Knowing and Feeling

Knowing and Feeling

I was watching some show on BBC hosted by Stephen Fry (some quiz show; I forget the name now). In that particular episode, Stephen Fry shows an experiment enacted by the guests.

This is how the interesting experiment goes: There is a small divider and on one side is prosthetic hand and on the other side is the actual hand of the participant. The other participant is asked to stroke the prosthetic hand with a brush, gently at first and gradually increase the speed to brisk strokes. The participant whose prosthetic hand is being stroked is laughing and squirming, saying the prosthetic hand feels ticklish! Now, how can a prosthetic hand feel? That’s the question friends. The other participant suddenly hit the prosthetic hand and this guy let out yelp of pain! Although he knows fully well that the hand being hit is a prosthetic one, the feeling and response is somehow contradictory to the ‘knowing’! They felt pain is what they said. I have given the video link below; enjoy. My description will help you know, but the video clip increases the feel-factor!

I found it revealing at many levels. A simple experiment and yet it tells us so much about our mind, heart, and human psychology. The mind knows it should listen to the heart, it is the heart which is the seat of emotions, and it is the heart which feels, dictates our moods and emotional well-being; yet…the acknowledgement refuses to happen.

Another interesting, related observation was how the mind or our psyche refuses to acknowledge the core! What do we notice most often when we look at our wrist watches or even the wall clocks? The hands of the clock, because that’s what tells us the time, right? what else would you notice? When you are shopping for a clock, maybe you will check out the shape and colour of the outer frame, but that’s about it. We seldom pay attention to the centre, the small pin that holds these 3 needles in place. The clock is a clock because of that miniscule, yet pivotal centre pin that holds the hands, isn’t it? Yet, most of us never bother to pay attention or give it a second glance. It is there, and is taken for granted; that’s about it. Similarly, from the time we are born (hour 0) to the time we are near death or are almost near 0 again, having completed the circle; our life, heart, and breath is something most of us take for granted. Only if we have palpitation do we run to the doctor in a tizzy. Otherwise, as long as our heart is beating, we are knowingly willing to stretch it to its optimal best output.

A counselee used to incessantly ask me how she could alleviate her stress levels and what she could do to lead a calmer life. Her routine was not hectic per se, but with her advancing years, she wanted to give some time to herself. She knew she was drinking a little too much, smoking maybe a cigarette or two more than necessary. She knew she should hit the gym, walk a little. She kept on ranting about all that she knew that needed a bit of trimming and changing. But, she was yet to feel the need to change and whatever suggestions I offered for her to implement or ruminate over fell on deaf ears. She would come and regurgitate her frustrations. I barely managed to wedge in a word or two and those too would boomerang anyway. I would dread her next visit.

After a short hiatus, she reached out and said she was diagnosed with throat cancer. She was desolate, did not know what to do, and wanted to pay me a visit. I wondered what help I could offer or what solace she would receive from me.

Surprisingly, she herself asked me to make a regimen for her; starting with a diet, exercises, and the whole gamut! I was pleasantly surprised. We sat together and chalked out a daily, weekly, and monthly plan for her. We diligently did this for a month and she followed it to the T, never missing a single item on the schedule. No surprises, she recovered and lead a very healthy life, saw her children settle down in life and played with grandkids too.

We remained in touch via mails. Recently, I received a mail from her saying she had succumbed to the dreaded malady for the second time. She recalled the first time and reminisced about the alacrity with which she had bounced back to a nicotine free, disciplined life. I wrote back to her saying, ‘You know what to do, you beat it once, you can beat it again. Start implementing your prior regimen immediately. I am here to help you, always’.

She did not mail after that and I had to call to enquire. She was not cheerful, but not worried sick either. She sounded sad and kind of resigned. What had changed? She was afraid both then and now. She still wanted to recover and be healthy again. Everything was apparently the same and yet, she did not want to make those imperative changes. She knew whatever was likely to happen with her; her mind would tell her all the pros and cons, and yet, the healing did not happen! She went for chemotherapy and radiation as prescribed but was not inclined to quit smoking and would not deprive herself of her evening elixir. I tried my best to instil a sense of urgency so she could heal totally and find a reason for her to live a healthy life, completely rid of the malaise. But I failed. She had capitulated to that truth. The will to live was less in comparison to her need to indulge in these small pleasures which made her feel temporarily happy. She passed away before her third chemo.

This happened long ago. But, that episode on BBC, and then the clock anecdote somehow brought this lady’s image to the fore. This whole connection of knowing and feeling penetrated me. It’s the feeling or the emotion which we experience that has the possibility of bringing a change. Only knowing is futile. The mind always finds some logic and all our knowing is rationalised and negated or ignored; whereas feeling evokes a response.






‘Keep asking yourself; ’My future comes from where my time goes; so, where should my time go?’ :Mahatria Ra.

