Thursday, May 14, 2009

Our Thinking Moves Through the Fourth Dimension: The Time

Nature never makes haste; her systems revolve at an even pace. The buds swell imperceptibly, without hurry or confusion, as though the short spring days were an eternity. All her operations seem separately, for the time, the single object for which all things tarry. Why, then, should man hasten as if anything less than eternity were allotted for the last deed?
- Henry David Thoreau
Nature is perfect example of the art of waiting. It takes the evolutionary impulse of Nature several thousand years to perfect the shape of a single flower. When we look at natural process, we realize that there is certain wisdom implicit in the paradox: faster is slower. How often do we act against the laws of Nature only to realize that we have to make a much greater effort to clean up our mess? In many cultures, patience is misunderstood as plain laziness. However, there is a conscious energy found in patience that provides an impulse towards right action at the right time. Nature demonstrates this day after day.
Only human beings seem to have problems in managing time. No other species on earth apparently suffers from this problem, which is peculiar to our industrial civilization. The problem of time seems to have emerged with the invention of the clock. The clock is the ancestor of chronologic time. Although it serves a very useful purpose in standardizing time around the world, the clock creates a fictitious notion of time as an irreversible, uniform, and linear movement of energy.
In Nature, time is never linear; it is cyclical. The laws of Nature clearly tell us that time is not irreversible. We see the reversal of time in our psychological universe in the form of the memory of past events. From the memory of physical Nature, seasons come back year after year, crops grow, the sun rises and sets and the planets go round and round in their orbits.
All ancient civilizations considered time not as an impersonal chronologic mechanism measured by a clock, but rather as a living entity that is born, lives, and dies like a human being. In India, the word for time is kala, which also means death. In the ancient civilization of South America, there is evidence of the worship of time as a living force. There was a good time and a bad time, an auspicious time and an inauspicious time. The people lived in time as they lived in space, avoiding the pitfalls and setting foot on the right time as if it were firm ground.
We had laughed away the superstitious beliefs of the ancients until Albert Einstein proved that time, like space, is a relative phenomenon. Because of Einstein, we have come to realize that time is not merely determined by the clock but is also manufactured by the consciousness. Einstein said, “Sit with your hand on a hot stove for a minute. It would seem like an hour”. This renewal of the perception of time as a relative phenomenon has taken us back to the wisdom of the ancients, who perceived time as a relative quality rather than an absolute quantity.
In defiance of the modern perception of time as a chronologic journey, it may be said that time is not a one-way public route; it is also a private apartment. I am talking here about personal time. In the context of space, what we see depends on where we sit. In the context of time, our perspective on time influences how we process time in our consciousness. When our awareness has a chance to expand in time, as when we are in love, time moves at a dizzying speed. When our awareness is compressed in a certain time, as when we are doing an unpleasant task, time seems to stand still, like a burden on our backs.
Apart from chronologic time, which is unidirectional, there is also biologic and psychological time, which in non-linear and multidimensional. Chronologic time emerged from the fragmentation of time into the past, the present, and the future. In this kind of time, the present is always referred to in terms of the past or the future. It is as if the present is non-existent. A look at the movement of the hands of a mechanical clock reveals that this movement is not smooth but jerky. The hands jump from the past to the future, bypassing the moment. This linear movement of chronologic time in fits and starts speeds up our psychological clock. As a result, we are never present in the moment, and are forever present in the fictitious past or in the imaginary future.
This inability to live in the moment, in the here and now, divorces us from reality. We live in the conceptual time of the clock rather than in the real time in our biological and psychological universe. The stress syndrome that diffuses modern organizations stems from the fact that in response to external time pressures, our internal clocks run counter to our natural rhythms. The rhythms of our heartbeat, respiration, and hormonal secretions are upset by the mechanical rhythms of machines and work schedules. The relentless hands of the clock and the sense of vanishing time grip our awareness as we move towards our self-created deadlines.
Living in chronologic time alone limits us to a closed system in which we conceptualize the irreversible flow of life along with the passage of time. This perception of scanning of the self along with time eats up our energy and produces in us a fear of time going by. This fear is not only unnerving but it also leads to a great leaking of psychological energy. The only way to reverse this tide of time is to live in the present, in the here and now.
Nature teaches us to live in the here and now. The butterfly lives from moment to moment, yet has time enough. The dew drop sits for seconds on a blade of grass, yet it does not panic. The spring flower gently opens to receive summer’s inscriptions, and they never seem to be in a hurry. The busy bee never suffers from stress. All of Nature demonstrates to us the wonderful secret of managing time without being managed by it.
Nature lives in a simultaneous world of time and timeless. All changes in the natural world belong to time. Behind the process of these changes is the principle of continuity, which is changeless and timeless. The process makes sense only in relation to the principle. The principle is the benchmark.
Great men work on time but live in the world of timeless. Their lives serve as glorious links between their predecessors and the unborn generations of tomorrow. Gandhi described the timeless aspirations of a conscious man as follows:

[While] everything around me is ever changing ever dying, there is underlying all that change a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and recreates… For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who are you?

