The Fantastic Life

Becoming Wise

The topic for today’s LIFEies is on becoming wise. I am a work in progress.  Every day trying to get a little better. I am sure you are too.  How can we do this with intent?

One way is the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and other forms of mental work, to rewire your subconscious.  We know that 95% of our lives operates in this space.  So, working on this area is critical to a Fantastic Life.

In Vipassana meditation, Buddhists work on escaping the cycle of suffering. How?  By embracing the fact that everything (and they mean everything) is temporary. A key phrase to learn/use/incorporate/internalize is:  This too shall pass.

Here are few ways I am using this phrase in my life:

–Food.  I don’t need the sweets, the extra helping, the sample.  This craving will pass.

–Kettlebell  Snatches. I have been doing lots of kettlebell snatches and they can really suck but they are awesome for your fitness.  This pain will pass.

–Emails.  I spend WAY too much time on my emails trying to be at inbox zero once a week. I get anxious while I am on my fourth hour on a Saturday working on emails.  This too shall pass.

The goal is to internalize this phrase so that we can live our Fantastic Life. Here. Now.  Try using this phrase this week and let me know how it goes.

Rule # 9:  Recognize There Are Two Kinds of Pain
The pain of discipline will pass. Repeat this to yourself. The pain of regret, however, can stick around, sometimes for years. Which one will you choose?

How to Be Truly Wise, According to Buddhism

The only way is to rewire your subconscious. Here’s how to do that.

By Akshad Singi | Published February 23,b2021

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

I feel like a broken record at this point because I’ve shared this so many times. But because it’s important, I’ll share it again. According to Buddhism, there are three levels of wisdom.

  • Received Wisdom: When someone shares something with you, at that level, it’s called received wisdom. A person with blind faith in anything only reaches this level of wisdom.
  • Intellectual Wisdom: When you intellectualize and understand the received wisdom, it turns into intellectual wisdom. This is when you know why something works.
  • Experiential Wisdom: This level of wisdom is when a person becomes truly wise. When wisdom gets entangled in your neurons, and it becomes second nature to you, only then do you become truly wise.

Most of us know a lot. That is, most of us are intellectually very wise. But a good life still eludes us. That is because unless that wisdom gets deeply entangled with our neurons, it won’t make much of a difference.

95% of your life operates from the subconscious. Hence rewiring your subconscious is the only way to become truly wise. If you know a lot, still don’t understand why you’re not able to live a good life, you have your answer. Your subconscious is not rewired.

But don’t worry. I got you. In this article, I’ll provide a practical step by step guide to help you become truly wise. But first, let me tell you how I learned the process myself when I tried Vipassana in 2018.

What Vipassana Taught me

Vipassana is a meditation practice rediscovered by Buddha in an attempt to escape the cycle of suffering. The beginner course of Vipassana is a 10-day course.

For each one of the 10-days, all of us meditated for more than 11 hours a day. But Vipassana meditation was not your normal meditation. It was something else. First, let’s talk about its philosophy.

Everything that happens in life, our brain responds to it in one of three ways. If it’s some sort of pleasure, you want it again — craving. If it’s pain, you want to stay away from it — aversion. Or, you’re just indifferent to it. This is the basis of all suffering. If you don’t get what you crave, you suffer. If you get what you wanted to stay away from, you suffer.

However, the core belief of Vipassana is that everything is temporary. Hence, it says that when we attach the feelings of craving and aversion to temporary things, we suffer.

The meditation practice was not just about learning this though. We’re all intellectually wise enough to know that everything is temporary. But that knowledge is only superficial. And because we’re not experientially wise, or truly wise, the philosophy of Impermanence doesn’t help us.

The meditation practice was about knowing the philosophy of impermanence deeply. During the meditation, we were supposed to pay attention to the sensations that arrived in our body — the itching sensations we felt, or the pain in our backs, etc.

And then, the instructor asked us to objectively see how the sensations came and went; highlighting the temporary nature of those sensations. We were supposed to do this for hours at an end. Every time we did this, we essentially told ourselves that everything is temporary; that this too shall pass.

Vipassana practitioners do this for hours and hours every day. They keep replaying this message — “This too shall pass” over and over again. It may seem stupid, but that is how Buddha gained liberation.

Let me explain why it works using the example of a soldier.

A soldier practices many skills day in and day out. They practice physical combat, shooting skills, etc. for hours and hours. Why? So that during the war, if the need arises, they’re able to cash-in their hours of practice. They bleed in practice so that they won’t have to in war.

That is what Vipassana meditation is too.

We all know that everything is temporary. But how many of us remember this, and are actually able to use this when something bad happens to us? Not many. We’re not able to cash-in this fact when the need arises. If we were able to do this, we would be liberated like Buddha.

Hence, Vipassana acts as a practice session. A Vipassana practitioner keeps telling himself “This too shall pass” every day through meditation even when he doesn’t need to hear it. And when the need arises — maybe something horrible happens to him — he’ll be able to cash-in his hours of practice. His inner angel will tell him “This too shall pass” and he’ll suffer less.

Hence, turning intellectual wisdom into experiential wisdom essentially means practising enough so that you’re able to cash-in your knowledge when the need arises. That is how you rewire your subconscious.

I know that might have been a lot to take in, but in the next section, I’ll give you a simple framework to enable you to turn any intellectual wisdom you have into experiential wisdom. Let’s dive in!

How to Create Your Own Meditation Practice

Before we get into it, I want you to understand that true wisdom is changing your internal dialogue. Think of the dialogue that occurs between your inner angel and the inner devil.

Whatever situation you lose in life — say not waking up when you said you would, skipping workouts, procrastinating — is because your inner devil is stronger than your inner angel for that particular situation. And what we’re doing here is equipping your inner angel with stronger dialogues, and also training it to use them against the devil, whenever needed.

Step 1: Pick three situations that you’re losing in life.

They can be anything. I’ll pick three examples to help you understand this better.

  • Skipping workouts when I don’t feel like them.
  • Getting irritated due to the negativity of other people.
  • Being paralysed by fear of my dreams.

Step 2: Equip your inner angel with the right dialogue.

Now, what you’re supposed to do is examine your internal dialogue and why you’re losing. Ask yourself — what is your inner devil saying in these situations? For instance, when the clock strikes 6 and I’m supposed to go to the gym, my inner devil says stuff like —

  • I don’t feel like working out today.
  • It’s okay to take a break.
  • I’ll work out for longer tomorrow.

Now, think about what could your inner angel say, that will defeat all these arguments? For that, you need to research. You need to dive into the mindsets of people who never miss a workout, no matter how they’re feeling. What do they say to themselves in such situations? What are their thoughts?

For instance — you can look for interviews of Kobe Bryant and find which parts of his thought process resonate with you the most. Or you can google — how to never miss a workout — and from what you read, you can pick a few strong sentences that resonate with you. Or you can come up with your own.

Here’s an argument that resonated with me — “Doing things even on days they don’t feel like is precisely what differentiates extraordinary people from ordinary people.

Whenever I don’t feel like working out, I’ve trained my inner angel to whisper this in my ear. And it makes me just do my workout. We’ll talk about how to train your inner angel in the next step.

For this step, you just need to find a strong argument to defeat your devil. It can be long or short, whatever you please. Just note that it should be strong enough so that it shifts the argument in the favour of your inner angel.

Here’s my chosen argument for the other two situations —

  • For when I get irritated due to other negative people, my chosen argument is a simple but strong quote — “Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.” This quote reminds me that there’s so much negativity in this world, and it doesn’t make sense to mimic that energy like a thermometer. Instead, like a thermostat, I should stick by the same pre-chosen energy — which is of course positivity — and even turn their negative energy into my positive energy.
  • For moments fear stops me from writing, my chosen argument is — “Look, Akshad, I know you are afraid of sitting down to write. But that fear is not your enemy, but a message. Fear is telling you that you care about writing and hence, dancing on the keyboard is the best thing you can do yourself. So… do that, will ya? Also, stop making a big deal out of things. Yes, it’s hard. But not really that hard. The police are here. The pity party ends now.”

Finding this argument can be hard. You can borrow thoughts from extraordinary people through articles, interviews, motivational videos, quotes etc. Or, you can come up with your own. But make sure that it’s strong and that it resonates with you. When you’re satisfied with your argument, write it down somewhere.

Step 3: Meditate

This is the most important step. This is how you will rewire your subconscious. Every morning, induce your chosen situations in your head.

For instance, I’ll ask myself — “What will I do if I don’t feel like working out today?” Then, I’ll force my inner angel to say, “Doing things even on days they don’t feel like is precisely what differentiates extraordinary people from ordinary people.”

When I do this over and over again, a link will be created between the neurons associated with “not feeling like working out” and “Doing things even on days they don’t feel like is precisely what differentiates extraordinary people from ordinary people.” We’re exploiting neuroplasticity here.

So now when in real life I don’t feel like working out, my chosen strong thought will automatically start popping up in my head. Automatically. That is the key. When that starts happening, you’ll know that your subconscious is being rewired.

How many situations you choose to work on at a time is your choice, but three seems like a good place to start. Take out like 5–10 minutes every morning, and keep your written paper handy, if you need to read from it. This is what it will look like in practice.

  • I’ll imagine that I don’t feel like working out. Then, I’ll induce this thought → Doing things even on days they don’t feel like is precisely what differentiates extraordinary people from ordinary people.
  • I’ll imagine myself getting irritated due to someone‘s negativity. Then, I’ll induce this thought → Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.
  • I’ll imagine myself being afraid to sit down to write. Then, I’ll induce these thoughts→ “Look, Akshad, I know you are afraid of sitting down to write. But that fear is not your enemy, but a message. Fear is telling you that you care about writing and hence, dancing on the keyboard is the best thing you can do yourself. So… do that, will ya? Also, stop making a big deal out of things. Yes, it’s hard. But not really that hard. The police are here. The pity party ends now.”

And I’ll repeat this 3 times.

Note: This is an abstract exercise and the details on how to practice will depend on individual needs and preferences. I work on three situations at a time, for three weeks, three times every morning. Then, I’ll move on to a different set of situations.

You also need to understand that with time, your wisdom will get weakened if you don’t keep practising them. You need to keep auditing your life, and understand what you need to work on, and act accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Even though Buddhism is much older than science, Buddha knew the principles of neuroplasticity. He knew that true wisdom can only be achieved when we practice wise thoughts frequent enough so that they get entangled with our neurons.

Even though it’s a simple principle, it’s life-changing because you can use it to literally start winning every situation in life. As they say, change your thoughts, change your life. You can do it in three simple steps.

  • Figure out which mental battle you’re losing.
  • Try to audit your thoughts for that battle and research for stronger thoughts for your inner angel so that she can start winning.
  • Practice inducing those strong thoughts every morning to rewire your subconscious. This will train your inner angel to whisper all the practised wisdom into your ear, right when you need them.

And then, my friend, you’ll become truly wise.

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