developmental theories posit, child development for the first 2 years is extremely crucial, and leaves a lasting impression on the child’s life. This development, during the first two years of infancy, becomes the cornerstone of adult life. Since family systems are not as cohesive in US, no such luxury is affordable to an American woman. Single parenting makes it even worse. A woman returning to work after 45 days is often forced to put the baby in the public childcare system, where quality of care can range from mediocre to downrightly terrible. Nothing can substitute a mother, not even grandmothers. But grandmothers are the nearest substitute that there could exist. The infants are thus wrenched from their mother within 45 days, and expected to fend for themselves, at least emotionally ! In the absence of the mother, the infant becomes extremely anxious, fearing annhilation.  Gee…..I’d say separating a mother from a child within 45 days, with not real mother substitute except a sterile crib…to me that is real child abuse, and oppression of women !!!

ADHD is a specific anxiety disorder that is diagnosed primarily in little children, although adults may also carry the symptoms. However, the symptoms are first experienced as a child, the anxiety becoming entrenched in the psyche. The Diagnostics Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR), the bible of mental health disorders, defines ADHD as a “persistent pattern of inattention and or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.” In addition to these, there are other criteria

I have repeated the story about mother-child non-duality and symbiosis  so many times in the past that we would all be better off for not repeating those discussions. For new readers who would like to read up on this discussion, last few blogs (viz Disconnection and Sex, The Othering of the Mother,  The Dynamic Dance of Non Duality and Separation) may provide a refresher on this subject. To recap, the mother and child initially exist in the harmonic symbiotic unity that needs to be gradually reduced. In normal circumstances, the primal non duality leads to gradual duality and separation, as the infant slowly learns to see himself or herself as being separate from the mother. A gradual and paced out separation, leads to a gradually emergent sense of I and Thou. Slowly the child lets go of the parent and becomes its own being.

Any abrupt rupture to this  non duality, before the infant has had time to acclimatise himself to the inevitable duality, causes intense anxiety that is almost like a death anxiety. Unlikethe adult, the infant depends on its survival on its mother. Removal of mother spells disater, leading to a perception of certain death. A part of its existence – the omnipotent part that allows it to continue living – is non accessible. This intense anxiety causes the infant to become survival oriented and the pace of growth is hurried. Its defences are prematurely developed, and become contorted because his psyche is not ready to unfold those defenses yet but has to hurry through. This distorts the psyche, and also leads to extreme annhilation anxiety.  Since the child’s neurological development continues well into the fifth year,  it is not difficult to imagine that neurological development gets distorted under the stress of premature development and inadequate mothering.

When I explain this concept – that ADHD is a phenomenon of inadequate mothering – most mothers become defensive and try to give me examples of the love they have for their children. The term inadequate mothering doesn’t necessarily mean the mother itself is bad, or neglectful or abusive. It just means that the child perceives the mothering to be inadequate, for whatever reason. And its the child’s perception that causes him or her to develop those defenses. A parallel ecample may be  a malnourished child. The mother of such a child may be genuinely neglectful, but she it is also possible that she may be making all kinds of foods for the child, but the child doesn’t eat for whatever reason – he may be angry at the mother, he may stuff himself with candy and soda, he may have some inherent deficiency or may simply not like the food that the mother cooks. So he would become malnourished. Whatever the reason, the end result is a child who is not being fed. An inadequate mother is similar to the above mother. For whatever reason, her child perceives a premature separation from her which causes the child very extreme levels annhilation anxiety and consequential distress. Because the young infant doesn’t have the resiliance and the psychic infrastructure to mediate this anxiety, it becomes etched on the psyche, often on the soma (body) as well.

Thus the biology of the child – the neural structure, the blood vessels, the cellular structure, are crafted in a certain way as a response to the felt absence of the mother. That being so, it isn’t difficult to guess the nature of the best treatment for such children. The treatment consists of mothering the child well, compensating for the deficits that the tender psyche had experienced during infancy. That natural calming gradually reduces and eventually eliminates ADHD completely, as the body chemistry changes in response to the treatment However, because we do not understand the tender psyche, and its needs, because we are so far removed from the experiences of an infant, we try to measure the infants responses against our own responses, forgetting that we have become resiliant in the smithy of life’s daily experience. The infant, on the other hand, is simply a blob in comparasion, kinda like unset cement on which life leaves its footprints.

So what does ADHD medication do ? It “calms” the child’s neurology. What does “calming” mean? How do you think calming is achieved ? It is achieved by numbing. Neurons are numbed into submission by medication, which of course reduces anxiety. But you can imagine all else it does while the medication is there. It inhibits proper development, it acclimatizes the brain, creating tolerances for such medications, and it generally impedes growth. The effects are less pronounced in adults, because adult brains are more resiliant, but the blob like brains of infants, that really haven’t fully formed yet, is “trained” by medication. Small wonder that most of these kids become manic depressives, or bipolar, when and if the medication is discontinued. The body/brain has not learnt to exist without the medication, it has no innate ability to calm itself. Like mitochondria, the medication becomes a lifelong necessity.

I mentioned that my son’s friend is labelled with ADHD. The family is from the the Middle East. There are three boys in the family, only a few years older than the child in question. It turned out that the mother worked a graveyard shift. She had been thus employed before her pregnancy, and continued with her job after the pregnancy leave was over.  She slept during the day, and worked during the night. When she was available to the child, I presume her time was divided between the three kids. Although she loved him dearly, obviously she was rarely available to the child since his birth. Her husband has a business, and although he is home more frequently, there is a culturally mandated distance between fathers and sons. The distance between father and son  is necessary – as Lacan will tell you – but the necessity of the distance is a taboo against anincestuous nature of the mother-child relationship. When there is lack of symbiosis, when the incenstuousness of the mother is no longer a threat, the distance serves to exacerbate the separation, and lack of connection. One can imagine how anxious this child, whose mother was never present in is life the way she was meant to be, would be. On one occasion, he came for a sleepover to my house. It was his first in his 12 year life. However, by 10:00pm, his anxiety got the better of him, and I had to take him back to his home. He was unable to withstand the separation from home, and family, beyond that point. The child  was entering latency at the time, and during this stage, there is a backward pull. The  tender psyche knows that it will soon have to relinquish the mother, home, comfort, security, so there is a resistance to any separation from all the nurturing aspects. My own son had suddenly started clinging to me with intensity that had been uncharacteristic of him before. So everytime this mom discussed her son’s problems with me, I would ask her to take it easy on her job, spend more time with the kid, build a connection to help him overcome his “ADHD”.  But when I said that, she would look at me strangely because she expected me to tell her that he needed to change his medication, perhaps he needed to exercise more, go our more, change his friends, play volleyball, or meditate. All those things can help manage symptoms, like medication does, but the underlying problem remains, and there will be no long term progress. One has to work at the root of the problem to alleviate and eliminate a problem of annhilation anxiety. These behavioral and medical solutions are simply like band-aids. They help a little, but they don’t have any long term effect. She continued working these extremely demanding hours that necessitated her complete absence from the child’s life  because, you see, in her mind it was the kid who had a problem, not her or her family. This is the common misconception parents will have – they do not wish to accept that the problem may lie in the home, and their own behaviors, or in the family situation. But as one can see – it was a problem in the quality of the mother-son relationship. Her son longed for the feminine containment. All children are essentially born anxious, and fearful. It is the mother that acts like a receptacle, a bucket that contains the anxiety of the child, processes that anxiety, leaving the child calm, rested and free of anxiety. One can say the child outsources the anxiety to the mother, and dumps it *in* her. In the absence of such a receptacle, there is no one available to handle that anxiety. The child is prematurely forced to handle that anxiety on its own, even though it is not equipped to handle it. This leads to stress, that causes a permanent change in biology of the infant and child.  What can the medication do except disconnect the brain from the biology ? In other words, even though the body remains disturbed and anxious, the brain is not allowed to “know” that there is distress in the body. The medication numbs the anxiety-carrying neurons, abandoning the body, and parts of the brain that are terrorized by the thought of having “lost” the mother prematurely. Since the medication helped him focus, and appear normal, and get good grades, the medication became a preferred medium for healing of this child.  But grades at school are, and should always be, subservient to long term health. If a child had cancer, would his parents ignore that and harp on good grades? So how come parents forget that their child has developmental issues, and only focus on grades ? It appears that we believe that good grades are an end to themselves, that somehow psychological health is unimportant. Unfortunately, that is not so. Psychological health is equally, if not more important than medical health. Academic achievement and success in life is empirically proven to be a consequence of psychological health. The pharmaceutical companies dictate and shape our beliefs about medications by churning out these medications, but of course the companies are motivated by financial gain, and we follow their mantra, focusing only on the financial future of our children, whereas its their overall happiness that really matters in the long run.

We have begun to owe our allegiances to materialistic gods. The Self, the centre of our existence,  the internal god that is given to us to guide our existence and lead us to wisdom, health and happiness, is drugged and is relegated to the dungeons of repression, with severe consequences for the emerging adult.

I have many many many examples like these around me, and in each case, the common theme has been the unavailability of the mother – for whatever reasons.

If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, do yourself and your kid a favor – develop empathic relationship with the child, spend more time with the child, be more patient, and loving, cuddle up, spend as much time with the child as you possibly can, feed it with love and togetherness, promote unity, instead of separation, so that the right brain – the healing brain – may become activated, strengthened, and more involved. Of course if you can’t do that, or don’t have time to do that, take the kid to a psychologist who can “mother” him well. Most psychodynamically, psychoanalytically or analytically oriented therapists and psychologists will do exactly that. I guarantee the symptoms of ADHD can be managed, perhaps even eliminated. Your child is precious, he deserves a chance at living a “normal” life….

Edited on 10/9/2012 : Pills to Help in School….

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/health/attention-disorder-or-not-children-prescribed-pills-to-help-in-school.html?hp&_r=0

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Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better – Camus (reposted)

India – Tujh Per Dil Qurban

A trubute to my symbolic mother, one who gave me life, love, and dignity.

On her 64th Independence Day celebrations…

Twenty eight states, seven union territories, 1618 languages, 6400 casts, 6 religion, 29 major festivals – one country ! A country of infinite wisdom, love and tolerance!

Durlabhe Bharate Janam – Being born an Indian is a rare and divine blessing….

Hai Preet Jahan Ki Reet Sadaa

Vande Mataram

Some things are. They just are. Because the psyche is crafted that way. They are archetypal strivings and no amount of wishing and training can change us. Love of land, the desire to have a home, the instinct to protect the loved ones – these arise in reaction to how you were held and loved by your own physical mother – one is either thankful and grateful, or one is antagonistic, or one is indifferent. If we could choose to be otherwise, you’d think millions of years of trying to be otherwise would have achieved it. A nobler way to deal with it to channel it constructively into something fruitful rather than empty conversations and dialogues. What have I done today to take the world forward?

Lest We Forget

The Cost Of Our Freedom

Mere Desh Ki Dharti

Tagore on Freedom

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action–
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.

Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo

India – The land of Vedas, the remarkable works contain not only religious ideas for a perfect life, but also facts which science has proved true. Electricity, radium, electronics, airship, all were known to the seers who founded the Vedas – Wheeler Wilcox

Durlabham Bharte Janm : To be born as an Indian is a rare and precious opportunity, good fortune.

Mera Rang De Basanti Chola

India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!” –Mark Twain


We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made!” –Albert Einstein

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you…— Dick Cheney

Apni Azaadi ko hum hargiz mita sakte naheen

If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India. – Romain Rolland (Roman Scholar)

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. — Abraham Lincoln

Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyo

India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of ourmathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all. – Will Durant

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be won… — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Durlabham Bharte Janm

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men… — Dwight D.Eisenhower

Liberty is the breath of life to nations… — Bernard Shaw

You’re my Hope, my Belief, you’re my Earth my Sky


We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made!” –Albert Einstein


Happy 64th Independence Day

Hum Ko Man ki Shakti Dena 🙂

Lead Us Forward

http://www.madhusameer.com

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Transformations Thru Creativity

I love gardening. I simply love it. And I love growing roses in my garden. I currently have over 200 of them. When they bloom together in early spring, I feel I am in heaven. Thousands and thousands of happy rosebuds open themselves up to the elements in a display that is beyond words. My sons refuse to come indoors during early spring, they just sit outdoors for hours, gazing at the beauty. My older son – currently 13  – has made me promise that I will landscape his backyard one day. My younger son – 12 – says he doesn’t wish to leave home for college, because of the backyard.  Me, I wish to die here in Fresno, in my backyard, with my roses blooming, when the time comes. Our backyard is a source of much beauty, pride and joy for us.

Before

Before

It was not always so. These here are the pictures from when we bought the house in 2005. It had a large backyard. That was my prime consideration – a large backyard. The house was relatively new, but not very well kept. The garden was huge, one could build another house on it, and it had a rudimentary sprinkler system, but the grass was wiry, with weeds, and a few trees all under 3 ft in height. On right side of the house and the garden, was a wired dogrun which made the backyard even uglier.  As if that wasn’t enough, the underground sewer ran thru my propertyline, and had an airshaft opening at the the far end of the fence. It was a gaping eyesore. I spent many a night fantasizing about how to get ride of these two ugly parts of the property before I landscaped it. It was impossible to get the airshaft off, of course, but even the dogrun was bounded by 4 wooden poles that seemed to be cemented in place. In other words, I would have to employ someone to take that off.  (More pictures of “before”).  The sprinkler system was very elementary, and so the grass was not evenly green. During summer, it had patches of burnt up areas, where the grass became so wiry that it was impossible to walk on it. I loved gardens, but given my shoestring budget, I wondered what, or how, could I ever make this one work. I was enrolled in a Master’s Program in 2005, and then in parallel enrolled in a full time PhD program. I also worked three jobs and had young children to look after.   My life had other trauma at the time – I had been embroiled in nasty divorce and custody battle. I felt spent, and used up, and lacked resources – time and/or financial – to expend on landscaping the backyard.

Life moved on and between 2005 and 2007 we grew used to the barren backyard. We camped there once in a while, complete with tents, campfire and cooking paraphenalia (the grass was so bad that I did not hesitate to burn wood on grass, without using a container), and sometimes me and my sons played baseball…but the grass felt like thorns, and the whole thing was too too ugly for my aesthetic self…and so we rarely went outdoors……until one morning in 2007 I found myself at Lowes, looking longingly at a large garden umbrella. The inexpensive umbrella reminded me of all the beautiful things that a garden can be. And that was a moment of great significance.

During

By the time I left Lowes that morning, I had ordered 30 palms, 20 redwoods, 15 fruit tress, and several other trees, dozens and dozens of roses, and landscaping material.  I had no clue how I was going to arrange them, but these were things that I liked, and felt I needed to include in the plan. The decision to embark on this journey of landscaping my backyard into a beautiful garden, was born of a creative urge, an impulse that I simply felt I had to honor. Over the next few months, we all  – me, my children, my gardener – worked hard and slowly the dream began taking shape in the external world.

In retrospect, I believe that the decision represented an instinctive strategy of escaping my trauma. The garden provided a compensatory factor that balanced my traumatised life, adding beauty and serenity that it lacked at the time

During

 My psyche strove towards a place of peace and tranquility, allowing for transcendence and healing. I remember throwing myself into the landscaping plans with my customary zeal, and digging, digging, digging till there was nothing else left to dig.  My kids would come home from school, throw their backpacks on the verandah, and beg  “Can we dig, can we dig, please, please, please ? Where can we dig today?” We were all obsessed with creating beauty, which took our minds off of whatever was traumatic in our lives.

The initial phase took a year, but the exercise was tremendously healing for all of us. We – me and my children – bonded and healed thru gardening. Their values became more authentic, thru gardening. They learnt patience, compassion and tenderness thru gardening. By the end of the first year, I no longer had  any emotional pain. It is as if by nurturing a piece of land and its constituents, I had buried the pain deep within the womb of the earth, I was instinctively made whole – without trying – by the simple process of gardening. Nature held my hand, and gave me an experiential understanding of how trauma could be healed through creativity. What I had read in my psych-books, the Jungian experience of healing, and what I worked with in the consulting room with my clients – the transformation of trauma thru creativity – had unknowingly become a part of my own experience, it had unfolded in my own life so instinctively.

2011

My garden is approx 3 years old now. Like a child, it has gone thru tremendous growing pains. A lot of plants and trees  did not survive the harsh summers of Fresno. Others perished in the cold winters of Fresno. I have had to come to grip with the process of loving, tending, and losing. We have agonised over options, choices and changes, we have planned, and then changed plans, and then changed them again and again and again. It has been like a dynamically changing drawing board where nothing is certain. Should I have a tree here, or there ? Will this rose look nice here, or there ? Why can’t I find this rose in local nurseries ? Can I afford to buy 20 roses – however special – at $20 per rose ? Do we need a pool, shall we put a koi pond, should we add a hot tub, or should we just let it remain a wooded, shady place ? We went thru all the steps, dug up the place for pool, then decided on a hot tub, changed our minds and settled on a koi pond, which proved too expensive, so now I prefer a simple pond. The layout changed, the resources, and landscaping, the plants changed, the length, width and depth of the hole that I and the kids had helped dig, changed, and then we changed our minds, and filled it up with filler sand, and decided that an intimate, sitting area with several sequoias would be perfect. I love camping at yosemite and the neighboring areas. A bunch of redwoods, I felt, would add a piece of that perfection into a corner of the backyard. Even though it takes a few years for the sequoias to mature….one day, I will perhaps have a mini-Yosemite like paradise under the redwoods, here, in my own backyard. The garden isn’t done yet – the creative work is never done/completed. There is always something more one can add/change to move a step further towards perfection. I am still waiting to add the small waterfall and the pond that we finally decided on.  Perhaps by the end of this year most of that will be accomplished. The creative work itself goes on, forever.

Now

The topology of the garden itself changes every year, it matures, evolves dynamically, and gives back all that we gave to it in its creation. It is a place where I contemplate, meditate, laugh, cry,  wonder, hurt, feel happy, play, connect; where I listen to the sound of the birds, and the bees, hear sounds of running water, follow the butterflies and the lizards, entertain, be entertained, trampolinize (we have a HUGE trampoline), contemplate on the lives of the bugs and earthworms and learn about the ecosystem. It is not just a garden, it is a dynamic, living entity, a universe of its own, connected to several other independent universes,

Now

including my self and my soul. The garden has taught me the meaning of interdependency, and about the cycles of life and death. Watching the process of birth, nourishment, hunger, blooms, fading, winterizing etc in the plant kingdom, has made me aware of the patterns of life that we share with plant life. I have developed an attitude of patience, compassion for their failure to thrive, and a tolerance for loss. I have grown into the realization that the periods of blooms (and of deadness too) are transitory, that they will end with the cycle.  I understand the meaning and  true nature of pregnancy thru watching the fruiting process. I understood the nature of diseases, and how and why it especially afflicts the most beautiful and fragrant roses in my garden. I watched the plants suffer the effect of malnutrition, and early childhood trauma, until I intervened. These are powerful insights, if we delve deeper. I understood how too much sunlight could harm, and too much shade could harm as well, and I correlated this to the masculine and feminine principles, to the unconscious and the conscious. I had insights related to aging process by watching flowers age. Deadheading the roses and watching the rebirth of the plants, is extremely meaningful and insightful too.

Now

In the garden I developed a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for the  patterns in nature, and archetypes.  Long ago, in context of Dante’s Paradiso, my professor had once said “God speaks in the language of mathematics.”  I experienced mathematics, and fractal geometry in my backyard. In that sense, the garden has been a revealer, a great teacher to me. It may seem that am its master, but I am also its slave. The plants let me know what they need, and I am honor bound to provide that. Perhaps there is no separation – perhaps the garden is me, and I am the garden? Above all, I have also grown into an awareness that the garden is not there in my backyard, but it is within me. It is an outcome of a creative force, a part and parcel of my beingness. I carry it within me, wherever I go. I can recreate it wherever I am.  So when the time comes, although I would like to die here, in the beautiful surroundings that I created, or that created me, yet there is no attachment with the garden. I am at peace. Perhaps this peace is the intrinsic quality of nature. Nature gives, it creates, and it lets go. Perhaps my garden, and the process of gardening, has left me with this gift.

Now

Thus continues the story of me and my beautiful garden. As a closing comment, I would like to emphasize that creativity is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. I know a few highly creative people, so in love with their own creative process and the products of their creativity (poems, art etc) that it has become an end for them. Creativity usually encompasses transformation of trauma, leading to highest emotional health. In order to fuel the process of creativity, sometimes people choose a traumatising life.This defeats the purpose of the holistic and healing nature of creative endeavors. Creativity then becomes a commodity, to enable a person to buy and sell the products…and that, to me, is a highly unethical proposition. To me, it is akin to abuse and exploitation of the psyche.

Now

Pond Area

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Creativity, Expressions, Fresno, Poetry, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Of Mothers and Sons

My son was recently cast as Aladdin in the musical of the same name. It was a matter of great pride, and personal joy for me. A sense of fulfillment, like one would have when their child graduates from college. I felt his success was my reward for years of meditation. It made me think of motherhood, and the role of children in our personal development.

We all know how important mothers are in the lives of their children. There is sufficient empirical data on how the absent or narcissistic mother destroys the child’s psyche.  However,  we seldom ponder on the role that the children play in the lives of (m)others, and how they help shape our golden years. My son’s performance and my reaction to it forced me to reflect on what he brings into my own life, and how I have grown and transformed as a consequence of motherhood. The following is just a fraction of the change in me, to verbalize everything would create a tome…..

“There is no such thing as an infant” – these are the famous words of Winnicot. He meant to indicate that the mother-child representation encompasses a duality.  The sum total of this duality exceeds either individuality. To study either pole on its own is an exercise in futility. The two form an interdependent system, and both are transformed as a consequence of their relationship with each other.

Prior to children, I was bindaas.  Bindaas is a Hindi word that was introduced into the Oxford dictionary a few years ago. It signifies an invincible, careless attitude towards life. I was absolutely fearless,  irreligious, bold, terribly inflated, driven by success, and materiality. I was deeply loved, but felt entitled to that love since it was mine unconditionally and unquestionably. It is the absence of something that brings to us the awareness of it. I took the love of my family and friends for granted. It was timeless, unending, eternal, a part and parcel of my existence, and I never consciously thought about it. I was an ignorant child that inhabited an adult body.

And then, something miraculous happened. The love of the adults around me was insufficient for existence, I had to develop *into* one of those adults, who loved, and sacrificed unconditionally, unquestionably. And so life asked “are you up to the challenge?”  My ignorance, and my fearlessness, said ” Of course! No big deal !!! ” Nothing was a big deal at the time. Life was a breeze. And then I was given a child to care for. Reflecting back on that, I am amazed that I was given this gift. At the time I may have had the potential, but I certainly had not done anything to be deserving of the trust that the universe showed in me through this act of creativity. But as they say, everything happens for the best.

An infant goes through a tough developmental process upon its expulsion from the womb. But for me too, it was an expulsion from the paradise of eternal acceptance, and unconditional love. It wasn’t enough to be accepted, I now had to make myself acceptable to this little bundle of flesh and blood. It wasn’t enough to be cared for, I had to care for an entity that depended on me for its existence. I had to develop the ability to look beyond his screams, pee, pooh and discomfort and retain my calm, patience and compassion during times of distress. I had to put him, and his interests, ahead of mine. I was to remain hypervigilant in the face of sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion, for even a moment of distraction away from the welfare of the infant, could mean the difference between life, injury and death. I learnt to disregard my self interests, my life became dedicated, and subservient to the child’s – thus I was taught by instinct the way of sacrifice, the way of the universe, the way of sublimation in love. This sublimation and passion filtered into other aspects of my life where I have remained deeply passionate about any and everything that I undertake – I will put my heart and soul into it. Thru contemplation of this process, I developed an appreciation for the feminine principle that drives such endeavors, I grew to appreciate my own femininity, I thought about the trials and tribulations of mother earth,  the nature and the natural and our environment. By understanding how my internal resources were being taxed, I understood how we taxed the environment. I also learnt how to prevent my body, and soul from being exploited, and understood the ways of natural catastrophes. I came closer to the creative, sustaining and destructive processes of life, understanding why the creator allowed mankind to live.

Long ago, one afternoon, I had just cleaned up my 2 bedroom apartment from top to bottom, when my then 5 year old – the same who is in the picture above – spilled a glass of milk on the table, which seeped onto the carpet. I had looked at him with accusing exhaustion : “look what you did, I just cleaned up the whole apartment! You make me work so much!” My son looked up in surprise from the picture of the “bootiful mommy” that he had been drawing at the table (I still have that drawing!), and he said “But you’re our mom! Its your JOB to cook and clean for us !” I will never, ever forget those words, they rang so true, and changed my entire outlook on life. A 5 year old knew more than I did what a mother’s job was and he was resisting all my efforts to shirk my responsibility. In the years that followed, I learnt to listen to them with an open mind. Last year I had put on some makeup, and dressed a bit different than I usually do. When my son returned home from school, I posed provocatively and asked “so how do I look?” his face screwed up in dismay “You look young!!!” he lamented. “I like you the way you look.I like you looking older.” My attention immediately was drawn towards his emerging masculinity. What he seemed to be really saying to me was that at 13, he was already battling the demons of his emerging sexuality, struggling to maintain the austerity and sublimation required by the academic and artistic rigors. The last thing he needed was to be tantalized by my sexuality. Through his words, I learnt to look for the underlying emotion – a skill that I effectively use with my clients. I must thank my children for teaching me how to do psychotherapy in the real sense.

