July 30, 2011

The UMAI Technique

Last week a funny thing happened to me.

It dawned on me that I'm a hypocrite.
I know I've said previously that I like the word hypocrisy because it conjures up the picture of a big, fat, hippopotamus sitting on a throne.

The word hypocrite is not as entertaining.
It reminds me of nothing.
Except it's actual meaning … which sucks.

I began writing this blog because I felt like I had a new understanding of life and it's systems and working machinery after the Vipassna camp.

And a LOT of what I've written is an expression of this new found 'wisdom'.

And last week showed me… it's easier said than done.

Because last week, something happened.

I was unexpectedly and mercilessly dropped into what is universally regarded as a 'dangerous situation'. Almost like, thus far, I had been preparing myself for a walk in the park and I was just told that the 'park' is actually an obstacle course which involves alligator filled moats, shark tanks, rope jumps over spikey thorny beds of nails and snake pits.

For the sake of simplicity, let's say, I was told that I have to perform a motorcycle ramp jump, Evel Knievel style, for a week.

The possible scenarios:
  • I could live and get through the week unscathed.
  • I could break a few bones. Lose a few limbs.
Evel broke 443 bones during his lifetime.
That means he broke each bone at least twice and a few, thrice or more.
Oooh… f-u-n. Can't wait. 
  • I could, basically, die.

Please bear in mind, this is a highly exaggerated version of my predicament.
But of the same nature, nevertheless.

What did I do?!?
To put it mildly, I broke down- nervously, emotionally, physically.

And I wrote a little letter in my head, addressed to God, Bruce Almighty style:

Dear God,

What's your problem?
Just when I thought things were going to go well in my life, you decide to mess things up. What is it with you, huh?!?

What?!? You don't think five years of bad luck is proof enough of my tenacity?
You want to keep testing me?!? See what makes me snap?!?
This is it.
I've snapped.
I can't take anymore of your tests.

Why can’t you allow me some peace and quiet?!?
Why do I always have to be jumping over hurdles?

I've let you have your fun for five years … and I've forgiven you for it.
Then you dangle a little cookie crumb in front of my eyes and then you take it all away. What is wrong with you?!

Anyway… now what's done is done. You can't undo what you've already done. But this letter is to inform you that I'm not talking to you anymore.

Go find someone new to test and trip over every step of the way.
I'm done with you.

From your once loyal follower,
Pious Hippie

P.S. The only way you can make this right is to, somehow, miraculously, change what you've just done. I don't care how. But CHANGE IT!
Then we can talk.

P.P.S. If you try to smite me now, you're only going to make it worse.
So don't even think about it. 

This letter drew a big question mark on the claims I've made in each of the following posts:

All those quotes I've used, all the times I've asked you to trust God, all metaphors and drawings - were reduced to dust with just one letter.
With one unexpected twist in the tale- I forgot everything I've said since I started writing this blog.

It's not that I didn't try.
I tried.

I tried to think of the good parts that might come out of this ordeal.
Maybe I'll like the ramp jumps.
Maybe I'll enjoy the adrenaline rush.
Maybe the wind in my hair and wind beneath my feet will feel good.
Didn't work.
You can't brainwash your own brain.

So I realized that when the best case scenario is survival- it's hard to keep a positive outlook.

Every time I thought of stretching my imagination beyond what is humanly possible and putting a positive spin on things- the gremlin inside my head would say:

'Wake up and smell the concrete sis-tah.
The sooner ya get a reality check the better it's gonna be for ya.
NOTHING good will come out of this. Don't give yah-self false hopes, mahn. When ya get on that two-wheel death machine, you're gonna hate it. Ya'll let go of the clutch, and ya'll lose yah balance and ya'll fall off. If that doesn't happen, I'm pretty sure yuh're going to break at least five bones and lose three arms.'

'Um. Excuse me Mr. Gremlin, I don't have three arms'

'That's even worse.
That means the toxic air on top of the ramp is going to mutate yah body and yuh're going to grow an extra arm.
And then ya'll break it. And the original two as well.
There's no two ways about it, sis-tah
Yuh're in deep truh-ble, mahn'

My gremlin has a Scottish accent with a twist of Jamaican.

Thereafter, I spent three days planning my own funeral.
I couldn't even bring on a fake smile when I wanted to.

