Mind, Meditation and Mathematics

You select a beautifully appropriate place at home and sit down for meditation only to find out that you don’t have a beautiful mind, not even close.  It keeps plotting against you and the point that you are seeking is moving faster than a ray.  You persist and then your thoughts begin to go around in circles and eventually upgrade to the concentric kind. You direct your mind to a mantra but it goes off at a tangent. A nightmare unfolds and you are caught in parallel streams of thought that alternate with bizarre force and segment your purpose in a way that corresponds to no other.

What is integral to meditation is a calm mind but your quest for the Infinite gives you negative results perchance with a few exceptions. A satori here and a satori there shows you that what looks real isn’t.  A peek into the Absolute makes you value your practice. Sadly though, with time these experiences dwindle into distant and faint memories and you go back to square one. Almost.

Finding that you are at variance with your end point, you adjust your position.  Immediately, you begin to experience acute pain and you can no longer be obtuse about it. The spiritual teachings suddenly appear to not add up and the linear growth that you humbly accepted flounders. Resolving to multiply your efforts, you subtract all distractions. You find that no matter what the angle of rotation, you get nowhere because the horizontal and vertical dimensions converge at a new point and lo! to your dismay the axis itself has moved.

All is not lost though, since some equations with family are easier now and you can solve problems that were outnumbering your skills exponentially. In all probability, you will receive signs to encourage you, but are they enough? The odds of winning this game lessen.

The fourth quadrant of your life dawns on you, and with renewed enthusiasm and determination, you sit day after day but the progress is not worth graphing about.  All your failed attempts make you look like an average achiever and you conclude that the blame lies below.  Considering that you never did so well in Mathematics but aced your Geography, you get on a plane, and fly to the Pyramids only to hit a dead-end. Your next stop is the mountains.  True, the coordinates have changed and it seems to help for a bit, that is till you hit a plateau. Location, location, location! Whose foolish idea was that? When you finally accept that you cannot trace the Infinite, you get still and behold! you are at the Origin.

How to get more from 24 hours!

Tweaks, tips and tricks for time management.

I have been craving more time for myself to do stuff that is really important to me. Time became a ticking clock for me – beyond my reach always! Then I heard a motivational speech which emphasized that Bill Gates and Elon Musk also have 24 hours in a day. So what? I thought. They are not stay-at-home moms. My life is more challenging than theirs. True, I have to deal with fewer people but none of them are in my pay!

So how can you get more done in the same 24 hours?

Two tricks.

  1. Sleep less
  2. Shower less (if I am thinking what you are thinking I am thinking, you are wrong)

Let me address the shower thing first.

How to cut a long shower short!

It’s easy. Turn the faucet off. Or turn it to cold. A lot of people use a hot shower as a go to place to think, to unwind blah blah. The law of diminishing returns never applied to anything more perfectly. You will come out drained and would have lost precious time. So the bottomline is if you have already made up your mind before hand, you don’t give yourselves the chance to rethink, review or reconsider your decision. This can be applied to other things as well, like waking up in the morning. (Warning: If long showers don’t apply to you, I hope you didn’t read this. Your 24 hours are now the less and for not a worthy reason!)

Going back to number #1, Sleep is a big deal! Or so I thought. I used to wake up just when it was time to drop my teen at the bus stop. My excuse was my toddler – no matter how long I slept it was not enough. More motivational videos to the rescue. (Deep down I knew Youtube had a deeper purpose, especially when I used it!) Yogis sleep less, way less than ordinary folks – we psych ourselves one way and they psych themselves another. Two tweaks later, I have cut short my sleep requirement by at least two hours a day on average.

Two tweaks.

Eating less. (Two bites less is good enough to start off.)

Having a fridge and pantry full of stuff you like is a sure-shot way of self-sabotage.  Hovering around the kitchen or working on the same floor is another.

Having a goal or two. Worthy ones or twos.

I wake up now in the morning for my meditation.  My body started groaning and creaking so I inserted exercise before the meditation.  These goals are so worthy for me that when I suggested to my mind to wake me up around 4 am, the subconscious bends over backwards to honor me.  I didn’t fix an exact time nor do I use an alarm but this works incredibly.

Two tips.

  1. Try this for two weeks. (Disclosure: I am on week two)
  2. Rope two friends in. (You will get closure. Or closer!)

If you enjoyed my two cents, give me your two in the comment section.

Will the real “Self” stand up please?

What is there, really, except the Self? Why the eternal dilemma? Why isn’t it easy to step out of maya? What if, instead of assuming that there is a Self to discover behind the false, illusionary sense of “I”, we decide that there is nothing else! Because the false, illusionary, sense of “I” is indeed just that!  Start with birth. Did I cause the birth of the body? No. Did I pick the parents, the name, the place of birth? No. How about at least, the time of birth? No. Will I pick the date of death, the place, the time, the how?  No, no, no and no. Do I control the growth of my body, my cells, my digestive system? Do I direct my breathing?  Any organ at all?  Can I tell the heart how fast to beat when I run and how slow when I rest? Do I direct the weather, the earth, the sky, the plants, the animals or the birds? What about the mind?  Did I create it?  Do I cause the stream of thoughts or their cessation? Nothing at all!

