Archive for November 26, 2012

Why We Find Cute Things to Be Cute!!

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Have you ever wondered just why fuzzy little puppies melt even the most hardened of hearts? Why are baby versions of animals so much cuter than their full-grown counterparts? In fact, what does it actually mean for something to be cute? Turns out, there’s a scientific explanation for why we find cute things to be, well, cute! And the answers lie in the deep roots of our evolutionary past. There are over 6.8 billion hits for the word cute when you type it into Google. Pictures of cute little baby animals make us want to click here! And here! Of course, I would never stoop so low here. I’m here to find the ultimate answer to this age-old question: why are puppies so cute? Why do they turn us to mush?

Why are these little guys so darn adorable? Well, it has to do with the fact that they look young. Scientists call it pedomorphism, and it occurs when even adults retain juvenile traits—like in dogs. See, we actively domesticated dogs into the thousands of forms we see today. Compare them to a wolf. Don’t they look younger even when full grown? It’s because we humans chose to cross-breed dogs with big bobble heads and squat faces and large eyes and squishy, fuzzy features over and over and over and over until we ended up with. But wait, this doesn’t really answer my question. Why are puppies cute? Because they look young and why do we like young-looking things? Because they’re cute? Let’s back up a little. Evolutionary biologists say baby animals trigger the same protective mechanism in us that human babies do. We love babies’ big ol’ eyes and funny lollipop heads. They make them look vulnerable and precious and needy.

We’re programmed by our genes to take care of our own babies. If we weren’t, our babies and our DNA would die out, and we wouldn’t be here to talk about this. See, we humans have disproportionately large brains, compared to other mammals. A lot of our brain development occurs before we’re even born, hence, big bobble-headed babies. Also, newborns’ eyes are more than half the size of their adult counterparts. Compare that to other body parts, which often triple or even quadruple in size as we grow up. But why do we find these features adorable? Could be that somewhere down the line, an ancestral mother had a mutation in her DNA causing her to be more attracted to and protective of babies with big eyes and lollipop-looking heads. So, she gave more attention to her quote-unquote cute children, and those kids were more likely to grow up healthy, reproduce, and have cuter children themselves. It’s likely that they would also possess the gene variant that made them more attracted to features that we today call cute. Eventually, this trait was spread out into the whole population.

But the very people you’d think would ‘ooh ‘and ‘ahh’ over all babies are actually the pickiest when it comes to baby cuteness. Moms’ brains show that they’re more protective of their own babies over other people’s, likely a result of the bonding mechanism between mother and child but, even those of us who don’t have children show increased activity in the premotor cortex of the brain when we’re shown pictures of babies. This region lights up when we’re about to act, and researchers think our instincts to pick up a baby are stronger than those to pick up a puppy or kitten, even if the baby’s not our own, even if we don’t have babies. So you who say that you don’t think babies are cute—you’re probably still more likely to protect a human baby than a fur baby. It’s kind of written into your DNA.

Isolation is Divine

Marvelous Denmark

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Perhaps, I know why it is man alone who laughs. He alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter. Being alone give chance to search for the exact self and get allied to Supreme supply of love and joy. The excellence, rhythm and synchronization of Universal Plan are attentively cognized when alone. To create something beautiful need engrossed complete concentration that manifests when alone. Being alone is prerequisite for reading, painting, gardening, listening to music etc. Alone, I am with my own self, God, spirit, and serenity. This serenity I love! Maybe it’s because I’ve become my own best friend, and have gotten to understand myself so much better now or I just enjoy being alone. Maybe, I have become a recluse and would rather be reading, writing, or watching a movie.

I know friendships are important and that we all need people in our lives. So the fact that I have been doing this and getting quite comfortable with it worries me a bit…Time for an intervention? Then perhaps, this is just as it should be, for now. I’m never really alone; if you believe, and I do. What I am is what I am, are you what you are——or what? I am not aware of too many things. I know what I know, if you know what I mean. Don’t let me get too deep, choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep.

