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Creating Flow

The Freedom To Be

Tag Archives: Words

The room was well lit. The air, conditioned. The music, gentle. People in coats and ties, some sitting alone, others standing together. Quick handshakes, half smiles, polite conversations. A taste of corporate India one summer morning at the banquet hall of a star city hotel.

The banner read “Learning Conference”, a get together of HR and learning professionals. Practitioners and consultants. To learn about learning. Some eager to share what they had learnt. Others keen to learn from their learning. The power point ready to assist in the learning process.

The proceedings began with a talk. It answered- Why we are here? Why it is important to be here? What we can achieve by being here? A quick speech, delivered with eloquent flair. The audience reminded of their importance now seemed willing to learn.

The first slide flashed “Understanding Psychometric Instruments”, the topic of the day. “What is psychometric?” asked the sari clad elegant looking presenter. A senior executive of a leading consulting firm. A few hands went up. Each answer anticipating being the right response. The second slide flashed “psyche + measure”. A tool to measure the mind. Effectively employed while recruiting, training, assessing, developing human talent in an organization. Larger the numbers, easier the sifting process. Removing the chaff from the grain.

As the slides moved, the room seemed to be divided into vertical and horizontal lines. Square shapes everywhere. Boxes for everything. Measures. Outcomes. Performance. Talent. Growth. Each well explained, well sorted into its own box. The audience seemed satisfied. Things were becoming clearer. Knowing what went where. What cause, lead to what effect and vice-versa. Mental shaped problems fitting into conceptual shaped solutions. Learning seemed to be happening.

Yet another shape emerged within the boxes of that room. A wiggly wobbly hole. A gaping hole inside of me. As though devoid of soul. Seeking human touch. For no reason and no outcome.  Yearning for creativity and relating without any measure. Longing to speak a physical language, without words and numbers. The wiggly wobbly hole began wondering what was its place in a world full of concrete hard squares? Getting no answer it felt sad and disillusioned.

I carried the hole with me that day. Was humanity wrong? Or was I wrong, to question the working of the whole human race? A corporate machine, measuring every action and sorting people into buckets.  Every bucket to be poured into the ocean of organizational outcomes. The abstract had consumed the physical. Result had overpowered relating. Profit had overshadowed people. Index had depleted individual.  Every instinct in me cried, humanity was wrong. It was a lonely place. Being pitted against your own race. Seeing something, which others did not seem to see?  Yet something did not seem right. Making them wrong. Making me right.

As I sat watching the sea that night, the wiggly wobbly hole grew bigger. The isolation felt stronger. Each wave brought a new question, painfully lashing into the recesses of my being. What is the purpose of my life? Is there any value for my values, so distinct from the world at large? What am I to do?  What is my destiny? Each question left me feeling empty and hollow. Another part of me felt as though I was judging the world, putting myself on a higher pedestal than others. I felt lost. Was their a middle path, of holding onto my values, without being self-righteous?

The moon was full that night. Gazing luminously at the frothy sea.  Clouds like unrolled cotton balls, kept changing shape. The waves washed the sands, leaving new imprints with every sweep. The sea breeze carried its salty sticky flavour to the shore, with a differing force each time. The canvas kept moving changing. It occurred to me that everything in nature is wiggly wobbly. No concrete shape, unlike a man made world. No boxes, no squares, no triangles. Shapes keep changing, merging seamlessly into each other, giving birth to new shapes. The moon, the sea, the sand, the breeze and the enveloping blue darkness are all one. Doing a cosmic dance ordered by a supreme intelligence.  With a deep conviction that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living.

Perhaps we humans are a part of that cosmic dance too, only we don’t realise it. As though suffering temporary amnesia and forgetting our oneness with existence. And the perfection of what Is. Even when it seems imperfect. Cutting the physical world into pieces through the scissors of the mind, using dual blades of number and words. Finding fault with it. Then trying to rectify it with effort and outcome.

Suddenly in that moment, words began to crumble. Corporate, non-corporate, values, right, wrong, me, them, squares, holes. All of them. The concrete inner world of concepts became wiggly wobbly. It gave way to an empty silence, in touch with physical sensations alone.

In the silence, all wrong become right. Infact there was no wrong or right. Just IT. An intense impersonal aliveness of the now! IT, was the simplest word to describe a wordless reality.  All purpose became purposeless. Things were the way they were. The way the world functioned and what I felt about it was part of  IT. They were not separate. They were part of the same dance. There was a silent acceptance of them, of me and our disagreement. Also the acceptance of the illusion that separated us.

This was the isness of life.

This is IT.


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Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure it was real? What if you were unable to awake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world, and the real world?

–           Morpheus in the movie Matrix


What is Real?

Certain events in the past few days made me ask myself  “What is real?” Not just in an intellectual sort of way. Intensely. Deeply. Really wanting to know.

I googled it.

Came across an interesting article by Philip K Dick, a prolific science fiction writer . He says, “Each of us live in a self created universe. Place 10 people at the scene of the crime and they will all come back with 10 different views of what happened. We live inside a world of perceptions, interpretations and opinions which has nothing to do with reality.”

It captured my confusion well.

In fact, it added another one.

Whose reality is real?

If each person lives in his own private-mind-created-world, does a world inhabited by 6.8 billion people, have as many realities?  If so, whose reality is more real? Whose reality prevails when these realities bump into each other?

Power prevails.