As a mother, I was nowhere near as good as my mother and my grandmother had been with me, and my own inabilities made me much more appreciative of the efforts that my family had put in for me. My own difficulties made me reflect on all the wonderful things that my family had done better than I ever could – something I had not really thought about ever. My sons helped bridge the unconscious gap, and bonded me closer to my family.

I could no longer afford to be bindaas, or fearless. I developed caution, and a caring attitude. With the birth of the baby, I experienced my first feelings of fear. Nothing I could do could separate me from those who loved me, but one little act of carelessness,  one slip, and my precious baby could smother, or drown, or fall off the bed and injure himself irrecoverably. I was horrified to realized that my carelessness could cost a life, and the feeling has stayed with me. It may not be the physical life that is impacted by my carelessness, but I have become aware of the psychological impacts my behavior holds for those that love me and depend on me. For months, until the little thing gained weight, and the ability to move his head a bit, I would wake up terrified in the middle of the nights,  I was constantly fearful that he may be uncomfortable, or worse. I slept over the wetness in the bed so he could have the dry spot.  Over the years, I learnt to pray, and fear the wrath of the gods. I could go without, I could be uncompromising, but my relationship with the universe needed to be in the favor of my children. The death wish, the fearlessness, and the uncowering attitude towards the universe gave way to a peaceful submission to the will of the gods.

From Khalil Gibran, I learnt that the infant was not mine, that I was merely a vessel thru which he was brought to existence, that I could have the gift taken away anyday. The transient nature of life was brought home in a very meaningful way everytime my sons were late from school. I was even afraid for my own life, for I knew what it meant for the children to be motherless. I became careful about my own health and wellbeing. My sons thus taught me to take care of myself, so I could live, to witness their lives. There was now a reason, and a purpose to life that was sacred, and greater than just itself. It was beyond me and I was honor bound, by traditions, to respect my role in creation. I worried not only about my children, I worried for their children. Thus I began to see the role I played  – however small my contribution may be – in creation and evolution – in the future of mankind, and of earth. I could see how this little drop of water helped shape the quality of the ocean. In harmony with the universe, I learnt to submit to that collective destiny and flow with life forces instead of rebelling against them.  Jung would have been horrified, but what good is an individuated Self that lives for itself and only for itself ?!

Because of these experiences, and my constant brushes with the concept of mortality and transience of human life, I learnt to live in the immediacy of the present, to honor that gift on a day to day basis. I enjoyed every single moment, and made sure that every single moment of their was as precious and meaningful. We threw away our TVs and electronic gadgets that isolated us, and we spent time gardening. We sunned ourselves on hammocks during weekends, reading, talking, relating, strengthening. We spent our nights on the trampoline, watching stars twinkle in the galaxies far away. Together we fantasized about alien lifeforms, and our own role in the universe. For the first time I saw clouds through the eyes of a 5 year old, and yes, they were like pillows. There is an untainted clarity, honesty and possibility in children’s imagination. It encompasses guileless wisdom, which is inaccessible to adult perception. I was given the gift of access to that creative imagination thru my relationship with them. Later, lazing around on the shores Huntington Lake, we would argue about why mountains were or were not like fathers, and why rain was or was not like mother. We even we discussed the reasons behind the inability of the psyche to distinguish between the metaphors. We discussed the notions of time, and dreams. I learnt a lot through my interactions with them on these topics. The interactions  constantly led to a new kind of a creative space where old and new came together, and led to something more profound for each one of us.

Thru the love of my children, I even found a way to ponder on the notion of gods, and grew to love them all. My role as a provider forced me to contemplate on the role of all providers and nurturers – human as well as divine. I developed a greater appreciation and connection with nature, and all animate and inanimate lifeforms.

My son’s infancy and childhood taught me to respect and value vulnerability. I became more conscientiously caring in my attitude about the wellbeing and the comfort of all those that depend on me, those that I love. I developed opinions about right and wrong where I had previously had a anything goes attitude towards life. The emotions, fears, and behaviors did not remain  localized to the children, they forced me to reflect on my other relationships and belief systems that I had taken so for granted. My family delightfully watched me automatically transform from a “taker” into a “giver” – a maturing experiencing.

The most important change was characterological. The infants brought intense awareness and importance of ethics and morality. The absolute lack of barriers created by a false self/personna between us was refreshingly powerful. My son’s dependence on me, and mine on him, was based on absolute mutual trust. I once asked him a question “What do you think god is?” And his response was “God doesn’t interfere in our daily lives. He loves us deeply, and he always stands behind us and helps, and supports us in every way, but he expects us to make our own decisions, and to live our lives through our own efforts” With a fluttering of my heart I realised what I had read in the psychology books. My son was projecting his relationship with me onto the divine. My behaviors were shaping his imaginations about the benevolence of universe, and the of gods, and these psychological structures would enable his resiliance throughout his adult life. This developmental unfolding – presented to me in its starkest and rawest form – completely shook me, in many many ways. The responsibility made me rise above myself, as it became imperative to meet those developmental landmarks.

The word symbols trust, faith and god are constructed in the space that exists between a mother and child. Should such a space not exist, the child will not develop these meaningful constructs well. In their absence adult life is prone to become a series of disasters. As I became aware of the enormous responsibility that reposed in me, I also realized that failure was not an option at all. Hence my sense of responsibility was honed thru my relationship with them. I pushed myself to unprecedented levels to rise upto the challenge. Every smile, every bump on the head, every tearful encounter enabled their neural structures, and shaped their beliefs about me, and thru me about the world, the universe and the gods;  my everyday responses to their situational crisis were effectively the foundational stones of their adult lives. Before reacting blindly to the stimulus offered by the crisis, I had to gauge the effect of my reactions would have. There’s been some recent research which has revealed that the mind is organized like a gigantic chessboard, but I experienced this long long ago, as my ability to calculate ahead, or regress to the causal factors had been sharpened through my relationship with my kids.

Something beautiful was created out of these efforts. And these efforts became part and parcel of my unconscious personality.  I fell into using them outside of my relationships with the kids. Because I trusted my family so completely, I had the ability to trust the universe, the ability to see the universe – and god – as benevolent. I am thus able to hold onto hope  even in the most disparate moments. The trust of my children in me, in my integrity, their faith in my motives, is a priceless gift. My ability to maintain that trust is a family heirloom. There is no question of jeopordizing that. I believe I have been able to hand over this heirloom to them and am confident that it will be preserved by them and carried forward to my grandchildren. So it is the children, and my love for them, that helped shape my character, my morality and my sense of ethics. They made me aware that when someone loves you, when someone depends on you, when someone trusts you,  you must never, never betray them. Had I not loved them as deeply, I would have been more bindaas – fearless of consequences of my own behaviors, more compromising of my values in the pursuit of survival and material benefits. The depth of my emotions for them, and my desire to fulfil my responsibilities led to structures of ethics and morality, not vice versa. In me, the relationship created an experiential understanding about the origins of the constructs of ethics, morality, loyalty, commitment. I understood the world at a deeper level thru my relationship with the children.

As they edged towards adolescence, I heard horror stories about adolescent rebellion. I dreaded the thought of my sons turning 13 and more, and wondered what I would do. To prepare myself, to defend against the anticipated rebellion, I learnt to let go of my attachments, of ego driven behaviors. I accepted them as they were, and focussed on relationship rather than behavioral infractions. I minimized conflict, and stressed on harmonious interactions. Well, to date I have had one argument ever with my older son, and a few more with my younger one. The awkwardness from those encounters has not lasted for more than 15 minutes. So my sons actually forced me to change my attitude towards others, they taught me detachment, letting go, they enabled me to focus on relational component, and forgive infractions.

The notion of letting go is a very powerful one. It stretches from enmeshing love, to the aging process. I watch the dichotomy between my failing/aging body and their acquisition of strength and masculinity. I am forced to think of mortality, of life-cycles, and how the world is being constantly shaped and reshaped through death and rebirth. I noticed the grey in my heir along with the thickening of my son’s facial hair. I noticed his voice cracked around the same time that my back began to hurt. I noticed changes in his body, and it compelled me to notice the changes in mine, and slowly there dawned this experiential realization that the world belonged to them, that I was just trying to hold onto something that existed in the past, and that I must hand the world over to him gracefully, and willingly, that I must stop struggling to remain young, and attached. In so many ways, my son made me aware of my changing association with the world. I did not need to compete, I need not stake my claims of youthfulness, I was a part of the universe in my own way, I could let go, and embrace my age and the wisdom that such acceptance bestowed on me. Such acceptance freed up the libidinal energy that was otherwise tied up and arrested my development. True wisdom, I realised, only came with relinquishing my attachments.

The focus in our relationship too changed – from doing things together, to mentoring and witnessing. I no longer knew what was right and wrong for my sons in the new emerging world, and I welcomed their contribution and sought their counsel in many ways and allowed myself to be shaped. However, I had other things to offer – and we had endless discussions on quantum physics, on Jungian psychology,  on the emergence of complexity, on the convergence and overlap of depth psychology with astrophysics, quantum chemistry and cellular biology. I explored spirituality with them. Rather than compete with them in establishing my hegemony, I was ok with saying “this is too difficult for me” I was then free to either ask for their help, or I could choose to say “I am too old to learn this.”  They called me old, old fashioned, obsolete, ancient…and it was ok, it freed me from the burden of remaining all knowing and always young. I was old, so why deny? Our shadows turned positive.

From the egoistic, demanding, devouring mother, which I would have become had I continued in my deep attachment with them, and to my own beauty and youthfulness, I have been forced to move myself to the detached role of the aging matriarch.  I am a mere witness to their unfolding. My deep love for them has enabled this transformation. I believe similar changes have occured in them as well. And these changes have filtered into our lives in general. I feel detached and balanced in life generally.  No longer am I attached to material stuff, to any particular outcome in life, I no longer have the need to force the direction my life takes, no longer am I egotistically inflated – I realized that in letting go of my children, I had in fact learnt how to let go of all attachments. In forcing myself into becoming a mentor and a witness, my brain structures seemed to have undergone a massive alteration, I am now curious, and intrigued by knowledge, and wisdom rather than riches,  and possessions. I have acquired the ability to observe dispassionately and allow things to unfold as they will. It is a stage appropriate transformation made possible thru and only thru children. And in a mutually enhancing ways, the children too, I realize, are not materialistic, greedy, narcissistic. Their innate spirituality and relationality is conserved, and they value love, and the bonds of love, over everything else. In redeeming myself, I had unknowingly and unwittingly helped preserve their innate spirituality and intrinsic relational Self.

Every single day, the children shape me, and mold me into a human being that I have grown to respect in the mirror. All children  have the instrinsic ability to alter their environment to enable maximum survival benefits. My body, soul and Self is a part of that environment. Because I do not resist such change, because I embrace the molds they cast me in, and willingly subject myself to such change, and because I accept that my transformation is a requirement for their growth, I am in turn changed to something that nature intended for them to have, and it intended for me to be. I am. I simply am. By dying to myself and my ego, I am constantly reborn for them. In the process I acquire precious skills needed to make sense of this madness called life, to put the other ahead of me – I am forced to relinquish narcissism. My innate narcissism is thus dissipated and destroyed in the smithy of mothering experiences. The experience has proved to be infinitely useful professionally as well, and from these experiences I have gained the ability to relate and sacrifice self interest in the therapeutic relationship, and sacrifice my ego in the service of my clients.

I have been crafted to my true self in the furnace of motherhood. My values, shaped by my family, were tested by my children – the same way that my parents and grandparents were shaped by, and thru their relationship with me. To my children, I owe a my ability to understand life and to self reflect. I owe my self knowledge, my wisdom, patience, empathy and compassion, my religiousity, my understanding of love, gods, and relationships, and the acceptance of the aging process as well as the aging body  – in fact I owe them my transformation from a child to a responsible, moral and ethical adult, and now to someone who is aging gracefully, easing into 50s and beyond and loving every moment of it. But for them, I would still be the bindaas, fearless, irreligious, inflated child that I was prior to their birth. I would have no motive, or reason to grow up. So children provided the reason to help me through the journey and enabled a particular developmental phase of my life that was a necessary part of my growth process. Thru them, I have learnt to confront my mortality, and learnt to remain unafraid in the face of death.

Children provide one of the avenues of transcendence of the opposites – the struggle between Self and ego is resolved thru sacrifice necessitated in childrearing. In that sence, children are like gods that are given to us, they are also like therapists that come free of cost and work with us long terms. If we serve them faithfully, and with selfless devotion, we are given a chance of healing our childhood wounds, and transcending the limitations of our humanity. The psyche and the Self effortlessly reaches its zenith thru childrearing and motherhood. It is for this reason that children are said to represent the face of god.

Undoubtedly there are other ways to achieve the same transcendence and establish the supremacy of Self, and then acquire the capability of selflessness. A lot of women these days choose to forgo motherhood due to biological, financial or social reasons.  I find that for most of them, there is a compensatory activity that symbolises the mothering process and enables them to develop into mature responsible adults. I believe that love, commitment, and selfless sacrifice to a cause, any cause, symbolises motherhood, and is a step towards achieving such transcendence. It is a developmental necessity for graceful aging and growth. However, in the absence of such a stage appropriate cause that mirrors the process of mothering, one would tend towards  arrested psyche, without acquiring the ability to rise to our highest spiritual potential. Attachments to materiality,  narcissism, addictions, greed etc serve as numinous gods of a certain kind, very different to the benevolent gods, or children that are given to us for our psychological growth.  By serving a cause, any cause, whether materialistic, or transcendental, one serves a god. It then becomes a choice which god one chooses to serve.

The ongoing joke in our home, that also serves as a reminder of their origins, and my mortality, is the fact that the children were created out of a single cell in my body. They represent not only the appropriate extension and expansion of my thoughts and belief system (which in turn has been crafted by culture and heritage), facilitated and mediated by the constantly altering nature of reality, rejuvinated and infused by the changing world, but they are also essentially the product of multiplication of a single cell of mine, that is now growing outside my body due to space constraints within. My essence is reincarnated thru my children. As such, essence has found a way to become immortalised, thru that one cell that has created these human beings. My mind continues to live thru them. My eyes see thru theirs, I hear thru their ears, their decisions are and will always remain influenced by my teachings (hence the power of mother imago). Since my biology as well as psychology is preserved, multiplied and continued into eternity, why would this body lament about the process of aging, death and dying? What is dying, really ? The new cells that the body brought forth for continuation, are doing really well. I am beginning to become more and more assured that it will take several forthcoming generations for me, and my influence – physical, biological, spiritual – to be removed from the universe. It will be held by more bodies than one. What else is long life and immortality?

This is where I question Jung’s concept of individuation. The process of individuation does not mean we discard our collective heritage. The proverbian Jungian acorn always unfolds into an oak, no matter how that process unfolds through free will. It is destined to remain an oak. A swan remains a swan, and cannot become a scorpion, nor vice versa. And so we too remain tethered to our destiny, our true collective nature, the nature of our species, and the variants within that species.  In adhering to the collective, and fulfilling the responsibilities that nature endowed me with, I believe have left the world a better place. Sure I would have attained a lot for myself had I dumped the children with their father, or in foster care and pursued my own path of excellence, but such narcissism would hurry the world to its destruction. Perhaps I lean to being judgmental in this statement, but living in the present does not absolve us of our responsibilities towards the collective future, especially if we are somewhat capable of taking on those responsibilities. Perhaps that is what is wrong with the world today….? My relationship with the children has brought forth this realization in me, it has enabled me to widen my horizons and look at not just at my own destiny, but to look at the universe as a whole and recognize my part in the harmony.

I have major problems with radical feminism as it often associates motherhood with depressive oppression, and forced martyrdom. In their quest for freedom, the feminists have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, and the victims of that error are women themselves, who have now lost their claims of superiority through motherhood, and are now reduced to sex objects. They have also lost the tools that would enable a stage appropriate development, and so we see a lot of women refusing to embrace their psychic growth and development, choosing to remain tethered to the age, and developmental stage that they should be able to transcend. The popularity of plastic surgery is an example of this inability to move forward………I did not sacrifice my life for my children, but per  feminist prescriptions, I did not sacrifice my children for my life either. Somehow I found ways of maintaining a tense balance of the opposites. Perhaps we have to find and enforce a middle path in our quest for individuation. And so, I end this post with infinite thanks to my children for making me who I am today, and for preserving and immortalizing my essence, even multiplying, enhancing and enriching it continuously through their own being. Because of them, I have no fear of aging, nor of death.

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Creativity, Expressions, Fresno, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Karmic Justice

For some reason, this blog, the blog about Karmic Justice, published quite some time ago, has been making news in the blog statistics. It has been meaningful to me during this interval, a beacon of light that I myself read often. It is something that allows me to stay the course of ethics, and morality, in my struggles, and it provides hope for me. Hope that is not always associated with external victory, but a hope that allows me to look at myself in the mirror every morning, with pride, and self respect. It offers the kind of hope that allows me to continue being a role model to those that depend on me for inspiration, especially when their world is dim.

The path of ethics and morality is always strewn with thorns, but that *is* the test of time, and endurance, and justice. And the rewards may be external as they usually are, but that is not why we fight injustices, and unethical behaviors. We fight against injustice and unethical behaviors because the internal rewards, the rewards  from the Self, the center of our existence and our personality, are worth it. When our work is aligned with that of nature, we’re automatically rewarded, intrinsically. You can imagine the self satisfaction that Gandhi got out of his work, or Martin Luther King, or Mother Teresa for that matter. The external rewards are secondary to such sense of Self.

I offer the writings of an earlier blog, complete with typos, grammatical errors and all. I wrote that blog from the heart, not from the mind. And the heart is irrational, it follows  the unconscious, which has its own set of rules, and doesn’t obey the rules of consciousness, of language, of reason and logic. It speaks the language of emotion, which can only be felt, not understood. A lot of people tell me – why don’t you spellcheck a bit more, or edit your blogs more carefully for grammatical mistakes. To all of them I say, I write from the heart.  And the errors, spelling mistakes, grammital gaffe’s that I make in the process, they mean something, they are expressing something from the depth of my unconscious. I like to ponder on those slips. Everything has meaning. And it shows :)) So as I was saying, I offer this blog to all of you, again, as an inspiration for self reflection, and contemplation.

And sometimes we may lose in this battle between right and wrong, between the good and evil,  but honestly, such losses are only temporary. It has been my experience that the universe eventually hits back, and gets its way in moving the world forward with a positive entropy. Look at the world today. Think of the dark ages, the mideaval years! If the universe wasn’t healing, if it did not always support the right against the wrong, then we would not be where we are….slavery would not have been abolished, women would still be raped. This is not to say everything has been eliminated, we still have slaves, women are still oppressed and raped, but evolution is never spontaneous. It takes its own course, it occurs at its own pace. But the path of morality ultimately always wins. I have seen so many of these instances in my life, that I personally go on my autopilot, and wait for justice to emerge. Sometimes it takes time, and it may not be in the form I expected it to be, but ultimately there is  justice…,….every cause creates an effect, every Karma gets its Phalaa….that is the law of nature, there is no getting away from it…

I promise to return soon with something that my psyche orders written….its been embroiled in struggles, and I do write a *lot* these days, just not the kind that belongs here…

Till I find my way back to this blog, all my best to you…

And the blog that started this reflection going : Karmic Justice.

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Couples Counseling, Creativity, Expressions, Fresno, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

My struggles with Father Time

I haven’t written. There is no excuse really, except that I am Time constrained. Not writing, for me, is like not brushing my teeth, or not showering. Writing cleanses, and when I don’t write, I feel uncleansed, messy, disorganized. Thank god for my journal, else I’d be even more disoriented than I currently feel.

Over the months since my last blog (my last REAL blog, the last one was just a copied version of my presentation!)  I have contemplated many interesting topics, including one on fashion ! But the will, and the desire were swept away by constraints of Time. Which made me think about Time itself.

Back in 2002, I went to a Vipassana course, and deeply meditated on the concept of Time. I had never really thought about time in any meaningful way before that. It was my first opening into the quest for a definition and the mystery of time.

In places like these retreats, time has a special quality. It stands still. A Vipassana course is a very rigorous endeavor. There is no time for anything except meditation, more meditation, and even more meditation.  I remember another afternoon in 2006.  I had just returned to my cottage after finishing lunch. I planned to sleep for an hour before embarking on another meditative marathon which would take me to 9:00pm. Despite my need for sleep, my feet strayed to explore the beautiful surroundings – over 150 acres of whisper quiet wilderness seemed extremely beautiful on that summer afternoon.  I stole away to a rock outgrowth close to my cottage, and sat on the large rock, amongst the magnificent redwoods, and pines. The surface of the rock had felt rough, and textured against my skin, I still remember. The breeze was cool, and…well…breezy. The breeze lightly caressed my summer tanned skin, taking a part of me with itself and depositing it on the leaves of the majestic redwoods that dwarfed us. Even the redwoods were in touch with my essence in that moment. The magic of the place was spellbinding and the timelessness of the surroundings awed me. I was suddenly reminded of the quantum hypothesis of the universe being a closed system. It occurred to me that if the universe was a closed system, then nothing in it could be lost – it would always exist, in some form or the other. The molecules that brushed against me, must have existed since the beginning of time in some form or another. Who else and what else had they touched ? Billions and billions of people – some that I knew, some that I didn’t know, some that I would never know. They had touched Buddha himself, and Gandhi, and Jesus, and Krishna and Ram before them. They would have silently witnessed events – the birth of the universe, the dynasaurus age, the evolution of species, the wars, the rain, the sunshine – and they must carry something from these events with themselves.

The breeze that touched me,touched the trees, and the skies. And the essence of all that existed before me, was right here, touching me as well. The trees must have silently met millions of people too, some sitting here precisely in the same spot that I sat in. The rock must have held many before me. Their essence was “alive” at the moment – in not just the wind, but everywhere. And I was being initiated into their world. I felt small in contrast to their timelessness and their timeless existence. The body felt so felt transient and temporary, and yet I could experience it all only through the body ! I felt blessed by their proximity, our immortality, and their touch. And now the breeze had touched me and taken a part of me : my essence : with itself and mingled it with all that it had accumulated over the eons and carried with it, in itself. My existence had co-mingled somehow, with that of the universe, in a manner that was beyond spacetime. My ancestors were there, a part of those molecules and I could reach them somehow. My sons, and grandchildren would touch my essence ( and theirs ) in an unthinking manner,  and so would their grandchildren touch all of us.  Nothing was lost – everything co-existed. The feeling was beyond comprehension, beyond words.

I had closed my eyes, as I sat there for a long long time, simply aware of the breeze, and all that it quietly carried within itself for me. The transcendental magic that was made possible by flow. The magic of being connected to something that was greater than me, beyond me, but that which included me in its fold. I was there, it was there, we were connected in an intricate manner, in that moment of ecstasy. And that moment of ecstasy was all there was to it. The whole  creation had conspired, colluded, manouvered, spending millions of years in an effort to reach and realize that moment. And it would continue to collude so that this magic could become possible for my kids, and their kids, and their kids !

Soon the familiar “ding” forced me to return to the real world. And later that afternoon, I thought about Time some more. And since then, Time is a concept that keeps returning to me, like a little child who wants to be understood. To those tugs of consciousness, I pay special attention, and journal my thoughts. I wrote a blog before too…somewhere here it exists.

Why am I writing this ? Why now ? Because I am reading Ervin Laszlo‘s Science and the Akashik Field again. Its a very inspirational book, even though the research work that Lazlo based his hypothesis of A-Field has long since been proven to be flawed. (Laszlo had based his work on the research on Quantum Vacuum, the work of Soviet physicists  Shapov and Akimov. Since then it is well known that the two had committed scientific fraud and embezzled 17million dollars in research funds and their research was a sham). But its still an inspirational book. It makes one wonder what if? And there were many many places in the books that I underlined and where I wrote “Eeeeks !!!” – all referring to concepts, hypothesis and arguments that I myself had documented in my journals over the years. Of course Laszlo also talks about nonlocal quantum coherence and quantum entanglement, and may have labelled these coincidences examples of the same. The idea actually made me smile, and wonder. I think I will meditate on it tonight…:)

But here is an excerpt from my journal from 2002, about Time. It was meant to be read by me, and only by me. It was also the first stirrings of my quests about Time. So if it makes little sense to you, please excuse the flaw. The questions at the end are easier for me now. I don’t have answers for them, but I have hypothesis. Perhaps some day, when they have fermented some more, and are ready to be distilled, I will write some more regarding those questions. Did I share with you I am beginning a referesher course in Quantum Physics tomorrow at Fresno State ? Well, I am!

