My Dad, a big fish

Like most people I have my share of childhood “stuff” or trauma to blame it on my parents. I do however have come a long way to accept most of it as my very own karmic debt. Last month was my dad’s 9th year death anniversary. I have been thinking about him for quite some time and I think I have coherent enough thoughts now to put them on here.

Growing up me and my sisters watched my dad make a lot of proclamations. Huge and big ideas which at that time sounded like he was bragging. Some of it, he probably was but what I realize now – now that I am a parent and how I sub-consciously imitate my dad’s style to my daughter sometimes! he was actually a big fish in a small pond.

My dad saw some of the toughest situations in life. He was part of family of 8 siblings and my grand dad (whose name my dad gave me) was an extremely poor man who tried his hands at anything to keep his family going. Having not much of education, my dad literally ran away from his hometown at the age of 15 to make and build his own things. What he endured for the next 10 years is – all this magic stuff he was made of. I believe he endured a lot of pain. On streets and no food and doing some odd jobs. Through that process he developed a story. Basically an amazing response to his reality around him – a story he told himself to keep him alive and survive. He believed in some higher force guiding him and helping him and him doing amazing things while going through that period.

So, when he had kids – he would relay parts of that story to us and I never understood most of them. I know he believed that a strong will is a choice and can be built through practice. He also believed miracles would happen out of thin air and told us a lot of stories. Some of them may not be true through scientific lens but what I realized is that – that was “his” story. That story was hand painted colorful because the paleness of reality was too much to bear.

These thoughts reminded me of the movie Big Fish – whose story line kinda fits with what I had seen in my dad.

Now that I reflect back – I think he passed on a lot more than just the name to me. I believe in the same force guiding my life. Every moment. I am spiritually inclined in stuff which he showed me in my early life. I tend to read books about these amazing fakirs, babas and Gods – who my dad claimed to meet and has been blessed and transformed.

On a day like this – where the candles are lit around me and I can still smell that incense and all this peaceful ambiance around me – the one thing I miss most is – I wish he is here relating me one of those stories to me. Today, I would give anything to sit and listen to his stories without judgement. I miss you dad.

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On the things that I have been taught

Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfection. Advance and do not fear the thorns in the path, for they draw only corrupt blood.  – Khalil Gibran

Remember when you have that tingling pain in your leg and you have a busy day and don’t bother to think about it? As the day goes on the pain lingers but you keep it off because you are busy. Sometime at the end of the day you can’t take the pain anymore. But just before you pop the pill in you check what the pain is about – for a brief moment you recognize it and become one with it. You feel where it is and know it much more than that morning.

I think something similar happens with us at mental level. This rush and keep-me-busy life is racing forward and there are pains that ebb in the mind but we are in no rush to attend to them. I think meditation is one way to get to know these things. I think meditation and self-introspection kinda leads one to these deeper channels. With what little time I can spend on introspection – through free writing and meditation – I have found out a lot about the things that I have been taught. It’s kinda more like things I have learned, but then when you are young – the surroundings affect you more than your own self. Here are some observations from my own reflection. This whole discovery process has been very cathartic.

1. Perfection: The education system in India is very competitive. Those 5 years of rigorous college where there was very little to do anything other than studies – I think the idea of perfection and getting a centum (I know that’s a crazy word) has been honed well into me. But the side effects of that is – I have so many half baked ideas, projects that I always wanted to work/launch but never could because they never are perfect in my eyes.

Creation is dirty. I mean raw. Potential is raw – it needs it’s rough edges to become something. But the eyes of perfection can only see ugliness in it. They reject the raw baked idea and what I get is a dull humming of judgmental mental chatter. Not worth it.

2. Out there solution: The strong belief that there lies a greater solution out there. There lies a messiah out there to save me. There lies a perfect trick that could fix me. This mental cog is a strong one. Because of the duality of this world and the nature of mind to dissect and box everything – it’s easy to believe that the solution is out there. It’s an illusion.

3. Knowledge: That all knowledge is contained in books and teachings. That I could gain everything and learn it all if I acquire it. What a hogwash. This is nothing but brainwashing for more brainwashing. It’s like the never ending loop. You can’t eat up all the food in this world, you can’t digest all the knowledge of this world.

