Why Social Media Mindfulness Techniques don’t Work


I hear a lot of people saying, “Live in the present”. They chant it like a mantra, post it on LinkedIn and Facebook but don’t know what else to do with it. It is easy to get comments, likes and reactions from a desperate audience who applaud the poster as insightful but don’t practice it. The words “live in the present” have become another Fix (like alcohol, Netflix and serial dating), something intended to distract you from introspection.

We have mistaken distractions as happiness boosters.

Source: Image by 4144132 from Pixabay, Author’s Edits

Yes, for that moment, you are living in the present, you are reading that post, you are envisioning a vacation surrounded by mountains and whispering trees. But since I find people rarely thinking deeper about how to apply that statement in their daily lives, here is what I hope, a thought provoking guide, to understanding yourself and your present (consciousness) at a deeper level.

We live the present in two ways —

  • Externally (focusing on the things that surround us) and
  • Internally (watching and becoming conscious of our thoughts and behaviors).

Most cliched viral posts exploit the External aspect — they make you focus on a mountain or a stream and say it is the key to meditation and happiness. Since most people are not internally self-aware, they do not focus on the Internal aspect of living in the present — being aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions; understanding why you do things and changing yourself — thereby allowing yourself to grow.

It is easy to chant and meditate till you go mentally numb. But that is not living in the present. Meditation or being present or aware or consciously walking or any of these synonymous words are intended to help you understand yourself, not (1) numb yourself, or (2) shut out the world.

You don’t need a mountain, you don’t need a far-away resort, you don’t need a yoga mat. If you are really interested in understanding yourself, all you need is peace and quiet, which you can find in your bedroom, the nearest coffee shop or beside a dumpster (where no one hopefully objects).

The Cycle of Pain and Release

Growing up, I was a happy child. I am a happy man today, but that’s besides the point. Spiritually, as babies we are clean, we have no thoughts, no emotions…just needs. If our needs are fulfilled, we are content. If our needs are not fulfilled, we feel pain, BUT we are not unhappy. Babies do not know unhappiness, they know need, satisfaction and pain. But not sadness.

Pain is not sadness

We feel pain when we don’t get what we want mentally or emotionally. This has nothing to do with physical pain, or the BDSM industry wouldn’t be thriving today. Massages create pain, but the release of the hand pressing down our shoulders creates relief. We mistake this relief as pleasure.

When I say pain, I do not mean sharp jabs. Pain can also mean discomfort or unwanted stimuli (someone jabbering in your ear?).

We value release only because we experience pain.

Let’s talk about sex (in a humorous context). Arousal is confusion, frustration and madness. We tumble around as our mind shuts down all ‘non-essential’ activities like you know, taking care of your kids, food, homework, your job and so on. Your mind acts the same way it acts on an alcohol addict seeking just a sip.

  • It plays you tantalizing videos of your partner or fantasy
  • It tells you that you can’t work without getting this need fulfilled
  • You need to do something about it…right now

Pain is any feeling that overpowers your body to the extent that you are unable to choose what you wish to do. Pain is loss of control because one stimulus has taken complete control. The only way out of pain is relief. Or release.

Sex does not not make you ‘happy’. Sure it floods you with endorphins and dopamine…in other words, with pain medication and anti-depressants. It is the release we crave at the zenith of our needs, not happy cuddlies. We seek release from the temporary “depression” and “pain” we feel before sex, alcohol or drugs.

Release and relief from pain is not happiness. It is a cyclic trap.

Crashing Waves

Back to the baby. We feel sadder as we grow up because we learn (because we are taught) to divide what we get into good and bad. We learn to analyze the motivations of what is given to us. We become “educated” and socially “responsible”. We are taught that a good man or woman is one who constantly takes on the burdens of others around him or her.

When you are taught that the only way to “be happy” is by constantly solving other people’s burdens and sadness, we lose our personal power and identity. We lose our boundaries. We lose our peace.

You can’t be happy when society keeps teaching you to make others happy at the expense of yourself. You become like a candle struggling to stay alight in a constant gust of wind.

Society teaches us that

  • if you are happy with who you are, you are selfish
  • If you are unhappy with who you are, you are depressed and unstable
  • If you are half-happy with who you are while making others happy, you are a disappointment (or should work harder on your dreams)

There is no making society happy.