Absolute One is Immutable Spirit, Pure Intelligence, and Imperishable Truth

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Who are We? If we are not the body, the merciless destinies through which body is being dragged are also not we. The endless changes that come to us; birth, growth, decay disease and death, all belong to the physical body, because ‘WE’ the self am unborn. When there is no birth for Us there can be no death either, and, therefore no other changes such as growth, senility etc. can ever come to us. If we mistake any of these to be Us. It is unfortunately the tragic error of the limited ego in Us suffering from the body consciousness. Being other than the body, we are unattached to the sense-objects as well. If we are not the physical body or the sense organs, what then are we? A zero? A non-entity? Are we then the mind? The mind is that substantial hallucination of terrific force and irresistible might that we feel in ourselves when our thoughts flow. It is ever changing in its moods. The idiosyncrasies of the mind are its own creation. The mind flourishes on thoughts, and thoughts gurgle from our own desire, acquired from our perception and experience of objects extraneous to ourselves. When we are thus really something other than the mind, and when we realize that it is the illumination of our Self that gives the power of awareness to this inert matter, the mind, we cannot but remain perfectly unaffected by the eruption in that aspect of any physical structure. When we have awakened from our dream, we no longer can mourn for the dream-child that died in our dream. We have ceased to identify ourselves with the mental emotions and so how can we, be any longer a victim of the onslaught of sorrow, fear etc., which are but the modifications of our mind? We are without a mind.

In all conditions good, bad or indifferent, this "something" in our life—within us— has remained unchanged, and this is generally indicated by the word ‘I’. The subject ‘I’ remains a changeless entity, common in all changes, experiencing them all. In each one of us it takes up different attitudes, at different places and at different times, such as childhood, youth and old age; waking, dream and deep sleep; happy, unhappy, etc. In all such conditions, behind the very subject ‘I’, there is a common changeless factor, the Consciousness. This factor is, by its own nature, formless and changeless, depending upon which we have the constant experience of ‘I’ our individuality. This subject in each one of us is a mere witness of the three states of Consciousness the waking, dream and deep-sleep states. In the waking state, it is ‘I’ the waker’; in dream it is again ‘‘I’ the dreamer’; and when fast asleep too, it is ‘I’ the deep-sleeper’. In these states of Consciousness the ‘I’ remains a mere witness. It neither undergoes any changes characteristic of these states, nor does it have any share in them. This ‘I’-ness gains vivid experiences of all the three different states.

Let us take an example to clarify the idea. ‘I’, the individual is going to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, gather to myself three different experiences at the three different places. Let us say, at New York I was loved, at Los Angeles I was honored and at Chicago I was insulted, New York is not Los Angeles. Los Angeles and Chicago are not New York. It was not at New York, Los Angeles and Chicago at one and the same time. The experiences of three different places, at the three different times are different, yet all these experiences are mine, because I was the common factor in all the three places and all the three times. This is so in the waking, dream and deep-sleep states also. The waker himself becomes the dreamer and the deep-sleeper and gains the experience of the dream and the deep sleep. But during these changes in the states of consciousness, he himself never undergoes any change, but remains as a mere witness.

As man being the witness of the three states of consciousness, it is indeed, something other than the five-sheaths: the food-sheath, the vital-air-sheath, the mental-sheath, the intellectual-sheath, and the bliss-sheath. The Atman is not identified with, and therefore is never limited by, any of these sheaths. It is something other than them, knowing them and their individual involvements in the world around and within. That faculty in me because of which ‘I’ am able to know, constantly, all my experiences of waking, dream and deep-sleep is called the Atman or Self. By this faculty ‘I’ am not only aware of the world of objects around me, but ‘I’ am also equally aware of the equipment of knowledge within me and their main functions. I know my intellect, the instrument with which I know other things. All my inner equipment are also objects of my experience from the stand-point of the Self. In my mind and intellect, where all activities are disturbances, I am aware of them all. When there are no mental disturbances, I am equally aware of the absence of all inner equipment, as in deep sleep. The agitations are known. I am aware of not only my intellect and the thoughts in it, but also of the absence of thoughts. This knower, ‘I’, is "This"— the great Consciousness to be realized as the subjective Essence. In each one of us it is this Consciousness alone which knows constantly the world of objects around us, as well as the intellect and its thoughts, nay, even the absence of thoughts. Remember the intellect can investigate only the presence of things; Consciousness can illumine their absence as well.

This grand knowing Principle constantly enlivens us. It is the Self we talk of as "This", the subject. ‘I’ am then that consciousness which illumines all this dead world of matter in and around me— the Absolute One; the Immutable Spirit that revels everywhere, which remains ever unattached. ‘I’ am Pure Intelligence itself: I am that Higher and Imperishable Truth which is beyond all explanations and beyond the concept of time but within the experience of everyone when there is Self realization.

Posted November 26, 2012 by dranilj1 in Life Lessons

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Remain Within Reason and That Is Acceptable

A burning itch to know is higher than a solemn vow to pursue truth. To feel the burning itch of curiosity requires both that you be ignorant, and that you desire to relinquish your ignorance. If in your heart you believe you already know, or if in your heart you do not wish to know, then your questioning will be purposeless and your skills without direction. Curiosity seeks to annihilate itself; there is no curiosity that does not want an answer. The glory of glorious mystery is to be solved, after which it ceases to be mystery. Be wary of those who speak of being open-minded and modestly confess their ignorance. There is a time to confess your ignorance and a time to relinquish your ignorance.

That which can be destroyed by the truth should be. Do not flinch from experiences that might destroy your beliefs. The thought you cannot think controls you more than thoughts you speak aloud. Submit yourself to ordeals and test yourself in fire. Relinquish the emotion which rests upon a mistaken belief, and seek to feel fully that emotion which fits the facts. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is hot, and it is cool, the Way opposes your fear. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is cool, and it is hot, the Way opposes your calm. Evaluate your beliefs first and then arrive at your emotions. Let yourself say: “If the iron is hot, I desire to believe it is hot, and if it is cool, I desire to believe it is cool.” Beware lest you become attached to beliefs you may not want.

Let the winds of evidence blow you about as though you are a leaf, with no direction of your own. Beware lest you fight a rearguard retreat against the evidence, grudgingly conceding each foot of ground only when forced, feeling cheated. Surrender to the truth as quickly as you can. Do this the instant you realize what you are resisting; the instant you can see from which quarter the winds of evidence are blowing against you. Be faithless to your cause and betray it to a stronger enemy. If you regard evidence as a constraint and seek to free yourself, you sell yourself into the chains of your whims. For you cannot make a true map of a city by sitting in your bedroom with your eyes shut and drawing lines upon paper according to impulse. You must walk through the city and draw lines on paper that corresponds to what you see. If, seeing the city unclearly, you think that you can shift a line just a little to the right, just a little to the left, according to your caprice; this is just the same mistake.

One who wishes to believe says, “Does the evidence permit me to believe?” One who wishes to disbelieve asks, “Does the evidence force me to believe?” Beware lest you place huge burdens of proof only on propositions you dislike, and then defend yourself by saying: “But it is good to be skeptical.” If you attend only to favorable evidence, picking and choosing from your gathered data, then the more data you gather, the less you know. If you are selective about which arguments you inspect for flaws, or how hard you inspect for flaws, then every flaw you learn how to detect makes you that much stupider. If you first write at the bottom of a sheet of paper, “And therefore, the sky is green!” it does not matter what arguments you write above it afterward; the conclusion is already written, and it is already correct or already wrong. To be clever in argument is not rationality but rationalization. Intelligence, to be useful, must be used for something other than defeating itself. Listen to hypotheses as they plead their cases before you, but remember that you are not a hypothesis, you are the judge. Therefore do not seek to argue for one side or another, for if you knew your destination, you would already be there.

Those who wish to fail must first prevent their friends from helping them. Those who smile wisely and say: “I will not argue” remove themselves from help, and withdraw from the communal effort. In argument strive for exact honesty, for the sake of others and also yourself: The part of yourself that distorts what you say to others also distorts your own thoughts. Do not believe you do others a favor if you accept their arguments; the favor is to you. Do not think that fairness to all sides means balancing yourself evenly between positions; truth is not handed out in equal portions before the start of a debate. You cannot move forward on factual questions by fighting with fists or insults. Seek a test that lets reality judge between you.

The roots of knowledge are in observation and its fruit is prediction. What tree grows without roots? What tree nourishes us without fruit? If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? One says, “Yes it does, for it makes vibrations in the air.” Another says, “No it does not, for there is no auditory processing in any brain.” Though they argue, one saying “Yes”, and one saying “No”, the two do not anticipate any different experience of the forest. Do not ask which beliefs to profess, but which experiences to anticipate. Always know which difference of experience you argue about. Do not let the argument wander and become about something else, such as someone’s virtue as a rationalist. Jerry Cleaver said: “What does you in is not failure to apply some high-level, intricate, complicated technique. It’s overlooking the basics. Not keeping your eye on the ball.” Do not be blinded by words. When words are subtracted, anticipation remains.

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Simplicity is virtuous in belief, design, planning, and justification. When you profess a huge belief with many details, each additional detail is another chance for the belief to be wrong. Each specification adds to your burden; if you can lighten your burden you must do so. There is no straw that lacks the power to break your back. Of artifacts it is said: The most reliable gear is the one that is designed out of the machine. Of plans: A tangled web breaks. A chain of a thousand links will arrive at a correct conclusion if every step is correct, but if one step is wrong it may carry you anywhere. In mathematics a mountain of good deeds cannot atone for a single sin. Therefore, be careful on every step.

