We often talk about the compounding impact of wealth, allocation of capital, risk-reward metrics, business moats, investing philosophies/principles, etc. and how it all can create a meaningful financial impact over a long period of time.
We also talk a lot about the risks of misallocating capital, market chatter/noise, taking short term calls etc.
However, what is often not talked about is ….
The compounding impact of a peaceful subconscious mind, inner happiness, harmony and allocation of time. While risks of capital allocation are often discussed at length, there is hardly any conversation around the misallocation of time or internal noise either.
We love talking about business moat, but miss a very important moat which can enable every person to be successful in whatever they are pursuing, specially investing -
Moat of a healthy and peaceful subconscious mind
Moat of clear thinking & a clutter free mind
Moat of being calm at all times
Moat of being equanimous at all times
While most people will recognize this at an intellectual level, but yet unable to implement this at a subconscious level or in a habit pattern.
In the investing world, despite being intellectual aware, we are at a constant battle with the following emotions which are extremely counterproductive:
Instant gratification and validation
Fear and flight
Long held biases
Inability to take loss in stride and move on
Inability to digest success and become euphoric
This letter is slightly different from the usual – it highlights a wonderful meditation programme I recently attended, which to me was a life changing experience and I would like to share my insights on it.
I attended a 10 days Vipassana Meditation Course (4 August to 14th August, 2021), as taught by Pujya S. N. Goenka, which has left a huge impact on me on the way one should live life and conduct himself.
It is 10 days of zero connectivity with the external world, direct or indirect. You cannot communicate with anyone in any form for 10 days. You carry no phone or books, except your clothes and basic needs. You live a life of hermit (bhikshu) who is disconnected from the external world and exploring various inner dimensions and progressing on the spiritual path. As Guruji says, “this is a surgical operation of the emotional mind”. This has no religious faith or flavor to it.
What I loved about this Technique is that it works at a subconscious level rather than at the intellectual level - one of the most scientific ways of conducting one’s life.
After I completed the programme, I find myself a different person with lot more possibilities to life. One can’t completely change oneself in such a short period of time but with regular practice it is one degree at a time kind of a slow change. We all know the power of compounding very well in the financial world but the power of compounding at the level of subconscious mind can be astounding if one adopts and practices this technique regularly and diligently.
I strongly recommend this to every individual irrespective of age, gender, profession, and faith.
I have spoken to several people post this programme and I get common feedback which at times are misplaced or uninformed. That’s what prompted me to write this letter.
Few people told me
Oh, I am still not that old to do this!
I cannot spare 10 days at a stretch from my office
I cannot not speak for 10 days😊
All these I feel are unfounded
I did not miss talking even for a single second - talking is overrated.
Even for a second, I did not worry about the markets, business or even family for that matter.
There were many participants from 24 years to 45 years of age.
There were Hindus, Jains, Christians, participants across all faiths.
Based on my 10 days of experience at Vipassana I can surely say that the impact of these elements can have an enduring and far reaching impact on various non-measurable and measurable aspects of life including financial/happiness/peace/harmony/family/friends.
I would strongly recommend each and every individual to explore this once in your life before deciding its usefulness. Here is brief introduction of the programme and technique - Vipassana Meditation
Everyone seeks peace and harmony, because this is what we lack in our lives. From time to time we all experience agitation, irritation, disharmony. And when we suffer from these miseries, we don't keep them to ourselves; we often distribute them to others as well. Unhappiness permeates the atmosphere around someone who is miserable, and those who come in contact with such a person also become affected.
In order to be relieved of our misery, we have to know the basic reason for it, the cause of the suffering. If we investigate the problem, it becomes clear that whenever we start generating any negativity or impurity in the mind, we are bound to become unhappy. A negativity in the mind, a mental defilement or impurity, cannot coexist with peace and harmony.
How do we start generating negativity? Again, by investigation, it becomes clear. We become unhappy when we find someone behaving in a way that we don't like, or when we find something happening which we don't like. Unwanted things happen and we create tension within. Wanted things do not happen, some obstacle comes in the way, and again we create tension within; we start tying knots within. And throughout life, unwanted things keep on happening, wanted things may or may not happen, and this process of reaction, of tying knots—Gordian knots—makes the entire mental and physical structure so tense, so full of negativity, that life becomes miserable.
