Archive for » September, 2011 «

* “My depression has lifted”

Feedback from a 70 year old patient of my daughter Padma Sripada M.D:
“The ‘Focusing on breathing’ technique has helped me tremendously. Seven years ago I lost my daughter and I went into a deep depression and chronic anxiety, in spite of medications. I started to use the breathing technique and I got to say they were very helpful. For the first time in 7 years I feel my depression has lifted.”

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Another success story “I stopped antidepressants” 

* My shopping cart pulls to the side

I go to the nearby Walmart store often for fresh milk and vegetables. As soon as I enter, I pull out a cart from the train of stacked carts and go into the aisles, to pick up the stuff. Occasionally, after pushing the cart for a few feet, I realize that wheels are not in alignment, pulling it slightly to left or right. I am not happy with its condition. But having walked a few feet ahead, I am reluctant to walk back to the entrance to replace the defective cart by a good one. So I go ahead and continue the shopping.

If I remain passive and allow the cart to move as it tends to, my cart will soon hit another shopper or the shelving. I silently curse the defective cart and the people who should have have taken such carts out of circulation. To prevent any mishap, I periodically adjust it to go straight ahead. With a number of grumbling adjustments, I complete my shopping and walk out of the store, without any mishap.

One day it occurred to me that my mind sometimes behaves like that defective cart. I am aware of my mental bias pushing me to obviously unwarranted judgments of people. If I go by its dictates, I will definitely regret my judgments and consequent actions. Taking a clue from my experience with the defective carts, whenever I am aware, I ignore the wrong tendency of my mind and make a deliberate effort to judge and act correctly. Due to such repeated efforts, self correction of my mind has become natural and spontaneous, with less regrets.

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Parent page: ‘My articles’

Next page: Spiritual articles

* Focus on the Message or the Messenger?

We see this situation often. Consider these scenarios.

  • A sufi teacher (1)  was pointing his crooked index finger, bent due to arthritis, at the moon. He was asking his student to look at the beautiful full moon in the sky. The student was focusing on the crooked index finger. He could not see the moon as he could not detach his attention from the finger. The communication between them was a total failure. Who is responsible? Who is the loser?
  • I receive a partially damaged and dirty envelope from the tax department. I feel like throwing it in the trash bin. But then….What if it is a notice of an audit of my tax return? Or it has a check for the tax refund? Should I ignore the dirty condition of the envelope and open it, pull out the letter and then toss the envelope in the trash bin?
  • I parked my car crossing the dividing line between the two parking spots, close to the entrance of a famous temple and went inside with my family. The adjacent parking space was wasted, as it was risky for any one to park in that narrow space. That being a week end, there were many visitors and the parking was very tight.  When I returned after the worship, I found a paper under the wiper of the wind shield with the pungent message “Stupid! Don’t you know how to park?” I felt very bad. Should I curse the hot blooded person, may be a youngster, for his crude message? Should I regret my negligent parking, depriving another devotee of a convenient parking space? Should I etch this incident in my mind and not repeat the parking negligence any time in future? Should I thank the youngster for teaching me an important lesson that I definitely needed, though in a crude manner? Could I have realized my inappropriate action affecting other people on my own, if I did not get that crude message,from whoever it may be?

(1) Sufism is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a Sufī.

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Parent page: Articles on ‘Relationships’

* Thoughts are like balloons without air

We constantly get thoughts in the mind – mostly negative ones and rarely positive ones. Most of them are random thoughts and vastly vary in content and rarely relevant to the task on hand. Often we get carried away by the content and message of such a thought without questioning its validity. We don’t raise the question “Is there any truth in this thought? Do I believe it?”

A thought has no impact on our mind or behavior unless we believe it.

I can visualize thoughts entering the mind like limp balloons landing on my desk. I don’t know where they are coming from. I don’t have to blow air into every balloon that lands on my desk. I can take a look at each balloon and decide which one I like to keep. Then I can spend my energy blowing air into the chosen balloon.

Similarly, we can decide which thought arriving in our mind has significance to us at this moment, examine its validity and decide whether to believe in it and act on it. Believing in a thought is like blowing air into a limp balloon, giving it an attractive look and utility. Not believing in a thought is like leaving it limp, lifeless and insignificant, as good as dropping it in the trash can.

Related article: Is it a snake or rope? on the importance of correct perception, in saving one’s life and in not missing a potential opportunity.

