Monday, 27 June 2016

The Extraordinary Gift of the Mind:Part-6

by Vladimir Kush

Continued from Part-5

17.    Creativity

The Experiencing results in novelty, or creation, which the Mind can detect and express. This is the creative power of the Mind. As such the Mind cannot create, it merely organizes the experiences. That itself can be seen as a creative ability, but it is a result of auto-processes like the Fundamental Process. The Mind discovers novelty, understands beauty, produces combinations of old and new, and sometimes whimsical distortions which appear novel.

Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there's no particular virtue in doing things the way they always have been done.
- Rudolf Flesch

Some people are exceptionally good at it. Such as, the artists in the areas of fine arts. Some amazing examples of creativity are seen in the areas of science and technology, where the creative ability is also useful in addition to being beautiful. Creativity is closely linked with aesthetic ability, so a creation not only needs to be novel but also beautiful and elegant. The ability of being creative and original is recognized as primary in order to gain material success. One can be successful in worldly pursuits via hard work and drudgery or can be a little creative and need not work much. So we see that creativity is a major component of intelligence.


What is the secret of being creative? Keen observation. Once again, it requires good mastery over attention. If one is attentive, one can observe things very closely. Detailed observation allows one to isolate the novelty and the factors that are responsible for beauty. A painter perceives the world and people around him in a different way than ordinary people. He is more aware of the shapes/colors, light and shade, perspectives and angles etc. So does a photographer. A musician perceives sounds in extraordinary detail. An actor views the actions and expressions of others very keenly. It all starts with observation, which provides enough content to the Mind to work with. The Mind, like a sponge, absorbs all it can, and incorporates the perceptions into imagination. It can manipulate them, isolate beautiful elements, accentuate them, derive the essence, leave out the details, do various permutations and combinations with other perceptions and imagination, and so on. Creativity is a complex process.

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity”
– Charles Mingus

Expression of creativity is an aspect of it, and involves skill, and often very hard work. Some people are very creative, but are lazy. Some people are very hard working, but not so creative. It takes a perfect balance to get most out of creative ability. If one works very hard, creativity suffers, as the Mind does not get peaceful time to engage in its creative process. If one spends too much time creating in the Mind, he cannot express it well. Creation often happens within seconds, its expression may take months !

In my experience, the more skills one learns, more creative one becomes. Learning skills from different disciplines works best. Interdisciplinary expressions are most creative. Studying other creative people works well, as long as one doesn’t get too much inspired and ends up copying others. Copying is a good skill and is needed in the beginning, but later it is the originality that counts. The key is to not to copy blindly, but to learn the essence of someone else’s creativity, what makes them creative. If you copy their tricks for being creative, and not their work, then the chances of your being original increase. It also helps to take a break from the run of a mill life and be adventurous. Travel, meeting new people and tasting new food helps in case you are a writer, actor or a cook. As with other abilities of the Mind, creativity grows with experience.

“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation” – Voltaire

In the path of the knowledge, the most important thing is having ample time for oneself. Being creative helps in organizing one’s life so that minimal time is spent in taking care of one’s basic needs and relations. It helps to be not a 9 am – 5 pm slave, it helps to keep the relations to a minimum, and it also helps to be creative in ways you perform day to day tasks. Sometimes, the most creative ideas come when one is very quiet, deep in meditation or pondering over novel things, unusual things, asking strange questions etc. If one is a keen observer, curious and can devote a lot of time to oneself, creativity comes naturally.

18.    Curiosity

Curiosity is a characteristic of the Mind, rather than an ability. Mind being an organizer of the experience, seeks to complete the knowledge structures naturally. If it finds a hole in the knowledge, or a piece of knowledge that links to nowhere (generates no understanding), the Mind naturally intends to fill the hole and complete the understanding. This intention to know is expressed as curiosity.