And then I went for this movie.
Or should I say the universe sent me for this movie.

And in that movie, the protagonist wrote this poem.
Or should I say the universe made the protagonist write that poem.

And I listened to every word. I understood poetry for the first time in my life.
Or should I say, the universe made me understand every word.

And I could swear I felt like it was meant for me.
Like those four lines were written for me.
Only me. NOT the gazillion other people that were watching with me.
I bet they didn't even hear it.

The poem, loosely translated, said this:

When my heart is afraid, I ask it why its crying?
Every person has his share of deep, sad, silences
And every person has his share in the sunshine-
Every moment is a new season,
Why lose even one such moment?
Why are you afraid? Why do you cry?

Holy Cow. How did he know?
Is this some sort of joke?!?
Then I realized that such a 'joke' would be much too elaborate and only mildly funny and I'm not popular enough to play a joke on, so I snapped out of my paranoia.

This special broadcast of the message, specially for me made me feel so much better. Like a slap on the forehead.

I had dreamed up something for myself and I had attached myself to it.
And, as is always true, it wasn't happening the way I thought it would.
And I was feeling bad about it. And I was worrying.

Before you jump the gun and assume I'm going to tell you that worrying is useless and that you shouldn't worry, let me stop you.
This post is not about that.

Worrying, I think, is a natural instinct.
Babies probably worry but we won't ever know because they don't talk.
Kid's worry too.
When I was a kid, I used to worry before my swimming class every Wednesday - that the coach will push me into the pool and I'll drown. So I'd scratch my arms and legs real hard and claim to have a rash and skip class.


I think, it's impossible to NOT worry.
Unless you're Buddha.
Or maybe a baby.
Or a turtle.

I don’t think turtles worry.
I think they stopped worrying the day  one of them beat the hare in that race.

I'm going to give you a technique that might help, when you're worrying.
I'm warning you though… it's going to sound stupid.
Really stupid.
You're going to think I've lost the plot.

But if you're brave enough to try it, it WILL help.
So this is only going to help if you muffle, strangle and drown that inner skeptic in you- and try this a few times. Without being afraid of being weird.

I'd like to call this technique: 'Universe magnification, amplification, intensification' or a more catchy UMAI.
Pronounced: Oooh-my.
It rhymes with Loomai.
Or Boomai if you prefer.
It involves training your eyes, ears and mind and heart to receiving random signals from the universe. An exercise in signal recognition.
You know the scene from Bruce Almighty, when Jim Carey is driving on this bridge- venting his frustrations aloud, questioning God's competence?
And he keeps asking God for signals?
And there are 'Caution' signs all around him but he's too blind to see?

That's what I'm talking about.

Whenever I used to ask God for a signal - and I'd get something inconsequential- like a bee buzzing past me, I'd think,
'Well that couldn't have been it. You need to give me something more explicit. I'm not exactly asking for a miracle, but something that isn't really open to much interpretation-ary errors'.
I know 'interpretationary' isn't an actual word, but God's not a language freak. He forgave me.    

That's where I think I missed the point.
The point is that we need to think of God and the Universe (I use the terms inter-changeably, by the way), as Bumblebee, the autobot from Transformers.

You know how he talks?
He uses little excerpts from different movies and TV shows and songs to say what he's got to say.
It really is the coolest thing. 

But with the universe, it's not just random words and sentences, it's also signals using everything under the sun and the sun itself. So instead of looking for something 'special' just look at anything.

For me, it was a random poem in a movie.
I'm going to sound completely delusional, but I had goose-bumps on my arms and tears in my eyes- at the cinema.
And it wasn't even an emotional scene.

It might as well have been the universe's voice, specially for me.
Actually, I'm going to go ahead and say it.
It was the universe's voice, specially for me.
I'm the centre of the universe.

The universe was telling me not to worry, because it's there with me.
Telling me that I'm not alone.

I've done this a lot of times in the recent past.
Practiced UMAI.
And I'm picking the least weird one to narrate to you.

A few months ago, at the Vipassna camp, which, as I've mentioned was in the middle of nowhere, I was worrying about another major problem in my life while walking to my room. And I saw a bird. An olive green bird with a brownish tinge and a long tail. Nothing like any bird I'd ever seen before. And for some reason, I thought of my grandad- who passed away a couple of years ago. And almost immediately, I felt better- like my grandfather was sending me the message that he's around. He's going to take care of me. And I don't need to worry.