In closing todays work, I would like to thank my readers who have kept up their visits, and their interest in my weblog. I am touched, and moved by your presence, and your interest. An average of 250 – 800 hits per day is phenomenal indeed. I feel blessed. I write because it is read. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound ? As Laszlo and any Quantum physicist would tell you, my writing has no real existence unless and until it is observed. So thank you again.

——-snip———

Feb 2002

What would it mean to say time does not exist?

Time is within my body. It is in my mind. It is first created, it is switched on, triggered when I take my first breath. The first breath stimulates the notion of time.

Depending on my development, the brain selects a pace, a speed, a way of being. The way of being depends on the samskaras. That way of being interacts with my genetic potential, to create a notion of time. Time that unfolds itself in the development of my mind, and my body. In some way it too has genetic roots. The way we experience time will depend on how we have endured in the womb, and before…

This time is personal. Like Kairos. The Kronos is just a constructed myth.  The personal time is what I use is judging and figuring out others. If I am developmentally impaired, and live like a 5 year old, I will judge everyone as a five year old. Time has the same meaning for me as it has for a 5 year old. And this will continue until my psyche moves to the next developmental stage. In this way, time is also interlinked with the notion of health, as well as trauma.

The psyche does not really behave like a 5 year old or a 6 year old. I use these outwardly measures to indicate the helplessness that arises in perceiving anything except Kronos. Our struggles in defining what time is, and how to measure it. We have to be careful so that we don’t fall into the pit of preconceived and learned notions of time. We have to remain open to questions. We have to discard standard responses. We have to test each response that arises, test it to make sure our mind is not being deceived by the predictable, by the learned, by the civilized.

The psyche has its own measure of time, a developmental measure. Time grows like a tree grows perhaps, measured by rings, or some internal milestone. Possibly experiences. Perhaps there are experiences that we have to go thru that provide developmental food to the psyche. And these developmental achievements are irrespective of the chronological time and age. The primitives had it more correct – they went by psychic abilities rather than by the chronological age.

The unfolding is within. A timed sequence of development unfolds from within. It is outwardly measured in terms of chronological time, but it may have nothing to do with time itself. Perhaps that is why it is useless to push little kids to do things that are not age appropriate for them.

But even within me, time is not homogenous. It has its own ebbs and flows. It waxes and wanes depending upon the organ in question. Time does not belong to the body as a whole, but to the constituents. And within those constituents, it is further divisible and belongs to the constituents of the constituents, and so forth. Ultimately, it belongs to the most elementary particle. But at each stage of constituting, the time is differently defined and constructed. So I understand time differently than do my kidneys, for example. My kidneys have their own construct of time, and kidney cells have their own way of constructing time, and the elementary particles that constitute the lowermost physical layer of materiality – electrons, fermions – construct their own model of time. This matrix looks much like the fractals. Time matrix itself looks much like fractals to me. Life is lived in fractal geometry.

On the deeper level, time is the measure of the interval that each cell survives for. Or changed over its life. Since each part of the body has different cells, with different longivities, the notion of homogenous time itself is flawed. My heart cells measure and respond to time differently than do my kidney cells for example.

Time brings with itself the notion of change. So the change in any cell constitutes time. When there is no change, there is no time. We often experience this feeling intuitively when we say “time stood still”…in other words there was no change and hence no flow of time. Because the body is like a machine, and it evolves, it understands the construct of time. But the psyche is unchanging, it is dissociated from the body time. The psyche changes according to its own timetable, its own schedule. It therefore constructs time differently. Just like music made by each person is different even if the instrument is the same, time is like music made by each cell, each organ, each person, each social and cultural entity, and it is constructed differently by each one of them. But if so, it must have some basic notes ?

I think we are duped into learning the chronological notion of time. And by the time we are adults, the belief is so perverse, that it has become a part of our subjectivity. It is impossible to imagine anything else. Time becomes like mitochondria which is not part of our body – it is an alien with its own complex dna – but it has now become part of our biology because our body no longer has the organ that converts food into oxygen. Our own biology is subservient to the intrinsic clock of our own but we now seem to be losing that to externally guided clocks.

What is time then? Where does it exist? How is it revealed? And how is it stored ? I wonder !

Posted in Expressions, Fresno, Poetry, Psychology, Psychotherapy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Quest for a Symbolic Father

A paper I presented at the California Marriage and Family Therapy (CAMFT) Conference a few months ago. I have edited out some sections and all case studies for reasons of ethics and confidentiality.

Neurons contain representation the way a poem contains alphabets – Freud

Introduction

What do Saddam HussainJeffery DahmerCharles Manson, Adolph Hitler, Jack the Ripper and Bin Ladin have in common? They were all raised in households where the father was either absent, or was castrated. The father had little influence.

In this day and age, a large number of children are rendered fatherless through easy dissolution of marital commitments. An absent father is not inexistent – he still leaves a mark. How do such father’s effect affect the psyche of the child thru their absence?

The paper is divided into five distinct sections. In the first section I will present a few case histories and dreams of my clients. These dreams will form the backbone of the therapeutic aspect of this session. The second section uses the work of Marco Blanco to explore how the two hemispheres of the brain function. The third section explores Carl Jung’s work on the symbolic significance of the father. The fourth section explores Jacques Lacan and Andre Green’s psychoanalytic work on the mechanism through which the symbols that were referred to in Jung’s work, are created in the realm of the personal consciousness and then transmitted intergenerationally. The fifth section integrates these theories into a coherent framework which illuminates the problems that we encounter in our everyday work – what is the effect of the absence of a masculine container on our clients ? What are the symptoms our clients reveal in therapeutic sessions ? We also discuss the implications for treatment and the process of therapy and the role of the therapist in addressing these deficits.  We have only an hour, and so this is a very brief exploration of this subject. I would be happy to answer any questions at the end, or after the session.

Section III : Jungian Approach

Archetypes, Complexes and Symbols

When we study physics, we have to hypothize a working model for the atomic structure, because we cannot observe electrons and because the reality of the materials defies comprehension. Similarly, the totality of the psyche defies any direct observation. We are confronted with a pattern of wholeness that can only be described symbolically.

Jung defines a symbol as “the best description, or formula, of a relatively unknown fact; a fact which is nonetheless recognized or postulated as existing. . .expressing something suprahuman and only partly conceivable. It embarks us on the search for significance, for meaning.” The symbolic represents the best possible formulation of a relatively unknown thing which cannot be more clearly represented.  In contrast, a sign is an expression that stands for a known thing.  A symbolic mode of comprehension uses metaphors.

Psychological functioning used to be taken as an activity of the ego. The Freudian unconscious was acknowledged, but was labeled as irrational, chaotic and senseless. Jung redrew the map of the psyche and called Freudian unconscious as personal, subjective unconscious, a small part of the total psyche. He created a concept of an a priori part of the psyche and called it the collective unconscious or the objective psyche, a psychic dna that is passed onto us intergenerationally. In this part of the psyche, information is stored in the form of images or symbols that correspond to the images found in the mythology of the culture that the person belongs to. Each of these images contains an energy field that is powerful enough to compel us to act in a certain way. These pre-ordained ways of acting, the blueprints of are called archetypes. There are various archetypes like that of The Great Mother, The dragon slaying Hero, and the Father. We are instinctually drawn to these ways of behaving.

Jung also created a concept of “complex” – which resides in the personal or subjective conscious and is the consequence of a wound that we may have developed somewhere in own lifetime. It is also a magnetic black hole that sucks all energy and action towards itself, leaving the libido impoverished, affecting rational thinking abilities. So a person who has had a unique relationship with his father will have a positive or a negative father complex.

The Father Archetype

The archetype of the great father pertains to the realm of light and spirit. It is the personification of the masculine principle of consciousness symbolized by the upper solar region of heaven. From this region comes the wind, a symbol of spirit. Sun and rain likewise represent the masculine principle as fertilizing forces, which impregnate the receptive earth. Images of piercing and penetration such as phallus, knife, spear, arrow and ray all pertain to the spiritual father. All imagery involving flying, light, or illumination, king, eagle pertains to the masculine principle, as opposed to the dark earthiness of the great mother.

Spirit is the active principle, standing in opposition to matter and materiality, an immaterial substance that can, at its purest level, be also called God. Spirit represents the sum total of all phenomenon of rational thought, intellect, will, memory, imagination, creative power, aspirations motivated by ideals. The objective spirit is the intellectual and religious achievements of culture. The spirit is always an active, wind natured, winged, swift moving being as well as that which vivifies, stimulates, incites, fires and inspires. It is the dynamic principle forming the classical antithesis of the stasis and inertia that represents matter, mother and the soul. The contrast between nature and spirit is such that nature appears to be dead when contrasted with the spirit.

The hallmarks of spirit are :

1) principle of spontaneous movement and activity;

2) the ability to produce images independent of sense perception,

3) the autonomous and sovereign manipulation of these images.

The spirit appears in dreams, meditation and creative work as a father from whom the decisive convictions, prohibitions and wise counsel emanates, with a certain spiritual essence. Often it may simply be an authoritative voice which passes final judgments, or it may be a wise old man, or even a real spirit, the ghost of a dead person.

As we move futher along this discussion, I would ask you to ponder on the question – If the relationship with the father is associated with the spirit – what all might happen when this relationship is impoverished ? What would such a person be like? How might he defend, compensate for or accept this deficit in the external world? What would happen if the relationship has been overstimulating? What might such a person look like? What problems may he encounter in the world?

Symbolic Function of Father

Every child is born pure, and exists in blissful union with the mother. The two exist in a Participation Mystique, where though the bodies are separated, the child’s self still resides in the mother, and is only gradually extracted from her. The infant lives thru the mother on the psychic plane. In this symbiotic union, the duo is absolute and requires no “other” for completion.

However, the mother cannot continue this merger for long, and the symbiotic unity fails sooner or later fails. The paternal presence creates a division  – the happy incestuous duo is forced to separate. Unity gives way to duality, and thru this duality the child becomes aware of itself as being separate from the mother, of being an “other.” It acquires an ability to become rather than just be.  The active agency allows for the ego/self to emerge.

In symbolic terms, the archetype of the father is responsible for the child’s activity and dynamic movement. The father becomes associated with duality, separation, individuality, consciousness/self awareness and the process of individuation, with action, activity and the ability to be independent, to be autonomous and to break away from the symbiotic collective of the mother-child duo, and later the collective of the society. Metaphorically, the sun penetrates the darkness and ushers in the dawn, and the light of consciousness illuminates that which was unconscious. An active doing world takes over from the  beingness of the passive, inactive symbiotic relationship.

In terms of brain structures discussed above, the father represents the left brain processes, while the uroborotic relationship with the mother is representative of the right brain functioning.

Since Father’s presence serves as a boundary that enforces taboos on the symbiotic and incestuous mother-child relationship, therefore all boundaries, virtues of morality and ethics, are associated with the father. The father’s obligation to protect and provide for the family are absorbed by the psyche and hence duty, responsibility and autonomy are associated with the father. Whereas the feminine/mother represents the beginnings, and the process of birthing, unity and unifying, loving, forgiving, eros, nurturing and regenerative aspect of existence, the masculine represents law, order, justice, religion, god, consciousness, discipline, political and social authority, war, strife, death and destruction, and all endings and terminations. A healthy balance of the mother and the father, and their representations, is needed to maintain the continuity of life. All aspects turn negative when this balance is lost.

We usually introject the feminine aspects of our existence through our relationship with the mothers, and the masculine aspects of our personality through our relationship with our fathers. However, in unnatural circumstances, both the feminine and the masculine aspects may be provided by a single caregiver. To delve deeper into the personal subjective psyche, the following section explores the psychoanalytic approach towards the role of the father thru the lens of Jacques Lacan and Andre Green. But again, as we are moving into the deeper realms of the psyche, I ask you to ponder on the question – If the relationship with the father engenders these associations as we just discussed – how would the person be affected by the lack of a proper fathering-container ? What would his personality and character look like?

Section IV : Psychoanalytical Approach

Mother’s Desire

Lacan contends that during the first few years of its life, the child desires the mom, and the mom desires the child. The child devotes itself to trying to understand what it is that the mother desires of him, and tries to make itself a fully satisfying love-object for the mother. At around the fifth or sixth birthday the father intervenes and thwarts this Oedipal aspiration. This situation is frightening because the child’s fantasy is nothing but what he is supposed to think at the command of the mother and he sincerely believes that the mother wants to remain fused with him and will retailiate if he turns towards the father.

The father gives himself as a compensation, as another being to love and being loved, thus creating a template for the child’s later compensatory relationships. The interposition of the body between the mother and the child, by offering his own person as a compensation for the loss of another, by tolerating the aggression that such act exacts from the child, by allowing himself to be hated because he has disallowed for something to be continued indefinitely creates necessary points of reference for establishment of a conflictual situation. Thus the father introduces the idea of negation.  A violent rejection of this intervening third occurs with a fierce desire to maintain earlier situation, to keep the fusional relationship going, because in the child’s mind, the mother desires him as much as he desires the mother, is afraid that the mother may retaliate if the child abandons the mother by accepting the father. He forces himself to admit that outside the mother no relationship can be helpful if openly manifested.

This renunciation of the aspiration to be everything for the mother is called castration. It is not any physical event or its threat – as it felt for Freud –  but a symbolic function to which children are normally submitted.

Even though the child’s acceptance of its castration marks the resolution of the Oedipal complex, the Oedipal child tries to remain committed to the mother. It accordingly perceives the father as a rival and threat to its dearest aspirations – a “struggle to the death for pure recognition”. In this struggle the child invariably loses, but the child’s adult life will depend on whether this loss constitutes a violent humiliation for the child or whether its resolution involves the founding of a pact between the parties, bound by the solemnification of mutually recognised Law.

The castration complex normalizes the child ensuing a relationship with the father if the child can perceive that what satisfies or orders the desire of the mother is not any physical attributes of the father, but that the desire of the mother is itself tamed by a Law that exceeds both of them. This law is what Lacan famously dubs the Name of the Father, father’s verbalization of the incest taboo – NO!

Father thus stands for the prohibition, and protection, and the child’s ability to accept boundaries. The later relationship between male and females is built on a prohibition and boundaries which is the Lacanian law. If this law, which represents the symbolic, is removed from the scene, all symbolic meaning collapses. Nothing means anything at all, including language. Let us explore how that may be so.

Rewards of Prohibition : Language, Thoughts, Moral Consciousness, Society and Culture

In Michaelgelo’s creation of Adam we see man and God lying facing each other, both pointing their index fingers at one another. A very small but visible space separates both fingers. This space is of extreme importance, forbidding any fusion between god and man, and compelling us to think of discontinuities between the deity and humanity, but also between people – especially our fathers.

Peter Fonagy and Mary Target (1995) envisioned the role of the father as being the witness to the relationship between the mother and the child, fostering in the child the capacity to reflect on his position in the relationship.

Hence the desire for the mother is an essence of all wanting, and all sacrifice, of language, thoughts, culture and civilization. This wanting is kept at bay thru the prohibition brought about by the father. Moral consciousness and ethical codes are facilitated thru our symbolic relationship with the father. The symbolic father intervenes as the delegate and spokesperson of a body of social Law and convention that is also recognized by the mother, as being decisive. Although the child accedes to the impossibility of directly satisfying its incestous wish, but knows that when the time comes – and if it plays by the rules –  it can at least have a satisfying substitute for its first lost love-object. Lacanian desire is structured as a metonymy. In metonymy, one designates a whole object (for example, a car) by naming one part of it (for example: “a set of wheels”). Lacan argues that since castration denies us full access to our first love object, our choice of subsequent love objects is the choice of a series of objects that each resemble in part the lost object, the mother. Perhaps they have the same hair, or look at him/her the same way the mother did.

The father’s law forbids identification with the mother and promotes identification with the object of the mother’s desire. A chain of identifications with the objects of others’ desires begins when the child becomes rational. Hence a rational culture is built on and through the Name of the Father. The father’s law is thus law of the culture.

Thru prohibition, the child’s ideal ego is transformed to a symbolic identification with an “ego ideal” –  something within that cannot be seen, touched, devoured, or mastered: namely, the words, norms and directives of its given cultural collective. Just as we desire through the Other, for this reason Lacanian theory also maintains that belief is always belief through an Other. (For example, in the Christian religion, priests would be the designated Others supposed to know the meaning of the Christian mystery vouchsafing believers’ faith.)

So again, in light of the insights into the role of the father, the underlying question remains – what is the consequence of the dead (unavailable) father? What kind of symptoms do our clients exhibit and what can we do to provide a developmental corrective?

Section V – Treatment Issues

Symptom

“The symptom arises where the world failed, where the circuit of symbolic communication was broken: it is a kind of “prolongation of communication by other means’”

The symptom bears upon the subject’s past relations to others and can be dissolved by an  interpretation because it is formed for this reason – it is formed so that it may be interpreted. The symptom wants to be known. It is addressed to anOther who is supposed to know its truth, as an appeal to him to deliver its hidden message. The meaning of transference is this supposition that there is an Other supposed to know the truth of my communicative acts. Transference thus is the condition that creates possibility of meaning.  In therapy the unformed, failed, repressed word-symbol articulates itself in a coded, ciphered form.

In a symptom, an unconscious desire seeks to make itself manifest. The symptom is either told, or repeated in the session. An interpretation by the analyst recognizes or symbolizes the force of the desire that works thru the symptom, and the symptom disappears.  The recognition of a desire at the same time satisfies the desire. The unconscious desire given voice in the symptom is simply a desire for recognition.

The Dead Father

It is the symbolic that structures our experience and language. Everything gets to have a meaning beyond the concrete. The child is inserted into the ‘symbolic order’ through an Oedipal crisis, facilitated by the father, with the symbolic rules being represented as the ‘Name of the Father’ or ‘Law of the Father’. In this pattern, the father may have no relation whatever to the physical fact of any individual father. He may well be involved, but the principle is that the child gets introduced, through language, to cultural codes. This phase breaks the early relationship with the mother as language and social codes take over as the major source of meaning for the child. And just as a religion denies consideration of things outside its belief system, so language excludes thoughts which are not named. Hence Lacan’s belief that language even structures the unconscious, or that the psyche is structured in the image of language. If the child doesn’t obey the father’s law, the child cannot move forward developmentally, cannot distinguish itself from the others; in the absence of the rules imposed by the symbolic, the language does not develop any meaningful constructs, hence thoughts can not cohere. The process leads of psychosis. To learn a language is to learn a set of rules or laws for the use and combination of words. There is a lasting link between the capacity of subjects to perceive the world as a set of discrete identifiable objects, and their acceptance of the unconditional authority of a body of convention.

The dead father does not necessarily mean that the father is dead, but that the father is symbolically dead. Such a father is unavailable to the psyche – dead because he is unable to fulfil the role that the psyche demands of him.

We already discussed the areas that are affected by the absence of the father so I will only briefly recount these.  The dead father creates a hole in the psyche and the child’s  inner core may become devoid of all the qualities the qualities associated with the masculine. The unconscious is well aware of this deficit, and gravitates the child towards an ideal image, or symbol, to overcomes this deficit in an effort to transform the ideal ego into an ego ideal.

Language and thoughts are not developed as well, and the ability to articulate and verbalize is underdeveloped. Hence cognition is underdeveloped as well. Since the father stands for the spirit, such people will be weighed down by the earthiness of the mother. They lack in the active, doing aspect, lack of drive, ambition, inspiration, creativity, knowledge, self and other consciousness.

A powerful external object – religion, god, ideology, politics, education, gang, cult or an authority figure – may be used to provide a surrogate paternal symbol whom the person will idealize like a child idealizes the father at a certain stage of life. Such idealization has a developmental goal of building internal psychological structures that enable virtues.

Since the father enables the child to maintain boundaries, a fatherless person would also lack the abilities to either set boundaries or to adhere to most boundaries – be it personal boundaries, or boundaries with anger, hostility, ethics, morality and the like. The submission to the desire of the desired has not been achieved, hence in such an adult we see a reluctance to submit to the law,  order, societal norms and conventions. As a consequence, the concepts of loyalty, commitment and responsibilities may be affected. Symbols of death, destruction that are associated with the masculine, may become over-compensated for,  causing aggression, hostility, narcissism and even psychosis in some cases.

Association with god or authority figures also becomes another way of filling this perceived deficit, and a sense of morality, duty, ethics can be created thru this intervention. The extreme humility and compassion of a religious and/or spiritual person is as much a compensatory behavior as the extreme hostility and aggression of a gang member. At both these extremes are fatherless children attempting to find in the external environment  a role model who they can emulate, and who will help them assimilate internal structures that would have been enabled by the father.

Ineffective Father

Where father is ineffective,  the child does have a core, but the core usually takes up a position that is in opposition to every paternal symbolic association. Such a person may project his derision for his father on god, or political entities, authority figures, idealogies, etc.

Gender Issues

Lacan argues that desire is structured as a metonymy. In metonymy, one designates a whole object (for example, a car) by naming one part of it (for example: “a set of wheels”). So what Lacan says is that when a girl or a woman desires in later life, her choice unconsciously is the choice of a series of objects that each resemble in part the lost object (perhaps they have the same hair, or look at him/her the same way the mother did …).

If the father is missing, there is no symbol – in language or thought, that can verbalize the metonymy. An idealized image of a partner derived from the media may be used instead, which leaves her vulnerable to an ideal ego rather than an ego ideal.

Girls with an ineffective father may be pushed into early parentification, and learn to mother such fathers, rendering their own psyche vulnerable to being exploited. This may may cause disconnection with sex, and with their own sexuality. A deep rooted melancholic depressive isolation may set in as they become the metaphorical surrogate mothers.

If the mother is nurturing and available, the ineffective father may create an internal denigration of the paternal symbol, and push daughters towards an early onset of menarche, leading to early sexual relationships, and in some cases, promiscuity.

Unlike daughters, boys acquire their identity from their fathers. They experience themselves as being “different” from their mothers, and “same” as their fathers. A weak father poses a threat to the masculine identity of the male offspring who will inherit his mother’s identity and personality, no matter how unstable and irrational that may be, because there appears to be no evolutionary or survival oriented advantage from emulating a weak father.

Their psycho-sexual development may be compromised if they remain cathected to their mothers thru adolescence. The only way they can remain connected and escape the unconscious sexual aggression of their mothers is by sacrificing their masculinity. In cases where relationship with mother is also compromised, they – like fatherless daughters – do not have a template for their own masculinity, not do they have a template for relating with the contrasexual parent. Relationship problems, lack of connection with men and women may bring such people into therapy. An ideal may arise to fill this gap, and life may be lived by cognitively understood ego-ideals and goals. The fullness of life is never experienced, nor explored.

These above, are thus symptoms of a deeper malaise eventhough many times they are mistaken for causes themselves and treated.

Treatment Implications : The Analytical Frame

Although the therapist may interpret in the here and now, but he and patient returns to a remote and lost time where the therapist as father can listen and be heard. The analytical frame, or the setting, represents the father. Verbalising interpretations is equivalent to introducing the father into the material, literal references to father are not necessary, the analytical frame itself is experienced as symbolic system that stands for the father because the analyst introduces differentiation, ad separations into a psychic territory that was previously experienced as being chaotic and undifferentiated. Thus the therapist is creating a paternal function and breaking the symbiotic fusion with the mother.

Since it is law that produces the unlawful, since it is repression that forms the unconscious, it follows that for a symbolic order to exist, there must be fantasies supporting it. When these fantasies are explored in therapy to fully appreciate the symbolic and the law, when the law is experienced and understood, the ability to symbolize, to create abstractions increases, and with it the language begins to evolve, and change because words themselves are symbols. With the ability use word symbols, comes the ability to think rationally.  Turning from mother thus points to a victory of intellectuality over sensuality, which is an advance in civilization. This “omnipotence of thoughts,” linked to speech, and is a precursor of Kohlberg moral development.

The relationship with father, his presence, is felt more like a return of the repressed, a reaction carrying the forbidden wish to get rid of him as an obstacle. All symbolism linked with his power –  the fear, respect, love and awe is linked to the distance that exists between a child and the father. Distance is necessary to worship him. He is the keeper of the sacred order. Father figure is more subject to unconscious fantasy than the mother is. Father’s are not pals. Even playing games with children emphasizes rules, and the necessity to adhere to rules.

What about fathers that have a closer relationship to the child’s body? They becomes doubles of the mother rather than provide what is expected of them as a father.

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The Culture of War and Aggression

The thoughts expressed in this weblog are different from the usual psychological insights that I share with the readers. These thoughts have constelled over last few years/months, as I experienced disturbances in interpersonal relationships with colleagues. These disturbances were all related to differences in ethical and moral standards.

