Think. Reflect. Change.

Think: Our ability to ‘think’ is truly an evolved ability. However it is an activity that many of us rarely, if at all, indulge in. Many of us keep shifting from one activity to another, we are rushed in our offices, and we are rushed at our homes that we hardly think.

Many of us in our busy lives, typically take a break from thinking. In fact it should be the other way around. We should be taking a break from our busy lives, and think!

We could dwell on our experiences in the past, we could look deeply into our successes and our problems in the present, or we could imagine a wonderful future.

We really need to think to get anywhere in life. Otherwise we would just be automatons. The need to think is truly critical in one’s life.

Reflect: Humans have the unique ability to mentally assess and evaluate things. As we dwell on the things on our actions, motives, hopes or desires the mind can consciously determine whether it is right, wrong, prudent or stupid. The need to reflect on our past actions and the motive behind it is really important as it help us to understand what drives us, what impels us to do better or to do worse. It is not enough to just think, but we need to also reflect. This will enable to perform key course corrections in our life.

Change: So there is dire need to think. Our thoughts must then be accompanied by reflection. And finally we need to change the way we do things. If we just react to external events then we are equivalent to robots or computers which have a direct mapping from input to output.

When we reflect deeply on what caused our anger, what drove us to perform well in a particular assignment, what irritated us about a particular person, what our deepest desires are, we will begin understand some of the key triggers in ourselves.

Once we understand this we can make a conscious effort to control our emotions, to perform even better or moderate our desires more appropriately. We need to change. We need think, reflect and rewire our brains so that we become a better person. We need to become more smarter in the way we handle things.

So … think, reflect and change.

Mechanics of the Mind

In life, we are constantly buffeted by winds of joy and sorrow. We are pushed in different directions by our minds. Both sorrow and happiness are just two extremes. When we are sad our minds are pushed to a negative low. If we give free rein to our minds then we get thoughts that tend to magnify our worries and sorrows. The mind cooks new doomsday scenarios. Joy is just another extreme. We are pushed into a positive high. While joy is welcome too much of it is also quite dangerous. While we can sit back and enjoy the ride when we are happy we should not get too carried away. Otherwise, the world takes on a nice pink hue and we fail to see the world for what it really is. After all joy also is just a state of mind.

What is more appropriate is to maintain a sense of mental equilibrium regardless of whether we feel pain or happiness. There has to be s certain sense of detachment towards our mental states. This way we will not feel let down when our positive high ebbs.

Our minds can be likened to cotton candy machine. In the cotton candy machine we put in sugar and coloring material into sugar bowl into the bottom. The spinning cotton candy machine coupled with the intense heat produces wooly candy. Similarly our hopes, desires, wishes or fears are the ingredients to the mind which is constantly spinning. The mind creates thoughts from our innermost feelings and wishes. If we tend to be afraid thee mind will automatically generate fearful thoughts and create situations which will produce more anxiety. Similarly when are tend to gloat over our successes the mind throws thoughts which try to substantiate the feelings of pride. We soon tend to go overboard with thoughts of our own self-importance.

However our minds are truly remarkable instruments and can serve us immensely if we understand the mechanics of the mind. When we are faced with a tough problem in life we can throw this problem into the cotton candy maker of the mind. After we spend an adequate amount of time wrestling with the problem we can just park the problem in our candy maker. Given some time the mind will continue to spin and work the problem out on its own. Similarly if we are interested in any creative activity like writing, playing an instrument or painting the mind is truly capable of real creativity. We however have to teach our brains by practicing the skill we are interested in. Buried deep in the recesses of our brain are our neatly organized ideas, rules coupled with innumerable associations and correlations of what is good and what is beautiful. The spinning mind can constantly throw up new and interesting combinations.

If we put in the right ingredients and ideas into our candy maker and let our mind do what it does best we will have truly discovered the fount of creativity.

Thought in Action

What is the structure of thought? Are thoughts made up of words? Superficially it may appear that all thinking is verbal. But on a closer reflection we realize that we really only verbalize when we are not able to focus on something well. We try to go slowly over the situation or event in words. Moreover if we analyze a little deeper we realize that we really don’t think in words.

For e.g. the word ‘spring’ can bring to our minds different thoughts depending on the context in which it is uttered. For e.g. when it the word spring is used while discussing the weather we immediately imagine the season spring. When we say that a person has a ‘spring’ in his step, we can easily visualize the person who is light footed and agile. Similarly the word spring can also being images of a coiled spring. So we don’t really think in terms of words.  The next question is “do we think in terms of images or pictures?” Again there are times when we think in terms of images. But this is not a static image. Thinking when accompanied by images is usually dynamic and changing.

According to earlier psychological thought it was felt that the right hemisphere of the brain was creative, intuitive and artistic while the left hemisphere was analytical, rational and logical. Nowadays the thinking about how the brain processes information has undergone a sea-change. The prevalent notion these days is that the left hemisphere sees the world in sequential and ordered series of steps. On the contrary the right hemisphere is able to analyze a problem or a situation in parallel. The right hemisphere is able to view the situation holistically and intuitively.