4. Linearity: This one is like a big cousin to Causality. Because we see cause and effect, we have come to believe that everything around us is linear. It’s good to have a check list and work through it, but not everything is linearly dependent. Freakanomics tells us that we confuse correlation with causality. There would come a day where all this linear thinking will mis-lead us. That would be be the day we would have to chuck that linear list.

5. Time: This one is so weird. There are 2 aspects to this – short term and long term. When it comes to others’ priorities we are told that we don’t have time. It needs to be done yesterday. This causes us to put our priorities away for the long term. So, this causes an imbalance – where we are knocking out a lot of stuff for others’ or a lot of un-important stuff and the most important things that matter to us are lying there in dust. We are taught to live as if  we are going to be here forever! What a fine trick.

Remember Gordian’s knot? My to-do list is like that knot that could never be undone. Because I put stuff in there which was prompted by my brainwashed subconscious over period of schooling and wrong company. The only way to undo is to cut it open. That’s what Alexander did.

I believe fate and destiny are like 2 sides of the mobius strip. Entangled. The mind has it’s limitations for it’s reasons. It’s very smart at discovering short cuts. That’s how we survived. And I think the best way to feed it is to give it short and few targeted goals. Not a barfed up list of minutiae. The mind works on heuristics and short cuts. It’s time to clean up the learned tug of war between heart and mind. It’s time to get clear on goals.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about. — Rumi

On becoming a Father

I have been thinking about what is different in my life after Sahana, my daughter arrived. My friends have asked me what feels different. I didn’t have any right answer for that question as I was busy with being one and never spent time on thinking about it. I think I have my version of what is different now that I am a dad.

I think everyone has preferences, strengths, weaknesses, tendencies etc which can be categorized in 4 categories. Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual. That’s not written in stone but one way to slice it. And among these 4 categories there is order. People over a period of time build a stack of importance using these 4 categories. I think being a dad/father/mother/parent brings a lot of insight, shift in the top categories.

For example: Mine are ordered – Spiritual, Mental, Emotional and Physical (yeah last physical – which explains why I don’t know anything about Baseball and why I carry those extra 20 pounds on me!). I think after Sahana came to our lives, I was affected more spiritually and mentally than emotionally or physically. I mean, I have gotten used to little physical inconveniences like – sleeplessness, more work etc but they don’t discourage me from anything nor they inspire me.

What affected me more was I became more spiritual. The whole experience from the moment I learned that Sangita is pregnant till today is this great spiritual dance. Everything that happens to me, around me has a spiritual meaning tied up with Sahana. I do believe she brought in a lot of luck for both me and my wife. If she brought more patience to Sangita, she brought me more spiritual depth.

As for the mental side – I have shed everything that has short meaning in my life. I used to treat work in a specific way. I wanted it to be more my way and that was the reason why I went to work for myself. But now, after this change – something in that area has shifted for me. I still have the same passion towards my work but less stubbornness. I focus on what is most important and drop everything that is trivial. Thats been very refreshing in the past 3 weeks since I started to work full-time. Especially interesting how it is affecting my 2 other areas of life – emotionally – spending more quality time with Sahana in the evening and physically – going to sleep early and getting more than enough sleep than when I used to work for myself.

I wholly welcome all these changes in my life. I am happy to be a dad.

The Limbic myopic

Our brains evolved over thousands of years. We don’t have to scan the whole evolution chain, but take into consideration of the era where were hunters. Our limbic brain evolved first. We still got it. It’s the part which is closely connected to our backbone and nervous system and lives in our skulls. The pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain which lives behind our foreheads – developed way later. These 2 systems – limbic and pre-frontal basically define us in our lives.

We have evolved and made ourselves expert in thinking and using our pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex is called an executive mind – which we use to plan things about future and think ahead of time. Limbic is more of a raw impulse brain. This is also called the lizard brain – whose sole function is to keep us alive and protected.

I think everyone of us have one of this brain as dominant brain. For some people the lizard brain is dominant and for some the executive. If you scan the list of your friends you can easily tell who has which dominant.