By celebrating and propagating this confusion, we are now in the clutches of an epidemic of discontent. Discontent is sadness. Give yourself permission to make yourself happy.

Do not harm, but make sure your candle is lit brightly before you light another. It is nice to say that “ a candle loses nothing by lighting another”. It is crazy if your candle (with a struggling flame) gets extinguished in the process of sharing its flame.

We have become like a person trapped alone at sea in the midst of a thunderstorm, buffeted by wave after wave. We have lost all sense of direction, of who we are. Sometimes, all we want is to get out of the cold…but more importantly to get onto land…dry, hard, stable land.

It is okay to want to be happy.

Escape

Living in the present requires two things:

Stop trying to control your mind and thoughts — it is okay to have thoughts about anything, yes seriously. Random curiosity about crime doesn’t make you a creep. Movie directors, cops and doctors think about it all the time. Accept your mind completely for what it is — just a thought generating machine. This was the premise of the movie: Minority Report.

Thinking about something doesn’t define or shame you, your actions do.

We have hundreds of thoughts and emotions every day, what you choose to act upon defines you — your thoughts are just options given to you by your mind.

The frustrated mother who thinks about strangling her screaming children in the middle of the night doesn’t do so. She gets up, cares for and nurtures them. Between the hundreds of thoughts you have and action you take, there is a space, a choice. That is where your soul decides what you need to act upon. That space — the entity that makes that choice is your true self. It shows you your true values. Your true self is hidden behind the noise of your thoughts and mind.

Your mind is noisy, but rarely makes good decisions. Your true self is silent, but takes decisions aligned with who you really are, at your deepest core.

Know your true self.

The next time you read a social media post on “enter the silence” or “60 days of meditation complete, Yay!” and wonder why it leaves you stone cold, you will know why.


Realizing your True Self- Understanding the Meaning of Surrender

One of the hardest or shall I say most difficult concepts to understand in spirituality is surrender.

Most people view surrender as just giving up their life’s duties and trusting it all to God or Life or Nature or the name they prefer for a higher power. Surrender is not abdication of your responsibilities. Which brings us to the next question- who are you responsible for? And equally importantly, who are you responsible to?

We are born with our bodies and minds. Some of us are born intelligent, some of us not so. I shall be straightforward here, but it takes intelligence to know you are intelligent, but a far greater intelligence to know you are not the most intelligent. Only an intelligent person can know how dumb he or she is, how little he/ she knows. It is therefore easy to get caught up in an appreciation of our intelligence, for who better can appreciate the vastness, diversity and uniqueness of our intelligence than ourselves? Some of us are given parents who constantly point out how intelligent we are, in school and college – this adds to our misconception that our intelligence is ours – that our intelligence belongs to us.

Let us go into this delusion further and see where it leads us.

Intelligence is not just about our minds but about our bodies too. A beautiful woman is born with a body that is ‘intelligent’ enough to realize the power of attractiveness. Her looks help open doors to jobs, relationships and networks that others may find more difficult to access. This is no less true for an intelligent man, but given the role of biology as it plays out, a man may likely create or pursue a persona of power, as compared to a persona of vulnerability and trust that a woman may pursue. Again, all of us are both male and female to varying extents and a woman can rely on her masculine side to obtain power as much as a man can rely on charm (his feminine side) to get ahead. So, we see that our bodies are intelligent too, not just our minds.

Our protagonists above are often ignorant of this fact and attribute this intelligence to themselves. They begin taking credit for all of their social and professional success and thanks to magazines that idolize success, social media that encourages likes and shares, this is not difficult. This goes on until they age. Death comes to us all, not just in bodily form (where we leave our bodies) but also to our minds (say we get Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s). Sometimes, our minds simply age, our memories begin to fade, our hands are not that steady any more, our skin begins to wrinkle. We rush to combat these through medication, Botox and any other boosters we can lay our hands on. But over time, skin that is Botoxed begins to harden into ugliness, minds that are ‘boosted’ through drugs begin to atrophy into rigidity.

