Monday, December 31, 2012


A scientist approaches God, and says to Him, "Look, God, we don't need you anymore.  Nowadays, we can do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.  We can transplant organs, giving new life to a dying man, we can cure almost any disease, and we can even clone animals.  It won't be long, and we'll be able to clone humans, too.  So, I'm sorry, but you are just outdated".
     God listens patiently to the scientist and says, "I can see that you believe you don't need me, and I understand.  However, I love you, and I don't want to see you make a big mistake, so why don't we make sure?  I say we should have a man-making contest, just to be sure."
     The scientist replies, "I'll take that challenge". 
    So, God says, "Ok, let's do it the way I did it in the old days, with Adam and Eve".  The scientists says, "No problem", and reaches down to scoop up a handful of dirt.
     "Whoa, hold on there a minute", God says.  "You get your OWN dirt".

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pi, faith & mysticism

Watched 'Life of Pi' movie yesterday. It was a lovingly made movie, for a change!
Although the review on NYT was not very good (but many commentators felt that the reviewer was biased against 'faith').
So yes, this movie was about 'faith'. A deep faith in/ love for, Divine/ God, was entwined with the narrative.
But the story was also being open enough to say that both people who believe in either Religion or Science, go as far as their respective fields of knowledge take, and then 'both make a leap of faith' (this was in the novel although not shown in the movie). But it leaves people with the question, 'which story do you like more ?' and I guess most people prefer the one with/ about God... for it is 'The Better Story' ... more grand, more magical :)

How deeply I connected to this story, again!
Apart from this love for a higher power, which gives a sense of universal love and expansion, there was one more aspect. Five years back too I felt moved by the protagonist's hurt about an unceremonious, no-good-bye, loss (of the tiger to the jungle, in the end). And again I was moved by it... it revived some similar lack of good-byes in my life.

Later I was flipping through pages of some of the books by Scott Peck... he comes across such a wise author & therapist. Here is what he says about stages of spiritual development (copied from wiki):
  • Stage I is chaotic, disordered, and reckless. Very young children are in Stage I. They tend to defy and disobey, and are unwilling to accept a will greater than their own. They are extremely egoistic and lack empathy for others. Many criminals are people who have never grown out of Stage I.
  • Stage II is the stage at which a person has blind faith in authority figures and sees the world as divided simply into good and evil, right and wrong, us and them. Once children learn to obey their parents and other authority figures, often out of fear or shame, they reach Stage II. Many so-called religious people are essentially Stage II people, in the sense that they have blind faith in God, and do not question His existence. With blind faith comes humility and a willingness to obey and serve. The majority of good, law-abiding citizens never move out of Stage II.
  • Stage III is the stage of scientific skepticism and questioning. A Stage III person does not accept things on faith but only accepts them if convinced logically. Many people working in scientific and technological research are in Stage III. They often reject the existence of spiritual or supernatural forces since these are difficult to measure or prove scientifically. Those who do retain their spiritual beliefs move away from the simple, official doctrines of fundamentalism.
  • Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature and existence. While retaining skepticism, he starts perceiving grand patterns in nature and develops a deeper understanding of good and evil, forgiveness and mercy, compassion and love. His religiousness and spirituality differ significantly from that of a Stage II person, in the sense that he does not accept things through blind faith or out of fear, but does so because of genuine belief, and he does not judge people harshly or seek to inflict punishment on them for their transgressions. This is the stage of loving others as yourself, losing your attachment to your ego, and forgiving your enemies. Stage IV people are labeled as Mystics.
Peck argues that while transitions from Stage I to Stage II are sharp, transitions from Stage III to Stage IV are gradual. Nonetheless, these changes are very noticeable and mark a significant difference in the personality of the individual.

The movie also reminded me of another novel which I read recently, 'The Castle in the Pyrenees'. A friend picked it up for me with an intuitive feeling that it was closely connected to my life. Probably true! It is a book about faith and reason ... and how two lovers drift apart, as they transition in their spirituality (one can say, they move from above mentioned stage III to IV... one of them shift few decades earlier than the other). This sounds eerily familiar ... so many of my close relationships have faded away/ vanished over time, while I moved from and through these stages. Probably something from these quotes from this book has a ring of truth in it for me too ...

" That was where the deep fissure between us lay. The conclusions I drew from what we'd experienced were quite different to yours. That was why we couldn't stay together. I immediately began to read up on spirituality philosophy. ....

...what you couldn't take was that you didn't have a faith that could match my new orientation. You saw it as a betrayal. We two had had our own sect. Now the congregation I'd left had only one adherent. 

Because it wasn't the other way round. It wasn't me who couldn't manage to live with you on account of your atheism. It really wasn't. But in the long term I couldn't put up with your head shaking rejection of my new conviction. You had no leeway. You displayed no tolerance. You showed no mercy. It was so hard to take that, I had to catch that afternoon train..."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why I love my life now :)

As a young child, growing up in a sleepy small town of eastern Uttar Pradesh, I had not seen a single Psychologist in my entire small life. Nor anyone else around me had.
But I don't know how and when I learned about it, and how I got this conviction that 'this' is what I want to be when I grow up. I wanted to be a Psychologist, not even that, I wanted to be an applied one, a psychotherapist. (The one I never had myself ? ;)
Although only years later I learned how to spell it correctly ;)

That was the start of my roller coaster ride...

I read what ever I found related to Psychology with relish. The spiritual organisation with which I and my family got associated later had quite a bit of such literature. (Frankly, I still feel amazed how they wrote such well-researched articles in those internet-less times).

Many years later when it was time for Intermediate (12th std) schooling, we found that none of the schools I knew offered Psychology. My cousin sis advised me to join 'Home Science' stream, since it had some bit of Child Psychology. Well... only a little ... still I joined it.

