Brain Time.

1 Comment

There are occasions when time seems to fly and other occasions which seem an eternity. Our experience of time-speed has to do seemingly with the direction of our attention, i.e. is it directed on the present experience, or a present expectation, or on what went before, or is it reminiscing the distant past or making plans for the future? And then again, is the attention focused, or is it distracted or preoccupied. The experience of slowing time is a consequence of a non-wandering attention focused on a present (not distant) expectation. Anybody who has been in an automobile accident will tell you that what must have been barely a second or two appears a great deal longer and it is like watching a scene enfolding before you in slow motion before you come back to normal time-speed. More commonplace examples of time slowing would be, for instance, when you need to urinate most urgently and the bathroom is in use, or when you are watching milk boil, or when you encounter an unfamiliar setting or situation and are alert and on your guard. On the other hand, time speeds up when you are utterly immersed in the present as in when you are engrossed with an undivided attention in work or when you are in the arms of your partner with no yearning or concern for nothing.

Advertisements

Reality v. Perception.

1 Comment

Experience is everything – it might even be questioned if something is actually out there or is only experienced as such. Perception is how we experience the world. It is the narrative that we superimpose on all that is happening around us and the personal reality that we construct. The mind is a bundle of thousands of interacting neural circuitry that collectively give rise to perception. Therefore a mind that is wired differently (and each mind is) experiences or encounters a different world. Even something as basic as vision and hearing is what the individual mind makes of vibrations that the eyes and ears sense. For instance, a number of neural circuits receive input from the retina in both eyes and collectively manufacture or put together a picture on the screen of consciousness. There are circuits responsible for giving depth, for colour, brightness levels, for filling in spaces, to give continuity, another turns the image the right-side up, and so on. There are then other neural programs at work – that look through the memory store, that recognize and distinguish, that place a name and words to describe it, that make comparisons and give perspective, etc. Furthermore there are then related memories, the individual’s situation and training, his likes and fears, and so on that are superimposed on the world picture.

There is always the intervention of mind and we deal only with perceptions. Each person is holding a different world in his head. Therefore it is essential to empathize and understand as to why an individual thinks or acts in a particular manner rather than be straight-off judgmental. Especially where perceptions are vastly different, communication and comprehending the other’s viewpoint can often be difficult and such opposed perceptions on a large-scale, as between people of different cultures, can sometimes become a source for conflict.

Directing Your Attention.

Leave a comment

The mind is all the time running, jumping from one subject to another. You notice or hear or are reflecting on something and like a search engine at work, all kinds of recollections, knowledge you’ve acquired, that which you’ve read or seen, as well as other things or events associated with it come to mind. Your thoughts are just an interaction or linking of all of these. And then the mind picks-up something else and again the same process ensues and so on and so forth. Some thoughts are ludicrous, some immoral and therefore we dismiss them. Others like fear do harm if we stay with them for long.  What is important to note however is that whereas you might not be in command of your thoughts, you do have power over the attention that you give them. Besides, it is this attention that gives a thought strength. Furthermore, moment to moment, at any moment only a single thing or matter can hold your attention. For example, divert your attention and you become oblivious to the pain you were feeling. Or you are anxious about something and then some other concern crops up and the former dissipates.

Don’t attend to pessimistic or depressing thoughts. On the other hand make time for and give your attention to and savour the countless little things that hold possibility for happiness. It could be something as basic as – lying a little longer in bed after you wake up, taking a hot shower, sipping on ginger-tea, watching a downpour, a sattvic meal, driving your automobile on a scenic road, a foot massage following a tiring day, or a back rub as you fall asleep.

The Illusion Of Free-Will.

1 Comment

A scorpion asked a tortoise to take him across a river. The tortoise refused fearing for his life. The scorpion reasoned – ‘I will not harm you. If I do so, I too will perish.’ Persuaded by the reasonableness of the argument, the tortoise consented and allowed the scorpion to mount onto its back. Halfway across the river the scorpion stings the tortoise. ‘Why did you do it,’ asked the tortoise, ‘now you too will drown.’ ‘Because it is my nature to sting,’ the scorpion answered.

****

The mind is all the time recording. Some of this information is recent or better organized and more accessible; some flagged, the incident having left a strong impression. The other thing the mind is doing is to constantly refer back to this databank and to make comparisons and connections. Recurring thought patterns show up as predispositions and pondering on a subject for long allows the mind to make other less straightforward connections. In addition the effect of thoughts on brain chemistry (and then the nervous-system and the body) is experienced as emotions.

All this being the case, in a situation, were all the variables (accumulated memories, beliefs and emotions) and their impacting intensity known, theoretically it ought to be possible to predict the approach and conclusions of a particular mind. The will then is not free, it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect. What is more we are not mindful of the source of our thoughts or the mind mechanism and hence the illusion of free-will. Then again, a newborn has inclinations. Where do these originate from? Impressions from past incarnations perhaps! A Hindu twist to the above anecdote would be that the scorpion was born as such because of its penchant to sting.

Who Am I?

2 Comments

Saints of all religions, from every region, in all period of our history have declared that you are not the body (or even mind) but Spirit. However our experience tells us otherwise and we believe that when the body dies we too cease to exist. Why do we identify with the body? We feel this way for two reasons. Firstly, the body carries the senses and you experience only that which is within their reach. Secondly, there is a buildup of memories and experiences since birth that gives us a sense of continuity and of being this person.

Unlike every other organ of the body the brain is not developed at birth. It is just a mass of brain cells, a hundred billion of them each capable of linking to tens of thousand other cells. Their connections and circuitry is made subsequently in infancy by way and as a result of early experience and inputs received from the senses of the outside world. For instance, the brain receives sensation from the skin and forms a body-map that is then henceforth unconsciously referred back to. In this manner the brains gets wired for vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste; and then language. Language is crucial – without words there is no thinking.

The mind is constantly receiving from the senses and recording and putting words to that which has its attention. The other thing the mind is doing is to constantly refer back to this data-bank and make comparisons and connections which cause thoughts to arise. This referring back moreover gives a sense of unity and continuity. Another outcome of this buildup and referring back is the creation in your mind of the illusion of this person (with memories and desires)…. the thinker with which you read and form every thought. Before long you get the impression that there is somebody who is thinking your thoughts, somebody who is feeling your feelings.

Here is the body – I am this body – there is that or this – it is such and such – it is this wise or otherwise – this is good and I must have it – this is not so and let it leave me – my age is such and such – these are my relatives and these my friends – this is our house – creed and caste and duties – gods and men and creatures – this is my country – this is the tradition, and so on. Except all of this; this idea of this person; is only an accumulation from birth of sensory data and of thoughts and their interactions. You were there previous to this buildup. You’ve created this person (of mind-stuff) and lost sight of the Self.

Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree, intimate friends, the ego and the Self dwell in the same body. The former eats the sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life while the latter looks on in detachment. As long as we think we are the ego, we feel attached and fall into sorrow. But realize that you are the Self and you will be freed from sorrow. – Mundaka Upanishad