An amble down the “communication”path again…

A week or so after my fairly long meditation on the need for non-verbal communication to become a key part of our lives, I feel vindicated. The reason – I happened to watch a charlie chaplin movie (payday) – and with practically no dialogues at all, the cast managed to get us “all in”. We laughed and delighted in Chaplin’s antics while the underlying theme tugged at our hearts. The movie (like all chaplin movies) is a parable of his day – and you cannot not be transported into his world and partake of it.

So I got busy trying to see if really there were other forms where emotions were conveyed directly – not through the screen of dialogue. Our national television provided the first breakthrough through a “kuchipudi” programme, which is essentially the retelling of a story through emotions expressed through a traditional dance form. All Indian classical art forms have a way of dressing up the dancers and having them emote through “mudras” – with fantastic results – you feel the emotion directly and immediately. For those unacquainted with this, think “mime” – its probably the closest cross-border cousin.

Come to think of it, “dancing” has always been excellent at communicating expressions best. From the modern discotheque to the gypsy dances to african masai varieties – all of them probably communicate expressions more clearly for the populace – the body does seem better at expressions without the lens of the mind.If you don’t believe me – ask a dancer what he/she was thinking during her performance and get a “thinking – are you mad?” stare from her…

Silence too it transpires conveys emotions very well. Its passive though, pervading the room with the existing context. At funerals, the silence is heavy with sadness. At the temple the silence is pregnant with devotion. With a loved one, the silence lends comfort.Think about it, its profound.

Which brings me back to the starting point – or rather just after that. I happened to rediscover an old favourite – an Eckart Tolle rendering of “Silence and Stillness” and turned it on – wondering if it would still work its old magic on me. It did, a kind of blissful silence (or stillness) descended upon me – his sonorous voice and the plentiful silences between the words were almost surreal. I moved slowly into a very agreeable mood, compassionate, understanding..you get the idea! Eckhart’s recording is a perfect blend – and I really can’t tell which was more potent – his words or his silence. Or perhaps they really aren’t two different things!

Communication – are we single tracked?

In a recent get-together, a colleague confessed that things were not as well with the group as they should have been. The reason – everyone spoke a common dialect, excepting him – and they preferred to communicate in their native tongue rather than english. And no matter how much he tried, the language barrier was proving insurmountable.

Now, here’s the interesting thing – this guy was one of the most affable chaps you could ever hope to meet. And one of the most travelled – so adapting to new cultures and languages came easily to him. The team was a very enterprising unit as well, so how did they not realise he was feeling out of place, and why was he finding it so difficult to communicate to them they needed to speak in English – at least when he was around?

The problem got me thinking on something more fundamental. Knowingly or unknowingly – the spoken word (or written language) has become the defacto means of communication. They communicate ideas, they communicate emotion, they communicate everything these days. So much so, that we have become a little insensitive to other means over time!

If you dont believe me, lets take stock – when was the last time you sat with your friend comfortably in silence (true communion huh!). Where the silence spoke a language that you understood? On a more profound note – think about ramana maharishi or eckhart tolle’s silences which transform you with no need for words.

Or remember the last time you enjoyed music that didn’t need lyrics to move you. Listening to the music translated the emotions directly (the violin duo of ganesh-kumaresh are doing an awesome job with their new album in this regard).

Remember when you practiced munna bhai’s hug theraphy on someone (a child, a friend, a spouse, a relative..) and they felt better immediately. Remember a tough day, when someone laid a hand on yours in understanding – and you felt more reassured?

Dont get me wrong – we still need the words to survive today. However words are easier to manipulate. The body and the soul are better (and faster) at detecting sincerity than the mind is. They are also more adept at communicating emotion and experiences than the spoken word can ever be. Its harder to fake sincerity – try faking a comfortable silence or composing music you cant identify with and you’ll know what I mean!

The word of course helps detail out ideas and implementation – its the blood that keeps our society alive, we couldn’t do without it. Also, some of our best authors and speakers do an awesome job of translating great ideas, emotions and experiences through the spoken word as well. Just try to read through a PG Wodehouse without laughing – am sure you’ll agree with me.

Endpoint – words (written and spoken) are required – its what allows us to live our lives today for the most part. But would it be a good idea to become a little sensitive to the other means (touch, pure sound, maybe vision, sense of feel etc.) and incorporate them into out lives – it may add more spirit to our lives?

comfortable silences?

There we are – guests (as airlines like to call their passengers these days), waiting anxiously for the boarding announcement of the day’s first flight. There’s an uncomfortable silence in the air.

