Sunday, September 25, 2016

On Stupidity


From my personal experiences with myself and other people, not being intelligent, or to put it bluntly, ‘Stupidity’, is a function of not being open to life and not participating in life. Life constantly throws stuff at us, and if you simply be and act in it, you will change and improve and get better at whatever it is. Of course that process of being in life comes with risks, possibility of failure and the possibility of looking like a fool. All of those are scary things. But, when we bow to them and ‘hide out’ from life we stay static and not learn and improve. We hide because of past experiences in that area that hurt us, so we don’t want to try again. 

Part of being open is doing what people tell/ask you to do. In my opinion, there is no fundamental reason *not to* do what people tell/ask/request you to do. Most people operate from there is no reason *to* do what other people ask you to do. Other people have their own life experiences and their own knowledge of life. When we do things according to their worldview, we get some benefit from it. When fear/ego/something else stops us from that, we don’t do something new and we pass up an opportunity to learn. An immediate question that might come to your mind will be on the lines of ‘If someone asks you to jump off the top of a building, will you do it ?” There are practical answers to that but a deeper answer is that the question itself is coming from doubt and resistance. The same doubt and resistance will come up even when you have an opportunity to do something that will genuinely enrich your life. It prevents you from trying new things in life and learning. 
‘Deep listening’ is another aspect here. When you’re listening you’re judging and filtering stuff. That causes you to constantly reject a lot of good stuff and you don’t learn and grow. Can you listen without judgement ? It doesn’t mean you sway to every opinion or idea you hear. As you practice deep listening and go through some ups and downs with it, you will reach your own new equilibriums  that are better than the old.

Friday, September 23, 2016

On Violence


My friend Deepak Menon has an abiding interest in non-violence. After a meeting with him yesterday where this came up for discussion (along with many other things), I thought I would write down my thoughts on it.

At the first level - violence is doing harm to someone and its a bad thing.

While its easy to identify and condemn physical violence, psychological violence is a more subtle thing. Constantly criticising someone. Not providing children the care and love they need. Organisational heads creating or allowing a toxic organisational atmosphere with back-biting and self-interested actions. These are example I would say, of psychological violence. Is it possible or desirable to completely eliminate psychological violence ?

Violence within oneself. Having a strong desire to inflict physical harm but suppressing will result in the violence showing up in other negative ways. I was struck by the fact that despite Gandhiji's strict adherence to non-violence, finally the country got independence through one of the most large-scale episodes of violence in its history (partition). One wonders if this is a symptom of suppression of violence engendered by Gandhiji, that finally burst out. But contrarily, Gandhi's genius in seeing how one could accomplish the goal of getting rid of an oppressor without violence, has to be acknowledged. It was the first time that it was tried, particularly on such a large scale, in the modern world. 
Other examples of internal violence: Feelings of hate and other strong negative emotions. Internal conflict, eg. pushing yourself very hard all the time.

People who have had some amount of corporeal punishment as children often grow up to say that it was a good thing and that the 'healthy fear' of the punishment put them on the right path. I've wondered about this. Is a small amount of physical punishment for children a bad thing? My feeling is that it is. When you do this, you are implicitly saying that under some circumstances its okay to be violent (and that its okay to use a position of superior strength to impose your will on somebody by force).  These kind of things (another example is violent toys) add up. They add up for example to an adult who is okay with war as a means of settling disputes.

Standing by while violence is happening is not so different from participating in it. In that way, we are all complicit in the matter of the many wars and other large-scale conflicts happening in the world . For another situation, consider World War 2. If a country had a choice of joining in the war or being neutral what is the right thing to do ? America did indeed have that choice. Personally, I am unable to see clearly what is the right thing to do in this situation. 

I think violence is sometimes an immediate or temporary tool for example in self-defence at different levels (single individual, community, country). But its continued or systematic use is not correct. 