Our creativity begins to decline, whether we fight death or not. The only difference is, when we do not fight death, our bodies and minds age gracefully – our bodies become softer and warmer to look at (our grandparents?), our minds become less ambitious and easier to live with once they are free of ambition. In short, surrender to death makes us beautiful, makes our journey worthwhile. Fighting death brings to the surface the ugliness that we so desperately seek to hide.

Does surrender to death make us less ugly, less unattractive? Hardly. Just as milk boils and releases cream, our bodies release beauty to balance our ugliness as we age. But putting a lid on boiling milk, we only cause spillage and a mess, and lose our appetite for the vey milk that we boil. Then we can ask, if we are boiling milk and see it as an analogy to aging and the fight against death, who is boiling us- our bodies and minds? We realize the presence of something outside us, or perhaps inside us that seems to have the master control over our lives. This realization is one part of surrender.

We can take this a step further – for if death is indeed releasing us from our bodies and minds by an act of God, surely the same God had attached us to our minds and bodies during birth. This takes us to the natural questions – what do we mean by ‘us’? What is this ‘us’ that our bodies and minds are being attached to at birth, and what is this ‘us’ that our bodies and minds are being detached from upon death? It is to be noted here that we see our minds as separate from ourselves, our we would never use phrases like ‘my mind is not working today’ or ‘my legs are troubling me lately’. Clearly, we subconsciously realize that is something else separate within us, beyond our bodies and minds, beyond our physical power and intellect. We can call this our soul, our deepest true self, our primal self.

Different religions make an attempt to describe this – Hinduism tries to help you realize the existence of your soul through renunciation – giving up possessions, wealth, eventually your food, air and the body itself. During this process, you come to realize that however much you give up, something inside you refuses to die – that is your soul. Christians are shown this path through Jesus dying on the cross – Jesus decided to show a path rather than giving too many steps like the Hindus – he has essentially said ‘Try out death for yourself, and you will see what doesn’t die’. Now, death here does not mean suicide, but the experiencing death in the form of loss of our families, relationships, jobs, careers, possessions and the like. Any loss feels like death – it pains us, rips our heart apart. As the Buddhists say, when something is dying, let it die. If your job is being taken away from you despite your best efforts, let go. If your marriage is failing despite all you are doing, let it go. Let things die around you.

When you let things die around you, you master death. For now, death instead of being a force acting against you becomes a tool that helps you wash away the old and ring in the new. Death is a shower; death is a bath with soap and shampoo after a day in the sewers. Death cleans you. You begin to make friends with Death, you embrace change.

You then realize, Death is not always available at your command. True- you can kill things on your own through divorce, a job resignation or a yard sale of unwanted property. But often, Death comes calling when you are not ready or have asked for it. Who has asked Death to come to you? Who decided you needed a shower for you were stinking from not having taken a bath for years? Just like you can’t control when it rains, you also can’t control when Death decides you need a cleansing shower. Death is God in disguise, cleansing you, closing doors you no longer need, opening doors you don’t have the courage or foresight to open on your own. Death is your best friend, and sometimes Birth (of the wrong relationships, jobs, families or friends) can be your worst enemy. You realize you trust Death. This is surrender.

We now reach the next level of questioning – how do I know what I should do, and what I should trust to God in the forms of Birth and Death? You will never know – think of God as your boss who never interferes in your work but allows you complete freedom to make a mess of things at the office. He/she steps in only when you are messing up in the wrong way. Messing things up is perfectly fine as we now understand, for if we are going off path, we experience corrections in our life by either getting things added to our life or removed from our life. So, if we need to allow God to be our boss, we need to allow things to be added or removed. Let us remember, Death is our best friend, not the friends we talk to everyday. If Death decides to remove our friends because you want to marry someone against their wishes, let it be. If Death decides to allow you to start your own company by sacking you from your job, let it be. Therefore, the only way Death can be our friend is through keeping our other relationships on earth ‘loose’. We call this detachment, best explained in Buddhism. Detachment is what helps us prioritize the main relationship in our life, with God, allowing him to do his work. God does his work anyway – the difference is whether you accept his (her) decisions with understanding or you accept his/ her decisions kicking and screaming. Accepting God’s decisions comes through understanding- this understanding reduces our suffering when Death comes knocking. This is surrender.

