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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obsessive Compulsive Restless Disorder …..


Thanks to one of my colleague who shared this link with me. This 90 minute clip made me realize / understand something which I always thought  I knew. This study was done by Christopher Chabris, Assistant professor of psychology at Union College in Schenectady, New York and i think its over a decade old. Watch this before you read the rest of the blog…

So, let me ask you the question. Did you see or was it “Invisible” to you too?

My understanding as 3 commandments as follows:

  • Thou shall realize that there a difference between looking and seeing.
  • Thou shall realize that attention / concentration is “Spacio-temporal” dependent. (which is in-turn dependent on our mental constitution. Our attention need not necessarily spread over the entire visual field - or everything you want to do.)
  • Thou shall realize that the mental blindness exists irrespective of whether it is intentional or unintentional.

Lets see another aspect of our mind.

Not so long ago (probably 20+ years back) I vividly remember my arguments with my dad (just like Aishwarya (my daughter) is doing now with me) that i can see TV and do my home work and be as efficient in both. There was superior sense of confidence / arrogance that we possess during our teen days that we are capable of multitasking with 100% efficiency and I am not sure what is the basis of this. May be this arrogance is rooted in the inherent nature of our mind - being restless, jumpy.

As I read few articles on how our mind works including on the topics of multitasking I am increasingly convinced that our mind’s ability to “Time share” itself between multiple activities is wrongly perceived as doing multiple things simultaneously. Its just like a computer CPU where the cycle speed is so fast that it appears as if we are handling 2 thing simultaneously. Most of the studies on multitasking seems to conclude with almost similar results. Some of them are as below:

  1. You can have a whole bunch of things to do and be thinking about all of them and switching among them, doing one at a time, and that's very different from trying to do two things at exactly the same time. The way our mind works, is designed to help us focus on one thing, and to filter out things that we don't care about.

  2. Mind slows down when it switches back and forth between tasks and hence Multi-tasking is less efficient.

  3. Multi-tasking is more complicated, and thus more prone to stress and errors.

Now if i just add the “Invisible Gorilla” phenomenon to the studies of multitasking, then it turns out:

  • Mind’s Spacio-temporal limitation is a serious one which is not realized fully by us.
  • Mind’s inherent nature to be jumpy and restless is falsely perceived as strength to multitask which again studies have proved its a “Time share” setting and not “Parallel processing”.

I observed the second phenomenon in some of the day today activities:

  • Our inability to listen to a song which is slower than our mental frequency.
  • If a driver is slower than the our driving speed in a highway, then it harasses us mentally. This I believe is a function of our nature of our mind which is more restless than the other person.
  • In either case if the other person is faster (fast music / driving) then we invariably pump out more adrenaline or end up with an headache.
  • Our compulsive disorder to be ever busy with our cell phones is a symptom and restlessness of our mind is the root cause of this.

Btw, i likes this link too called “Disconnect to Connect…”

There is no dearth of literature on the nature of human mind in our religious texts. Given my curiosity I looked back and stopped with just 2 / 3 quotes which succinctly sums up:

  1. The first is from Mahabharata where Lord Krishna says “Sanchalam hi Manah”… which means that the nature of the mind is wavering, confused and turbulence. This is also taken as the definition of Mind by its nature which is restlessness.
  2. The second is from the first lines of Patanjali Yoga Sutra which says “Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodah”… which means “that which ceases / removes the mental waves / turbulence is called Yoga”. This is how the great Sage Patanjali defines Yoga. A flavor of this reflecting in Bible too “Be still and know I am thy lord”. Most of our generation greatly believes that the physical postures of Asanas and Pranayama is all about Yoga. The funniest part is the commercialization of this with courses like Power Yoga and Face Yoga etc.
  3. But coming back to the third quote which I like the most since it is more colloquial and used in every day life is “Mind is a monkey”. In Tamil it is called as "மனம் ஒரு குரங்கு". This sums up and links the nature of monkey and mind. But i was also surprised that its just not only in Tamil but also in other Indian, Buddhist, Jain, Chinese and Japanese texts this comparison is reflecting in the same way.                                        

Quotes on Mind by Adi Shankaracharya, Osho and many others are “Mind” blowing. So what’s the point? Simply put, what has been known to us for ages is proven by modern day science through multiple studies and some of the visual tools like the “Invisible Gorilla” actually helped me to understand that.

