Why society is afraid of solitude

Society is afraid of solitude. A solitary individual might find truth, beauty and happiness and he/she might come to a conclusion that most of the things/activities in the society are not necessary. He/She might start questions like “what is the meaning of life” or “why am I here?”. Society is made up of people who have second-hand answers to these questions and it is afraid of being challenged by individuals who are not satisfied with these answers. So society designs a strategy: it shames loners and thinkers. It fills up people’s time with endless activities so that they have no time to think.

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New year resolution

In 2015, my resolution was to blog everyday. In 2016, my resolution was to read 100 books. February 2017 is almost over and I have finally found my new year resolution: Meditation. There are many kinds of meditation but I have .zeroed in on Yog Nidra. What is it? Yog Nidra is a form of meditation where you lie down and slowly concentrate on each part of our body. Then, we relax all parts and visualize different things (Different teachers have different visualization techniques). When I used to practice this regularly, I saw a lot of positive change within myself.and I seriously want to make it a part of my daily routine. I’m posting this because publicly declaring your resolution makes you more accountable.

What is your new year resolution?

Buddha by Osamu Tezuka

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Photo: Amazon

‘Buddha’ is a Manga (a form of Japanese comic book and graphic novel) which mixes factual accounts of Gautama Buddha’s life with Osamu Tezuka’s own interpretation to create a masterpiece. A monk’s life is considered to be boring but Tezuka employs humor and wit to make Buddha’s life colorful. He has a unique way of keeping things simple without making the teachings simplistic.

Buddhism, despite its flaws, is different from other religions. Instead of obsessing about the origins of life and the existence of God, it focuses on practical matters like the way to reduce suffering. Tezuka doesn’t delve much into the Buddhist philosophy but he manages to create a sense of reverence towards The Buddha. I personally feel more connected to the universe after reading this wonderful series.

A love letter to atheists

Dear atheists,

Human rights activists, feminists, the LGBTQA+ community and many marginalized sections of the society must thank atheism for its contribution to critical thinking. When you question a supreme being who is perfect in all ways, you encourage people to question other ideas. The non-believers who questioned the holy scriptures inspired those who questioned man-made laws like Section 377. In countries like India, God is the top of the hierarchy and if his power is threatened then everything else can be criticized. I am not an atheist but I am indebted to philosophers who risked death and alienation for the pursuit of truth.

Thank you.

Solitude

Technically, solitude is impossible. We can be physically alone but we can never be truly alone as we are connected to the universe in one or the other way. Even if we talk to ourselves, we are talking in a language invented by our fellow human beings. Perhaps, solitude is the discovery that we are never alone. It is one of the biggest ironies of life: we have to be alone to realise that we are never separate or alone.

The obsession with objective truth

The other day, I was trying to read a book called ‘The Science of Happiness’ and was quite excited about it. Unfortunately, the book was full of spiritual mumbo jumbo which I couldn’t understand. The author claims that he had visions of Jesus and that he is a reincarnation of Buddha. It was all so bizarre that I had to put it down. But then I started questioning myself..what if he really had visions? I’m not religious and I have never experienced anything mystical. The only time I questioned what we call reality is when I experienced synchronicity. However, it is not strong enough to be open to the kind of mystical stuff that this particular author was talking about. But what if he was speaking the truth? Just because I haven’t experienced it, does it mean that it cannot exist? Why do we obsess about an objective truth when everything in this universe is actually our perception of it? The quest for objectivity is justified…after all, we have to co-exist together and we have to agree upon certain things. But we have taken it too far…so much so that we invalidate personal experiences of our fellow human beings. We are convinced that some people should have made different choices. We are convinced that those who are depressed are, in fact, lazy. If a teenager wants to be a painter, we tell him the “truth” about his dream and discourage him. People prefer objectivity because it is less risky. But subjective experiences, our inner voice, is a compass that guides us through the vicissitudes of life. Objectivity helps us to connect with others but after a point it divides us. Subjectivity, on the other hand, nourishes our spirit…we connect with our own selves and in turn, connect with our fellow human beings and the universe. We need a healthy balance of objectivity and subjectivity to survive and be happy.

Running from safety by Richard Bach

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Photo: Amazon

 

I expect a lot from Richard Bach. He is one of those few souls who comes across as a dreamer without sounding like annoying self-help authors (like Robin Williams?). So when I found this obscure book in the library, I picked it up without a second thought. The synopsis seemed interesting: 50-year-old Bach finds his 9-year-old self, who asks him to teach whatever he has learned in his life so that he doesn’t have to ‘waste’ his life in trial and error to find out the ‘right’ way of living. Bach is initially reluctant to face the child in him because he has locked the most shameful and painful emotions inside his unconscious mind and lived a life driven by the intellect. But the child shakes up his world and makes him face his these emotions. Bach sets out to teach what he has learned in life to the boy…Richard is an adventurer, a deep thinker and one of those rare people who tries to build a bridge between the intellect and intuition. In the process of teaching, the student becomes the teacher and the teacher becomes the student.

