Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The bearing Will Power has on our lives

People have moments where they stand up to do what is needed of them. An example can be meeting a deadline or quit smoking. We make these efforts many times in a day, for the smallest of matters that have to be done right. Thus when the ‘will’ to do the right things is strong there are good effects.

There are also moments that have had power ‘over’ us. These moments make us uneasy. Sometimes a conversation that we witness or a moment on t.v. or a moment in a movie captivates us so much so that it’s hard to pull out. These moments are my lows where I think I didn’t resist enough. And thus when the ‘will’ to do what is needed is weak there are bad effects.

Clearly then ‘will’ is the most important resource we have. More so than knowledge, wisdom or money for if one does not have sufficient ‘will’ all their knowledge and wisdom put together will not be sufficient to rescue them from the moment.

‘Will’ is the tool by which we can move mountains. Somebody has said that ‘will’ is energy and ‘intent’ is the movement of this energy. But when intention is absent [the will to act won’t exist and thus] the act will not take place. Thus we could possibly get stuck in inappropriate patterns we can’t get out of.

But what is an inappropriate pattern?

A pattern exists when we give the same responses to the same situations. An example can be conversations we have with somebody where these conversations have 'theme[s]' that repeat themselves.

A pattern is ‘inappropriate’ when there is discomfort every time it recurs. So to continue the example an inappropriate pattern would be one where the person we have a conversation with is a bully and you the victim. As long as we can’t resolve this problem the pattern of being bullied will persist.

To get out of this pattern one could simply get support from their teacher or friends. But you can see that to do even this one would need resolve [or ‘will power’].

Thus patterns we have become used to can be broken if we intend [and thus have the 'will'] to break them.

Such is the use of Will Power.

1.To break a pattern one has to identify it. To do this one should detect any recurrent patterns of discomfort they feel. To get out of this pattern the best general strategy I have is to discuss the pattern with somebody. This helps because it is like taking a second opinion in a situation where you get stuck.

2.In the process of breaking patterns we also learn important lessons. These lessons teach us about new choices we didn’t know we could make. And as has been said very succulently in the movie The Matrix: "The difference between the powerful and the powerless is the choices they make”. Where the value of learning these lessons is presented at another place: "To move beyond a choice you have to understand it".

3.Time is Decompartmentalized: Life is a collection of moments where each moment is significant in how I unfold my will. Thus life [my time on Earth] is de-compartmentalized as a play with the moment.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to unlock greater joy from within every moment

In my last post I proposed that the absolute pinnacle of our aspiration might simply be to interact with the world in a way that we are rewarded with joy; that such a reward would have to be based on a struggle on our part to do something worthwhile such as making a living, taking care of family or doing good for people not in our immediate circle.

Interestingly in an earlier post I had mentioned that the choice that each moment presents to us can reward us if we choose to do in it a good act because the good act creates a good effect that would benefit us.

Now you might see that there is a relation between experiencing joy that I mention in the first paragraph and the choice that we make [that I present in the second]. This relation is simply that the choice can lead to joy.

But the key as it were to unlocking from this choice its latent joy is the ‘intention’ with which I prepare for each choice.

If we intend in each moment to do well, good will happen and if we compromise on our intention we will suffer a more inadequate outcome [than would have been had we intended well].

So it is as if the tool we really need to work on to experience joy in each moment is ‘our intention’.

Most interestingly fasting in the month of Ramazan offers an opportunity to do just this. When we stay without food or water the whole day we are clearly strengthening our power to intend things. Naturally if one can control himself in one situation they could control themselves in another situation for they could exercise the same self control again. It is very much like the act of fasting helps you sharpen your intention like a smith sharpens his knife.

The sharper your knife is the more bread you can cut with it. This is similar to how a sharper intention will lead to better choices that would thus unlock higher levels of the much sought joy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What should we aspire to

I have come about an understanding about the absolute purpose of our being and I think it’s not ambition but an aspiration.

But if it is an aspiration what could be the absolute aspiration?

Clearly the pharaoh must have taught his people to aspire to a position in his court. His method must have been a reward for serving him. But what service did he put his society to? It was the building of the Pyramids.

Now the pyramids like all his other social projects were aggrandizement meant for him. And with the pharaoh at the top and his workers at the bottom another structure was created which was the hierarchy of society. Interestingly this entire society was put to one goal only: aggrandizement.

