Next Big Thing

I am not entirely comfortable writing this. As you know, I like to be in the present moment. Conflict of interests. When I interact with people who are into meditation, yoga, and other self awareness practices, one question that comes out is why don’t most people do this? Self awareness and inner happiness wouldn’t most people want that?

Often the answer is self awareness is a very self initiated phenomenon. Most people are ok with the way the things are. Advertising is not second nature to self awareness. Every person is entitled to their own journey and figuring out what works best for them.

Meditation has been around for thousand of years. Ever since Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and recognized the impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless nature of existence, people have known about meditation and self awareness. There has been an entire religion (or may be more than one) based on this. Entire blogs have been written around this. Leo BabautaDavid CainLori Deschene …

But my reckless mind is tempted to think that meditation can be the next big thing. Think about computers in 1970s. Big, clunky, meant for industrial, scientific purposes. Some people took a leap of faith and directed the industry towards personal computers. Mass adoption. In 40 years, landscape has changed. Internet. Information is much more accessible. There is more room for connection and DIY than ever. I personally haven’t quite figured out how to use social media. There are no physical sensations and vibes to strengthen and base connections on. I don’t want to spend too much time in my head. But I like reading. Learning. And now I am trying to find ways to produce content.

For me personally, meditation has been a big thing. Nothing before has had the same effect on me. I am the odd one out on this journey. Most people on this journey started late in their life (40s). If they started young, they grew up in a very health conscious family in a very progressive part of the world. Or they were a Buddhist monk.

Because I went through a change of personality, and I experienced the effects in all areas of my life first hand, I have a unique perspective. I see possibility for change. I see need for more awareness.

As David Cain puts it in his blog, there is room for change. Corporations have manipulated people into buying more than what they need to, for most of this and the past century (in the west). People want connection and happiness. They don’t know how to find it. They are bombarded with advertisements, and competitive pressure from peers. What is easy is not always the answer.

Internet is a powerful thing, and some people figured out how to make it accessible to the masses. Self awareness is a powerful thing too. We are investing so much in Artificial Intelligence. We need to direct our attention towards human intelligence.

Self awareness is an art

Like anything creative, self awareness is a very personal experience. Before I go further down this argument, I’ll say almost anything great we are capable of doing is an art. If not, we would not enjoy it. There won’t be any character to it. This includes writing good extensible code. Writing blogs. Holding good conversations. Sex. Falling in love and living with it or moving on.

Self awareness is complex. We are all self aware to some extent. We can recognize our reflection. We know our strengths (or at least we think we do, lets pretend we do), we know our quirks.  We can sense the position of our fingers without looking at it (with some practice we can visualize the finger positions on frets on a guitar, without looking down much). We can sense the quality of breath, is it deep, is it shallow? We can sense how we are feeling — calm, happy, excited, nervous, angry, hung over, sick, rejuvenated, relieved, turned on, repulsed, awed, depressed. So where is the art in this?

Like I said self awareness is complex. We are complex. Deep down we are a result of some crazy chemicals firing in our brain and the nervous system. Sensory perception is quite personal. Some of us are color blind. But even after ignoring any physical differences, our sensory perception is quite personal. Our memories affect the way we perceive things. Our state of mind affects the way we perceive too. Read this blog early morning when your mind hasn’t been super activated yet. Read it when you are dead tired. Read it when you have doubts about me. Read it when you remember something you like about me. All of that would affect how you will perceive this blog entry.

Like any other artistic pursuit, self awareness requires exploration, imagination, learning, feedback, and acceptance. When you first start meditation, you will have doubts. Doubts about whether you are doing it right. It is no different than the doubts you have about whether you are playing the guitar correctly. Doesn’t that sound a little off? How do you play a guitar correctly?  Well you record yourself and play it back. You talk to experts. You read information online. You get feedback from your friends. There are some basic best practices, of course. But after that it is a subjective experience. I say this while I am still playing the guitar as badly as you can imagine.