It is always a pleasure to read words of wisdom, but for me, this book was a little too preachy. While reading Richard’s other works, I got a feeling that he had no desire to ‘convert’ his readers. However, I felt as if he was trying a little too hard to sell his idea of the universe to readers. I must say that I didn’t understand a lot of things that he talked about (like reincarnation, soul etc). It was like reading a religious book. However, the spirit of the book stays with you. You realize how many walls you have built between your social and your original self. This book finds a balance between the magic of childhood and the practicalities and responsibilities of adulthood.

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

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Photo: Amazon

In this book, Alan Watts says it is actually impossible to be secure. Life, by its very nature, is impermanent and to be secure or certain is impossible. According to Watts, the only way to live is to live in the present…to EXPERIENCE life without focusing on the EXPERIENCER. Through logic, Watts questions our idea of an experiencer or a thinker. In one of the most insightful passages, he asks the reader if he can read the sentence in the book and think about himself reading it. It is impossible to read and be aware of reading at the same time. First comes the experience of reading, then the thought, “I am reading”..Watts asks if the reader can think about himself while thinking this thought. It is not possible because we think “I am thinking that I am reading”. As we go deeper, we realize that there is no thinker…there are only thoughts. There is no experiencer..only experiences. Watts says that the separation between the thinker and the thought and all such divisions create a split-mind, which is responsible for a violent, insensitive and frustrated world. This division is the reason why we eat but never taste, survive but never live.  Philosophers like Jiddi Krishnamurthi and UG Krishnamurthi have spoken about these divisions/duality but Watts has a unique and logical way of explaining things.

Reading Alan Watts makes you feel that your whole education was a joke. He challenges everything that your parents, society, religion and your own mind has told you about reality. This book is certainly not for those who want to strengthen their beliefs about happiness, universe etc. According to Watts, beliefs are comforting thoughts and opinions which we use to feel secure. However, life doesn’t care about our beliefs..life doesn’t care about anything that is “fixed” and one day, when our doubts become greater than our beliefs, we panic.
This is one of the most inspiring spiritual books that I have ever read and if you are someone who has survived education system and societal conditioning, then you MUST read this book.

Creative Visualization for Beginners by Richard Webster

In this book, the author shares various visualization techniques that one can use in the areas of health, wealth, career, relationships and more. Creative visualization is a sophisticated, practical and well-guided version of daydreaming. In fact, it is used by athletes, business people, painters and others to achieve their goals. The popular perception of visualization is: thinking without acting. But this is a grave misunderstanding of the concept. In most cases, one cannot achieve anything without effort. And an important thing that people miss is that visualization itself is an activity/ effort. In experiments with athletes, it has been found that when they visualize, their bodies react almost in the same way they react during actual sporting moments. That’s because the brain often doesn’t understand the difference between reality and illusion. When you think about somebody praising you, your body sometimes gets too excited. When you believe that something negative will happen in the future, your heart may beat faster in the present.

I have read a book on the same topic by Shakti Gawain (click) and I must say that Richard’s work does add to the foundation that Shakti lays in her classic book. I didn’t want to read fluffy, make-believe propaganda and fortunately, Richard has an extremely practical point of view. He admits that EVERYTHING is not possible..but at the same time, he urges us to test the limits that we have in all areas of life. Unfortunately, people are either completely cynical or annoyingly ‘positive’. In a way, living in the extremes is a strategy to stay in your comfort zone. If you believe that you have absolutely no control on your life or environment, you don’t have to do anything. On the other hand, if you believe that everything is possible, then you don’t have to do anything…because everything “will just happen”. What’s difficult is to strike a balance. Martin Seligman, in his book “Learned Optimism”, says that life is always a tension between optimism and pessimism. Both are essential and only a wise person knows when to be optimistic and when to give up. Creative visualization can be a great tool if one uses it with wisdom.

The Mindfulness Bell App (update)

I shared my wonderful experience with the Mindfulness Bell app (click), sometime back. It worked nicely at that time and it had a positive impact on my life. Unfortunately, it is not working properly on my phone anymore. In fact, it has completely stopped working and I have no clue why this is happening. I went through the reviews on the app and found that a lot of users are facing the same issue. I did try few things that the app creator suggested (like uninstalling and installing it back) but it hasn’t worked so far. If you planned to download the app after reading my previous blog posts, then please do keep this in mind.