I tried to understand those aberrant, unethical, immoral individual behaviors in context of national behaviors. Since then, I have been meaning to write something on the conception of aggression, and the culture of war that has pervaded and is now entrenched in the US psyche. Germany went through it, Britain went through it and now US is living through it. It starts off as an innocent and noble idea of  helping humanity, helping those that are less fortunate, those that are unable to defend themselves. It begins as a desire to create a breed, race, or a society that is blemish free, perfect in every way, a little better than the rest. And then the people begin believing in their own narcissistic myth. These countries – Germany, Britain and US – among many many many more through the annals of history, had good intentions, but the power of power is infectious. As someone once said “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. And I now live in a country which does not know its limits ! From trillions of dollars in budget surplus, we have gone into trillions of dollars in debt. The infrastructure has crumbled in the last 15 years. But we still do not know how and when to stop !

But can we really afford to stop the war? What will happen to the millions of warriors who return home? We don’t have jobs for them, because we outsourced our industries to other countries that were willing and able. Just like old times, we didn’t want to do the hard work ourselves, we were too comfortable with the concept of having other countries and races for slaves  ! Oops ! We thought we were being smart! The strategy backfired !

We can’t get the troops back because we don’t have a mental health infrastructure to support them. We damaged it irrevocably by slashing mental health budgets. Why? because instead of strengthening ourselves from inside out, we channeled all our resources towards oppressing people, finding more slaves and exploiting the resources of other countries. Oops again! Most veterans are psychologically damaged and their return would wreck havoc in society without a mental health system to contain them !! Pill popping isn’t such a better option it is made out to be, is it?

We don’t have the ability to assimilate these wounded soldiers back into the society because while they were out fighting un-needed wars, the home base has turned into a bra burning feminist society. No one anymore believes in the evolutionary role of the woman as a nurturer and a healer. Why? Because we abused our women and tried to turn them into slaves as well !!! As Bono says “You become a monster so the monster doesn’t get you.” The women all rebelled and chose to become like men ! Big big big oops! And we laugh at the non Western societies where women still look, feel and act like women? We’re crazy !

We also destroyed or marginalized religions and religious institutions that previously helped with psychological healing. Damn!!! We laugh at half teh world who have better spiritual and religious base ? Psychologically, we’re doomed !

We have encouraged self oriented, individualistic behaviors, we have degraded the collective, we have annhilated the children, the old and the aging and neither their innocence, nor their wisdom is available to us any longer! Oops! We ridiculed nations like Japan and China that emphasized the traditional, the collective, self sacrifice for children, respect for their elders ? Whose laughing now?

We have no one and nothing to fall back on! We are reaping what we sowed!

So now, in our dire states, we have become merciless towards our own sons and daughters. We cannot afford to take back into our societal fold, we choose not to bring them home, all those kids who we sent out to the front lines. We have fallen into the cannibalism inherent in human nature – the body turns on itself in times of extreme depravity and consumes its own muscles for proteins.

This is why we continue with the imperialistic, expansion program, pumping more and more people into the military, sending them overseas, creating war in regions that are not our responsibility, propping up scarecrow puppet governments, and destroying country after country after country, destroying peace and tranquility of millions and millions, killing women, sons and fathers. All this because we are unwilling to bring our kids home. We are guilty of having stolen their wits, and helped destroy those kids.

What would happen if there were no war? Everyone would focus on national reforms ! The public would be less harried, more free to have a greater understanding and realization of government failures.  New trends would emerge in politics. US would possibly break into a civil war. In order to keep the (diseased) ball rolling, we keep everyone’s eyes focussed on a non existent enemy. We desperately need an enemy to survive. We prop up a new enemy every time we destroy the old one.  And if we don’t have one, then we create one. Year after year after year.

When I think of how our armies indiscriminately wreck the world, I am reminded of Aries, and Hera, the gods of war and vengeance. These archetypal energies have taken absolute hold of us. We don’t realize it internally, but we are a broken nation today. Jobs, employment, economy, social structure, education system, social system, crime statistics, child abuse, domestic violence – everything points to a country that has lost its economic, social, moral and ethical compass.

The most profound understanding of war comes from my philosophical mentor, the Bhagvad Gita, which holds that a war is productive when it is fought without any attachment to a desired outcome, when it is fought because it has to be fought, when it is fought against injustice. Such a war, whether fought on individual or national level, is an ethical obligation of every human being because it is life enhancing. It enhances the overall well being of humanity. However, the writings caution that the war that is fought with evil intentions, to dominate, to oppress, to exploit, to cheat, is bound to destroy the self of the warring party. This is the law of Karma. The effect is desterministic, a pre-destined outcome arising of the cause. There is no getting away from this principle of life and existence. The wars  that we fight for oil, for dominance, to exploit and suppress the rest of the world, are destroying the roots, the philosophy, and the nation of United States. They are doing so very quickly.

We keep postponing the inevitable – that the soldiers must return one day, that we must absorb them back into the society one day, that the pain of such absorption is the cost we pay for our foolhardiness, and that it is a cancer that has to be endured before it can be healed. There is no getting away from this action, no matter how our politicians wish the boys and girls in the military would disappear without debilitating the economy further. Every politician defers the inevitable for his successor. Lets just continue the way we are, they say to each other. If we don’t address this issue, maybe it will go away!!!! The soldiers have become orphans expelled from home. They are never to return home.

The postponement has much in common with the delusion of an ostrich. We bury our heads in the sands of time, and inactivity, pretending the danger does not exist. Like rabbits we are petrified in the face of the calamity of recall.. But with every decade that passes, their return becomes increasingly difficult, because the damage inflicted on them has increased.  We choose to find other places to send them  and are compelled to create wars to home these wounded and mentally destroyed soldiers. The culture of war gets increasingly entrenched in our society, destroying the emotional and economic well being of the society, in turn causing degeneration of personal values, ethics, and morality.

A miltiary endeavour that started as a noble gesture to create a better world, is now a cancer that multiplies and consumes, a toxic complex that threatens to devour the physical and mental health, and the body of the world. With the recent incidents in Libya, we are now firmly in a zone of the diseased, we have passed the point of no return. We are mercenaries now. It was not so 20 years ago. We could have chosen – and did choose – to abandon the Operation Desert Storm.. The world would have been – and was – so much more peaceful. With are getting worse. We have lost support of the entire world. US today has no influence anywhere, except through its military. It is an alienated, disrespected country today, socially and politically isolated from the world body. Only the economic imperatives with other countries create an *illusion* of connectedness. It is the law of nature that that which is disconnected from nature and humanity, cannot hope to survive. To have hope, we must find our way back.

When we look internally, we see this phenomenon reflected in the way individuals behave with each other as well. People of America seem frazzled. There is too much dishonesty, deception, litigation, rivalry, too much disconnection, animosity between individuals, factions, groups and societies. Individuals are estranged from their environment, families, children, colleagues. Confidentiality is such a big issue in US because everyone feels that everyone else is out to get them. And they are right !!! Survival of the self is threatened. Survival is an effort. We have an animal like existance in a concrete jungle which constantly threatens our existence. We project this fear on others and attack them, alleging lawlessness. The lawlessness is here, in this country, not elsewhere. We can’t even conceive of a society where survival is not so difficult, where people are essentially helpful and compassionate. It is difficult for us to imagine that life in other parts of the world, even in  those that we destroyed, used to be much more peaceful and contentment oriented before we turned our guns on them. What you do unto others, boomerangs back in some  way or the other. This is the fundamental law of nature. In order to avoid an awareness of these disappointments with life, in order to cope with their failures at varying levels, people develop manic defenses. The more we seem to be drowning in the econo-socio-political quicksands, the more arrogant and unbending we become. We engage in frivolous festivities and revelries as if there was nothing wrong, or as if what is wrong will go away if only we just pretend for a little while. The rabbit and the ostrich come to mind again.

The schism between reality, and our perception of it, keeps growing.  We create a smokescreen of normalcy to hide reality not only from the world, but from our own awareness as well. If we knew, we’d have to do something about it. Most of us are unwilling to do anything. There is a Buddhist saying “See things as they are, not as you want them to be”. I doubt if the writing on the wall is clear to anyone yet.

The national psyche is deeply diseased, and is infecting the world psyche with its disease. The national psyche is but a reflection of the individual psyche.

War has lately become of paramount importance in US. It sustains us now. Our economy is a warring economy. There are no jobs because they have been outsourced. The federal government believes war is more important than education. The education system – never very good to start with – has been absolutely disabled in the last 10 years. When healthcare benefits are reduced and/or eliminated, we can, and must, expect a physiologically and psychologically unbalanced and unhealthy bunch of people . What are the long term implications of such policies and plans? What can we expect from people who have been thus disadvantaged ? Anger, aggression., feeling of being betrayed and cheated out of a heritage!  That anger and aggression is further exploited by politicians by pointing fingers at straw figures and non-existent enemies in the outside world. No one did this to Americans. The Americans did it to themselves, and continue to do so,  through their arrogance and short sightedness. But the angry public is led to believe that the Middle East, USSR, China, Pakistan – THEY are evil. They are blamed for our failures.

The politicians, aided by the media, steal the wits of the people. The public disappointment and aggression is craftily exploited and channeled into more war.  This is nothing short of re-traumatisation of the already-traumatised people under the guise of misplaced nationalisation. If war really helped, we’d be the strongest economy of the world by now !!! But the war is simply a defense, to prevent awareness, and insight into our own psyche, and an awareness of our own noxious and toxic behaviors. Into our cancerous nature. Such an exploitative war blindfolds us into feelings of misdirected fervor and misplaced nationalism.

The whole thing/nation/region is in a mess. A mess that will take decades to undo. And I don’t see anyone even begining to undo that mess. We continue to spiral downwards. University budgets are continuously being slashed. Scholarships and loans for students continue being eroded. Women continue being marginalized (harmed?) thereby reducing their abilities to produce and nurture healthy, less damaged children that would lead to a less damaged society. Healthcare continues to be a nightmare. Pharmaceuticals continue to  bombard people with harmful medications, creating a zombie like generation with bizarre behaviors and ailments, unbalanced mind and body. Until these, and several more, trends of self destruction are stemmed, and reversed, until more holistic ways of negotiating life are found, until the cancer is operated upon, until then the slide will continue downwards……I think we still have a way to go before things may start to improve.

Here is an article that speaks more than I could ever say about the culture of war, and how damaging it is. My sincere thanks to the author for birthing these insights into words.

http://article.wn.com/view/2011/10/29/Serving_Humanity_Or_Serving_War/

Three recent deaths regarding a Camp Pendleton Marine and a sheriff’s deputy, killed by a returning veteran who then committed suicide, is a reminder of how war is an attack against humanity and a violent rupture of the intricate and powerful fabric of individual and communal life observed by states.(1) In the case of the Camp Pendleton Marine, he was shot and killed by a sniper while on patrol in Afghanistan. According to his father, the young Marine had grown disillusioned with America’s military mission in Afghanistan and no longer believed in war. Still, the young Marine believed he had a job to do and was willing to “see it through” even if it meant being killed. The other incident involved an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who was on his way home. When he saw a suspicious car on the side of the road, he stopped and approached the vehicle. A National Guardsman fired 35 rounds from his M4 semiautomatic rifle killing the off-duty sheriff. The National Guardsman, a U.S.-Iraqi War veteran, afterwards committed suicide alongside the road.

Although the forces behind warlike policies are usually territorial and caused either by a scarcity of resources, ethnocentrism, the irrationally exaggerated allegiances to the tribe, or retaliatory revenge, some societies appear to commit aggressive acts for the sake of aggression itself. In other words, warlike behavior becomes so internalized that to merely live and exist means to go to war. In some war-like tribes and nation-states, even altruistic warriors and their self-sacrificing rituals can be due mainly to their service and allegiance to the “cult of war” and not in defense of their families, communities, or nation-states. Such kinds of organized violence and killing becomes institutionalized and a way of life. Still yet, anthropological studies have revealed that as societies become centralized and complex they develop more sophisticated military organizations, battle techniques, and forms of propaganda to not only expand their territories and displace competing cultures, but to enhance their “war cult” so as to control their adherents and followers.(2)

The idea that war is good, or a force that improves humanity and society, has existed for centuries. Some ancient societies believed the “cult of war” was virtuous. Modern philosophers, like Georg Friedrich Hegel who co-founded German Idealism, thought most things were trivial compared to war. “Through war,” wrote Hegel, “the moral health of peoples is preserved.” Benito Mussolini believed, “War alone raises all human energy to the highest pitch and stamps with nobility the people who have the courage to make it.” General von Moltke, Prussian Chief of Staff, denounced peace and claimed, “Everlasting peace is a dream, and not even a pleasant one. War is a necessary part of God’s order.” Such views encouraged both conservatives and liberals from around the world to worship and even idolize war. Some artists glorified war too, as they splashed across the painted or electronic screens idealized war machines, speed, danger, violence, cruelty, sleeplessness, and injustice. War cleansed the body and soul. It became the world’s only hygiene.(3)

If what a nation makes and produces also makes and produces that nation, then it is clear nations continually manufacturing and pursuing wars will be fashioned and marred by acts of aggression and violence. Nation-states perpetually at war and engaged in military campaigns will find their common identity and mutual responsibility in enhancing military training and war itself, instead of to individuals, a family or humanity. A citizen’s value is then linked to combat and the “cult of war.” Selfless service and the ultimate sacrifice is fighting and dying on an altar of war. At the same time, the object of war is not peace nor establishing democratic societies, but merely experiencing more combat and war. War is no longer the lesser of two evils but is distorted into something good, wholesome, even sanctifying. War and aggression becomes an activity and performance to pursue for their own sake. The ancient axiom: “Let him who desires peace prepare for war,” is perverted into meaning “let him who desires war prepare for, well…more war and combat.”

When tribes and nation-states institutionalize war and violence murder becomes legalized and ongoing, enormous strains and anxieties are imposed on the individual. War and militarism demands that the individual abandon conscience, reason and their humanness. Although the young Marine no longer believed in war, he still felt obligated to submit to organized techniques of aggression and institutionalized murder. For the U.S.-Iraqi War veteran, reason was abandoned, irrational hostility was fed, and runaway reactions of alienation and aggression were committed against others and himself. Perhaps Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome has been misdiagnosed, specifically when a nation and its soldiers serves and worships the “cult of war.” A more apt diagnosis might be Pre- and Post-Perpetual War Syndrome, or the process of always preparing and mobilizing for aggression and serving war. The best remedy would be to acquire skills on how to serve one’s conscience, reason, humanness, and humanity.

If a militant pathological tribe or nation-state truly wants peace, then, the best cure is to continually mobilize and prepare for peace, instead of always violently rupturing the intricate and powerful fabric of the global community.

Dallas Darling (darling@wn.com)

(Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for

http://www.worldnews.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at http://www.beverlydarling.com and wn.com//dallasdarling.)

(1) Wilson, Edward O. On Human Nature. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004., p. 110.

(2) Ibid., p. 117.

(3) Armesto, Felipe Fernandez. Ideas That Changed The World. New York, New York: Fall River Press, 2009., p. 314.

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On the role of the Mother….

“In India the mother is the center of the family and our highest ideal. She is to us the representative of God, as God is the mother of the universe. It was a female sage who first found the unity of God, and laid down this doctrine in one of the first hy mns of the Vedas. Our God is both personal and absolute, the absolute is male, the personal, female. And thus it comes that we now say: ’The first manifestation of God is the hand that rocks the cradle’.” (CW V.4 p.170)

– Swami Vivekananda

**** Swami Vivekananda, of course, refers to Bowlby’s good mother. A bad mother leaves the footprints of god as well, but in that role she is an evil, maglomanic, annhilating god…..

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Honesty, Integrity and Trust….

A few days ago Karin wrote a wonderful blog on trust, that started me thinking about the construction of trust as well.

What is trust, do we ever stop to think of what the word actually represents ? I mean what does it contain,  beyond the word-symbol ? Trust is a composite feeling that we experience when someone we know behaves predictably. Inconsistency feels mistrustful.  Our ability to ground ourself and feel safe comes from our ability to predict the immediate or foreseeable future. Perceiving the future as predictable reduces our existential anxiety. We can take it for granted that we will live through it, and our struggle for survival becomes less intense. When we are not able to predict the environment, our survival fears are paramount. When the other person fails to be consistent, or is erratic, we lose our trust in them because we no longer can predict our future with them. Our sense of personal safety is threatened. In the absence of this predictive validity there is chaos, there is no trust.

Another component of our trust is generated when that we experience – not just believe – that the other has our best interest in mind. Hence our trust in god, and a deep mistrust in satan.  When someone tries to harm us, we lose trust in them.

Honesty seems to be yet another component of trust. When someone we know is dishonest to us, or in the relationship, then we cannot trust them, and we cannot trust the relationship. Disrespect for someone doesn’t engender trust either.

Further, it isn’t necessary to be just honest, the person should also possess integrity – they should  also have the conviction to act on that honesty –  ethically and morally – even when no one is watching. It is absolutely useless to be honest and have no integrity.

Responsibility is another component of trust. To be experienced as trustworthy, one should accept responsibility for one’s behavior. All of these are necessary to engender trust. Should any of them fail, the construct of trust is revealed to be hollow in that relationship.

There are people who spend years trying to build a facade of being trustworthy. They lie to themselves, they lie to the other. Their relationships are a farce. Such people may command trust from others thru their sheer effort for a while, but such trust is not real, it is a mirage. They work too hard.  When they don’t reveal themselves fully, and are dishonest to themselves or the other over a prolonged period, they become passive aggressive.  They have had to pretend to be nice when they did not actually feel nice. This leads to tremendous amount of violence becoming trapped within. Their shadow is much more lethal than the shadow of the person who has a well integrated shadow that is used to shape and control and adapt to the environment. Their aggression builds up over the years, and is discharged in a different way – it is usually disguised as excessive sweetness  that can only be transient. Anything in excess is unbalanced and cannot be sustained. Hence the other side of excessive sweetness if often sadism or sadomasochism  –  conscious or unconscious. In these people thoughts, become prominent, acquiring an obsessive quality. This makes guilt and shame very powerful.  What people will think of them, is more important to them then what their own ethical compass dictates. Their life wears many masks.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who are ruthlessly honest. The world may not agree with them,but they sleep well at night. Their ability to tolerate guilt and shame is practically non existent because they rarely do things that go against the grain of existence, against their dharma.  There is no inner space to maintain a facade. A person can only be honest to another if he has learnt to be honest to themselves, and have integrity towards themselves. Self is a training ground that we use to hone our relationship with others. And a self is created by our early environment. If one has been demeaned and abused as a child, one will demeans and abuse the self, and one will be bound to demean an abuse the other. Demeaning of the self is a consequence of some developmental trauma which needs to be resolved – through therapy, through religion, through self awareness and realization – before one can become a whole, before one can be at peace with themselves. Before one can allow themselves to be honest with themselves.  Fear,  shame, guilt are alien to a person who is honest, ethical and moral towards themselves. And such people can discharge any residual toxic energy safely, without affecting others. Since no energies are used to repress these feelings, the psychic energies of such people can be diverted to other creative endeavors. Artists, writers etc, for example, are honest in their work, being rarely deceitful. They would not be able to create if they were dishonest.

Trust – I believe – does not have to be created, but comes effortlessly in a relationship, if one adheres to the virtues that we discussed above. So if a person is consistent, acts in the best interest of self and others, is honest, has integrity and takes responsibilities for their own actions – all of which, by the way, cannot be fudged – then they don’t have to work to win trust. It is an intangible, elusive consequence of good dharma.

What is Dharma really? Dharma is basically all that which constitutes our ethical obligation in the universe. The dharma of the kidney cells is to work tirelessly the way it does. The kidneys are supported in these ways of the cell. The dharma of the heart cells is to work tirelessly the way it was meant to work.  It does not have to do anything special to support the heart, but the heart – and the body – are supported as a consequence of its mundane, tireless work. Both kind of cells have to be true to their nature. We humans too are required to be true to our nature. The universe is supported by our truthfulness. The dharma of the scorpion is to sting. The scorpion serves a certain purpose in the universe, or else it would have not existed, or would have become extinct. In a similar way, evil too is a necessity in the universe. It highlights the good into our awareness.

When we perform our dharma, without being desirous of rewards for our work, or looking for any particular outcome – the kidney cells do not ask for rewards, nor do they know why they do what they do and that is why we trust them absolutely – it leads to optimal functioning of the universe, which is all one is required to work towards. It leads to  good karma , just like good kidneys are a consequences of good dharma of the kidney cells and lead to health !  This is how I understand the law of dharma and karma. Do your duty to the best of your ability, and let the universe take care of other things. The problem arises when we try to mind everyone’s business but our own. I said to someone a few days ago – imagine if kidney cells started telling the heart cells what to do ! Horrors !!! When one does one’s own work, to the best of one’s ability, with honesty, integrity and responsibility, the universe takes care of the toxicity that arises outside of that person, and that work. It is not my job to clear that toxicity, the universe will take care of it..

So trust can also be defined as an experience – not a faith but an experience – of the other taking their dharma seriously.  When we experience a break in other person’s dharma – when the person is inconsistent (kidney cells are never inconsistent) – we lose trust. When any person harms us, or is dishonest, or we perceive that they lack integrity, or if they refuse to take responsibility for their actions, they are not following their dharma, and we lose trust in them.

The construction of trust is what gets broken in PTSD also. An external trauma is exactly like having ones trust broken. In this instance, the environment, and the universe is the other. In PTSD we lost trust in the beneficence of the universe. The universe is perceived to be inconsistent, it doesn’t act in our best interest, we understand we believed in a lie when we took the goodness of the universe for granted, so there has been dishonesty, lack of integrity and responsibility on the part of the universe which actually is amoral, inconsistent, and chaotic.  The latent fears of survival return, and with it, the existential anxiety. We defend against annhilation. Though the left brain can make out the difference between the two, the right brain – the instinctual brain – doesn’t distinguish between the two situations – betrayal of trust *is* trauma, which causes PTSD.  Hence when the trust is broken, the symptoms that may appear have much in common with the symptoms of PTSD.  (How the heck do Cognitive Behaviorists, and DSM worshippers separate  these two? And why would they separate the two anyway?).

The treatment of betrayal thus has a lot in common with the treatment of PTSD.

Who would have thought trust needed to be such fundamental component in the fabric of our being. Absolutely necessary for our survival.

Can trust betrayed be regained? This in itself is a topic for a separate blog, requiring significant contemplation, but briefly, break in trust is like a basic fault. The fault is always there, threateningly menacing. It rumbles, and shakes the structure of relationship, causing occasional earthquakes. One may choose to live in the quake infected areas, or one may leave the area. There is no getting away from the basic fault.

However, in my opinion, the more intensely one follows the policy of non attachment, the more possible it becomes to overcome  betrayals, because one is not invested inany outcome. However it takes two to tango, which is very rare. Hence in my opinion, and despite all the couples therapists may say, the memories of betrayal are forever. One may choose to live with it, or the person, but the PTSD is forever…affecting the core of a person’s psyche. There is a wound, a complex, that has stained the fabric of a person’s being.

A lot of people think they deserve to be trusted. They demand trust and will get mad if we don’t trust them, or if we withdraw our trust in them based on their behaviors. However, trust can only be earned.  To give your trust to someone is a privilege that they must deserve and earn.  To be trustworthy is an ethical obligation that the universe demands of us.

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Couples Counseling, Expressions, Fresno, Marriage Counseling, Poetry, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deal Making with children : Impact on Adult Personality

I started this blog around the time Channel 33 had scheduled an interview with me about childrens problems. But it took a while to get it here. 

When I get a feeling of being manipulated, I am deeply resentful. To some others, manipulative behavior may be just a normal, “reasonable” and “logical” way of relating. It even represents decent, civilised behavior for some. For years I have tried to understand the roots of our respective behaviors, our deductions, and our responses to such behaviors, and why it triggers so much angst in me. The article (url provided below) provided a perfect backdrop on why we are the way we are.

http://centralvalleymoms.com/2011/01/14/do-you-make-deals-with-the-kids/

Personal Experiences 

While some experiences of interrelating are extremely meaningful and inspiring, some leave me bristled and wounded.  I realize that these are collective issues of unresolved expectations and flawed interaction on either side, they are ways of being in the world, yet I remained curious about why such behaviors happen. Such understanding helps resolve the inner quandry. Hopefully the reader will be guided into being more multiculturally aware. For an ethnic immigrant, these explorations into the psyche may provide an understanding of their why their interaction with their environment may feel distressful.  

The article above provided me with a glimpse into the difference between childrearing practices in various cultures, and how those differences shape adult behavior. Lets explore this by studying two families who have different ways of seeking compliance from their children, and two different ways of rewarding their children. 