A missing piece of knowledge is responsible for generation of a Question. If one has no knowledge at all regarding something, no questions can be asked. A partial knowledge leads to a question, nothing else. A proper experience leads to an answer – the completion of the structure of the knowledge, nothing else. The desire to do this, an intense intention, is curiosity. If one lacks this desire, one is slow in learning new things, understanding things, and that results in a less intelligent person.

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
 - Albert Einstein

So we see the direct link of the trait of curiosity with intelligence, and also with the amount of knowledge one has. An extremely intelligent person is also extremely curious. Such a person is full of questions, not because he can’t understand, but because he is insatiable regarding knowledge, he always wants more. Questioning everything is the key to being curious, most often seen in children, as they are eager to fill up the gaps in their knowledge. The curiosity reduces with age, and we see old people naturally asking less and less questions, naturally settling down with whatever they know, not desiring to know more or learn more. A curious person never grows old, he is always like a child.

It should be obvious that in the path of the knowledge, not being curious does not help. A passionate seeker is not merely curious, he deliberately hunts for the gaps in his knowledge, finds the answers and closes them down. Asks a million questions, longs for new experiences. Uses logical ability and critical thinking to perfect the knowledge and strives for a better understanding. Such people progress very fast. It all starts with intense interest and curiosity.

Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.
- Voltaire

The question is – if one is not curious about it all, can something be done about it? I think, no. I know of no tricks to make a dull person more curious, the only thing I know is, curiosity has a direct link to the interest one has in a subject or a path. So if you are not interested enough, you will not be curious about it, you don’t have any desire to know more. If you are not interested in it, nothing can be done, you don’t want to do it, it is not your path, find something else to do. If you are in the grips of suffering, it may mean that you are not very interested in ending it, or have no clue how to end it, you take your suffering as necessity. Many people say such things – life is suffering. They have never questioned it, they are not very interested, and they are not curious enough. Such a person is usually in the trap of strong beliefs. More suffering usually awaits such people, it continues to grow till they get up and do something about it.

When your wanting to know something is so Intense that you are willing to die for it, then knowing is not far away.
- Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

19.    Thinking

Thinking is a broad term denoting mental activity involving intention, imagination, recall, creativity, planning and so on. Whatever is going on in the Mind at the moment is thinking, roughly speaking. When the body is idle or situations demand less attention than usual, when there are no actions to perform, thinking takes over an ordinary Mind. The Mind begins to process whatever experiences it went through recently, or distant past or anticipates future actions/situations. This is the default state of the Mind. The activity may involve sensory contents, imagination or recall, and most of the time the activity results in a conclusion – a Thought (aka an idea).

Forest Thinking by J. R. Slattum
Although many kinds of contents are responsible for origination of a thought, it is usually expressed as language. The thought is abstracted as concepts and these concepts are linked together to form a meaningful structure, that can be communicated easily – the Language. So the language is an agreed upon protocol of communication of thoughts among us. A really great ability...

Less frequently, the thoughts are expressed in pictorial formats, such as drawings, paintings, diagrams, graphs, flow charts, sculptures etc. But for now, we will concentrate on the verbal or written expression of thoughts. The Mind comes up with a thought and goes ahead one step and structures it into language, as a habit. One may not act on the thought or may not express it vocally or in writing, but most of us do form thoughts into language and rehearse the expression in our imagination. This activity is the familiar Monologue or, in simple terms - talking to oneself. Also known as internal dialogue, it is the main occupation of a waking Mind throughout the day. It starts a few minutes after waking up and continues non-stop till a few minutes after falling asleep. There is some thinking that takes place even in sleep state. This is usually random and incoherent, and one can experience it if one gets up suddenly from sleep and attends to the mental activity immediately. Thinking and formation of thoughts is mostly an automatic activity and an untrained person usually has no control over what thoughts his Mind produces. But as with other mental activity, the person owns the thought anyway, and the thought is perceived as “my thought” after it has already occurred.

