Monthly Archives: November 2020

Another Ten Days

It is time for my annual Vipassana retreat blog. 

Like all things this year, Vipassana retreat centres have been closed in most places. At the beginning of the year, I thought I might be able to do it in a centre – but as the year progressed that possibility dwindled. I have always done a course at a centre and was not sure about the self-course at home. So, I waited and watched to see if the desire remains, and by grace, I realized the need to do a 1-day even if it is at home. And I am delighted to announce that I finished it today. 

At the core, it is just like any other course at the centre – the meditation technique remains the same. Water will boil, and ice will melt regardless of where in the world you are (depending on the temperature), it does not change its nature. However, this course was a lot harder because I had never realized the energy boost that the centres, teachers and other students provide. And I had to fill that gap by myself – it was tough. There were days when I found myself wondering what I have gotten myself into.

 All I did was meditate, eat, rest and sleep. And meditate mostly, 4:30-6:30 AM, 8:00-11:00 AM, 1:00-5:00 PM and 6:00-9:00 PM. Pretty hardcore, eh? All I did was observe my breath or my body sensations. And in this technique, you have to keep silent, and you cannot read/write/check emails; it’s just you and yourself.

Vipassana means to see ‘Reality as it is’ and not as we would like it to be. And it is a means to get rid of all suffering (misery, anger, anxiety etc.). For example, we all know that we should have compassion for all human beings. But I am sure we all can think of at least one person right now towards whom we have negativity. At the level of mind, we all know that it is not right, but we cannot help ourselves. Vipassana helps you see how you are the root cause of the negativity and not the other person and enables you to eliminate it. When we generate negativity there is an unpleasant sensation in our body (also our regular breathing rhythm changes) – once we become aware of the sensation and do not react it – we have changed the habit pattern of the mind.

Why I do Vipassana? Because there is the inner knowing that this is the right thing for me. It helps me achieve my personal vision of – ‘Becoming a better version of myself every day.’ Because I am a better person, I can make a better contribution to society.

Whether you do Vipassana or something else – it does not matter. What matters is you do – there is nothing more important in this world that self-awareness. It is not about building the next iPhone (god knows we don’t use the existing technologies a 100%) it is about understanding oneself.

Gnothi Seauton: How well do you Know Thyself?

Togetherness – Makes Sense

I love solitude, the difference between being lonely and alone. Nature and a crowded city both let me be – which is why I find them both very soothing to my soul. I enjoy watching movies alone, eating by myself, going to cafes on my own. Best of all, I like to travel alone because nobody knows me and I do not have to behave or worry about what other people think about me. I feel like I am invisible there and merge with the background.

However, that said there are times when a family, companionship or community makes life a tad more enjoyable. So today was the festival of lights – Diwali, India. For as long as I can remember it was a day I looked forward to because I would do fireworks, eat incredible mom-cooked food and wear nice clothes.

I can do these by myself but what is missing the social or the community aspect of it. In India, people start shopping for Diwali weeks before, mom (and aunties) start cooking days ago. On the day of Diwali and days leading up to it – there is a constant stream of fireworks going off somewhere in the local area. And there is that subtle smell of fireworks in the air. I cannot regenerate the experience on my own. I can have youtube videos that mimick it, but it’s not the real thing.

I remember as a kid going to all our neighbour’s houses with a box filled with goodies that my mom cooked and coming back home with the goodies from their house. I remember chatting with the other kids about what kind of fireworks they had or even watching each other as we let rockets or bombs off. I remember the nervousness every time I would light a cracker with the incense and throw it off before it bursts.

That is why some things are best shared – as long as everybody celebrates it, we still get the vibe. And that is why celebrating Diwali in any other place other than India feels weird. It is not the same – it feels like a good mimicry of what was.

It is hard to explain to others – it’s like celebrating Thanksgiving in London, nobody else is. And that is why the saying, ‘Do in Rome as Romans do.’ Maybe that is why we have the tradition of these festivals in all cultures. And that is also why we do not have too many of them. Because once in a while, it is good, but if this were an everyday occurrence, our usual differences would crop up and not create such a unique experience.

Somethings we treasure because they do come along only so often. The spirit of togetherness that feels so good in Diwali exists every day – we do not know how to tap into it because we think we are separate from others. The day we realize we are all one – every moment would be Diwali eternally.