On a personal level, I have to deal with how to address this issue in the context of my growing child. I have felt that society's casual acceptance of violence in the matter of toys (and in entertainment like TV and films) is a deep pathology.  Vibhat plays an online game called Clash of Clans which is about attacking other clans and capturing them.  He talks with casualness about bombs and so on.  He is also practising Karate now and I wonder what are the messages he is picking up in the process. 




Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Organisation theory



One of the classes I took at LKY School was Organisation theory. The class was taken by Prof. Henry Wai-Hang Yee who's sincere, enthusiastic about his stuff and did a nice job. He’s now at the University of Hong Kong (http://www.ppaweb.hku.hk/f/henryyee ).  

One definition of Organisation theory is “an attempt to explain and predict how organisations and the people in them will behave in varying organisational structures, cultures and circumstances”. However there is no theory of organisations, but a multitude of theories. The field of organisation theory is pretty fragmented with a variety of schools. “Each school is at odds with the others, each defends its own position, each claims that the others have major deficiencies”. Its a wonder that any progress gets made at all in this mess. I guess the variety of circumstances of human existence are wide enough to merit the range of theories and each has some sphere of validity. 

Reading academic papers in organisation theory can be pretty depressing work. There’s rarely any maths, so they’re wordy. They tend to be dense and theoretical with few examples. Things are pretty fuzzy and conceptual and usually not very convincing. The questions that they try to address in the first place are usually theoretical and not very interesting. 

I tried to crystallise some general things to say about Organisation theory for this post but found it difficult. So instead, I thought I would mention some of the seminal and better-written readings which might be of interest to the general reader. In this post I’ll cover some of the older readings and in a later post cover the more new-fangled stuff. You dear reader, should pick one of the articles below that fits your interest and download and read it. You might find it quite enriching.

For regular visitors to my blog here are my recommendations:
Deepak: Read the Potter and Herzberg articles
Amar: The Garbage Can model of Organisational Choice article
Suman: you should read all of them ! 

1.) Max Weber on bureaucracy: Max Weber is overwhelmingly the guy most associated with the study of bureaucracy and the guy considered the father of sociology. So I was excited to have the opportunity to study his stuff. But to my surprise it was underwhelming. The reading we had seemed pretty bland, with a collection of unexceptionable observations about bureaucracy (tasks are clearly divided, there is a hierarchy, bureaucrats are people with specialist knowledge, they get paid a salary). Finally I realised that this written in the early 19th century during the years when bureaucracy was a new phenomenon and he was the first person to pin down what differentiated it from what came before. Quite a nice read if you keep that in mind.


2.) Fredrick Herzerg’s  “One more time: How do you motivate employees” : On that question that all managers struggle with, Fredrick Herzberg seemed to have laid a solid foundation for the answer back in the 1960s.  This is a well-written, interesting and a relevant read for most of us. As the article summary nicely and succinctly captures it: 
“The things that makes people satisfied and motivated on the job are different from the things that make them dissatisfied. Ask workers what makes them unhappy at work and you’ll hear about a bad boss, a low salary, an uncomfortable workspace or stupid rules. Managed badly, environmental factors make people miserable, and they can certainly be demotivating. But even if managed brilliantly, they don’t motivate anyone to work much harder or smarter. People are motivated instead by interesting work, challenging and increasing responsibility. These intrinsic factors answer peoples’ deep-seated need for growth and achievement. 
Herzberg’s work influenced a generation of scholars and managers - but his conclusions don’t seem to have fully penetrated the American workplace, if the extraordinary attention still placed to compensation and incentive packages is anything to go by."


3.) “Choices, Values, Frames” by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky : Kahneman is the winner of a Nobel Prize and one of the founders of the hot new fields of behavioural economics and behavioural nudges. In this seminal paper they introduce some key behavioural biases: like how we prefer a small certain gain, to a larger gain associated with uncertainty, and how the way a choice is stated can influence the option we make. 
It doesn’t suffer from the usual vagueness and theoriticalness of organisation theory papers, but runs at a high-ish level intellectually so can be hard to grasp. But really worth the read the quality of the ideas and exposition. 



