My Reflections: On Being Conscious

Have you ever realized? Sometimes we do things habitually, automatically, without awareness, for example, breathing. We breathe non-stop, life-long, no problem, but most of the time we do so without being conscious about it. That is, we do it automatically, rather mechanically, isn’t  it?

As a result, most of the time, we under-breathe. We hardly care enough to exhale fully, leaving thereby our lungs with a good amount of carbon-di-oxide. Since our lungs are not fully empty, we cannot inhale deeply and our oxygen stock falls short by the same proportion. The encroacher  carbon-di-oxide in the long run causes damage to our lungs and we get issues which sometimes turn out  lethal. All because we are not conscious of the way we breathe.

At a much later stage, overwhelmed by issues and stress, we start consulting doctors or therapists or seeking gyan from a meditation guru, and what is the first tip we receive? ‘Breathe deeply!’ Correcting the breathing comes as the saviour. “Whenever you feel stressed, take a few deep breaths,” he would say. In other words, breathe consciously for a while, many times a day, to compensate for your oxygen deficit. Being conscious about our things enables us to stay focused on the job at hand, whatever it is. We stay purposeful and not scattered.

There are many areas we ought to be especially conscious about., for example:

Health and well being: By health, we mean physical as well as mental – both. Physical health depends on what we eat and drink. Whatever we take, it should cater to the nutritional requirements of our body. There is a no dearth of information and tips about what to take and what to avoid and one can consciously choose the food one eats/drinks. Physical workouts are also there to keep us in good health.

As for mental well being, yoga and meditation happen to be the most popular practices today for having a healthy mind. In case of some mental issues, seeking expert advice from a therapist/psychologist also helps.

Studies and career (jobs): Both the fields demand concentration and focus. Distractions of various types cause loss of concentration and we cannot perform well. If we work consciously, we would be able to follow our targets better. Otherwise we may cut a sorry figure in both the fields.

Mundane chores and daily routine: As mentioned above, we often keep doing routine jobs and mundane things mechanically, automatically, without giving conscious thought to those. By working with awareness, we would definitely be able to have better results.

Relationships – personal, family, social etc.: The greatest setback to relationships comes when we take them for granted, or tend to overlook them. If we nurture our relationships with a conscious thought for the people who matter for us and empathize with them;  if we keep the communication channels alive and have frequent interactions, we would have stronger relationships which usually strengthen our support group.

How to do it:  After learning about the issue, we must move on to follow it and put it into practice. It can be achieved simply by/through – regular practice.

Practice makes perfect! The adage comes perfect for this situation. For that, we first have to identify the situations that demand this most and then start. For example, while shopping for groceries, many people get distracted by surroundings and tend to commit mistakes. They could forget a couple of items, or make errors in bill payment and then fumble. If they do their shopping consciously, there would not be fumbling nor commit errors.

Distraction thus is the greatest culprit carrying our attention off for a while and affecting the things. We ought to be aware of it, consciously. But how are we going to achieve that? Maybe we need to sense the moment any distraction arises and stop it with self-cautions like – Silence! No inner noise! No auto- conversations! No murmuring! And so on. One may also coin one’s own short commands.

If we are able to bring it into regular practice and habit, our functioning would be vastly improved. We would do our things  – chores and jobs in a well  organized manner, not haphazardly. There would be minimum of lapses and anxieties, and we would be at peace with ourselves and others.

A ladder higher: Finally, as we seem to have gathered enough awareness and practice about being conscious in our daily jobs, we may move up a ladder higher, i.e.,  awareness in spiritual and religious matters, as preached by Gurus and sages the world over. They always teach us to raise our awareness level to include conscious thoughts about life, cosmos and the divine. Meditation and many other systems show us the way how we can strive to achieve that.

There is an unfathomable ocean of wisdom lying scattered all over, we just have to gather the pearls we need and make them our tool for living a better, happier life.                                                     

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 # Ashok Misra

Quotes and Notes # T. S. Eliot # On difficulties

“Our difficulties of the moment must always be dealt with somehow, but our permanent difficulties are difficulties of every moment.” # T. S. Eliot

NotesReflecting on difficulties we face in life and how to deal with them, Eliot narrows them down to two broad categories – first, difficulties of the moment; and second, permanent difficulties.