To be humble is to take specific actions in anticipation of your own errors. To confess your fallibility and then do nothing about it is not humble; it is boasting of your modesty. Who are most humble? Those who most skillfully prepare for the deepest and most catastrophic errors in their own beliefs and plans are humble. Because this world contains many whose grasp of rationality is abysmal, beginning students of rationality win arguments and acquire an exaggerated view of their own abilities. But it is useless to be superior: Life is not graded on a curve. The best physicist in ancient Greece could not calculate the path of a falling apple. There is no guarantee that adequacy is possible given your hardest effort; therefore spare no thought for whether others are doing worse. If you compare yourself to others you will not see the biases that all humans share. To be human is to make ten thousand errors. No one in this world achieves perfection.

The more errors you correct in yourself, the more you notice. As your mind becomes more silent, you hear more noise. When you notice an error in yourself, this signals your readiness to seek advancement to the next level. If you tolerate the error rather than correcting it, you will not advance to the next level and you will not gain the skill to notice new errors. In every art, if you do not seek perfection you will halt before taking your first steps. If perfection is impossible that is no excuse for not trying. Hold yourself to the highest standard you can imagine, and look for one still higher. Do not be content with the answer that is almost right; seek one that is exactly right.

One comes and says: The quantity is between 1 and 100. Another says: the quantity is between 40 and 50. If the quantity is 42 they are both correct, but the second prediction was more useful and exposed itself to a stricter test. What is true of one apple may not be true of another apple; thus more can be said about a single apple than about all the apples in the world. The narrowest statements slice deepest, the cutting edge of the blade. As with the map, so too with the art of mapmaking: The Way is a precise Art. Do not walk to the truth, but dance. On each and every step of that dance your foot comes down in exactly the right spot. Each piece of evidence shifts your beliefs by exactly the right amount, neither more nor less. What is exactly the right amount? To calculate this you must study probability theory. Even if you cannot do the math, knowing that the math exists tells you that the dance step is precise and has no room in it for your whims.

Study many sciences and absorb their power as your own. Each field that you consume makes you larger. If you swallow enough sciences the gaps between them will diminish and your knowledge will become a unified whole. If you are gluttonous you will become vaster than mountains. It is especially important to eat math and science which impinges upon rationality: Evolutionary psychology, heuristics and biases, social psychology, probability theory, decision theory. But these cannot be the only fields you study. The Art must have a purpose other than itself, or it collapses into infinite recursion.

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him. Every step of your reasoning must cut through to the correct answer in the same movement. More than anything, you must think of carrying your map through to reflecting the territory. If you fail to achieve a correct answer, it is futile to protest that you acted with propriety.

How can you improve your conception of rationality? Not by saying to yourself, “It is my duty to be rational.” By this you only enshrine your mistaken conception. Perhaps your conception of rationality is that it is rational to believe the words of the Great Teacher, and the Great Teacher says, “The sky is green,” and you look up at the sky and see blue. If you think: “It may look like the sky is blue, but rationality is to believe the words of the Great Teacher,” you lose a chance to discover your mistake.

Do not ask whether it is “the Way” to do this or that. Ask whether the sky is blue or green. If you speak overmuch of the Way you will not attain it. You may try to name the highest principle with names such as “the map that reflects the territory” or “experience of success and failure” or “Bayesian decision theory”. But perhaps you describe incorrectly the nameless virtue. How will you discover your mistake? Not by comparing your description to itself, but by comparing it to that which you did not name. If for many years you practice the techniques and submit yourself to strict constraints, it may be that you will glimpse the center. Then you will see how all techniques are one technique, and you will move correctly without feeling constrained. When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing the rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally. All this is the Way of the Void.

So the virtues of rationality are curiosity, relinquishment, lightness, evenness, argument, empiricism, simplicity, humility, perfectionism, precision, scholarship, and the void.

Quintessential Quality

Quintessential Quality

Curiosity is a hunger to explore and a delight in discovery. When we are curious, we approach the world with a child-like habit of poking and prodding and asking questions. We are attracted to new experiences. Rather than pursuing an agenda or a desired set of answers, we follow our questions where they lead. Socially, curiosity lets us really listen to other people because we want to know who they are. We open ourselves to the morsels of knowledge and experience they can share with us. We relish having discoveries of our own to share. Curiosity makes us interested in a broad range of information about the world around us, not only that with direct utility. We learn for the joy of learning.

Human beings have myriad range of characteristics and attributes. Some are innate, some are formed through experiences and some are developed through wisdom and insight. One of the most fundamental of these human features is that of curiosity. It is the curious nature of man that has led him to wonder, ponder and then learn. Curiosity is the organic building block of knowledge structure and is the key which has opened new vistas of thought and objective disciplines.