4.) Michael Porter on Strategy: This is a landmark management paper and would be familiar to MBA types. Potter lays out pretty compelling vision for what 'strategy' is in business organisations (the ideas are applicable to other kind of organisations). Again well worth a read 



5.) "A Garbage Can Model of Organisational Choice": This is an idiosyncratic paper. It attempts to create a model of a type of organisation the authors call “Organised anarchies”. The authors (all academics) propose universities as a prime example of such an organisation. Its clear that they don’t have a high opinion of how universities are run - the model is one of major randomness; of problems, and actors floating, a set of actors coalescing to try to address a problem, then coming up with a random solution… or something like that. Its been a while since I read it. If you’re a cynic with some understanding of computer simulation, this is the perfect paper for you! 



Notes: 
The quotes are from the introduction to the book "Classic Readings in Organisation Theory" by Ott, Shafritz and Yong

For a compilation of resources on studying public policy in general and at the LKY School, see: http://despoki.blogspot.in/p/studying-public-policy-and.html 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Elements of a life philosophy 3 - "Empty and meaningless"



Sartre said “Life is empty and meaningless” and Landmark clarified that to “Life is empty and meaningless and its empty and meaningless that its empty and meaningless” 

One way to look at this is something like: 
You are a speck of a human being among billions of others , billions before, and billions after. And all this on planet Earth with the vastness of the Universe around us. Can you try to say our lives have meaning in the face of all this ?

If you’re very conscious of this insignificance all the time, you might freeze into inaction. Or surprisingly, you might find it very liberating and free yourself up to do whatever you want. 

Even if you don’t get into the cosmological analogies above, you can see the meaninglessness in other ways: we are all born, we go through whatever we go through and then die. That’s all that actually happens. Everything else is our attempt to make sense of this and give us courage to live in the face of the apparent pointlessness. Religion and morality are prime examples. 

Going further into this, all our opinions and judgements are ultimately invalid. We may respect someone, love somebody, dislike someone, hate someone. But if you look into it, all those judgements don’t have objectivity in them. There is always another opinion or judgement you can have that it equally valid. This is best illustrated by a practical example, I'll add one in when a good one comes to mind! In the meantime, you could just try it yourself taking some situation or person that you really feel negative about. Then see if there is a valid other way to view it. 
There is no way to have a truly ‘correct’ or ’objective’ opinion about something. 

I believe that the ‘Maya’ idea of Indian philosophy was trying to express the same idea.

“Empty and meaningless’ can be understood as a theory but to really impact how you live life, it has to be experienced. That experience can be pretty discomfiting - a feeling of the ground giving way under your feet. 

How does ‘empty and meaningless’ influence me? I have a tendency to make negative judgements about people and create elaborate justifications in my mind to support that. 
Having internalised ‘empty and meaningless’ I’m able to catch myself often in this process and drop it and accept that its just my judgement and its up to me to stand by the judgement or not irrespective of the justification.  

Also, I don’t get too much into ideology - all ideology is an intellectual exercise that can never capture the entirety of life. Use ideology as an aid to thinking, but realise that’s its temporary and provisional 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My article on Solapur



I wrote an article for the Six Degrees  News website. Six Degrees is an international development news website that focusses on grassroots reports. My article was about a government programme called Jal Yukt Shivar in Maharashtra. Here it is:  

I’m excited about having done this. I’ve not been officially ‘published’ for a while now, if at all, though I guess there were opportunities at Arghyam that I’ve passed up due to other work. Six Degrees is founded by a friend, Binayak Das, so it didn’t require pitching from my side, and I didn’t get paid for it. 
Whatever I do (if I do anything at all!) in the next phase of my life, I hope writing will be a part of it. This blog has been a source of great fulfilment but time to grow beyond it. And it would be good to be able to generate some income from writing. 