The above question is borrowed from the book ‘Most and More’ and another set of three questions the author posed for daily introspection are, 1. ‘Am I doing justice to my potential? 2.Year after year, in how many more lives am I becoming useful? and 3. Day by day, am I living my life in ways by which I am moving closer and closer to my God?’ Needless to say, the book is replete with wisdom and plenteous food for thought. I am forever cursing these learned people and their sermons; because I can neither leave them nor live by them cent percent!

The above question stood out because of it was not the typical run -of the mill question that I read in most self-help books. ‘Go with the flow’.’ Don’t resist’. ‘Things happen as they are meant to happen.’ This is the gist of all that most learned people have to say. They ask you to introspect, meditate, know your goal, rather broad – spectrum stuff.  But, here this person was asking me to track my time on a daily basis, because my life ahead depended on it. Today, I am on the doorstep of half a century and I am oblivious as to where my time went, (I was going with flow, remember?!) and where it is going to go. So, how do I aspire for a future for which I have no plan in place.  

All this learning I gently transfer to our son, in the hope that something will register, and he will have lesser hurdles on his life-path. He dabbles in everything (like me) loses interest before he has mastered it completely (partially excelling is the same as mastering, like me, again!) and he is already in search of something more exciting, challenging (unfortunately, again, like me). That brings me to the title, ‘dilettante’.  A single word, 10 alphabets in all and yet, it aptly describes me!  English Cambridge Dictionary gives the meaning for this word as: ‘A person who is or seems to be interested in a subject, but whose understanding of it is not very deep or serious’.

 A trivial example is a new app; ‘HABITICA’ which our son downloaded and egged us on to follow suit. Like with everything new, my daughter and I excitedly downloaded the app and set our goals, dailies, to-do’s and reminders.  First few days we called and messaged each other to keep a tab on our progress, Gold earned, levels crossed etc. The first one to slip was me, I could not make head or tail of the challenges, and the tasks I had assigned for myself seemed more like pseudo challenges, I succeeded every time, that became a bore. Our son suggested that I increase the difficulty level; but I had already lost interest and I noticed that the very next day our daughter forgot to update and that was that. Our son fell sick and he was forced to discontinue for a week.

So, in a span of 3 weeks we had downloaded an app, tried to inculcate a good habit and also had given up on it, that was the speed with which the habit made an entry and exit from our lives. This is a very inconsequential matter; the sadder revelation was that this was a recurring issue!  It was not just ‘Habitica’; many other activities (learn a new language, Skating, Keyboard) we had started everything with aplomb and dropped them with equal panache’.

This search for something new, this craving for the excitement has led us to have a very small threshold for patience, and sustenance. Mahatria writes; “Under the pretext of wanting to avoid boredom, monotony and repetition, using the context of change, variety and versatility and variation, you guys don’t stick to anything long enough.  When a seed stays rooted in the soil long enough it will develop roots and eventually grown into a tree. However, if I keep unearthing the seed every few days, and keep re-plating it in different places, it will not even become a plant.”

Another fable with the same moral is, a man dug 15meters deep in search of water, and upon some other person’s suggestion, tried his luck at some other spot. Like this he dug 15meter deep holes at some 20 places with no sign of water. A wise man smiled and said, “If you had listened to your heart alone, and not to every passer- by, you would have continued digging in one place and struck gold by now.”

This ‘gold-fish attention span syndrome’ is ubiquitous.  Rarely do we find a person who pursues his or her dreams and see them come to fruition. Rarer still is a person who waits and deliberates long enough to realise what exactly is their dream, every passing fancy is a temporary dream, half accomplished and cast aside. We have this fancy to be Jack of all trades, and have no patience to become ‘master in one’. Every child today is taught music, dance, some instrument, a marital art, some sport, drawing and all this is apart for regular school. We, as parent are as unsure as our parents were (about us) I think, we don’t know what choices the child may finally make and we want to cram everything, in tit -bits so that the child can pick up anything! And the bizarre irony though is that most children go ahead and pick nothing that they have already had a brush with; they seek something new! So, again all that half -baked knowledge, half -hearted attempts finally go down the drain to be replaced by some new fancy which has piqued the kids interest, temporarily.

“If you feel it is a repetition then you are not growing through that experience. Only when you stagnate, you start viewing experiences as repetition. …. The mind needs variety. It thrives on new circus.  A time for everything and everything in its time; that’s what discipline is all about and it absolutely suits the body. But the mind feels suffocated by such monotony. “what is the point if today is just a repetition of yesterday?” the mind wonders. So, the mind pulls you into undisciplined indulgence. Th every desire of the mind to get away from monotony draws us towards intoxication.  The internal drama due to intoxication is entertaining to the mind, and thus it eggs us on towards more forms of intoxication.”