It is curiosity in man’s nature which drives him to understand different phenomena in life. The curiosity about one’s self and the environment leads a person to investigate and with the help of his findings draw adequate inferences. It guides him to attain his desires and goals in life, to create a vision and to dream. It is that quintessential quality in man that makes him superior to other creations in terms of sociability, morality and intellectuality. This is something which enables him to build communities and develop societies.

This curious nature of man has made him reflect upon higher purposes and discover deeper meanings in things, going beyond what they apparently seem to be. This higher search for purpose compels him to find meaning of his existence and the existence of things in the universe. While treading on the track on his instinctive curiosity, he leads his complete life shaped out of inquisitiveness in vastness of various questions about events taking place either in his life or in the universe around him. Since, he does not have any assurance of any conjectures he is making about the outcome of events in his life, he lives in the curiosity of knowing them. But, there is a certain amount of common sense which guides his cognitive abilities.

Nevertheless, the search and hunt of conquering his future and controlling his life never ends till the curiosity serves better of him. Hence, man seeks some ways and means for the outlet of this characteristic inside in varying degrees and to different extents. For this very element in him, he becomes passionate and enthusiastic. Sometimes, this material world, which is all that his sight can conceive, makes him think that having mundane comforts will give his soul the ever needed satisfaction. But such a false contentment comes at the expense of him losing sight of the divine ideals of governing life. He would be someone standing at a selfish point from where he cares about only his survival, well being and welfare in life.

On some other level of soul curiosity, he would have sentiments and sensibility as the prime factors directing his heart and humanity. This level of his conscious being let him undertake his natural human curiosity as well as his humanism to use them in the benefit of the whole mankind. This very form of consciousness allows mankind to construct that human touch and that human connection so much necessary for the survival of the world and the growth we see through shared knowledge and wisdom.

Wake Up To Your Full Potential

No matter where you are in your life right now – whether you’re currently succeeding at an extraordinary level, or if you’re struggling to find your way – there is at least one thing I know we have in common; probably a lot more than one, but one that I know for sure. We both want to improve our lives, and ourselves. This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with us, or our lives, but as human beings we were born with the innate desire and drive to continuously grow and improve. I believe it’s within all of us. Yet, most of us wake up everyday, and life pretty much stays the same.

What Do You Really Want?

What if you could miraculously wake up tomorrow and your entire life was transformed? What would be different? Would you be happier? Healthier? More successful? In better shape? Would you have more energy? Less Stress? More Money? Significantly better personal or professional relationships? Are there problems that would be solved? What if I told you that there really is a "not-so-obvious" secret that is guaranteed to transform any or literally every area of your life, faster than you ever thought possible?

Realize that your levels of success in every area of your life will always parallel your levels of personal development. If we want to transform our life, we had to first make time to transform ourselves. But when? Get committed to try waking up an hour earlier everyday to work on personal development routine. Create a simple "morning" personal development routine that would allow you to start every day off by becoming the person you want to be to quickly solve your problems and create the levels of success that you truly wanted, in every area of your life. It works! Not only you will immediately feel better, but that extra hour every morning will give you newfound levels of energy, motivation, clarity, and focus that will enable you to set clear goals, create strategies, and execute a plan to save your business, double your income, and get in the best shape of your life. The total life transformation you will experience will be profound and happens so fast that you will feel it like a miracle. Start calling it ‘The Miracle Morning’ and share your tips with us all.

It’s time to wake up to our full potential to permanently rise above mediocrity so that we can fulfill our potential and create the most extraordinary life we can imagine, we must simply wake up and dedicate time each day to developing self into the person we need to be who is capable of attracting, creating, and sustaining the life we truly want. We all deserve an extraordinary life. Make time to start waking up to your full potential.

Discriminative Contemplation

Meditation is not easy. It takes time and energy. It also takes grit, determination and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities which we normally regard as unpleasant and which we like to avoid whenever possible. We can sum it all up in the American word ‘gumption’. Meditation takes ‘gumption’. It is certainly a great deal easier just to kick back and watch television. So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself? Why bother? Simply because you are human, and just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent inadequacy in life; which simply will not go away. You can suppress it from your awareness for a time. You can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back; usually when it is least expected. This inherent inadequacy in life approach all of a sudden, apparently out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and become conscious of your actual situation in life.