I learnt some practicalities about journalism on the trip. One was the difficulty of really evaluating the success of a programme or initiative from a visit. Though I have a background in the water sector, I’m a generalist and not technically trained, so it was hard to really gauge. And for a large scale programme like this, unless you visit lots of locations, you can’t conclude anything with any degree of confidence. Your ideas about this will be appreciated. 

Anyway, on the visit to Solapur in Maharashtra, based on which I wrote the article, I had the opportunity to meet the current District Collector. It happened quite easily, after a couple of phone calls, which was quite surprising. At Arghyam, it was really painful getting meetings with IAS officers. He was a very cordial and a nice person. However the really interesting bit was about the previous Collector, Tukaram Munde. He really seems to be a larger-than-life person who managed to achieve spectacular results. I have some sense of administration from work at Arghyam, and this chap in my opinion is off the charts. The District Collector (or Commissioner as he is called in some districts) has a really difficult job. There’s just too much stuff, too many subjects to work on. There are around 30 government departments/programmes that he is the head for. The DC of Sholapur told me there are literally hundreds of committees that he  chairs. Then there is the lack of good quality and quantity of HR to work with, including corrupt people. And unlike the private sector, you can't fire people easily. There are many restrictions and rules to getting work done, much less flexibility than in the private sector. There is the political system to be managed, which could be quite formidable. And in the first place, many of the programmes are ill-designed and ‘dead-on-arrival’. So I’d say, as far as serious impact is concerned, the DC is also for the most part, ‘dead-on-arrival’. However, Mr. Mundhe somehow managed to crack the system and actually get it to deliver. For the life of me, I cannot visualise how he did it. He is now head of Navi Mumbai district and making waves there too. A man to watch (and you can watch some of his exploits by searching on the web). 

Back to the trip again. There is a ‘power’ element in the field trip portion of visits like these , the government staff down the line from the DC are very deferential. At the same time I also got the sense that they thought I did not understand the stuff, and were patronising. I also find it tiring to meet a large number of people in a short span - my comfort level certainly is in meeting fewer people and developing stronger connections with them. 

I wonder where Jalyukt Shivar is going. There seem to be many issues with the scheme, much more so in other districts. But it also seems to have huge potential from the Solapur experience. This programme seems to have the tantalising potential to be the ‘Holy Grail’ for water security in drought-affected districts. But many a slip between the cup and the lip. At the same time some other large scale success stories are emerging from other districts like Dewas in Madhya Pradesh. Is there a trend here ? In the past, it was always about NGO models and touting them, but there were very few examples of successes at scale. Are we entering a tipping point where we get more and and more successes at scale. I fervently hope so. 


An interesting side point is that Solapur district has 2 products with the GI (Geographical Indication) tag, Maldandi jowar and Sangoli pomogranate. Here is a full list of GI tagged products in India: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Geographical_Indications_in_India 
It seems this idea is taking off in India.


Some more photos from the trip below:


Check dams storing water




Compartment bunds under construction


Dry open wells that are now recharged with water



A farm pond

Local farmer




Thursday, September 15, 2016

Small, small insights - Fitness is a mindgame


So I started this "Crossfit training" thing at a gym near my house. I've set losing weight as a key target for the next few months. I've been told that I'm more than 15 Kgs overweight (I'm at 82  Kg currently). I looked around for gyms to continue my previous working out in  Singapore but then came across this thing called crossfit training. Its a group training thing with a trainer, an hour each day, a different kind of training each day (cardio, stretching..), and no fancy equipment. Its pretty intensive working out for the hour's duration. 