Then years later, while doing my graduation with honors in Psychology, my Fine Arts teacher encouraged me to become a full time 'Artist' seeing some potential within me. She wondered what will I do by studying Psychology.
By then I had grown a fascination for Military Psychology. I was soon going to get highest military training certificate for college students in India, NCC 'C' certificate. Thankfully, Army selection commission never responded to my first and only application soon after, I think I was under age.
Thankfully nor did I get under the influence of a well-intentioned aunt, who had a similar question about Psychology and my future, and as an answer to it wanted me to become an 'Economist'.

Then I stumbled upon another department of Psychology, a center of excellence in Social Psychology. This deeply ingrained a sense of social perspective within me. It has never left me since then. But even before passing out and getting into social sector, I landed a respectable job in a very prestigious Organisation.
My department faculty was divided if I should join or not. Well, I told one of my favorite teachers, I'm off, but for short. Time for some 'on-the-job-training' in Organisational Psychology.

This organisation's job rotation not only gave me diverse experiences, but also finally landed me into hospital administration of its 'in-house' hospital. Here I slowly managed to get into Psychiatry department, and that opened the path towards Clinical Psychology in the best institute around.

But my journey was not yet over.
M.Phil was followed by Ph.D and Postdoc. Research in Child Psychology, was followed by Promotive mental health, Preventive mental health and again Children and their parents.
Meanwhile I was being groomed slowly but surely by my Dutch mentor for getting into Indian Psychology.

And finally, after such a long detour, I'm into applied Indian Psychology (guess with wide enough perspective).
This is a very new zone, mostly uncharted territory. There are days when I ask, 'Yes I have often felt I am guided, but towards what!'.
Some days I want to run back to a safe, known, comfortable zone. But I'm not giving up... I like being courageous enough to walk all the way, while also feeling that 'fear' in the pit of my stomach... of not knowing what is to come.

And now when it has started coming together I get those moments of exhilaration.
Here I'm teaching modern Psychology on one hand, Counseling skills on another, and Patanjali Yoga Sutras, with my extra hands if you may count please!
Modern Psychology has been outside to inside, while Indian Psychology has been inside to outside. Some of the bridges connecting them are hidden. But they are there, after all its about life, lived experiences & inner growth. Although one goes far deeper than the other...

Now for the first time I feel I have really found the meaning of my life, which I always sensed is just around the corner, but I haven't yet reached that bend.
Suddenly I get many Eureka moments in a week and when I share it in my class there are more of those 'light-bulb' moments for others.

Today I had such a wonderful talk with an Australian student, who herself has a background in Social work & Psychology. I had shared some of the insights in my class, and then more later with her. Given her response it seems this 'bridging the gap' is helping her to validate her own feelings & experiences, as she moves from Western Psychology to Indian/ Yogic one. It also has transformative potential for many more similar minded people, who want to go beyond separately boxing-in modern Psychology and Indian/ Yogic - Psychology/ Philosophy, in their own mind & life.

Wow! so I can't be any more blessed (I won't mind a little more though, dearest Divine ;)
I look forward to my days now, although I'm really busy whole day, and dead tired by night.
I almost teach 'Love' (unconditional positive regard :) in my counseling skills class...
I teach transformative but yet very scientific Yogic Psychology...
I bridge the gap between modern and ancient sciences of mind...
I get to see clients and have privilege to work with them & help them in their moments of difficulties, meanwhile also learning and growing as a person myself...
And I get to help my students in their personal growth.

What more can a human being ask for, from life :)

Thank you Universe for being so guiding and nurturing. Now I forgive thy big cosmic jokes upon me ;)

Signed With Love

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Indian & American Psychology

In last few years many studies have thrown light on the fact that there is an extremely narrow sample selected for researches conducted in the field of Psychology.
Arnett (2008) found that in top journals of 6 sub-specialties of Psychology, 96% of the sample was from a western country, which constitutes only 12% of the world population, (So rest of 88% of us have only 4% articles representing them). Hmm... 
Interestingly, 68% of sample is American and majority of it comprises of university students, the easy catch. So usually its not only based on WEIRD sample... I mean Western, Educated, Industrialized (some say individualistic), Rich & Democratic! (Henrich, Heine & Norenzayan, 2011), but probably they are YAVIS too - Young, Attractive, Verbal, Intelligent & Successful (Schofield, 1984). And then this 'Psychology' is exported around the world (Ref. 'Crazy like us: Globalization of American Psyche').

Now as I teach Modern/ Western/ American Psychology along with Counseling Skills on one hand and Patanjali Yoga Sutras on the other, very slowly the two world-views, their meeting points and points of divergence are coming together in my mind. 
They are still at a very subtle abstract level, so I am not very willing to put it into words here... still just wanna say, gradually I'm getting a better perspective about the whole thing.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


I used to see similar pamphlets in st. Louis on the poles... it was the great (?) uprising of Occupy Wall-street. The Zeitgeist was that of 'Change'.
(Update: I hear no more about it, guess US economy has revived)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Computer Haiku

In Japan they have replaced the impersonal and unhelpful Microsoft Error messages with Haiku poetry messages. Haiku poetry has strict construction rules. each poem has only 3 lines & 17 syllables ( 5 in first, 7 in second & 5 in third line). Haiku is used to communicate a timeless message often achieving a wistful, yearning and powerful insight through extreme brevity. 

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully. 

Three things are certain:
death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

A file that big?
It might be very useful,
but now it is gone.

Windows XP crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

The code was willing.
It considered your request,
but the chips were weak.

ABORTED effort
Close all that you have.
You ask way too much.

The Website you seek
cannot be located but
endless others exist.

A crash reduces 
your expensive computer
to a simple stone.

Server's poor response
Not quick enough for browser.
Timed out, plum blossom.

Seeing my great fault
Through darkening blue windows
I begin again.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that. 

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared. 
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

Lets laugh together :D

Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they have stolen. - Mort Sahl

Some other funny things I found around....

Adam's Suit

A little boy opened the big and old family Bible with fascination and looked at the old pages as he turned them. Suddenly something fell out of the Bible and he picked it up and looked at it closely. It was an old leaf from a tree that had been pressed in between the pages.

