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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wandering mind is an Unhappy mind!

Human mind is a wandering mind. Ancient scholars and sages knew this. Indeed, this observation was the basis of meditative practices in both the vedic (Hindu) and Buddhist traditions. It appears that the wandering mind, which jumps from one thought (branch of a tree) to another like a monkey,is also an unhappy mind. Now we have some interesting observations by neuro-scientists.

It appears that the default mode of human brain is “stimulus-independent thought” or mind wandering. Using the most modern iPhone as the tool, Matthew Killingworth and Daniel Gilbert collected a database of “real-time reports of thoughts, feelings and actions of broad range of people as they went about their daily activities”. (A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science 330: 932, 2010) This includes data from 5000 people from 83 different countries, different age groups and different walks of life!

The authors took a sample of 2250 adults from this vast data base to find out how often people’s mind wander, what topics they wander to and most importantly how those wanderings affect their happiness. They found that 1. Mind tends to wander irrespective of what one is doing. 2. People were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not. 3. “What people were thinking was a better predictor of their happiness than what they were doing”.

The authors concluded by stating that “a human mind is a wandering mind and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”. That raises two questions: how do you control your mind from wandering? What is happiness and how can one be happy?

If you want to learn how to reign in the mind and meditate, you may wish to read Patanjali’s Yoga Shastra or one of many books in the Buddhist literature.

I hope you do not need to read a book to know how to be happy. But if you need one, here is a book based on solid clinical research. It is “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky (Penguin books. 2007). I wish to quote one sentence from the introductory portion of this book. It says: “What we believe would make a huge difference in our lives actually, according to scientific research, makes only a small difference, while we overlook the true source of personal happiness and well-being”.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Dear Asha, Ajay, Ravi and Ariana,

Our mind is capable of recalling past events and imagining the future. Specific ways we perform and interpret these mental activities contribute to what we call the “self”. These in turn influence how we behave and what we do. But, future is not completely knowable. Therefore, it is essential to develop the following mental attitudes even as we plan our actions:
Open mindedness
Positive attitude with reasonable hope
Faith, based on reason
Faith in something other than material things of the world
Interconnection with others and with the Universe