As we allow more space and reduce the pace, somehow, we invite grace.
I was conducting a program for a leading FMCG company and I shared with them this note (abridged version here) I had written many years ago. After reading this note one of the participants who had come from Singapore said that synchronistically he had read an article in the April 2010 Harvard Business Review with the title, ‘The Acceleration Trap’. He said that was the head version of this note and this is the heart version of that note 😉
An affluent industrialist said to the Master, “What do you do for a
“Nothing,” said the Master.
The industrialist laughed scornfully. “Isn’t that laziness?”
“Heavens no. Laziness is mostly the vice of very active people.”
Later the master said to his disciples, “Do nothing and all things will be
done through you. Doing nothing really takes a lot of doing (and being ;-)). Try it!”
– Anthony de Mello, SJ, One Minute Wisdom
MORSEL: If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly
useless manner, you have learned how to live. –Lin Yutang
I have put together some of my thoughts and feelings along with sharing many of my readings which have pointed in a similar direction. Integrating and connecting apparently diverse thoughts is something I enjoy. As you will notice, many of the authors I have referred to come from different spaces- and yet, there is a meaningful tapestry of thought.
All my life one of my struggles had been to be action-oriented. I am a man of ideas which would often not get implemented. Wonderful ideas which can change people’s lives, even impact the planet!
I am slowly and surely coming to the ‘realisation’ that my wanting to hurry up actually slows me down. The busy-ness of the mind exhausts. And running around like a plucked chicken only tires the body. But that is precisely the malaise of the world I believe. Effectiveness does not come from haste. Greatness does not come from blind speed.
There is a Zen saying, “In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind there are few.” (Shunryu Suzuki). And some Jewish wisdom ‘When there is too much, something is missing.’ What am I driving at? Where is all this leading?
In the frenetic pace of life, much of what I am saying may appear obvious. And yet, we often miss out some nuances, vital subtleties which differentiate the men from the boys (and women from the girls!) I will attempt to capture them here.
The very first aspect about time is that it is non-linear. Haven’t we all experienced that there are many times we get more accomplished in a day than we have in a week? How come? There is a certain flow, a vital energy that we are a part of that enables a huge achievement in a small time. More often than not we do not recognize this and continue to experience and live as if time were a linear reality. Not seeing that More is Less and Less is More.
I was recently reading a lovely book called ‘Momo’ by Michael Ende who eloquently brings out this painful reality in a fable. We all know that cliché that we have become slaves of time. We want to earn more so that we can have more and be more comfortable. Not recognizing that each day we have less and less time to really enjoy those ‘comforts’. Working late hours has now become a way of life which we don’t even question.
Another interesting book, ‘Your Money or Your Life’ brilliantly shares a concrete way for us to reclaim time and hence get back our life. The authors say that we think we are making a living but often we are making a dying! That unless we recognize ‘enoughness’, we end up spending inordinate amounts of time which does not at all bring us fulfilment.
Ricardo Semler (better known for his book ‘Maverick’) in his recent book with a title that’s like a wink, “The Seven Day weekend…Finding the elusive work-Life balance” talks of his successful experiment of having created and sustained and grown a group of companies across the world under the Semco banner. His organization has become a case study for many companies and universities across the planet.
The second nuance is that rarely do we separate the vital from the trivial. Blaise Pascal said, “The last thing we know is what to put first” In program after program when I ask people about how much percentage of their time they spend in the 2nd quadrant (Important but not urgent) v/s the others, it is an abysmal 10-15% on an average. To separate the Vital from the Trivial, we need time and space but who has that time, let alone space.
So, how do we navigate these habitual patterns which keep us locked in the prison of time? What at the deepest level are the answers to this seemingly intractable dilemma? Answers to such questions are never easy though they may appear simple.
Peter Senge said that “Small changes can produce big results but the areas of highest leverage are the least obvious” That is another reason why it makes eminent sense to learn to slow down. When you are engaged with higher leverage work, you need to work less frenetically. Life is more spacious. And fulfilling. How do we even begin to resolve that which we can see intellectually but struggle in living it? Obviously the answers lie at a different level of consciousness than the one that created it- was it not Einstein who said something to that effect?