Now, one way to solve this problem is to arrange that nothing unwanted happens in life, that everything keeps on happening exactly as we desire. But this is impossible. So, the question arises: how can we stop reacting blindly when confronted with things that we don't like? How can we stop creating tension and remain peaceful and harmonious?
In India, as well as in other countries, wise saintly persons of the past studied this problem and found a solution: if something unwanted happens and you start to react by generating anger, fear or any negativity, then, as soon as possible, you should divert your attention to something else. For example, get up, take a glass of water, start drinking—your anger won't multiply; Or start counting: one, two, three, four. the mind is diverted, and to some extent you'll be free of the negativity, free of the anger.
This solution was helpful; it worked. It still works. Responding like this, the mind feels free from agitation. However, the solution works only at the conscious level. In fact, by diverting the attention you push the negativity deep into the unconscious, and there you continue to generate and multiply the same defilement. On the surface there is a layer of peace and harmony, but in the depths of the mind there is a sleeping volcano of suppressed negativity which sooner or later may erupt in a violent explosion.
However, someone who reached the ultimate truth found a real solution. He discovered that whenever any impurity arises in the mind, physically two things start happening simultaneously. One is that the breath loses its normal rhythm. We start breathing harder whenever negativity comes into the mind. This is easy to observe. At a subtler level, a biochemical reaction starts in the body, resulting in some sensation. Every impurity will generate some sensation or the other within the body.
This presents a practical solution. An ordinary person cannot observe abstract defilements of the mind—abstract fear, anger or passion. But with proper training and practice it is very easy to observe respiration and body sensations, both of which are directly related to mental defilements.
Respiration and sensations will help in two ways. First, as soon as a negativity arises in the mind, the breath will lose its normality; it will start shouting, “Look, something has gone wrong!” Similarly, the sensations will tell us that something has gone wrong. Then, having been warned, we can start observing the respiration, start observing the sensations, and very quickly we find that the negativity passes away.
Thus, by observing the respiration or the sensations, we are in fact observing mental impurities. Instead of running away from the problem, we are facing reality as it is. As a result, we discover that these impurities lose their strength; they no longer overpower us as they did in the past. If we persist, they eventually disappear altogether and we begin to live a peaceful and happy life, a life increasingly free of negativities.
In this way the technique of self-observation shows us reality in its two aspects, inner and outer. We always looked outside for the cause of our unhappiness; we always blamed and tried to change the reality outside. Being ignorant of the inner reality, we never understood that the cause of suffering lies within, in our own blind reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant sensations.
Now, with training, we can see the other side of the coin. We can be aware of our breathing and also of what is happening inside. Whatever it is, breath or sensation, we learn just to observe it without losing our mental balance. We stop reacting and multiplying our misery. Instead, we allow the defilements to manifest and pass away.
The more one practices this technique, the more quickly negativities will dissolve. Gradually the mind becomes free of defilements, becomes pure. A pure mind is always full of love—selfless love for all others, full of compassion for the failings and sufferings of others, full of joy at their success and happiness, full of equanimity in the face of any situation.
When one reaches this stage, the entire pattern of one's life changes.
By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything experienced inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. Those who regularly practice Vipassana become more sensitive to the sufferings of others, and do their utmost to relieve suffering in whatever way they can—not with any agitation, but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. They learn holy indifference—how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining balance of mind. In this way they remain peaceful and happy, while working for the peace and happiness of others.
This is what the Buddha taught: an art of living. He taught that we must know ourselves, not just intellectually in the realm of ideas and theories, and not just emotionally or devotionally, simply accepting blindly what we have heard or read. Such knowledge is not enough. Rather, we must know reality experientially. We must experience directly the reality of this mental-physical phenomenon. This alone is what will help us be free of our suffering.
This direct experience of our own inner reality, this technique of self-observation, is what is called Vipassana meditation.
This technique teaches our mind to be “Aware and Equanimous” at the subconscious level. Once we establish this, our decision making, conduct of life and ability to handle outcome changes drastically. This also has huge impact on the investing and business decisions of life.
Hope this will inspire a few to explore this path of ultimate truth.
May you all experience this ultimate truth. May all people be free from misery. May they enjoy real peace, real harmony, real happiness.
Bhavatu Sabba Magalam (MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY)