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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.