See? I told you - it's going to sound stupid. 

I know what you're thinking.
Coincidence, right?!?
Okay … some of you are thinking 'mental'… But I'm not talking to you.

I agree.
My problems have nothing to do with a poem in a movie, much less, a random bird in the middle of nowhere.

For all you know, the bird was lost and was finding it's way back home to Alaska. It had no idea that a random human being was staring at it - a little strangely even-  as a sign from the universe.
But here's how the technique makes sense.

It's a well known fact that anything can be viewed one way or the other.
Either positively, negatively or completely ignored.

So when you gift someone two shirts- a pink and a yellow one- and he wears the pink one the next time you go out, you may think (a) He didn't like the yellow one (negative thinking) or (b) he liked the pink one (positive thinking) ( c) you don’t notice either way (indifference).

Or when someone asks you, where you bought your handbag from. It could mean (a) I love it, I'm going to buy one just like it (positive thinking) or (b) I hate it, I'm never going to enter that shop (negative thinking).

I'm not asking you to look at everything in a positive light.
That’s impossible.
If that was possible, I would have looked at the motorcycle ramp jump in a positive light and wouldn't have needed to write this post.

It's impossible to look at something so glaringly negative as something positive. Those who say it's possible are either Buddha or they're lying.
Or maybe they're turtles.

All I'm saying is looking at something that is unrelated and neutral as something that may help is a LOT easier.
Not easy-peasy-Japanesey.
But easi-er than looking at something negative as positive.
And it helps.

And we're looking for anything that helps when we're faced with something negative. Anything to help us when we're drowning in worry.

Finding a connection between two unrelated things is a skill that the right-side of our brain possesses. Dan Pink called it 'Symphony' is his book, A Whole New Mind.

Quoting him here might be a little out of context, but I'm doing it anyway, because he doesn't read my blog:

'Symphony is the aptitude to put together pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers…'

'Modern life's glut of options and stimuli can be so over-whelming that those with the ability to see the big picture- to sort out what really matters- have a decided advantage in their pursuit of personal well-being.'


I'm saying-what really matters is personal well being.
And so if a little weirdness and a stretch of the imagination can help me when I'm worrying, then I'm willing to stretch baby. I'll stretch to the moon and back.

I researched a lot, and after many complex calculations and analysis, I was able to depict graphically, what I'm trying to really say:
Weirdness is generally under-rated. It takes a lot of courage to be weird.

You're going to fail when you start out on the path of the UMAI technique. You'll feel like an idiot. You will want to abandon it half way.
But once you get the hang of it, you'll be hooked.

I'm not an expert practitioner, but I'm an intermediate level UMAI-ist.
I still need a semi-explicit signal from the universe. The subtle ones just pass me by and I don't even know.

But once I recognize the signal, and I know that something as powerful and omni-present as the universe has got my back- I feel a lot braver.
How many people can claim that they have the universe as their personal life-coach/bodyguard?
And how can I claim that, you ask? Ummm… did you forget about the lost Alaskan bird?!?!

And the best part is that it's okay to forget about the signal after a few days.
When you start worrying again the universe will just send you another signal-
a reminder signal.
You just need to pick it up.
Like sushi on those conveyor belts in those fancy sushi restaurants.
How's that for connecting two unrelated things, huh?
I'm a symphonatic genius.

Try the UMAI technique.
It's got a money back guarantee.

The only word of caution though, is don't talk about it out loud.

Everyone's going to think you're deranged.
And they'll give you their shrink's phone number.
You must NEVER call the shrink.

Shrinks are evil.

Okay not really.
But they won't understand.
They're going to brainwash you into thinking that the UMAI technique is a figment of imagination. That it doesn't exist.

But they don't know what you know.
Never retreat. Never surrender.
Death on the battlefield in service to UMAI is the greatest glory you can achieve in your life.

Never retreat. Never surrender.
To the tyranny of the shrinks.

Sorry, I get a bit touchy when it comes to shrinks or therapists of any kind.
Long story.
And you'll lose all respect for me if I tell you.


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The Pious Hippie by Ms. Pious Hippie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.