Staying Wide Awake In The Rat Race

Take The Time To Stop and Hear The Music

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The video I share below is a very interesting social experiment. It clearly illustrates the modern man’s dilemma. We live in a world that moves at lightning speed, and our organism is not equipped to properly handle modern-day demands. The video shows  Joshua Bell one of the worlds finest violinist playing incognito, some of the most intricate classical music ever written on a 3.5 million dollar violin to passers-by at a DC metro stop.

People pay hundreds of dollars to hear him play live. Would people notice and appreciate beautiful music? Sadly, no…very few stopped to admire his art form and he only made $32 in donations to top it off. I wasn’t  very surprised with the experiments results.

How did we get here? How is that we can’t recognize something of timeless beauty when it’s right in front of our nose and in a different context would happily pay hundreds of dollars to experience the same thing?

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” Aldous Huxley

Brain scientists estimate that our body’s physical senses each moment are presented with about 2,000,000 bits of information per second about the reality around us, yet our brain namely the neo-cortex (memory) can process only about 2,000 bits per second of what is present at any given moment.

So how does our brain select what it will notice? Essentially it selects only those bits of information which validate and verify its conditioning, your belief systems and discards the rest. That’s a lot of reality that we throw away. The neo-cortex files our memories through a system of likes/dislikes and what we believe to be good/bad. It’s a labeling mechanism. It’s constantly scanning the environment for these patterns. Obviously making sense of two millions bits of information is an impossible job that we have imposed on our thinking center. It is too slow to process reality. The brain couldn’t handle the job, so it relieved some of the pressure through habits so that it wouldn’t need to think about everything. We are now creatures of habit which means we mean we live unconsciously because each moment the past (memory) is choosing how we react to life in the moment. Our conscious will does not act through us.

Most of the people in that video were too consumed by their thinking process. Being lost in the inside is being lost on the outside. They were more concerned with listening to the little voice in their heads which is always looking to move on to the next thing. As the people walked by him, their brain evaluated the situation. Stay and hear him play = bad, keep moving and be to work on time = good. It wasn’t a conscious decision. This little voice always seeks the path of least resistance and doesn’t necessarily have our best interests at heart. Sure it may seem to make our life more convenient but you will eventually find out it doesn’t know how to enjoy life and is the source of all our psychological suffering. Now a days we are so inwardly divided that we have a hard time focusing and concentrating on anything significant for an extended period of time.

Learning to Focus and Concentrate On Yourself and Your Surroundings

How does our mind get away with this? Simply because we don’t observe it. This is how it keeps us in its webs of deception. First step out of the madness of the mind is to start observing it.  This process of observation entails keeping part of your attention on your body. Your body exists only in the moment, so by keeping your attention on it grounds you to the present. An easy way is to simply notice the incoming and outgoing breath.

Your brain can’t do two things at once so this is a way to get you back in your body. While keeping attention on your body, you must keep in mind to not judge what you observe in your minds eye. This as you will find is incredibly difficult, because that is what the mind does. If you can refrain from judgement, you need to make sure you don’t try and change what you observe. Because  once you begin to observe your self more objectively you will not like what you see, so then you will try to change it. In trying to change it, you will be caught up in your old mind games. You can’t win. If you can observe yourself in this way for a long time, eventually your attention will begin to free itself from compulsive thinking.

These are just a few indicators and just the tip of ice burg of how one can begin to free himself. One of the aims of self-development work is to learn to see yourself as you are and now who you ‘think’ you are. It is the most amazing journey you can embark on. Later in the year I plan to release my guide to proper self observation. Please sign up for my newsletter if these type of teachings resonate with you.

An attention that is free is able to “see” things as they are. Through this pure attention you can sense the connectedness and oneness of everything. Your mind divides. Getting out of the minds madness allows you to have the energy to be fully present to yourself and your surroundings in the moment. You realize that who you really are is attention itself. You see reality unfolding right before your eyes. You don’t need to think about it. You can see the simplicity and beauty of life.

If more people  in that video where the masters of their minds they would have been able to notice the remarkable beauty that was in their vicinity. Their intuition would have picked it up. Your intuition doesn’t need to think or formulate an answer. In this fast paced world your intuition is what will help you take the next step in your journey through life.

As we can see thinking is too slow and quite inefficient at running our lives. I am not saying thinking is bad, thinking is a beautiful instrument for solving technical problems, but it is not needed to run our lives every single second. Your need to be the master and your mind needs to be your servant. As we are this role is reversed. I would say that 90% of our thinking is useless and a waste of vital psychic energy. The energy that you need to be aware and alert.

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4 Responses to Staying Wide Awake In The Rat Race

  1. “I would say that 90% of our thinking is useless and a waste of vital psychic energy.”

    Well said. Most of our thinking is worry about the future, fretting about the past, and very little about what is happening here and now. Life is passing by un-noticed.

    Dan @

    • Thanks Dan, and that’s the thing…we don’t notice it…but as soon as we start noticing our internal world…one good look may be enough to motivate someone to wake up 🙂

  2. Nice Post Ivan.
    You asked “Would people notice and appreciate beautiful music?” “Sadly no”
    He is in DC.
    Well I’m sure DC has talented people on a lot of corners, malls, airports etc. looking to make money. It just becomes the norm. A guitarist here, a mime there.
    We are bombarded these days with people asking for money. One more person doesn’t faze us. That should be what the experiment proved.
    We can’t give to everyone. Most of us have to pick and choose.
    How mad or bad he would feel for me to walk up and listen then walk away. Better to not to stop..right?
    Do they really care if we like the music or do they really care we leave money?
    If he really wanted someone to enjoy the music he would not have put the case down to collect funds. Then people would have felt more comfortable stopping? Perhaps. Or perhaps they really have places to go and people to see.
    We are also free to pick and choose what “roses” we wish to smell. Agree?
    People should not feel bad for not stopping
    You should have showed the other side where “conscious” people actually did what they were suppose to do so people can see the difference.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hey Ivan,

    I’m not sure if you’ll get this, but I wanted to reply to this post because it seems very relevant to my life. Anyways, I’ve definitely noticed the things you’ve said in the article.

    My question deals with eventually being able to change yourself. For example, I’ve been getting to the point to where I can observe my thinking processes without judgement for short periods of time. But, (and you said this would happen), if it’s something undesirable, eventually I do try to change it and of course, it yanks me out of the present and then I start identify with the ego/mind.

    So, with that said, how exactly do you change? I’ve found that if I don’t try to change it, eventually, I’ll just start to act out what’s on my mind. For example, maybe it’s the desire to eat unhealthy foods. I’ll observe it and not judge it for a few minutes. But then, I find eventually I’ll just act out whatever is on my mind.

    As you can see, I’m not really sure how to proceed. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks Ivan and have a good one,


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