The fundamental issue is that we are not in touch with the real. The illusion is far too hypnotizing. The industrial age conditioning about more is better, linearity and sequential assembly line thinking about of time and life has us caught in the matrix. Breaking free requires us to first of all acknowledge and be willing to not know. It requires a certain innocence of perception, a willingness to discover and let the answer surprise us. But who has the time for surprises.
Good is indeed the enemy of the Great. Like Gay Hendricks says, “We are so busy trying to prove that we are okay that we forget that we are magnificent” Somewhere in our upbringing, the environment (read- society, parents, teachers) did not cherish our greatness. And systematically ‘degeniused’ us. Not deliberately but unconsciously. But now we have a choice.
Are we going to live as an extension of our part by default or choose to live by design? Robert Fritz, one of my favourite authors recently wrote a book with a telling title, ‘Your Life as Art’. And to design your life is the work of a lifetime. Mike Jay has also done some very interesting work in enabling a design aligned to your soul. You may like to explore his book, “CPR for the Soul… Creating Personal Resilience by Design” http://www.cprforthesoul.com
God speaks to us in the gap between our thoughts. We require to access our intuition which only comes from connecting with silence and space. The supreme paradox is that unless we can slow down, we will not even get a glimpse of that infinite potential that lies in each of us. Stephen Covey in his latest book – The 8th habit – speaks of moving from effectiveness to Greatness. By accessing our voice, our authenticity. And inspiring others to find theirs.
Essentially, the challenge is to learn to connect to our essence, our purpose, our calling which whispers to us often and sometimes even shouts. This challenges us to step out of our comfort zones and live life at a very different level. From outside it seems a matter of courage. People have often asked me, “It must have required courage to step out of the secure corporate existence at an early age of 32 to follow your calling (which has been to learn and inspire learning)” I feel it was really clarity which gave conviction, not really courage.
In my journey, I have had the fortune and privilege of meeting many fellow travelers and teachers who have helped me, reminded me, woken me up to follow my heart. And yet I don’t learn easily. I compromise and get thrown off, everyday. I am reasonable. And get caught up in the mind.
Robert Fritz says,
“If you limit your choices to only what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all you have left is a compromise. You never have the same enthusiasm.
Because the human spirit will not invest itself in a compromise”
Paulo Coelho in his bestseller, ‘The Alchemist’ eloquently brings this forth in a dialogue between the shepherd boy and the alchemist.
“My heart is afraid that it will suffer” the boy confides
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself,” the alchemist replies. “And no heart has suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God”
So there is fear. Our biggest challenge. Which can be our ally.
In some ways, fear is inevitable. So instead of fighting it, can we like the aikido masters allow and encompass that which opposes. We have hardly learnt to deal with feelings in a way that the creative energy hidden in them can be harnessed, transmuted. Only in recent times we are learning that instead of suppressing or avoiding we can feel our feelings. Vicki Escude puts it well, “Congratulate your mind when fear stalks you because it is doing its job well! Then gently begin introducing new thoughts.”
I was inspired when I read ‘Seven Sacred Attitudes… ’ by Erica Ross Krieger. Two of those attitudes are, “Go Slow” and “Do less” – elegant, simple and effective. I have chosen her to be my coach to help me write my book which has been in my mind and heart for several years now.
In essence, there is wisdom in the paradox, ‘Slower is faster’ – one that we will recognize only if we have the willingness to pause, to reflect to smell the flowers, take time to connect with nature, to laugh loudly and hold a baby’s hand.
It puzzles people at first, to see how little the able leader does and yet how much gets done.
But the leader knows that is how things work. After all Tao does nothing at all, yet everything gets done.
When the leader gets too busy, the time has come to return to selfless silence.
Selflessness gives one center.
Center creates order.
When there is order, there is little to do.
– John Heider, Tao of Leadership
This tender 90 second film by Nitin Das is a beautiful way to end this piece: