Untying a knot.

knot-1The word used to describe a challenge or difficulty in Tamil language is “Chikkal”, which translates into a knot. If you reflect upon it, that is a very appropriate metaphor.

Like a rope that winds itself into a knot or a set of incessant interconnected loops, we tend to get wound up in our intellectual, emotional as well physical situations. Caught up in this web we compound our problems by moving our “knots” from one plane to other. In the end we do not know if we are dealing with a problem of ideas (intellectual), a problem of emotional feelings and the duality as a result (like/dislike, anger/happiness, guilt/good will, etc.) or sheer physical inability.Mind over Matter – Part 3

How one gets into a knot is not our focus here. Despite our best of intentions we get wound up. There is no point on belaboring on the inevitable. Indeed the entire focus of Spirituality in Practice is to develop a knowledge and practices necessary to maintain a balanced frame of mind and actions that minimize the chances of one getting knotted up through our actions and their impact (our experiences).Enlightened Living: A seamless blend of three pathways for self-control.

Our focus here is “How can one untangle from the knot into which one gets entangled into?” I was recently dealing with a real knot as shown in the image below:


My attempts to untangle this knot resulted in the following thoughts:

First and foremost a knot is never untangled unless there is intent to do so. This intent has to be consistent and relentless. There are countless occasions we are content to merely hang on to a problem rather than resolve it. We need a conviction to get to the bottom of it.

In my effort to untangle the knotted mess, there were many occasions when I was tempted to simply “cut my losses” by merely pulling at the knot wanting to salvage what I could. What we cannot untie we cut it off using a scissor. This is not much different from how we resolve our knots in life on many situations. An untangled knot leaves a whole rope or thread for many uses. A thread that is cut off can never be put together to its original size or strength.

There are times where the whole process of untying a knot feels futile and purposeless. If it is indeed the case, there is no need for me to untie the knot. Aren’t there many problems in life we try to resolve (untangle), thus waste our time and energy only because we are not clear on the “Why?”

Untying a knot when it is carried out just for its own sake can be highly therapeutic. Give me a highly knotted bundle of thread and leave me alone. I am happy to work at it diligently until I can unravel all the knots and roll the thread into a neat bundle. It is my Yoga. It is my meditation!

Once you decide to untangle the knot you learn something profound (i.e.) in order to untangle any knot every part of the rope has to participate! Think of it for a moment or try an experiment for yourself. Also the parts of the rope which are not in the thick of the knot have to flex, bend and comply many times until the knot is untied. The part of the rope in the thick of the knot is often the last portion to unravel or bend! Even if we are not physically connected we live in a society, family or community. Involvement by everyone is needed to resolve the knot (our common problem). In fact on many occasions those who are only remotely connected with the problem have to engage proactively to address and resolve the problem. We call that as volunteerism or focus on the social good. It is the Methodist’s creed: God’s love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty. We cannot just be observers. So we care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex.

 Finally when I untangled the knots I ended up with a string that is held together as a loop with a single knot. This is used as the holy thread (Poonul – Tamil). It is a religious symbol for Hindus. It is called Yagnopaveetham in Sanskrit (the protective covering to be worn while performing Yagna – religious service).

Until now I was focused on untying the knots, which I found as useless or hindrance. Now I realized that it was a knot which gave the form and shape to the thread and as a religious symbol in this case. Without the knot it was just one long string.


A closer look at the knot reveals some more details. A single thread in three loops held together by a single knot. Three strands could be seen on either side of the knot. Could the strands be the metaphor for the body, mind and the intellect; or three strands of any experience (Guna: Ignorance (Thamasam), Bias (Rajasam) and Knowledge and understanding (Sathvikam))?Anatomy of our experiences: Objectivity – the end result

What is this knot in your life connecting your “physical” functions – of body, mind and intellect – with the “experience” – Guna – they create?

Now think again: the knot exists as a physical reality – something tangible. Yet, the very knot when untangled disappears, non-existent into nothing! Is the knot in your life real or non-existent? You need to untangle it for yourself! That is your Yoga, your meditation?

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4 Responses to Untying a knot.

  1. Chitra says:

    Subbu very well said
    To untangle a knot the entire thread has to be involved to help in the process- so true .
    We are all connected
    Apt connection made to the sacred thread
    Food for knot oops thought!


  2. Karanth says:

    Interesting, simple subject – highly valuable references to take the thougts into more divine approach. Thanks


  3. Sam says:

    “What is this naughty knot? “ you sigh. Well, leave it to my friend ‘Chikkal’ Subbu who delights in admiring all its twists and turns. Knot is not anymore, after his philosophical touch!


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