Meditation

The 4 stages of life

Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud are said to be fathers of modern psychology. Each of them have different perspective on multitude of things. Freud gives us civilizations and its discontents, interpretation of dreams, a rehash of oedipus complex while Adler proposed 14 day cure plan for anyone who is depressed and emphasized on the importance of social factors in one’s well being. Carl Jung carved out archetypes for human life. Jung broadly classified the stages into 4 which might not be music to the ears of William Shakespeare who wrote seven stages of life. The 4 stages are the mirror for us and let us answer the rhetoric of self identity and motivation.

Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.’   – Carl Gustav Jung

The Athlete – The stage of self obsession. Mirror is a constant companion here. Aesthetic points are valued in this stage and narcissism can be the pivot. We might know few people in our lives who haven’t been able to come out of this phase or wind their lives around it. Few keep abreast with other stages while keeping the athlete alive.

The Warrior – Let’s go out and conquer the world. The world is our Troy and we are the Achilles, hopefully without arrows through our ankles 🙂 . We become more responsible and the vanity of the athleticism starts to fade. Achievement and tip of the pyramid are the alluring and driving factors. Some of us would die within the warrior stage due to multitudinous gratification.

The Statement – Ok, we have achieved few things in life but they aren’t making us happy to a large extent. We need more gratification and self fulfillment. There should be something that should be passed on as a legacy. Giving becomes important in this stage. What material possessions and money used to do for you might not be true in this case but you won’t shun them either. Egotistical self starts taking a back seat and leaving the world in a better place than when you arrived can be a mantra here. Few of us would associate the statement phase with parenting and being a provider rather than sucking the marrow out of life alone.

The Spirit – We eventually realize that the former 4 stages don’t define us but they are crucial to reach the spiritual phase. We realize that we are more than the money, friends, body, country. We are spiritual beings and something else is also there in the pandora box of the unknown world to which our physical bodies might not transport us. We start observing ourselves from an entirely different angle and acquire a wholistic perspective towards life and death, spirit and body. As an exercise in meditation, one has to step out of his thoughts and observe what is happening in the mind, we do the same in this stage of life. We step out and observe our mind and our body. We are the observer of the events as opposed to the beings of what we observe.

Laozi, the writer of Tao Te Ching – written over 2500 years ago, said “can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”

 

 

 

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Hair, American Indians, Buddhist monks

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Today morning I read an article about how hair can act as  sixth sense. The article provided the proof in terms of the experiments conducted by the US Govt. during the Vietnam war. US army recruited native American Indians who have the ability to pass through and navigate tough terrain and have excellent tracking abilities. Such people were scoured for and then trained and enlisted in the army. But the moment they disguised themselves as American soldiers they lost all the supernatural abilities they had of sensing danger. They fared badly as compared to when they hadn’t cut their hair short. For some reasons a lot of information in this research has been “termed” classified.

Hair is thought to be an extension of the nervous system, kind of antennae or receptors of signals.  Hair can emit electromagnetic waves. Kirlian photography or auras as we call them in layman term provides some more literature on the same topic.

In my class 12 Physics course, I read about the charge accumulation at the tip of a conducting surface – corona discharge. That is the reason we have pointed conductors at the top of our buildings.

In ancient Hindu system, students keep a shikha / choti . There are philosophical reasons behind it ( hair contribute to vanity and thus ego. So as a student one has to shun all the ego) but I always thought there might be a practical reason too.sikha_thumb_large

It is possible that the tip of this collective hair stand act as the communication channel between the inner and the outer world. The charge gets accumulated at the tip and can be transferred to or from one system to other.

The American Indian logic leads me to think about the Buddhist monks who don’t keep any hair at all. They are also aware and can sense the surroundings.

At this point of time I can only say that different cultures have different practices and its not apple to apple comparison. But hair do have certain importance.

Article that I read :http://themindunleashed.org/2015/11/hair-is-an-extension-of-the-nervous-system-why-indians-keep-their-hair-long.html

CHAOS

Chicago Area Origami Society (CHAOS) was the group that I joined last year and came in contact with many folders there. I also instructed there to the young folders and exchanged ideas with the peers.
The class is held every Second Saturday of every month at the Garfield observatory . what a wonderful place it is. So many flowers and such a lovely greenhouse. I saw the pitcher plant for the first time here which I had only read about in 6th grade .I hope I will see chlamydomonas and volvox some day.
I am a firm believer of minimalism . I have only a bed, a mattress (which I gave away recently) and a lamp in my room and that’s it ! Usually when I used to fold something I used to take it with me and add it to my collection but now I am giving it all away. I wanted to give it to a school but I had no contacts to any schools and my present condition doesn’t allows me to go out and scour the resources that will accept my models. So, I am giving them away to a nearby book store . I hope they can adorn that small book store that houses all the used books. All my origami that was assembled in Chicago should remain in Chicago . One last time , all the models at one place together .