We now come to the final part of surrender. If we decide surrender is the only way to live, it becomes a religion and cult, rather than a philosophical guide. Our ultimate act should be surrendering surrender itself. Do not accept surrender as the true way, do not force others to surrender – instead surrender yourself to their lack of knowledge. Do not force yourself to accept or apply this article, you are free to surrender this article too.

Thus, as its final parting gift, surrender teaches you that the only person you can control, the only person you can make decisions for regarding surrender is yourself. No one else. By allowing you to surrender everything, including surrender itself, it leaves you with the greatest gift of all- complete, personal freedom of the soul.

Theatre Lessons: How to Censor Films, When your Mind is the Director

Gaining control. Moving from sanity to eccentricity.

The irony of our world is that none of us can control ourselves, yet we feel ourselves qualified to tell others that they are ‘out of control’. By understanding our mind as a theatre and ourselves as the audience (censor), we can move towards greater peace (of mind).

Image by Andreas Glöckner from Pixabay

Waking up to the theatre

Our mind is an organ — it produces thoughts. It gathers information, it processes that information from sensor-cameras on our skin, nose, tongue, eyes and ears and shows us an output. We call these outputs…thoughts. Thoughts are not true pictures of an incident, they are interpretations.

When a thought is ‘shown’ to us, it is no more than like a director presenting a proposal to the film censor board. You are the chairman of the censor board and you can choose to accept or reject your mind’s movie proposal:

  • If your mind senses an empty stomach, it will show you pictures of your favorite food, NOT your empty stomach. You have a choice to accept or reject this proposal. You can focus on driving your family to a hospital even when your mind tells you you’re hungry.
  • If your mind senses tiredness and a drop in hormones, it will show you pictures of your last vacation or an imaginary beach or mountain cabin. It makes you feel fresh air, it also makes you feel suffocated as you look at the room around you. This is your mind’s proposal to you- you can choose not to take a vacation. You can choose to continue working if you have a deadline.
  • If your mind senses threats, it will decide to show you images of you being attacked or chased, it will make you sweat a bit, raise your heartrate a bit. By giving you a 4D movie experience, it tries to convince you that you should be afraid and anxious. You can choose to accept or reject this proposal. Your mind can be silly and inefficient, and show you only threats like a dog that barks at everyone that passes. You can’t choose whether you watch your mind-movie (anxious thoughts) or not, but you can give the movie a rating of 1/5 and ask your mind to produce more realistic movies.

Your mind considers itself an Oscar-winning director. You will be happier when you realize 50% of its movies are mind-porn.

The rules of the ‘mind theatre’

There are a few rules of the mind theatre:

  • You are the only audience. No one else can see the movie (thoughts) you are seeing. Your thoughts are private.
  • If you react to the movie (accept the thought) and write a review (act upon your thought), people can read that review (your external behavior)
  • If you reject the movie idea (reject the thought proposal) and don’t write a review (don’t act), no one will ever know
  • You are free to reject hundreds of mind-movie ideas per minute. Some of us have minds that are good directors- they produce reasonable movies and show only a few per day. Some of our minds are porn directors- they use the same storyline and create crappy plots that lead to the same outcome (!!). Porn is fun, but hopefully you also like good quality movies.

Why we suffer from anxiety and other ‘disorders’

Anxiety occurs when you forget your job as a mind-movie censor board chairman and start reacting to mind-porn (like a normal audience member):

  • If you get angry with your mind-director, you will start writing bad reviews all the time. People will see you as unstable and crazy.
  • If you get too involved in your mind’s movies, people will see you as spaced out, ‘lost in thought’ or catatonic. It’s nice to get lost in the movie, but remember, you are there to approve or reject the movie, not react to it.
  • If you start enjoying your mind’s every movie (ex: a movie showing you how you should kill your enemies or take revenge on your attackers) without considering if the world outside will like or accept it, people will think you are a sociopath.

Think about the larger audience (external world) before you approve a movie. Some movies are to be rated RR (Really Restricted) and hidden away as not suitable for adults or children, only for very private viewings.