The entity with more power prevails. The authoritative parental symbol. Family, school, corporations, political, social, religious, spiritual organizations. I depend on them for meeting my needs. The power each institution exercises differs according to the need it fulfills.

In essence, I barter my reality for the security I receive from a more powerful entity.

What happens once I have bartered my reality for security?

The reality of that institution becomes my reality. This process in simple words is called conditioning. In its stronger avatar, it is called indoctrination. In a corporation, the CEO’s reality colours the organization, the family-head influences the younger members, the Guru’s words are ultimate for his followers, and the leader’s decision prevails in politics. The remarkable thing about conditioning is – not that it occurs. The remarkable thing is that I am not aware of my own conditioning. My conditioning becomes me.

A  Christian American baby would acquire a perceiving lens, very different from a Muslim Pakistani baby. Their cultural experience creates a lens by which they view the world and create their reality. I may dislike anything with a Pakistan association, simply because I was born in India and vice-versa. It was written into my script even before I was born.

In effect, my experience of reality is conditioned. If the conditions change. Reality changes.

How we know what we know?

The universe is in a perpetual state of flux. All life is a process of change. Even inert matter – like chairs, tables, stones – are a whirl of electrons, at a sub-atomic level. The world at that level has no inherent location, physicalness or separation. There is no definite world. Only waves of probability.

Where does the material world come from?


“Observation alters the probable world into a definite world” says quantum physics.

Everything is happening at the same time. A cosmic dance of energy. I experience this dance through the limitation of my five senses. I take a small snapshot of the world around me, add words (meaning) to my experience and create my reality. The picture I click using my sensory camera depends on the conditioned lens I am wearing. It re-affirms what I already know. I do not experience anything anew.

Irrespective of the quality of my lens, the fact is whatever I experience is real for me. The experience of a schizophrenic is as real for him, just as my experience is for me. Others may judge our reality as factual or distorted, authentic or fake. The fact is. Fact and fantasy are both real experiences.

The Scale of Reality

Is there a scale by which I can discern fact from fantasy? What creates fantasy?

The scale of reality depicted above, moves from fact on the left end towards fantasy on the right. A progressive interpretation of sensory data. The more I move towards the right end of the scale, the more I am living in thought. The more I add thoughts to my perception, more subjective is my reality. The shift is from what happened, to what happened to me. A hallucinating person imagines a reality in the absence of any external stimuli. To a certain extent, we all hallucinate. While we modify our beliefs according to social norms, a mad man follows them to the very end. My opinions, concepts, beliefs, judgements, prejudices, ideology are building blocks of my imaginary world. A personal symbolic world.

Thought fragments perception. I divide the world into a number of things. Then attribute cause and effect to these things.

The Illusion of Language

I put my hand in the fire; it burns.

This may seem like a factual statement. Is it?

I have through language broken inseparable sub-atomic reality into parts. I have created a Me, a Hand, a Fire, and a process called Burning.

Cause: Me putting hand in fire.

Effect: Burning.

In actuality, does any of this happen?

If I had a lens that could view the whole universe together, as One, I would see that events are happening simultaneously. One universal organism breathing and moving together. The me, the hand, the fire, the burning. Are all One process! I separate it using language and thought.

Similarly, events are happening inside my body simultaneously. I use language to label them into different parts. Heart, blood, body, parts. Then say. The heart pumps blood to other parts of the body. Perhaps there is no heart, no blood, no others parts and no body. It is simply one hologram functioning – on its own energy.

Says Alfred Korzybski, the founder of general semantics “Language enslaves us by conditioning our brains to perceive a false reality. The map is not the territory; the word is not the thing defined.”

Living in Abstractions

As humans, we make abstractions all the time. An abstraction, simplifies, condenses, or symbolizes a phenomenal event in order to talk about it or think about it.

Says Alfred in his book Science and Sanity “The world is what it is. We can make all kinds of maps and models of how the world works. But the models and maps and any words one can put together can never do more than approximate the actual world or the actual phenomena being examined. The actual territory is beyond verbal description.”

For every event, we find meaning, reasons, possibilities, outcomes, judgments, concepts – becoming more abstract, personal and imaginary. Our reactions are based on the perceived meaning of an event, more than the event itself. Meanings give rise to feelings. Feelings give rise to meanings. An endless chain of meaning- feeling-meaning- feeling.  A slight itch is converted into big bleeding bruise due to constant meaning-feeling scratching.  We get lost in an ocean of words and their associated feelings. The initial phenomenal event may have affected us briefly. The perceived chain of meanings and interpretations affects us endlessly.

Is this how were meant to live?

Is there a way out of this world of abstractions?

Is it possible to have an experience free of memory and thought?

Freedom From the Known

The most fundamental fragmentation of thought is –

There is a Me and there is the World. I am separate from the world. Is this real?

Am “I” real?

The “I” is made up of the all that I know about myself from past experience and the desire to become something in the future. Built on self-concepts, ideas and beliefs. Is it real?

Perhaps the secret to what is real, lies in inquiring into this “I”? The source of all perception and experience.

Irrespective of the changing nature of my reality. Awake, dreaming or asleep. One thing remains constant.

I exist.

I Am.

Beyond concepts and sensations. This is the only reality that does not require any external proof or validation.

Perhaps the answer to discovering reality lies in exploring my own existence at the deepest core of my being. Perhaps the only qualification required to do that is a deep earnestness to know.

The truth of reality.


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