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Origami and meditation

It was wonderful to see the fellow origami artists folding the papers fervently at Garfield Park Observatory, Chicago.

Met wonderful people there and learned few new models. Had an erudite conversation with a member whose name I forgot , on difference between meditation and flow . And how origami can be relaxing but she made a point that modular origami can be frustrating as well as it takes hours to assemble few models and you feel like pulling your hair if you are not getting it straight.

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Meditation and Modular Origami

Sometimes people say that when you are totally absorbed in a task then you are meditating. I would like to disagree.

In Buddhism, one progresses towards liberation(Nirvana) by acquiring morality , knowledge (Panna) and one pointedness (Samadhi).

One pointedness is achieved by meditation and is a state of mind.

When we are absorbed in a task to such an extent that we do not have information of the outside world  , this condition is closely associated with the term “flow” coined by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

Though both of the states, flow and meditation are awesome experiences.

This is one thing I like to do and possibly gets me into “flow” 🙂

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Modular Origami requires patience but the results are satisfying and are beautiful  🙂

Tomako Fuse’s book on Origami Polyhedra is helping me these days.

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This is a tetrahedron, I liked the color combination that I chose 😀

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This is a stick cube , I gifted it to Roberto Rosado, a painter/priest.artist in New Jersey after he became a good friend when I gave him good account of Indian history and other facts he wanted to know.

Meditation Contd ..

I have been attending the meditation classes religiously and persistently .The reason is I think there is something that I can get after I finish it. Even if I do not land up as being very successful at meditation, i will be happy that I tried to change the course of my life and the perspective of looking at it even by one percent. And sometimes these marginal gains make all the difference. It can be seen by the methods employed by Brailford who coached the English cycling team and won them the olympic gold and tour de france.

Its very easy to start anything, e.g you make a commandment that you will go to gym from now onwards, you are carried away and feel very romantic about the idea. You dress up and hit the gym , work out there and pay for next 1 month or more. Some people even go on to buy expensive nike shoes , this or that as accessories . The idea itself seems very euphoric and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Indeed it does . I have done such things in the past. You must be thinking that why everyone gives example of gym, or exercise. This is because who on earth wants to get tired according to his/her own will. Who wants to feel the sweat beads on forehead and close eyes tightly when the saline sweat gets into the eyes? So, its a challenging situation that we pose in front of ourselves. But again, starting is easy but whats difficult is consistency , the rhythm . Be it any task, if you will be regular at it then you are bound to succeed given that you are doing it right. So commitment is the keyword.

Doing things right is also important as its give you the power of closed loop feedback system, like an auto correct conveyor belt, like a self learning genetic algorithm. That is why I took help of a teacher, and I am not regretting it at all.

After commitment comes the routine, if you want to imbibe commitment in your life as the morning ablutions have been imbibed you have to do them daily at the same time. Try and experiment which is the best time for you. I tried early morning, evening, late at night before going to bed. So, its an experimental process , according to your own body clock.  Committing to yourself is a little difficult, I still haven’t reached that mode where I am looking forward towards meditation. I am still taking it as an exercise, but with persistence and constant effort I should be fine. Also, what I also think is that one should go with their own pace.If one day I don’t really feel like meditating then I won’t sit. But if this is happening for two consecutive days then I will force myself to sit and meditate, reason being the mind is a great malingerer and the body is an accomplice in this mind-body game of disparagement .

Meditation is a slow process , its reverse engineering, so it is going to take time, I am aware of this. Esp for me, conditioning my brain to do something which it hasn’t been conditioned to is a difficult process.Or may be I can say my mind is chalk board but its difficult it run things from it once something has been written on it. I have observed this, when I was preparing for my engineering entrance I had problems in solving the questions of rotational mechanics in Physics, then I formed a short cut technique for myself and it worked 80 % of the times but when a concept was needed it use to fail. I was happy with that. But when I took actual coaching they taught me how to solve the rotational mechanics problems and I slowly became proficient . But while I was writing my test, the final exam, I was a little short on exam and there were few questions of R. mechanics in exam and I used my old technique to solve them. I resorted to the old method. This is somewhat unsettling . Despite knowing something doing something else is debauchery to oneself . So, I have to learn this method as well. It will be slow but will have to keep patience.

Earlier I used to think that if I am absorbed with my mathematical equations,  reading a book without having any information of whats going on in my surroundings, or making my complex origami models then I am meditating.

