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July 25, 2006

Living a perfect and detached song

Lauren started the session with a quote:

�To the extent one knows god, one becomes god.�

Srini started the check-in. He said that he is discovering that meditation or silence slows down time for him. He said that when many things are going on, being silent for a few minutes makes a big difference to how he proceeds with his tasks. He said that what he does after the silence, while it seems to be slow, actually gets done on time.

I shared a quote by Einstein:

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity."

The kind of time that Einstein talks about in the quote is called �psychological time� � time as it is perceived by a person in a given situation. This is different from �physical time� � time as it is measured by looking at a clock.

We could say the same about space too � psychological space and physical space.

Time and space are �apparatus of perception� and not real entities (as defined by Kant � more here). If the very apparatus of perception itself is experienced subjectively (which means relatively), then surely we need to seriously question the widespread practice of valuing objective entities (say, $20) more than subjective experiences (say, a smile).

Lauren said that sometimes she feels that her life is not real and the observer who is noticing it is the only reality. At other times, she said, everything in a moment feels very real and all sorts of emotions come into play.

Jay said that there is not only a psychological time but also psychological action � activities that we indulge in that give us the satisfaction of doing something while we ignore what is really important.

Examples of such activities are: frequently checking emails, formatting a document before finishing it, attending many meetings, defending ones point of view beyond its usefulness etc.

Seema said that in her experience in practicing music, many times she is bored. But found that unless she stays in the practice long enough through the boring parts, she cannot reach the really enjoyable parts of the practice.

She also said that she just started experimenting with whether it is possible to stay focused on practicing music 24 hours a day regardless of what she is doing throughout the day. That is, she wants to keep the spirit of music in her consciousness even if she is eating or cleaning or reading.

Perhaps one way to do this is to apply some of the principles of practicing music throughout the day: Loving what you do, yielding to the natural pace and rhythm of a task, appreciating silence, repeating for perfection, enormous patience�

This kind of lifestyle could have significant impact on the few hours of actual music practice I guess.

View here a poster I made: Seven Musical Principles for Life. Whoever is interested could print it out and stick in their bedroom and wake up to it every morning (download in hi-res here).

I said that I want to use language (in talking, writing etc) more in service of real actions instead of using it for pure �about talk� � that is talk that conceptually points to some reality without linking it to any action.

Vijay said that he was affected by the recent bomb blasts in Mumbai to some extent. But then, he said, he doesn�t know what to do about it because such events are peripheral to his life.

Manju said that her need to belong to a family, a group, a community etc is at once both fulfilling and limiting. It is fulfilling because a large part of her identity is made of her family and community. It is limiting because the capacity to relate to and contribute to a larger world is greater than what one could build from within a narrow identity.

Jay said that one cannot totally eliminate belonging and the way to overcome the limitations of ones belonging is to expand ones identity by choosing to belong to a larger circle.

It looks like if one keeps longing for more life from a narrow identity, one could never be happy.

Seema asked, �If belonging limits us, we should be detached. But how could one be detached and yet be involved (belong) with ones family and friends?

Prasad said that being detached is not the same as being indifferent. To be detached is to have a choice to engage or disengage with a person, family, friends, colleagues and tasks. This kind of involvement is called detached attachment � a form of engagement where the actor retains the choice to continue the engagement or end it at any time. It is this freedom that enables a person to not get caught up and be limited by ones job, family, friends and community and be ready and open to whoever or whatever might show up in his or her life from outside his or her identity.

Lauren said that she used to identify with her emotions a lot and become those emotions and be limited by them (that is, if she is angry, her choices of actions are limited to those related to anger).

She said that over time, she has learned that there is no such thing called �my anger�, �my fear� etc. These emotions are like a river that has been running from long ago in the past and is running through us now and will run beyond us into the future. The moment we identify ourselves with any emotion, we have no choice but to get carried away by it. But if we recognize this and allow the emotions to pass through us without getting attached to them (detached attachment), then we would have lived with them without being limited by them.

Prasad narrated a story from Mahabharata:

In Ancient times in India, there was a king called Shantanu with his capital named as Hastinapura which is located near the Ganga River (Ganges). This king was hunting one day when he saw a beautiful woman near the banks of the river. He was so overwhelmed by the woman's beauty that he asked her to be his wife or queen. She agreed, but put forth a condition, that at no stage shall the king question her actions, or she would leave him. He agreed to her condition and their marriage was solemnized.

In due course she bore him a child, but at its birth she flung the baby into the river Ganga and returned smiling to the king. Pained and bewildered as he was by her action, he did not question her, for fear of her leaving his side. This act, of drowning their babies continued for seven more children.

When, at the birth of their eighth child, his wife left to throw the baby into the river, Shantanu, who had so far bore his children's fates with fortitude to honor his promise, could no longer suppress his anguish. He finally burst out and questioned her as to why she would perform such an act upon the birth of a child. Thus he broke his promise. The maiden revealed her identity. She was Ganga, the goddess of the river. As the king had gone back on his words, she would have to leave him. She told him that she would not kill this 8th child, but would take him with her, and present him to the king in due course.

Shantanu was saddened by her departure and waited many years for the return of his son. As promised, the goddess returned his son, now grown into a young lad. His name was Devavrata and would become famous by the name of Bhishma, a central character of the Mahabharata.

Prasad said that this story is relevant to our discussion on attached detachment. He said that the goddess Ganga agreed to marry the king Shantanu because she had to fulfill a karma: she had to temporarily be a human being in order to liberate seven sages.

She knew that her identity is larger than that of a human being and did not want to get caught up with being human longer than necessary. That is why she puts forth the condition that Shantanu (a human being) should not question any of her actions. With that condition, she makes her attachment to Shantanu a detached one (he can never question her actions and she retains the choice to do what she wants � including ending the marriage, which she knows she has to do).

Some practices we could take from this session are:

- Live here and now and act upon what is important.

- Live life as if it is a song evolving to perfection.

- Be detached with life while embracing it fully.

Posted by Ragu at July 25, 2006 04:49 PM