Just as i am completing this blog, I am preparing myself for another argument with my daughter on another multitasking issue… watching TV and eating. As one wise man said “By the time we realize that our dad was right we have a kid who strongly believes that his / her dad isn’t.

The question I do have is “It has taken probably half my life time to understand this, which is about the same time it would have taken for my Dad too. If that is so, then how can we speed up this process of learning for the next generation?

The only solution for this seems to be that we should all be cured of the Obsessive Compulsive restless disorder of the mind. What if we are not even aware of this OCRD? Then its bliss!. As another wise man said, “Life is all about mind over matter. if you don’t mind, it does not matter”..


Yours mindfully,


Happy reading!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wisdom begins in wonder….


As Socrates said, “Wisdom begins in wonder”. This happens to be one of my favorite quotes. Our lives have become so mechanical that we often “Miss the trees for the woods…” unless we are fortunate enough to have a some one point it to us and we having the ability to realize it. I liked both the narrations below which i came across.

A woman bought a parrot to keep her company but returned it the next day. "This bird doesn't talk," she told the seller / owner.
"Does he have a mirror in his cage?" the seller asked. "Parrots love mirrors. They see their reflection and start a conversation."
The woman bought a mirror and left. The next day she returned; the bird still wasn't talking.
"How about a ladder? Parrots love ladders. A happy parrot is a talkative parrot."
The woman bought a ladder and left. But the next day, she was back.

"Does your parrot have a swing? No? Well, that's the problem. Once he starts swinging, he'll talk up a storm."
The woman reluctantly bought a swing and left. When she walked into the store the next day, her countenance had changed.
"The parrot died," she said.
The pet store owner was shocked. "I'm so sorry. Tell me, did he ever say a word?" he asked.
"Yes, right before he died," the woman replied. "In a weak voice, he asked me, 'Don't they sell any food at that pet store?'"

How often do we realize that some one else has “Missed the main thing but focused too much on the details. Its very rare that we observe this problem in ourselves but it is very easy to point this for others.

I also loved the following one which highlights that right contemplation shows reveals you the main thing…

Once there was a Sage who retired and was meditating in the mountains. He came across a very rare gem and realized that it is very valuable and priceless. Yet without much attachment he continued his meditation keeping the gem near his seat.

A traveler who was passing that way stopped by the sage’s hermit for a brief rest and recognized the valuable gem that is lying on the floor next to the sage.

Unable to contain his desire to possess it, he requested the sage if he can offer / gift that gem to him.

Without a flinch or tinge of hesitation the sage handed over the gem to the traveler and carried on with  his daily chores. The traveler took the gem and was walking down the mountain.

Through out his way down some thing was disturbing him and he was unable to figure out the nagging question that disturbed him. But something did.

As he reached the foot of the mountain, he suddenly realized what the nagging question was. He decided to walk up the mountain to meet the sage again.

As he reached the hermit he walked straight to the sage and handed over the gem to him. The sage was little surprised and asked him what the problem is?

The traveler told him that something was nagging him after he took the gem from you and was thinking hard through out my journey, way down and now i am clear about that.

The traveler continued that “ I realized that you had something more precious than the gem and i wanted to return the gem and request you to offer me the more precious one that is with you”

As the sage listened calmly the traveler continued…” O, great one, please give me that which is in you that made you give away this valuable gem to me without a flinch or a tinge of attachment”..

Again borrowing the immortal words of Socrates, “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing….”

Yours wonderingly…

Happy reading!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Marriage, Rope walking and Vertical growth…..


In ancient India a king sought to resolve a dispute between two of his ministers who wanted to marry the same woman. No wonder our bollywood movies still revolves around the same theme for long.

The easier way to settle this would have been to ask the lady we to who do you want to marry. Either one of them, both or none?

But since the matter was taken to the king, he told both of them to walk on a rope and whoever did so successfully, would win the hand of the woman. One minister spent a sleepless night worrying how he would be able to walk the tightrope. The other minister was very relaxed — he felt there was no point in getting agitated.

The minister who kept his cool emerged the winner, walking effortlessly on the rope. Asked to share his secret, he only said, ''I do not know''. To walk on the rope without losing one's balance involves being relaxed, always trying to balance, being in the present and more importantly willing to risk the act knowing the consequences. The same qualities are vital for the success of a marriage, too.

Many of those who are successfully married don’t realize that they have been growing vertically. But before i define what is vertical growth let me take a small detour ask this?

Why do sad people attract sad incidences in life? Why do happy people attract happy situations in life? (You may be interested to read this 2 part blog before you continue, )

Depending on what state of being we are, we attract situations. “Likes attract” is fast becoming one of my favorite quotes. So to change situations in our life we have to focus on heightening our state of being. 

Mullah Nazaruddin, while walking in the desert, saw a group of people riding horses. He thought they were robbers and started running. They turned out to be travelers. Seeing the Mullah running, the travelers thought he was in trouble — so they started going towards him.

Now the Mullah was convinced they were after him and he ran into a graveyard — the travelers followed him there. The tired Mullah lay down on one of the coffins. Then he realized they were not robbers but travelers. They asked him: "Why are you here?'' ''I am here because of you and you are here because of me'' answered the Mullah.

This is an aspect of Law of karma. In other words, we attract situations in life.

We often find ourselves in such situations aligned to our state of being. If our consciousness is not committed to transformation, then we will not grow wiser from situations, but complain and grumble, expecting the situation to be different.

The situation goes on repeating itself until we learn and grow. So how can we change our state of being?

"To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of the ignorant."

So to remove the ignorance we need to gather different perspectives and analyze them. In the world of materialistic superstition and growth addicted life style, its important to understand two types of growth: horizontal and vertical growth. Horizontal growth means more money, name, fame. Our minds are mostly confined to this dimension only.

The second type of growth is vertical growth. The yardstick for this is: Five years back how calm was I, and how calm am I now? The growth is measured in its depth and not in its width. The more one grows in love, kindness and compassion, the more one is truly growing. Such a growth is fulfilling. Growth happening in the vertical dimension changes one's state of being.

In order to grow vertically, one has to cultivate an easy breath, (which means body has to be supple and flexible), develop a cultivated sense of insensitivity to most of the day today problems (aka. எருமை மாடு மேல மழை பெய்யராபோல்) be balanced, and stay aware in the present. Life is fulfilling only with such a type of growth.

While vertical growth is purely a function of individual composition, marriage certainly acts a catalyst. Both successful in rope walking aka. married life (mostly) and poor / failed marriages (sometimes) helps one grow vertically which alters one’s state of being for the better. It does not matter which path we take as long as we are aware and move towards holistic internal growth…. 


Yours Rope walkingly,

Happy reading!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

SHIT: India’s framework for a goal directed behavior…


Hold on!…

Before you think that its derogatory on my part to belittle our ability lets understand what i mean by that.

We all are aware JIT – Just in time which is a Japanese inventory strategy to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process by maintaining optimal inventory and keep the associated carrying costs to the minimum. This revolves around the principle that incremental Inventory is a wasteful expense and aims to minimize the carrying costs.

What is India’s answer to this?

We are not a great manufacturing nation (some may disagree) but we seem to have a solid framework which can be adopted from manufacturing to large scale project management to traffic management to anything …. you name it.