''Momma, look what I found,'' the boy called out. 

"What have you got there, dear?" his mother asked. 

With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered: "I think it's Adam's suit!"
(Author Unknown)


The Magician and the parrot

A magician worked on a cruise ship. The audience was different each week so the magician did the same trick over and over again. 
There was only one problem: the captain's parrot saw the show each week and began to understand how the magician did every trick.
Once he understood he started shouting in the middle of the show, "Look, its not the same hat!" or "Look, he is hiding the flowers under the table!", or "Hey, why are all the cards the ace of spades?"

The magician was furious but couldn't do anything. It was after all the captain's parrot. 
Then one stormy night on the Pacific, the ship unfortunately sank drowning almost all who were on the board. The magician luckily found himself on a piece of wood floating in the middle of the sea with, as fate would have it, the parrot.
They stared at each other with hatred but did not utter a word. 
This went on for a day... and then 2 days... and then 3 days. Finally on the 4th day, the parrot could hold back no longer and said... 

OK, I give up. Where is the ship?



Dear Lord
So far today, God, I've
Done all right.
I haven't gossiped, haven't 
lost my temper,
haven't been greedy,
grumpy, nasty, selfish
or over-indulgent.
I'm really glad about that. 
But in a few minutes, God,
I'm going 
to get out of my bed, and from
then on
I'm probably going to 
need a lot more help!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Karma, meaning in life & Calvin... an odd combination, huh!

Watched Cloud Atlas yesterday... enjoyed the 6 intermingling stories.
Although I had made sure to carry along enough hankies/ tissues, but unfortunately my expectations were over hyped due to such a moving trailer. I never reached the point of shedding tears ;)

Although one gory image was too hard to swallow... the human clones being recycled for consumption for their protein value. It needs real evil imagination to come up with something like that ;) Well, fits the story!

The movie overall didn't have enough time to build something very deep and touching. Although it was very expansive in its scope and execution. Still it unfolded like a mystery, a thriller and I wouldn't mind another view, later.

The theme revolves around karma... how our choices, our actions, echos through many lifetimes, through eternity. How as we learn our lessons, we avoid making same mistakes again & get better. Guess, in each lifetime the meaning, the inherent purpose, is to evolve as a human being, or as soul.

Still, Calvin puts it across better ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Changing meditations for changing times

During my life there has been times when I have felt a special affinity for a particular type of meditation/ visualization or that it came naturally to me or developed within me as per my needs of the moment.

I was thinking about it and suddenly remembered, long back it was about the felt sense of all beings forever connected. Only later I think I read about the metaphor of 'Indra's web' where each one of us is like a single knot in that web. Along with that there was a feeling that we never lose anyone, since we are forever there with each other.

The second time it was of good will for every one, especially starting from my practice at that time of karuna-matri meditation. It was like opening of heart and a higher energy of good will and love sustaining me and everyone.

And nowadays its more about connecting with the empty space between every thought, the space which hold everything in a room, the space which hold the earth, the space which is always the container and thus larger than whatever it contains.
Just now as I was reading another article about Mellen-Thomas Benedict's self report of his NDE, something very similar is described in one of the paragraphs.
Where is the void? I know. The void is inside and outside everything. You, right now even while you live, are always inside and outside the void simultaneously. You don't have to go anywhere or die to get there. The void is the vacuum or nothingness between all physical manifestations. The SPACE between atoms and their components. Modern science has begun to study this space between everything. They call it zero-point. Whenever they try to measure it, their instruments go off the scale, or to infinity, so to speak. They have no way, as of yet, to measure infinity accurately. There is more of the zero space in your own body and the universe than anything else!

A neurosurgeon's first person account of near-death experience

Very interesting account of Consciousness beyond known brain functions. As Dr. Alexander says...

There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.

Then he goes on to say...

I’m not the first person to have discovered evidence that consciousness exists beyond the body. Brief, wonderful glimpses of this realm are as old as human history. But as far as I know, no one before me has ever traveled to this dimension (a) while their cortex was completely shut down, and (b) while their body was under minute medical observation, as mine was for the full seven days of my coma.

All the chief arguments against near-death experiences suggest that these experiences are the results of minimal, transient, or partial malfunctioning of the cortex. My near-death experience, however, took place not while my cortex was malfunctioning, but while it was simply off. This is clear from the severity and duration of my meningitis, and from the global cortical involvement documented by CT scans and neurological examinations. According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.
For the rest... read the article :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Life of Pi II

Returned back from my favorite Pondi, as if, back from a trip home.
Came across this review of an upcoming movie based on a book 'Life of Pi'. Interestingly the story starts with Pondicherry. Five years back I had written a post on this book. Here is what the director of this new movie has to say...
“I loved the book,” he said, “but it’s very hard to crack. I thought you can’t make a movie about religion but it can be a movie about the value of storytelling and how that brings structure and wisdom to life. This is a coming-of-age story. It’s about taking a leap of faith.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Indian Joint Families: Pains & gains of a naturalistic social security system

Lately in my psychotherapy sessions many women (in their 50s) were referred for pain... most often with complaints of back pain.
I noticed some common pattern in their respective lives - early marriage, joint family set-up, critical in-laws (although some had at least one in-law who was very supportive). This coupled with high sensitivity to approval (almost socialized for that), being a full-time home maker, husbands being busy with successful businesses (often from Vaishya caste), children who have individuated and might be ready to leave the nest, life revolving around domestic duties where they and their contributions are taken for granted / minimized.
While listening to them I often got a sense that I have heard the story before. There is a dry deadness to it all.  Its just an endless cycle of domesticity, kitchen, thankless caring and boredom. As if there is little to look forward to...
Often 'pain', debilitating pain, is what brings the family together, around the oft-neglected 'mom'.

(One also had more horror in her life with series of losses, abuse, helplessness and guilt about not being able to protect own son from similar abuse).

The other group is that of personal growth circle which I run for my students. Here I encourage them to share their life stories and its eye opening or even inspiration to hear from them. Its a very diverse group with majority coming from a rural area/small Indian town, a couple with urban middle-class background and few others coming from beyond Indian sub-continent.
During the last session I suddenly realized many of these students lost their father in their childhood, one even his mother. Most of them, and few other too (due to other reasons) grew up with other relatives, grandparents, maternal/ paternal uncles etc, and were treated well (almost like foster homes, but still had a sense of reliability and trust, which is missing in the lives of children stuck in government bureaucratic child support services of western /developed countries).
Having such close community network, the joint family system, most of them grew up into decently secure individuals with happy memories of their lives with their cousins. Into resilient young adults, with a solid value system, and a trust in the universe, the way this world runs and who were able to ignore some of the negative life events and move further. Isn't it heart-warming?


Such are the pains and gains of an old system, which on one hand can hold people, especially women in narrow spaces, and on the other hand can provide support and security in much better ways than an informal, seemingly uncaring, bureaucratic system.

Monday, October 22, 2012

If you love something... revisiting marshmallow study

Have you ever heard this famous saying, 'If you love someone set her/him free, if s/he comes back s/he is yours, if s/he doesn't, s/he never was'.
What if you love 'something' ;)

I think this advice can be used in other many other life contexts requiring ability for delaying gratification. One very famous study (Marshmallow study) looked at this ability itself in pre-school children (i.e. ability for self-control) and correlated it with their life success after almost 2 decades. The results got really famous and got quoted everywhere 
(In popular culture I read there is a movie with similar theme, 'Five year engagement' with heroine being an experimental psychologist :)

Some other studies have tried to teach ways for coping with the intensity of needs - in the experimental setting by hiding the marshmallow or thinking about the bigger gain (with moderate effects), and in the real life by developing self control and patience.
The largest effect came from a new study (published in journal Cognition), which manipulated environment's reliability. When in 2 earlier interactions the experimenter was reliable (reliably gave larger rewards after making the child wait), it resulted in child delaying the need to eat the marshmallow immediately and waiting for more later. They say children are sensitive and make rational decisions, especially here about the trustworthiness of the environment.  

And now I can't resist myself from extrapolating this result... to the realm of human & mystical ;)
I mean what about the 'trust' on not only other humans, but also on Universe and its laws, God etc? Especially when you see humans around you are helpless and there are larger forces which influences the outcome of any situation, in short-term, in long-term, or even cosmic-terms (think of belief in reincarnation). 
I guess this trust, this belief in 'just & fair' universal laws (such as that of 'karma', 'what goes around, comes around' etc) helps a large group of people to have self-control and tolerance for situations which are really miserable ...
We need to do a study :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Autism & the Technical Mind

Here is what Scientific American has to say ... (btw, the author's theories on autism being extreme of male-brain or systems thinking, were initially considered to be controversial).

  • Silicon Valley and other tech-savvy communities report exceptionally high rates of autism. These trends might reflect a link between genes that contribute to autism and genes behind technical aptitude.
  • When two technical-minded individuals pair up, their children may inherit genes for useful cognitive skills, as well as genes involved in the development of autism.
  • Furthermore, high levels of testosterone in the womb may play a role in the development of both technical and autistic minds.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cloud Atlas & Psychology of reincarnation

Recently read the review of Cloud Atlas ...
OOO... loved reading about it... waiting to watch it :)

A lot of religions believe in re-incarnation (Hindus & Buddhist for sure).
Some scientific research too has been done so far. In Indian sub-continent the collaborator of an international project was one of my ex-professor (her work was actually on spontaneous memories of past life and factual information in those memories). She has written few books including 2 volumes of 'Can the Mind Survive Beyond Death? In Pursuit of Scientific Evidence'

Although research in this field are hardly enough to prove anything... 
But then some of the most valuable or beautiful aspects of our humanity are hard to measure and prove. (Disclosure: I do believe in multiple births as per my religious & cultural background).

To lot many people it certainly gives a way of meaning-making about random events of this world... a sense of larger / cosmic fairness & justice.

Often these cultures have an inherent sense of evolution, where souls go through a journey where in each life they learn something and thus grow in their spirit. If it went badly, no problem, you come another time.

Some even hypothesize that probably followers of such belief systems have lesser anxiety about death / hell / heaven, without forgoing the other benefits of religion / spirituality by turning into complete atheist.

As far as I have read, the movie revolves around such themes, of 3 souls evolving through 6 births. (Oh reminds me of so many discussions we have had as well as some weird synchronicities without a closure ... probably postponed for some other birth ;)

Anyway, the movie sounds too good... I wait to watch :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This fragile human life

Yesterday, a student from one of the course and later her husband, committed suicide. The news shook everyone in the campus. Classmates, patients, staff, everyone had same question in their mind, why?
They seemed a happy couple... they apparently posted their photos on Facebook that night.

My only interaction with the lady, a medical student, happened few days before the incident, when she came to discuss emotional problems of her cousin who has borderline intelligence and was around for participating in some yoga retreat.
How I wish now that I had some fore-knowledge about her emotional issues... probably I could have provided some 'space' to talk... or probably nothing could have been done... we die when we are meant to ...
Still everyone can try to help another ...

During such times we suddenly wonder, how fragile is this human life and how short our stay here. I wish we would be a little more nice, a little more kind & sensitive toward each other...

May they rest in peace.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Craigslist & Indian matrimonial sites

Almost two years back a series of amusing incidents happened with me somewhat associated with an article in NewYorker magazine, which compared Indian arranged marriages with craigslist. (Till that moment I had no clue what the hell was craigslist ;) Its a website for classifieds and has a very international presence, especially in US. 

However, I do have some clue about Indian matrimonial sites. I have vicariously experienced the roller-coaster rides some of my friends have gone through in their experiences with these sites, through SOS phone call and late night discussions. 