As for how to deal with them, Eliot first tells that the difficulties of the moment must always be dealt with somehow. But the permanent ones, he rationalises, are difficulties of every moment, implying that they are to stay with you forever. You will have to accept them and try to co-exist with them. In other words, life must go on despite them, through them. 

Quotes & Notes : Edgar Allan Poe : On Idea

Idea is the root


“Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music without the idea is simply music; the idea without the music is prose from its very definitiveness.”   # Edgar Allan Poe                                     

Notes: Idea is the root of all that we do. Be it anything – writing or singing, playing or cooking, the doer must start with a clear idea and move along with it. Creative arts too are based in ideas – creative ideas. An artist’s way of looking at an idea, i.e., his perception, makes it fascinating for him/her to work on.  Artists are especially gifted with a strong element of creativity. Along with that, their instinctive advantage enables them to go to any heights of imagination and even fantasy.

That is what Edgar Allan Poe has observed in the above quote. He tells that when music is combined with a pleasurable idea, it becomes poetry, adorned by imagination, rhyme, metre and rhythm. It touches the audience/reader deeply and is long-lasting. Music, on the other hand, without the (pleasurable) idea is simply music, a mere meaningful combination of notes and beats, with superficial impact alone. If we present an idea straightaway, that is, without music and other creative elements, it comes out rather dry, as a piece of prose. It is prosaic. Its significance lies  just in its definitiveness about facts and not in any pleasure or enjoyment.

So, ideas and music make a heady combination, ain’t it?

# Ashok Misra

My Reflections: Here and Now

Here and Now

Recently, while reading a book about longevity, I came upon a phrase ‘here and now’. I was reminded of some inspiring words of a legendary martial artist, Bruce Lee, who once said,The past is no more; the future not yet. Nothing exists except the here and now.” He added, “Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at our hands.

In other words, the past is dead. We cannot go back into the past and relive even a single moment, except in a memory flashback. Further, the future is not yet born, so there is no question of being and living there. That leaves us with the present, that we live in and try to make the most of. All our lives are lived in the present place and time, that is, ‘here and now’.

Ironically, we spend most of our lives in ignorance, without any awareness about the three time-frames, without being conscious of this crucial piece of basic wisdom. As a result, our mind keeps flitting over all the three times, of which,  past is usually the most taxing one.

The mind would rake up some old grudge, anger or regret from the past – distant or recent, and brood over that endlessly. A virtual voice/conversation/noise keeps playing within, causing distraction for job at hand. The habit gradually turns into a nasty tendency of getting lost in the past which constantly eats upon our energy and leaves us too exhausted to put our mind to ‘here and now.’

So? What to do? How to get the mind back to here and now? Many psychologists all over the world have been conducting studies to find out a remedy. One of them advises to consciously live in here and now. But how are we going to do that?

We may try self-control. The moment we find our attention escaping the present moment, we must pull it back, with shorts commands like – Silence! No inner noise! Peace! No proxy dialogues! I am sure the moment you silently utter the word ‘silence’ the inner noise would stop. Then set your eyes on the job at hand and get on with that. In the beginning, you may have to practice this every now and then. But no worries, you have made a beginning to reign in your truant mind from going backward.

Next, did you notice? When does your mind go truant, fly off? I suppose, that happens when it is empty, that is, when you have nothing worthwhile to do. Remedy is, keep it busy, preferably in a thing you love to do. Your passion keeps the mind sufficiently occupied and energized and you would feel happy and relaxed. That way you can also keep yourself free from any past or future distractions.

Besides, it is important to remain connected with one’s immediate environment/atmosphere and not aloof from it. In other words, one should keep one’s eyes and ears open and be aware of the goings on at the moment, reading newspaper etc., of course moderately, would also keeps the mind sufficiently filled up. One ought to be curious about current matters and interested in learning about present things.

Remember, the water of a flowing river is always fresh and bubbly while pond water gathers moss and weeds and sometimes even stinks. Flowing symbolizes the present – here and now;  stagnancy comes from staleness, the past. Remember: “The present moment is the only one that matters, and what you are doing right now is as delightful as anything else.” (Victor Shamas)

So, why not make the flowing river waters your inspiration, for keeping yourself in the flow, in the ‘here and now’?

– Ashok Misra


  17 May, 2020