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July 19, 2005

B � A � L � A � N � C - E

Srini said that he just won a significant contract and was struggling to handle the excitement. He had to repeat to himself �samatvam, samatvam, samatvam� (equanimity).

Seema asked what would happen to the joy of excitement if one tries to control it. Shouldn�t we let ourselves experience the spontaneous surge of joy?

I mentioned that psychologists talk about a behavior called �delayed reward�, which is �forgoing a more immediate, less preferred outcome so as to attain a more preferred outcome at a future time� Anyone who practices delayed reward exhibits greater self-control - says an article in the Journal of General Psychology.

Experience tells us that getting excited too much leads to thoughts and actions that are not right for the current reality. Srini knows this and that is why he had to repeat �samatvam� to himself. But as Seema said, for an untrained person, samatvam alone may not be enough because it brings down the excitement and leaves an emotional gap. What might work better (until one has mastered samatvam) is, in addition to practicing samatvam, one could also postpone the excitement to a more real situation in the future (completion of the contract and getting paid, for example) � in other words, to practice delayed reward. If that particular outcome does happen, then hopefully by that time, the practice of samatvam would have matured enough to help experience the right level of excitement.

Vijay gave another example of delayed reward from the physical domain: complex carbohydrates. Because the molecular structure of complex carbohydrates is more complicated, the body cannot metabolize them (convert them) into energy as quickly as simple carbs (except fructose). This means complex carbs raise blood glucose levels more slowly (source: carb-information.com).

Jags said that it is interesting to observe that most human thoughts and actions are directed towards seeking either more or less of something (more money, less illness etc). Could we break away from this �more or less� syndrome?

Srini said that it is attachment to desire that makes us want instant gratification in everything we do. He then described what happens to a person who is attached to desire from Gita:

dhyayato visayan pumsah
sangas tesupajayate
sangat sanjayate kamah
kamat krodho 'bhijayate
krodhad bhavati sammohah
sammohat smrti-vibhramah
smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso
buddhi-nasat pranasyati


While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool (source: asitis.com)

It is while writing this I notice that there is a theme in all our points: Balance.

Could we have the right level of excitement? Could we eat the right kind of food? Could we not keep seeking more and more or less and less and give and take only what is appropriate for a given time? Could we practice equanimity and be true to ourselves, others and the situation we are in at any given time?

Manju said that sometimes for the sake of others, one might choose to lie or not tell the entire truth. From a relationship point of view, this may be appropriate but a lie is still a lie. So how could we balance between the need to tell a lie and being honest?

Semma added to it by saying that sometimes we may have to downplay a good news about oneself so as to not come across as boastful.

Vijay said that when people write their resumes to apply for a job, they consolidate all their good abilities and achievements and completely censor all their weaknesses and failings.

We talked about how we stereotype everyone all the time and how from an efficiency point of view, stereotyping is very useful (otherwise one will have to spend a lot of time researching every person we come across in our lives to make a decision about that person).

I quoted a statement that seems to be true in many cases, �Good/Nice guys finish last.�

In all these cases, the question is, �How can we fulfill the need of a situation in a way that is good for (preferably) everyone and yet be truthful and honest?�

While thinking about this, one thing stood out for me: Concepts like truth, honesty, good etc are as relative as concepts like false, lie and bad. Therefore, the balance one wants to achieve is every moment has to be a dynamic balance � a balance that is freshly created in that moment with all that we�ve got. And practices like samatvam and delayed reward could help our self-growth and make us more capable of creating the dynamic balance.

Anyone knows any other practice that could help increase our capacity for dynamic balance?

Posted by Ragu at July 19, 2005 11:50 AM

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