Limbic dominant people tend be more impulsive. They act in now and they are usually cluttery, often late and are able to change their plans and mind easily, sometimes very surprisingly. The Executive brain dominant people are the ones who are cautious and plan ahead. The can change their plans but if it fits into their mental system. Again we all are not that simple and we let our lizard and executive brains become dominant in various areas of life.

That’s one point I wanted to talk about. The second one is  about our vision. According to researchers we can focus on about 2 cm wide area at any given time. Everything else is peripheral vision. When we watch movies – we are not noticing everything, even though we may feel like we do. We notice everything peripherally and what we focus on is totally dependent of what is important to us at that moment. Which brings me back to the first point.

So here is what I am trying to get to –

1. We have 2 kinds of brains – limbic and executive
2. One of it is dominant in our lives based on what we have trained our minds to. (Like I use executive mind for food, but limbic for drinks)
3. Our vision often lead us to make silly mistakes because of the focused area we can concentrate on at any given time.
4. If we have limbic as dominant in our vision area then what we have is – Limbic Myopic

The great example of Lymbic Myopic is the guy who searches through the fridge to find the beer and can never see it right in front of his eyes (I have been there). Women are usually better in searching and looking when compared to men. That’s the reason why they use ‘Screenplay Searcher’ to find the movie mistakes after the movie is done. These searchers are mostly women. With social network effect we have www.moviemistakes.com to do that for the rest of us.

This myopism also pops out when we think about ourselves and how smart we think we are. It’s very famously know as Dunning-Kruger Effect

The limbic myopic pops out in lots of situations – searching for the keys to witnessing accidents. We are all victims of it in some form. The key thing is to become aware of those blind spots in our lives and try to be watchful when we are in those situations.

Inspired from the readings of – Why we make Mistakes, The Procrastination Equation and Smart World

This concept of Manifestation

If you are like any other normal person you would have seen a flurry of many many new-age gurus talking about Manifestation and how we are in control of our lives. The idea is not new but the packaging is. It used to be learned, used and followed by a bunch of off the track people in an alternate universe – but The Secret -movie, bought it to the mainstream.(You should also check out What the Bleep do we know? – more real and scientific) Quickly the gurus in the movie turned their back on it and started propagating how ONLY they understand the Secret. The main concern of the people who don’t like Secret is – that it’s too goody goody and non-actioney. The Secret doesn’t talk a lot about the action that needs to be done to achieve what you want to achieve. I totally agree – but hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

I have been, like any other person, curious about this idea for quite some time. My personal freedom and my personal creations are extremely important to me and I believe in the concept of being the person who is in charge of my own reality. I have been reading up quite some books on this concept and this blog post is all the that information filtered to my understanding.

The beauty of belief is – everyone tends to create, see and do what their belief systems dictate. So, based on my beliefs – the way I understood it could be totally off from what others see. This is just my one opinion in the million out there.

The (Hi)Story:

This goes back a little. The way I grew up – was in a patriarch family where my dad called shots on everything. Just like most Indian families. For various reasons and causes, I grew up to be an extremely shy and awkward teenager (who didn’t?). When I turned 20 – I decided that I need to change myself. In someway. I didn’t know what to do. I have been scared of Public Speaking but enjoy the whole process of someone taking the stage and entertaining a crowd. So, I thought I will have to face my fear and then I will be fixed! Little I knew about the arduous process of self-change.

I joined a Leadership Training program which was taught by a Genius who was also a chain smoker. Good start eh. Over the period of next 3 months I faced situations where I almost peed in my pants, cried many many times and embarrassed myself. I wouldn’t want to go on stage at all. It was really hard. But in the end, I ended up becoming aware of 2nd things – 1. The power of my mind., 2. I am still going to be shit scared of public speaking!

Things moved on, life happened. The literature I was exposed to made me learn more and more about other self-help books. I started to form a basic model of how this works in my mind. Fast forward – 2003 NYC. I was taking Yoga classes at Sivananda Ashram. In one class the teacher, talked about how our mind is a powerful tool and how it could manifest things that our belief system tells us we can’t. It stuck with me and I was looking for an opportunity to put it to test.