I go back to a childhood memory – to a family evening on the porch. Dad has a book and a comfortable chair, mom and sister are out in the garden tending plants with care, a visiting aunt has her embroidery going and I am happily perched on the floor with a few hundred building blocks in my hand. Silence reigns – but unlike in the first paragraph, a very comfortable silence.

Which brings me to the question on hand, which one would I rather have?

– Some restful music in the background, a drink and a good book in my hands – as I rest in the lounge playing back a hundred times in my head the “escalation meeting” that is on my agenda for tomorrow?

– The ability of the young world traveller travelling economy class to be serenely absorbed in a tome on world culture as she rests on her backpack – unmindful of the cacophony of announcements in a strange language and a foreign land?

What wins – Material abundance and a poverty of peace, or limited means but unlimited freedom?

Pondering over this, I walk to get some more coffee and come across a gentleman pushing sixty years reclining on one of the plusher sofas; eyes closed, a wide smile on his face. He’s dressed in an impeccable sit and on his tummy, lies a book half read – and Eckhart Tolle smiles from its cover.

There’s a lesson here I understand – and while my mind starts its quest for it, my body goes searching for the caffeine.

And then it hits me. This man is the answer. Perspective comes first and blooms into inner stillness.Thats all we ever really need,

First class travels – or for that matter a backpack and torn jeans – have nothing to do with silence whatsoever. From inner stillness comes comfortable silences no matter where you are – in a executive lounge or at the bazaar. Agree?

An independence day adventure at Sahaj Marg

I got a chance to attend one of the SahajMarg festivals – an independence day bhandara in their parlance. For those who don’t know, Sahaj Marg is an unique community which serves to awaken people through their system of raja yoga mediation. An experimental blog on some random thoughts and reflections from my experience…

Observances -1

Thousands of people came together all seeking a moment of aloneness with god

They travelled for thousands of miles only to be still

The master spoke words that led them to silence

The madness of the world outside couldn’t deter them from realizing heaven inside

Volunteers, devotees, leaders – all helping, participating, serving a bigger cause of realizing interconnectedness, interdependence, independence

Reflections – 1

Is it faith that moves them?

Or the positive experiences they have had so far?

Can you be lonely amidst crowds, and fulfilled when alone

If your goal is to be here, now and established within yourself – where can you go, when and with whom?

.. a song for them……..the earth revolves, the devotee resolves, his mind evolves, and thoughts dissolve…..and god’s involved? (poetry over!)

Another meditation on the source of all things..

Sometimes, a man just wakes up and puts his pen on paper (or his fingers on a computer these days) and starts writing. He has no goal and definitely no expectation of a reward – be it monetary, fame or power. Many a time, he doesn’t even consider himself a writer, and he would be hard pressed to answer from where this urge to write sprung from – indeed he would say the writing just happened as opposed to him being the writer. And when this happens – we may witness the outpouring of some pristine prose. This emergent prose belongs not to the author. Indeed, it does not belong to this world. It comes from within, from a space that is far deeper and is called variedly by many names including “benediction”, “presence” and “god”.

Those who witness the beauty of such prose forget themselves for a minute. They are enthralled and for that brief minute transformed into a connoisseur of life. A glimpse is often enough to send a man in search of his destiny attempting to savour more of this delectable experience. Such fortunate men and women can be recognized by their “ illumination and joyous” countenance – though they may be clad in the robe of a business man, fashioned as an artist or bathed in saffron like the renunciant.

Sometimes, the “specialness” of such prose is not in its structure but in its “timeliness”. It may not read well, and it may not engage the mind. However for the person who needs it, its message strikes home – it is just what the “doctor above” has ordered to restore the physical, emotional and spiritual health of his beloved child on earth.

Occasionally, it’ comes not as the written word but as a compassionate word spoken to a friend in need. Many a time, the benevolence is more subtle than a word –  it takes the form of a thought for a loved one. It can also manifest in other forms – in the guise of a shoulder we can lean on or a stranger strangely sensitive to our needs. When we are part of such a phenomenon, it is good to recognize it for what it is – we have witnessed not an addition to the burgeoning world of transactions, but have had a glimpse into what makes a man human.

Some forms of course are always bewitching – even the basest man cannot afford to be not moved by this. Think of a star filled sky, the immensity and the blueness of the ocean, the attractiveness of an infant, the affability of a very elderly person and the absolute stillness of the monk. In these, you can always find solace and maybe if you look deeply enough even answers to existential questions.  

Let’s take the moment to say a prayer and a few words of gratitude –for the people, the things and the experiences that have been part of our journey. The spirit of the gayatri mantra (which came forth through sage vishwamitra – an exceptional seer who is revered for his wisdom and “never give up” attitude) which beseeches the sun to illuminate the world and uplift it to a godly state of effulgence is an appropriate one to remember at this time.

Guru purnima – a time of grace

Today is a momentous day. It’s the day when the first yogi (adiyogi) decided to become the first teacher (adiguru) and showered his grace unstintingly for a month on the first disciples of yoga the world knew.

Seven spotless rishis emerged out of this unique happening and established the path to spirituality that many of us today revere as the tunnel to godliness. Saints everywhere continue to help accelerate spiritual growth of mankind, leveraging the suspiciousness and efficiency of this most important festival.

Watch sadguru in this 11 minute clip (or read this excerpt) as he speaks about the guru purnima day and the grace that can descend upon the receptive. Indeed just seeing the video and hearing him speak in his trademark measured tones can transport you to that most longed for profound silence….

Fidelity vs. Volume……..

Bigger! Faster! Better! The focus on amplification seems to be ingrained in us these days. Everywhere we go, we see an effort to increase throughput and voice the thought aloud; recently, linear increases are considered inadequate, we want exponential increases! Look around you – and chances are you’ll stare in the face a company touting itself as earning the most revenue, having the largest workforce, manufacturing the widest range of products, equipped with the most features….and recently even the most “quantified quality” is much talked about (now how does that work?)!

The bug seems to have caught the individuals’ fancy (not just the corporates’) as well – how often do we find ourselves talking about the number of certifications we own, the volume of experience we bring in, the cash we saved for our clients…..

Nothing wrong in all of this of course – but we do have to turn up the volume more and more in order to make ourselves heard. You need differentiators, purple cows and audacious stunts to be noticed – and often sensationalism and hyperbole are business as usual.

Volume

A thought – isn’t all the above only a means to an end and not the end in itself? We made the most cars because we wanted the biggest money bag right? And we didn’t make the most cars to satisfy any one customer, we wanted to satisfy our target segment. When we work toward a larger goal and are serving a statistic (and not a person!), turning up the volume is indeed the way to go.

Fidelity

Think of a rose garden now. When you step in from the main street and the huge noise therein, you suddenly are greeted with a scene of green and the scent of rose – nice on the eyes but kinda boring. And then slowly, as the inner noise within you subsides, you start noticing the stillness outside and the placid landscape metamorphoses into a throbbing eco-system – nature comes alive. You begin to notice the different hues of the roses & leaves and the squirrel squirreling away in a corner. The grass beneath your feet demands attention and a worm worms itself away oblivious to everything around it. On closer look, the blades reveal intricacies – in colour, age, thickness and height – that have you in raptures and you are enthralled by their dancing response to the cool breeze. The birds are on song and their feathers and plummuge are pigmented with exotic colors. Sounds, scenes, nature – everything moves you profoundly. This is the “fidelity” option. When we are entranced in our work, in a book that has us riveted or when we are in tune with nature, our quality of attention is intensified and the world seems a pretty happy place.

So which should we choose – to turn up the volume or to tune into an experience? And how do they effect us?

In the volume game, we are always competing against the man with the loudest speaker, in the fidelity experience – there is no competition – just a wonderful experience.

In the volume game, we are always aiming toward a better tomorrow ( i’ll sell the most cars, get a whole lotta cash, retire to the Bahamas and then be happy). Today just doesn’t matter – it serves to help us reach the tomorrow of our dreams. In the fidelity game, there is no tomorrow – only the present. The focus is not on some futuristic goal but on happiness now. We move therefore from a desired goal to a inspired state right now…

So have the big goals and create the noise and capture the eyeballs. It brings home the bread (at least for now!). But also take a few moments everyday (or week) doing what you like – a transactionless activity done just because it makes you happy and leaves you inspired. Body, mind and intellect will all react positively with lowered stress, a serene mind and a clearer intellect. Better still capture the eyeballs with a different attitude, work will turn out to be a painting you’d leave an indelible signature on (remember Gibran’s definition of work – work is love made visible).

Are there preconditions for adopting a high fidelity approach? Stillness is a perquisite – so you should either get out of the loud environment or be able to tune out the noise and tune in into a delightful
experience (enjoy the pristine stroke play in a cricket game attended by 30000 other boisterous folks). Come to think of it, maybe you could even tune into the noise without reaching for the loudspeaker – wouldn’t that be like the lotus flower blooming unaffected amidst a sludge?