Aggrandizement of any kind is inherently fleeting. For example if we aggrandize money it will get used up and disappear. If we aggrandize a seat of power sooner or later it will also disappear. Hence neither aggrandizement serving ourselves nor for another can be the highest we can aspire for. In fact it’s hardly an aspiration, it is an ambition.

Thus our progress based on aggrandizement is not an aspiration because aggrandizement is fleeting and an aspiration cannot be fleeting.

In fact aggrandizement has much bigger problems.

Somebody said of a queen that she had 300 people or so to help her in the palace through her daily routine, most of which was about trivial tasks. It seemed as if her seat of power having enabled such care paradoxically made her more delicate. While on the other hand was a man who could give her consultation and sit with the pauper if he so chose to experience the other side of life. The man did not suffer a contraction on his freedom.

In fact the more power or wealth a person gathers the greater they have to spend of their freedom to keep it from disappearing.

So the question you might want to ask is if there is a different model [other than aggrandizement] that can be equally fulfilling [if not more so] and yet is not fundamentally flawed.

To understand this we must understand beauty and the source of joy.

To me the most beautiful moments I have had are when I found an answer that reconciled a severe contradiction. I also saw of this beauty and joy in an 11 year old boy who entered a national reality show talent competition [in the UK]. When the judges told him his dance performance was better than any they had witnessed so far in all the years of the show, with the entire audience cheering him I can only imagine the joy he must have felt.

Every time I achieve something through my hard work I have felt fulfilled and this fulfillment can not be taken away. On the other hand whenever I have tried to get something by somewhat unjust means the feeling of malevolence inherent in it has made me uncomfortable.

So if beauty is in our hard earned achievement and peace is in it have we not then something to aspire for?

Can the absolute aspiration not be to experience more of this fulfillment that the universe provides to us every time we struggle in it.

And wouldn't we have a house, a family, people and a career to take care of us if we simply wanted this sense of fulfillment as a result of a struggle to grow while contributing to them?

Can we not aspire to experience such a joy at ever greater levels?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why feedback is important

We learn about the world as we get feedback from things within it such as from family, friends, mentors and even books.

Feedback can tell you where you went wrong and affirm what you do right. It can thus help you predict the future.

Interestingly there are people I have met who question the importance of feedback. They say: “I can figure out everything I need to on my own. I don’t need feedback like others do.” This is not true. In fact there is a big danger lurking in this notion.

If the world you are creating is your own you might get stuck in it or some part of it and not know what to do next.

If however, this world of yours and all parts of it are based on some feedback you will always know who to ask if you get stuck.

Somebody once said that "fundamentally we are here not to be seen, but to see" i.e. to see things outside of ourself. You will notice that all growth you have had has owed itself to some consistent feedback.

Suppose you wrote an essay. You wouldn't really know if it’s good or bad till somebody tells you the flaws in it or the strengths it has. In any case to improve your essay you will definitely need constructive feedback.

A similar example can be about basketball. If you want to improve your game you will need a coach. If he is good he will point out your weaknesses and strengths.

Thus it is very important to get as much ‘constructive feedback’ as you can.

Somehow all feedback is not good. Some people give contradictory messages when they give feedback i.e. one message will tell you an act is good and another message tells you the same act is bad. Avoid such people or at least don’t rely on what they say.

Thus feedback is a way to make sense of the real world.

Invest heavily in it. The more you invest the faster you will grow.

The story of Rukhsana

Rukhsana was discussing the matter of her job at the family dinner table. Her father said: "You should apply to 100 different places", Her mother "What have you planned, what are you going to do?".

As this was happening something must have sparked in her because she said "Let's bring this discussion down to earth and out of the clouds! Let me think this out with you, let us all be Rukhsana and let us think as if I had to get a job. Let me bounce my ideas against you."

Her mother said "Rukhsana i'm in a different field and don't think i'll understand"

Rukhsana: "I am sure you will, I will help you make sense of it"

Mother: "But it sounds like Greek!"

Rukhsana: "I know but I can translate it into something you can understand. It's all common sense and because you are a rational, professional person it will make sense to you too. Here me out..."

Mother: "ok...go ahead..."

Some conversation took place.

