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 ;)