Flowing with it

Last week I traveled to Kanpur for some work. While returning back via Lucknow I had a stop over of about 3 hours at IGI airport in Delhi before the departure of my flight to Chandigarh at 3PM. At the T3 terminal I ran into one of my professors who was also waiting for his next flight. We got into a conversation about few general things. I ended up missing my flight despite being present inside the security hold area — partly due to my carelessness (I was engrossed in our conversation over the coffee) and partly because they recently made T3 a “silent terminal” with limited announcements. Spectacular stupidity I did! I was annoyed at myself, more so because my dad was on his way driving 45KM to pick me up from Chandigarh airport, and now he had to either wait for me or return back from midway. Anyways, I called him up and told the story and he cutting short his drive returned back from midway. I tried in vain to request the JetConnect supervisor to put me in the next flight to Chandigarh. She wanted me to buy a fresh ticket worth Rs. 15000 (which was out of question). It was already around 3.45PM and it was clear that I had to quickly take either a bus or train to reach home in time.

Online ticketing was closed for both the evening Shatabdi trains to Chandigarh. I decided to try my luck in current booking so I took the AirportExpress to New Delhi station and went straight to the ticket counter on Ajmeri Gate side. Luckily the queue at ticketing window was just 8-10 people long. It was already 4.30PM and train was to depart at 5.15PM. The booking clerk told me that there was nothing available on 5.15PM train, and the current booking for 7.15PM will open after 30 minutes. In the humid July heat in crowded New Delhi railway station my anxiety grew further and I became even more mad at myself for missing the flight and now almost missing the trains as well. Lately, I’ve become reluctant to traveling by buses. I thought of just boarding the train without ticket and hoping to find some seat. I was prepared to pay fine for travelling ticketless. I went upto the next booking clerk and asked him how much was the fine in case I boarded without ticket. In the noise he didn’t get what I was asking. He signaled me to give him my reservation request form that I was holding. After keying something into the computer and told me that there was only one ticket left that too in executive class chair-car  in 5.15PM train, and asked whether I’d like to buy it. It was almost double the cost (Rs. 1100 approx.) of regular chair car (but with almost same facilities). I happily bought the ticket. It was 5.05PM. Gosh … I needed to go all the way to platform #1 and I might miss this train as well because walking from Ajmeri Gate side of the station to platform #1 may take more than 10 minutes in rush hour on a Saturday! I tried to run as fast as I could jostling with the crowd standing on platform over-bridge.

Sweating, I was finally able to get into the E2 coach just in time. What a relief! That stressful 1 hour 45 minutes from 3.30PM to 5.15PM with so much conundrum and anxiety in my mind was over. It felt as if suddenly a lot of weight was lifted from my mind! The annoyance of missing the flight in a most stupid manner was replaced with the joy of finding a seat in air conditioned train. I called up home to let them know the new arrival time and coordinates. My dad, whose enthusiasm to receive the kids at airport, train or bus stations has never faded even by an iota over the past two decades, was quick with his “ਤੂੰ ਪਹੁੰਚ … ਬੱਸ ਮੈਂ ਆਯਾ ਲੈ ਤੇਨੂੰ ਲੈਣ” (you just reach over … I’ll be right there to pick you up).

Next day I was thinking about what would be the Higher Purpose in making me miss the flight. Normally, I’m a kind of person who is very very careful about time. Perhaps I had to settle some karmic accounts, perhaps He saved me (or my Dad) from some unpleasant situation. Looking back, I was laughing at myself, especially for my mental state that existed during those one and half hours until I got into the train. At physical level, just the mode of travel was changed for me from one to another with little difference in comforts. I stood  in the ticketing queue for just about 15 minutes. But the amount of anxiety caused by all of this was high. Thinking about it now it seems as if these events were pre-planned and I just had to go through. That I travel in comfort was ensured by Someone. I think most of our life experiences are pre-decided with us having very little control. We unnecessarily worry about the future and the outcome of events that happen in our lives. How nice it will be if we just flow with things. But it is not easy.

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Driving force

Lately, when I’m not too engrossed in day to day affairs the following thought has been gripping my mind.

Why there is always something running in the mind?

For couple of decades now I’ve been hearing and reading about mind and how its tricks and lures keep us entangled in the earthly life. They have been telling that mind always needs something to chew on etc. Nevertheless, for my mind it was the above questions this time 🙂

In order to find answers, I tried to observe the generation of thoughts in my mind. I tried to trace the root of thought trains that arose in my mind at different times of the day. I didn’t set any timetable for this thought chasing exercise, it’s just that the above questions have been bothering me much, and they would spring up at random times often in the middle of a running thought train. Exactly then I’d try to unfold the stack of my interrupted run of thought train. It was like debugging a program by injecting a breakpoint into it in-flight. When the breakpoint is hit then I examine the stack — all the way to its bottom.