And then it hit Rukhsana that in all her 28 years she had never bounced 'important ideas that matter' with other people. All her conversations had been about un-important matters. Either they were about a movie, some book she had read, something about her job or people she knew, but nothing that reached too far.

What more she realized was that issues she was particularly sensitive about - her bottlenecks never ever came up in a conversation. There was no body she could bounce her ideas off! As she thought this she wondered what an amazing discovery this was.

A few minutes later, overwhelmed she got up and left as if to gather her thoughts. It occured to her that she must call her best friend, somebody she had been with since grade 6 and discuss this with her. She thought am 'I' the reason I never have a conversation, do I block people off or is everybody like that? She had to find out and so she went that same night to her friend.

In the company of her friend she slowly unraveled herself. She said "with none of my friends have I ever engaged in a conversation about 'my job; things that matter in life'. I think it's quite a discovery for me! And now I think there isin't any reason left for me to discuss petty things with others, not to teach them nor to learn from them something that hardly centers in my life!"

"I don't believe I never figured this out!"

"I am sure there are other people like me too. And for all those people I think they must feel so isolated living in a country full of people but having nobody to discuss their bottlenecks with. Even if they go to a psychologist they would talk for 50 mins and the doctor for the remaining 10 and that only once a week. Hardly any conversation I think! And then when so many people are around!"

"I know nothing is really tough in life and that's why I think if such people could move across their bottlenecks faster they would make such tremendous progress!"

"I know there are a lot of people out there who still have not figured this out. What a trance everybody is living in!"

"I thank God that I have atleast discovered this! Alhamdollilah! God is very kind to those who try!"

Her friend was a bit ambivalent. She didn't know what to say.

What would you have said to Rukhsana?

-Written by the author of this blog

The valley of wonder in the tale of the seh-morgh

Allama Iqbal has written a book called the Javaidnama which was meant to be a guide for his son [whose name is Javaid]. It narrates the story of the seh-morgh i.e. the story of a large gathering of birds who decide to find their King. They travel across 7 valleys and eventually find him. However as they cross each valley many among them stay behind. The fifth valley was the valley of Love and the sixth valley the valley of "heran-eyat/Wonder". In the seventh valley they find their King.

The sixth valley is beginning to make sense to me. I am sure there are many in the world who are mentally numb - asleep and I begin to see this reality not intellectually but through my heart.

In our culture it seems there is many times a "auto-immune disease" among many peers and even adults such that people generally get uncomfortable talking about serious matters even if they are their own.

And many people I am sure don't have anybody to sit down and hear them out - hear them out till they finish. How amazing is that!?

People in unhealthy organization are in some fashion scared of their managers - clouding their judgement; often resulting in stunted growth in their careers. But how many organizations are truly healthy? How many managers welcoming?

People who come in talk shows on Pakistani T.V. to discuss serious matters, often engage in a circular discussion that naturally only painstakingly moves forward [when that movement happens].

Sometimes this phenomena is more subtle. If you notice some of the movies that Hollywood makes are sometimes pretty inane; particularly a certain brand of cheap comedies. While their humor is cheap people don't seem to realize that because it's Hollywood doesn't mean it has to be more than trash. The fact that such movies have a market is something that makes me wonder, Why? In fact a lot of people need to debate this and argue that art should not be judgeded. Even if this is so the fact that there is a demand for them shows that there are consumers of movies that are essentially unhealthy.

I am sure it is awareness of this sort that is meant by the sixth valley - the valley of wonder!

Monday, September 14, 2009

To find peace within

To find this peace the first step is to identify our different faculties. These are:

The Body: A physical tool - connects us to the world [through it's pleasures]
The Mind: Corroborator of the heart
The Heart: A guide for us - a compass
The Soul: The soul I think connects us to God like a baby to their mother's womb. Thus the purpose of the soul I understand is to connect us to HIM. [Thus it connects us to the total view of reality, something more encompassing than the heart, mind or body. The heart for example may at times be too tender to allow us to connect with reality and to acknowledge it's potential for brutality.]

If these faculties are not clearly identified and thus not understood they will leave a person vulnerable to the outside world.

One example of what can happen if the heart is not identified is shown below:

Somebody once said to another: When you go to a party do you prepare something to say? How else are you so comfortable at speaking to everybody at the party?

For the first person the socializing process was missing the element of the heart's guidance and thus suffered a lack of spontaneity.

