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.

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.

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!