There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your whole life just barely getting by. You keep up a good front. You manage to make ends meet somehow and look okay from the outside. But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you; you keep those to yourself. You are a mess and you know it, but you hide it beautifully. Meanwhile, way down under all that, you just know there has got be some other way to live, some better way to look at the world, some way to touch life more fully. You click into it by chance now and then. You get a good job. You fall in love. You win the game and for a while, things are different. Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away. The whole texture of your experience changes and you say to yourself, "Okay, now I’ve made it; now I will be happy". But then that fades, too, like smoke in the wind. You are left with just a memory; a vague awareness that something is wrong.

But there is really another whole realm of depth and sensitivity available in life, somehow, you are just not seeing it. You wind up feeling cut off. You feel insulated from the sweetness of experience by some sort of sensory cotton. You are not really touching life. You are not making it again, and then even that vague awareness fades away, and you are back to the same old reality. The world looks like the usual foul place, which is boring at best. It is an emotional roller coaster, and you spend a lot of your time down at the bottom of the ramp, yearning for the heights.

So what is wrong with you? Are you a freak? No. You are just human, and you suffer from the same malady that infects every human being. It is a monster inside all of us, and it has many arms like chronic tension, lack of genuine compassion for others including the people closest to you, feelings being blocked up, and emotional deadness. None of us is entirely free from it. We may deny it. We try to suppress it. We build a whole culture around hiding from it, pretending it is not there, and distracting ourselves from it with goals and projects and status, but it never goes away. It is a constant undercurrent in every thought and every perception; a little wordless voice at the back of the head saying, "Not good enough yet, got to have more, got to make it better, I got to be better." It is a monster, a monster that manifests everywhere in subtle forms.

Go to a party. Listen to the laughter that brittle-tongued voice that says fun on the surface and fear underneath, feel the tension and feel the pressure. Nobody really relaxes. They are faking it. Go to a ball game, watch the fan in the stand and watch the irrational fit of anger. Watch the uncontrolled frustration bubbling forth from people that masquerades under the guise of enthusiasm or team spirit of booing, cat-calls and unbridled egotism in the name of team loyalty, drunkenness, and fights in the stands. These are the people trying desperately to release tension from within. These are not people who are at peace with themselves. Watch the news on TV. Listen to the lyrics in popular songs. You find the same theme repeated over and over in variations; jealousy, suffering, discontent and stress.

Life seems to be a perpetual struggle, some enormous effort against staggering odds, and what is our solution to all this dissatisfaction? We get stuck in the ‘If only’ syndrome. If only I had more money, then I would be happy. If only I could find somebody who really loves me, if only I could lose 20 pounds, if only I had a color TV, curly hair, and on and on forever. So where does all this junk come from and more important, what can we do about it? It comes from the conditions of our own minds. It is a deep, subtle and pervasive set of mental habits, a Gordian knot which we have built up bit by bit and we can unravel just the same way, one piece at a time. We can tune up our awareness, search up each separate piece and bring it out into the light. We can make the unconscious conscious, slowly, one piece at a time.

The essence of our experience is change. Change is incessant. Moment by moment life flows by and it is never the same. Perpetual alteration is the essence of the perceptual universe. A thought springs up in your head and half a second later, it is gone. In comes another one, and that is gone too. A sound strikes your ears and then silence. Open your eyes and the world pours in, blink and it is gone. People come into your life and they leave again. Friends go, relatives die. Your fortunes go up and they go down. Sometimes you win and just as often you lose. It is incessant change. No two moments ever the same. There is not a thing wrong with this. It is the nature of the universe. But human culture has taught us some odd responses to this endless flowing. We categorize experiences. We try to stick each perception, every mental change in this endless flow into one of three mental pigeon holes. It is good, or it is bad, or it is neutral. Then, according to which box we stick it in, we perceive with a set of fixed habitual mental responses. If a particular perception has been labeled ‘good’, then we try to freeze time right there. We grab onto that particular thought, we fondle it, and we hold it and we try to keep it from escaping. When that does not work, we go all-out in an effort to repeat the experience which caused that thought. Let us call this mental habit ‘grasping’.

Over on the other side of the mind lies the box labeled ‘bad’. When we perceive something ‘bad’, we try to push it away. We try to deny it, reject it, get rid of it any way we can. We fight against our own experience. We run from pieces of ourselves. Let us call this mental habit ‘rejecting’. Between these two reactions lies the neutral box. Here we place the experiences which are neither good nor bad. They are tepid, neutral, uninteresting and boring. We pack experience away in the neutral box so that we can ignore it and thus return our attention to where the action is, namely our endless round of desire and aversion. This category of experience gets robbed of its fair share of our attention. Let us call this mental habit ‘ignoring’. The direct result of all this lunacy is a perpetual treadmill race to nowhere, endlessly pounding after pleasure, endlessly fleeing from pain, endlessly ignoring 90 percent of our experience. Than wondering why life tastes so flat. In the final analysis, it’s a system that does not work.