Family 1

The first family believes in making deals with their children whenever a desirable behavioral outcome is needed – creating a token economy. Such families also offer financial incentives for  running chores and errands. Token economy is promoted by Cognitive Behavioral  Therapists and is the basis of reward and punishment system in school psychology. This family (or school teacher) will typically say things like

  • “If you eat your broccoli, you can have the dessert.”
  • If you get more than 15 points on your bad behavior chart, you will lose the priviledge of going to the Christmas party”
  • “If you hit your sister (classmate) once again, you will be grounded in your room (detention) for the rest of the day”
  • “If you steal from me, you will lose the priviledges of your music system”
  • “If you are disrespectful to me, I will ground you in your room for a week !”
  • “If you don’t do your chores around the house, then you’ll be grounded and have your priviledges taken away!”
  • I will give you $15 (or $5, or $10) if you help me clean the garage (or mow the lawn).
  • If you behave at the party, you’ll get to go to laserquest tomorrow. 

This family is constrained because they are afraid of being in trouble with the law, the CPS (in US) for any significantly asserive way of dealing with problems the children bring forth. Their hands (and their voices) are tied.

These ways of working with children inform the interactions in the school environments – simply because they are most effortive in enforcing discipline with littlest resources and efforts. However, such discipline comes with a cost of promoting certain undesirable traits that become part of the children’s psyche as they grow up,  a part and aprcel of his adult personality, as we shall explore and discuss.

One of the main reasons such cognitive behavioral methods are promoted is because more assertive ways of managing children may raise eyebrows. More assertive ways of parenting are not available to the parents and teachers in the Western world. Regardless of the fact that the CPS does not punish assertive parenting, limiting only abusive parenting, nevertheless, the grey areas between the two causes uncertainty and realistically speaking, even if parents were confident of their rights and understand that they would be found not guilty if reported, they do not wish to be take a chance of being reported by trigger happy school counselors.

Family 2

Contrast this with another, a second family that does not have these conditions in place, but operates on a collective basis – keeping in mind the wellbeing of the future generation of adults. They have to work a little harder, but the results have a long term impact as the adult they create would be a much more well adjusted and socially conscious person. Instead of the above, such a family would emphasize the following:

    • “Broccoli is healthy way of living, and it will ensure good bone structure in you. I wish someone had told me this when I was a kid, I would have a much healthier body right now!”
    • “When you behave disrespectfully towards me, I don’t feel like talking to you. Are my feelings, and our relationship that unimportant to you?”
    • “When you hit your sister, you alienate her. There is one less person who loves you and cares for you. Is that what you’re really trying so hard to do?”
    • “It doesn’t really affect me much if you steal from me, because I can protect my stuff the next time. However, if you learn to steal, you will keep stealing for the rest of your life. People will trust you less. You will lose friends, and even family. Is that the kind of person that you want to be? Is that the kind of future you want for yourself ? If not, then let me help you become a better adult.”
    • “In being disrespectful to me, you are practicing being disrespectful to your future partner husband/wife/children. The way you treat us, is the way you will treat your own family. You will be gone from my home as an adult, so your disrespectful behavior is transitory in my life. But your wife and your children will not tolerate this learned disrespect and may leave you. It would be better if you learn and practice to be respectful at home, so you can be successful in life and in your relationships.”
    • If you choose not to help me, I can only spend much less time with you. Also, you will be learning how to avoid responsibility – which is going to affect your own adult relationships with your wife/husband! It may be better if you use me as a guinea pig and this as a learning opportunity to practice how to be a responsible adult. You’ll have a better life ahead!”
    • “Garage (or the lawn) needs cleaning (mowing) and I can’t do it alone. Can you please help me do this so we can all enjoy this home ? In any case, your allowance isn’t linked to the chores you do around the house. Your allowance is for your personal spending, which have nothing to do with how this house is organized or run. The chores need to be done so we can all enjoy this home because the home belongs to everyone, not just me! I want you to be proud of your home, just the way I am proud of our home, and of your sense of responsibility”

Pavlovian Training of the First Family

When the first family makes these deals, the psyche falls into a reaction that the famous Pavlovian dogs fell into. Subsequent to such training, every time someone asks this child for a behavioral change, or when the child is asked to do something around the house, the child will be stimulated into a deal making mind. “What do I get in return for my effort?” “Whats in it for me?” “How can I best extract the most out of this situation?” These questions may not be conscious, but the process of dealmaking becomes the dominent strategic template in the psyche. Nothing is done because it needs to be done, or because there is higher emotions like love, empathy, forgiveness, compassion involved. Everything is done if, and only if, there is a material payoff.  The child’s psyche gets rigorously trained into an exchange mechanism that is materialistic in nature. This must definitely delay – or even suspend – the development of an internal moral compass where one thinks in terms of ethics, altruism, and a higher level of consciousness.

In real life, it is very common to see parents complaining about how their children turn a deaf ear to their pleas for help. Parents blame the children for being unhelpful, selfish, self centred, rebellious, but what they don’t realize is the child’s personal conscious is a tabula rasa, it is developed as a consequence of his or her interaction with the earliest caregivers. In later childhood, and adolescence, it is still amorphous and malleable and will be shaped in response to the intention of the parental behavior. If the intention is to force the kid into carrying the burdens of adulthood, and the burdens of parental failures, well, they are and will remain ill equipped to carry them. The survival instinct of any child that is hurried thru childhood, will take over and the child will most likely refuse to comply with parental requests. So the rebellion is often not aimed at the parent, but the parental actions of pushing the child into early adulthood. 

If children are also burdened and contrained by imposition of adult behavioral norms in early childhood – when their psyche is not really ready for adult behaviors. When a child’s psyche is allowed to unfold in accordance with its developmental needs, a sense of respect,  compassion, morality,  personal ethics and responsibility unfolds automatically.  It is a developmental necessity and does not have to be taught, or even disciplined into existence. Even a slightly higer level of discipline than is stage appropriate, attentuates the developmental process by causing an arrest in some parts of the psyche. Such adults – that have been forced to grow up early in certain areas of functioning – will generally struggle with an underdeveloped innate moral and ethical compass. They will be more manipulative, because the have learnt early that the only way they can get their own needs met is not thru direct engagement with an adult, but thru circumlocular deal-making.

The Alternate Solution

One can readily see the advantage in working like the second family. A false sense is prevented from developing, and the child will slowly begin to associates his self in relation to the other. Chores are needed to be done, or errands are run because there is a collective advantage in completing a task, or because it is the ethical, moral or the responsible thing to do, or because it is a learning opportunity presented for a successful adult life. A sense of autonomy and responsibility unfolds quicker, and financial correlate is disregarded. Altruism is encouraged, selfish behavior does not develop. It isn’t difficult to see how children in such a family will be less driven by greed, materialism, deal-making and materialistic and/or manipulative behavior. Such interaction makes for more mature and responsible children, and later adults.

Some parents bring their children into therapy because they want them to be “fixed” – either by behavioral interventions, or through prescription medications. One should always remain aware that the children are the silent carriers of  the issues that the adults in the family are dealing with. To use behavioral interventions, or prescription medication on the child who is such a carrier will be eventually ineffective. The problem will continue – both side will up the ante and sooner or later the child will win – either thru rebellion and aggression, or therough depression and self destruction, which is anger turned inwards.

So if you have an errant child, and believe that your child is essentially flawed and should shape up; think again. A collaborative effort, in the best interest of the child, is needed. 

I always love working with parents who may not understand why their child is rebellious and aggressive, or how to get them back on track, but are fully committed to the process of working through the insights and consequential awareness of the flawed parent child dynamics,  emerging as a tightly integrated and emotionally bonded family unit.

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Couples Counseling, Creativity, Expressions, Fresno, Marriage Counseling, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy | 4 Comments

Religious Identity, and Eid-Ul-Zuha

Ramadan Mubarak.

Reblogging this old post without any dilution of feelings…

Religious Identity, and Eid-Ul-Zuha.

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Creativity As The Need to Know

Thousands before me have pondered on the origins of creativity and creative impulses, each coming up with their unique definitions. I too have wondered why we create, what is it that drives us to create. There have been several answers, but one that came to me today was pretty powerful, so I share it here.

The phrase As Above, So below; As Within, So Without feels extremely powerful to me. It establishes the hegemony of the Self over the environment. The echos of these words are found in ancient religions, like Advaita Vedanta, even Christianity. And if Heaven and Hell are regarded as metaphors for states of mind, then what we are left with, is the omnipotence of the Self, which ties back to the claim made in the Vedas that there is the material of the universe – the Brahman – and thats all there is. The rest is all Maya, ie the delusion of the senses. The material of the universe, then, must contain everything. Which means the Self must contain everything, including – but not limited to – the god image, or the image of the creation, the creator, and the creativity.  

Well, if all this is within, then why are we compelled to create in the external environment ? We already have it within, why must we put it outside of us?

I am sure millions before me have answered this the way my consciousness answered this for me. Jung answered it the same way, except that he limited it to therapeutic, and alchemical processes. Since I studied him, I found his metaphor of alchemy reflected everywhere, in everything I touched. In quantum physics, in my garden that I tended to, in cellular biology, in geography and cosmology, to name a few subjects that interested me. Everyplace I looked, I could see the image of Self and ego,  I could see the conscious and the unconscious, I could see father and mother, sun and moon, night and day. As I said to a friend, everything was itself, and everything else, and its opposite at the same time. The image of the creation, the creator and the creativity. The image of Brahma the creator, Vishnu, the sustainer of Brahma’s creation, and Mahesh, the Destroyer of Brahma’s creation, Vishnu’s sustainment, and the opposite of the creator – they all co-exist, simulataneously. Everything – creator, creation, creativity, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, Day and Night, Hell and Heaven – co-exists simultaneously, merged in a symbiotic unity. Anything is everything and everything is anything – a paradox – just like the dual nature of light. Such a concept can only be experienced, it cannot be described in words. Not this, not that.

When I go deep into these questions, I am confronted with why do we exist, why have we been created.  And it invariably leads to an experience of being part of a greater reality. In an onion like layer. We are part of the layers. We are a layer. Above us there seem to be many layers, below us there seem to be many layers. Above and below here are not meant to be linear, or spatial, but heirarchical in logarithmic manner. The beauty of mathematical complexity. So why did the creator create the creation? Probably for the same reason we create something in the external environment. The same reason why fish reproduce, and plants multiply. Everything that is “above” us, has to flow to us, and thru us, to that which is “below.” Onion like layers. The symmetry of the asymmetrical. The order in chaos. The chaos in order. The simplicity of complexity, and the complexity of simplicity. The simultaneity and co-existence.

Creating something in the external environment gives us a chance to objectify our unconscious. Jung was there much before me. In any life form that I know of, there seems to be an intrinsic need to become more complex. Complexity is an emergent phenomenon. The need for complexity seems to be inherent. But organizational principles associated with emergent complexity cannot keep pace with complexity itself. For example the lifestyles are becoming more complex, our brains are processing more and more complex phenomenon. However, we are finding it more and more difficult to organize the complexity, internally and externally. Memory loss, in all forms, is also an emergent phenomenon.

Can creativity then be understood as a need to know? A quest for knowledge ? An arrangement to enable and strengthen the organizational functions of the psyche? Why else would Stephen Hawking want to study Black Holes? In some ways, he was trying to know more about the black holes within. He wanted to organize his consciousness according to his experiences. Was his creativity in the service of the need to know?

And so I wonder if the need to be creative in individuals is in any way associated with the need to know about themselves. Do we have babies because we simply want to know more about ourselves ? And if so, what does it say about childless men and women ? Those who paint – do they want to know what is painted on their psychic canvasses in which colors. And those who write – what about them? Are they driven by the need to know the shape of their psyche?  Now that we know that all these emerge from altered states of consciousness, it would be interesting to know what in the psyche is associated with each art form?

Posted in Creativity, Expressions, Fresno, Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Happy Independence Day India

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

Vande Mataram!”

Independence – The word has a mermerising quality to it. It implies the ability and the opportunity to choose – so necessary for healthy survival.

We’re close to Indian Indpendence Day which falls on 15th August. It is always an emotional time for me because it is a reminder of the distances between me and my symbolic mother. It also reminds me of times when I was not independent, when I had no ability to choose, of times when I was able but was denied the right to choose. 

So what does it mean to have been independent for 65 years ?

A few days ago I stood at the express checkout line of a grocery shop with my 13 year old. There were the usual less than 15 items in my cart, and four people ahead of me. I was getting terribly late, I had to be across town within 20 minutes, and the lady at the counter was taking her own sweet time. I schooled myself into “this is my fault, I should have started a little earlier!” and stood quietly waiting. The woman behind me was getting late. She had two items less than I had, and she breezed ahead of me, saying “you don’t mind if I go before you – I have only 3 items!” By the time I could say anything she had laid her stuff on the counter ahead of me, bypassed me, and now stood ahead of me, looking away. There was not much to say, so I did not say anything. I was almost at the check in counter when another woman from behind me walked past me and put her water bottle on the counter ahead of me. “You dont’ mind me going ahead, I have only one bottle!”  Excuse me? I do mind, but I held my temper. My 13 year old idealises me. He thinks I am the coolest, most powerful and intelligent mom in the world. He quietly watched. I let it go without bringing it up with him.

Yesterday I was at a tire shop. I had a simple question to ask of the guy at the counter: “how long will he take to change my tires if I were to bring my car in?” Thats all.  I went into the shop. The hispanic man at the counter was busy with a caucasian customer. I stood patiently next to the counter, waiting with my 13 year old, waiting for him to be done. 

The man ahead of me was handsome, he was well built man of around 35-40 against my fragile frame that had seen better days. He was there to buy tires, of course. He asked questions, was shown around, joked about office, home, wife, kids, told tire related tales about his college days, appeared to contemplate which tire to buy, asked more questions, was shown around some more, appeared to choose a set of tires, told more jokes, received a phone call from wife, talked to her, took out his wallet, started paying, changed his mind, went back to look at the tires again, asked questions again, expressed doubts about the durability of the tires he had previously selected, said “this is for my wife, I’m concerned,” the guy at the counter talked about tread, about heat resistance, about longitivity, and grip. “You’re safer with this one,” he pointed at the $600 tires. The customer called his wife again, explained the situation, the little child came on line “how was school” etc, then “daddy will be back shortly,” and so on and on and on…

I looked at the clock. We had been there 40 minutes. The guy was absolutely unconcerned about the fact that I stood behind him, waiting for the mexican at the counter. The mexican at the counter was absolutely unconcerned that I may have something trivial to ask. It never occured to him to intervene.

“This is a narcissistic personality disorder,” I quietly whispered in my son’s ear, smiling.

He felt uncomfortable “what if the guy hears it?”  he said.

“Perhaps he will come to know himself more,” I responded, still smiling.

The Caucasian saw us whispering, turned around to look at me, and muttered “sorry.” Nothing in his demeanor showed that he was sorry. He probably remembered his Kindergarten teacher‘s instructions to use that word when he felt he was in the wrong. I wish she had taught him not to do wrong, instead, but that hadn’t been in her job description perhaps. Lip service doesn’t cut it with me.

We waited for another 25 minutes before I interrupted and demanded to be attended to, anger rising within me. The Mexican took some time off from the handsome customer and looked at me as if I had committed a crime. I asked my question. “2-4 hours,” he said, thru pursed lips, disapproval dripping like honey. He avoided looking at me, choosing to fiddle with his cash register instead. I was summarily dismissed, unless I had more questions, in which case I could wait for another hour. Or I could interrupt – which everyone knows is rude. These stupd, backward Indians. They talk over each other – I could almost hear them think. The Mexican reminded me of Paul Fereiro’s book The pedogogy of the oppressed – The son who idealises me, quietly looked on.

Once outside,  I felt I had to address this. I asked him what he felt about the exchange.

“He was distracted,” he offered.  He was too young to have a clue.

“How about color of my skin, or age, or gender ?” I asked. He was uncomfortable and quiet.

“We are taught not think in terms of racism, or sexism” I said, “but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” I said.

He stayed quiet. It was beyond his comprehension that people could alter their behavior based on color of his mother’s skin, or her age, or her appearance. It flew against everything he was taught at school. He was used to waiting outside his school for me to pick him up. He was used to waiting outside his classroom until the teacher was ready for him. He was used to waiting because he was a child. He had limited rights.  For him, there was nothing wrong with waiting. And in this country, he would cross the threshold of adescence not knowing that decent adults do not keep other adults waiting. That such behavior was wrong. I needed to do something.

“Somewhere along the way, you don’t have to be subservient to adults.” I said. I already treated him as an equal for most part and brought it to his attention. He acknowledged that. “The world has to treat you at par ! You must refuse to be marginalized! ” I said. He knew I was particular that he learn to be assertive. We had several jokes around it, to take away the awkwardness of discussing his emergent masculinity……

We talked some more in the car. It was time he was introduced to the real world. This was an initiation ceremony of sorts – the idealism that he believed in, had to give way to reveal the opposites, to be able to see things as they are, not as he wanted them to be. It wasn’t ok for him to close his eyes and join the delusional bandwagon of “there isn’t any racism in US.”  Racism, and many other isms, are an omnipotent, pulsating parts of every aspect of life lived by the minorities – here or anywhere. Only in the whiteness of the country clubs do they not exist perhaps – I wouldn’t know even that for sure. My son had to remain open, aware, to be able to recognize it for what it is, label it, and fight it at every opportunity. 

Racism isn’t something that happened to those Black people that lived in poor housing, back then. It is part and parcel of how we are forced to mold ourselves to fit in. How we eat, what we eat, how we talk, what we talk about etc etc etc. All minorities are forced to learn the American ways, all of us know that if we don’t become like “them” our surival may be threatened. Its sad. What is so wrong with how a Hmong lives his life, for example? What is so wrong with an Arab’s way of life ? Why would it need to be changed?  Why should anyone demand change ? Because it is a struggle for survival for the minorities.

“If I learn English, may be they will let me survive! If I learn to eat with a fork and a knife, or listen to hip hop, that may increase my chances of survival , I wont be a butt of jokes” etc etc …how sad, indeed !…….how pathetically limited in its imagination, and its consciousness must that psyche be which seeks to conquer so desperately, that which doesn’t appreciate, and applaud diversity, or the right of the other to live the way that they choose to live…that which demands conformity and conquest.

Only those who cannot accept themselves as they are, can find faults with others…..

…….what has changed in the last 100 years, really? Not much, except the way we camaflouge racism, sexism, agism, narcissism and colonialism….we have more sophisticated ways now…

In the car we discussed this some more. “What is racism, I mean really ?” he asked. Good question. Great question.

“It is a innate desire within humans to choose the less disadvantaged, less weak, to choose that which is more perfect, less flawed.” He digested this some more.

He disliked parts of himself that were weak and fragile, he said. Did that come from the same place? Yes it did. Just a different flavor of the innate impulse. He tried to go inward to experience the impulse.

“So then everyone is a little racist?!” he concluded.

“Yes,  its only the question of degree, and texture,” I replied, “but if we acknowledge that it is an inherentquality within every human being, we can do something about it because we are conscious of its possibilities. If we keep denying we are racist, then we act it out unconsciously, and thats not ok!”

“Why do people want to be perfect?”

“Because that ensures survival. If I am better than the rest, the world will not gobble me up!” I said.

“Then you can gobble the world up!” he added. Bono’s song you become a monster so that monster will not break you floated in my mind. How do you explain this to a 13 year old ?

“Yes,” I said, simply.

“Is that why people are racist, so they can have better chances of survival?” he asked. 

Yes, it is. In every human being there is a tendency to discount the weak, the unloved, the fragile, vulnerable parts of themselves, to suppress them, to ridicule them, to make attempts to master them, and improve on them.  That inability to accept the less perfect parts of oneself is what inspires, motivates, challenges us and propels us forward in life.  In the financial language, it is an asset. But too much of it is toxic. When that inability becomes too intense, when the mind cannot handle it internally, it projects it outwards. The outwards projection of this inability to accept the weak, fragile, vulnerable parts of oneself becomes racism, agism, sexism. In financial language, it becomes a liability. I like to think that which is within, is always an asset, and that which is externalized, is always a liability. There may be exceptions to that, but such exceptions only prove the rule. The external projection of the internal need to excel is also called narcissism.  Hitler was a prime example of an externalised need for inner perfection. And any and all of these -isms impinges on the soverignity of the individual. It leaves the other disabled, and wounded because in not so many words he is being told – consciously or unconsciously – that he is less perfect. And to be less perfect means to be less capable of surviving.  The thought of being less fit for survival, must create primitive annhilation anxiety internally – and hence the reaction to such a situation is anger. Anger expresses inner violence. Violence is brute force. What else would the psyche summon when thrust with doubts pertaining to its ability to survice? Annhilation anxiety is the most perverse of all fears.

The word independence, then, is the symbolic representation of the absence of the threat of annhilation. It is representive of survival, of  continuity of life, of an assurance that one will continue to exist. 

Why do I get emotional on the Independence Day? Because it brings with it the promise of survival, a promise of being able to choose less perfect parts of myself, the promise that I will be allowed such choices without the threats of dire consequences. I like who I am. I don’t want to become like the “other.”  Independence and freedom gives me an opportunity to like myself as I am.  As I envisage myself. I dont’ have to carry the burden of another’s expectations of me….

“Why did those women get ahead of you at the grocery stores?” he asked at length. He was used to being respectful and law abiding.

“Because they were taught to be bullies – naricissistic – by their parents!”

“…..because their need to survive was greater?” he questioned.

“Perhaps, or perhaps their fear of death was greater than mine.” He took that possibility in.

“So they want to oppress others so they can live?” It couldn’t be as simple as that.

“Why do you fight with your brother?” I tried to make him experience the survival impulse that sustained him and his brother as much as it had sustained those women, or the men at the tire store. The emotion, now personalised, made sense to him.

“And why do you tolerate standing in line? Why didn’t you get mad until it was too late at the tire store?” he asked.

“You know, I don’t exactly know the answer to this question. Perhaps that is because I cannot understand why those men and women would be so afraid of my otherness, so afraid of death?” I said, “in my world, people are nice, and considerate. I assume that every person has an internal moral compass that will enable him, and guide him in his behaviors. Some people just don’t have it, and they need external prompts and reminders” I said. “Perhaps that is why I didn’t lose my temper.”

We were quiet for a while. He was perhaps trying to imagione a world where people were not respectful and considerate to each other. Both of us had limited experience of being around disrespectful people in personal lives, except with random strangers.

I thought about it some more. My answer was not enough. There must be more to why I – and those like me – accept behaviors like that from others. 

” I accept such behaviors because this is how they are. I would be fighting with people all day if I tried to make them aware of their inner fears, and their wrongdoing!” I continued, “sometimes its just not worth fighting for. It is not my job to refine them into becoming more decent human beings. I am not interested in them.”

He was silent. I was silent. Contemplative. It was a profound question. There was more to it.

“But,” I continued after a while. “it may also be because I want to live! I grew up in an environment which was oppressive to women, and to Indians in general. My psyche was taught to accept whatever came its way – through parental control, through colonization by Britishers etc etc. I just learnt to wait because there probably is an unconscious inner delimma – do I deserve to be treated well? Or, perhaps I unconsciously feel if I am good, perhaps the other person – or race, or country  – will allow me to live?” I wondered. I hoped he would understand. My halo slipped some. His invincible, godlike mother now appeared vulnerable. How would he take that? Being a child dependent on adults at home and at school, he probably understand that kind of oppression well.

“Also, the British did not treat us well.” I added. He had sat thru the movie Gandhi with me several times, and understood what I was talking about.  “And it is perhaps ingrained in the Indian psyche – at least in my generation. It takes me a while to realize what is going on, before I consciously choose to react to it. I keep thinking the other person will realize his mistake. And even then, it doesn’t irk as much as it should, or as much as it would irk, say, a Caucasian who is born free” I said, “or perhaps we’re just more tolerant of other people aggression. Perhaps that is why we were conquered and re-conquered, and re-conquered by alien invaders. We’re just too soft and gentle. I like it that way. I’d rather be soft and gentle than dismissive, cruel and oppressive.” 

“But you,” I continued after a while, “I don’t want you to tolerate even an iota of it. No one should use the color of your skin to keep you waiting in line! You are the face, and hope, of the emergent India ! ” I concluded.

We were home at last.

Happy Independence Day India. You have survived. You have arrived.

Durlabhe bharate janam : Tujh pe dil qurbaan : Tu hai meri jaan.

M.

http://www.madhusameer.com

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Creativity, Expressions, Fresno, Marriage Counseling, Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sociopathic Men

I have recently begun to study this phenomenon in detail, and its detrimental effects in family settings. So for instance if one member in the family is a sociopath, what emotional and physical toll does that take on the other members of the family? How do we counter the effects of that person and protect the children from developing similar behavioral patterns ( skills?) ?

Lets simply perform an inquiry into the nature and consequences of sociopathy.