SHIT stands for SOME HOW IN TIME. So you can heave a sign of relief now.

We need to understand that this is just a way to do things but a fine blend of attitude, technology (some times) and also a methodology to get where we want to much to the anxiety of many and “adrenalizing” / “Epinephrinizing”  the whole ecosystem.

Take for instance the way we drive around in our cities. If you have any doubts, check this out..

We seem to be living with a notion that we are the only ones on the road and have a constitutional right to cut lanes, nose ahead of another vehicle, drive in a wrong lane, pedestrian paths  or sneak through a red signal. Today i am not sure any of us measure distance between 2 places in cities in Kilometers any more. Its always measured in time. We mostly start late but reach in time. How? its based on SHIT framework.

Any large project management especially government driven projects reflect this. CWG is a classic example. The preparation for the CWG has been going on for almost 4 years and finally we completed the project and were ready 2 days before the start of games. In 48 months the only request was to complete it 30 days ahead which would have spared all the bad publicity and damage to image of the country. Yet we completed this using SHIT framework and were ready.

I should say that the overall event the opening ceremony, closing ceremony and especially the number of medals we won were very heartening. With 828 medals (272 Gold, 274 Silver and 282 Bronze) on stake we bagged 101 medals ,that’s a neat 12%. The most orgasmic and heartening of this all is the 2 medals we took in the athletics and 1 in table tennis. Agreed, if you are murmuring that China and Japan were not part of this. Still it was great to see the way Indians performed. Some of the winners had a rural back ground, very humble beginnings with no state support they have risen to world stage talks volumes about their drive and passion.

Since the event is now over, its time for the skeletons to tumble out of the cupboard in terms of the depth and scale of corruption and nepotism. I am wondering in a land where water is predominantly used to clean ourselves, how many Rs.4000/- toilet papers were used in CWG… Lets these facts (dis)grace us through the media and entertain us for some more time…

But coming back to the SHIT framework, do you think as a country we would learn something out of this and avoid those mistakes the next time. I would hesitate to vote on this that we would avoid this the next time. Why?

Since SHIT framework is just a symptom and the roots are on the following:

1. Deep rooted “Chalta” hai attitude.

2. Lack of accountability – anywhere and everywhere but more importantly

3. Our inability to take pride in what ever we are we  do which is part of our DNA for the last 300 years or so.

We can notice multiple flavors of this framework in our Public distribution System (PDS), {We are 67th out of 87 in hunger Index -  }

be it Civic management in our streets, flood and rain water management in all cities starting with Mumbai, and you can keep pointing to this framework in every walk of our life.

I am scarred sometimes that whether our DNA is embedded with this culture and keep wondering what the remedy is?

I can think of only one thing analogy…. “We Indians are like rockets. Only when our a** is on fire, shall we move”. While we agree that this true to some extent, i would be very disheartened if “Fire in the ass” is the only way out to perform.

Recently i heard Aparup Sengupta, my company MD, narrating this:

“3 people in a construction site were questioned as to what they are doing. The first one replied that he is cutting marbles for $5 an hour. The second one replied that I am constructing a building and getting paid $5 an hour. But the third one replied that i am creating a new city which shall stand here for ages. Incidentally the third guy is also getting paid $5/ hour.”

The answer for us actually lies in this. The very fact that we need to take pride in what we are doing is the panacea to get rid of this SHIT framework. I don’t how to imbibe that gene voluntarily. We may need a mutation in our genes to take pride in anything and everything we do…

May be we need a Change induced mutation… (This was blogged just after 26/11 and the effect of economic downturn was realized)

Till then


Happy reading!


1. If some one has wondered as to why I wrote CWG is a four letter word in my previous article, this blog would have answered it.

2. Lets also give a big thumbs up to all the people who were part of the CWG event organization and management. Our home minister for flawless security, Delhi administration which delivered the games with birth pangs but the event went off very smoothly, 1000s of volunteers and project staff who have been working for 4 + years now.