The first person was trying to intellectualize the process and this was her mistake. Thus because she did not identify her heart she was vulnerable.

Having identified our faculties however is not enough to secure us from vulnerability or to bring peace within.

The final step is a HARMONY among them. I mean by this, that while a faculty/faculties are 'affirmed' NONE should be 'negated'. To demonstrate this I have discussed three examples below [This explanation is in terms of the faculties and their 'affirmation' and 'negation'.]

In the first example I will take you back to the question about the party. By trying to find a solution through intellectualizing alone seems to show that the person asking the question was not aware of her heart. While affirming the mind she would be in trouble at the party as long as she negated her heart.

Another example is of a man in the company of a lewd woman. The lewd woman would affirm his body but negate his soul [See the function of the soul above]. Here the soul serves a counter-check to the body. But alas, the body serves a counter-check to the soul [as well]!

The soul has the power to carry a person into a land very esoteric and it is the body that has the power to bring him back into the world and live among men. It serves to remind him of a world outside his hermitage. A world more encompassing and rich that has the power to be more fulfilling than the hermitage alone [, however fulfilling that hermitage might be!].

[And so it sounds like a brilliant idea to get married!]

Thus it is that harmony must exist between the 4 faculties. None should be negated.

Comment by Ramla:
I must say I appreciate your intellectual honesty. The fact that you don't... mince your words.

Speaking of vulnerability... Ah! One of those things where the Truth if the matter is upside-down vis-a-vis the 'common reality'. The common reality or belief or understanding may be that knowing your heart's truth makes you 'invulnerable'. The Truth, the very sign of the heart being affirmed (and 'followed') is vulnerability. The heart is connected, thus open and, thus, vulnerable. The opposite of that is a heart that is closed, hardened, and cynical. It is a heart not realized. Yet.

My reply:
The vulnerability that the heart exposes a person to will later protect him from danger. Thus by opening your eyes you see more clearly in a way that a cynical, hardened heart can not. By being able to 'see' you can protect yourself better.

Alas [in connection with my earlier post] it makes you aware of more choices. And choice as somebody said is the difference in this world between the powerful and the powerless.

Reply by Ramla:
A sense of vulnerability, a softness, a tenderness... a humbleness with respect to all existence is a sure sign that the heart has opened. It is a heart, surrendered. Willing to take It All in.

... Once again, amusingly, the Truth becomes the opposite of what would be common: once one is vulnerable, then they will understand the real Truth: THIS is real strength. THIS is real protection from harm. None can be harmed -- i.e. their soul cannot be damaged by the 'outside', by the 'Other' -- when they have opened the Self up to the Other, making them One. 'One' is benevolently disposed. One shall not hurt Oneself.

If you know what I mean, which I trust you do. :)

My reply:
I do and it is very well said and yet there should be a pause to take caution.

The system of cause and effect that exists is very just. If a person however close to God makes a mistake he will be punished for 'that' mistake.

Thus a bad cause has a bad effect just like a good cause has a good effect.

Maybe the prime example of this is what happened to Satan!

Thus we must always seek His guidence and His mercy.

Thus I think I have made sense of God's jalali traits - they are there to maintain order in the universe.

The beauty of this order, science has already revealed to us and so has the Prophet! [The former at the emperical level the latter at the vertical - man's search for peace and the potential/power unlocked within]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A little about us and a little about God

We clearly operate at these four levels:
1: Body - We want affirmation for this and thus it is that it affords us an opportunity for pleasure
2: Intellect - writing my first software program was a great achievement. Every time something makes sense to me intellectually there is a pleasure in it
3: Heart: When somebody affirms my heart/qalb* I take comfort in it
4: Soul: When somebody removes a deep-seated contradiction in my world view I become powerful by it

There is a pleasure at each level and clearly as we move from 1 to 4 the pleasure derived increases. So when the intellect is affirmed [and not idled] you enjoy more than when the body is affirmed. Similarly when somebody [actually] affirms your heart, that is more enjoyable than an intellectual experience. And finally when somebody solves some deep-seated problem, it can send quite a shudder down our spine.

This is not a framework or a model this is our psychological built!

And this is how Allah has created every human being!