Remaining sane and gaining back control

The only way you can gain control over your mind is by doing your job as chairman of the mind censor board. The following is your job description:

  • This is a permanent post. You were appointed as chairman of the mind-censor board when you were born, and will remain in office till you die.
  • This is an unpaid job but a prestigious post. If you do your job well, people will respect you. If you fail, people will laugh at you. Sometimes, people will declare you mentally incompetent and shut down your theatre. If that happens, no one will watch your movies even if you approve them (act).
  • The only way you can do this job well is by enjoying it. There is no way to quit the job, so you may as well get down to liking it.
  • If you try to quit the job through suicide or self-harm, your sensor-cameras (skin, eyes, ears etc. may get damaged). With its cameras damaged, your mind will produce even worse movies! So, the only way you can make your job pleasant is by ensuring you are shown good quality movies by your mind. And the only way to ensure it produces reasonably good content is by taking care of yourself.

Moving from being just sane to being completely yourself

You move from being just sane to enjoying your life when you embrace your (mind’s) craziness. You are not an actor or the director. You are merely its audience albeit the censor board chairman.

It is possible to enjoy your job:

  • When you stop trying to drown the sound of the theatre using alcohol or drugs: These only make your mind-theatre temporarily stop production and bang on your head in the morning to compensate. Alcohol and drugs won’t switch off the theatre, they only bring in the really bad actors.
  • When you laugh at your mind’s silly movies …while grading them a Zero
  • When you realize you can’t switch off the projector and instead make yourself (and your soul’s butt) comfortable.

Watch out for the Phantom of the Opera

Sometimes, your mind has special viewings conducted after you are asleep or when you are not looking at the stage. These viewings are conducted by a phantom who lives in the bowels of the theatre. We know this phantom as our subconscious. If we don’t allow this phantom to perform, he may kidnap one of your lead actors and start controlling her (“Sing my angel!”, anyone?). So, when you spot the phantom, allow him to perform — you may find he has a good voice behind a strange face.


You have been given power over your mind’s theatre. You can use it and live life to the fullest, or you can reject it and suffer through life. To quote Lord Acton, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Your mind can’t handle such power — in order to maintain the peace of the world, it is best you create peace within your mind’s theatre. And the only way to do that is by using the power (of censorship and humor) that has been given to you.

8 Common Expressions of Frustration

And the secret spiritual meaning behind them

Hopefully, in a dictionary somewhere…

  • Antigen (n): A substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it
  • Anti-Zen (n): An article that sticks to your mind and helps produce antibodies against it
Photo by Indrajeet Choudhary on Unsplash

I was recently talking to a friend about some problems she was facing, and it became a deep discussion. We dived into new areas, explored ways of looking at things. All considered, it was an excellent psychoanalysis session (between friends). And then she said, “You are not a very emotional person, are you?”

I was flummoxed — I mean we had been discussing nothing but emotions for the last hour or two, but in an objective way. I told her that to even analyze emotions objectively, one had to feel emotions. She wasn’t convinced. She believed that to truly understand emotions, one had to sink into them.

When you sink into your thoughts and emotions, you lose control, flail around and drown, instead of floating on top in a boat. Our mind produces thoughts at random — you really can’t control your mind. It is just an organ, an instrument- a TV aerial capturing signals from all over the place. We should use our mind, not join its randomness.

I realized there are many other statements that we make in frustration, but provide secret advice when decoded (deep deep down)…

1. Have you lost your mind?

This made me reflect. “You” and “your mind” have to be separate, or you couldn’t lose your mind. You can only lose something you have. So if you have the ability to ‘lose’ your mind, it means you possess a mind in the first place.

‘Possessing’ means owning. It means ‘you’ are the ‘owner’, the mind is your ‘ownee’ or possession. When you act crazy, people think you have lost your mind. The logical conclusion is that when you are acting normal, your mind works as some kind of filter to keep the ‘crazy’ out.

Perhaps it is not a filter, but a prison… Perhaps the ‘crazy’ you is the real you. Perhaps your mind is like cocaine- keep sniffing enough of it, and you will be a ‘good boy or girl’ unable to put your thoughts together, unable to form your own opinions, unable to stand out from the crowd.

It seems very important to everyone that you not lose your mind. They want it to be safe with you. Keep it with you.