No matter how hard you pursue pleasure and success, there are times when you fail. No matter how fast you flee, there are times when pain catches up with you and in between those times; life is so boring you could scream. Our minds are full of opinions and criticisms. We have built walls all around ourselves and we are trapped within the prison of our own lies and dislikes. We suffer. Suffering is a big word in Buddhist thought. It is a key term and it should be thoroughly understood and the Pali word is ‘dukkha’, and it does not just mean the agony of the body. It means the deep, subtle sense of inadequacy in life which is a part of every mental treadmill. The essence of life is suffering, said the Buddha. At first glance this seems exceedingly morbid and pessimistic. It even seems untrue. After all, there are plenty of times when we are happy. Aren’t there? No, there are not. It just seems that way. Take any moment when you feel really fulfilled and examine it closely. Down under the joy, you will find that subtle, all-pervasive undercurrent of tension, that no matter how great the moment is, it is going to end. No matter how much you just gained, you are either going to lose some of it or spend the rest of your days guarding what you have got, or scheming how to get more. In the end, you are going to die. In the end, you lose everything. It is all transitory.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it? Luckily it’s not; not at all. It only sounds bleak when you view it from the level of the ordinary mental perspective, the very level at which the treadmill mechanism operates. Down under that level lays another whole perspective, a completely different way to look at the universe. It is a level of functioning where the mind does not try to freeze time, where we do not grasp onto our experience as it flows by, where we do not try to block things out and ignore them. It is a level of experience beyond good and bad, beyond pleasure and pain. It is a lovely way to perceive the world, and it is a learnable skill. It is not easy, but is learnable.

Happiness and peace are really the prime issues in human existence. That is what all of us are seeking. This often is a bit hard to see because we cover up those basic goals with layers of surface objectives. We want food, we want money, and we want sex, possessions, and respect. We even say to ourselves that the idea of ‘happiness’ is too abstract: "Look, I am practical. Just give me enough money and I will buy all the happiness I need". Unfortunately, this is an attitude that does not work. Examine each of these goals and you will find they are superficial. You want food. Why? Because I am hungry. So you are hungry, so what? Well if I eat, I won’t be hungry and then I’ll feel good. Ah ha! Feel good! Now there is a real item. What we really seek is not the surface goals. They are just means to an end. What we are really after is the feeling of relief that comes when the drive is satisfied, relaxation and an end to the tension. Peace, happiness, no more yearning.

So what is this happiness? For most of us, the perfect happiness would mean getting everything we wanted, being in control of everything, playing Caesar, making the whole world dance a jig according to our every whim. Once again, it does not work that way. Take a look at the people in history who have actually held this ultimate power. These were not happy people. Most assuredly they were not men at peace with themselves. Why? They were not men at peace with themselves because they were driven to control the world totally and absolutely and they could not. They wanted to control all men and there remained men who refused to be controlled. They could not control the stars. They still got sick. They still had to die.

You can’t ever get everything you want. It is impossible. Luckily, there is another option. You can learn to control your mind, to step outside of this endless cycle of desire and aversion. You can learn to not want what you want, to recognize desires but not be controlled by them. This does not mean that you lie down on the road and invite everybody to walk all over you. It means that you continue to live a very normal-looking life, but live from a whole new viewpoint. You do the things that a person must do, but you are free from that obsessive, compulsive drivenness of your own desires. You want something, but you don’t need to chase after it. You fear something, but you don’t need to stand there quaking in your boots. This sort of mental culture is very difficult. It takes years. But trying to control everything is impossible, and the difficult is preferable to the impossible.

Wait a minute, though. Peace and happiness! Isn’t that what civilization is all about? We build skyscrapers and freeways. We have paid vacations, TV sets. We provide free hospitals and sick leaves, Social Security and welfare benefits. All of that is aimed at providing some measure of peace and happiness. Yet the rate of mental illness climbs steadily, and the crime rates rise faster. The streets are crawling with delinquents and unstable individuals. Stick your arms outside the safety of your own door and somebody is very likely to steal your watch! Something is not working. A happy man does not feel driven to kill. We like to think that our society is exploiting every area of human knowledge in order to achieve peace and happiness.