I was quite trepidatious about it - I like slow and steady training, I like to work out on my own, I've always hated the pushups and pull-ups and weights kind of thing. I've worked out for the past few months, but focussed on losing weight and my general fitness level is pretty low. But given that fitness was a major goal it made sense to take this on. The night before the first class I was quite stressed out - bracing for what I knew would be a major assault on my body the next day (It didn't disappoint, my body was sore for the next 5 days).  I missed the next day's training because I had to drop my mom-in-law off at Majestic and it got late in the night by the time we got back and I knew I wouldn't get enough rest for a 7:00am class. That was a major disappointment. Then I missed the next class because something else disturbed my mind the night before and I didn't get to sleep till 3 am (I have trouble sleeping when I'm upset). So I was really bummed. Then a couple of classed got cancelled due to various reasons. There was also a feeling of being out of place since I'm the oldest around (I don't know, I never notice when I'm doing age-inappropriate things). 

So these were the kind of things that were challenging me about staying with this rigorous fitness regimen. My point is that the above discussion of the challenges have all been about the mind, not about the physical aspect of working out. Its been about overcoming disappointments, managing my mood etc. The actual workouts themselves have been tough but fun, but physical capacity has not been the issue at all. Hence the title of this post "Fitness is a mindgame". I guess its true for lots of things in life, if not everything. 

PS: I had my 7th class now and its been very good so far!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Temple fatigue


Angkor Wat, Cambodia



I have a problem. (Well, I have many, but here's one)

I’m a bit of ‘culture vulture’. Visited lots of museums around the world. And lots of temples and cultural monuments. But more and more I’ve been feeling a sort of fatigue. For example, a single great painting has so many nuances and is worth spending a lot of time on, to get to understand. So what to do when there are thousands or hundreds of thousands of these ? Same with temples. The amount of work and mastery that went into the sculpture or architectural immensity of any of the the great cultural sites (World Heritage sites for example) is staggering. After the initial ‘wow’ feeling there is a feeling of being overwhelmed in front of such immensity. How do you engage with such a structure ? 

At the opposite end, there is also the feeling of ‘what’s the point of all this’ . Who were they trying to impress ? Build ever larger and more elaborate structures to what end ?

For some reason I get this feeling only for the ancients. I’ve not felt it in New York for example, which is also about architectural immensity, of a living sort. 


Critique, analysis, feedback, comments requested. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Living responsibly in India

This post is to put some not-fully-thought-through ideas out there, as I’ve not seen anyone else talk about these things. The idea here is that while there are many things wrong with our country, people do not see it as practical to join social service or government or something. So can we come up with an idea of a responsible citizen, who leads a normal life in our country (whatever that is), but at the same time contributes to the greater common good. This post is about some things that we could do as public citizens while otherwise living our lives as we wish to.
The list is mostly about doing socially useful things, paying some attention to those less well-off than us in society. I'm not including here environmentally friendly actions, although they very well could. I didn't include them just to keep things focussed, and also because lots of other people have written about these. 

Some of these actions below are more difficult for the others, and which ones are more difficult would vary from person to person. Personally, I certainly don’t do all of these. The point is not to make being responsible a dull, boring, obligatory thing. You can find stuff that interests you and excites you and follow through with it. Doing one thing on this list very well is excellent, perhaps better than doing a lot of things in a small way. 

1.)  Voting and blood donation are, if you think about it, very basic civic and societal acts. You can’t outsource them. You can’t say, 'I don’t have the time', or 'I don’t believe it makes a difference' (although that is in fact what people do). Everyone from CEOs to the peon in his/her office ought to do these things.

2.) Engage with the people and environment around you. This has the advantage of having a selfish value too, the better these are, the better for you too. You become more integrated into the community you live in, and the community as a whole becomes stronger. Take part in the local Resident Welfare Association or Apartment Owners Association activities. Find out more about your household maid and your other support people and their life and challenges. Take part in, or start, an “Ugly Indian” style spot fixing intervention to clean up some sore spot near your home.    