Somehow, by turn of fate one day I ended up standing in line for tickets to see ‘Rent’ on Broadway. They usually have a raffle before the show to give away free tickets to the very few.(It’s actually the first two rows – which are actually the ‘spit fire’ lanes!) Now, I used this “mind over matter” theory to see if it is true. For the next 30 mins – I did everything I could – thoughts wise, feelings wise, emotions wise, images wise, actions wise, behaviors wise etc – immerse myself into defeating my belief system that I have won the raffle and free tickets. It was not easy to convince my beliefs and it looked stupid to try that. But I kept it on. The third name they called was mine! Now I know – those skeptics who are reading this – it could totally be a spooky coincidence. I agree. But it didn’t matter to me. I don’t think I was so ever shocked in my life like I was then. Literally shaking. I didn’t even watch Rent properly. One thought kept pounding in my head – What else can I do?

The Concept:

So, here I am trying to take this blog post as an opportunity to kinda cull my learning into one small piece. Since I usually think better with drawings and visual aids, I am going to draw a image which comes to mind.

Concept of ManifestationThis looked far better when I drew it on a paper. Graffling is not my skill. So, I want to explain the numbered points:

1 – Mental State: This is your present mental state. At any given time there are so many thoughts, ideas, images, sounds, smells etc belong to this mental state. You can leave it as it is or you can organize the mental state. This is the origin. Whatever exists here is converted to reality in some form or shape by the vibrational state. We do have control on this. The inputs to Mental state are

  1. 5 senses
  2. Internal talk

2 – Vibrational State: I talked about this in the past. This is the state we have no control over. It’s like the inevitable fact. Nothing we do can change this – directly. However, the only way you can make use of this state is to influence upon things indirectly. How? Through the mental states. So, like the candle light is reflected in a mirror – the vibrational state just mass produces anything that the mental state gives.

3. Beliefs: These are the filters. Affecting what is fed into vibrational state as well as what goes out of it. If you have way too many filters then – there is nothing much passing through – meaning, your mental state doesn’t match your reality and vice versa. We have control over this. We can become aware of them and start dropping them off. The more we clear and select our beliefs – the more mental state matches the reality. Of course we will have to start with the primary belief – we can change our reality.

4. Reality & Results: As vibrational state outputs – they come out of us as actions, behaviors, words, theories, ideas etc. Again these are filtered by our beliefs. Depending on how our beliefs are structured – we act, think and talk, there by resulting in our actual reality.

That’s all to it. That’s the manifestation process as I understand it.

The Strategies:

Knowledge is useless without application or action. So, how do we turn these into personal strategies? Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Objectives and Goals: The reason why a lot of people ask and talk about setting goals is – getting clarity about what you want is half job done. In this model – it would apply to the ‘Mental State’ stage. Just writing down all the goals and setting timelines (realistic) is the first step.

2. Meditation: This might sound odd for Manifesting theme. But what meditation does is – it basically lowers the resistance of our beliefs for the time we meditate. I talked about a meditation method in my previous post. So, let me break it down a little in detail. You do meditation for 15 mins every day. Those 15 mins, you try to concentrate on your breath. It’s hard but with practice you will get to stage where you can do that. When you focus on your breath – there are 2 things happening: 1. Your thoughts are being ignored or not given major attention. 2. Focusing on breathing – streamlines it. Slowly after 5 mins, you will notice you are breathing deeper and longer.

This in turn gets you into something called ‘Alpha brain waves‘ – which is a very productive place to be. In that place your resisting guard would be let down and since you already placed your goals and objectives in your mental state prior (through daily goal setting etc) these would be easily conveyed to your Vibrational being which creates actions, ideas and behaviors in you which create your reality.

So, the meditation actually is doing a lot of things under the hood without our knowledge.

3. 21 day habit swap: In his book Psycho-Cybernetics – Dr.Maxwell Maltz originally talked about this 21 day theory. Basically Dr.Maltz was dealing with people who had their body parts removed for various reasons. Some people who lost their arm would still feel pain in it, even though there was no arm. And it usually took 21 days for patients’ body to get over the pain and come to an understanding of new reality. This vital info could be used to form new habits and change how we view and create reality.

Once you set goals – you could start working on them and trying to be consistent for at least 21 days. Most of the time it works. After 21 days, it would become natural for you to work on the goals & tasks.