If we think deeply, I hope we all will agree on a same point that many of our problems are self created. The source of self-created problems is the fact that we mistake the self-image for our real self.

Self-image is nothing but the compiled projections of our identity. Self-image is a cluster of names and forms by which we differentiate ourselves from the rest of our environment. We have different self-images as a parent, as a spouse, or as a colleague. We perform various roles in various spheres of life. Each of these roles creates a certain impression of our self in our consciousness. Thus, one sees oneself as a liberal parent or as a task-oriented boss or as a considerate spouse. All these images of ourselves help us to stabilize our identities in our own eyes.

The problem occurs whenever we confront a reality not consistent with our self-image. For instance, when one receives information from outside world that one is an autocratic boss, or an “uncaring spouse”, or an “ugly fat slob”, one’s self-image is hurt. We attempt to defend our self-image by various means. We may become angry or indifferent to the outside reality. We may take negative feedback from others too seriously and feel dejected. We may also try to adapt something we imagine to be socially acceptable. All these methods may give us a temporary sense of relief, but they cannot equip us with the mirage that is our self-image.

Self-image makes us vulnerable to changes outside us. If our self-image is one of an evergreen youth, the appearance of the first grey hair makes us lose sleep. We are traumatized by the single rejection slip from an editor, if our self-image is that of a successful writer. Our self-image makes us vulnerable simply because much of this image is unreal. One’s self-image is a frozen model of our real selves. Just as a model is a symbol or attribute of reality and not the entire reality, one’s self-image is merely a projection of the real self. More often than not, this projection is a distortion of the real self, just as a shadow is a distortion of the real substance.

How does one go beyond the veil of self-image in search of the real self? The quest for the self can begin only when we have turned our attention from the world outside to the world inside. This is also a transformation in the quality of our seeing: from mere sight to insight. The journey towards self-realization involves the disciplines of silence and solitude. Silence frees us from the noise of our exterior consciousness and allows us to probe our inner voice. Solitude enables us to be intimate with ourselves. In deep silence and solitude we begin to glimpse the truth of our lives. We realize that whatever exists is an expression of existence and that our many ways of living are expressions of life itself. We also understand, as the Bhagavad Gita tells us, “The unreal has no being: the real never ceases to be. The final truth about them both has thus been perceived by the seers of ultimate reality” . A course in miracles echoes this truth is saying that which is real cannot be threatened and that which is unreal does not exist.

I have often asked some of my friends from all walk of my little life, “who are you?” I received predictable answers such as, “I am an engineer, or a marketing manager, or an ENT specialist”. The next question I asked is,” Who knows you are all of these?” this time the answers revolve around ‘mind’ or ‘thought’. Then I proceed to ask the final question, “Who knows you have a mind?” this time a silence descends on my friends. In that silence we begin to look the truth of our selves, which is beyond all names and forms.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sleeping Beauty

We must have read the story of the princess, called the Sleeping Beauty. The sleeping princess came to life once again when the charming prince came along and provided the enchanted kiss.

I believe, there are sleeping beauties in all of us. We only need the kiss of enchantment to awaken those sleeping beauties. Man is good by nature, but to bring about that goodness into play, all we need is the proper stimulus. But the questions are how do we get it? And how do we provide it to others? Chandasoka, the cruel prince became the noblest ruler the world has ever known. He was called CHANDA because he was ruthless and cruel. It is said he killed all his brothers to gain his father’s throne. But, the horrible spectacle and experiences of the war of Kalinga stirred up the noble man in him. And so was born Ashoka the Great.