I used to hold the belief that people diagnosed thus could be changed through love and empathy. The more I explore this disorder, the more I am begining to feel that perhaps like the Freudian Narcissists, Sociopaths have an entrenched characteriological deficit that may be resistant to any fundamental change. Such people may have the skills to understand their mistakes, remonstrate and express remorse, but they lack the inherent infrastructure that would allow them to feel that remorse. And since feelings are implicated, and are necessary for any characteological change to take effect, the lack of the feeling function makes it impossible for a person with Sociopathic character, to change.  Without feelings a person is automata, and automata is the word that describes sociopaths’ inner world pretty well.

What is a sociopath?  I mean these are not people who are marked by two heads, or a tail, or an extra pair or legs. They can be outwardly normal people, except that they arethat are devoid of empathy, compassion, love, morality, ethics and associated traits. Jung would say that in these people, the feeling function that regulates our attachments, and our emotional interaction with the world,  is missing to a large extent. These people have a very well developed thinking function. They are usually brilliant, and can impress others with their glibness, and superficial charm.

Here are some of the traits exhibited by a sociopath :

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Conning
  • They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
  • Grandiose Sense of Self
  • Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
  • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
  • A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
  • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
  • Incapacity for Love
  • Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
    Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
    Rage – expressed or internalised – and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
  • Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
    Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
    Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.
  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
    Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

Other Related Qualities:

  1. Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
  2. Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
  3. Authoritarian
  4. Secretive
  5. Paranoid
  6. Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
  7. Conventional appearance
  8. Goal of enslavement of their victim(s)
  9. Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
  10. Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
  11. Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
  12. Incapable of real human attachment to another
  13. Unable to feel remorse or guilt
  14. Extreme narcissism and grandiose
  15. May state readily that their goal is to rule the world

The above traits are based on the psychopathy checklists of H. Cleckley and R. Hare.)

NOTE: In the 1830’s this disorder was called “moral insanity.” By 1900 it was changed to “psychopathic personality.” More recently it has been termed “antisocial personality disorder” in the DSM-III and DSM-IV. Some critics have complained that, in the attempt to rely only on ‘objective’ criteria, the DSM has broadened the concept to include too many individuals. The APD category includes people who commit illegal, immoral or self-serving acts for a variety of reasons and are not necessarily psychopaths.

Courtest : http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

The psychoanalytic community have their own definitions. For reasons of brevity, I will not go into the details of how Freud, his successors, and even Jung definied this way of being in men (and women, though the problem assumes statistical significance only in the male population). However, a prominent characteristics is their schizoid defense. They seldom share themselves with others, and are usually stingy, with a need to adhere to routine. They are loathe to impart with anything that seems of value to them. This may even include innocuous things like faeces. Contrary to popular myth about their sexual prowess, sociopaths are usually sexually dysfunctional. They find it difficult to give up control and since consensual sex usually involves giving up control, their ability to give and receive in an intercourse is greatly impaired. For this reason, forced sex like rape, molest, is more likely.

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As one can see, two heads, or a tail, or three or more limbs are not necessary to identify a sociopath. Charles Pragnell estimates that 3% of the male population are sociopaths and they inhabit all walks of life, from business and commerce where their ruthlessness can make them highly successful, in politics where their absence of empathy can enable them to be elective autocrats with a capacity for corruption and callousness, in organised crime often involving drug dealing, and in many other professions.

What Sociopaths are Like

According to Pragnell, Sociopaths are “extremely adept at ‘sailing close to the wind’ in avoiding lawbreaking or detection if they do break the law. Although the sociopath is extremely adept at evading detection for criminal behaviour, studies have shown that 47% have a significant arrest record and it is reasonably estimated that up to 25% of the prison population have sociopathic traits.”  However, it must be remembered that since they are charming, witty and intelligent, they are usually capable of evading arrests by changing their stories.

These are self-centred, narcissistic individuals, claims Pregnell, people who are impulsive, manipulative, and consistently untruthful. As sociopaths grow into adulthood they often engage in alcohol and drug abuse and this serves to exacerbate their behaviours and conduct towards others, and they can show extreme violence towards others when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, yet blame the drink or drugs for their actions. They tend to disregard laws. They also engage in violence towards their partner in a relationship and on occasions towards their childrenk. They use children as pawns because they now their offences will be difficult to detect and prosecute. In divorce wars, for example, they can make children their victims, knowing that the children have no voice in the process of law.

Jekyll and Hyde Personality

Sociopath tend to adopt an alter ego when with significant others, says Pregnell. They are extremely charming, of a calm and collected disposition, and very plausible and persuasive. They can have a group of close friends and even neighbours who consider them to be very friendly and a ‘good bloke’ and will be well thought of at the local pub or club. Such friends and associates find it difficult to believe that such a person could possibly be violent towards a partner or their children. However, the fact that sociopaths do not hform any emotional bonds, can easily throw light on their character. They tend to make their partners angry by their behaviors, and then blame them for their anger. This is referred in psychology circles as “crazy making” – a case of Projective Indentification where the partner ends up carrying the Sociopath’s internal anger.Their close relationshipships are always stressful, full of violence and rama.  This ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality is often referred to by professionals and by partners who have experienced the violence.

Pragnell further states that “in cases of partner violence or child abuse, this dual personality is often clearly apparent and the plausible, manipulative personality enables them to persuade gullible Court officials, lawyers and even Judges, that they are innocent of the abusive behaviours alleged by their children or the violence alleged by the former partner. The sociopath father can be extremely adept at ‘playing victim’ in court processes, accusing the mother of obsessive concerns for a sick child or of actually making the child ill (Fabricated and Induced Illness in Children), or of not ensuring that the child engages in a ‘meaningful’ relationship with the father, when in fact the child has protested loudly that s/he does not want any contact.”

Pragnell warns us that the use of Parental Alienation Syndrome has proved to be a highly effective tool for sociopaths to use in disputed court proceedings regarding the custody and contact with children, as they can so readily engage in deception and fabrication, distortion and embellishment of facts regarding events and actions.

Sociopaths are adept at attracting the sympathy of Court officials and lawyers and using them to gain what they see as their rights. Some sociopaths also appear to have infiltrated the Father’s Rights Groups in some countries, where they have been able to bring influence to further enable their domination and control over females. There are some father groups that are fighting for rights of fathers to have sex with their daughters.

Pregnell warns us that “the sociopath is an emotional shell, with no capacity to feel the pain of others and words only have meaning in so far as they persuade and manipulate others to the sociopath’s views. Feelings and emotions are non-existent but the sociopath is often able to cleverly mimic such emotions when needed and in ways which will deceive the observer into believing they are true emotions.”

The Making of a Sociopath

So what makes a Sociopath? Lack of emotions and empathy can only be attributed to the flawed mother-child relationship.

A child is born without the ability to feel, except inthe physical way. Emotional attachments, states of empathy, or any other kind of feelings are non existent in the womb. Life is only lived mechanistically on a physical level.

After birth, the relationship with the mother enables the activation of the feeling apparatus in a child. The more a child is attached to the mother, the deeper and more intense will be his or her capacity for emotional sensitivity and attunement with others and the environment.

The separation from the mother activates the thinking apparatus. Intelligence in children is a consequence of separation trauma. The more separated a child is from his or her mother, or the earlier the child is separated from the mother, the more will be his ability to think. Thinking is stimulated only when an independent existence is envisioned, when a conflict is sensed, when one is expected to take care of themselves for purposes of survival. It is a defense mechanism put forth by the psyche to ensure survival.

Normal development is a consequence of a balance between the two – the nearness of the mother, and a proper, timely separation from the mother. At one end of the continuum lie abnormal patterns of attachment, and the inability to separate, the inability to consider oneself as being separate from another, the fused and enmeshed relationships, the identification of ego with the Self, the inability to think. This is the absolute right brain thinking, the fatal dance of anima. On the other end of the continuum lies the inability to become attached, to never being able to experience the unity between self and other, the alienation between Self and the ego. The inability to feel. This is the complete absence of right brain, it is the left brain predominance. This is the destructive thanatos, the death dance of the animus.

Most of us will lie somewhere in the middle, and our position on the continuum at any given time is a consequence of the situational complexity that pushes us in one direction or the other. But if the development has been optimal, without any major disruptions in mother-child relationship, if there has been no neglect and abuse in childhood, if the mother herself has not been narcissistic, psychotic or sociopathic, and if the mother-child bond in childhood and adolescence has been solid, we will develop a capacity for relationships, we will stay closer to the feeling side, the side that commands altruism, empathy, morality, ethics, compassion etc – all of these virtues being relational in nature.

Sociopaths are people who spend most of their lives in the left hemisphere of the brain – the destructive pole of excessive thinking. Such an orientation – when excessive – is the basis of evil in the society. Sociopaths have very limited ability to function with their right hemispheres. They rarely emote, nor do they experience empathy, and love. The gift of the left hemisphere is the thinking function, and in sociopaths, the thinking function is overdeveloped, it is all encompassing. Hence they are always in the process of employing their thinking  in the service of their relationships. Thinking is a function of separation. It strives to separate, severing unity, relationality, and hence feelings. When one is stripped of feelings, one is not being contained and limited by the bonds of love and caring that chain our extreme behaviors and make us human. These very bonds foster moral and ethical attitude towards life, and society. Devoid of feelings,  a thinking man is prone to become diabolical with daimonic functioning.

Sociopatic fathers and protection from the Law

The excerpt that follows is directly from Pregnell’s article:

Protective mothers and partners who have experienced domestic violence have frequently described the onset of such attacks. “I see it in his eyes”, they say. It is beyond hatred and is a ‘demonic stare’. “I know then that I’m in for a beating”. Violent attacks are often followed by pleas of forgiveness which have the appearance of remorse and regret, although the sociopath does not take responsibility for his conduct but blames anything or anyone he can. “It was the drink”, he says or even blames his victim for behaving in a particular way.

In early courtship, female partners have been persuaded by the charming person in the sociopath and only rarely have they seen the violent potential. However, they soon experienced the possessiveness and jealousy of the sociopath and unfounded accusations of infidelity.

The goal of the sociopath father is to attain complete domination and control over his female partner and his means are to create fear, isolation, and total dependency. He seeks to take total control over his victim and will use any means possible to do so. Critical and abusive words and actions are the most common means. Then he isolates his victim from her family and friends and uses financial controls to limit her movements and decrease her self esteem. He systematically destroys her feelings of self-worth, dignity, and security.

If his female victim threatens to leave him, he will often threaten to kill her and their children if she were to do so, and warns her that she will never be safe for the rest of her life. This gives him an immense hold over his female partner but eventually the situation becomes so intolerable, she finally escapes.

But the suffering of the protective mother is far from ended. There then begins the harassment and continuing interference in her life, using the children as a means to do so.

It is unfortunate that the Family Law, which altruistically sought to give reasonable fathers a continuing and an active part in their children’s lives, has been a gift for the sociopath to continue to exert domination and control over his former partner and children. Although the sociopath may not have had a ‘meaningful relationship’ with his children in their past lives together and does not honestly want one in the future, he insists on this as his right under law as it provides him with the opportunity to continue to abuse his former partner and the children.

This usually involves avoiding payment of child support or paying inadequate amounts at infrequent intervals. Then he plays petty games at contact arrangements, such as returning the children late or in a dishevelled state. He abuses his former partner in phone calls and makes continuing unreasonable demands for more time with the children, although when the children are with him for staying contact, they are left with his new partner and he spends little time with them. He uses the Courts and its officials to enforce his rights if his former partner refuses to comply with the contact arrangements as a consequence of his behaviours. This has resulted in some protective mothers losing custody of their children and even being imprisoned and the children being placed with the sociopath father, to endure unwitnessed further abuse.

It has also led to the deaths of several hundred children, killed by their sociopath fathers, and many mothers and other relatives have also been killed. In 2005 inNew South Wales, one ofAustralia’s six States, 117 children suffered unnatural deaths at the hands of their parents and 74 intimate partners were killed. On occasions the sociopath father has taken his own life with those of his former partner and children.

It is to be hoped that society and Courts are able to more easily identify such sociopaths in the future and thereby provide the necessary protections for children and their mothers.

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Couples Counseling, Expressions, Fresno, Marriage Counseling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Post Partum Depression

I haven’t been able to write as much, or as frequently as I desire. This post, originally called Othering of the Mother, remains one of the most widely read posts even today, and so I take the liberty of reblogging it.

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Of recent, my psyche has gravitated  towards explorations in developmental psychology and the mother-infant dyad. It makes me wonder – what is the universe attempting to verbalise and make conscious thru my experiences ? But since I am compelled by my psyche, I offer my intellect willingly in the service of the work that seems to be flowing thru me.

This piece, in particular, is a tribute to the universe that enables my psyche, to my physical mother who was hospitalized for the first three months of my life (it wasn’t her fault, of course!), to all symbolic mothers in the universe who carried her work forward, to the phenomenon of motherhood that makes existence, and such explorations possible, and to George Lenroh from the Krishnamurti board, whose writing on the subject of “the other” has inspired my own internal and external quests of the other, the mother and how the awareness of this widening of the otherness is negotiated by the two. To be fair to his work, George’s use of the expression “there is no other,” is quite different from my use of it, so there, you have been warned!

In my previous writings, I have touched upon the importance of maintaining the mother-infant dyad, and the effects of separation on the tender psyche. Here we explore this unity, and the subsequent division, using a slightly different conceptual lens – we examine the relationship in terms of ancient philosophical framework of duality and non duality to understand the process that I call “the Othering of the Mother.”  This expresses the process by which a child, in blissful symbiotic union with the mother separates and comes to its own. Though I use the term othering losely, here are more precise definitions of Othering. A curious reader may get a brief synopsis of the concept of non duality from the internet.  And please, don’t forget to thank the universe for Wikipedia!

Developmental Perspectives

We explore  pre-conception, pregnancy, infancy, and childhood in context of the mother-fetus-infant-child dyad, focusing on the psychological birth of an infant. My apologies to Margaret Mahler but I use the expression in a manner quite different from hers. Whereas she has discussed the develop spanning a period of 0-36 mos, my concern is primarily with the first few moments, hours, weeks of being of an infant, a process that Mahler casually refers to as hatching.

Before conception, there is a couple that carry within themselves the potential for the future, the potential for evolution of mankind. The mother carries within herself the potential of being a mother, of mothering. The mother enables sentience in the child. Her potential is unrealized before conception, existing as a mere possibility. She also carries within herself conscious or unconscious memories of her own infancy and childhood. The father carries within himself the potential and probability of fathering, of fatherhood and all its concommittent possibilities and responsibilities of protecting, providing, initiating him into the world of adults and creating a conscious, autonomous, responsible adult. And he carries the memories of his own infancy, and childhood. How their respective potentials are actualized, determines how the evolution unfolds.

The impregnation thru the union is the creative act subsequent to which the embryo/fetus exists in a unity which grows weaker with time spent in the womb.  The fetus has a potential of I, but does not have a fully developed  I yet. It is separated by the skin,but the skin is tender and poros. The separation is an unrealized possibility the fetus exists only as an added organ of the mother. The mother accommodates in every which way to allow for this new organ. This nascent stage progressively becomes less unified under the omnipotent protective umbrella of mothering.  Research studies show an elementary sense of self slowly begins to consolidated, though this is primarily a pre-logical (before the ability for logic is created) , pre-verbal (before the ability to articulate words is created) self buried in the soma (body).

The birthing process widens this chasm of separation. Now one has become two, and the separation has physically been completed with the skin, and the space as a barrier to the one-ness of the merged unity. The nascent, psychological self begins to cohere rapidly in relation to the (m)other after the physical separation is completed – it becomes increasingly relational, perceived to be separate from the symbiotic one-ness of the womb.

The above can be conceptualised in many different ways. It is as if the one-ness of the universe is split into two, the split being two different universes, each a mutation of the original. Both universe carry some characteristic of the parent process, but both are changed in the process of splitting, hence the derivatives of the original, primordial unity are different from the entity that is the primordial mother. That original form recedes to the background like a perfect parent, never to be experienced again. Even though the beneficence of the mother becomes an inert, latent potentiality to be realized in times of infant’s distress, or threat to his self, there is no going back to the absolute, protective one-ness of the womb.

Under normal circumstances, where the mother-infant dyad is able to maintain proximity and the environment is supportive of the togetherness, the awareness of separation will gradually dawn on the infant psyche, creating a progressive fear of abandonment, and fear of survival. The fear in turn creates anxiety, anger, resentment, and envy. The infant feels anxious for the mother to return, helpless in his dependence on her, and envious of her power over him. The infant can progressively metabolize this fear and learn to cope but anxiety, anger, resentment and envy become etched in the psyche if the fear is too high, and/or is not allowed to mitigate by the return of the mother. These first experiences of negative emotions leave memory traces create templates that will be evoked whenever loss is experienced or perceived in the future.  All subsequent events in life will be pulled into these complexes, re-enacting the same primal othering situation over and over again with external objects – regardless of the real nature of the object. The object can be any attachment object  – an ideology, a cult, an authority figure, a nurturing figure  – any other that is symbolic of the mother, the feminine principle.

In the mother, the loss of an integral part of self is experienced, and this experience may fall on the prior experience of her own othering process in infancy. These latent memories of her own loss, and the way they were negotiated, are experienced either consciously or unconsciously.

Thus experiences of birth of an infant bring forth many debilitating emotions in the mother-infant dyad. Compensatory emotion of love arises to alleviate distressful feelings of fear and/or loss, an emotion that defends against loss due to compulsive “othering of the mother” – a process over which neither the mother, nor the infant, have any control.  The psyche defends against these debilitating emotions by promoting a mutual bond in both participants – a bond that will help them remain in close proximity as proximity supports an illusion of unity.  Love enables the nearness to be maintained despite the growing physical separation, and gratitude arises as a consequence of the other’s willingness to remain. The inability, or refusal of one party to remain in the relationship may lead to anger, rage, envy in the other and these emotions too get etched on the human psyche. Hence human love can be viewed as a reaction to the helplessness, dependency and vulnerability of either, and both (the mother and the child), as well as the awareness of the fragility of the relationship. It is an emotion that seeks to alleviate the distress created by the uncertainty that proximity may not be maintained. The seed of gratitude is set as a consequence of the willingness of the other to remain in close proximity. And anger is a consequence of the instinct for self presevation. Love and gratitude, amongst many other “positive” emotions, are primarily based on the substratum of fear of loss, as are anger and envy. This fear becomes etched on the human psyche, and is readily evoked in situations of real or imagined loss of any attachment object – human or idealogical – of any kind in the future.

In the infant, this etching is pre-logical and pre-verbal simply because the nascent psyche lacks the capability to metabolize these emotions, or verbalize them, but for the mother it is partly conscious, partly unconscious. The fear falls on the primal, pre-verbal,  pre-logical wounds of her own separation from her mother and causes sadness, despair, depression, anger, helplessness, envy. Because the trauma is pre-verbal, this fear is felt but not really understood or verbalised. Hence we associate post partum depression with moodiness without cause – the baby blues!

Thus love, fear, loss, and terror of annhilation become intractably linked in the human psyche to the growing realization of the otherness of the mother in the infant, and the otherness of the infant in the mother.

No matter how favorable the environment, the process of othering has to be intensely traumatizing and anxiety provoking for both the infant and the mother, even if such trauma occurs mostly at the unconscious levels. In more favorable environments, there is a gradual escalation of the fear associated with this disunity, the fear that a wonderful part of one’s existence has become an-other and there is no way to bridge this divide, and that the divide has to be endured.

The mother negotiates this trauma consciously thru post partum depression but the infant cannot handle this level of trauma consciously. Repression steps in to contain such debilitation. In other words, trauma still exists, but the awareness of it is banished into the unconscious where it lays dormant  –  as a seed or a potential for adult neurosis. We can say that survival of an infant is negotiated by making a pact with the devil which always lurks around in the form of a potential for psychopathology and neuroticism. The nascent psyche gladly pays this price because this is indispensable for the first ego formation. Thus potential psychopathology is an inherent part of our human structure. As long as the threshold of such pathology remains contained, the adult psyche will negotiate adult life with reasonable ability to cope.

Where this othering process has been more traumatic than usual due to adverse environmental conditions, and infant psyche has been unable to gradually adapt to the change in the environment, a sense of total despair, futility and terror of annhilation may become too overwhelming for the tender psyche, creating the potential for debilitation and psychopathology.  Even if such an adult proceeds through life without any major issues, this vulnerability to loss may be realized by the separation experienced as an adult; the magnitude of neuroticism depending on the severity with which the process of “othering” was experienced by the nascent psyche. As stated previously, the experience associated with a brutal and abrupt separation from the mother bring terror of annhilation, and one can see how loss of relationship in adulthood may leave some people absolutely devastated, others defend against the loss and remain unmoved, while a large population fall in between these extremes and copes with varying degrees of resiliance.

It is futile to believe that the adult partner or the relationship has characteristics and properties that has caused these feelings of loss. The partner or the relationship may simply be guilty of having triggered the primal wound of separation, and an awareness of this wound may enable freedom from such deterministic bondage. The adult loss reactivates the pre-verbal wounding from the othering process with an intensity similar to the primal wounding, and  this time the repression does not work as it did before.  This process is repeated in life many time, until the psyche achieves the ability to handle loss. Progressive losses during life provide opportunties for mastering this process of othering. However, if a person has led a relatively protected life, and has not experienced many losses, the magnitude of losses in adulthood would be experienced as annihilating although the psyche is merely trying to master the fear associated with the feeling of annihilation.

The primary emotion for a person experiencing adult loss is a wish to merge. It is a desire to return to the undifferentiated stage of one-ness with original mother, to that which exists no more. It is an escape from learning to cope with separation, with duality, with the otherness. It is one more grab for the primordial unity of the womb, the undifferentiated state of being where there would be no sense of loss, no division between the self and the other and hence no fear, no terror –  no suffering of any kind. The overwhelmed self wishes to crawl back to safety. But becoming (an adult) brings with itself the capabilities that tax and stretch our internal resources because that is the part of growth. And beside, there is no where to go, nowhere to get into. That which was, exists no more.

As discussed earlier, the post-partum depression arises in the mother as memories of her own wounds of the othering process of infancy are re-activated – the intensity of post partum depression depending on the fragility of the repressive defenses, and how the mother-infant dyad had been maintain by her own mother. This new unraveling, this new wound cannot be defended by repression for the adult capacity to endure trauma is different from the infant’s capacity for the same. The dungeons of the unconscious are crowded full of repressed fears from childhood, and there is no more space. What cannot be accommodated there, needs to be endured. If it cannot be endured, it will have to flow over to the body as physical disease. The psyche knows this, is coded for such, and persists. Hence the suffering and disease associated with adulthood.

But What Does All This Mean?

Awareness and insight into our own wounding, our own fragility brings freedom from deterministic bondage that otherwise unconsciously would chain us to our past. In order to protect and control its sovereignty, and to hide the vulnerability of our souls, our ego instinctively puts up resistance to acknowledging our woundedness just like a turtle puts up its shell. Psychological wounds are not pathological by and in of themselves but they become breeding grounds for psychopathology to the extent they remain unconscious. When we insist that the psyche in not injured, there is no possibility of healing because what is uninjured cannot be healed. However, if we will not have our wounds, our wounds will have us.

It is only when the protective defenses are relinquished in the safety and security of a trusting relationship, that the psyche begins the process of undoing some of that duality that had been heaped upon it at a time when it was not strong enough to handle it, at a pace that was not of its choosing, with consequences that were not acceptable to the psyche. In re-experiencing those emotions at a time when it has the strength to deal with it, and the conscious willingness to do so, it re-enacts the process of othering, with a hope to complete the process more holistically so that it can find its own balance, its own garden, its own paradise, its own universe from where it can enable another, healthier process of division, for in that subdivision, lies evolution, and future.

For an adult psyche on the path of individuation, there is no (m)other.

http://www.madhusameer.com

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Expressions, Fresno, Marriage Counseling, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I will have 1 connection for dinner, thank you…!

I recently attended a mid year dinner with a group of colleagues at a nice Chinese restaurant. Round table, great ambiance, the usual small talk, some big talk, marketing issues, and other stuff. Next day we discussed it some in supervision – my take on such processes, and my experience of bonding through such a group meet. This is an analysis of my own experiences of what it is to have a connection, to bond with others -with colleagues, friends, and family and yes, with clients.  These are my experiences, and my writing is a form of rumination, a brain dump. I find it tedious, and formal, to refer back to books and academics and relate the writing to them, or find validity through quotes. They are my thoughts arising of my experiences, they are real, and hence their validity is unquestionable to me. 