2. Put your thoughts together

Did I just say above, you would be ‘unable to put your thoughts together?’ This means there is a “putter’ who puts thoughts together and ‘thoughts’ that have to be joined by this person. This can only imply the thoughts are outside the person, or the person wouldn’t be able to play with the pieces.

You are not your thoughts — you may think of suicide, doesn’t mean you are suicidal. If you get an accidental dream of murdering someone, it doesn’t mean you are a murderer. If you dream of yourself having an affair, it doesn’t mean you want to (without going into dreams here). You are not your thoughts, you are the product of the thoughts you choose to follow.

Drinking or drugs basically turn off your ‘put my thoughts together’ switch. They destroy the connection — you press the button to weld ‘thought pieces’ together and it doesn’t work.

Your mind is free now…it can go where it wants and do anything. You can say “Hey, that wasn’t me— my mind acted on its own. I wasn’t even pushing the buttons to join thoughts in the right order, the plug wasn’t even connected!”. That is like allowing your cows to eat your neighbor’s grass, telling your neighbor that it is the cow’s fault, and getting surprised when you, the cow’s owner is asked to pay a fine. You own the cow- letting your cow free doesn’t release you from ownership.

You own your mind. Drinking or drugs don’t cancel your ‘mind ownership’ license — they only make you forget about the purchase contract (before you were born). So if your mind plays tricks on you, or if you drink and drive, your mind won’t get fined by the cops — you, its owner will.

3. You are out of your mind, dude!

Disagree with someone and they will say you are out of your mind. Clearly it means two things: (a) if you were ‘in’ your mind, you would have been okay with whatever they said, and (b) if you are ‘out’ of your mind, you are wrong.

Tell your parents or partner you want to become an artist and live on the streets, they will say you’re out of your mind. Clearly, without our mind, we are seen as rebels or crazy. Our mind helps us avoid such rebellious creative thoughts.

Our mind keeps us in check. Our mind is very important to those around us. When they are not around to control us, our minds will do the job (they have programmed it for us). So when we are ‘out of our minds’ we become uncontrollable and dangerous (to whom I wonder?).

Ask yourself this, do you want to be ‘IN your mind’ or be yourself?

4. My mind is driving me crazy!

You say this as you unwind at a bar or sauna after a long day of work. You wish your mind would stop zig-zagging around for a second. You find your thoughts have become erratic…not matching your speed at all. You find your‘self’ slower than your mind. Perhaps ‘you’ are not moving at all. Perhaps ‘you’ are still and your mind refuses to stop jumping around.

The mind is a very uncontrollable immature pet — always running in random directions. When it wants to run, it doesn’t care for your opinion. Ask it to stop and it will jump some more. Ignore it for a while and it will come sit at your feet.

Watch your thoughts, and do nothing. Don’t try to control anything. Your mind will follow your lead and lie still.

Surprisingly, the moment you need to start that very important project, it will refuse to move (!). Even our mind seems to have a mind of its own (😊 ). Which brings me to…

5. He never listens! He has a mind of his own!

When someone says this to you, they don’t want you to have your own mind. They want to own your mind.

This is as odd as your neighbor coming and telling you, “You like to have your own wife/ husband eh? You are so selfish”. It is odd that others constantly want your mind. The same people say they ‘don’t have your ear’, when you are not listening. Or ‘they want your hand’, when getting married. People like collecting parts of you for some inexplicable reason.

Once someone else has your mind, they can do things with it. Here’s a sample recipe:

  • They tell you you have a mind of your own. You surrender and give it up.
  • They powder 5mg of their ideas,
  • Add it to your mind in a steady pour,
  • Stir it slowly 4 times clockwise so you don’t notice, and
  • Watch as your remaining independent thoughts die away
  • They can now tell you what to do — they own your mind

If you don’t own your mind, someone else will.

6. Why are you roaming around mindlessly?

It’s a warm day, golden sunlight dappling the footpath. A woman with two dogs (perfectly groomed) strolls past you. Birds chirp above you. Trees wave lazily in the breeze. Cookie smells waft at you from the bakery. The buildings are friendly, your mood is light. You feel relaxed. This is the perfect setting for a rom-com movie. Ah, a beautiful day and a mindless soul.