In all these thought debugging exercises I do not know if I’ve reached the absolute bottom of the stack i.e. the seed thought which put the program into running state. I could only manage to identify the triggering desire for a given thought train. Almost always the trigger has been a desire for some kind of joy or pleasure. Now, in this exploration I also noticed that the concept of joy or pleasure is sometimes equivalent to preventing/avoiding/eliminating pain or fear of some kind whether existing or perceived in the future.

For instance, I’ve observed a negative thought train where my mind was contemplating ways to make a colleague realize for his/her unkind behavior. How did mind arrive at this point of contemplation involving that colleague?  It’s ego had felt hurt by the colleague’s behavior and now it desired for the pleasure of asserting some kind of supremacy. At another instance I have caught my mind drifting in a thought train about some technology innovation. Here too, unfolding the stack of thoughts revealed that it started with a similar desire for joy of some worldly attainment.

So it seems that at the root of all thought is a desire. Desire is always for some kind of sensory or mental joy. Even this pursuit for solving the mystery of thoughts and mind and finding the self is driven by a desire of joy.

Knowing

It has been raining intermittently since past few days here. The track marks left by trucks and tractors on the softer ground near few construction sites here are filled with rain water. While walking back from the mess after lunch today I noticed a construction worker washing his hands and filling some plastic container with the rain water that was collected in one of the track marks. My hygiene-conscious mind pops the thoughts like ‘why is he risking his health by using that dirty water…’. The analysis had started — “Perhaps he is not aware of the health risks posed by such dirty water. Otherwise he would not be using that water.

I too had done something similar long long time ago. I used to play and even wash myself  with rain water from the village pond when as a 7 year old I lived in a village in Punjab. I wasn’t aware of the real “risks” then 🙂 May be, I also didn’t care back then.

If I try to relate this behavior to numerous other actions and thoughts that most of us do and think, we are not always sure of the real implications of our thoughts and actions. Particularly, if someone does something wrong to someone, it is highly likely that the individual doesn’t know what he/she is really doing. Knowing at times can be painful — it can slow you down. At times you just want to be in a state when you do not have to act or think anything — just be still be detached.

Another related question that arises is: what is knowing and being aware? At the worldly level, aren’t all these things outcome of our conditioned mind? I often find myself saying (or rather judging) “I know such and such thing is good/bad“. How did I know what was good or bad? Aren’t such concepts defined by the conditioned environment I have lived in?

It is heartening and immensely reassuring when Someone tells us that at the thread-bare level everything here is a thought and a concept. ਸਬ ਕੁਛ ਬਸ ਇੱਕ ਖ਼ਿਆਲ ਜੇਹਾ ਹੀ ਹੈ … ਉਸ ਤੋਂ ਵੱਧ ਕੁਝ ਨਹੀਂ. I sometime wish there were more people around me who could really understand all this. Or may be I’m a bit eccentric.

Good health, bubbles and tea pot

It is a privilege to be in good health — both emotional and physical. Proper bhakti and particularly meditation is very difficult when I’m sick or when my mind is agitated. A slight pain in the eyes is sufficient to spoil a meditation session 😦

Mind runs in all directions — it likes to imagine problems and solve them. Things that would probably never happen, it likes to imagine those and ultimately resulting in worry of some sort. I try to ‘watch’ the thoughts as they arise in my mind. Have you ever closely watched milk or tea boiling on a stove? Bubbles form so quickly that before you fix your eyes on one, the next one had already pushed it into the air and with a blup it vanishes. It happens so fast that you cannot see how a bubble forms and how it vanishes. If you record this phenomenon on a video and play it frame-by-frame at a much reduced speed, you’ll probably see what’s going on in the tea pot, how the bubbles form and vanish.

Mind is much like that tea pot continuously producing the bubbles of thoughts. I want to watch these bubbles as they form and eventually be able to stop and start their flow at will. Imagine, you are sitting in meditation and after a while your mind starts to feel bound and tries to escape, that is, it wants you to get up. You probably resist the initial few attempts of the mind. Unless you are highly focussed and attached to something within and are enjoying it, the disruptive thoughts keep raising their head. At some point you give in to such thoughts and you get up. Meditation session is over. This leaves you frustrated because you had set out to sit for a longer time than what you actually sat for! Now you slowly rewind the scene, and find out how did you exactly gave in to those thoughts that made you to get up? I need to find this out and fix the damn thing 😦