4. 68 seconds rule: I have no idea why that number – but it’s like number 42 – the meaning of life. If you can manage to do this, it could create some wonderful results. Basically it goes like this – any thought, strongly held for 68 seconds would kick off major changes in your reality. My logical mind doesn’t understand why? I have no data on it – but it has worked for me in various occasions.

So, that’s my understanding of this concept of Manifestation and some strategies involved. I am willing to look at any other info you have to offer to me. But in gist it’s how I understand and it has been working like that for quite some time for me. Please remember – no theory is correct or accurate. We are all blind men groping the Elephant!

Be easy on yourself, play with different methods and most important of all – enjoy the ride, even if it means you are scared of Public Speaking.

Ignorance and Fear

As I was driving back home, I got a moment to ponder on ignorance and fear. I was thinking about one of the idea I have been toying around with, in the past 1 year. I am not sure what is stopping me from going ahead and flushing out the details and get that idea out, but I cannot make myself do anything about it so far. I have happened to discuss with my friends about the idea and they all think it’s a great idea and I personally believe that it’s a great one too. As I thought about it, two things crystallized for me.

Ignorance and Fear. I think both Ignorance and Fear are cyclically connected. Like a catch-22 situation. I think ignorance leads to fear and more fear leads to more ignorance. It’s a hard cycle to break. Most of it is happening without my serious thinking of it. Only today in the context of my idea was I able to see how they are connected.

My ignorance about certain things – Flex, iPhone development, Erlang, Amazon Web Services etc has made me not even attempt to take my first step towards this idea. I am a perfectionist and it’s a pain in the butt for any perfectionist to take a tiny imperfect step. Add to that years and years of self-flagellation you get a very acute case of self-doubter and highly self-crtitical judger. I realized as I sat through the slow moving traffic that my ignorance about certain “supposed” things has created a fear in me. The fear which freezes me in my location. Sangita, long time back, mentioned from her Somatics class that there are 5 ways we react to trauma/fear.

  1. fight
  2. flight
  3. freeze
  4. appease
  5. dis-associate

I think I have done almost all of them on that list in my life, but the most popular one seems to be ‘freeze’. So, ignorance creates fear which freezes me there by contributing to the ignorance.

I realized that there are couple of things I can do to break this cycle. Believe it or not, it’s another cycle albeit an empowering one. I think before I craft this cycle I need to make one strong assumption. And that is – “It’s a friendly Universe out there”. Einstein said it long time back. Anyhow, here is what I think would break the cycle.

Little action is a great replacement for Ignorance. Instead of thinking/believing that “Knowledge” is the response to Ignorance, I think the better response to ignorance is ‘small action steps’. I think, all my life the way I have learned is by making mistakes. Only that I have never been aware of it. My first job was where I had to prove by building a web application in 15 days in a totally new technology. Start to end. I had no clue how I am going to do it, but all I knew was I am going to do it and I did it. As I moved along, the pieces fell in their places. This is nothing new I am mentioning but it’s an age old way of learning things through tinkering, trial and error.

But I guess what happened over the past few years is that I happen to fall into the trap of disdaining trial and error and prefer erudition. Which is not bad, but for who I am it’s not the right way. By making myself believe that learning/knowing everything before I proceed, has put me in a situation where I am freezing without moving on with my idea. So, now I have realized that ‘small action steps’ are far better supplement for Ignorance than heavy dosages of knowledge.

The second part of the cycle is forgiveness, patience, end result and big picture. This happens to be the antidote for the ‘fear’ part of the earlier deadly cycle. Obviously, through trial and error, through ‘ready-fire-aim’ method I am going to burn myself many places. But, if I keep the end result and the big picture in mind then I won’t allow the fear of failure to freeze me. To make this happen I also have to be more forgiving of myself and my mistakes. I know Freud taught us to blame it on our parents as to why we grow up to be like this. Parents commit their own mistakes with parenting as with any other things, but I think once you have that awareness of how our childhood can affect our adulthood – we should be bigger enough to be able to take a plunge and become what we aspire to be. Anyhow, I am blabbering. But to make the story short, I believe remembering the big picture and being gentle with myself will help me to get rid of the fear.