But the truth is I am not, this is not the true definition of one pointedness which is done for ultimate self awareness experience or nirvana /liberation .This absorption in the task is more related to the term flow in the psychology. The state of flow is no doubt an awesome technique for the stress reduction. I have experienced it myself but what I am searching here is something more than stress reduction and may be this tranquility meditation has the answer in its pocket, let’s see what happens in the future !

Frozen Michigan and Meditating Himalayas

I and Clyde went to the northwestern university, Illinois. It is situated on the lake shore. As usually , it was snowing . I wanted to go near to the shore . It was frigid and brutal weather, but then too I wanted to try it for once. Though Clyde was reluctant, I convinced him it can be an experience. 

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I had not had proper gloves with me. I went inside the frozen Michigan lake and stood there for a while.I could sense the wind blowing across the vast mass of frozen lake turned into land . Then I decided to take off my gloves, muffs and hood to feel the cold air against my face and hands. It was a spine chilling experience I am telling you. Then I thought of the yogis of Himalayas, how can they survive in the brutal weather with nothing but only a loin cloth on them. One thing I noted that when I was immersed in other thoughts I didn’t feel that cold as I was feeling before.So, I concluded if one is very willful and is capable of controlling the sense organs, the ever sprinting mind, one can do so. And that’s what the yogis of Himalayas have mastered.

Meditation Session 2

I convinced myself that one day was not enough for me to decide whether I want to continue taking the classes or not ,so I went for the 2nd class.I asked Andrew whether I can come today without signing up for whole course. He said I can, so I hauled a taxi (was getting late ,otherwise I would have taken the brown line towards Kimbal ) and the class began at 1.

Today we dealt with mostly about setting up the meditation space. It should be clean and less distractions, no noise (white/brown or pink noise if you want to block the external sounds. I do it all the time .This is a long duration brown noise link ) . It should be clean so as to bring the point that you love the place and care for the place. Also , free from distractions is a desirable.

The whole idea is meditate where you feel comfortable, respect the process.Respect the idea of meditating and concentrating.Unless you respect it, you won’t do it. This is my philosophy.

One can light a candle , it can be stimulating.

I had this doubt that if I am focusing on an event e.g. if I have this issue whether I select X or Y, then focusing on an event will introduce a lot of external variables.As an example, what will I cook for dinner? Veg salad or rice + lentil stew. The words salad and lentil stew are not abstract, they can have many different ideas and events attached to them. e.g. salad can bring in the thought, I have to go to veg market to buy them, then I can think of the lady at the cash counter is very rude, then one of the office mates of mine is very rude, then office reminds me I have to finish the algorithm and design phase by Monday, then tomorrow is Monday, what will I do.

All haywire and you are not concentrating anymore , you are just sitting at a place with your eyes closed and worrying .

I would like to digress for a while here,if you observe the thoughts that you have then you will be able to link how you hopped from one though to the other.Its similar to the connected graphs that I studied in my discrete mathematics course.Rod Bucknell describes his experiences and experiments in though retracing in his article , Experiments in Insight Meditation

Coming back to the point .

Or what I can do is focus on a candle, or a nature’s picturesque view.It can help in minimization of the thoughts.

Less number of variables means less number of distractions, sounds right !!

But no, the candle technique is more like focusing technique.

So what?? That’s what we do in meditation !!

Well, yes !! But then you need to go to the meaning of meditation.Its not just focusing ,its focusing on ideas, on events, retrospection, introspection and self reflection.Its connection to the inner self about how you truly feel about something. Being true to oneself. So candle is fine, but for long term and or if you want to touch base with your spirit/ soul then it might be temporary.

One more point !! When to meditate?  I would personally like to meditate at 2 points, early in the morning and when I am in some difficult situation e.g. multiple geography phone call, you are getting up at odd hour to attend it and people are denigrating your effort in the recent project despite your immense efforts.

I would not like to keep it ‘before I go to bed’ job because it will mean “now I have done everything, and can meditate”. Though nothing wrong with it, but for me its similar to keeping it at the bottom of the totem pole.

So, today I had a strange feeling while meditating. We started with breathing , then focused on body parts and relaxing the body.After some time I began to realize that my body is getting heavier, I had my hands on my upper thighs and fingers intertwined, I was feeling very heavy as my body has become a rock, its solidifying. Some other people also experienced the same .Andrew said its a positive thing, it means that your body is totally relaxed now.

That’s a good thing !! 🙂

I won’t say that I was able to ward off the thoughts and for few moments I felt drowsy as well .It was a state of limbo.I was attentive to external stimuli but everything else was slowing down and then I started feeling drowsy. May be that’s what happens when you sleep.

I will try to observe the same tonight.