Lately one of my friends who is spouse-hunting gives me long-distance distress calls to discuss the women he meets on such sites. Either they are too sweet but un-interesting, or too interesting but very confused, or out of his league all together, or any one with whom he connects reminds him of his ex-flame, for whom he still pines. (It is really sad to see him stuck in such a situation, for he is one of the most loving, generous and self-aware man I have ever met ... well, from engineering profession, although I have found a few such friends :). 

Actually, in this digital era these sites are rich source of psychological data too. Years back, one of my ex-professor had done a psycho-social study of newspaper matrimonial ads and one may be tempted to extend it further now and analyse what people are looking for currently, beyond old fashioned 'fair, homely, girl' & 'well-settled doctor/engineer/IAS boy'. What is in their list! ? Is it a reflection of changing psycho-social reality of Indian population. 

One American dating site (OKcupid) has done serious amount of data mining and come up with very interesting results &write-ups ... time for Indian sites to do the same ;)
(Although in such cases, statistically analyzed crazy ideas may get fed into the public value system ... a self-fulfilling prophecy, no?). 

One more interesting aspect which I am often tempted to study is how people make meaning out of their past relationships, assessed from their online narratives. Long back I noticed this trend on Orkut, where people would fill out a question, 'From my past relationship I learned...'. 
Now, some people take it further on matrimonial sites, while posting their expected list of attributes in the prospective partner ... not only what they expect, but also sometimes in bold letters they write what they do not approve of... indicating their current state of mind, the angry,the betrayed, the depressed, the heart broken. Guess they have had enough of it last time :) 

Well, I'm reminded of dear old Freud who said, 'He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore'. 

Personal growth circle

Yesterday night eleven of us, me & my students, sat together in a circle... with a plan to have an ice-breaking moment from where we were supposed to proceed ---> to the agenda of self-growth :)

Well, that was the plan, if God-forbid, things go too smoothly... as planned.
I really didn't want it that way! If it goes like that, then something is seriously wrong ;)

I had asked everyone to bring a piece of their favorite poetry, or a quote which they love, find inspirational.
The first few moments were clumsy, with students of heavy spirituality courses, talking as if giving a presentation. Thankfully it started getting better.
One of the students shared some thing deeply personal, without realizing what he has brought to the group. It was about his childhood losses (of both parents) and how life has not let him down (by sustaining him, people giving him food...) (amazing simplicity of his being). Although he thought he did so by walking out of an ashram, (scared of old-age loneliness) where he initially had joined as a monk. Overall, for me it was so inspiring, expanding of my own perspective ... Till now he was just one of my students, now I see him in a different light.
It brought out some other student's pain too and I ended up in my therapy room till 9.30pm. Well, life happens!

Some of my students have been coming to me individually to discuss their lives, share their experiences/ confusions, take some guidance ... and one of the most common issue they struggle with is that of 'loss'. Single or multiple, serial or parallel...

But the language of spirituality, especially 'jnana yoga' dismisses, minimizes or even refuses to acknowledge pain in its full 'subjective' dimension. It is true pain can pass like a cloud across blue sky, when one is in an expanded consciousness or is well, Enlightened ... but it doesn't help someone struggling with it :(

If pain is there then obviously one is not feeling enlightened in that moment, period. It will be an act of charity towards oneself, if we just accept it. Otherwise it often leads to denial, conflict & self-hatred.

I am planning to focus the next session on this issue. Of course, if God forbid, things go as per my mind's agenda :)

Although I might get some or other chance to bring up this topic, since instead of earlier planned once a week session, now the frequency of these meetings will be on every alternate day, on popular demand!

Looking forward to it... probably finally I should start a separate blog for applied Indian Psychology, no? ;)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Yoga, Ayurveda & Harvard

Here I came across this new piece that Harvard has written to Patanjali yogapeeth for a collaboration, especially for starting some courses in Yoga and Ayurveda. There is increasing research suggesting benefits of Indian practices for health and wellness, and its being applied in context of children as well as people struggling with problems like PTSD.
Coming back to Ramdev baba, in spite of many criticisms I still feel he and his group really made a difference for public health in India & probably world. Most health professionals in India had this experience of one of their patients walking in their clinic with miracle stories of their recoveries through yoga. I was initially skeptic, till i had too many anecdotes. My own mom's eye sight improved as a side effect of yoga.
Although the problem with televised free yoga is that, sometimes people do not know what asana/ pranayama to do and how. It requires close supervision, especially for those who have a physical illness. My diabetic dad stopped pranayama completely after experiencing giddiness. He restarted only after a 2 week expensive retreat in my current campus, where he and my mom were trained into it all, once again under supervision.
Who can stop something to become elitist when its all over hollywood/bollywood ;)

Coming to ayurveda, well my dad's western medicine for diabetes was completely stopped after 2 weeks of ayuredic medicines in the same retreat. He is living normally now, but we will need to supervise his blood sugar for few more months.

It is inherently difficult to do research studies in Ayurveda or similar traditional medicines, especially because of their individualized approach to treatment. I recently heard a wonderful doctor Dr. Ram Manohar whose research collaboration with some American universities was path breaking. They even run a digital helpline DHARA.

Ok, this is on the physical part. There is far too much of research lit. on meditations. Although there might also be an effect similar to 'regression to mean' where everything which is wrong, improves with these practices. But little more...

And here comes the idea that there is lot more to offer, if we look deeper. Which is the kind of possibilities in Indian Psychology. I am teaching modern psychology to students of Ayurveda & Yoga and its getting more and more fun to discuss how where modern psychology leaves, the ancient Indian psychology often takes off.
I'm actually getting more clear in my mind and connecting various ideas as I teach. Well, I guess the center for Applied Indian Psychology should work now. Its high time :)
Or I need to start it myself if everyone else is too old, or too young or too busy :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Are schools injurious to health?

Found a really nice article on education by John Taylor Gatto. (This one is so similar to what Dr. Matthijs wrote, Are schools injurious to health? in the book Child & adolescent mental health). 