3.) Not giving (or taking) bribes: I’ve found this personally very hard to do. Not that I go about giving bribes all day, but when I come across a situation where someone asks a bribe, I’ve found it difficult to figure out how to handle the situation and get my work done without giving the bribe. (Like here: )  

4.) Not dodging taxes: I find this quite easy to do, and I find a lot of people find this very difficult :-).  Being particular about buying stuff with a bill and not avoiding sales tax is another related thing. Undervaluing property in property transactions is a big one that most people struggle with.  Another related area is not doing transactions in black money. 

5.) Being a responsible tourist. More on that here:

6.)  Volunteering at an NGO: Find an NGO near you whose area of work you are interested in. Spend some time with them finding out what they do and slowly start volunteering. The important thing I think is to develop a relationship with them over time. 
This can be hard to do as NGOs are often messy and chaotic and worse actually fraudulent. You have to be careful in picking and then don't get put off easily and persevere. 

Notes, Links and Further reading:

There are of course a lot of other things that you could do if you want to go deeper, like starting an NGO or social enterprise, travelling by public transport, harvesting rainwater, composting etc. 

The Ugly Indian:  http://www.theuglyindian.com/  



Friday, September 09, 2016

Travel notes from Ajanta and Ellora

Given the difficulty of getting there and the amount of walking between caves and the repetitiveness, some might find visiting Ajanta and Ellora to be more trouble than its worth. 

I spent only a day and covered both Ajanta and Ellora in that day, so I can’t write from a perspective of someone who’s visited the place in detail. Nevertheless, some observations.

Ajanta is located in an extremely scenic location. That’s one of the high points about it, that the tourist writing doesn’t capture.  The ‘zoomed-out’ view of the entire ensemble of caves is also spectacular, see photo. In some ways this ‘macro’ view of Ajanta is more satisfying than the micro. 

Ajanta was a retreat for Buddhist monks in the winter months. The purpose of most of the caves were housing for the monks, called viiharas.  Each dwelling had steps down the hillside to the river at the bottom. I find all this very evocative. I think the government should be make a nice film recreating what life would have been like when the caves were occupied, monks chanting, studying, arguing philosophy, maybe playing politics. Would make the caves really come to life 

Ajanta is famous for the paintings, but these are disappointing in reality. They are small, most of the photos in textbooks and tourist guides are closeups. They are also damaged. Most of the painting is also in large elaborate complex canvases, and it all blurs together after the first few. Like Indian dance, much of it is scenes from important stories and epics. You would miss all that if you don’t take a guide. Even if you do take a guide, it might get boring anyway, unless you know the stories well and have some attachment to them. Nevertheless, the paintings are very nice, and if you can be relaxed and cool about it, you could spend a memorable day, wandering slowly through all the caves. 

The sculpture and carvings are also gorgeous, but there’s such a profusion of it you don’t know what to do with it beyond a point. This is a problem I have with all the great monuments. I know I can’t create even a tiny fraction of what they did and after a while the sheer scale of the artistic accomplishment becomes too much and gets you down. Would be interested if other people have similar reactions.

There are 29 caves so it gets repetitive after a while. Read the guidebook carefully and pick and choose the ones you want to spend time on. 

I didn’t spend that much time at Ellora, and mostly visited the Kailasa or Kailasanatha temple. While the rest of the structures at Ellora are caves, this is an exception, its a proper temple.The scale of this and the grandeur (this same stuff again!) is amazing. The entire temple, as you may know carved out of the hillside by digging and hammering and excavation and whatnot, it was not constructed as most buildings are. The photo shows the rock face surrounding the temple. 
Going through the Archeological Society of India’s Ellora guide, I see that I missed quite a lot. Some spectacular sculptures and Jain and Brahmanical caves (Ajanta is only a Buddhist site). 