In my opinion, our mind “works all at once”. When we are really in deep thought trying to solve a tricky problem or trying to analyze a difficult situation, our thoughts comprehend the conundrum “all at once”. Our brains attack the problem in many ways. It could attack the problem from the “outside-in” or “inside-out”. It could again be attempting to solve with a “top-down” approach or a “bottom-up” approach.

We really don’t know what is thought. The closest we can get to the thought process is to understand in terms of an executing computer program which operates on a set of data. While current programs execute sequentially the mind works in a combination of sequential and a holistic way. There are no known such real world implementations that mimic the thought activity of the brain.  Recently IBM has come up with a cognitive computer which tries to mimic the interactions between clusters of neurons. This is very primitive and probably is the first attempt to mimic the brain. We are still miles away from understanding the structure of thought.

Till that time we can only think on “how we think”.

Frozen thoughts – Part 6

My thoughts …

It will be nice if we get a parking ticket when we dwell too long on negative thoughts, anger, desire,hatred or petty jealousies.

We just see what our self-adorned blinkers allows us to see.

When the mind controls thoughts we are aware of the result of anger,desire, hatred etc.Being aware of the process dissipates these emotions.

Our value system is the axis around which our character revolves.

Why is that man prefers to dwell on failures, disappointments & frustrations as opposed to cherishing little victories, joys & blessings.

Sprinkle your plans with common sense and practicality.

Deference is fine. Servility is not.

Frozen thoughts – Part 5

My thoughts …

True growth happens only when there is growth in professional, personal, social and spiritual spheres.

Values are guiding stars in the journey of life.

Look inside to see better outside.

We are all wealthy in a way. We all carry a wealth of individual experiences.

Don’t regret the past and worry about the future. Rather learn from the past and plan for the future.

Worrying binds you in chains.Active living sets you free.

To learn is to grow, to grow is to live

If you don’t know what to do, do what you don’t know.

All creativity springs from hard practice.

Settle for common sense.

The grand design of creation

If only we stop reflect on this world that we inhabit with all living and non-living things we are bound to experience a sense of wonder at the grand scheme of things. We are bound to come away with the sense of awe at the plethora of flora and fauna all co-existing in a large circle of life.

Clearly the design of the Creator must have been impeccable. According to physics the world started with one big bang. At this instant the whole of creation was one big primordial soup.  In this instant – time, space, life and all living things were created. There must have been really a grand design in this living nucleus of creation which resulted in this multitude of flora and fauna. This seed from which emanated the universe with billions of heavenly bodies and the millions of species of every kind must have embodied within it a truly brilliant blueprint. The blueprint would have had within it the laws of physics of the stars, planets and satellites. For all the species of the world the design would have included in it the fact the all living things would be composed of a digestive systems, reproductive systems and sense organs.

However the conception for Man would have been the Creator’s real piece-de-resistance. The blueprint for Man, besides having the necessary make up of the sense organs, digestive and reproductive systems would have also included far more abstract and a grander design. Man was to be endowed with faculties of the mind, intellect and intuition.  Man was also to experience a myriad of emotions from love, kindness, hatred, jealousy, envy, greed and so on. God laid down the laws of human interaction and the laws of cause and effect.

So in the moment of singularity when this primordial soup with the concentration of matter and condensed energy exploded at the instant of the big bang the universe with all the living beings was created. The blueprint of the Creator created all living and non-living things. The true masterpiece was Mankind.

This design of the Creator is truly magnificent and so we are here.

Frozen thoughts – Part 1

My random thoughts on various things …

Past imperfect? present tense…future indefinite.

Learn to live. Live to learn.

The map for your future lies in your past.

We are all wearing colored glasses. That is why we never see eye to eye on anything.

Why is that when your right hand is doing something you have take something from your right pocket.

Temper your temper.

Dive deep into the oceans of the past. Pearls of wisdom are bound to be buried in the sands of time.

The present always gives us a blank check. Write yourself a handsome amount.

The world is full of wise people. Children.

What drives us?

What is that drives us to do things that we do in our daily lives? Our immediate response to this is that is desire or want. But what is behind desire? A little thought to this will make clear the fact that is memory. Memory is the faculty that drives us to do different things.

The Pavlovian experiment of conditioned reflexes is a fine example. In this experiment a dog is given a tidbit after a bell is rung. This repeated over several days. After a few days the animal is conditioned that it salivates merely on hearing the ringing of the bell. The reason clearly is that it has memory of a juicy morsel immediately following the ringing of the bell. Hence it is this memory that causes an involuntary reaction.

Human memory is far more complex and much more subtle. We have long term and short term memories. Our memories are not just a storehouse of facts but can store even more complex things like feeling, emotion, taste etc. If somebody insulted we are able to recollect the humiliation many years later. Similarly if we succeed in some activity, then we can still feel the glow of success anytime we recall the event.

We store our experiences in life as memories. Memories are the raw material for our thoughts. In other words thoughts are the product of our memories. For example when we desire to buy a new car, or buy a new house the motivation behind this is the memory of the comfort and envious looks we may get from our friends. When we angry with someone it because the words or actions of the other person rankle in our memories.

Unfortunately we cannot rid ourselves of our memories. The more we try to forget something the more it tends to stay with us. What we really need to do is to focus our minds on our memories, and understand what is behind all those memories and reason out with it.

We need to essentially store new memories bases on our reasoning and judgement on what is right. This way we will always be on the right track