Mr. Gatto got NewYork State teacher of the award for 1989, 1990 & 1991. He has spoken of 'The Psychopathic School' which 'Dumb Us Down'. And the 'Seven-Lessons' that are taught in all public schools by all teachers in America (I guess everywhere in modern world), whether they know it or not. 

1. Confusion: Schools presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials that programming is similar to the television, it fills almost all the "free" time of children. One sees and hears something, only to forget it again.

2. Class position: One comes to know their place, and learn to envy and fear the better and have contempt for the dumb.

3. Indifference: When the bell rings, drop whatever they have been doing and move to next.

4. Emotional dependency: With stars & red checks, smiles & frowns, children learn to surrender their will to a predestinated chain of commands.

5. Intellectual dependency: To wait for better trained other people for making meaning of their own lives. And also to learn to think with minimum resistance and some enthusiasm, the way it is assigned to them. 

6. Provisional self-esteem: It teaches them a kind of self confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts of their worth through report cards.

7. They cannot hide: Because they are constantly watched, supervised, and denied any privacy ... for they cannot be trusted.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

And who is S/he/ It ?

But Savitri answered meeting scorn with scorn,

The mortal woman to the dreadful Lord:

“Who is this God imagined by thy night,

Contemptuously creating worlds disdained,

Who made for vanity the brilliant stars?


Not he who has reared his temple in my thoughts

And made his sacred floor my human heart.

My God is will and triumphs in his paths,

My God is love and sweetly suffers all.

To him I have offered hope for sacrifice

And gave my longings as a sacrament.

(- Sri Aurobindo, Savitri)

Who is he?

On the dumb bosom of this oblivious globe

Although as unknown beings we seem to meet,

Our lives are not aliens nor as strangers join,

Moved to each other by a causeless force.

The soul can recognise its answering soul

Across dividing Time and, on life’s roads

Absorbed wrapped traveller, turning it recovers

Familiar splendours in an unknown face.

(- Sri Aurobindo, Savitri)

Monday, October 8, 2012


Found a nice article on De-growth.
"Does that sound scary? Today it is: degrowth means recession, with its unemployment, inequality and desperation. But it need not be that way. Unemployment could translate into greater leisure for all. Lower consumption could translate into reclaiming life from money, reskilling, reconnecting, sharing."

Love & freedom

All that life brings,
Everyone who walks in,
Teaches me 
Just two things
Love & freedom.

A part of my whole 
Every day, every moment
Comes to me.
And then some more,
Loveless, joyless,
Difficult moments
burden upon me.
All I have learned
Is just to watch,
Tolerate these moments
Dry and harsh.

Holding on to
The deep faith within,
Some day I will go
Beyond just being stoic, 
And I will learn
The final lessons
Of love & freedom.

Me and Calvin

How I feel like him ... somedays :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A letter for Be

(This post was removed by the author...)

Sunday, September 2, 2012


I have seen you crossing my world, visiting me at my little social address left for public. I have even seen some other 'dear ones' too, close to your heart, tagging along with u ;)
Honestly, I have been amused. Surprisingly I too saw you in my dream tonight ... with loads of goodwill, we chatted for long. I invite you to write to me ... Is something bothering you dear?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stations of Transformation

A couple of months back I was attending Short Summer course on Indian Psychology (SSIP-2012) and we were supposed to make a self-observation presentations. I am publishing my presentation here:

Stations of Transformation: loving one, many, beyond

Someday after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire. - Teilhard de Chardin

I would like to start with the difficulties in making this presentation on first-person subjective research, also known as self-observation research. Here 'my-self' is the instrument of research, thus I have to let go of 'confidentiality', the hallmark of mainstream research, and also be completely open to get the richness of qualitative research. (I did try using third person language, but felt too disconnected). I think I might not be able to make this kind of presentation elsewhere in a more academic setting.
I must admit, here failures of the instrument are mine, bias are mine, they reflect something about me and I'm embarrassed about them. Even reporting what went well makes me cringe as if my ego is doing an 'impression-management' exercise. Presence of a little frown on the right person's brow, absence of a validating smile, can also be tough for my approval-seeking self.
However, presentations by my course-mates (especially A.., N.. and Y..) not only touched most of us deeply, but also gave me the courage to use a narrative format. I wonder, if it isn't a little true that under pretensions of an academic course our modern community of teachers, therapists, coaches and researchers have gathered here for an ancient sacrificial ceremony offering portions of our psychological selves and partaking the shared delight in it. So here is my offering with as much awareness as I could gather.

I will be covering a specific piece of my journey from the last course in Indian Psychology (IP) in 2010, till the current SSIP. The lessons were few, the process very long. As self-observational data I have taken generous help of my old blogposts and poems since I do not have my old journal with me. In terms of literature review, I have quoted few other poets who have described similar life experiences better than any academic literature I have come across. It is titled 'Stations of Transformation: loving one, many, beyond' and is dedicated to dear Divine.

It tired of its unchanging happiness,
It turned away from immortality,
It was drawn to hazard's call and danger's charm
It yearned to the pathos of grief, the drama of pain
Perdition's peril, the wounded bare escape,
The music of ruin and its glamour and crash,
The savour of pity and the gamble of love
And passion and the ambiguous face of fate.
(Savitri, canto II, Sri Aurobindo)

The wish 'may you live in interesting times' is considered to be one of the 3 Chinese curses of increasing severity, the highest being 'may your wishes get fulfilled'. And I was having them all together. In January 2010, I wrote 'Sky fascinates me... the expanse, the mysteries... a feeling that there is much more than meets my eyes ... much more beyond my grasp - of my fingers, of my mind! It gives me a sense of meaning, a sense of hope - an inexpressible joy, belief in existence ... maybe my fantasy, may be a truth which I can feel, but can't explain'. However after few months I was feeling a certain kind of drying up within, a calm dullness, as if I had reached a dead-end. My aspiration cried out 'Lord I have reached a plateau in my growth, please help me get to the next level'. And then something stirred. The wheels of His chariot started moving for one little soul’s call, as if a snow flake had started turning into an avalanche.
From the depths of being,
From that space
Of existence,
Where most do not dare
To wander,
Lest they get lost!
This one little drop of
Cries out in pain,
Of separation,
To the whole!
Wandered at every corner
Knocked at wrong doors
To find you, and
Now come to me.
Cross the light years of expanse
Of this universe,
For once
Shrink into a form
O silent, formless,
And have a day out
In conversation with me!