Logistics: 

Ajanta and Ellora are in different directions from Aurangabad. Ajanta is significantly farther away. You can try to go and come back from Ajanta in a single day but it would be tiring. There is a very agreeable MSTDC resort very close to Ajanta, at Fardapur. Some photos at: http://despoki.blogspot.in/2016/08/a-new-kind-of-hotel-ii.html There are other hotels in Fardapur too. Staying there overnight might be better. Bus connectivity from Ajanta to Fardapur is quite good, though the bus station at Aurangabad is pretty dirty and bus signages are in Marathi. Its about a 3.5 hour trip by bus. Ellora is a very doable full day trip from Aurangabad, though food options are not great. There’s good bus connectivity from Aurangabad to Ellora, the bus drops you right at the caves. 
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go directly from Ajanta to Ellora by taking a bus towards Aurangabad and then switching to a shared auto at Phulambri

Important tips! 1.) Carry a torch with you. Its dark in the caves and the torch will help you see the sights better. 2.) You have to remove your footwear outside every cave. So lace shoes are not a good idea. Wear something you can put on and take off easily  

Ajanta - caves carved out of the hillside

Ajanta - gorgeous surroundings. Dem Buddhist monks knew how to do retreats !

The caves are in a gorge-like area, where there is a U-shape in the cliffs and the river beneath
Travelling companions, shared auto, Ajanta to Ellora
Ellora - The awesome Kailasa temple, excavated out of rock face
Ellora - Rock face adjacent to the Kailasa temple



Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Elements of a Life Philosophy - 2 : The nature of mind and thinking


Second in a series of posts trying to write down my philosophy of life. First one here: http://despoki.blogspot.in/2016/08/lifes-experiences-leaves-their-mark-on.html 

Most Indian spiritual thinkers in one way or the other talk of this notion of being without thought. At the extreme you will see writing that says that enlightenment is the state of being without thought. 

Meditation, as I’ve understood and practised it, is a process of being able to separate myself from identifying with my thoughts and instead being able to observe them. And sometimes the mind quietens down enough so that it is more or less blank. When I have reached that state in meditation, I always feel good about it. Often - unexpected thoughts pop out during this period of thoughtlessness, thoughts that would not have otherwise come to me. Thoughtlessness seems to give the space for stuff that’s buried in some way, to surface. 
Being able to observe thoughts implies that there is an ‘I’ different from the thoughts. This feels like it is a huge deal, but I’ve not been able to make much progress in taking this understanding further. 

We always identify ourselves with what we think. But our mind is an unreliable instrument. When extreme events happen they leave their mark on the mind, which stops behaving rationally in that area. So really we cannot depend on the mind to guide us correctly in most important decisions. As an example - to have a difficult conversation with a colleague at work might be objectively very important to clear up some misunderstandings or to work more effectively. But the mind protests mightily and comes up with all sorts of reasons not to have that conversation. So how to know when to trust what the mind says and when not to? If you accept that the mind is not always to be trusted, it opens a whole can of worms. Landmark’s way out of this impasse is the idea of the spoken word or declaration. Once we declare that we are something (‘happy’, ‘smart’) or going to do something (‘2 crores in turnover’) then that’s the guiding light. Our actions have to be in consonance with the declaration, not the mood or the thought of the moment. 

J Krishnamurti talked about thought arising when it is needed, for example to solve an intellectual problem, and then ceasing. Whereas normally our brain is always thinking of some thing or other. This resonates well with a distinction that someone at Landmark once made between ‘thinking’ and ‘thoughting’. The process of thinking is an active one, when we call on the brain to apply itself to some issue or matter at hand. Like making a business strategy, or planning the day's work. ‘Thoughting’ is the default process where thoughts come of their own volition. This is passive thinking and usually unproductive. A lot of our internal dialogue of complaining about people and events, worrying about the future, feeling bad (or good) about the past falls into this category of ‘thoughting’. If we eliminate 'thoughting' that leaves a lot of time when we don't need to think, we are just doing or being


Notes:
Ramana Maharishi on thoughts: " All thoughts are inconsistent with realisation. The right thing to do is exclude thoughts of oneself and all other thoughts. Thought is one thing and realisation is quite another"