Saturday, October 7, 2017

Is Someone Watching?

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The debate on the balance needed between the need for privacy and ensuring safety with public places being under watch is not new. Nor is the balance easy to define or practice. The movie “The Circle” explores this with the characters asking “People behave better when they are watched, don't they?”.

People do appear to behave better when watched – quite clearly under pressure to create the right impression with others. The wearing of masks when around others or when watched is widespread – in order to create favourable impressions and in some circumstances with the expectation of gaining something. Shedding originality and wearing masks comes at a price, and I had explored this in the blogs “The Price of Masks” and “The Water Reflection”.

The question though is - why do people not behave better when no one or nothing is watching them? After all – the mask is off, and you are now your original self! Well, as it turns out – while we take off the mask we wear consciously when alone, there is yet another mask beneath which has grown gradually over us and has also gotten thicker with time. This is the mask built by the conditioning of our mind over the years based on what we hear and experience. This mask holds our opinions, desires, feelings, and potentially prejudices. And this mask instigates us to act in selfish ways to satisfy our desires, at times in inappropriate ways when we think no one is watching.

It is this hardly visible but deeply ingrained mask that meditation can chip away at, if we allow it to.

Right from childhood, we are taught how to deal with others. Shouldn't we also learn how to deal with ourselves? And if we as people all find ourselves, just maybe, the premise that we behave better when we are watched will become a lie..

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Car on the Wrong Side of the Road

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You see someone driving a car on the wrong side of the road. You can see the driver's face clearly. What would be your reaction the next time you see this driver again, though this time the car is in the right direction?

Well, I experienced something somewhat similar quite recently. I liked to read passages and watch talks of a popular spiritual guru. I found his talks to be quite insightful, and appealing. However, recently, I found his views on a topic close to my heart, to be diametrically opposite to mine. To me, it seemed that this one time he was driving on the wrong side of the road. I further felt that just maybe, he had taken his particular position with the expectation that it would be popular.

After this, all further talks and writings of his seemed not to inspire me. I thought I might as well move away from his writings and speeches completely. After a period of silence and calm though, it seemed that this reaction was inappropriate. Nevertheless, I continued to hold an opposite view on the matter which had triggered this reaction. Had this happened between two friends, we could have potentially debated it further, explained our positions and possibly amicably continued to disagree.

As I pondered further over this, I realized I had several choices which were all credible - I could segment his talks into categories which I wanted to follow, I could listen/read all of them and decide what I wanted to absorb from it, I could listen to other speakers and contrast views to introspect, and I could also invite opinions from other friends and see if I could learn something new. These are all choices – far less extreme, also more sensible and appropriate. Quite possibly, it would also be mentally more calming.

While we walk together with others many times in life, in fact, we are also walking alone. Each of us has to find his own way, however closely we follow others.

Sometimes I will follow, sometimes I will lead, sometimes I will wander, sometimes I will get lost, and yet I will always move, listening to the voice within.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mindfulness – What are we trying to do?

This question is often a problem in itself. A definition is meant to be accurate, and literal.

While Mindfulness is largely about present moment awareness, this phrase often falls short to convey what it stands for. As you practice – you uncover more of what present moment awareness stands for including originality, acceptance, trust, humility, letting go and so many other things. Often mindfulness & meditation are mistaken for concentration techniques.

Much of what we do is a means to an end – we concentrate to complete some tasks. This in turn hopefully delivers rewards for us – financial or at the minimum recognition and appreciation. This makes it difficult to appreciate the impact Mindfulness has – since all we are trying to do is to be who we are - NOW.

I have found it easier to explain Mindfulness with real life examples. For instance I love nature and when I watch the sunset, I am often transfixed. Each moment as the sun nears the horizon seems wonderful with the sky changing colour and state. If I am interested in watching a particular section of the sky or I want a closer view, I have the option of zooming in/clicking pictures. If I am perched precariously or in a crowd (at times there is jostling as well), I have to be careful with awareness of the overall context.

So in watching the sunset – I am not pursuing a specific target, but allowing my experience to guide me. I accept it for what it is – without wishing the sun were bigger or smaller. I have an overall context, but zoom in & out as I want to. The sunset has my attention and to soak in the experience, I avoid doing anything else but watch. Mindfulness, and meditation is a lot like that. In fact, if you can relate to the concept in this way, meditation is effortless and fulfilling (though it may uncover pains) - as it is meant to be.

Meditation, when viewed as a means to an end, often fails. This is because the mind is certain to constantly evaluate the results, returning to the very problem mindfulness seeks to address. If you practice, the benefits certainly accrue pretty quickly.

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