Side note: Such is also the scene in many a horror movie, just before the tinkling music stops and the happy people turn into zombies.

But I digress…back to the weather. You feel like taking a walk. You feel free of worry, rid of all anxiety. You wonder about nothing- your job matters no more. You can handle anything. You roam mindlessly.

If you had roamed with your mind, you would never appreciated this wonderful day. If you had taken your mind with you, you would have felt heavy- hearted, ready to jump into the nearest fountain.

Many times, mindlessness implies recklessness. But sometimes, mindlessness can also mean freedom.

7. You blew my mind!

Which is what you might say when you encounter genius. Or the other extreme. Clearly after your mind has been blown away, you are still able to stand, surveying the wreckage of what was once your mind. You survived! A situation we should fear is often embraced with open arms.

You don’t need your mind to keep standing. You don’t your mind to be still.

8. (You should) be more mindful of others

Taught to children all over the world by well-meaning parents. They encourage you to fill up your mind with everyone else’s worries. You start as a child with an empty suitcase — then your mother may say, “Dear, pack your sister’s things in it too”. Your friends say, “Don’t you ever keep us in mind?”, so you pack them in too.

After a while, it becomes a heavy suitcase — filled with others’ thoughts but carried around by you. You have become their (mental) bell-boy (or girl). Life loses meaning and all lightness, but you don’t want to be selfish. You still own your mind, but you have rented all the rooms out.

How do you handle it? Learn to manage your mind-hotel. Rent out your rooms, but be firm with your tenants. Put up a sign, “Rights to admission reserved”. If your tenants play loud music, start changing your decorations or make trouble — throw them out.

You own your mind. Everyone else is there on rent, at your invitation.

Why we hate others telling us what to do

Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

People think I am a stubborn person. I do what I want. I like making decisions. I like following my emotions, explore my thought processes. I think they see me as a bone-headed grouchy guy (maybe not grouchy) who refuses to take inputs (not really true).

It took me years of introspection to break down why I hate this happening to me. And oh, by the way, introspection is not cool, unless you are doing it sitting in a cabin, caressed by cool mountain air, in a meditative pose thinking of nothing…introspection at home in front of a squeaky fan that provides you a bit of respite from the heat- not cool (or so people say).

The key issue? Power. Very specifically…personal power. People love toys- they can tell the toy what to do, how to move, when to stay. A toy does not talk back, it can be ignored when not needed.

Here’s the nub- a toy has no brain. It can’t think, it can’t feel, what you think and feel becomes what the toy does. Human beings are not toys. I am not, in any case.

I guess now I might receive a few gentle arguments about well-intentioned advice, not knowing what you are doing unless pointed out, etc. Well-intentioned advice works for a person ready to receive it. By all means we should offer advice, but advice that is not wanted becomes the ten commandments.

So, is there no hope for remediation and reform? Am I bound to a life of misery, stumbling into dark corners of mediocrity due to my low penchant for the pearls of wisdom that are generously scattered my way? Not really. And that is where the concept of freedom comes in.

People like advice that they seek. People are reading this article because they want to, not because I have rammed it down their throats in a claustrophobic party atmosphere. People need to give you permission to tell them what to do, to give their consent. If you are in a workplace, you have given explicit (and implicit) consent to your employers to give you feedback. If you are married, you have given your spouse consent to give you feedback (about things that affect them,). If you are a public servant, you have given the public consent to question you all they want.

The beautiful thing that people find it difficult to understand, is that advice is just that…advice. And you have the choice to follow it, or not…and embrace the consequences. You are free not to heed public opinion and find yourself looking for a new job. You are free to ignore feedback at work, and find yourself sidelined (at best).

But there is advice that you can safely, and should, ignore. Advice about your body, when you are old enough to decide your lifestyle. Advice about your emotions when you are mature enough to decide what you want to feel. Advice about your work from people who have little knowledge about what you do. It is good to learn new things, it is good to know all that you don’t know. You will never be old enough, mature enough or have enough grey hairs to know it all. That doesn’t mean others are any better.

All you need is to be mature enough to know how much you don’t know. All you need is to be mature enough to know who and what to listen to. But in the end, you and I should take our own advice.