What is a connection? The Mirriam Dictionary has the following entry for the word connection  :
——————————————————————————————

Definition of CONNECTION

1
: the act of connecting : the state of being connected: as a : causal or logical relation or sequence connection between two ideas> b (1) : contextual relation or association <in this connection the word has a different meaning> (2) : relationship in fact <wanted in connection with a robbery> c : a relation of personal intimacy (as of family ties) d : coherence, continuity
2
a : something that connects : link <a loose connection in the wiring> b : a means of communication or transport <a telephone connection>
3
: a person connected with another especially by marriage, kinship, or common interest <has powerful connections>
4
: a political, social, professional, or commercial relationship: as a : position, job b : an arrangement to execute orders or advance interests of another <a firm’s foreign connections> c : a source of contraband (as illegal drugs)
5
: a set of persons associated together: as a : denomination b : clan
con·nec·tion·al \-shnəl, -shə-nəl\ adjective

Examples of CONNECTION

  1. The state plans to improve roads that serve as connections between major highways.
  2. There is a fee for connection to the town’s water supply.
  3. All classrooms will be wired for connection to the Internet.
  4. connections between thought and language
  5. Investigators found no connection between the two fires.
  6. The school has no connection with the museum.
  7. Evidence suggests there’s a connection between the languages.
  8. I’m not sure I see the connection.
  9. Our family feels a deep connection to the land.
  10. the connection between smoking and lung cancer

Origin of CONNECTION

Latin connexion-, connexio, from conectere

First Known Use: 14th century

Related to CONNECTION

——————————————————————————————-
The definitions are all particularly interesting. Almost all of them refer to communication. Connection just seems to arise from a need to communicate. And communication is often perceived to be associated with verbal abilities. And this is a stance that the Cognitive Behavioral Theorists have taken. In therapy, they teach the person, or the couple to talk to each other in a way that is acceptable to both, and is understood by each other.

I think a little differently. I believe that communication is a multi-dimensional process – the senses contributing to various aspects, various dimensions of what is being communicated. Each is as potent, even though we may ignore the content receieved and interpreted by them, and only concentrate on the verbal dimension of our interactions. And even with the verbal comminucation, we often misunderstand the process of communication, and hence either not understand, or misunderstand what is being conveyed.

The verbal aspect of communication actually refers to the ability to talk to oneself, to be able to understand oneself, and to be able to accept oneself. Communication refers to our ability to make conscious what is unconscious. Since our external reality mirrors our internal reality, therefore, thoughts and verbal communications are contemporaries on either side of the psyche. The communication skills that we seek are internal – the blurring of barriers between the conscious and the unconscious, the left and the right hemisphere. We seek a way to understand the language of the psyche, all that flows from the unconscious into the conscious. Unless we can interpret it in a way that is understood by pur conscious self, the information being conveyed by the unconscious has a potential to create havoc. For example, a person with psychosis is someone who cannot consciously understand what the unconscious is dumping into his consciousness. Or one can say that his unconscious isn’t as tightly sealed off, and stuff that presents itself in a language that is alien to consciousness, presents itself to consciousness. We are able to achieve this translation of information presented by the unconscious into a language understood by consciousness, through thoughts. Thoughts arise in the mind as outcomes of this translation activity, and are arranged by the psyche into word symbols that are driven to be discharged, aka Freud’s drive discharge. Language evolves automatically in the psyche. One does not need a therapist to tell them how to talk to their spouse, or parents, or friends and family. The ability to talk is like a suppressed or inhibited potential, it is innate, and only needs to be allowed an unfolding. Connection causes communication, and separation creates the drive, the need to communicate those thoughts.

Why is anything suppressed or ignored ? Because it is either perceived to be of no value to the process of survival, or it is too threatening for survival, and hence debilitating, beyond the ego’s ability to process and manage for survival, and hence has to be locked away in the dungeons of the unconscious. 

What exactly is threatening and deblitating to the psyche? That which is beyond its comprension, beyond predictabilty, beyond understanding. The unknown, the unknowable which one cannot trust to be life enhancing. Hence the issue of trust is intractably linked to optimal communication. In the unconscious lie aspects of the world that cannot be trusted to assist in survival. They are unorganized, un-understood, disavowed parts of ourselves that are not our partners in crime, they are not dependable, or trustworthy.  The process of establishing communication externally with anyone, is thus a process of establishing trust between these disparate parts of ourselves, and then projecting them outwards onto others who then become worthy of our trust. In establishing communication, we have unfolded our ability to trust the other. This part of the process is dancing to the rhythm of the verbal communication simultaneously.

How do other senses contribute to the process of communication? They contribute by enhancing that aspect of information that will enhance the trust, and by suppressing the portion that may inhibit the trust. Hence a good communication will involve open-ness. We either forget, or force ourselves to become vulnerable. We suppress all incoming info that would disallow any untrustworthy information to register meaningfully in our psyche. Hence when we are betrayed, we tend to say “but I trusted you !” meaning I communicated so well with you that I disallowed my senses to register the danger that you presented to me.

This leads to an interesting deduction – that the other is always essentially untrustworthy to some extent, and if we did not inhibit our information gathering equipment, we may have picked up on exactly why and when the person could be untrustworthy. And realistically speaking, we are all self driven at the very core of our existence, we are survival oriented, and that remains an existential fact. The animals never forget that, and are always in tune with their instincts. They manage an interpersonal closeness along with an interpersonal distance, but we humans are lulled into complacency and stifle our instincts in the process of domestication and civilization.

Which brings us to another interesting deduction. Since it is forced, and fabricated, and unnatural to our species, trust, then, must be a construct, and not an innate property of the human psyche. This is like a Pandora’s box, it unravels the basis and foundations of human relationships. But there is hope in the way we accept and interpret this fatal fact of life.

If trust is a construct, if it is not any real emotion, or entity, or state in the human psyche, but is just a perceived state, and it is deemed useful for human existence (since it allows predictability, that is so necessary for a sane existence), therefore it must be possible to construct it in a particular way, and reconstruct it again and again. The possibilities associated with the creation of this alleged state of mind are enormous. 

Betrayal then becomes a human construction as well. And the pain of betrayal then is self inflicted by the mind. Isn’t that wonderful? Expectations that we have of each other become constructions, and fall from grace, or unrequited love – or any loss due to an expected outcome – is a construction as well. The possibilities are enormous. And  communication – previously defined as transmission of data from the unconscious to the conscious – becomes possible. It seems that the conscious mind carries all these constructions that create possibilities, predictabilities, to make life easier. But they aren’t real, they’re all constructed versions of reality,  ways andmeans by which the psyche creates predictve validity…so it can remain grounded.

What then is true communication – I asked myself.  Would self realization be true communication? And would that lead to true communication between people? Perhaps that is so. If we know who we are, then we automatically understand the other person at a deeper level. They dont’ have to TELL us who they are, they don’t have to struggle to explain themselves. Our interactions will automatically create an awareness of what is going on between the two. Perhaps that is why when people are in love, they don’t need to talk, meeting of the eyes is enough. Some unconscious drive stirs up in the unconscious, making itself felt by the conscious mind. That is communication. that is a connection. And if the reasons behind the the connection are understood, it perhaps paves a way for an even deeper connection.

So next time someone tries to teach you how to talk to your spouse,  I would suggest you ask them to teach you to “talk” to yourself, to get to know yourself. If you don’t know yourself, you can never know the other, and all the kings men cannot put the humpty dumpty of the relationship back on the wall again.

This, in my opinion, is the reason couples therapy has such a low rate of success. 80% of time the marital counseling efforts fail. I think its because the focus is on the external, and one can memorize how to talk, but the instincts, and the internal communication is held hostage by the psyche. Until awareness of the self is created, there can be no real awareness of the other.

This is such a vast topic, and I can write a book on how because communication is linked to trust, therefore communication is also linked to early relationships that one may have had as a child. In fact it is an empirically observed fact that the children with distrubed relationships in infancy, are deficit in language, and expresions. Autism, language deficiencies are usually problems of communication. They are consequences of  disrupted bond with the mother, diminished trust.

M.

http://www.madhusameer.com

Posted in Counseling, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Couples Counseling, Expressions, Fresno, Marriage Counseling, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Desire as Metonymy

“Desire is shaped like a metonymy.” I had read this several times over the years, a quote attributed to Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst.  I had attempted to understand this cognitively. However, it wasn’t until earlier today that the full implications of his statement dawned on me experientially.

Lacan’s is a psychology of desire. His desire is not necessarily the pulsating, sexual desire that the word commonly denotes. Lacan’s desire originates in relationship with the mother, and can be understood to have the same nature and texture as is associated with Jung’s eros – a passion for life, for objects, for existence. For example,  Lacan talks about the desire of the therapist for his clients as an important ingredient in the healing process. The therapist has to have a genuine and deep desire to be of help to the patient – a desire for patient’s wellness. He states that it is the desire of the therapist for the patients wellbeing which eventually allows for the healing. Since it is the lack of desire for wellness and even for life that brings patients into consultation rooms, the desire of the therapist for the patient has to exceed the desire of the patient.

We now come to defining the concept of metonymy. Wikipedia defines metonymy as :

Metonymy (play /mɪˈtɒnɪmi/ mi-tonn-ə-mee)[1] is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept.

For example : “A set of wheels” may be used as a metonym for a car, or “hot legs” to denote a sexy woman. In these examples, in the mind, a part is used to create/recall an image of the whole.

Lacan maintains that it is the law of the father – the taboos, inhibitions and prohibitions on an incestuous mother child relationship – that is invoked in all separations we encounter in life. Whereas the mother stands for unity, symbiosis, all beginings, the father symbolises divisions, separations, all endings. And he states that thru this Law, which he calls the Name of the Father or the Law of the Father, thought, and language arises.  As a consequence of the Law, the child is initiated into a sacred order that is larger than itself, larger than the mother and larger than the father as well. The order of the civilized world, of morals, and ethics.

Since the child submits to this higher order, the prohibition, the Law, or the “No!” teaches the child to accede not to the desired object, but to the desire of the desired.  This means that the child will hopefully learn not to desire the objects in of themselves, but what the objects represents. We do not desire the religious figures, gods, teachers, but we learn to submit to objects of their desires.  Hence the child submits to all that is held dear by the desired object – to the teachings of religion, to the ethical and moral values upheld in the name of god, and  to the teachings of his teachers.  And by submitting to these desires of the desired, civilization and culture evolves. The child learns the way of the civilized word, and grows from it. This desire of the desired is but a metonymy. It is a part that is unconsciously inspired by the love held for the desired object.

I had understood these two concepts only cognitively. I had understood, also, that Lacan’s desire, shaped like a metonymy, enables the adult child to fall in love with a person who has something, a part that resembles his mother. A smile, the hair, the color of eyes, etc remind him unconsciously of his mother, which creates a feeling of connection, and love, and therefore submission.

My grandfather was a writer. He wrote almost incessantly. Not epics, not novels, not materials that became world class, but he wrote, nevertheless. Like Athena, who had sprung from the forehead of Zeus, I was extremely attached to him. It hadn’t occured to me until now, but as I look back today, I realise all my life I have been unconsciosuly attracted – in whatever ways that may be – to people who had the gift of writing !

 In late 90s and early 80s, during my High School and UnderGrad years my life had felt as if it was lodged between a rock and a hard place. There were few role models, and fewer things that brought me happiness. My soul was weary and tired, but also filled with the ambition and the hopes and dreams of promises of tomorrows.  In this dark period of my life, came a few random beacons of light that allowed for some illumination in an otherwise desolate existance. It wasn’t until much much later, decades later, that I realised their significance in my life. And it is now, with my education in psychology, I realise how my life has been shaped by these chance encounters with total strangers.

Earlier today my english professor from my ungraduate class, located me on the internet, and contacted me. I had attended his class for two semesters, for less than a year. In addition to this, we had presented a few Radio Programs since we were both DJs at a local radio station. During the course of scripting the show, we had spent a few hours together. That was all the time we had had – once a week class over 2 semesters – about 24 hours of contact time, and a few more hours at the Radio Station. My conscious mind had not registered the significance of this association until this email after close to 30 years or so. He had remembered me, and the email was filled with the same familiarity, and affection as he had held for me 30 years ago. I realised that all these years I had carried him in my unconscious as an attachment figure, even though the knowledge of such attachment had well been disguised from me by the protective defenses.  My eyes filled up with tears when I read his affectionate email, and thru that misting of my eyes, was forced into introspection. What had he meant? Why hadn’t I figured out, and what impact had he had on my life ?

All that is fodder for internal reflection, but I realised that my love of language seemed to have been shaped by separations. Not just this separation, but thru two other significant separations over a period of time. At the time, I simply wrote to expel the noxious and toxic affects. In so many ways then, my writing was his (and those of other two) gift to me.

I love writing. And it was easy to trace how that love for writing had unconsciously developed over the years, after he had left the college to pursue a career elsewhere. The word metonymy arose in my mind….and I understood how I, because I had held deep attachment bonds – I had submitted to the desire of the desired. In my writings, was embedded the mechanism of metonymy….my writings somehow, in the unconscious, connected me to these three people who I cared for, and lost. They had all represented language and writing, they had all been extremely good writers and the double effect – separation and the metonym – had propelled me forward in the world of wordsymbols, of letters and language. Andre Green would say that my creativity was a repetitive attempt to win the lost object back, it was a psychic defense arising against the premonition, and the experience of loss of a deep attachment bond.

So just like the certain color of eyes, certain length of hair, certain element of a smile may take a person back to their mother, just like the term “set of wheels” takes a person unconsciously back to the car that he desires, in the same way, my written work took me unconsciously back to these three attachment figures in my life. It had been my way of staying connected with them.

What if I hadn’t connected to these random strangers?  Or what if these figures had not separated from me? Would I still be able to write as well? We will never know, but I doubt it. And so, I have to admit that loss begets thoughts. It begets language. And thoughts and language, in cohort with emotions, lead to wisdom. So loss begets wisdom.  And sometimes loss [of attachment figures] is necessary in the path of growth. I am reminded of Judith Viorst’s book on the subject : Necessary Losses.

I hope I remember this lesson, and not remain stuck, but use all losses as an opportunity to deepen, to grow, to become wiser.

I would like to close this story with a musical clip from Alabama that has been very inspirational in lives that it has touched – Angels Amongst Us

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bkoHhIwMe4&feature=related

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Part Object vs Whole Object Relating

Goenka ji, the man behind Vipassana Meditation, tells a tale about a little kid. The tale has never failed to move me, despite its repetition over the last 10 years. 

A mom makes kheer for her little son, and offers it to him in a plate. Kheer is an Indian dish, much like rice pudding,. It can be had hot or cold. The child gets mad and says “I want it in a cup.” The mother explains that it would cool faster in a plate and he’d be able to enjoy it much more, but the child insists, and so she gives it to him in a cup.

As he begins to eat, he stops, and throws another tantrum “It has stones !!! I don’t want kheer with black stones !” Mom explains “they are not stones, these are cardamoms, they enhance taste, and are good for health.” But the child insists they are stones, and he is not going to eat them!!! He sulks and pushes the kheer away, refusing to eat it.

The expasperated mom sighs and given in to his whims with helpless resignation, knowing he is wrong, but unable to do anything. She tells him “all right, eat the part that you want, throw away the rest. Hopefully one day you will learn to appreciate not just the part, but the whole!”

I was earlier talking to a friend about religions, cultures, ethnicity, individuality and relationships, and I happened to remember this tale, for in each of these cases, we tend to accept the other’s reality in parts, discounting other parts. Sometimes we even discount the whole. Sometimes we split the world into right-wrong, good-bad, acceptable-unacceptable.

Melanie Klein, a renown British Psychologist, talks about the ability to move from part object identification to whole object identification as part of  developmental achievement. This movement is representative of the stage where the child does not just see the mother as a breast, a giver of food,  nourishment and love, but also begins to see her as a whole object, as another human being that has its own wants, needs, and wishes. The same mother that loves, repremands, and then repairs the relationship, at the same time continuing to love the child in all aspects of its behavior. The faith in the underlying love, and the return to the mother as a consequence of the reparative attempt by either party, is a very significant developmental achievement that allows for a relationship to continue, despite the inherent struggles for power and control. that this, or any relationship entails. Children whose mothers are either missing, or negligent fail to master this skill. The lack manifests itself in the inability to tolerate dissent, or separation, or independence of the partner.

Successful resolution of this stage of development causes the child to move from part object relating to whole object relating. The child is not relating only to one aspect of the mother – the loving, nurturing part, but to the mother as a whole in her various aspects of relating, some good, some not so good.  Kohut calls it graduating from Selfobject relations to Object Relations. This process heralds the onset of the ability to continue loving the mother in spite of the ups and downs in the relationship. In this stage, the child recognises that the mother is not just an extension of his likes and dislikes, but is a separate individual in her own right, with her own likes and dislikes that may contrast with the child’s causing her to appear sometimes good, sometimes bad. Such a realisation is very disheartening for the child, for it reduces mother’s idealism, and the grandiosity associated with mother’s power that the child had attributed to himself, and also creates a perceived separation in the incestuous symbiosis. The disillusionment, however, is growth promoting, as it lays the foundation for his adult relationships, and his ability to not split the later objects into black and white, good or bad, god and satan. It facilitates the ability to see the other as an interated whole – constituting of good and bad parts – and to continue in a relationship despite its ups and downs…

The transcendance of this split is inherent in the symbolism of multiple faces of the mother in Hindu religion as well. The Great Mother appears as benign Laxmi, Saraswati, Parvati, as well as Chamundi and Kali. The ability to maintain a relationship with the whole, the Great Mother, despite its many manifestations and aspects, represents the human capability for whole object relations.

Interesting how the realms of spiritality and psychology meet at these borders. Psychology and religion seem to explore the same phenomenon, they seem to use different language in describing it. This had led to a prediction that psychology is the new religion of the contemporary world.  

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Complexes and Black Holes

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=11542570

Ive been tied up with a bunch of joyful stuff. Life’s a peach that prevents me from returning here, despite all my good intentions. And even today, I am tied up, but this thought has been gestating in my psyche for well over 5 months, yet today there seemed to be a compulsion associated with it…It needed to be expressed in a hurry. Perhaps its time had come 🙂

I have been fascinated by Physics since middle school, ever since I was introduced to the three equations of motion in the preliminary Physics class of 7th grade. I still carry a vivid image of my Physics teacher writing them on the blackboard of that dinky classroom, writing these equations that spawned off a neverending love of physics in me :

v = u + at;  s= ut + 1/2 at (square); v (square) = u (sqaure) + 2as; 

Later, the love of physics turned into love of Quantum Physics, String Theory and a fascination with Black Holes.  In later life when I was drawn into Self Psychology, Object Relations and Jungian Psychology with an equal fascination, I instinctively knew there was an overlap,  a correlate between these two love-objects of mine. A certain silent, non-descriptive woundedness had drawn me to Physics. The same inexpressable, undescribable woundedness had also drawn me to these three constituents of depth psychology. The problem I was faced with was – how do I recognize that overlap? Do I have a sight that can see, a feeling that can experience, a voice that can communicate ? Many years since, I’m still wondering.

And at different times in these last 10 years, the feeling was distinct, a sense of deja vu enveloped me when I studied psychology. I had done all this before. I knew it instinctively, in different time and space, in a different language. The feeling was unmistakable, unshakeable.

I think I finally managed to put it together. Jung‘s theory of archtypes and complexes was a psychological parallel (and equivalent) of Stephen Hawkin’s theory on Black Holes!  And who could be better acquainted with  black hole, who could understand a black hole better than Stephen Hawkin, the immobile, wheelchair bound gifted genius stricken by cerebral palsy at the peak of his career.  I mean, who really would be more qualified to understand and interpret the utter bleakness and despair of a black hole and give it shape, form and substance? It occurred to me with an unmistakable clarity that he had so wonderfully projected his own black hole, his own complex, onto the universe, and then studied a this part of his wounded psyche in detail , perhaps without ever connecting the two, but being strengthened by the exploration, nevertheless.  Or had he, in his private thoughts, made this connection already?

Stephen Hawkin asserts that space and time bend around the black hole. What does childhood trauma do? It creates wounds, which Jung called complexes, in the psyche. These complexes are like magnetic poles that pull all psychic energy into them, leaving the person depleted of any libido. In later life, in adulthood, these complexes enable a compulsion to repeat the childhood trauma. As psychoanalysis predicts, it is as if time does not exist and adults with developmental trauma travel back in time to re-live, or re-enact the same trauma over and over again. In that sense, the complex is much like a black hole, that creates a time warp to our own past.

I don’t have much time today, to expand my thoughts on the subject, or to carry out further research (CAMFT conference on 15th) but I do promise to explore this in more detail in the next few months. The concept is worth exploring, even if only as a metaphor!  Just like we accept that our biology and cellular structure, at the most fundamental level, comprises of strings (or whatever elementary particles we seem to be studying at that time and in that age), in a similar way, is it possible that external black holes and time warps may represent the underlying psychic strategy that Jung accidentally and/or unknowingly formulated and labelled as complexes ?  It would be fascinating, wouldn’t it? Jung found a parallel with Alchemy, which until then had not been associated with the psyche. Well, here both Stephen Hawkin and Jung may have been describing the same fundamental reality, but were looking at different places for explanations…

Meanwhile, here is a preliminary definition of a black hole….which seems to be frighteningly similar to Jung’s definition of a complex.

Of all the conceptions of the human mind, from unicorns to gargoyles to the hydrogen bomb, the most fantastic perhaps, is the black hole: a hole in space with a definite edge into which anything can fall and out of which nothing can escape; a hole with a gravitational force so strong that even light is caught and held in its grip; a hole that curves space and warps time. Like unicorns and gargoyles, black holes seem more at home i nthe realm of science fiction an ancient myth than in the real Universe. None the less, well tested laws of physics predict firmly that black holes exist. In our galaxy alone there may be millions, but their darkness hides them from view. Astronomers have great difficulty finding them.”                                    – Kip S Thorne, Black Holes and Time Warps

 

Till later

M.

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The Morphed Psyche – Developmental Perspectives on Hate (II)

The edited version of the paper I presented at the Conference for Hate Studies at Spokane, WA. I have deleted citations and references for ease of reading. The last paper on Music had been, I realised, a difficult read with all those citations etc.

Introduction

This paper has grown out of my own ambivalence and struggles with acculturalisation and consequential feelings of love, indifference and hate, hence it is pertinent to provide the audience with a brief snapshot of my background as well as the events which form the context of this paper.

Background

I am by birth a Hindu Brahmin, from Kashmir in India. I am 49, and I have spent roughly equal amounts of time – 16 years each – in several cities, located in five different countries over three continents that had dominated by Hinduism, Islam and Christianity respectively and it is in the developmental theories Melanie Klein that I found my own psychic development across the borders – international borders as well as the borders of my own emotional sanity. An in-depth understanding of my own psyche has helped me understand the national psychology of the people and the nations and cultures that I inhabited over the last 49 years. As above, so below, and what is within, lies without.

Countertransferential Material

As I prepared an abstract for this conference, I wondered what I would say because I had never encountered hate on a personal level ! What does it mean to hate, I asked myself ? What is hate? Why don’t I experience it ? As the sages would say – be careful what you wish for, for your quests may be answered. And they synchronistically did get answered, in the form of a woman I shall call Tammy Blankbird.

Case of Tammy Blankbird

Tammy is a female psychologist about 35 years of age. I met her about 3 years ago on an electronic message board that shall remain unnamed for reasons of confidentiality. There she idealized intelligent people but when they disagreed with her, which is what intelligent people do, she would traumatize them. She knew full well that Freud attributed all humor to the deepest unconscious fantasies, but that didn’t stop her from saying “Do you all concede to my superior knowledge?” People who needed to be led, were drawn to her, forming a sort of lynch mob and harassing others who dared to disagree. The fireworks had been increasing in frequency and intensity over the months while I was there and many knowledgeable and accomplished professionals who had been her friends, but fell out of favor, eventually ended up leaving the message board.

Almost everyone who could be a threat to her hegemony had been hounded out of the message board, until I interpreted this dynamic to our colleagues and the awareness of her interpersonal style of relating caused them to become less supportive of her, which made her angry and resentful of me. In my culture, there is a saying “you must walk past a bag of shit without disturbing it, for nothing good can come out of kicking the bag of shit!” So here I was, minding my own two Jungian psychodynamic cents, making all efforts to stay away from Tammy, but finding little success. She relentlessly pursued me, jeering and mocking me for my refusal to confront her. It felt like I was walking on eggshells around her, in order to maintain peace on the boards. My cultural prescription of walking away, my refusal to fight was, of course, not perceived as my strength, but was interpreted as a developmental deficit. “Emotionally healthy people do not escape from confrontations!” she said of and to me. In India, we have an expression that says “Laaton ke bhoot baton se naheen maante” – the deadbeats used to being kicked, will not yield to verbal reasoning. After many months of being harassed, stalked and hounded, eventually I give her an experience of what it meant to be intruded upon, I confronted her by exaggerating her behavior and mirroring it back at her. She promptly complained that she was victimized by me, labeled my intervention as a part of my “ugly projections” and so it went and so it went…

This is a perfect example of what is going on in the external world, how an intrapsychic conflict is converted into individual conflict that affects a community and eventually the world peace. In onion like parallel process, this could well be a religious or a political conflict. As we go thru the rest of the paper, I hope the lines between the personal and the collective are progressively blurred, and we are able to see how this situation represents the individual re-enactment of the collective problems that we are faced with. We can well substitute the proper noun Tammy and use the word Israel, or US, or China, or even use the word Islam, Hinduism or Christianity – so that the event can be recognized not simply as conflict between two individuals, but as the story of our times, a story of religious, national or geographical intolerance, provocation and distress.