Parent page: Thoughts are like………

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* A lifeless plant gets a grand new life

There were a row of  plants about 8 feet high, by the side of the road leading to my office in the big paperboard mill I worked.  The purpose of these plants was to show off their dense green leaves and plenty of the yellow flowers, giving relief to the eyes from the drab concrete buildings and roads.

The plants looked absolutely drab most of the year with woody stems and hardly any fresh leaves. In the flowering season, beautiful yellow flowers would be seen but as soon as that short season was over, the plants were an eye sore rather than a relief. This was in spite of regularly watering them. Watching them many times a day, on my way to and from my office room was a pain for me.

As an experiment, I told my people in the civil maintenance department who maintained these plants, to prune only one of these plants drastically, leaving just a foot of the trunk from the ground. This was done promptly. I was worried whether I destroyed the plant and created a bigger eye sore. I watched them eagerly every day, for the results of the experiment.

After about 2 weeks, small green shoots were coming out of the trunk. I was relieved that at least the plant was not dead. Every day the number of vigorously growing shoots increased dramatically. In a few weeks there were hundreds of fast growing shoots. In about 3 months, hundreds of shoots with fresh green tender leaves had grown 3 feet high. This born-again plant was a feast for the eyes.

We repeated the process with all the other plants with similar happy results. This dramatic and unexpected transformation of an otherwise totally lifeless plants set me thinking …

Those plants were looking lifeless and as good as dead. I was in half mind to uproot them and plant new ones in their place. They looked as though they had no energy to grow new branches and leaves. But then what happened after the drastic pruning?

A giant reservoir of energy was unleashed when the plant was pruned drastically. That energy was so huge and readily available that it quickly initiated hundreds of new shoots and could sustain their vigorous growth to several feet. The plant did not need any extra inputs for it’s rebirth – no extra water, fertilizer, insecticide or attention. It had all it’s requirements in abundance.

Could this phenomena be true for individuals, teams or whole organizations?  Can the drastic stoppage of the routine, ritualistic, dull and meaningless daily routines unleash the giant dormant powers in them? Could it be that their lifeless performance is due to blocking of their powerful energies by life killing doubts, fears and meaningless activities? Can getting rid of these energy blocks unleash the hidden energies? Would that give birth to lively new thoughts, plans and activities, like those seen in the born-again plants? This great transformation may emerge without any additional rewards. The transformation itself would be a fantastic reward.

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Parent page: Articles on ‘Improving self and achieving goals’

* It happened suddenly!

As a maintenance engineer in a continuous running plant, I had to face sudden stoppages of continuous running machines due to mechanical defects. I had to answer the management for the consequent losses to the company. The persons responsible for avoiding the unplanned stoppages of the machines would tell me that the machine was running fine yesterday and even a little while back and it failed suddenly. They claimed they could not have detected and prevented the failure. Of course this is not true for mechanical parts. But how to drive this point home without arguments? I used to practically demonstrate what might have been happening this way.

I pick up a paper weight and place it in the middle of a small table. The table is clear of any objects form the paper weight to the clear edge. I move the paper weight intermittently in steps of a few inches. After the first move I stop, look at them and say “Nothing happened!”. Again I move it a little and say “Nothing happened”. Again I move an inch and say “Yes, nothing is happening”. I keep on moving the paper weight inch by inch till it falls on the hard floor with a thud. Then I shout and say “The paper weight has fallen suddenly. It was OK a few seconds back!”.

People watching this demo invariably smile and admit that something adverse or unusual was happening gradually before the failure that they were not observing carefully. Or they were seeing some unusual symptoms but felt they were harmless, not worth any corrective action. The gradual deterioration from the healthy condition has to lead to total failure some day, there can be no escape.

This could apply to many aspects of life – sudden burst of reactions of people, sudden crisis of some kind etc. We ignore the preceding symptoms and underestimate their significance. These accumulate over a period of time and one day result in a (sudden?) failure of some kind.

If we keenly observe what is happening around us in things and people and know what is a normal and healthy situation and what is a significant deviation, we can predict where this gradual negative change will ultimately lead to and what could be it’s consequences.

If we take corrective actions in the early stages when we see the adverse movements taking place, the adverse event can be aborted. The so called sudden developments can only happen when we close our eyes and minds to what is  happening gradually or choose to underestimate or ignore their significance.

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