Young children and simple people (e.g. tribals) do not have much of monologue. Their language abilities are either not well developed or their lifestyle does not involve too much communication and planning. It may not mean that their Minds are mostly silent, it only means that the internal verbalization is rarely present. Mental activity rarely stops, and by definition, thinking rarely stops, so the production of thoughts never stops, except in certain situations. These situations involve an absolute attention on the task at hand, or a surprising situation, intense fear or emergency. These situations halt the thought process, and for a few moments one “forgets” to think. This also happens when a sportsman is performing at his best, or an artist is expressing at his best, as full attention and mental resources are demanded for it. Thinking also stops when one becomes intensely aware or conscious of it. It soon restarts as auto-programs take over and they restart default mental activity, the silence can last for a few seconds to few minutes for most of us.

Thinking is an extremely important ability, but can be easily overused. There is generally no need to verbalise the thoughts internally. The verbalisation takes up major part of the thinking, the abstract thought appears instantly. So when there is no need to speak or express it, monologue is a waste of time, energy and mental resources. Those who avoid monologue think very fast, arrive at decisions very quickly and are generally more efficient and intelligent. Over thinking can become a major source of suffering, especially when the content is negative (such as hate towards someone or self-pity), so it becomes necessary to intervene and break the train of thoughts consciously in such situations.

Thoughts become actions eventually, and actions produce consequences. Here we arrive at an important point – the conscious thinking. If one wishes to have a certain kind of consequences, namely the pleasant ones resulting in happiness and freedom, one needs to choose one’s actions correctly, and since, actions are a result of thought, one needs to choose one’s thoughts correctly. Thoughts are the seeds from which deliberate actions are born. Normally, actions are a result of programs and intentions, but the latter are not deliberate, or no simulations are made of the consequences of such actions. Thinking differs from intending in this matter, that one can think about the consequences of an action and form thoughts about them. If one becomes very conscious of these thoughts, one gets a choice to act on them or to not act, or postpone the action. There….this is the most important choice one has – to act or not to act on a thought.

What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.

- Buddha (563 BC-483 BC)

Actions decides our life. They can either lead us to a life full of happiness, freedom and achievements of our highest potentials, or they can make us fall into misery, suffering and pain. Actions are a result of thought, and so what we think we become.

For many of us, the actions performed via Speech and writing are the ones that decide our lives, in modern times. If we take writing as a form of speech, then speech becomes the most important act that we perform. All relations start with a conversation. What we speak decides the fate of the relation. Our speech determines if a relation will turn into a lifelong friendship or nasty enmity. Speech determines what kind of bond we form with our life partner or lover. Speech determines our social position, our “social image”. Usually people ignore what we do and pay more attention to what we say (that is unfortunate, but that is my experience, look at the politicians). Speech determines whether people will trust us, so integrity of the speech is most important in social life. Those who tell lies, eventually lose trust and lose beneficial relationships. Even if a person is cunning or a criminal, his success is determined by the trust he gains from his partners in the crime. Telling truth works irrespective of the quality of the actions one performs. True friendships are based on trust gained via telling the truths, however shameful or private or inconvenient it is. A true friend will accept you as you are, provided you are open to him and speak your mind, instead of manipulating your image and putting on a fake personality.

Writing solidifies the speech, and it becomes undeniable. Once your thoughts/intentions are in writing you become even more responsible for them. So it is even more important to ponder before you write something down, it has immense consequences. A multi-million business deal starts with writing (usually with meeting and speaking, but is not confirmed till it is written down). A contract with a sign has a value that mere speech or verbal commitment has not. A marriage is a contract and it means much more than a relation. Signing a cheque means you will own something and make a payment for it, speaking about it has no effect. Writing down something is the most important action that our thought can produce. Needless to say, it must be done with diligence and consciously. Writing has bigger consequences than mere speaking, and decides the major turning points in our lives.

We see a lot many people who speak something and do something else entirely. They have lost connection between their actions and their thoughts. They have turned into thinking zombies. Thinking without consciousness and acting without thinking is the norm, surprise, surprise ! No wonder the world is such a messy place, here no one knows what they are thinking and what they are doing. Incorrect thinking causes great harms, such as wars, murders, hate, misunderstandings, failed projects, material losses and failed relations. Unwise thinking is the root cause of major suffering.

 If a man sits down to think, he is immediately asked if he has a headache.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
How to think correctly then? Finally a million dollar question. It is a long topic, but the short answer is – become aware of what you are thinking. Our thoughts are mostly not in our control, we cannot choose to think a particular thought. Thoughts are based on mental activity that is a result of our experiences. A thought can range from totally random to harmful to useful and positive. All kinds of thoughts appear and disappear in a given day. Some of them turn into action. This is the point where a conscious intervention is needed, and is possible (that’s the good news). Before acting, pause and think, think more about your thought, why it has appeared, what intentions and what programs are behind it, what situations are causing it and last but not the least, what consequences will be there if you act on it. Analyze it logically, does it make sense, is it coherent, is it reasonable? Simulate the consequences, are they logical? Think about the alternatives, are there any? Ah, that’s a lot of work there, no wonder people don’t do it and skip to the action instead, in a lazy dazey way.

If we pause and become aware of our thoughts, we learn many things – about ourselves. This is the key to self-improvement. Engaging our minds before our tongues and hands gives us an opportunity to drive the choice towards an optimal action. We always get a choice, when we become aware, we will see many choices, one of them is going to produce the best long term consequence, choose that.

Doing this always (at least for more important actions) steers our lives progressively towards betterment, which is toward more happiness and freedom. If you don't do this consciously, you are performing random Brownian motion in your life, and the law of impermanence will show up at your door and hand you a parcel of suffering. When faced with a choice between happiness and freedom, choose freedom, because happiness is a result of freedom.

I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.

- John Locke (1632-1704)

In the path of knowledge, thinking takes a bigger dimension. The above tricks are nothing compared to what one must do in order to progress in that path as far as thinking and thoughts are concerned. Thinking is generally a hindrance when one is introspecting or meditating. Once a thought gets hold of you, it is a distraction and takes you to a place you don’t intend to go – a place away from the Self. A thought is a leash that pulls the Mind towards activity, actions, pleasures and pains, it tries to push the Mind into worldly pursuits instead of assisting in surrender. For a seeker, thoughts are a sensitive issue because even when no actions are performed based on a particular thought, it still causes Internal Actions, which result in internal consequences. So the situation for a seeker is much more complex compared to an ordinary person who is simply trying to avoid incorrect actions in the world.

Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don't realize this because almost everyone is suffering from it, so it is considered normal. This incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.
 - Eckhart Tolle

For example, a program, a desire can conjure up a long train of thoughts and result in fantasy, planning, wanting and doing, even though nothing was done externally using the organs of action. It still causes entrainment of related structures, it makes them stronger. Instead of that program or desire getting attenuated, it is accentuated. This causes the same thought to repeat often again and again, and if entertained for a long time, it forms a solid structure, a nuisance, that tempts the seeker into unnecessary action.  Such actions/thoughts delay our progress, and in worse situations make one regress. So when you are on the path of knowledge, thinking is as good as acting. Please see the immensity of it.

Peace of Mind is the absence of unnecessary thoughts. One should not think of getting total rid of thoughts. Survival demands action and action demand thinking, so only a dead person can afford a totally silent Mind. Thoughts cannot be stopped, one can only become aware of them, then discard them, disown them. This aborts unnecessary action. This clears Mind from internal consequences caused by internal actions. For a seeker it is a piece of cake to avoid incorrect external actions, but the internal ones are a headache. A master lives his life so skilfully that it appears like a miracle to the outsiders afflicted by incorrect thinking, beliefs and actions. His life is effortless, flows gently, mostly free from ups and downs. Not too much pleasure, not too much pain. He causes no consequences most of the time. He walks on air, producing least amount of disturbance in the surroundings. He is invisible as far as his actions are considered. Well that’s an ideal image. For an ordinary seeker the internal action is an issue, which leads to external actions easily. It is a struggle to keep the Mind in check and to avoid the internal actions. It is a 24x7 task.