With mysterious serendipity, connecting a chain of 6 events in a few hours, I one day met someone who had materialized out of my one fleeting wish that morning. With a twinkle in its eyes, the universe was truly conspiring. If I had the faintest idea that this would be my IP project for next one year or more, I certainly would have protested with a 'But, no...'. However the script was confusing.
Farz Karo yeh jog bijog ka hamne dhoong rachaya ho,
Farz karo bas yehi haquiqat, Baki sab kuch maya ho
Just imagine I created this false play of meeting and separation,
Or just imagine only this is real and rest all is illusion.
(-a Sufi couplet)

There was a time when I had come to believe in human need for independence and self expression. As in Fritz perl's gestalt prayer: I do my things and you do your things/ I am not in this world to/ live up to your expectations,/ and you are not in this world to/ live up to mine./ You are you/ and I am I/ and if by chance we find each other,/ it's beautiful./ If not/ It can't be helped.

But now I was moving towards Beyond Perl (-Walter Tubbs):
If I just do my things and you do yours,
We stand in danger of losing each other/ and ourselves.
The I detached from a Thou
I do not find you by chance
I find you by an active life
of reaching out.
I must begin with myself, true;
But I must not end with myself;
The truth begins with two.

Though, at that moment in my life, I was not consciously looking to get into a relationship, I also didn't want to live in Gibran's 'seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears'. I had to learn how to worship 'That' which one cannot see, by loving what one can see. I let go of the safety of my neat little psychological island and went with the flow.
The first to go was discomfort with surface level differences- race, nationality, language, religion and even the possibility of a geographical relocation. The out-group had become an intimate in-group. But what about him practicing agnosticism? My philosophy of Divine within everyone, was put to test by Divine questioning its own existence. My inner resistance dissolved and I got utterly devoted.

After this, a few moments of crisis stood out with their growth-push. The first came a little too early. I had disbelieving shock and for once ‘Savitri’ by Sri Aurobindo opened itself to me. Especially the chapters on pain and suffering...
Pain is the hand of nature sculpturing men
To greatness; an inspired labour chisels
With heavenly cruelty an unwilling mould.
Although the shaping God's tremendous touch
Is torture unbearable to mortal nerves,
The fiery spirit grows in strength within
And feels a joy in every titan pang.

My inner boundaries were loosening up and I managed to find the spirit of Kabir - 'Bhala hua meri matki phuti re',('Good! my pot broke'). I was also having a longing forsomething deeper, wider, higher/ Something within chanting, neti-neti/ Not this, still not this!’ Till now, I was proud of my emotional resilience as well as for willingness to do the right things, if and when convinced. However this time the lessons were going to be different. Like N.. I too realized a Kafkasque bug-like persona around me, alienating me. I had to break through my calcified boundaries to reach out to close family and friends. Good, but the journey was not yet over.

With the second crisis my smug spiritual ego cracked and splintered. I went from being indignant with a cosmos which seemed to play practical jokes on unsuspecting mortals, to feeling alone and forsaken by a universe too big to even care. I found my identity dissolving. I looked at the cumulative grief of humanity- losses, death, destruction. How was I different from any other wretched, miserable soul on the planet? The dark night had descended and I experienced a sudden crumbling of the ground beneath and my falling into an abyss. There was a sense of utter helplessness, nothing to clutch mid-fall, probably time for surrender, an unwilling surrender with quite a bit of protest. I negotiated for a glimpse beyond, the meaning behind it all, for some answers from the universe. I wanted to know why now. Why again. Why with so much of fanfare and drama, why when I felt good enough. There were no prizes for practicing spirituality, 'dharma' that which should literally uphold, doesn't, in the way we want, and living with values is still a choice.
I was pushed into a ‘here and now' moment. Embarrassingly my thesis was lagging behind and I had refused a postdoc fellowship to stay near him. My friends and advisors were concerned and the one, who was also a psychiatrist, gently prescribed anti-depressants and nudged me to reconsider my fellowship. I didn't take medications, though re-accepted the fellowship. Within 10 days of my thesis submission I was off to US.
How much space do you want
Will it be enough, if I go away
Farther than the reach of
open arms,
Opposite ends of a city,
Cross over the oceans, the continents,
On a spread out map?

Very soon I settled with very warm lab-mates, a baby Krishna idol on my altar, in my beloved's country.
In every new place,
a little part of me
pitches a tent,
builds a comfort zone.

I had resolved at not being cynical, even if it meant going down trying to do whatever seemed right to me. Little by little I started to surrender.
O Life
I fight! Against your shadows./ Like the self-willed warrior,/ Who never goes down/ On her knees./ Every lost battle brings a promise,/ I will rise again./ But/ I end up uprooted,/ A tree in the storm.
I surrender!/ Exchanging wounded disillusionment/ for acceptance./ Trusting your forces,/ The wind,/ the wet earth,/ The beam of sunlight reaching/ Through the crack./ I turn into a wild flower,/ The grass off the side walk/ Walked over, but flourishing again.