Basic best practices. So for playing chords on a guitar, you want to keep your fingers arched reasonably above the fret, so as to not hit adjacent strings. You want to press firmly. You want to keep your body relaxed. You want to be breathing normally. For meditation, best practices would be to find a calm place, where you can sit (even lie down) in a relaxed position. Set aside some time, where you won’t be interrupted. Use the restroom before you sit down. Do some yoga poses (or stretching exercises beforehand) to enhance your body awareness. Start with deep breaths, to help slow down and relax (switch to rest and digest mode). Notice things in the present moment. When you are distracted by a pressing thought or pain, come back to the present moment (sensations in the body), without being hard on yourself (it is ok to get distracted). Be curious.

But beyond these basics, there is a lot more you can do depending on your personal taste and level of comfort. For example, I notice the physical sensations in my body as waves. They are fluid. Relaxing for me means letting these waves be waves. Let them flow and take their natural course. Let go of resistance.  You can imagine you are breathing to different parts of your body and let go any tightness and tension on the out breath.

Self awareness goes beyond meditation. Meditation is just a practice. Real life is the playground. When I am feeling nervous or anxious or angry about something, I go back to the physical sensations and imagine it is a wave and let it relax and flow, instead of directing this state of mind on another person. It is subjective. Whatever works best for you. Some people might take deep breaths. You might have your own ways of handling these situations.

But here’s the fun part. Self awareness is interlaced with all other artistic pursuits. You and your partner can have much better sex by being more self aware. And so can I improve my guitar skills. The world can be a much better place if more people were more self aware. Little things add up. Great mistakes are a result of several tiny ones. Great things are a result of several little good ones.

Body and mind connection

Happy mind resides in a happy body. I had never taken this seriously. Meditation made me more sensual, also more sensitive.

I meet Paz and this is the first time I discuss my meditation journey with another person who is just as into it. Paz has been on a spiritual journey for over a decade. She has travelled to India, Japan, and several other countries discovering spirituality. Normally Tantra would raise my BS alarm, but Paz confirmed that what I was experiencing by being in the present moment is exactly what Tantra is about. Tantra uses energy to talk about this.

When I was getting started on Mindfulness, I read about “impermanence” as one of the core concepts in Buddhism. Nothing lasts forever. Similarly Tantra (and Vipassana meditation) talk about how the state of energy in our body (think of it as the state of your mind, and the associated physical sensations) is ever-changing. Some of us get stuck in certain states of mind (and certain associated sensations in the body). This is when we resist. Think of anger, frustration, rumination. We get caught in the story. We want to solve the problem but mentally. Our body, no one taught us when growing up, how to interpret the body. We spent a lot of time in school learning analytical skills. This is why we have the jobs we have.

If I ask you to think of a situation where you were dead tired after work and fuming on that driver who cut you off on the way home, if you are the kind who gets stuck in thought loops, you would be angry right now. How is that emotion that should have disappeared by now still in you? This could be why you always feel a certain way with certain triggers. You have held onto some strong emotions. Neural connections. We are human beings but this is unconscious behavior. We are no different than a scared cat, when it looks at itself in the mirror, when we are stuck with these strong emotions. And there is no embarrassment or shame as this is how we evolved to be. This protects us from danger.

But most of what we experience in modern urban life does not qualify as danger. Being socially shunned in a tribe thousands of years ago would have meant difficult life ahead, probably even death. But today, you can always find another group of people to hang out with. Some parts of our brain haven’t evolved fast enough. The emotional brain. Most of us don’t know how to handle it. We can handle it by running away, fighting, numbing ourselves, and suffering years later.

Anyways let me cut to the chase. If we set aside some time, half an hour, a day, to let go of all our goals (temporarily), and imagine that you are in a nice peaceful place, sit down and all you have to do is observe the physical sensations in your body or anything in the present moment (contacts of your body), and rest yourself in it. There will be thoughts. Come back to the physical sensations. There will be pain. Observe it. If there is pain in certain muscles of your body, go fully into it. Explore it. Notice the resistance. You are resisting something. Let it go, and observe it. In sometime, the sensations clear, as if there is a clear blue sky. This learning helps you realize that experiences are temporary. By being in the present moment, you can move on, move on to new experiences.

So began my infatuation with the body-mind connection. This is still a journey in progress. I am experimenting with semen retention. 49 days of no ejaculation. I have picked up a guitar and Iike strumming chords in random sequences. My voice is more confident and compassionate than ever before. I changed teams at work to work on helping the company grow internationally. There is fun in working with people from multiple countries. I am still discovering life.