Once this cycle is in place, the change won’t be overnight. But it sure will come. As I type this, I can sense a great calm in my heart which is a good sign. I am going to take my first tiny little step as soon as I end this post.

Vibrational Beings

I have varied interests and I read a lot of literature on the stuff I like. I like, other than computer science, Physics, Quantum Physics, Mathematics, Spirituality, Philosophy, Human behaviour, Human Psychology, Scientific History, Data Mining, Visualization etc. At any given time I am reading a bunch of books that mould my mind in various directions. At this time I am obsessed with an idea of  how we are all ‘Vibrational Beings’.

This sounds new-age-ey, so please bear with me. I believe that we are all vibrational beings. Like layers of onions, we are engulfed within various beings, of which the most apparent one is Physical. Everything in this Universe has a vibration to it. If you dig deep into matter, it’s nothing but a bunch of quantum stuff loosely coupled and vibrating at a very high speed. If you look around you, you will see visible, living world. A world which could be perceived with our 5 senses. Based upon which we build our beliefs, thoughts and mental models. I believe that we have 4 layers in our beings.

  1. Vibrational
  2. Feeling
  3. Mental
  4. Physical

As always, I think visually and I am very comfortable explaining things visually. Here is how I believe it’s structured.

4 Layers of Being

There are 2 aspects to it. First, Internal – meaning the things that happen within the person. External meaning – things that happen outside of the person/being. Here is how I think it’s laid out.

1. Physical Being – This is the default visible being you see around. This is the action seeking person we interact with. The outcome of this being in the external world is – actions, activities, decisions etc

2. Mental Being – This is the being that gets attacked a lot. Because this is the being that creates the separation. This is the level at which the so called ‘EGO’ lives. This level, we have an image of ourselves as well as others. We have mental model of the world and all our beliefs are stored at this level. Access to memory at this level is very high. If you draw parallels to computer, this being has access to memory on a magnetic Hard disk. Everything gets stored, but you will have to search to retrieve it. This being is also responsible for the rich imagination and visualization. The outcome of this being in the external world is – Thoughts, ideas etc.

3. Feelings Being – This is the being who feels things. Anger, frustration, love, lust, mercy, good feelings, bad feelings are all created and live here. This being also has access to memory, but if you think in terms of computers again – the kind of access this being has to memory is like ‘Solid State Hard Disk’. Meaning, it’s smaller but very powerful and doesn’t take much time to retrieve it. You will always be able to recall the feelings you had when you had your fist kiss. You don’t need to think about it. The outcome of this being in the external world is – Emotions.

4. Vibrational Being – This is the core of all. This being is what we actually are. At this level, nothing is different from the individual being. Everything and everyone is same when it comes to vibrational beings. This is the being that gets referred to as soul, atma, consciousness, Godness etc. This is who we all are. Unfortunately, there is no external representation of this being in the external world. How can it be? If everything is one, there is no external world at all. And that’s what causes a lot of confusion in our lives. This being is often mistaken as ‘Feelings being’ as that’s the closest to it, but they both are not one and the same.

All the practices we do in the name of religion, God, Spirituality are all pathways to realize or touch this vibrational being within us. Good deeds, Good thoughts, Meditation, Love etc are all a pathway to get access to this Vibrational being.

Well that’s theory, now how can you use this knowledge? If you look closely – Feelings are closest to this vibrational being and there is no other simple way to get access to it. Say, for example – you are looking for a new job. You would prepare your resume – that’s physical. You would prepare for the interview questions that’s mental. Various new age gurus suggest you to visualize the outcome, or feel the feelings. That’s true and correct. In addition to both physical & mental action – you need to be there feelings wise too. That’s how you land that job.

Feelings are the only way you can have access to the Vibrational being. Once you change the vibration of that being through a mix of Emotions, Thoughts & Actions – you will sync with whatever you are looking for in vibration. This sounds easy, but hard to do because – everything in our world happens at Physical & Mental level. So, many distractions and so much work to do. A part of it is also our beliefs which we hold them as true. We associate ourselves with the egoistic self-image we create of ourselves. It took us our lifetime to get here, and it will take some more time to get where we actually want to be. But, having a map of things always helps. This is my map which I use to look at things when I am in doubt. This is what bring me clarity to some extent.