Our life is frittered away by detail . . . simplify, simplify.
- Henry David Thoreau

How to achieve peace of Mind? Big subject ! Here are some tricks that I find useful. Thoughts start with a distraction, not attending to them and keeping one’s attention to other useful things helps a lot. Our good friend attention makes another appearance here. What can some good attention not do. It is a must. Cut the thought at its root by recognizing that it appeared out of a distraction. The distraction can be internal, such as, a sexual desire, need to do something because of boredom or any of such million things. It is easy to throw away the external distractions (such as a TV), but it takes discipline and practice to tame the internal ones. Being aware of them is the key. Once you become aware of them, you can choose what to do about them, else they simply drive you to wherever they are going.

It is relatively easy to get rid of negative thoughts, they produce tiny sufferings, unpleasant tastes in the Mind, ugliness in the structures, etc and the Mind itself will assist you in getting rid of them. It is the pleasant thoughts that are more challenging, because the Mind wants to hold on to them, but they are as much as distraction as unpleasant ones. Its a tricky business, but one can be aware of them via proper practice, and discard, disown them just like any other thought. Do not take immediate action, if a thought appears extraordinarily pleasant. It must go through the same process of thinking like any other thought. There are some subtle thoughts that will convince you of taking actions, such as the ones that ask you to donate and serve and do greater good, and what not. Be aware of them too, they too have consequences, that's all I can say for now. 

Contents are the food for thought. A thought is nourished by the contents we take in. Depriving the Mind from unnecessary contents works well. This is like fasting for the Mind (Pratyahar). Take only that which you need from the surroundings. Avoiding visiting distracting places, which enhance rogue desires, avoiding people who fill you up with unnecessary content (gossip), and avoiding situations where you are forced to think all the time about totally disgusting stuff (your job, may be?), living in solitude most of the time, in the lap of mother nature, among animals and birds, engaging in good reading, Satsang, being in the company of wise and silent people, and probably many such undertakings help to reduce the onslaught of contents on your Mind.

I know, most of us can only dream of such luxury, and most of us live in compromising situations, faced with survival related struggles, negative and noisy people, pushy bosses and nagging relatives. This should make one even more willing to correct one's thinking process and not let oneself to be dragged along the situations. Do not be on mercy of others, create your own situations as much as possible. The fastest way is to get out of the negative situations, and yes, these include the very pleasant heavenly situations too, they are negative too, they bind you as much as the ugly ones. 

Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.
- Dalai Lama

It is unnecessary and undesirable to reduce your Mind into a rock by subjecting it to severe punishment of not thinking. Such practices dull the Mind, you lose intelligence. Remember that you do not want to kill thinking for once and for all, you simply want to avoid it from going rogue and causing hindrances on your path. It is recommended to think intensely whenever there is a need, think logically and carefully, think without biases. This sharpens the thinking and one needs less and less of it with practice, since now a less amount of thinking can accomplish the task better. Avoiding monologues (long ones) when not needed, makes the thinking even faster. Thinking while simultaneously being aware of it, makes it less prone to mistakes, as one can see when a thought arises out of a program or a belief, or when it is based on a loose logical foundation. This cuts down the time to think considerably. When one is absorbed in Self, thoughts can still arise, nothing to worry, simply see them as happening, Experiencing on the screen of the Presence, of which you are the witness, you are the Self that sees all thoughts.

Enlightenment means rising above thought, not falling back to a level below thought, the level of an animal or a plant. In the enlightened state, you still use your thinking mind when needed, but in a much more focused and effective way than before.
- Eckhart Tolle



There are no notes here. This is not a mistake. Finally I wrote an article without going tangent and without distracting myself with notey things.
By the way, this note about there being no notes is a note. So we have a note that says it is not a note. It is like a poster on a wall that asks you to not stick posters there.
Incidentally these two strange occurrences are examples of the things that refer to themselves. I asked that question in our discussion about logic. My Mind came up with these two by random chance or perhaps it processed the questions deep inside it. How awesome the Minds are!

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