At the same time He has created the universe to work on the principle of Cause and Effect. If we seek affirmation He will be happy but if despite seeking affirmation we contradict the universe [by choosing to create the wrong causes] we would suffer a brutality no one has the power to escape.

If He has made us so then this must reflect God's psyche.

It is not possible then that a person who does not recognize the heart can profess to be complete. Similarly a person who does not recognize the intellect or the soul cannot be complete. But what is it to be complete?

To be complete is to have an independence to make your own choices as opposed to being pre-programmed for a response in a given set of situations.

But to be truly complete one has to acknowledge the brutality and the negative in the universe [that exists because of Cause/Effect] and thus take heed from it.

*heart/qalb: It is that within you that cries when you see a distressed and orphaned child or that shows you the brutality in the humiliation [without purpose] of another human being. Or that knows [without argument or thought] that peace is superior to war.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A few thoughts on the movie "Shawshank Redemption"

Shawshank Redemption is a story of a man [Andy Dufrain] who seems to be at peace in a place so overwhelming that others got 'institutionalized' [one convict when freed committed suicide because he couldn't adapt to life outside prison. Another convict said "every time I have to go take a piss I can't squeeze two drops without first asking my manager" - this was when he started to work at a supermarket].

Andy never looses hope, while he himself suffers he chooses to struggle in ways big and small. He helps a kid [who doesn't believe in himself and so ends up returning to prison time after time] pass an exam; he writes a letter a week over a long period to get funds for the prison library. [When he finally gets the funds and a response asking him to stop sending the letters, he starts sending two letters a week!]. While he does all this he digs night upon night for a long time with a tiny hammer to get through - to get his freedom.

It shows he was not institutionalized. No, he was a believer.

[Interestingly this is in contrast to the prison warden who keeps the bible with himself and professes to be a man of God!]

The hero it seems does well monetarily too. Andy makes money for the warden [through various projects] and manipulates to successfully get the money once out of prison. While he does this he also sends incriminating evidence to the police owing to which they come after the warden [and I imagine the prisoners also get their salvation from his tyranny]

A beautiful part of the movie is where Dufrain locks the guard and puts a beautiful operatic piece on the mike and so it plays throughout the prison. A person said: "I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."

When asked why he did this Andy says [when he is taken out of a two week solitary confinement where he was sent as a punishment for this]: "that music - it's in your heart now, no body can take it away from you".

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why choose Good over Evil

The universe works on the principle of cause and effect. Thus it is that every act has an effect.

There is beauty; love and happiness in the world and these are also effects.

[From the previous post you will note that] as the effect emerges from an act so does an act emerge from a choice.

To get beauty, love and happiness a choice must be made.

In the movie Matrix Revolutions a dialogue between Neo and Agent Smith – metaphorically a dialogue between Good and Evil proceeds as follows:

Agent Smith’s Question: “Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more that your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?”

Neo’s reply: “Because I choose to.”

If you make the wrong choices [consciously and persistently] you will experience the effects of hell for the relationship between cause and effect will make it so.

[And so it is that we are in a test.]

But the choice is up to us to make. We have freedom to make these choices. We can make deliberate choices to enjoy beauty like the beauty of the rising Sun. If the choices are powerful enough we become like the Sun.

These effects are what Rumi must speak of when he mentions the wine from the cup of the Beloved.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The relationship between the moment, our choice and its effect

Being in the present moment results in two things [as I understand]:
1. A clear view of the present moment [which leads to visibility of choices] and
2. The choice that is made [by us, in that moment]

The choice can be split further into:
1. The Act; and
2. The Intention behind the act;
With both having their own separate effects.

The section below explains the 'separate effects':

I think actions have good and bad effects. I also think that intentions have good and bad effects.

If a good act is done with a corrupt intention it is going to have a bad effect simply because the corrupt intention is going to cloud your judgment. With a clouded judgment you are bound to make mistakes.

A bad act done with a good intention is also going to have a bad effect in the short run but should have a good effect in the long run. The bad effect is owing to the reality check that the environment will impose on us and the good effect is a clarity one will receive through a catharsis [owing to the initial bad effect].

In each moment we can thus choose an act and inspire it with a noble intention. The more powerful the choice made the more powerful its effect in the real world.

These effects [of good acts/intentions] accrete when launched into the real world like a snowball through a ‘butter fly effect’ to benefit their creator.

And so it is that a gift lies hidden in each moment.