Although the developmental theories are related to individual psyche, what else is a nation if not a collection of individuals? So as I read thru the proposed conceptual model, I request the audience to correlate these two in their minds – what happens within the tender psyche of an infant provides a conceptual understanding of what is going on national, international and even on cosmological realms.

Developmental Theories

Developmental theories posit that the experiences of the womb to childhood are embedded into our soma. They represent our instinctual strivings that are unconsciously acted out in our adult behaviors.

Infantile Omnipotence and Narcissism

In the womb all wants of the fetus are met and his mental life represents an absence of needs, a sense of omnipotence – that one has all one wants and there is nothing else to wish for (Ferenczi, 1951: 218). This is the ideal state of being, remembered unconsciously, and all thru our lives we fantasize about this state and create a fantasy of god, and heavens, in the image of this existence of the womb.

Birthing trauma challenges the infant, and a neonate’s omnipotence is frustrated and threatened. He now learns that he helplessly depends on the forces outside his sphere of influence and there is nothing he can do about that dependence. This awareness of aloneness, and of being helpless in the face of dependence on the universe, and on larger forces, is ongoing throughout life and acceptance of our limitations forms the basis of adult wisdom. Hell is but a projection of our emotions about life lived with suffering. In hell, there is no god for in adult life there is no mother to bail us out.

Splitting : Kleinian Hate & Envy

Melanie Klein has unveiled a phenomenon called splitting and projective identification that has shed more light on the process by which the emotion of hate and envy are created.
The infant feels good when it can maintain its sense of omnipotence, and it feels bad when that omnipotence is threatened. These good and bad experiences are internalized thru the relationship with the mother. When the mother is being attentive and gratifying, the infant feels good/omnipotent. When the mother doesn’t move quickly enough, or doesn’t satiate the infants’ hunger completely, she is experienced as bad. Good and bad are split apart and later become manifest as heaven and hell, god and devil in the adult fantasy. The infant does not realize that it is the same mother who is both good and bad, neither does he realize that his own behavior towards the mother is sometimes good and sometimes bad.
The growing infractions of the mother – her inability to respond perfectly every time – make the infant painfully aware that the mother can not be always good but such realization is hazardous physical and emotional safety as the infant has not yet developed the ability to metabolize disappointments. Hence all good things about the mother – positive, gratifying experiences that the infant has of her – are clubbed together and attributed to her.

But no mother is perfect !!! So all bad experiences of her – the negative , frustrating, threatening, dangerous, overstimulating things about her – are split off from consciousness and projected onto an externalized fantasy images such as a wicked stepmother, or wicked witch of children’s stories. This externalization leads to an internal sense of safety and wellbeing as the internalized self and the internal representation of mother now can continue being good. Outside is not as safe, or good. This is part of healthy growing up. As a consequence of these projections of internal onto the external, we like some things, and we dislike, are afraid of and even hate other objects of our environment.

However, when the mother has been absent in childhood, or has been negligent or “bad,” the badness gets internally trapped. The mother is still idealized, and its opposite, the badness is attributed to the self. “I must be bad for the mother to have hit me!” To mitigate that distress, the bad becomes catapulted onto the idealized figure. This two step process – where a person first carries the idealizing projection and then is assigned its opposite, the split off bad aspects of the self and mother, were labeled as envy by Melanie Klein.

In either cases, the good and the bad is an internal experience and the outer object may or may not correspond to those experiences. The mother may actually be caring, nurturing, loving, gratifying, but since no mother is perfect, the infant can never have a perfectly omnipotent world, and will always have an internalized bad mother.

The mother may also be experienced as being too attached, or too stimulating and/or exciting. In such a case the infant-child will try to pull away from her. Children also pull away from the mother when they achieve development milestones and start developing an awareness of their social worlds and its possibilities. A mother that attempts to inhibit this separation, and refuses to let go of the child is known as Terrible Mother and mythologically represents the devouring parent like Cronos and Madusa. It is the slaying of such a mother-dragon that allows a man to achieve his masculinity. In simpler words, it is necessary for an adolescent to give up the suffocating and infantile attachment/dependence with the mother before he can form successful adult relationships. A mother who disallows such separation creates psychotic islands in the psyche of the child that cause chaos in adulthood.

Rage & Aggression

The reactive rage of a child who is not fed, or is not fed adequately, or not quickly enough, is not only about hunger. It is also a narcissistic injury to the threat of infantile omnipotence, a threat to infantile illusion of self sufficiency, it is displaced to the outside. Outside objects – plants, animals, people, things – seem to be raging against oneself. The world seems to be full of aggression. In reality, much of this aggression is within oneself but the world appears aggressive. Thus the universal psychic roots of aggression lie in the ontogenic development of an individual. This rage has to be expressed and exhausted in relationship with the mother, if it is not to accumulate silently in the unconscious psyche.
Developmental Differences between the Eastern and the Western Psyche
We can apply these theories to understand how people from the East differ from people in the West.

Western Childrearing Practices

From the moment of birth, the tactile interaction of a Western infant with mother is minimized, and the infant is quickly trained into a regimented routine of timed feeds and an existence in the crib. The separation causes disconnection from the mother, and because the mother also represents the self during the first few months, there is a disconnection from the Self. The infant is forced into early self sufficiency. As this infant turns into a child, it encounters more resistance from the environment that further frustrates it and erodes its sense of omnipotence and a sense of specialness and symbiotic unity. The left brain – which supports asymmetrical modes of relating and encourages separation- if formative at an early age when the child witnesses that the mother’s ministrations are diverted to the father, and siblings and the child learns that it needs to compete against them for mother’s affection. The template for competition is thus created in the cradle simply by the way we mothers nurse our infants.

The expression of rage in childhood is a developmental necessity, however, in the Western families, the child is expression of rage is severely curtailed and both the mother and child attempt to manipulate each other thru guile rather than direct demands and verbalized anger. The unexpressed rage is pushed into unconscious and becomes the shadow element of the individual as well as society. One wonders how people who stand patiently in line at grocery shops could wage wars so indiscriminately and ruthlessly – but it is the shadow elements that has been repressed and is bursting forth, with accumulated interest.

Further, the emotions of duty, responsibility, loyalty, commitment in their simplest forms are symbols that first arise in context of a relationship with the mother and the father. The constructs of nation, culture, god and religion represent symbols for the father and the mother. The right brain, also called the unconscious psyche, cannot differentiate between these. Since the bond with the mother and the father is diluted by the early self sufficiency, the bond with all symbolic representations of mother and father is also diluted. Since mother is not an all encompassing object, therefore nation, culture, language, ethnicity evoke relatively less emotional intensity in a Western psyche. In the Western psyche, the libidinal investments are turned inwards, more energy is invested in the Self than in the external objects. The child, hurried thru childhood, has not had any time to revel in the gleam of its mother’s eyes, and the narcissistic hunger and longing for attention to the itself is carried thru adulthood, a phenomenon well described by Neville Symington in his pioneer work called “Narcissisism of our age.”

Eastern Childrearing Practices

The infant from an Eastern culture remains attached to the mom for a longer time, the attachment being of a lifelong dependence. The mother is always available to the child, and the father recedes into the background not as a competitive but as a protective figure. Since siblings and relatives are usually experienced as compensatory or adjunct metaphorical mothers and fathers, the template of competitiveness is underdeveloped and the psyche is selflessly protective of those that depend on it. Hence the emphasis on the collective at the expense of the personal.

The idealization continues through life. The good is always projected onto the mother. The bad is internalized, or projected on the outside objects. However, the growing child feels dependent and helpless in his attempt to break away, causing an inherent sense of envy and rage that is more pronounced in cultures where breaking away is more difficult. It is not directed towards the loved objects, but is displaced or projected outwards, on external objects.

Imagine a baby in a bath of deep water, with its eyes glued onto the eyes of the mother’s eyes as she prevents it from sinking. This image conveys the terror experienced by the infant. This glue like attachment – infantile dependence – is accompanied by intense hatred that is felt towards the imprisoning object and then displaced, whereas it is in fact the hatred is towards the dependence. Violent emotions are encapsulated within this complex causing oral rage.

Another relevant image for this is that of a little roo, an inch long, in the pouch of its mother. It is imprisoned in the pouch and would die if it were to fall out. The emotional centre of the personality is in a state like that of the roo. The roo hates the mother, analyst, benefactor because the pouch is seen to inhibit its freedom. What imprisons the roo is the attachment that inhibits freedom. The person in this state believes that freedom can only be bought by killing the analyst/mother. In marital relationships, it requires a divorce, on national levels, a war.

What Does All This Really Mean ?

So what do these theories really mean, what do they have to do with hate and violence that is expressed thru Iraq, Afghanistan, 911 ? What do they have to do with Tammy Blankbird?

Tammy Blankbird

Tammy had disclosed a traumatized background, and having been in therapy for over 20 years as a child and an adolescent. Childhood trauma is always carried as a negative potential in human psyche, a sort of a garbage bag, the circumstances become a pattern, a theme of life, and at every opportunity the psyche attempts to dump the toxic waste on the environment, subjecting everyone to the same toxic waste. Kinda like a person carrying a virus and infecting the environment and everyone else who comes into contact with that virus. The person remains rooted and attached to his own trauma/virus. Events of external aggression and conflicts are consequences of momentary shifts in consciousness which, more often than not, shifts in response to the intra-psychic material embedded deep within the psyche, in the same way that the earthquakes are a consequence of geographical fault lines embedded within the bosom of the earth. The damage to the environment is caused by the fault within the earth. Similarly, the external situation is not causal, but merely a manifestation of the intrapsychic environment. Hence the expression “as within, so without”.

Tammy idealized intelligence and intelligent people the same way a child idealizes mother. In the perception of a child, the mother is the most intelligent and beautiful person in the entire world. And intelligence held the same god like halo for Tammy. However, this idealizing the other also meant that Tammy was less intelligent, less good – something that her psyche was loathe to accept. This created a roo like state within her and she fell into the complex of her infantile wounding. And so, after her idealization was established, she swapped her emotions and now projected on others, the badness, the worthless she had earlier felt for herself when other had possessed her idealization. The other was vilified and eventually hounded off of the message board. She thus remained engaged in the constant repetition of her childhood trauma.

Middle East Conflicts

And how is this so different from the Arab-US conflict? The current geography of the Arab states is crafted by the Western world. The Arabs have been slow to build an internal structure, being totally dependent on the West for survival and growth. It is again the roo like existence of the pouch, the infantile terror of abandonment creates a resentment of this dependence , causing Kleinian envy where internalized “badness” that is dumped on a previously idealized object. The West is idealized, copied, and cherished, but also demonized.

And what about the Western world? We are more like a Terrible Mother who refuses to acknowledge the limits on our role in the development of the nations that we gave birth to and supported during their infancy. We refuse to let them become self sufficient, to individuate and separate from us, to have their own preferences in religion, law and social norms. We refuse to let them craft their own existence, carve their own identity. Like terribly clingy mother, we impose our own aspirations, our beliefs, our ways of working, living, playing on these nations and dictate how they should think, feel, act. We long to remain connected. We need to feel loved, thanked and honored. And of course we expect to be rewarded for the part that we have played in their lives. Like aging mothers who have not saved up for our own retirement, we want to utilize their resources for our existence. We want to be taken care of, and if they don’t take care of us, we wreck vengeance on them. This is often symbolized in the myths as a mother that devours her own children.
These nations, struggling to individuate, invoke the archetype of dragon slaying hero. The mythological dragon is the mother who attempted to devour her child – Iraq and Afghanistan – and whose slaying was attempted in the form of 911. There is a hero archetype in all of us. The US war of independence against the British Empire was invoking the same archetype – the quest for freedom and to find an independent existence away from the mother. And since the infancy of this nation in particular has been traumatic, since the national psyche has experienced a terrible mother, it comes as a little surprise that the US forces recreate and re-enact this trauma everywhere, helping nations to reach a certain development and then destroying them when they wish for total independence. The need to re-enact the primal trauma of our own childhood is like a morphed and damaged dna, or a toxic virus that was passed intergenerationally to us by our symbolic mother, the Great Britain, and now we pass it to those that we mother. We have inherited the psychic dna of toxic mothering.

The Eastern psyche, on the other hand, experiences significant sublimation and sacrifice of parental selves, and adopts that selflessness as an ongoing psychic strategy, becoming subservient to the collective. The symbolic mothers are unconsciously revered because the physical mother is revered. However, this dependence on the physical and symbolic mothers, the roo like dependence, is the cause of intense unconscious resentment, and is displaced onto the external world with a parallel intensity.

This kind of intensity, is not, and cannot be experientially understood by the Western psyche which lacks a similar intrapsychic structure. To underestimate the significance and the role of mother, and father, and thru this primal relationship, the role of all symbolic mothers and fathers, is sacrilege indeed, which is exactly how the Middle Easterners have defined Western interventions and intrusions into their national boundaries. To an Eastern psyche, the nation is synonymous with the mother. And forced intrusion into the body of the mother is synonymous with the rape of the mother – an act that is demands absolute sacrifice. It is a cause worth dying for. This hate, arising out of particular child rearing practices, becomes the cause of conflict inherent in the East-West polarization.

For the left brain oriented and sufficiently individualized Western psyche which had been forced to strive towards self sufficiency since birth, the need to accumulate resources for self sufficiency and survival, is profound. Land has nothing to do with mother, and even if it did, the mother figure, or symbol, has not contributed as much in the child’s development. The mother, and the symbols associated with the mother, are not as sacred, nor can one depend on them as much. A dilution of this relationship has impacted the constructs of loyalty, commitment, and duty, among others. All symbols associated with mother-father do not arouse the same emotional intensity, nor the same sense of duty and responsibility. It allows for rational thinking to emerge in the face of emotional intensity. The feeling function is weaker than the thinking function. The left brain orientation allows for a feeling of separation to predominate, a sense of unity is sacrificed to the point of alienation. By comparing these two psyche, we are comparing apples and oranges which create gaps in understanding and communication.

Only when we accept that the emotions of hate and envy that we feel for the others – other races, other cultures, other countries or languages – are but the externalized representation of our internal conflicts, can there be a any concentrated efforts that will lead to substantive understanding of fundamental issues. Without this exploration of the internal world, we project our internal hate onto the external and feel as if the other is seething with hate. We live in a hall of mirrors….forever reflecting hatred and love, and alternating between the two.

Containment of Hate

Can the emotion of hate be ever eliminated from the repertoire of human emotions? Is it possible to envisage a world devoid of hate? Theoretically, yes, if we can create perfect environments and perfect mothers. Since that is an impossible feat, therefore it is futile to assume a world where hatred does not exist. In fact, the rise in hate crimes, and the rise in terrorism can be traced and correlated to the growing feminization of poverty, and the spread of feminism where mothers have demanded equal participation of fathers in childrearing practices. It is questionable if the fathers have universally risen to meet that challenge. Both these phenomenon – feminization of poverty and rise of feminism – force the separation of mother-child dyad, creating an ever stronger template of injustice, hate and resentment in the infant’s psyche. Into this earliest wounding falls the later wounds that engender injustice, hate and envy.

So in effect, containment of hate is contingent on the welfare of the mother/women. Only when the sanctity of the mother-infant duo is maintained and rewarded thru the environmental support. Eventually, the welfare is the mother and the child is linked to the wellbeing of the individuals, and hence the wellbeing of the society. Hate is the price we pay for failing in our responsibilities to hold sacred all that was meant to be held sacred – the relationship of a mother with her child, which mirrors the relationship of the creator with its creation.

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The loveable homeless cat…

 

For the last 2 months, our family has been adopted by a beautiful, white stray cat. It has unilaterally decided that we belong to her, and no amount of reasoning and dissuading has been acceptable. With a commendable single minded determination, it has made itself comfortable outside on our varandah on a couch, surrounded by cushions and blankets that had been accidentally left out over the winter. Every time we open the backdoor or the front door she darts in unseen, runs between our legs, and is upstairs in under 5 seconds, in the childrens room where she hides under the bed, from where she has to be pulled out (not coaxed). This is like a game for her.

Now I have nothing against cats, but I don’t have the emotional capacity to add another baby to my family. So when she runs inside the house, I will chase it around and lift it in my arms, pet it, murmur sweet nothings in its ear, and then leave her outside in the backyard. It then goes around the house and mews at the front door – heart rendering cries that make my heart melt. Sometimes, when I am in the kitchen, she will mew at the laundry door that opens into the garage. During night, it stands outside my window and mews for hours together, hoping to and successful in inducing horrific amount of guilt. All my intrapsychic infrastructures are brimming with guilt !!!!

I know I am a softie, and get moved easily. I take on responsibilities that later are difficult to fulfil, that they often end up harming me. So I keep a stern face, manage a strong composure, and I let her be, telling myself “it is not my responsibility!” But even I don’tbelieve in that myth !!!  Dinnertimes are especially tough, it climbs onto the window and looks in with forlorn eyes, mewing sadly, trying to catch our attention. All of us hurt in our indifference, but there is little we can do.  I am also amazed at the manipulative powers of this little cat. She knows exactly what to say and do to pull at my heartstrings.

The cat is beautiful and very loveable – I just don’t have room for her in my life, or in my house. The kids love her, but don’t want to take care of her.

When I am typing on my laptop, she insists on being petted and will fight with my kerboard for attention. When we are gardening, she planks herself in my arms and refuses to let me work. The need for love and attention is great. Whenever I can, I hold her and pet her and ponder  on the cruelty that humans have inflicted on these animals. There are hundreds of species who are homeless, foodless because we have taken over their natual habitats and forced them to become dependent on us for food and shelter. I also try to imagine what it would be like to be a cat, alienated from its own kind, its own family, homeless and shelterless, dependent on the whim and fancy of Madhu Sameer for love, comfort and warmth. When I am around her, I hate myself, my humanness and the selfishness that is an innate part of that humanity, but in spite of all that guilt and insight, I honestly don’t have the emotional resiliance to take on a baby in my house. So I will ponder on this, love her, pet her, murmur soft apologies for being human,  but when I return into the house, I let her stay outside.

And as usual, I wondered about the psychoanalytical base of my empathy, the one-ness I feel with her while she is in my arms. A poignant conversation that I had had with a friend – Arvind Handoo – a few months ago, and I was able to trace the origins of my behavior, and feelings, the correlates in my own psyche. Our likes and dislikes, our actions and inactions always have a developmental correlate, however unconscious that may be. 

And so it went and so it went for a few months. Until last week. I returned from work to find a dead sparrow on my doorstep. My heart just broke, and me and my kids gave her a burial in the backyard. I chided the kitty but I knew it was her dharma, her nature to be a predator. And she was doing what came naturally to her. But I wondered why she hadn’t eaten it.

A few days later I saw another dead bird on my doorsteps awaiting my return from work. A few days later, there was yet another one. I was puzzled why she wasn’t eating them up, why she was simply killing them, dragging them to my doorstep, and leaving them to greet me on my return. Being a Jungian who also delves into the symbolic interpretation of such phenomenon that surround me, I also wondered what the universe was trying to bring to my attention. Whatever it was, it seemed pretty morbid with serious implications on my physical and psychological well being. 

So I discussed it with a fellow Jungian, someone I deeply respect. And we came to the conclusion that the cat had possibly gone into a phase of offering sacrifices to the malevolent terrible mother who was denying her the priviledges of a home. Exactly the way humans offer sacrifices to god in return for favors. Perhaps our image of a sacrifice-demanding god is derived from the cat like nature that is inherent in all of us. As within, so without. Our images of god are but projections of our own psychological states, and possibilities.

And then, synchronitically, life threw a major curveball my way in the last week. But for my cat, I would have gone under with emotional overwhelm, until I realised what the universe had been trying to tell me for the last two months. Every human is a preditor in part. We all have an inner god that revealed itself to Job in Book of Job, a sadistic, relentless, self serving, narcissistic aspect of god that is essentially a preditor in its disposition. And it is the nature, the dharma of the preditor to seek. The prey is but a sacrifice to the inner, creative, omnipotent god. The psyche demands periodic sacrifice from the environment, for its own survival, its wellbeing, for continuity, this god does what it was meant to do – it courts death to engender its opposite, a regeneration that ensures the supremacy of its own existence. This isn’t by any means right or wrong, it just is – inherent in the psychological nature of the cat, or man – any man. Jung’s Answer to Job is an excellent insight into the natureof such a god.

This insight enabled a choice for me. Do I want to be led to the altar, a sacrificial lamb? Or can I keep myself safe until the next round, till next time life throws such a curveball ? It seemed that my whole life has been spent in being a human sacrifice, such a situation presents as a theme of my life. And I was being tested again. I had won, I had not succumbed. Hopefully, the complex that drives these situation in my life will be deactivated thru these insights. They brought immediate psychological relief. Did the universe want me to learn, pay attention – is that why the universe had allowed the cat to suddenly appear in my life? Was the whole situation orchestrated to test my resolve, and then to help me? I wonder if the cat sensed my inner turmoil, and in a mutually beneficial system based on non duality, she abstained from eating the prey, dragging those delicious morself of food to my doorsteps. Was it her way of saying “this is a sacrifice from me to you, and in parallel worlds you are being sacrificed to appease higher gods!”

On one level I know this is irrational, and yet, on another level, is it?

And I wondered that all the sacrifices that we offer to the god – are they even valued by the creator? The bird was a delicacy for the cat, and rather than eating it up, the cat has been offering it to me, the mother-god.  And yet, although I understand the purpose of those sacrifices, I have love for the cat, I have empathy, compassion, an understanding of its predicament, I am touched and moved, and yet I remain strangely unmoved from my position.  So does anything the cat do, matter to me at all ? Does anything we do matter to god?

I love the cat. But I need to maintain the sanctity of my own emotional sanity, and the sanctity of my home. And everyone else has a similar right. This was an experiential lesson that the beautiful white stray cat brings into my life. And although I will not go into the details of my personal life, trust me, it was a timely message sent to me by the universe.

I do experience a creator. I just can’t seem to depend on him, although it is getting better. 🙂

I’ll be away at Spokane for the next few days. But I already have pages and pages of my next blog, written yesterday during an aha moment of a great insight regarding a mythologically pertinent experience. I suppose creativity flows as, only and as a consequence of insights and self realzation. I should have posted that today, but for some irrational reason, the cat episode seemed terribly important and had to take precedence. I am sure there is method to my madness and it will reveal itself in time…

Be well. Take care.

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Prometheus’ Bane : Music – the food of life

I haven’t been able to write much in the last few weeks. Life has moved at a hectic pace,  and in an effort to slow it down, I have had to give up some of my favorite things, one of them being writing. And for the next few weeks the pace is not going to slow down either, for I am presenting at the Hate Conference in Spokane in the first week of April, and then at the CAMFT conference in San Francisco in early May. In between there is life that needs to be dealt with. But lately, I have turned to music in a big way, probably in an effort to find other ways of discharging emotions that must remain unexpressed in writing due to lack of time. In some ways, all these arts are to the same end – to discharge undesirable affect in aesthetic and creative ways.  And so, I have been contemplating (more than I usually do) on the role of music, poetry and literature in our lives.

I am posting here an old paper that I wrote in grad school. It is dedicated with gratitude to two very special people, Farhat Shahzad and Mehdi Hassan, whose soul searching lyrics and music have brought music and poetry back into my life – in a big way….

Introduction

“Music is spiritual and is a doorway into that world. Its power comes from the fact that it plugs directly into the soul, unlike a lot of visual art or text information that has to go through the more filtering processes of the brain.” —Peter Gabriel

Human brain functions in the continuum between polarities posited by opposites, between eros and logos with abstract and spatial abilities, with a sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system in right and left hemispheres leading to conservative tendencies guided by instinctual self preservation and a striving for expansion of consciousness that propels us towards the unknown, the unknowable and the dangers associated with the quest. Creativity falls within the realm of the last, and demands the courage to risk, for man’s need and his will to create transcends all other needs (May, 1976; Malchiodi, 2002). Infants as young as 4 months of age have known to react to music affectively (Zentner & Kaan, 1996, 1998).  This paper discusses creativity in general and musical creativity in particular and its place in psychotherapy.

The following explores the metaphorical and the biological relationship between creativity, music and psyche. The terms creativity, musical creativity and musical receptivity are used interchangeably in this document. The paper is divided into four sections. The first section explores the philosophy and psychology of creativity. The se