We are just beginning to realize that we have overdeveloped the material aspect of existence at the expense of the deeper emotional and spiritual aspect, and we are paying the price for that error. It is one thing to talk about degeneration of moral and spiritual fiber in America today, and another thing to do something about it. The place to start is within ourselves. Look carefully inside, truly and objectively, and each of us will see moments when "I am the punk" and "I am the crazy". We will learn to see those moments, see them clearly, cleanly and without condemnation, and we will be on our way up and out of being so.

You can’t make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself exactly as you are now. As soon as you do that, changes flow naturally. You don’t have to force or struggle or obey rules dictated to you by some authority. You just change. It is automatic. But arriving at the initial insight is quite a task. You’ve got to see who you are and how you are, without illusion, judgments or resistance of any kind. You’ve got to see your own place in society and your function as a social being. You’ve got to see your duties and obligations to your fellow human beings, and above all, your responsibility to yourself as an individual living with other individuals, you’ve got to see all of that clearly and as a unit as single gestalt of interrelationship. It sounds complex, but it often occurs in a single instant. Mental culture through meditation is without rival in helping you achieve this sort of understanding and serene happiness.

The Dhammapada is an ancient Buddhist text which anticipated Freud by thousands of years. It says: "What you are now is the result of what you were. What you will be tomorrow will be the result of what you are now. The consequences of an evil mind will follow you like the cart follows the ox that pulls it. The consequences of a purified mind will follow you like your own shadow. No one can do more for you than your own purified mind– no parent, no relative, no friend, no one. A well-disciplined mind brings happiness". Meditation is intended to purify the mind. It cleanses the thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred and jealousy, things that keep you snarled up in emotional bondage. It brings the mind to a state of tranquility and awareness, a state of concentration and insight.

In our society, we are great believers in education. We believe that knowledge makes a cultured person civilized. Civilization, however, polishes the person superficially. Subject our noble and sophisticated gentleman to stresses of war or economic collapse, and see what happens. It is one thing to obey the law because you know the penalties and fear the consequences. It is something else entirely to obey the law because you have cleansed yourself from the greed that would make you steal and the hatred that would make you kill. Throw a stone into a stream; the running water would smooth the surface, but the inner part remains unchanged. Take that same stone and place it in the intense fires of a forge, and the whole stone changes inside and outside. It all melts. Civilization changes man on the outside. Meditation softens him within, through and through.

Meditation is the Great Teacher. It is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly through understanding. The greater your understanding, the more flexible and tolerant you can be. The greater your understanding, the more compassionate you can be. You become like a perfect parent or an ideal teacher. You are ready to forgive and forget. You feel love towards others because you understand them, and you understand others because you have understood yourself. You have looked deeply inside and seen self-delusion and your own human failings. You have seen your own humanity and learned to forgive and to love. When you have learned compassion for yourself, compassion for others is automatic. An accomplished meditator has achieved a profound understanding of life, and he inevitably relates to the world with a deep and uncritical love.

Meditation is a lot like cultivating a new land. To make a field out of a forest, first you have to clear the trees and pull out the stumps. Then you till the soil and you fertilize it. Then you sow your seed and you harvest your crops. To cultivate your mind, first you have to clear out the various irritants that are in the way, pull them right out by the root so that they won’t grow back. Then you fertilize. You pump energy and discipline into the mental soil. Then you sow the seed and you harvest your crops of faith, morality, mindfulness and wisdom.

Faith and morality, by the way, have a special meaning in this context. Buddhism does not advocate faith in the sense of believing something because it is written in a book or attributed to a prophet or taught to you by some authority figure. The meaning here is closer to confidence, it is knowing that something is true because you have seen it work, because you have observed that very thing within yourself. In the same way, morality is not a ritualistic obedience to some exterior, imposed code of behavior.

The purpose of meditation is personal transformation. The ‘you’’ that goes in one side of the meditation experience is not the same ‘you’ that comes out the other side. It changes your character by a process of sensitization, by making you deeply aware of your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Your arrogance evaporates and your antagonism dries up. Your mind becomes still and calm and your life smoothes out. Thus meditation properly performed prepares you to meet the ups and downs of existence. It reduces your tension, your fear, and your worry. Restlessness recedes and passion moderates. Things begin to fall into place and your life becomes a glide instead of a struggle. All of this happens through understanding.

Meditation sharpens your concentration and your thinking power. Then, piece by piece, your own subconscious motives and mechanics become clear to you. Your intuition sharpens. The precision of your thought increases and gradually you come to a direct knowledge of things as they really are, without prejudice and without illusion. So is this reason enough to bother? Scarcely. These are just promises on paper. There is only one way you will ever know if meditation is worth the effort. Learn to do it right, and do it. See for yourself.

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