Meditation Session 1

Though I am from the land of yoga and meditation but until now I cared two hoots about it.Recent developments and extra load at the work has taken a toll on me. I have been finding it very hard to concentrate, there is something always always at the back of my mind. Even when I am jotting down this blog, pressing the keys furiously, I am thinking of myriad things .The brain is a wonderful organ but sometimes it needs to be tamed so as you can tell yourself that you are the master of your body and your thoughts. People have varied reasons for meditation, some do it for relaxation, some for calmness and tranquility, serenity of their being, some to reach the inner conscience , some want to talk to their inner self and some are just aping others as they don’t have anything else to do. Trust me I met a lady in the class of the last kind.

My reason is that I can’t concentrate and want to learn how to focus on one thing at a time.

The teacher Andrew Shykofsky is a 48 year old guy who teaches and practices meditation part time apart from his daily full time job as a marketing person in some company. $ 20 is quite steep for a single class, but then too I though let’s give it a try.

First of all he removed all the wrong definitions of meditation from my brain. He gave me the dictionary definition, which is thinking deeply and focusing on something for a period of time for religious , spiritual or method of relaxation. I understand the religious and the method of relaxation part but not the spiritual one. Spiritual, as far as I understand pertains to the inner self and your soul. So if one wants connection to inner self then one meditates for spiritual reasons.

I was also asked not to expect anything unless I practice a lot, its not about deciphering the codes and omens, or dream sequence interpretation ,also some shadow of calmness will not engulf me suddenly after meditation. Its like learning a new language , so one has to draw a parallel with the speed and effect of meditations. In nutshell, I will not be jettisoned into a world of concentration and self awareness, it will take time.

I have read about how to meditate online and have one or two android apps on my nexus, but sparingly used. All of them talk about breathing deeply and lotus positions or the padmasana.Of course, they are important and have scientific connection . But for a person like me who sits on a chair whole day and spends around 16 hours in front of a computer, it will be hard for me to sit cross legged for one and a half hour and then concentrate on something simultaneously. The physical pain is one of the most powerful stimuli and winning it over is not what a neophyte like me is looking for. Andrew also agreed with me and to my surprise he had chairs in his room instead of mats. The chairs were comfortable and the seam of the chair left the thigh at just the right length. One should not be totally taut his back, but it should be attentive and not slouchy and sluggish posture. Of course, you don’t want to fall asleep or do you? 🙂

The mental awareness, the physical/body awareness and the emotional awareness are the three parts that will be concentrated upon by the meditation. He said it is the general notion that mind controls everything but there are people who meditate and feel that the true consciousness lies in the upper torso of the body. And he said he can teach us to do so. I was excited.

So, after the theory it was time for practice. I had taken my shorts with me, which I always carry as shorts are the most suited and most comfortable invention of the guy whose pants were torn and tattered , of course below the knee .I had already changed to shorts before the session started.

The meditation session started with dimming of the lights and some transcendental music in the background.Before this Andrew asked me to think of something which I would like to think and focus upon. It can be anything, any relation of mine, any mantra, any face etc. Many articles talk about focusing on the breath, which seems to be very boring to me. So, if I am meditating or trying to meditate I will have to treat my body as a child who doesn’t want to drink milk and his mother puts protinex or complan in it  to make him do so. So, I thought of some unconventional thing and closed my eyes relaxing my body slowly . The relaxation of body is important, not all of a sudden , but one by one. Start with the feet, then calves, knees, thighs, then upper torso . He had asked me to focus on my breath side by side and breathe deeply while observing the inflation and deflation of the lungs and the abdomen. That’s too much work . I tried taking in deep breaths but then my mind started thinking of something else esp. have I received a text on my phone or not? What will I cook on going back etc.

So I let go of deep breaths, concentrated on the task at hand aka thinking and focusing on an already decided thought. I in general take fairly deep breaths.

I would not say that I was successful in concentrating for the whole period, my mind wandered a lot but yes after a while the speed of the thoughts was less. One has to build a wall between yourself and the mind imagining that it is in some other room and you can shut and open the door to that room at your will.  After concentrating, focusing for 15-20 min he asked me to open my eyes and discuss how I felt.

I felt a little sleepy for a while, but yes I was able to concentrate keeping other thoughts at bay at least for few seconds. This needs to be consolidated and practiced enough to experience the true power and taste the fruit. After all, meditation is not any low hanging fruit for me.

PS : Generally I am very critical about teachers and want people who are absolutely flawless in their knowledge to teach me. I have had few such teachers in past, One was Rahul Vohra who taught me chemistry  ,another one was Amitava Sengupta who mentored me in National Physical Lab, New Delhi.

Andrew reads from a manual which spoils the fun of learning a new subject .Again, its a personal opinion .I am not undermining the 30 years of experience in this subject which he brings on the table with him.