 “Expertise comes with time, but you need to stick to the job long enough, precision come with time, but one has to follow the process long enough; perfection comes with time, but we are happy with superficial excellence.” So, I reiterate, where is your time going? Because, your future goes where your time goes’.

Life is not about what you do, it is about the quality you bring to everything you do. 

Self- Imprisoned

Self- Imprisoned

‘If we are not progressing, it is because we create problems inside ourselves, by ourselves, for ourselves.’ -Shri. P. Rajgopalachari

A decade ago if anyone mentioned the word ‘Meditation’ and started to explain the need for meditation, I would have scoffed; looked incredulously at the speaker and walked away. In this day of rush, competition and buzz, who is foolish enough to meditate? Moreover, who has the time or luxury to sit for meditation? Instead of wasting an hour sitting with their eyes closed and building sand castles in the name of meditation; a wise person can achieve some other tangible, productive goal.

Today, for every ailment, physical or emotional, the only panacea that comes to my mind is ‘meditation’. On the surface of it, I am very much the same person; I am still studying books on psychology, albeit the reading has now shifted from pure Behavioral Psychology to psychology and the role it plays in Spirituality. I still practiced counseling; work as an online behavioral therapist; yet my suggestions have changed. Earlier I used to suggest some therapy, now all I can recommend, talk about, suggest or advise is ‘Please experience Meditation’. I seem to have forgotten all else, no therapy comes to mind!

Any ailment I have; psychological or physical, I resort to meditation. I need to know the reason as to why it happened, the psychology behind the physical manifestation of the problem and then alone do I accede to proper medication. Somehow meditation answers everything for me, it gives me all the options, throws light on the path and I feel enabled because of this awareness. Knowing myself is possible only through meditation and unless I try to ‘know’ I remain stagnant.

I wonder if this is not the same thought that crosses every mind? Don’t all of us seek to ‘know’ and after knowing, should we not try to ‘change’ or attempt to become a better person? I find it strange that anyone would deliberately shy away from meditation. Why do we resist change, what is our fear?

 ‘The root fear is the fear of death, namely the fear of psychological death, or the death of ego.

The root fear, not being mastered, manifests itself in a quantity of secondary fears: fear of others, fear of liberation and even of course, fear of love, of the Real love of the Master, since it is going to consume us…

Another way of saying the same thing is to consider the desire to retain desires as the main cause of our ambivalence and our resistance to change…’ (Psychology and its role in Spirituality- Ferdinand Wulliemier)

A few years ago my sentiments matched verbatim with the author. I was unwilling to relinquish my Self. I used to see my life as a utopian one. where was the reason to change such a life? My complaints were many and for every complaint my search for a solution would start afresh. If it was a physical problem visit the doctor, if it was an emotional one then simmer in it and blame the world, and how unjust the world is. After a few days of such simmering and moaning I would compare my situation with some less fortunate person (according to my myopic understanding) and get back to feeling happy. Today, I realize that I resisted change because I had imprisoned myself. All my battles were momentary and situation based. With lapse of time or some external adjustment the situation changed and I presumed (very incorrectly) that all was well again. The change never happened. It remained a cyclical state.

 I thought I had it had all. Because, any outsider who saw me and the life I lived, continue to live; would say it was, is, hunky -dory.  With everything in my favor, my persistent feel was one of dissatisfaction. I did not feel perfect nor did I feel I was competent and complete. When the complaints are from others we can ignore them. We can bring to the fore a few extra flaws in that person and pacify ourselves. It is easy to find fault in others. It is easier to overlook our own faults and compare ourselves with others and feel good. The problem starts when the self begins to complain. That’s when knocking on doors outside of the self, for answers, becomes futile.  Something kept nagging, I continuously kept facing some physical aberration or the other which made me wonder and dig deep within.

Meditation introduced me to this ‘dig deep within’ and thankfully I am able to feel more ‘free’ and ‘self-aware’. I still am self -imprisoned, yet to break free totally, especially in the emotional attachment and ‘expectation from others’ category. But, meditation has made me aware of the simple fact that: ‘If I refuse to face you in my inside, I have to face you outside’ – P Rajagopalachari.

This sentence glares at me every time I feel intolerant, irritated, simmer with anger. Such feelings get actualized with some relationship issues or some physical ailment surfaces. This inner discontentment with the self reflects on the outside and triggers conflicts with family and friends or some health issue escalates and I am forced to confront my ‘inside’.

I meditate and learn that my discontentment with my inside is not a valid reason to misbehave with others outside. If my inside is resolved and I am brave enough to ‘know’ and tackle my inside, then the outside takes care of itself. So, as long as I refuse to face my inside, I will be forced to face it on the outside.

I need to get rid of this self -imprisonment, to be ‘free’ in the real sense.  And the prison is mine, so the first conscious step and the remaining journey too, the initiative to break free of these shackles needs to stem from me, and me alone.