Do you believe we are one?

Time For Upgrade?

Let’s start with THE NEWS of the day. Biden has won the elections in the United States of America today. Depending on which side you support, you are either relieved or disappointed. For the most part majority of the population is happy that the election rigmarole is all behind us. A few of my peers, friends and even my husband had a few rough nights with the stress of vote counting dragging on.

The techie in me wonders in this day and age why are we still operating in such a manual fashion. How hard is it to develop software that lets you vote online? With fingerprinting, iris scanning, face recognition and numerous ways to recognize an individual – it should be reasonably straightforward for software developers to come up with a digital voting system. Think about the benefits – no paper, much less labour, people can vote from the comfort of their homes AND faster results and probably more accurate. And for people who do not have that facility, we can use cyber cafes, mobiles. Yes, I understand that there is the threat of hacking, but the threat exists now with claims about social media influencing voters anyways.

This leads to me think about the interview on antitrust hearing that big tech CEO’s had to go through, which also highlighted their limited understanding of technology. For example, how they confused Twitter with Facebook in this interview short. Some would say that even a child would know the difference between Facebook and Twitter. I know other snafus happened before as well. 

Given that importance of technology in our lives today – we are truly headed to a digital age. How that age will pan out, we will have to see. But, the question is the governing bodies around the world capable of leading us in that age? Do they have enough understanding to make and pass laws/policies about technology? Most, importantly will they make decisions that impact the population of this world, keeping the tech lens in their radar?

I will leave you to make your own decisions – I do not have to spell it out. For most of the jobs in the entire world be it a janitor or a teacher or a VP or a CEO – there are basic qualifications you have to satisfy before you can even apply. But, for politics, there is no basic set of qualifications. I know of politicians in India who are not even that highly educated but rule their state and are a part of the governing body.

Now, the people sitting in these seats have to pass the law about themselves. How many of them will be willing to pass a law that says unless they clear these technical exams they cannot govern? There is a disconnect between the governance structure and the rest of the world. I do wonder, would we have thought about Coronovirus differently if we had a different set of mindset and attitude in the governments around the world?

What do you think – Is it time for Government 2.0?

What’s in a name?

One’s progress in childhood is marked by how soon you can answer the question, ‘What’s your name?’ And if you are also aware of your parent’s names – you are going places.

As a newborn baby, you are utilizing your five senses to the fullest. Your understanding of your mom is through the smell, touch, voice, visual and also how you feel. Your knowledge of the entire world is based on sense perceptions. When the kid reaches the eighteen-month mark, the mind becomes active and wants to know everything. And that’s when the mind takes over.

The mind knows the object on the side of the road is a tree. But it knows it only as a name – and it’s perceived understanding of what a tree is. We never ask the child how does a tree sound like? What does the tree feel like? I am sure some of you are wondering what kind of stupid questions are these. A tree can be a lesson in life itself. It lets go of its leaves when its fall without clinging to them. It faces storms, rains and gales with the same equanimity. They clean the air without wanting anything in return. These aspects also equally make up a tree and are more meaningful than the four-letter word we have reduced trees to in today’s world.

Think about all the other things we have reduced to their lettered names. The rose, sears tower, sea, ocean, individuals – in fact, in today’s world, you can google anything and feel like you know it all. Our minds may read and memorize the entire encyclopedia, but without experience, it means nothing. I understand that some things are good to learn like how do stoplights work or how to drive a car? But they are a minority when you come to think of it. It’s like we are unable to go beyond naming something.

Why is this important? Because it can help keep our minds in control. Like anything else in this world – if we overuse our mind, then we are in trouble. Minds are just tools to help us function in the world, but in today’s world, we are ruled by our minds. The collective human mind governs society. We believe every thought that arises in our mind instead of watching it as it appears and let it go. In the watching lies the choice on whether to act or not based on the thought.

We have forgotten that NO THOUGHT matters absolutely. What matters is the space in which the thought arises. And once you are rooted in that space, all decisions you make from that space will be of higher quality than the one you make based on your mind. Because a mind is a tool and like a hammer, the only thing it sees everywhere is a nail.

We are human beings who are having a spiritual experience and minds help us navigate the physical realm. Isn’t it time we ruled the minds?

What is your relationship with the mind?