Then who is this impersonator pretending to be everything when in fact, it pretty much does nothing? Is there anything in this world that is more ridiculous than the ego?

Sequel:

Two hours after I wrote this, I tried to kick a fly out the door. My only sorry explanation for that is, it was a fight or flight response! Pitifully, the illusionary ‘I’ could not even accomplish that successfully.  Not only did I not touch the fly, but my foot went flying into a doorframe and I broke my pinky toe. After the initial pain of the impact passed, I was horrified at the direction my toe was taking.  It was pointing more to the East than North.

Thankfully, I remembered the gratitude lesson from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s 9 attitudes.  Nah! I am just kidding!  But seriously, I was completely conscious of the emotional drama that ensued in my mind, though not conscious enough to step out of it.  Normally, I would have merely called it ironic that I read about pain vs suffering earlier in the day, and that I began writing this post, but now I realized, they all happened to help me witness and to deal with this blow mindfully. I went from an ouch-worthy moment to an aha moment in the blink of a fly, err, eye! I was able to accept the not-so Urgent Care I received, the painful painkiller shot and the delay in treatment (which was next day by a podiatrist) with much more equanimity than I would have otherwise. Apparently, this thing works.  Thank you, Thich Nhat Hanh – “No Mud, No Lotus”!! No, I didn’t read that book – but the title says a lot.

Et Tu, Glute?

Quite a few times, my neck and shoulder muscles turned on me and heads turned to notice how stiffly I carried myself.  I started blaming the Trapezius for most of my ills, when lo and behold, I was betrayed by a muscle group that normally enabled me to sprint like a cheetah (hope you passed the gullibility test)!  But ‘Glutus’ is an honorable muscle!  Till you pull it.  In which case, it will mercilessly stab you in the lower back and your whole life will flash in front of your horrified eyes. And yes, what’s in a spelling anyway? The Gluteus, by any other name, will still hurt with Maximus effect.

So this brings us back to the importance of being in earnest about fitness.  To be fit or not to be fit is a question that bugged me for a long time.  Needless to say, I chose the latter most of the time.  Did you notice that every time someone uses the phrase ‘needless to say’ they will still say it?  I guess they don’t realize how annoying it is.

Anyway, to return to the tale of two muscles, the body has a weird way of acting up.  Wait! Did I say two? Ah, I recall now. Apparently, life gives you warning signs and most people like me, ignore them.  A few weeks ago, I jumped into a dance routine without a warm up.  By this time, you figured out that 1) my fitness attempts are accomplished in fits and starts and 2) I believe that warm-ups are overrated! And guess what happened?  The unthinkable!  I pulled a muscle.  That time it was the Gluteus Minimus.  I cannot minimize the importance of this muscle as it had its own say in how my life unfolded in the days that followed.  I foolishly expected to receive another warning before the storm hit me, but the body cleverly bypassed the Gluteus Medius and hit me full on with the Gluteus Maximus.

I reeled from the shock and I am still bending over backwards trying to come to terms with it.  After three unproductive days that benefited only the pharma companies, I pledged (to no one in particular) to work out regularly. And now after this heavy and uplifting pledge, I genuinely feel that I have earned my couch time!

 

 

An Ode to Masterclass

Imagine that you are a student who is relatively more interested in science than other subjects and you walk into your first class. The professor turns out to be Einstein! Could it possibly get any better?

A bunch of Einsteins, of their respective fields, are offering classes on Masterclass.com. I had previously done some online courses through Coursera, which was very good, but Masterclass is a class apart. These are not professors but professionals.

I completed three classes so far and can’t wait to go back for more. What you learn from a genius cannot be put into words but let me make an attempt. I feel enriched, empowered and enlightened. Since my latest interest is in screenwriting I went to Aaron Sorkin, Ron Howard and Steve Martin to show me their world. I learnt a lot more than I expected to.

Aaron Sorkin is not only very genuine, but a great teacher and such a gentleman.  He is not very fluent, though and I loved that because it made me see these are not perfect people churning out awesome stuff. He was very good with the teachable part of the craft and he generously pointed out the nuances. On the whole, you get to peek into  awesomeness and get valuable practical tips. If you want to rub shoulders with Hollywood’s talent but can’t, at least not yet, this comes a close second!

Ron Howard is a great director. He is extraordinarily fluent and connects with you in a deep way. He literally demonstrated how he works and covered a lot of material.  Whichever part of the film process you are interested in, this class will help you. You get to see a bird’s eye view of how the pieces fit into the puzzle.

Steve Martin’s was a class act! I obviously thought it will help me write better comedy but I also got to learn about writing in general. In fact, he was so good, that I began to feel that I could stand-up and not fall! I enjoyed taking notes. An example of what I loved was, how endings don’t have to be a gentle winding up but can be more upbeat and hint at a whole world unexplored.

So what’s next for me? I pre-enrolled for Malcolm Gladwell’s class and will be back before you blink!