Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Last weekend I watched the George Clooney movie, ‘Up in the Air.’ Its good entertainment, basically about a dismal subject on the recession made cute. The performances from the three main characters were good. I liked the female lead so much that I bought one of her old films from the Internet. In fact, I bought 3 used DVD movies from Half.com. It’s a good site to buy second hand stuff. I did a lot during the weekend again, going through books, movies and music CDs. I think I watched 6 movies, skimmed 4 books, 2 music CDs and 4 magazines. I also had time to watch the Celtics game against Orlando Magic on Saturday night.

It’s been a while since the Celtics have dominated the series. I think the last time was with Larry Bird. I always loved watching the Lakers against the Celtics especially with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. I think the Celtics now have a chance to dominate the series again with their new lineup. My kids also started watching basketball especially since we play now and again in the gym and after watching a live game in the Atlanta stadium with the Atlanta Hawks against the Lakers. The kids watched the European soccer finals last Saturday where Milan beat Munich. I am glad the kids have focused on sports since coming here to help adapt. Sports are like a secular religion in this country.

From the books I have read lately, 2 major ideas stand out for me. One is from Eckhart Tolle. He said a sign of spiritual advancement is a silent mind, when all the mindless chattering has ceased. He also said one cannot find oneself by adding new skills or experiences but one should search from within. Good timeless advice mentioned by all great Buddhist writers and spiritual leaders but somehow made simpler to understand by Tolle. The advice on silencing the mind works in myriad areas like playing golf, making a speech or participating in meetings. For me, my mind keeps jumping around with thoughts during these occasions that I have to willfully suppress my mind to succeed in these tasks.

Managing and controlling the mind is avoiding the ‘mental disease’ that afflicts people in their hectic lifestyle. But in fact it looks like I am willfully seeking to stress my mind with all my reading and movie watching crammed in the weekend. It’s like my mind is unconsciously seeking to prevent me from doing the things I like such as writing a book or playing golf. Perhaps it’s the dying reaction of the ‘monkey mind’ that is grasping for survival. The ‘monkey mind’ is also the enemy of investors as it seems to promote day trading with constant changes in positions. One should write a book called the Buddhist investor as a way to silence the mind when investing.

With these tasks, a silent mind can only be achieved if one has mastered the mechanical efforts needed to excel in these tasks. For example, practicing one’s golf swing, writing via journaling or other writing exercises, gaining financial literacy before investing, participating in Toastmasters and so on. Educating and practicing oneself in the foundation of each task help reduce mental chatter when one begins the real task: playing golf, writing a book, speaking in public or investing in the stock market. Education, practice or actual experience and mental control (achieved through spiritual study, reflection and meditation) are perhaps the secret of success. Constant practice some would say is the key – about 10,000 hours as some books suggest – before one achieves expertise. I guess this practice will help quiet the ‘monkey mind.’

Subsequently, recent books on behavioral economics point to mental mistakes. Books like ‘Nudge’ advocate ways to ‘nudge’ people by creating a ‘choice architecture’ that lead people to make sensible decisions. People are divided into those that make automatic intuitive decisions and those that make reflective (even counter intuitive) decisions. Most people make intuitive decisions that don’t make sense so ‘choice architecture’ help one make better ones. For example, default options that automatically opt in employees into retirement plans. This book points to cognitive errors while Tolle talks about reflection and mental chatter. Survival in modern life means recognizing and reducing cognitive errors plus self-reflection and meditation to silence the mind.

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