During this time I got a chance to go over mainstream psychological literature on attachment, non-attachment, mindfulness, loving-kindness and compassion. I tried practicing these.
May you have deep sleep,
Followed by carefree play.
Mornings of relaxed letting go,
Much love and joyful days.
Unexpectedly it worked. I felt more relaxed and happy. Why should focusing on a sentence like ‘May I be happy, may you be happy, may every one be happy...', sooth attachments hurts or help one feel at ease with things happening around or to one self?
One interesting idea I found was Bharat's 'Natya Shastra', the famous Indian treatise on performing arts:
Where the hand goes, the gaze follows.
Where the eyes turn, there goes the mind.
Where the mind goes, there comes ‘bhava’,
And where the ‘bhava’ comes, there also will be ‘rasa’.
Similarly it seemed, where the words go, attention follows, often with associated intention and there goes the Consciousness and its powers. At first I wondered about all the beautiful, uplifting Sanskrit chants, each one a meditation in itself, a cultivation of a particular state within. And then I understood experientially why in the literature of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, there is so much of focus on cultivating specific psychological attitudes, instead of specific techniques of yoga-meditations. Things started fitting in. I was getting a little high. And in April-May 2011 when the time came to say the final good bye, I was much better prepared.
We grieve, for a long long time
In so many ways.
Sometimes, we silently get up, from that
Coffee table, where we had our last conversation
Walk out, walk away
For ever. Die to the past
Never to enter the same universe again.

My conscious choice to practice Karuna-metta or loving-kindness meditation every time feelings of anger, jealousy, betrayal came up, made them seem really fleeting. Here was trauma, and this was much more than therapy. Suddenly there were fewer inner voices. And much less clutter. With every negative thought/ feeling, I was able to notice tightness in specific parts of my body (like jaws, neck, stomach) which seemed like knots in my consciousness. I was often able to not only relax the body, but also to let go of the feeling and send a good intention/ prayer.
On some days I could even observe the quality of the suffering, irrespective of the actual events. It felt like a specific type of experience. This kind of detachment, without my mind getting in its way revolting or with self-pity, helped me notice how suffering was associated with narrow, knotted consciousness, with ego’s preferences and investments. Whenever I could change that, I felt empowered, and had a loop of joy and goodwill.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

This was purifying. Increasingly I was feeling immense gratitude and love. In past I had wondered if I can stretch myself and love everyone as I loved him. Now I was naturally having better connections with humanity in general; lab mates, co-passengers, strangers in the park and children in whom I occasionally glimpsed his childhood as well as my little Divine. My heart had suddenly opened. I felt a higher energy supporting me, metaphorically like floating in the sea waves (thanks to J.. for an actual experience too in the sea). Growing up as a neurotic child with many real life difficulties, I had never learned this kind of self-mastery. Neither was my profession famous yet for cultivating this.

However not every day was so easy. Some days went like:
Wishes rise like a wave,/ I surf them,/
With a prayer in my heart,/ I let them pass.
Here in your country, my city,/ across the oceans, the dark clouds loom/
I watch them come, no storms/ A clear sky, blue and white/ left behind,
I see them go./ Must be like those thoughts!

Some days I had to remind myself:
Rise rise.../ O fire in the belly/ Burning all desires,/ Longings, hopes and dreams,/ Plans of future, memories of past./ Every time it anchors in a corner of your heart/ Un-hook it slowly, respectfully/ Return it back./ Don't say, 'its just human'.../To ask for a little comfort, a home/ To return, a place to keep your head/ Down./ Just being human is too little,/ Your destiny to expand/ Not just a selected few/ But the entire creation/ your natural way to exist./ Connect beyond the limits/ of a body, of an identity./ Rise O soul arise...

The most joyful part in all this was my new found special intimacy with the immanent Divine, the sweet, dusky, beautiful one. There was a joy, a presence, a playfulness and fun, at times teasing him by calling him an autistic lover:
Hopelessly, increasingly,
Falling in love with
Endearing manners of
Seemingly self-absorbed
Barely communicative,
Unavailable, but still
Present, God!

There were some sweet and amusing experiences, from dreams to actual events, and the universe felt nurturing. Some moments were full of intense yearning for the Divine, for 'That' which is beyond me. There was an openness, a kind of strength, yet at the same time a lot of vulnerability, as if an ongoing peak experience. Some days it was hard to control my tears while walking on the roads, especially when deeply moved by the beauty of autumn. On one such day I made a long call to my mentor Dr. M.., only to burst into tears after saying 'hello'. Thank God he was there, for I had no other human being to reach out to share this weird painful joy, and still feel understood. For some time at least, I had the attitude of total self-offering to the Divine.
I also felt I needed a larger framework to fit in my experiences and a more expansive knowledge system that can widen my capacities to find answers and show me a higher path. I was ripe and ready to work in Indian Psychology.
Autumn red,
Bleeding color of destruction,
Before nature gets busy
In a new creation.
This autumn
A little more will shed,
Skin of memories - a little
Battered, a little faded.
No rusting chains cherished
I will drop the deadweight
Of desires & heartache.
Spread my branches,
Leap in madness.
Bonds no longer binding
Out of earth, I will pull my roots
And walk away.
This autumn
There will be lot more
Happening. Celebrate-
For me, I turn
a new Leaf.

In the end I must mention, this phase didn’t last forever. Gradually I returned to mundane, average living. By the time I landed back, my ego was re-gaining strength, our ideas for an applied Indian Psychology center did not work out, I fell sick with lung infection and for months had to stay under care of my parents. Even my long dreamt pilgrimage to Himalayan regions was of limited value, for the real journey, the real work is inside, ongoing, all the time. I felt challenged by people and circumstances around me, they still do.
Even when I let go of my control needs, a part of me resists or feels dejected about its usefulness. Living in the flow doesn't come easy.
But I have seen a higher possibility and ''mind once stretched by a new idea (or experience) never regains its original dimensions'' (O.W. Holmes).

Though there were a few more distinct phases of serendipity, including one which happened during this course and forced me to make this presentation. However I never figured out the full meaning of the events, neither did I get back in touch with him. I guess there was a soul-contract and I'm immensely grateful to him for much of my recent growth. I have found a deeper and more unconditional love and I’m at peace. I am also grateful to my mentors, friends and family for supporting me during this process.

I will end with a poetry by Khalil Gibran, on Love,

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you, yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you, believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams, as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you, so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth, so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.