Abdul Qadir, the little boy from Persia, would not tell a lie and, therefore, he told the robbers that he had money sewn into his clothes. And what was the effect of this simple act of truthfulness? The robbers abandoned their wicked path and became good men. The example of Damon and Pythias, the friends who did not hesitate to bet one’s life for the other softened even a very cruel king into forgiving them. Not only that, the King gave up the path of cruelty after that incident. The great sense of justice of King Prahlad not only won him praise but also the life of his son Virochana when he decided a case in favour of another, even when his son’s life was at stake. General Washington’s small act of helping two young soldiers to lift and roll a log changed the whole outlook of the officers of his army.

These and the many things we read about the goodness of man and the finer points of human character are the enchanted kisses, the enchanted kisses that awaken the goodness which lies in us all.

It is not that anyone lacks goodness. Everyone has it, only one has to be made aware of it and the realization that by being good, what a fine person one can be.

It is said that man is the product of his environment. The way one behaves and acts may be the result of what one has seen and experienced in the surroundings that one lives in. but we cannot call a person a man of strong character if he adopts both the good and the evil. A person with a strong character resists what is evil and prompts what is good not only in himself, but in his surroundings, too. So while man may be said to be the product of his environment, he is also the maker of his environment. Now, shall we be just what our environment makes us or shall we be the ones who make our own surroundings? Shall we be the ones who need the enchanted kiss to awaken the goodness in us or shall we be the ones who provide that enchanted kiss to awaken the goodness that lies inside everyone around us?

That is for we have to decide, and to act accordingly.

Let us not judge the people by their acts, deeds and uttering. Let us think why a person or a people act and talk in a particular way or mood. How is it that a certain person is kind and considerate and another cruel and self-centered? Is it due to what he has absorbed from his surroundings or is it due to certain circumstances? It may be due to one or both. But as an anonymous poet wrote:-

“There is so much good in the worst of us,

And so much bad in the best of us,

That hardly becomes any of us

To talk about the rest of us.”

We can talk about others only when we have gathered more good in us and when we have made ourselves such as to be able to discern good from bad. Think of kindness in our way through life. We realize that many people lack kindness. As Julia Carney said in a poem Little Things:-

“Little drops of water, little grains of sand,

Make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land.

Little deeds of kindness, little words of love,

Help to make earth happy like the heaven above.”

It is no use telling people that they are cruel or unkind. It is by setting an example and doing kind deeds that make the other people realize what kindness is. If they can see in our acts what they themselves lack, they will certainly be aroused to that sense of kindness, compassion and love which they have so far been wanting, because they had not had the experience to arouse it. That is the magic kiss we can provide.

If we notice a mechanic at work, we can see that he does not rail at the engine or hammer away at it for not working properly. Instead, he set about locating the fault, or the source of it.

A little tightening here, a little screwing up there and some oiling here and there helps the engine burst into life again and the mechanic sings out in happiness. It is so with us too.

Finding faults with others is to make people into an enemy for if we tell them in their face what their faults are, they will immediately retort and may even say unkind words to us. Let us abide time and wait for an opportunity. As Prior said in his poem, “An English Padlock”:

“Be to her virtues very kind.

Be to her faults a little blind.”

Blind, of course, to an certain extent, but not totally blind. Note the faults but do not discredit the other for these. Instead, think and act pleasantly to abolish them.

Use praise, and use it lavishly, whatever you find that someone, even though he may not be a very good person, has done something good. For praise often opens the gates to goodness and once a person enters those gates, we can be sure that he is on the right path.

Failures, or the inability to attain what we describe for, often make many of us dejected and defeated in life that we give up all hope, and resign to fate. We tend to look at the worst aspect of things and take life as it comes. Such an attitude towards life will not take any of us anywhere. For such people, the magic touch is provided by a message of hope, by a message of faith in GOD and right action; for although one may lose hope; one should not cease to act. The story of Robert Bruce of Scotland is an example of what the action of even a small insect like a spider can do to one who loses hope. And as John Gay said,” While there is a life, there is a hope.” So what we should do is, to make the dejected ones, the ones who dwell in hopelessness, realize that there is still hope, provided they act, act in right earnest and in the right direction. But at the same time, we too have to realize that it is we who are to serve as the example.

Lack of hope is lack of ambition – the ambition to live, the ambition to live well, the ambition to rise, the ambition to do great things, the ambition to lessen the burden of others and so on. Read the biographies of great men and fire people’s imagination. Infuse in yourself and in others the ambition which we may lack. That would be the magic kiss for all.

Let us look around ourselves with an open mind. Let us provide the magic kiss, the enchanted kiss, to rouse the sleeping beauty in those around us as well as take that kiss from others to arouse the sleeping beauty in our own selves...